“Freely Espousing”: The Supreme Court’s Rulings on Same-Sex Marriage

Today’s fantastic, historic news that the Supreme Court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and cleared the way for gay marriage in California to resume, immediately brought to mind James Schuyler’s great poem “Freely Espousing” (written in the 1950s, and the title poem of his first collection which was published in 1969).

I’ve always thought of the poem as wildly ahead of its time.  It’s an exuberant celebration of the inalienable right to marry — to “freely espouse” — whoever one wants, regardless of gender.  It’s also about the related, exhilarating freedom to espouse everything, all aspects of the world without restriction — the freedom to enjoy all the wonderful collisions, “comminglings,” and marriages that make up our daily experience:

Marriages of the atmosphere
are worth celebrating
where Tudor City
catches the sky or the glass side
of a building lit up at night in fog

The poem closes with a lovely image of one such marriage, which Schuyler finds eminently worth celebrating: a “medium-size couple” (of indeterminate gender) who have found a haven on board the “S.S. United States” where they can freely espouse and embrace each other in peace.

Their scallop shell of quiet
is the S.S. United States.
It is not so quiet and they
are a medium-size couple who
when they fold each other up
well, thrill. That’s their story.

As of today, it’s also one step closer to being everyone’s story.  There will definitely be some celebrating on board the S.S. United States today.

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