"Self-Made"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
May 12 2009 6:48 AM

"Self-Made"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Jeffrey Skinner read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes..

Before puberty I knew the I: Mowgli, Maris,
Boy shadowing Tarzan; Ethnographer of dirt kingdoms;
Scientist of worm and dandelion blow;
Impresario of The Ant & Beetle Circus; witness to twisting deaths
of caterpillar and moth (placed gently in the web
by hand). After puberty I no longer knew who came
and went within this I but knew a woman
was somehow implicated; somehow a woman carried,
beneath her clothes, a major clue. 
Everything I had I gave to seeing through that fabric. 
I never believed in the social me—loath to speak,
to intrude—though he did what he could. 
On clear nights, frost entered my definition, as did
the language I learned at work with men. 
When my father died, his self exploded
invisibly. But I felt particles streak through my body. 
I am accumulation, lust, barrels of Seagram's,
memory, a few grains only of selflessness. My children
were made, not begotten. They carry my letter
of recommendation in and beneath the skin–proteins, enzymes,
electrolytes. I have offered it all up for renovation
many times with a smirk and crossed fingers, once in earnest. 
Every day I am forgotten, a new man. 

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Jeffrey Skinner's latest collection of poems, Glaciology, will be published early this fall.

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