In Their Own Words

Randall Horton on “When Winter is a Transitional State”

When Winter is a Transitional State

from iron gate to ice-covered sidewalk
it has been a difficult winter i reflect

watching from third floor bay windows
into unforgiving nighttime you stroll

wrestle tom & dick for a dollar bill

i would give the world to you don't you believe

love is never adequate baby this city got (us)
daily struggling to survive the madness

at the edge of a crumbled cliff i stand ready
& if you gave it all up now i would leap

or say baby-girl can i be yr good thang man
for more than ten minutes i want to linger

patiently in the fm of yr snow-white static
an emergency broadcast escorting you

away if it means good-bye please don't
my red boot walker of intrigue go

understanding i sip this bourbon & lament

the body you hustle i long for myself always—

On "When Winter is a Transitional State"

The genesis began with me reading and reflecting on "As You Leave Me" by Etheridge Knight, which is a poem about a man in love with a woman who sells her body for survival. Knight's poem reminded me of my time in the streets when I was homeless, and my friendships with women who sold their body but wanted badly to be in love.

I wanted to explore what an unconventional love looks like. To most of the outside world, this kind of love would seem abnormal. I worked within the freedom and constraint of the couplet form, going for the duality of thought within the speaker's mind.

One could also argue that love encompasses more than the physical. The speaker observes this woman from time to time and makes the connections between the city and the struggle and them: the daily struggle. And of course, the (us) is collective.

I use winter as a triple metaphor: name, season, and emotional state. The man looking down from his window understands Winter is caught in the struggle of the city, that her only option is her body. That's a cold reality within itself.

I think the sad thing is that Winter may never know another human being could love her because this person is a voyeur into her life. And although this voyeur would like for Winter to give up that lifestyle, in the end, he is willing to accept this flaw and love Winter unconditionally. I think we all need unconditional love.

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