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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

    1

She went around pre-registered
for her own eventual absence.

Not that she believed
her self-estrangement
would save her,
whatever that meant,

but she hoped
that registering this estrangement
with the proper authorities
might still


    2

2
poem
Local anchors list the ways
viewers might enjoy tomorrow.

One says, “Get some great....”, but
that seems like a stretch.

The other snickers, meaning,
“Where were you going with that?”

Like you thought


     *

Like you could defend 
vanity

in the sense of
idle conceit,

vacuous self-
absorption,

doing
poem

City of the future
in which each subway station’s stairs
lead to the ground floor
of a casino/
mall.

            —

What counts
is the role
defined for each piece
by a system of rules saying
how it can move,
not the stuff
the piece is made of.