When she says Margarita she means Daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, “I’ll never speak to you again,”
she means, “Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window.”

He’s supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one-ten in the morning,
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, “We’re talking about me now,”
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
“Did somebody die?”

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water ruching over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, “Ours is a transitional era.”
“That’s very original of you,” she replies,
dry as the Martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It’s fun
What do I owe you?
Let’s start with an apology
Ok, I’m sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying “Laughter.”
It’s a silent picture.
“I’ve been fucked without a kiss,” she says,
“and you can quote me on that,”
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he’s there. He doesn’t complain that
she’s two hours late
and there’s nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She’s like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn’t want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

Analysis, meaning and summary of David Lehman's poem When A Woman Loves A Man


  1. ROBERTA says:

    AUGUST 5-6,2008

    AKRON,OHIO 44320-2016.

  2. lilian says:

    i love the poem its real,beautiful and perfectly true!!

  3. Ne'Ne' says:

    i think this poem is very real and how it should and shouldn’t be. i admire this poen rather than think of it as “just another poem”=]

  4. brenda says:

    i love this poem it explains alot and it is very real!!!! and most people i think will understand it as well as i did!!!!!!!


  5. andrea says:

    The lyrical images in this poem were quite nice, and the words flow well. I appreciate the attempt to explain what love is. However, I found it very sexist– not so much saying that one gender is “better” in some way than the other, but just the trite stereotypes that the woman does what she wants and the man does what she wants and he had better get used to it.

  6. Geneva says:

    I beleive this poem is beautiful because it is taken from the male point of view about “love” in a relationship. Men and women are never truly going to understand one another, but through poetry like this we as a people get one step closer.

  7. Katey says:

    For some reason I am just moved by this poem– does anyone notice that about poetry, how it just seems to move you?? Anyway, though I am only 20, and have only had that “young love” I think this poem is about the different emotional trajectories of a man and a woman. There seems to be so much tension between the man and woman, either through physical distance or emotional distance, and yet by the end, each seems to have some kind of peace. I love the part about a woman wanting their love waiting for her in a foreign country with a jeep, and the man waiting there for two hours and not complaining. There’s something selfless about the man in this image that is so contradictory to the original harshness and mechanized demeanour of the man at the beginning. I also love the imagery of sleep and how it seems to simultaneously take the woman away from talking until dawn and draws the man into a reflection of his love. I can personally atest to this, as I know how my boyfriend loves when I fall asleep in his arms and he feels that protectiveness and ease when I’m safe and sleeping. I think it’s simply a beautiful image! As for the other comments, I think love is like poetry in the ways that you have to really trust your instincts and feelings that a relationship (or poem) evokes in you. Because there is no set formula for either love or a good poem, I think you’re forced to really search within yourself to extrapolate meaning. Best of luck, I wish you well with your own relationships as I have found in mine!!

  8. Keke says:

    This poem is very good and I like it alot

  9. Kayla says:

    That poem really got to me about wanting to stay awake all night and not go to sleep i wish i knew the answer how to get along more and talk more for us to notice one another please let me know how to make this work we datin for 4 months then broke up for 3 weeks then got back together and its been 2 weeks now and its not the same.

  10. Uday says:

    Sweet poem. Is this love? Or fascination? Or is it about the enigma of another dear soul.

  11. Velma Mziray says:

    yes i agreee with the point that when a woman loves a man she can’t sleep at night instead, she will be watching and wants to talk to him until morning, this is actually what is happening with me right now. i don’t know if he loves me too the way i do although he is appreciating what i do for him but he can’t tell me by words that he loves me but i do tell him all the time. can you comment on this because i get doubts with him – we are in love for 2 months now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by David Lehman better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.