One big test of the endurance of any relationship is taking on a joint improvement project. Here Sue Ellen Thompson offers an account of one such trial by fire.
My parents argued over wallpaper. Would stripes
make the room look larger? He
would measure, cut, and paste; she'd swipe
the flaws out with her brush. Once it was properly
hung, doubt would set in. Would the floral
have been a better choice? Then it would grow
until she was certain: it had to go. Divorce
terrified me as a child. I didn't know
what led to it, but I had my suspicions.
The stripes came down. Up went
the flowers. Eventually it became my definition
of marriage: bad choices, arguments
whose victors time refused to tell,
but everything done together and done well.
Reprinted by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2006 by Sue Ellen Thompson, from her book, "The Golden Hour," published by Autumn House Press. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
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- American Life in Poetry #89: Sue Ellen Thompson;
- American Life in Poetry #86: Linda Pastan;
- American Life in Poetry #81: Tess Gallagher;
- American Life in Poetry #70: Sharon Olds;
- American Life in Poetry #68: Wendell Berry;
- American Life in Poetry #51: Jim Harrison;
- American Life in Poetry #30: Naomi Shihab Nye;
- American Life in Poetry #26: Claudia Emerson;
- American Life in Poetry #11: David Wagoner;
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