the pain that knits
into my form
knits my form into an

it does not let go
and does not

its marrow knits the bone
dark falling of my
echo into its own

I live in its socket
inside bones that howl
into the wind’s
mouth      I live in each
syllable hardening into my

bone-flute of the dark
I live
in the caste I am
I live in the caste
I live in      I am

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Touchable”?

This poem was written thirty years ago, so it is difficult to re-enter its genesis. Therefore, I read it perhaps as freshly as someone coming to it for the first time. It strikes me as an attempt to transform dehumanizing physic pain into a single moment of ecstatic self-realization, a phoenix-like self awareness that at the same time does not moult the pain itself. It is a poem of ashen self-acceptance: “I live in the caste / I live in   I am.”

What poetic techniques did you use in “Touchable”?

Structurally, it is close to a chant, one that is energized by repetition in concert with variation (the last four lines exemply this). It is shorn of nearly all ornament: there are no adverbs or adjectives, with one important exception. In the third stanza, “bone” and “dark” modify “falling.” However, by breaking the line after “bone,” the word retains, almost subliminally, its integrity as a noun, which confers upon it a forcefulness that somehow eclipses its actual function as part of the compound adjective “bone-dark.” As a result, the noun-like shadow that “bone” casts hides the adjectival status of “dark.” Also, all initial caps, which would normally signal new sentences, and all puncutation marks are absent. Any of the latter that might have been used within a line have been replaced with lateral spaces. Line breaks instead punctuate the poem, strategically isolating words and lines for semantic effect.

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