Woman laying in grass with book
Photo: Hemera/Thinkstock
After a long day doing work you do not love enough (or work you love so much, it sometimes leaves you hollowed out and in despair) and coming home to tired, hungry children (or wishing you had children to feed, or wishing your children were cats) and talking to your spouse, who is more interested in sports/the war/the stock market/pornography (or wishing you had a spouse, even if he or she ignored you, or wishing that your spouse was someone else entirely), people are inclined to pour themselves a drink (if that is a vice you are still allowed) or get a pint of ice cream and watch TV. 

I don't blame them. I do it myself (and sometimes, to be efficient, when the day has been as bad as all that, I pour the brandy right over the vanilla ice cream and save myself some steps). But television only passes the time. Pretty good fiction passes the time a little better. Great fiction will take you to another place, and there are times when that kind of travel is essential. But poetry is the thing that will take you inside yourself, it will hand you back a piece of your soul, and poetry is what I'm selling today. 

When I think that I cannot bear another marital misunderstanding, another exchange of good intentions fizzling out before they get halfway across the room, there is Mary Jo Salter and her poem "A Benediction":

Marriage is all contradiction.
On blissful days, you choose to live
for the moment, as in romantic fiction;
on miserable ones, believe
in what lies beyond the blue horizon.
In short, you can't be realistic
unless you dare to throw out reason...
and marriage, after all, is a joint
venture, not a game in which
adversaries score a point;
both of you stand to lose the match
.

How poetry can stand by you like time-tested recipes