Self-Portraits in Youth

1. Approach to Middle Night

An arbitrary ritual of ricerars1
Constructed on neural channels
Soaked in coffee and chance wines
The patterns beat dully, steeped
In the smoky asphyxiation of cigarettes.

My senses glisten above a meniscus of breath,
Sounds poured into a calcifying ear,
Atoms to the eye imperfections
Of a parabola of repitition, the careless
Arithmatic held in place by adhesion.
(Must I, then, enter your nakedness
Before recovering ecstasy?)

2. At Midday

Strange retreat
Into a mythology of avowal,
When gentleness runs ragged and sharply
In estuaries of the mind.

Moreover, the clandestine efforts
Sear with peregrine vengence
Coming round sombre corners in the organism,
Unavoidably, I am face to face.

Threadbare resolutions that close ranks
Like disciplinary soldiery
To erode mercilessly in summer storms
Pumping blood in a febrlie heart.

Centuries of disavowal
That coalesce in vertical dreams
Walking remains a point of departure
To cauterize flesh to flesh.

3. In the North of the Afternoon

Irruptions rend the torn mind
And immoblie broken ear, smoke
The arterial vortex.

Rainfall in the afternoons of northern cities
Convulses the oscillating intervals that fall into
The allures of error in disjunctions of time,
Spasms of actuality permeated by
The remembrance of waste.


Questions and Answers

What inspired “Self-portraits in Youth”?

The poem has the following compositiond dates: Montréal, QC – Ottawa, ON – Vancouver, BC, 8 February 1972 – 19 August 2002. Originally several sepearte poems, later combined into a sequence of three. Emotional complications were the order of that day.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Self-portraits in Youth”?

I eschew a consciously technical approach while drafting; but sometimes will apply it after the fact.

This poem “Self-Portraits in Youth” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 181 (Summer 2004): 60-61.

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