Most Like an Arch This Marriage

Tintern Abbey, East End Columns via Wikimedia Commons

Tintern Abbey, East End Columns
via Wikimedia Commons

This is the poem that Fartbuster selected for our wedding ceremony.  I remember when he read it to me the first time, as we sat on a purple velvet settee in The Bookmonger, in Montgomery, Alabama (one of those treasure trove used books stores that has gone the way of the dinosaur).  He read it to me, sotto voce, from a book of John Ciardi poems and I felt honored to be marrying a man who was so wise and sensitive.

Most Like an Arch This Marriage


Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.
Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
Two joined abeyances become a term
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.
Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
at piling stone on stone apart from you
is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss
I am no more than upright and unset.
It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.

Oh, twenty-six year old me…honey, honey, honey.  Bless your heart.  Or to quote Jake’s last line to Brett from The Sun Also Rises:  “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It was pretty to think so, to think that ours would be the kind of marriage like an arch, leaning in to the point of falling, but catching each other in the all-bearing point.  Raised by our own weight.  Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Wellllll…What words did this young poet have for me when we were finally alone together after the wedding?  Granted, we had been living together for a couple of years, so it’s not as if I was expecting a pulse-quickening night of romantic discovery.  And we were staying in a local chain hotel before driving to Charleston the next day for the real honeymoon.  But this is what I got from my new husband, the erstwhile poet.  

He flopped out on the bed with the basket of snacks sent by the caterer and started grazing.  I shimmied out of my wedding dress then went to the bathroom to pry off my foundation undergarments.  I wasn’t feeling shy–it’s just that my cousin, Shannon, had poured about 2 pounds of birdseed down my back as we left the reception and most of it was valiantly contained by my foundation undergarment.  I figured it would be a kindness to the maid if I unleashed all that birdseed on the tile floor instead of the carpet.  So off I went to the bathroom.  When I came back out, shed of the birdseed and my single girl inhibitions (as IF), Fartbuster was still snacking and had turned on the television.  To Beavis and Butthead.  beavis and butthead


I looked at him.  I looked at the TV.  I looked back at him and he finally noticed me standing there.  I said, “REALLY? Beavis and Butthead?”  And this was his reply, gentle reader:

“C’mon!  It’s a NEW ONE.”

Poems are pretty.  John Ciardi’s vision of marriage is a lovely one.  Marriage does require bending towards each other, trusting that the other half of the arch will meet you in the middle.  The trust that grounds marriage is a falling towards, leaning over, reaching out.  If your partner isn’t there when you do that…you fall flat on your face.

But to tell the god’s honest truth?  Falling on your face isn’t the worst thing that can happen.  As the old Japanese saying goes:  “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

4 thoughts on “Most Like an Arch This Marriage

  1. Debra Helwig

    It’s a beautiful poem, despite the icky-yucky-ewww feelings now attached to it thanks to Fartbuster… I love that you’ve moved into a place where you can talk about it so clearly now. You made it back on your feet and now you’ve started to RUN!

  2. Katie

    I’m getting so much out of your posts, as I’m with a partner who seems similar to Fartbuster in a lot of ways. Your strength and insight are inspiring.


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