Prayer for a Family Friend


These years later I imagine
frozen spermatozoa

wriggling life in the belly
of the doctor’s plunger

as your other mother’s egg
descends into the crowd.

Imagine your future
simple as blades

of grass to the yard, as
various, necessary.

That you should waddle
from your mothers’

arms, speaking
my name in my absence.

First, incantations.
We live this distance

sieving a love
from vanity

wishing you would not learn
the world without me.


Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today? What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

I mostly find inspiration for these Prayers reading the work of other poets. I’ve adopted a copycat approach, after my experience with Matt Rader’s poem “Wolf Lake”, which is an excellent and chilling account of two young men who witness a man committing a crime against a woman. It was imitated in Elizabeth Bachinsky’s “Wolf Lake”, which borrowed phrasing and mirrored the line length and the general shape of the original, but Bachinsky wrote her poem from the woman’s perspective. I wrote my own “Wolf Lake”, following the other two poems, lifting lines from each and sticking to the shape again, but I used the voice of the man committing the crime. After writing my own “Wolf Lake”, I began noticing that many of my own poems that I liked best had borrowed the shape, rhythm, devices, and/or narrative approach of other poems. Many favourites were a kind of copy.

For my most recent Prayer poems, I set myself the task of mirroring. I read poetry until I hit on a work that does the wobbly-in-my-belly thing. The poem strikes a chord. Then I think, Why does this poem move me? What’s my relationship to the theme or topic? What’s my version of this experience? The answer to that takes shape in a new poem, wherein I use the borrowed poem as a model for how to approach my own piece. Once I’m editing, I set aside any suggestions or restrictions I took from the originals, to let each new poem grow into its own shape. This approach has given me a broader range in voice, new insights into how and where I use (or fail to use) breath, new rhetorical devices. Essentially, new tricks.

This poem “Prayer for a Family Friend” originally appeared in Queer Frontiers. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 224 (Spring 2015): 64.

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