ABC Moonlight

Ben Estes. The Song Cave, $18.95 (102p) ISBN 978-1-73727-753-8

The dreamy, vulnerable second collection from Estes (Illustrated Games of Patience) confronts unanswerable questions. Skillfully virtuosic, Estes toggles between the lyric and the narrative, channeling different voices, each tender in its own way. “I’m grateful,” he writes in one poem, “for my place, and it softens me.” Softness is at the heart of this collection; the first section of “Folded Poems” examines the intersection of love, intimacy, and the natural world: “Art is not just/ anything,” Estes writes, and “love is not merchandise.” In the second section, Estes explores a queer Midwestern landscape, a place that left him the “loneliest i ever felt in my whole life.” The third section blossoms with dreamscapes that range across continents and cities and feature moments of breathtaking insight (“Worse than the loss,/ that life goes on”) and humble honesty (“Embarrassed, I couldn’t fit/ any more answers next to the hopes”). Desire for something more than “shallow living” is palpable as Estes captures the range of human experience in these searching and reflective pages. (Feb.)