“If Marriage Is a Duel at 10 Paces”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 5 2013 8:47 AM

“If Marriage Is a Duel at 10 Paces”

"How To Write a Love Poem" by Traci Brimhall.

Illustration by Eryn Cruft/Thrush Press, 2012

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Traci Brimhall read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Let’s count our steps with endearments. Honey. My love.
Let’s mix our gunpowder with rouge and foxglove seeds.

If marriage is a war for independence, I’ll find a feather
for my cap and shoot you from your horse. Darling.

If it’s a hunt, salt and cure me. If it’s a plague for two,
my dear,
let’s quarantine ourselves in the cemetery wearing

aprons and snakeskin belts. Let’s disfigure each other
with praise. My beautiful. My fugitive. If monogamy

is a stakeout, Sweetheart, let’s spy on the beekeeper
who lactates honey. I’ll pull stingers from your chest

if you’ll clean the blood from under my nails. If romance
is a ballad, we are its authors and its victims and finished

in four minutes. Beloved, if your desire is the passage
you underlined in Song of Songs after our first kiss

and erased on our honeymoon, then dark am I, yet lovely.
Then you, my shepherd, my charioteer, turn and shoot.

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins and Rookery, as well as the recipient of 2013 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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