Lovers' Quarrels in Love, 20 cents the First Quarter Mile

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Lovers' Quarrels in Love, 20 cents the First Quarter Mile

Kenneth Fearing's poem "Love, 20 cents the First Quarter Mile," expresses the wide range of emotions experienced in an argument. The poem depicts the all too familiar situation of a lover's quarrel in which the persona, whom we can assume is male, struggles to resolve an argument during a taxi ride. During his attempts to resolve the quarrel, the persona experiences a variety of emotions ranging from apologetic to accusatory to sarcastic to romantic. In this poem, the reader gains a personal insight into the conflicting and rapidly changing feelings of the persona.

The first stanza of the poem leads the reader to believe that the persona has been a less than perfect companion to his counterpart. However, the persona seems willing to concede that he "may" have committed a few transgressions, and seems apologetic for them. He concedes that he "may have lied to and about"(line 1) his companion, and that he also "damned [her] extravagance, maligned [her] tastes,/ libeled [her] relatives, and slandered a few of [her] friends"(4-5). "Nevertheless," he entreats, "come back"(7).

In the second stanza, the persona expresses his willingness to concede to his companion, as long as she is willing to make some of her own concessions.

"I will agree to forget the statements that you issued/...to the neighbors...,/ and you will forget that figment of you imagination, the blonde/ from Detroit;/ I will agree that your lady friend...is not crazy.../but on the contrary rather bright,/ and you will concede that...Steinburg is neither a drunk/ nor a swindler,...

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... We will have a celebration to end all celebrations"(28). He reveals how petty he thinks the argument was by contradicting his earlier concessions. "We will invite...Steinburg, who is off the wagon, by the way, and that insane/ woman who lives upstairs..."(31-32). Apparently, the storm of the argument has passed, and the reader feels a sense of calmness and resolution.

During this poem readers intimately experience the broad range of feelings experienced by the persona in a short period of time. The significance of the title, "Love, 20 cents the First Quarter Mile," is that the persona is not only paying for a cab ride, but for the time it takes to placate his companion and convince her of his love for her that will outlast even the pettiest of arguments.

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