Self-Timed Photo, Moving Day, 1994

The dark walls of an unfurnished room
And the glint of a distant, gold-roofed dome

Reflect the bright, false starts upon the table.
The burnt-chicken smell. Crossed arms, no smile,

Hint of confusion, fear. My girl-zapped head.
I loved those days, their harsh and undiluted

Skies. But rewind? No. I was wound so tight.
I’m saddened by this young man’s inner fights—

So let’s just say the head in silhouette
Is someone I don’t know, have never met.

There are no words, place to turn for relief,
When your past still holds your unattained self.

Leave the flawed chamber after each bloom.
Throw out your flowers. Rent another room.

Questions & Answers

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

I noticed that the poem was vaguely like a sonnet in length and metre (iambic pentameter) so I used that to shape the piece. I pay attention to form and metre like a bird pays attention to its wings.

What did you find particularly challenging in writing this poem?

Achieving what felt like the right balance of emotion and distance. A piece like this is inherently nostalgic, so sentimentality was a likely pitfall. Looking at your earlier self as almost another person can help you avoid that. But you can ruin things by being too distant.

This poem “Self-Timed Photo, Moving Day, 1994” originally appeared in Contested Migrations. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 219 (Winter 2013): 75.

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