Love, I’m Done With You by Ross Gay explores a breakup, the poet realizing how bad their relationship was once they have escaped. Everything they loved about their partner was simply a facade. Indeed, now they have broken up, Gay can see all the flaws in his partner that he was overlooking. All in all, Gay creates a tone of dutifully escaping a sinking relationship.
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Whereas before Gay would have done anything for them, he now realizes their true nature. The poem continues through examples of his changing attitude to his partner. The final line creates a sense of ending, the strong ‘We’re through’ signifying the end of their relationship. Gay will not be going back anytime soon.
You can read the full poem here.
Ross Gay writes Love, I’m Done With You as 27 continuous lines. The one stanza poem is, therefore, written in free verse. There is no specific rhyme scheme of form that Gay has followed. Instead, the poet’s writing flows freely on the page. This expressive structure of writing allows Gay to conveys his thoughts, the poem reading like a stream of consciousness. This stream of writing is mirrored in the poet’s use of enjambement. Many lines flow quickly on to the next, creating a sense of metrical speed in the poem. Gay’s thoughts are racing, going over all the ways his perspective has changed.
The key theme that Gay explores in Love, I’m Done With You is breakups. Gay is presenting realizations that have emerged as a result of a breakup. Indeed, the final line of the poem creates a sense of finality, the poet clearly not planning on returning to this relationship. Although many breakup poems are sad or angry, Gay seems more passionate about self-realization. For the poet, the relationship has seemingly been false, with the identity of his partner being something he is having to rediscover after their breakup. What he sees is something he dislikes.
Another central theme of the poem is an epiphany. Gay comes to the realization that he is not happy in his relationship, deciding to end it. The first few lines detail questions that Gay implies caused his realization. These moments of clarity lead to him discovering his actual distaste for his partner. The epiphany of his true unhappiness is something Gay quickly responds to, severing the relationship.
One of the main ways that Gay develops the idea of epiphany is through the use of rhetorical questions. The poet uses the first three sentences of the poem, spanning 5 lines, to frame moments of realization. Gay understands that he is not happy, but only after addressing these questions he has aimed at himself. This feeling of being unhappy ‘just won’t seem to go away’, Gay asking himself what is the need to stay. The poet places his own happiness before that of all else.
Another technique that Gay uses in writing Love, I’m Done With You is caesura. Caesura creates slight pauses within lines of poetry, placing metrical emphasis on the words that surround the pause. This is used in the poem to highlight key moments and words. For example, the phrase ‘used to be’ is grammatically isolated between two forms of caesura. This focuses on the phrase, Gay emboldening the contrast between past and present.
Love, I’m Done With You Analysis
You ever wake up with your footie PJs warming(…)I’d push my downy face into your neck. Used to be
The poem begins with three rhetorical questions, outlining the need for personal introspection. Gay is examining his own happiness in regards to his relationship, the rhetorical questions signaling his own self-examination. With the answering of these questions, Gay comes to understand that he is not happy in his relationship. These realizations are integral to processing a breakup, Gay understanding why he must leave the relationship behind.
The focus on ‘used to be’ is perhaps one of the most subtle, yet interesting parts of the poem. Gay repeats this phrase several times throughout Love, I’m Done With You. Each of these repetitions builds emphasis, Gay focusing on the phrase. The use of the past tense, ‘used to’ implies an action that was ongoing in the past. Gay suggests that he felt this way for a long time in the relationship, not something that happened just once. The focus on tense also creates a narrative conversation between the past and present, Gay implying that he has now changed.
The focus on ‘push’ suggests a slight discomfort, Gay subtly showing his distaste. Although he would still kiss his partner, there was a slight hesitancy. This forcefulness is suggested by ‘push’, Gay overcoming the smell of their breath.
I hung on your every word. (Sing! you’d say: and I was a bird.(…)You have more lies about yourself than bodies
These central lines act as a Volta in the poem, Gay deciding to move on from his partner. The reference to ‘freedom’ that he knew like a ‘rusty bell’ shows the lack of joy in his life. In his relationship, he knew no ‘freedom’, only recognizing that as something, ‘rusty’, of the past. ‘Bell’ also has connotations of joy and music, both being something Gay now has no contact with.
Following ‘you’re full of shit’, Gay changes the direction of the poem. The poet has used the lines up to this point to explain his relationship, he is now focusing on the personality flaws of his partner. The expletive ‘shit’ demonstrates a surge of passion, Gay angry at wasting so much time in the relationship.
beneath your bed. Rooting(…)your breath stinks. We’re through.
The long sentence beginning with ‘Love, you helped’ demonstrates the lack of emotional availability of his partner. Their heart is locked in layers upon layers of barriers. The use of enjambment across these lines increases the speed of the poem. Gay is speeding up to demonstrate how deep their heart was locked, too far for the poet to access.
The consonance across the final few lines, ‘built from bones’ and ‘graveyard… garden’ create an abrasive sound. Gay withdraws from poetic smoothness to emphasize a spiteful and annoyed tone. The consonance helps create this tone, the words almost being spit out as read. This is mainly used to the /b/ and /d/ across these words, both being plosives.
Finally, the phrase ‘We’re through’ is grammatically isolated, surrounded by a caesura and end stop. This punctuation places a pause on each side of the phrase, placing emphasis upon it. The phrase is short and blunt, echoing Gay’s dismissal of his partner. The relationship is over, Gay has escaped.
Another poem that expresses breakups is A Dreaming Week by Carol Ann Duffy. However, the two poets approach the topic in contrasting ways. While Duffy is resigned, drawing into herself to protect from emotional damage, Gay focuses on the external, confronting his partner. These two poems elaborate on two common ways that breakups occur – one slow and slight, the other quick and passionate.
The moments after a breakup are perhaps even more important than the breakup itself. Audre Lorde explores this concept in Movement Song, where she creates an exciting prospect of moving on from a relationship. If you enjoyed Gay’s Love, I’m Done With You, then Lorde provides a natural next step. Gay showcases a breakup, while Lorde demonstrates the path to moving on.