Prayer to the Gods of Marriage


I thank you each day for freedom

from the toxic spills of divorce, plagues

of confrontation and accusation

accosting couples I once thought so firm

I wrote poems in praise of their beds.


I thank you for the most amorous

of advances done in the least obvious

of ways, the most remote of places,

new coasts discovered with finger’s flick,

lick of a neck, tongues softer now,


familiar in a language made new

by the surge and slippage of time,

those tides that capsize us sometimes,

leave us clinging to the rungs of our bodies.

I thank you for the better hotels


in which to dally in, love in, sleep in,

rat-traps of our young marriage

given way to double rooms or king

beds, more territory to roam in,

eventually find each other across


continents of hotel sheets, bunched

blankets. Gods, after hearing litanies

of agony from broken drunken husbands

and damaged-beyond-desperate wives,

thank you for choosing us to bear


happiness and sanity into the world,

the one couple in seven square miles

not squabbling over the remote or

the whiskey, in-laws and kids,

custody of the car and history


of the hurts. I thank them and I

thank the fallible glorious man

who wakes me, daily, from sleep—

lips giving me the slightest possible

kiss one can give to claim another.

Photo by Melvin E.


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About Author

Allison Joseph lives, writes, and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she is part of the creative writing faculty at Southern Illinois University. She serves as editor and poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, moderator of the Creative Writers Opportunities List, and director of the Young Writers Workshop, a summer writers workshop for teen writers. Her books and chapbooks include What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand Press), Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press), In Every Seam (University of Pittsburgh), Wordly Pleasures (Word Tech), Imitation of Life (Carnegie Mellon UP), Voice: Poems (Mayapple Press), My Father's Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), Little Epiphanies (Imaginary Friend Press), and Multitudes (forthcoming, Word Tech Communications). Her awards include fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers Conferences, the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Emerson College and Ploughshares, the 2009 Aquarius Press Legacy Award, the 2012 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the 2014 Paladin Award from RHINO for "extraordinary longtime contribution to poetry in Illinois," and an honorary doctorate from Kenyon College in 2014.

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