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The Second Person, a reader's review

Physician, poet, editor, and educator.
Physician, poet, editor, and educator.
poetryfoundation.org

The Second Person by C. Dale Young

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Often in the shadow of novels, poetic anthologies are rarely appreciated outside their small circles of interest. However unfortunate the case, many collections of poetry deserves at least some recognition—and a few publications may prove to actually outshine their more widely-accepted, chronologically-constructed counterparts. C. Dale Young’s literary, educational, and medical interests make The Second Person a magnificent example of said exception.

Although only in his early forties, Young boasts an academic and occupational track record befitting a modern day Renaissance man. A physician and president of his own medical practice in the Bay Area, he publishes both short stories and poetry and edits for the New England Review. Young also teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA program and travels nationwide to learning institutions educating students and future writers alike with his unique combination of medical and literary expertise.

Science and emotion are interestingly juxtaposed in The Second Person, causing as much harmony as it does conflict. Poet Linda Gregerson stated that “the poems… perform…such metamorphoses: from faithlessness, they extract the faithful return of longing; from the stern parameters of bodily affliction, they extract the consoling vista of mortal comprehension.” Young, intimately familiar with the battles between mind and body, skillfully incorporates the abstract spirit in his poetry to enhance events of and relationships between birth, healing, pain, and death.

The Second Person by C. Dale Young is a poignantly sucessful union of wisdom and the senses, leaving both inspiration and education in its wake.

Proximity

I have forgotten my skin, misplaced my body.
Tricks of mind, a teacher once said: the man
with the amputated right arm convinced he could

feel the sheets and air-conditioned air touching
the phantom skin. There must be a syndrome
for such a thing, a named constellation of symptoms

that correspond to the ghost hand and what it senses.
This morning, I felt your hand touch me on the shoulder
the way you would when you turned over in your sleep.

What syndrome describes this? Not the sense of touch
but of being touched. Waking, I felt my own body,
piece by piece, dissolving: my hands, finger by finger,

then the legs and the chest leaving the heart exposed
and beating, the traveling pulses of blood
expanding the great vessels. The rib cage vanished

and then the spine. If your right hand offends you,
wrote Mark, cut it off and throw it away,
for it is better for you to lose a part than to lose

the whole. But I have no word for this phantom
touch, and the fully real feeling of the hair
on your arm shifting over my own as your hand

moved from my shoulder and out across my chest.
Desire makes me weak, crooned the diva,
or was it Augustine faced with his own flesh?

Whisper me a few lies, god, beautiful and familiar lies.

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