In her own words...

"Coming to That"


"If it comes to that," he said, "there'll be no 
preventing it,"
He uttered it as l listened. Had I got it right,
hearing him?
"If it comes to that," is what he said, and,
as if talking
to himself, went on about how there'd be no
preventing it.
He came to that conclusion, saying it in a
slow way of
coming to that, whatever that was it might
come to before
not being prevented—and as if such a thing
were for him
the unthinkable, and would prevail, if it
came to that.

And while listening more closely now to
what he said,
I realized if no one paid him heed, it would
be as if he
hadn't said it—if it came to that—and would
then not be
prevented from falling to forces known to
care little for
what he said, even when they heard it, their
being wily
and forceful enough to make sure it would
come to that.


About this work

“Coming to That” was first published in The New Yorker, May 23, 2005, p. 85. 

This poem is also included in—and gives its title to—Dorothea Tanning's book, Coming to That: Poems, New York: Graywolf Press, 2011, p. 30, and may not be reprinted without the publisher's permission.

J. D. McClatchy recorded a reading of this poem on April 17, 2015.