Pantoum

By Randall Mann Randall Mann
If there is a word in the lexicon of love,
it will not declare itself.
The nature of words is to fail
men who fall in love with men.

It will not declare itself,
the perfect word. Boyfriend seems ridiculous:
men who fall in love with men
deserve something a bit more formal.

The perfect word? Boyfriend? Ridiculous.
But partner is . . . businesslike—
we deserve something a bit less formal,
much more in love with love.

But if partner is businesslike,
then lover suggests only sex,
is too much in love with love.
There is life outside of the bedroom,

and lover suggests only sex.
We are left with roommate, or friend.
There is life, but outside of the bedroom.
My friend and I rarely speak of one another.

To my left is my roommate, my friend.
If there is a word in the lexicon of love,
my friend and I rarely speak it of one another.
The nature of words is to fail.

Randall Mann, “Pantoum” from Complaint in the Garden. Copyright © 2004 by Randall Mann. Reprinted by permission of Randall Mann.

Source: Complaint in the Garden (Zoo Press, 2004)

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Poet Randall Mann

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Love, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

Poetic Terms Pantoum

 Randall  Mann

Biography

Randall Mann’s poems are often set within the landscape of Florida or California. Influenced by Philip Larkin, Elizabeth Bishop, and Donald Justice, Mann’s poetry—at once vulnerable, unflinching, and brave in its ambivalence—explores themes of loss, attraction, brutality, and expectation. Of his preference for working in form, Mann says, “Form helps me approach more comfortably the personal, helps me harden argument.”

Mann is . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Realistic & Complicated, Relationships, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Pantoum

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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