The Primal Scene - Allison Seay

It was like light out of his mouth
when he spoke softly

or the sound of a small fan
electric but barely

The light was a specific kind
as a sky-field of stars without a moon

His mouth alone was enough
for me to know love’s brutal pull

When he disappears into the world
away from me it is a rude season

in which I see in my mind again
his whole elegant skeleton

and his bones of glass
the sound and light of his light

On the inside of me is darkness and steam

Years later I still
do not know which way is east




The “primal scene,” in brief, is one of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and is the actual or imagined observation by a child of sexual intercourse. “Actual or imagined” is, of course, a rich meditation, but also the child as witness to what she cannot understand and likely misunderstands is hugely metaphoric. But, even without a Freudian predisposition, a primal scene as metaphor placed for me a prismatic lens over the poem.  Titles carry their own particular kind of weight and in this poem I was interested in the way the images that follow are shaped by an understanding of what it means to witness or experience that which is considered “primal” or evolutionary, especially in forming the origins of an emotional life.





Allison Seay is the recipient of fellowships from the Ruth Lilly Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.  She is the author of a book of poems, To See the Queen, and has placed work in such journals as CrazyhorseThe Southern Review, and Poetry. She lives in Virginia.