I, Wound

before the cock coaxed iron
cage entreating for release
our noses prodded at the gap for air.
mouth on mouth. two chalices as wet as
four tendrils groping at
the scrappy slivers
of salvation,
little caves of secret warmth,
clinging to our late-night cotton like desperate
your knuckles wiped the evidence,
my tongue flitted against the last of it cradled
on your sinuses, bringing white fisher boy
home down the dreaming moon.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

Since I was a young boy, I think that poetry served to mitigate the struggles of broken language, between my competing native tongues, formal education, and the beautiful cacophonies of Scarborough’s public spaces. I think the first poem I wrote (and remembered) was in French, when I was nine years old. There was a perverse kind of pleasure in knowing that I could control the form of words on pages like LEGO: conjugation to change the direction, synonyms to change the color, and word limit to constrain the piece.

How/where do you find inspiration today?

For my first project, it was spaces: the concrete and steel of Toronto’s infrastructures, and the ordered means of movement about them. I still write deeply about spaces, but reckoning now more with sounds, especially playing in between languages to suture some linguistic Frankenstein. As a polyglot, the perpetual breaks between syntax and vocabulary is both lingering inconvenience and perpetual literary fuel.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

I was—and continue to be—inspired by the poet Ocean Vuong. In his debut collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Vuong writes through various forms of pain and pleasure, both sexual and otherwise, through forms such as the detritus you see in the piece. Furthermore, I particularly love how David Chariandy, in Brother, describes the Rouge Valley, an important geography in my work and life: “It was a wound in the earth. A scar in the green.” Hence, “I, Wound.”

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

This poem is part of a series entitled “I, Wound,” but distilled into a triptych (you see one of the three here) after several half-baked or incongruous versions prior. When I got the first primordial version down pat (long-gone), the rest followed suit, in terms of count and position per line.

This poem “I, Wound” originally appeared in 60th Anniversary Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 239 (2019): 125.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.