‘We Were Simply Talking’ is written by the modern American poet Andrew Hudgins. This poem is not about a simple conversation between two persons as the title says. Rather it is about a shocking car accident. One day the speaker was driving his car. Suddenly he lost control on the frozen track that would have caused death to both the driver and the rider. However, he managed to halt his car at the right moment miraculously by snapping his car in a frozen ditch.
Explore We Were Simply Talking
‘We Were Simply Talking’ by Andrew Hudgins is a poem about a car accident and how the speaker survived.
This piece begins with a reference to the topics of conversation between two speakers. One is the driver who speaks throughout the piece. The other one is his wife. Their marriage was a happy one yet it was falling apart. While driving, the speaker suddenly got on black ice and the car drifted back. He tried to steer back to the road but failed. The car was out of control. So was the control. He thought it was the last drive they were taking together. Miraculously, their car got stuck in a frozen ditch and they came to their senses.
You can read the full poem here.
Hudgins’ ‘We Were Simply Talking’ is a free-verse lyric poem. It consists of a total of 22 lines that are grouped into a single stanza. The poet uses end-stopped lines to mark the transition of events. There is not any regular rhyme scheme or meter in this piece. It is written in a day-to-day language. The usage of punctuation marks and the quick movement of sentences reflect the mood of the speaker while he lost control of his car. Apart from that, Hudgins uses internal rhyming by repeating similar sounds in succession.
We were simply talking, probably work, or relatives
and in that instant I was ready to die.
Andrew Hudgins’ poem ‘We Were Simply Talking’ starts with a description of the characters who were driving towards their destination. They were husband and wife. The husband is the sole speaker of the poem. He describes what happened on that wintry day while they were driving.
They were simply conversing on day-to-day topics that the speaker cannot recall. The topics may include their work, relatives, or Christmas presents. The speaker was so invested in the conversation that he became unmindful of the track. He realized his mistake when the car slid and fishtailed on the black icy road. It slid sideways and backward.
He knew it had gone out of his control no matter how hard he tried. While the car was moving in another direction, he stared at the grill of a diesel tractor that was also sliding on the opposite side. Then he realized that the moment of their death had come. They were just a fraction of a second behind that moment when everything would blackout.
I saw my wife and was overjoyed that I had married her,
ridiculous and undignified early death.
Suddenly the speaker realized that his wife was also there, sitting next to him. He was so nervous that he could not notice what was happening to her. However, the moment before death reminded him of the life he was going to leave behind. He was overjoyed to have his wife though their relationship was deteriorating day by day. It did not matter then. He only thought about the things that mattered to him the most.
In the next line, the speaker talks about his brown Toyota by which they were traveling on that day. He felt warm inside while the external ambiance was in stark contrast. The bitterness of cold and icy pessimism reminded him of the harshness of life. Here, the description of the external environment draws a symbolic picture of the speaker’s life.
In that minute moment, he felt grateful for “every molecule of breath”, a metaphorical reference to oxygen, that he could not breathe in the apprehension of approaching death. He forgave himself of the sins and failures of his life. Not only that, but he also pardoned himself for being the sole cause of that car accident, described as “ridiculous and undignified early death”.
The car snapped backward into a frozen ditch.
and why do we always, always have to speak?
In the last few lines of ‘We Were Simply Talking,’ the speaker describes how they survived the accident miraculously. Their car went straight into a frozen ditch and stopped, saving themselves from death. Everything happened so fast that he could not even utter a single word.
He speechlessly sat there along with his wife. Suddenly a local salesman came enquiring of their condition. He asked whether they were alright. In reply, the speaker could not say anything more than “Fine”. The ironic fact is that nobody can feel “Fine” after such a shocking incident.
Hence, the speaker asks readers a rhetorical question in the last line of the poem: “Do we always have to speak?” The repetition of the term “always” heightens the ironic effect on readers’ minds.
Hudgins makes use of the following literary devices in this poem.
- Enjambment: It occurs throughout the poem. Hudgins uses this device in order to connect the lines internally.
- Polysyndeton: It occurs in the first two lines. Here, the term “or” is repeated for the sake of emphasis.
- Caesura: The usage of commas in between the lines creates a halting effect. These metrical breaks aptly showcase the internal state of the speaker.
- Alliteration: It occurs in “sliding sideways”, “backward on black”, “sat speechless, shaking”, etc.
- Irony: Hudgins uses this device in the last two lines of this poem: “Fine. We were fine. But what was “fine,” I wondered,/ and why do we always, always have to speak?”
The poem ‘We Were Simply Talking’ appears in Andrew Hudgins’ well-known poetry collection Babylon in a Jar. It was published in 1998. This poem has a number of modern qualities. The language is lucid, on point, and fast-paced that reflects the subject matter. Besides, this piece does not conform to any conventional forms. It is a modern poem written on the topic of a probable car accident. From the language of the poem, it seems the speaker is none other than the poet himself. He might have faced a similar accident once in his life. That’s why he can elaborate the details in a stylistic and emotive manner.
Andrew Hudgins’ ‘We Were Simply Talking’ is about a car accident that the speaker managed to survive. It explores the state of the speaker’s mind and the change in his way of thinking a few moments before his probable death.
The poem was published in 1998 in Andrew Hudgins’ best-known book of poetry Babylon in a Jar.
It is a free-verse lyric poem that is written using a conversational style. There is no set rhyme scheme or meter in this piece.
This poem taps on themes of death, accident, apprehension, and silence.
Here is a list of a few poems that similarly revolve around the themes present in Andrew Hudgins’ ‘We Were Simply Talking’.
- ‘Driving to the Hospital’ by Kate Clanchy — This piece is about a car journey to a hospital. Read more Kate Clanchy poems.
- ‘Dead Deer’ by David Groff — This poem describes a car accident in which the speaker and a deer die. Explore more David Groff poems.
- ‘Out, Out—’ by Robert Frost — It’s one of the best-known poems of Robert Frost. This haunting poem is about a young boy’s terrible accident. Read more Robert Frost poems.
- ‘December’ by Michael Miller — This poem explores the feeling of wanting to return to the past. Explore more Michael Miller poems.
You can also read about these incredible poems about death.