Nate Klug, “Dare”

Dare (from Poetry)
Nate Klug

Not, this time, to infer
but to wait you out
between regret and parking lot
somewhere in the day
like a dare

Salt grime and the foodcarts’
rising steam, at Prospect St. a goshawk
huge and aloof, picking at something,
nested in twigs and police tape
for a while we all
held our phones up

It is relentless, the suddenness
of every other
song, creature, neighbor
as though this life
would prove you
only by turning into itself


It almost was a love poem. Not a healthy love poem. “Wait you out between regret and parking lot” sounds like a stalker; “infer” implies just how little a beloved might have thought of a lover. Not even a firm “no, get away from me.”

This time things are different. The speaker’s worldview has to enlarge. His is only “like” a dare. The goshawk made the real dare. He’ll wait between “regret and parking lot” forever, with no regret and the pickings of the street. He’ll eat, he’ll survive, he won’t care. The speaker is no animal. He’s not cut out to so simply resolve inference through sheer will. “Salt grime” and “foodcarts” have an inference of their own. We try to break ice so we can continue moving. We consume food quickly for the same purpose. And there are those struggling to make a living who need to work those foodcarts, others who sleep on those salty streets. The goshawk is inhuman; good for it. It’s an awe we’d never wish a human could produce.

“Every other song” – the speaker’s tune has changed. Something like this actually happened to me, once. Minus any hint of being stalker. A woman who knew I loved her for her mind didn’t give a damn about me. The awareness of the real sufferings of others did require an intermediate step – hence, “song, creature, neighbor.” For me, it wasn’t seeing myself mirrored in an animal that was way more independent and far less pathetic. And the result wasn’t as dramatic as the speaker’s transformation:

as though this life
would prove you
only by turning into itself

Life proves you. As the original dare required two, as the humanity of the streets was almost lost to the world, life itself in being its harshness makes us, the other. I’d say more, but there are more relentless, sudden songs to report.


  1. This poem denotes a love that is not quite unrequited or unfinished but stands on the edge of a predisposition like two feet wobbling on a blade’s knife. It is the accentuation and expansion of a moment right before an anticipated rejection. In fact the deprived lover is quite the coward, never actually approaching his targeted love but forever paralyzed with torture in the uncomfortable shadow between “regret and parking lot.” This is further accentuated by the interjection of “this time” in the first line of the first stanza. One may not go as far as to accuse the narrator of being a stalker but he clearly suffers from an obsessive need to think of his potential lover which is meant by the term “infer”.
    However, out of either an attempt to break through his cowardness or the eruption of a passion too powerful to subdue he decides to take action and literally “wait you out.” Notice how the narrator disregards his audience or potential readers and talks directly to his object of affection. This form of communication insinuates both an urgency and intimacy with the narrator’s love. It is as if we are over-hearing the confounded thoughts of an individual before he begins to write a love letter. He is waiting his possible lover out somewhere in the daytime “Like a dare”: this love is both in suspension and pre-materialized, in fact it is the very essence or rawness of love which is further supported by the next stanza.
    The brilliance of the second stanza is precisely its lack of correlation with the first stanza, and, for all general purposes, love. The stanza is not love materialized but the actual evasion of love in raw form materialized. Instead of the narrator describing his current state of emotion, he latches on to the images of the external world that best describes it for him: “Salt grime” “rising steam” “huge and aloof”. This ingenious defense mechanism allows the narrator to generate the images to justify his love without directly having to acknowledge it himself. Ultimately, what is of peculiar interest about this poem is its oddity or adherence to the Freudian “reality principle” while still needing to maintain some romantic idealized notion of love, and in particular a love the narrator suspects will never be reciprocated. The goshawk is both the metaphor for love and love’s caution: “nested in twigs and police tape.”
    And as the poem takes a contemporary turn, “for a while we all/ held our phones up,” one takes a queer delight in how vague yet vivid the poem is, so much that the narrator never directly identifies or says the word love, which is the ultimate subject that all the imagery pivots from. The last stanza as well as the holding up of phones is a distraction that gives this poem its bewildered but believable closure. There is a bitter angst in the lovelorn narrator as he admits that “It is relentless, the suddenness/
    of every other song,/ creature, neighbor” and the anxiety is well on it is way to becoming an obsession. The relentlessness about the suddenness of these external things in the narrator’s mind, “as though this life/ would prove you/ only by turning into itself” is a dangerous weight to press upon any lover. This idea is further accentuated by the demonstrative “this” used by the narrator to identify life. The word is used to identify something close to the speaker while deliberating refusing to claim that something. Ultimately, he seeks to merge the life of all the things around him, especially his lover into one. Thus, understandably, a conscious as needy as his requires proof of both love and life, but the tragedy lies in the truth that two entities will and can only turn into itself, or that is to say he desire more from life and love that is possible.

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