Self-Portrait with Bruise


Self-Portrait with Bruise

Some damages announce, others conceal.
How else may we continue

despite our best
inattentions? And which treasure
do we truly hold

closer, the blood orange
or the blade
that parts its segments? At

thirty I would have chosen
one. At forty, the other. Now,
options spread like branches among the cedars.

Ruptured vessels reveal our lapses.


This was published in Shadowtrain in August 2015, and appeared here in March 2016.


18 thoughts on “Self-Portrait with Bruise

  1. I admire your poetry (though I neglect to visit).

    Similes stop me in my tracks. To me they say ‘like’ but leave a whole heap of ‘unlike’; I prefer to see the edges of one thing blurred into the other. May I quiz you about your use of them as a poetic device?


    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. I love tackling – or rather examining – other people’s poetics. Basically what I can do here and now is tell you why I have avoided similes (except with great deliberation) for a long time, and I accept that’s basically about MY poetics and not yours. But it’ll do as a starting line for you to talk about yours.

        As I said above, to me, the simile includes a coupling – “like” – and that actually distances one thing from the other; it distances them spacially in a line at the very least, and therefore in the mind of the reader. I always try to make words and images flow into one another, so that the distinction blurs. For example, if I mention ‘the dawn’ and ‘an old, grey, limping dog’ in the same breath, not even with ‘is’ in between them but in apposition, that blurs and blends two disparate things – they have no ‘similarity’, one simply IS the other. What I try to express is instant association, the way the mind fires things off.

        Now, maybe you’re aiming for the tension/balance that a simile brings. I would be glad to know how you view the simile as a tool in your locker, a weapon in your poetics belt.

        Thanks. In your own time, no rush.


        Liked by 1 person

        • My poetic locker is no doubt a jumbled mess, and I seem to pull out tools in a willy-nilly and/or as needed manner. And “as need” in this case is mostly of the moment. I truly don’t have an articulated poetics, and haven’t spent much time thinking about how or why I use or don’t use various devices. So I find your question interesting.

          I don’t have a hard and fast rule or reasoning behind the use of similes, and if I did, the stating of it would no doubt veer widely from actual practice – every time I think I know why I do something I find the contrary to be true, too. This no doubt stems from my being an uneducated autodidactic lout when it comes to poetry.

          Going through a dozen or so poems, I could find no overarching reason behind the use of similes, other than they felt right at the time. This seems shallow to say, but it is true. Having admitted that, it’s also true that I’m likely more interested in the “unlike” qualities of the simile, and may use them as “speed bumps” in the poem’s road, to jar readers a bit and perhaps cause them to pause and think of why or how that particular word combination works (or doesn’t). The sound of a line is often as or more important to me than the “meaning” of it, and I frequently don’t have a reason, especially in early drafts, for using a particular word except that it sounds right (and I let my subconscious guide me). This isn’t to say that I don’t build upon those words, as of course I do. But why they ever appear is often a mystery.

          On occasion I use similes in a repetitive, incantatory phrasing, to add to the musicality of a piece. Other times I may want to reinforce or underscore a theme or image, and the simile may assist with that.

          The voice of the poem surely dictates whether similes are used. Certain structures demand a focus that others do not. Some pieces are declarative in nature, and similes would ruin them. Hmm. Much to still consider about all this.

          I hope I’ve not totally muddled the picture!


          • “… uneducated autodidactic lout…” Aren’t we all! Count me in that number.

            “I hope I’ve not totally muddled the picture!” Oh you’re no fun! Muddying a picture is a creative act.

            Thank you, Robert. I believe you have much more coherent and fully-developed poetics than you think you have, and the above answer actually demonstrates that.


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