Somewhere between a spring-like winter
and a winter-like spring,
I lost you, lost you even as you strolled
beside me. Over clams and calamari
at The Little Owl, over chicken kori kebabs
at Kismat, you concealed
the matter behind smiles, behind drinks.
And what was the matter?
That you had fucked half of Manhattan
and all of Queens. That your exes, in dark puffy coats,
circled your building like fat birds of prey, waiting
for me to leave to swoop down and feast.
What was the matter?
That only countless men,
with rough talons and piercing beaks,
could drag you back to what the first man
you knew subjected you to.
That no man, certainly not me,
could convince you of a different kind of coupling.
Dinner might as well have been my body—
not satisfied, you devoured strawberry crepes,
their guts smeared across your lips.
In bed I drank Macallan to sleep
but could not sleep, could only watch
as night blanched and passed out.
The day you left, you wore a black frock
and black, studded clogs, gliding
through the room like ever-moving night.
I have moved too, dragged
by the illness that drove me to you.
Click here to read Dana Crum on the origin of the poem.
Dana Crum: The winter of late 2006 and early 2007 was not much of a winter. At least not in New York City, where I lived at the time. Then it snowed in March of 2007. As I trudged through the late snow, a phrase came to me: “A spring-like winter and a winter-like spring.” At the time, I had no idea where I would use it, but I did think it might work as commentary on global warming.
Years later, while writing “Coupling,” I dropped the phrase in and used it to characterize the atmosphere in which the unhappy couple at the center of poem drift apart. True to my original intent, the phrase does demonstrate global warming, a kind of illness. Nature’s unhealthiness, in turn, points to the psychological unhealthiness of the couple and their relationship.
In making nature’s behavior symbolize or respond to the literal events of the poem, I stole a page out of Macbeth. Duncan rules Scotland through the Divine Right of Kings. By murdering him, Macbeth has upturned the societal order mandated by God. In response, nature goes topsy-turvy. An owl kills a falcon. Duncan’s horses eat each other. Darkness blankets the earth though it is daytime: “’Tis day, / And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp.” In my poem “Coupling,” when the inevitable break occurs, it is daytime, but the woman is dressed in the colors of night: “The day you left, you wore a black frock / and black, studded clogs, gliding / through the room like ever-moving night.” The woman, for some time if not for the rest of her life, will continue to move from man to man, will remain like “ever-moving night.”
But the poem is interested not just in the woman’s actions: It invites the reader to consider what in her past damaged her and drove her actions. And it shows that the man, though privileged as the poem’s speaker, is damaged, too.
Image: “This is MY turf!!” by Gabriel Rocha, licensed under CC BY 2.0