“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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM The Global Millionaires Club Is Booming and Losing Its Exclusivity
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 21 2014 12:40 PM Asamkirche: The Rococo Church Where Death Hides in Plain Sight
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM George Tiller's Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Doctor, Claims Right of Free Speech
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.