Most Like an Arch This Marriage

When I think of marriage or any committed relationship, I am reminded of John Ciardi’s beautiful poem, “Most Like an Arch This Marriage.” My husband and I love the poem so much that we read it aloud at our wedding.

In verse, Ciardi likens marriage to an arch, a joining of “abeyances.” What is “strong and separate falters,” he declares; but in relationship, we “lean into a strength…two fallings become firm.”

Our society celebrates rugged individualism and devalues dependency and vulnerability. Ciardi offers a radically different view: It is by leaning in, joined at the keystone, that we are able bear more weight than when we stand alone and apart. Loving relationships—including the bonds among friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors—are more than the sum of their individual parts.


Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
Two joined abeyances become a term
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
at piling stone on stone apart from you
is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss

I am no more than upright and unset.
It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.