Matrimony in Verse


It’s not the first time we’ve hit a rough patch.

This is really hard, and when the coping reserves are exhausted, imperfections stand out in stark detail, the rosy light of love overtaxed and flickering like lamps in a hurricane. I remember sitting down with a marriage counselor for a few session awhile back because we had been circling the ring like two gladiators. You ever notice – the more desperate the struggle, the more petty the bickering? I always think of these verses from Sylvia Plath:

So we could rave on, darling, you and I,
until the stars tick out a lullaby
about each cosmic pro and con;
nothing changes, for all the blazing of
our drastic jargon, but clock hands that move
implacably from twelve to one.

We raise our arguments like sitting ducks
to knock them down with logic or with luck
and contradict ourselves for fun;
…my intellectual leprechaun (13-25).

It’s pointless in-fighting, of course; we’re always on the same side. The aforementioned counselor said once, “There are only two people in this room capable of understanding what you’re going through,” but chronic strain can easily obscure this essential truth. We become beasts, huddled in respective corners, claws out, licking our own wounds because, Jesus, we have enough fucking problems without this on top of it! And this can degenerate into a very comfortable kind of atrophy, so I’ve been thinking about another poem, one by Matthew Arnold:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help from pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight (29-36)

I came across this as I was rereading Fahrenheit to lesson-plan for my ninth graders, and it helps me remember the reality of this, which is that he is just as spent as I am, a thing he also needs to remember about me as I bumble about with all my flaws. (Are you reading this, Darling Husband?) Plath gets us back to “the root of the root and the bud of the bud” when she urges in her final stanzas:

So kiss…we shall walk barefoot on walnut shells
of withered worlds, and stamp out puny hells
and heavens till the spirits squeak
surrender; to build our bed as high as Jack’s
bold beanstalk; lie and love till sharp scythe hacks
away our rationed days and weeks.

Then jet the blue tent topple, stars rain down,
and God or void appall us till we drown
in our own tears; today we start
to pay the piper with each breath, yet love
knows not of death nor calculus above
the simple sum of heart plus heart (31-48).

 A profound and powerful equation, indeed, where comfort lies in compassion and resilience in drinking from this crisp aquifer: love, the joy that inspired it, the intimacy that sustains it. The rest will keep.

23 thoughts on “Matrimony in Verse

  1. Love to you friend. Sustaining a marriage during an infertility crisis is tough. I can’t imagine how tough it is for you and your husband with your history and situation.


  2. It’s such hard work sometimes, building a joint life. So worth it, though. I’m always saddened when I read of one-sided effort to keep a marriage happy and strong. It’s unsustainable. Thank goodness for partners who do the work, too.


  3. Infertility and what it does to a marriage is so difficult. It seems to seep into every crack and freeze, pushing them further open. But yes, definitely worth it to keep working through. Glad to see in the comments that things are a bit better and will keep hoping for things to continue to be better.

    Gorgeous post and quotes by the way…makes me want to go pull down my Sylvia Plath anthology.


  4. (Um… in case I haven’t mentioned it before, your writing is beautiful.)

    You’d think the fear of dying childless would be enough, but nooooo… infertiles get to worry about the slow demise of our marriages as well. It’s one of the hidden victims of our infertility (along with our finances and our mental health.)


    • Ha, yes, it’s a real package deal! Sometimes the fact that we’re still together, tho, gives me a confidence that luckier ppl might not have because, jeez, if this hasn’t ended us, what possibly could??


  5. The fact that you’re working together (as I’m sure you already know) is a very positive sign, even when you’re both in gladiator mode (spot on description, by the way). Hubby and I have been in the ring many times over our almost thirty years together, and we’ve always pulled through. It sounds like you and your Darling Husband are well on the way to the laying down of swords – sending positive thoughts to you both.


  6. I think the most beautiful part of this is how your turns of phrase marry so well with those of the poetry.

    Sending good thoughts as you muddle through this.


  7. I can understand this (“the petty bickering”, etc..) and it’s not talked about much within the infertility world. The toll that “normal” marriages go through isn’t comparable to those going through chronic infertility. I read some of the other comments and I’m glad you all are on the mend. The ups and downs of all of this is exhausting…so much strength sent to you all….xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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