Matthew Lippman
Marriage Pants

I don’t know when the shitstorm of failed marriage

     took off.

I’m talking about people who I went to high school with,

    to college and Italian villas—

where we could see Vesuvius and if we could not see it,

    imagine it,

and if we could not do that either,

played with the sound of the word

as it rolled around like horny lovers

in the backs of our throats. 


There was Jack and Lucinda,

who spent three years building banjos

that neither of them ever played

but the plants flourished in their stinky apartment near Gowanus

so who cared.

The question persisted:

Who the hell am I

and what the hell have I done?


Then there was Katie and Todd who loved

caviar and sparrows. 

They wanted to have a kid and thank fuck they didn’t. 

When Katie left she blew up Todd’s motorcycle

and the neighborhood kids ran down the block for a second

to see the debris

then went back to their basketballs and bong hits. 


I wanted them to make it

for everyone on the planet.  I wanted her cancer and his insatiable desire for obese ladies

at the Target

to be beaten into death;

to prove to the 21st century TV newscasters

that nobody knew what the hell they were talking about

when they newscasted on TV

that marriage was dying like an obese lady

in the lingerie department

at the local Target. 


It felt weird,

like people weren’t getting divorced,

but more, like they were dying—

crawling into the earth with the worms and roots

to hide away in horror

while their children ran to the school bus and the Batmobile

and the EZ Bake oven that, of course,

could never, ever, ever,

catch fire. 


It made me want to beat up my mailman

and the woman who sold me my internet cable

and the telephone guy, Lou,

like all of this was some reflection on how we had forgotten to talk

to one another. 

But it wasn’t. 

It was age. 

The age of worn out marriage pants,

untended.  One leg torn at the knee,

the other, burned out in the crotch.

It was bad cloth, warped stitching, inseams with no in

and I knew it. 


And then I got hitched.


Eight years later,

my buddy Stu said to me:

How do you stay connected? 

I said:

You want to stay close, stay close. 

You want to be in love,

be in love. 

It’s like watching TV

Like ping pong after dinner. 

You pick up the clicker, you pick up

the paddle. 


But who the hell was I?


Some mornings I get up and can’t tie my shoes. 

I’m forty-four years old and can’t toast the seedless rye. 

My kid cries because her hands are wet;

my wife undresses in front of open windows. 

What am I supposed to do? 

I wake up.

I say good morning. 

I put on my pants.

Found In Volume 39, No. 02
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Matthew Lippman
About the Author

Matthew Lippman is the author of Salami JewMonkey Bars, and The New Year of Yellow, which won the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize.