Michael Skau: On "Marriage"
... "Marriage" comprises variations on a theme, continually sliding from one assumed attitude to another, refusing to offer a definitive stance regarding its ostensible object. The opening line of the poem provides the thematic crux: "Should I get married? Should I be good?" The poem then takes off on a comical ride through the ritualized conventions encountered in such a decision: courtship, obligatory and uncomfortable meeting with the intended's parents, wedding and reception, honeymoon, housekeeping, childbirth, and parenthood. The speaker imagines himself within stock cinematic images of marital settings (rural Connecticut suburb, bleak New York City apartment "seven flights up," sophisticated New York penthouse) and rejects them all, while still recognizing their seductions and embodying his ambivalence in a memorable oxymoron: "No, can't imagine myself married to that pleasant prison dream." The narrator's reluctance stems from his inability to imagine himself forsaking the unpredictable and unconventional outlook upon which he prides himself.... The speaker can anticipate joining the mainstream only if he can retain his penchant for roiling that stream, destroying its placid stability, and investing it with an energetic unpredictability to prevent it from becoming stagnant. (15-16)
From Michael Skau's "A Clown in a Grave"