“Small Complications” is a simple and direct poem that takes simplicity and directness as one of its subjects, and yet it is also surprisingly nuanced and self-conscious. From the beginning, the poemthrowsoutconcrete nouns and concrete ideas that feel more like objects than words, and it dares us to either read something high-minded and profound into them or let them remain unadorned—though even then, they seem beautiful and profound because of that simplicity.
Along with this first split in ways to view these objects—let’s call it the poetic and the basic—the poem portrays another, between the careless apathy of its character and the openness of its speaker. “Small Complications” focuses on the basic view and the apathetic character, but it also elevates them, to the level of beauty and wonder—the realm of the poetic, open-minded speaker. And even while this poem makes only a modest claim for itself—to be a pebble dropped off a cliff—it also claims that the small, the modest, and the simple can be great, if we only let them. Its apathetic character may seem myopic, but there’s also something refreshing in her focus on the everyday, and in the fact that when she gets asked for a blow job, she doesn’t see lyric romance; she cuts through the shit and laughs.
Because in the end, there’s a lot of shit that we need to wipe from our lives, from our poetry, and from our asses. (Even poets need toilet paper, as we’re reminded in the last stanza.) It’s fitting that the poem ends with oranges, which are both bright fruit from tropical locations and commonplace food in all of our kitchens. They provide basic nourishment, and when they do, they’re incredibly pleasurable. But they’re also the objects of art, as in a classic still life, and pleasurable in the aesthetic sense. It doesn’t matter if we take them as food or as art: they’re great either way. And so is this poem, if you ask me.