I've Tasted My Blood

If this brain’s over-tempered

consider that the fire was want

and the hammers were fists.

I’ve tasted my blood too much

to love what I was born to.


But my mother’s look

was a field of brown oats, soft-bearded;

her voice rain and air rich with lilacs:

and I loved her too much to like

how she dragged her days like a sled over gravel.


Playmates? I remember where their skulls roll!

One died hungry, gnawing grey perch-planks;

one fell, and landed so hard he splashed;

and many and many

come up atom by atom

in the worm-casts of Europe.


My deep prayer a curse.

My deep prayer the promise that this won’t be.

My deep prayer my cunning,

my love, my anger,

and often even my forgiveness

that this won’t be and be.

I’ve tasted my blood too much 

to abide what I was born to.

Dive in

  1. What do you think the opening lines “If this brain’s over-tempered / consider that the fire was want / and the hammers were fists.” suggest about the experiences lived by the speaker?
  2. When the speaker says “I’ve tasted my blood too much / to abide what I was born to,” what do you think the speaker can’t abide?
  3. Why do you think the speaker's mother is mentioned? How does that stanza relate to the rest of the poem?
  4. Where is repetition used? What effect does that have on the mood of the poem?
  5. If you were going to recite this poem, how and when would you change your pacing and the volume of your voice? 
  6. Think of an issue of injustice — racism, animal rights, or environmental devastation, for example — that you feel strongly about. Was there ever a time when you were unaware of this injustice? How does this injustice affect you now? What hope do you have for positive change? Write a poem that unites your thoughts and feelings about this issue.

Useful Link

I've Tasted My Blood from Kent Martin on Vimeo.

Listen to Milton Acorn read "I've Tasted My Blood."

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Bibliographical info

Milton Acorn, “I’ve Tasted My Blood” from I’ve Tasted My Blood. Copyright © 1969 by Milton Acorn. Reprinted by permission of Mary Hooper, literary executor of the Estate of Milton Acorn & Mosaic Press. 

Source: The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (Oxford University Press, 1983)

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