The nose that tickles
is the power of the hand,
or a finger’s disdain

Stark and bare,
tremors of a hidden
self, the heart’s

Own pant that won’t last
a life-time now, my quietly
leaving you alone

With a further pulse,
you, touching the membrane
in a cavern of sorts.

A face gone awry, and
a headache’s all I’m left with,
medicine without imagining,

Another contained act
in a long night,
watching you only, my child.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Play-Acting”?

It was watching a child, my daughter, and studying her actions, her habits, her finger at her face, this image, and so on, then taking it from there and making connections with the body, an adult’s body, maybe my own; and thinking of the pain we carry and not carry—everything coming to me at once. It’s our vulnerability too, more than anything else, as one’s body changes over time, from childhood to adulthood: making all these kinds of associations subliminally, not deliberately, I believe.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Play-Acting”?

In “Play-Acting” form is very important to me; it’s not just throwing words around as in writing ordinary prose. The poem, of course, is akin to the downward flow of the waterfall, to use this analogy—a vertical motion—whereas ordinary prose is horizontal, the way the lines move from left to right. With “Play-Acting,” I may have been conscious of this and getting the line-breaks and stanza-breaks working in a harmonious way to achieve the symmetry of form.

This poem “Play-Acting” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 165 (Summer 2000): 25-25.

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