By Joanna Klink

in Texas, the thick nights. Sidewalks as the dusk darkens,
the highway’s streaking lights.
Some people are always in a hurry, beautifully—
some stop to tilt their heads
at a cloud or strange sound.
You know the way some people belong
so much to one another
they seem not to notice one another.

Even though I’d hardly noticed you
I let my eyes be stopped by you.
What I felt in my hands was an easy fire, almost
effortless. But what did I feel
in my arms. Sun
rushing through weeds.
What cuts through your eyes are dry blues and sloping lines,
like a woman’s back
as she reaches for a glass of water.
You spend a morning before the canvas, casting space.
How have you reached this point in your life.
You live in a whole world, with a tangled garden
and a sense of time.
The hazards held a little at bay.
Sometimes you ask yourself questions you cannot
answer. You dwell there too long.
You know some people seem to ask for nothing—
not years, not even words. But they are asking.
Shadowless, your paintings tense with red, ghostlines of skin,
a longing so spare I couldn’t
imagine it ending. I would wrap
a thin evening coat around my shoulders
and step out with you
saying nothing.
The aquifer below us very still, the black trees
in the park. Insects
buzzing low to the ground.
To stand next to your body without puzzlement or distrust,
smell of dry grass,
the cells of daylight in a leaf, the drop
of a hand—you brought your hand
to my face and grasped my neck,
metallic—playful and senseless.
You know how things we didn’t bother to say
have now taken up a space that extends
out. The sun returns.
A jolt in the muscle, a loss,
but you’ve been through it before.
Cool afternoons in October you spend by the window.
Each unarrested
habit. A faint splash of leaves.
And each nightlong hunger.
Each small song, whose darkness
will one day be complete.

Summary of Spare

  • Popularity of “Spare”: Composed by Joanna Clink, an Iowa-based American poet, this short poem “Spare” first appeared in 2011. She hit upon the idea and instantly put it into words during a Writer’s Workshop in her hometown. The poem was first published in the Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry. The poem hit the nerves of professional and amateur readers on account of its thematic strand of having spare time and its usage.
  • “Spare” As a Representative of Love and Spare Time: Although the poet has not hinted at anything other than the title of the poem, the poem shows love and spare time to enjoy this love. Yet, it seems that they are incompatible as the poet, who happens to be the speaker of the poem, opens the poem with a description of the busy thoroughfare of Texas to point out that people always seem highly busy and in a great hurry in Texas. They have no time, she says, to look at each other, but sometimes, people have to look as she has done to him. Then she comments upon his looks and how he seems quite old, like a woman who has done hard work in her life.
    Yet, she does not let him down, saying that he lives everywhere for her, but he is leading a very busy life. Although she has never asked him any questions, it seems that she has always been asking. The speaker states that she has not thought that her desire to talk to him or leave him would be fulfilled so soon. Now that they have met after a long time, they play with each other and seem to say that they have lost time when they should have enjoyed life.
  • Major Themes in “Spare”: Recalling love, time, and sparing time for close, near and dear ones are major themes of the poem. Although the poet does not seem to address somebody specifically, it seems that she has written this poem for somebody she has lived with during her past life or some years of her youthful period. She is of the view that love always stays with a person whether he is living a terribly busy life or a hurried life. That is why they need to enjoy the time when living together and spare some time for each other.
    Although the busy life does not permit people to spare time for themselves, it seems that she is asking him a question when playing with him that they have enjoyed the spare time and that now they have no time for such trifling matters. Therefore, she argues that although they have never bothered to say things to each other, they should keep each other in mind, which is an implicit message of the poem. She ends the poem by saying that they must enjoy small songs of life that one day will become silent forever.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Spare

Joanna Klink’s use of various literary devices in this poem enhances the intended impact of the poem. Some of the major literary devices are analyzed below.

  1. Allusion: It means to use references from society, history, or culture to stress upon the main idea. The poet used geographical allusions, such as Texas, or of time such as October.
  2. Alliteration: It means to use initial consonants in successive words. The poem shows the use of consonant sounds, such as /w/ in “whole world” or /s/ in “small song.”
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “Some people are always in a hurry, beautifully” and the sound of /a/ and /o/ in “You spend a morning before the canvas, casting space.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /w/ and /d/ in “You live in a whole world, with a tangled garden” and the sound of /g/ and /s/ in “Shadowless, your paintings tense with red, ghostlines of skin.”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Joanna Klink has used imagery in this poem, such as “The aquifer below us very still, the black trees”, “To stand next to your body without puzzlement or distrust” and “You know how things we didn’t bother to say.”
  6. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of a song compared to a night in the last two verses.
  7. Personification: It means to attribute human emotions to inanimate objects. The poet used the personification of leaves as if they were creating a splash of water. It is an indirect personification.
  8. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as night, sound, heads, fire, and weeds to show some lost love and its memories.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Spare

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal and poetic diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means using poetry without any restrictions of rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This is a free-verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This poem comprises several irregular stanzas and one-liners.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a nostalgic and reassuring tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about lost love.

You know how things we didn’t bother to say
have now taken up a space that extends
out. The sun returns.