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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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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.

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

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

Marilyn Hacker

Marilyn Hacker

Born in New York City on November 27, 1942, Marilyn Hacker was the only child of a working-class Jewish couple, each the first in their families to attend college.

by this poet

poem
James has cancer. Catherine has cancer.
Melvin has AIDS.
Whom will I call, and get no answer?
My old friends, my new friends who are old,
or older, sixty, seventy, take pills
before or after dinner. Arthritis
scourges them. But irremediable night is
farther away from them; they seem to hold
it at bay
2
poem

for Fadwa Soleiman

Said the old woman who barely spoke the language:
Freedom is a dream, and we don’t know whose.
Said the insurgent who was now an exile:
When I began to write the story I started bleeding.

Freedom is a dream, and we don’t know whose—
that man I last saw

poem

Wine again. The downside of any evening’s
bright exchanges, scribbled with retribution :
stark awake, a tic throbs in the left temple’s
site of bombardment.

Tortured syntax, thorned thoughts, vocabulary
like a forest littered with unexploded
cluster bombs, no exit except
2