Language of Love

By Rae Armantrout b. 1947 Rae Armantrout
There were distinctive
dips and shivers
in the various foliage,
almost cadenced in the way   
that once made him invent   


Now the boss could say   
and mean something   
like “I’ll pinch.”

By repeating the gesture exactly   
the woman awakened
an excited suspicion
in the infant.

When he awakened
she was just returning from   
one of her little trips.

It’s common to confuse
the distance
with flirtation:
that expectant solemnity   
which seems to invite a kiss.


He stroked her carapace
with his claw.
They had developed a code
in which each word appeared to refer   
to some abdicated function.

Thus, in a department store,   
Petite Impressions might neighbor   
Town Square.

But he exaggerated it
by mincing
words like “micturition,”   
setting scenes
in which the dainty lover   
would pretend to leave.


Was it sadness or fear?
He still wasn’t back.
The act of identification,
she recognized,
was always a pleasure,
but this lasting difference   
between sense and recognition   
made her unhappy

or afraid.
Once she was rewarded   
by the beams
of headlights flitting   
in play.

Rae Armantrout, “Language of Love” from Veil: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2001 by Rae Armantrout. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Veil: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001)

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Poet Rae Armantrout b. 1947


SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Relationships, Love, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Rae  Armantrout


Rae Armantrout, one of the founding members of the West Coast group of Language poets, stands apart from other Language poets in her lyrical voice and her commitment to the interior and the domestic. Her short-lined poems are often concerned with dismantling conventions of memory, pop culture, science, and mothering, and these unsparing interrogations are often streaked with wit. “You can hold the various elements of my poems in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Realistic & Complicated


SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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