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About this Poem 

“Like all my poems, ‘Negotiations’ has several sources. It deals with aging lovers and the often silent deals they make. Thinking about bargains made me think of The Little Mermaid and that made me remember something I had just read about the incredibly complex process by which tadpoles (actual little mermaids) are somehow able to reabsorb their tails and fashion their future frog legs.”
Rae Armantrout

Negotiations

    1

The best part
is when we’re tired
of it all
in the same degree,

a fatigue we imagine
to be temporary,
and we lie near each other,
toes touching.

What’s done is done,
we don’t say,
to begin our transaction,

each letting go of something
without really
bringing it to mind

until we’re lighter,
sicker,
older

and a current
runs between us
where our toes touch.

It feels unconditional.


    2

Remember this, we don't say:

The Little Mermaid
was able to absorb
her tail,

refashion it
to form legs.

This meant that
everything’s negotiable

and that everything is played out
in advance

in secret.

Copyright © 2015 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Copyright © 2015 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California, in 1947, and was part of the first generation of Language poets on the West Coast. She is the author of Partly: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2015 (Wesleyan University Press, 2016); Itself (Wesleyan University Press, 2015).

by this poet

poem
Quick, before you die,
describe

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some
hollow,

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,
worship

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.


     *

Over and over
tiers

of houses spill
poem
We maintain a critical distance
from the sad spaniel gentlemen

in cravats
on the plaid duvet

at the Custom Hotel,
Los Angeles.

We are so over it.
We fly

from terminal
to terminal

almost endlessly.

We are almost
money.

We can wait
at high speed.
poem
The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

          •

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today's edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

          •

The way a lost 
word

will come back
unbidden.

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