“The Usefulness of Marriage” by Michael Bazzett

Michael Bazzett


The human race would have become a single
person centuries ago if marriage was any use.
            –E.M. Forster

The first question that comes to mind
pertains to the actual physical dimensions
of this single person containing the human race:

would she, he or they (an awkward construction, yes,
but the inadequacy of words on this particular point
seems only to buttress Forster’s assertion)

stride through the forests, treetops brushing
roughly against the shins, with a glorious
cloud-kissed head riding high in the cool air?

Or would such a person be small and fairly sturdy, perhaps
five foot six, weighing about one hundred and forty
billion pounds, like the exponential mass of a collapsed star?

Containing all of your preceding partners
in a package of eternally increasing density
could put you under a lot of pressure, quite literally,

especially as you met and wooed and loved and
merged with others in this astonishingly effective
but difficult to explain process of achieved matrimony.

A nickel weighing as much as a boxcar comes to mind,
as does a crushed swing set, flattened
by a child with the tonnage of a humpbacked whale.

Under such pressure osteoporosis might
become a problem; finding a doctor could prove challenging
for this culminated entity sprung from some billion marriages.

But I find it even more compelling to climb
just a single branch higher into this gargantuan family tree
and perch there on that forked limb, in the dappled shade,

to consider the thought of those two penultimate figures
stalking the lonely and abandoned planet, calling out
one to another, yearning to achieve that final couple,

their mating song reverberating like twin harmonious foghorns
as they wade thigh-deep into the shallow seas and stalk the low hills
searching for their fellow semi-finalist in these majestic marital Olympics

until one day, at long last, a response reaches one huge ear
and the ground thunders as they fall into one another
and their mutual heat softens the earth beneath them.

In this moment they become that final person,
for better or for worse, having produced this one last union
only to discover a moment later that they are once again alone.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011

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