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Words that Van Duyn uses in her poem such as “ordeal” and “woebegone” are words describing the difficulties in a relationship such as that exemplified by the speaker and the listener. Life is not smooth, but instead is an ordeal that sometimes fills the two participants with sadness, regret, and all the other negative feelings that flesh is heir to. These words help to emphasize that personal affairs are not small matters for the people involved, but are so great that any disturbance at all has life-changing implications. Other poets may emphasizes the positive nature of these conditions; Van Duyn, in this poem, emphasizes the danger in them.
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