Lines on Marriage

By Joel Brouwer b. 1968 Joel Brouwer
You’re not dewy with
sleep in the next room,
or impossibly
distant. You’re not here.
“Bovary bores me,
Bovary irritates
me, the vulgarity
of the subject gives
me bouts of nausea.”
You might be jogging
or buying groceries.
I don’t know where you
are. It’s not midnight
or high noon or dawn.
It’s about three, I
think, the hour Sartre
said is always too
early or too late
for whatever it
is you want to do.
Flaubert hates his
characters not because
of what they do or
who they are but
because they don’t do
anything and are
no one. Which is to
say they’re like us.
You might be on the
moon or puking gin
at a truck stop but
likely not. Emma
buys a map of Paris
to coordinate
her ennui. We live
in a city, not
on a map. Marriage
can’t be a love story
or a hate story
because it’s not a
story. “Madame Bovary,
c’est moi,” unlike
“L’État, c’est moi,” is
a diagnosis, not
a boast, and the disease
is pettiness and
mediocrity, which is
to say life itself,
and as long as you
are with me I wish
never to be cured.
Always too early or
too late, but always.

Source: Poetry (October 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2010
 Joel  Brouwer


Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, poet Joel Brouwer is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Syracuse University. Brouwer is the author of several collections of poetry, including And So (2009); Centuries (2003), a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book; and Exactly What Happened (1999), winner of the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also published several chapbooks. Brouwer has been . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Reading & Books, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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