It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday night, the end of another busy week. The kids are finally in bed, and for the first time in forever my husband and I are sitting in the front room together, having a drink, talking to each other, being grown-ups.
I ask him, “Do you like poetry?” We’ve been married 15 years, and I don’t know the answer to the question.
“No. I don’t get it. I don’t like philosophy either.”
And then he asks me, “Did you know that a billion years from now the sun will suck the Earth into itself, and vaporize the planet?”
“Suck the Earth into itself?”
“Yeah, once the sun uses up all its hydrogen fuel it will blow up like a big balloon and the Earth will just get sucked in.”
I’m not sure how poetry and planetary vaporization are related, but I’m feeling that thing where you sit in a room with your spouse and try to have a conversation and they couldn’t care less about what you’re talking about and then they introduce some other topic of conversation, like sports.
In my marriage it’s the Blackhawks, the Cubs or the Bears, World Cup soccer, his buddy’s rugby team, youth hockey, youth soccer, T-ball, the 537 reasons why Notre Dame football is overrated, his ridiculous sports jersey collection, Mike and Mike in the Morning, whether or not it makes any sense to buy season tickets to the Bears and the unbelievable amounts of discussion about buying tickets to the Cubs this year because they suck so bad he can’t even deal with the pain. But tonight, it’s supernovas.
“I know you said you didn’t like poetry, but do you ever read it anyway?”
“The only poetry I’ve ever read is Shakespeare. Do you know that if the sun were a big star it would explode and be called a supernova? And it turns out that every molecule in your body was once fused in a massive star that exploded billions of years ago. We are all just dust from some big explosion.”
“Where do you get all this stuff? Who cares about supernovas and dust particles and and planet sucking stars?”
“The Discovery Channel.”
“The Discovery Channel?”
“Yeah, supernovas are really big right now, and sharks. Last year everything was about dinosaurs, but now fish are big too.”
“Yeah, mostly killer fish.”
“Killer fish, what’s a killer fish?”
I think my husband is upset about the Earth’s upcoming vaporization, so maybe that’s why we’re talking about killer fish.
I think, maybe, for him, there is something solid, something grounding in the physical Earth, in the mountains where he grew up, some faith that they would always be there. Some day they won’t be. This is a scientific fact that philosopher’s and poets ponder. How many poems on death, life, God, eternity?
“What about Stanley Kunitz, have you ever read any of his poems? He was once the Poet Laureate of the United States. He wrote a poem called ‘Touch me,’ that’s one of his most well-known poems. It’s one of my absolute favorites.”
“Well maybe I could read it to you. Tonight when we go to bed.”
All of sudden I can tell I’ve got his attention, and he’s not thinking about sports or supernovas.
Remind me of who I am.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.