Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


On Marriage

Epithalamion? Not too long back
I was being ironic about “wives.”
It’s very well to say, creation thrives
on contradiction, but that’s a fast track
shifted precipitately into. Tacky,
some might say, and look mildly appalled. On
the whole, it’s one I’m likely to be called on.
Explain yourself or face the music, Hack.
No law books frame terms of this covenant.
It’s choice that’s asymptotic to a goal,
which means that we must choose, and choose, and choose
momently, daily. This moment my whole
trajectory’s toward you, and it’s not losing
momentum. Call it anything we want.

Credit


From Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons by Marilyn Hacker. Copyright © 1986 by Marilyn Hacker. Used by permission.

About this Poem


"Reading Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons by Marilyn Hacker was vital for me because the book offered not a glimpse, but a total immersion into a lesbian context, as the story of a yearlong relationship unfolds across nearly two hundred sonnets. ‘On Marriage’ is one of my favorites, because of the way it plays with convention, questioning whether to call itself an epithalamion or not. Ultimately, the speaker of this poem departs from the traditional contract, asserting that, ‘No law books frame terms for this covenant.’ Keenly, Hacker uses geometry to back her speaker’s logic and the poetic line to enact her geometry (lines 11-13 refusing to be end-stopped) when she says that choosing such a love is ‘asymptotic to goal.’ From what I understand, an asymptote is a line that comes closer and closer to a curve without ever meeting—except possibly at infinity. Thus, the poem offers that this unbound commitment to ‘choose, and choose, and choose momently, daily’—which these lovers are making—has a limitless trajectory. What a beautiful and radical declaration!"
Jenny Johnson

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Author


Marilyn Hacker

Marilyn Hacker is the author of fourteen books of poems, most recently Blazons (Carcanet, 2019). Her translations of French and Francophone poets include Marilyn Hacker is the author of fourteen books of poems, most recently Blazons (Carcanet, 2019). Her translations of French and Francophone poets include Samira Negrouche’s The Olive Trees’ Jazz (Pleiades Press, 2020). She lives in Paris, France. She lives in Paris, France.

Date Published: 2016-05-04

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/marriage-0