I answered your desire to meet
resistance and be honed by friction.
Sharp as you were, you couldn’t beat
the zero-sum of contradiction.
Abrasion was your privilege,
the only stroking I have known.
Now you have lost your cutting edge
and I am just another stone.
Susan McLean writes: “This poem was inspired indirectly by the suicide of a talented poet whom I had seen at conferences, but had never had a conversation with. I heard that she had killed herself on Christmas Eve because of an unhappy love affair. Since I knew nothing about her personal life, this poem is not about her, but her fate made me think about unhappy relationships, particularly those in which both partners have strong but conflicting personalities. I had in mind such stormy creative relationships as those of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, in which the clashes are initially part of the attraction, yet turn destructive eventually. However, the imaginary relationship depicted in this poem is not based on the specifics of any of those relationships.
Balance and antithesis are the key characteristics of the theme of this poem, so I thought two quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ABAB would give equal weight to the “I” and the “you” of the poem.
This poem first appeared in Mezzo Cammin, an online journal of female formalist poets, and later was published in my second book, The Whetstone Misses the Knife, which featured a bronze bust of Camille Claudel by Jacques Chauvenet on the cover.”
Susan McLean has two books of poetry, The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, and one book of translations of Martial, Selected Epigrams. Her poems have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.