Winner of the 2012 Cave Canem / Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for Autogeography, Reginald Harris is Poetry in The Branches Coordinator and Information Technology Director for Poets House. His work has appeared in a variety of publications including African-American Review, Sou’wester; Best Gay Poetry 2008, and The Ringing Ear anthology.
Self-Portrait as My Father’s Son
who we are: this face slowly
coming to the surface of my face,
a watermark, a mask, is his face,
this tangled web of “Good Hair,”
His, graying at the sides, just like
Him, just as I’d dreamed, touching
my temples when I was young. His
this growing paunch, this slowing
step, the surface calm, the silence,
the easily engorged, restless dick,
never satisfied, always searching for a home.
Mon semblance, Mon pere,
Mi espada, mirror, shadow
Cut us and we bleed music,
sea salt, sperm, and discontent,
twin wary avatars of loneliness,
silent and distrustful. Infidel
Me and Him, just as easy with a smile and
smooth seduction, just as quick
to close a door, shut down, turn off.
Him, it’s Him, this is Him, I think.
I know—This is me.
“ About the poem: I often wrestle with my at-times ambivalent relationship to my family in my work. `Self-Portrait as My Father's Son’ is the outcome of one of those recent wrestling matches. I think a lot of people have similar mixed feelings: I am my father's son, but also my own person at the same time. And somehow the older we get and the more we try to run away from being part of the family, the more we resemble them in many ways. ”