The Curtain

Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire? 
William Blake, THE BOOK OF THEL

… the blurred touch through the curtain.

In the soundless travelling dazzle
of the afternoon sunlight

after the rain and mist have disappeared,
at a turn in the creek where it has come to run level,

the quickly swaying water
is the movement of your waist.

In its cold longing, the water is uncovering you,
drawing a curtain aside,

and drawing another over you
in a deepening clarity—

the way my hands, as you let the blurred touch
interpret the light, and veil you

in the dreaming of the flesh,
find a caress.

So you may become bright, you become dark again,
darker than before.

The creek turns, and flows through itself,
and frees the loss beyond loss

of the water’s pure searching,
hides, and binds it.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “The Curtain”?

This poem is about my experience of a creek in North Vancouver. I often start a poem with sensory details I take from the natural environment—and go from there. I love reading William Blake and W.B. Yeats and count them as inspirations. They had imaginatively complex, many-layered yet extremely clear things to say about the worlds of spirit and matter and the relationship between the two. I often go to these poets for clarification and confirmation of things that I have access to only through very limited personal intuition. The prefatory quotations here are meant as reference points and bows to great masters.

What poetic techniques did you use in “The Curtain”?

I used two-line stanzas. It helped me organize this poem sound-wise, drama-wise.

This poem “The Curtain” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 154 (Autumn 1997): 9.

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.