The Unknown

John Culhane reflects:

I came across a short poem that seems especially weighty right now. In the latest New Yorker, Spencer Reese’s “The Long-Term Marriage” describes an older couple (”[t]he dash between their dates is nearly done”) engaging in the most intimate kind of caring for each other (wife rubs cream on husband’s head to chase away “squamous-cell carcinomas”); but the creams are “FedExed from their adopted son’s boyfriend’s home, a relationship that remains, to them, unknown.”

The poem draws a striking contrast between the two relationships.

The older couple at the center of this evanescent universe are portrayed in loving detail, while the son (likely “adopted” to suggest, somehow, the importance of the biological link for understanding between generations)  and his “boyfriend” are left undescribed at the other end of the FedEx transmission. Despite the physical and emotional distance, the son expresses his love by sending what his parents most need, and by the quickest means possible.

Equal dignity is both furnished and taught by law. I wonder if “The Long-Term Marriage” is a poem that could be written fifty years from now, after this struggle has been won. Will there still be straight couples this unaware of their children’s most important relationships? I doubt it.