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Poetry Friday: "Transformations" by John Reibetanz

Transformations, John ReibetanzFor Poetry Friday, we've decided to look inside ourselves via the titular poem from John Reibetanz's collection Transformations.

As poet George Murray wrote in his Globe and Mail review

Transformations is not a collection for readers who want poetic fireworks or the literary equivalent of pop-rock candy in the mouth. It is decidedly bourgeois in subject matter and unapologetically intellectual in tone, yet infused with a rocking rhythm that invigorates as it lulls. Rather, it is for the sort of reader who enjoys indulging in long, thoughtful conversations conducted with wandering anecdotes and oral flare.


“Northern portrait masks are carved and painted asymmetrically: the transformation is subtly revealed as the mask is slowly rotated from the head-on view to profile. Other transformation masks consist of an external mask that can be split open to reveal a different form inside.”

– from Spirit Faces, by Gary Wyatt


1. Hatchling

  When you change from your human shell
to slip into killer whale, shark, coho, 
    slow rotation won’t do.

  The alabaster rigging of
your lungs, where air is spirited to life,
    will flood and go under

  before the hull outfits itself
with rows of gills, red-blooded galley slaves
    pumping through cold salt waves.

  Better to split. Rip off the pale
tissue paper of skin, cut through rough surf
    in your steel-sequined suit,

  and lift as if water were air,
arm winged into pectoral, feet a foam-
    slapping scarf of tail fin.


2. Cycling

  Green boy on green bike. Slow fade. First
Dad’s arm, keeping both afloat, dissolves
    from view. Next, training wheels

  zero out. Chain guard exits. Green
fenders slip under black lacquer, then flee,
    spirited off like leaves

  or baby fat from the barbed chin
of the spandex-flanked cyclist emerging
    profiled over the flung

  water-scarf his bike’s skidding wheels
unfurl as they rudder the puddled streets.
    His spiked hair’s dorsal fin

  splits the damp air yellow zigzag-
ging goggles target through fog. Steel-scaled, an
    earlobe flashes rainbows.

John Reibetanz poems Poetry Friday

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