First Year of Marriagelisten to this poem
Love is the burning point. – Joseph Campbell
You get up from the couch to rekindle
the fire. I ask if you need a match as you
twist the newspaper into a horseshoe
and stick it between dim embers and logs.
You say no, the fire will catch.
Everyone says marriage takes work.
We do our share. We watch the paper;
in the dark night, we wait.
Second Year of Marriagelisten to this poem
Over breakfast and the staggering waft
of jasmine tea and pesto eggs, you say
if it were your job to create the senses
you would have forgotten smell.
I keep my mouth shut, look
intrigued. A link to the limbic,
the olfactory: the pulse-quickening
scent-coffee, green-humid air, exhaust-
of the airport in Venezuela-or the way
the geranium in my living room sends me
straight back to my grandparents’ deck,
those summer lunches. Last year,
I would have tried to convince you
of smell’s virtues. Instead, I let it be.
Later, we fight over the best way to unlock
the car. No matter. Your scent, that wordless
telegram, still takes me apart, like it did
when it first arrived out of nowhere.
The Third Year of Marriagelisten to this poem
A Frenchman in a straw hat,
his white linen shirt immaculate,
calls, Attendez-moi, to his friends below.
He crawls down sideways, bent in half
to hang onto the lone, low rope
strung along 120 vertiginous steps
of the Yucatan’s highest pyramid
with bee-god carvings
and a treetops-for-miles view.
I look down and sway.
My husband positions himself
below and to the side of me, places
my hand on his shoulder, and says,
Let’s go. We lower left to meet right
on narrow, pitted steps, in the implicit
rhythm of the intimate. I’m crazy.
If he goes, I go, but all the way
I hold onto his shoulder, steady.
Fourth Year of Marriagelisten to this poem
At our hotel breakfast table you take the bananas we swiped
for snacks and make them kiss. When they start to hump
and moan, the couple at the next table staring,
I ask you to stop. Then, carefully, you lay the spooned
bananas down and tuck them in gently, napkin folded back
like a sheet. My laugh makes half the dining room turn around.
I think of your penchant for depressive wives-your heroic attempts
to cheer up the last one, and now me-how perfect the clowning
that often embarrasses, sometimes succeeds. How I hope
you’ll never give up. Shhh, you whisper, the bananas are sleeping.
Fifth Year of Marriagelisten to this poem
It didn’t seem dangerous-the white dress,
the trailing red bouquet, the rose-strewn path.
The sun even broke through rain-laden clouds
to shine on my face when I spoke my vows.
The other night I told a new friend I got married
because I wanted to grow, having gone
as far as I could along the wake-up-path alone-
it’s easy to think you’re enlightened when no one’s leaving
clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink. It didn’t seem
dangerous, this decision to build ourselves a paddock
in which to nuzzle, but opening asks for much more
than flexibility-the giving up of every story
about who we are and could be, alone and together.
Marriage-this riding crop, this ground of flames.