1044: Mixed Marriage

1044: Mixed Marriage

1044: Mixed Marriage


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

Some days, we bicker, nothing major (pun intended). Often, it’s minor: control of the thermostat, recycling duty, my general proclivity to forget. On very rare occasions, we hit upon a disagreement that requires work — where we need to figure out why we react so strongly. I have not been in a romantic relationship that did not require work. I mean come-to-your-maker kind of work. I’m talking emotional work that has you question every decision you have made up till that moment and every decision you will make thereafter. Faint of heart? Don’t even go there. Too awed by your own existence? You might be better off alone. Allergic to change? Incapable of adapting? Only the rotation of the sun is a constant; all else is subject to life’s mutability and human fallibility. The most stable of relationships account for this fact.

Over the years, I’ve taken wisdom from peers and older friends. I am not shy of asking “What is the secret of a long love life?” I’ve asked the oldest couples at wedding receptions, a bride or groom’s great aunt and uncle. I’ve asked the couple at the bar in an airport restaurant. Everyone is down to share, knowing what luck it is to find your mate, how elusive and sometimes seemingly impossible it is to locate that person who is willing to live with your particular brand of anxieties and neuroses.

I’ve heard it all: make room for each other’s faults, find grace, be willing to admit when you are wrong. Amidst the craziness and joy of life, keep an eye on the relationship. Check-ins, date-nights, touchpoints — whatever it takes. But nothing compares to living your togetherness day-to-day and embracing, even relishing, the great privilege of adoration and challenge of love. I suggest dancing through the imperfections, even when your beloved is most sour. Agree to stop and hold and twirl and spin.

Today’s poem understands the victory of love involves both good fortune and great chemistry.

Mixed Marriage
by Nick Laird

Poetry’s the art of introducing words
that haven’t met & getting them to sit together 
in a small room where they might fall –
improbably – in love – or try to kill each other –
or first one thing & later on the other.

Intermittently we felt it, the thready lining
under the small change & balls of fluff at 
the bottom of the pocket of astonishment –
& the best of the rest of the time we kept
our heads down & tried to make sense

standing together & completely alone 
while the words got along like a house
on fire, a street of houses, like the perfect
match had been struck and the cityscape’s 
erupting with sirens, collapsing in flames.

“Mixed Marriage”, from UP LATE by Nick Laird. Copyright © 2023 by Nick Laird. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.