Mina Loy
from The Lost Lunar Baedecker



The Effectual Marriage v




The door was an absurd thing
Yet it was passable
They quotidienly passed through it
It was this shape

Gina and Miovanni               who they were God knows  v
They knew      it was important to them
This being of who they were
They were themselves
Corporeally         transcendentally          consecutively
conjunctively         and they were quite       complete

In the evening they looked out of their two windows
Miovanni out of his library window
Gina from the kitchen window
From among his pots and pans
Where he so kindly kept her
Where she so wisely busied herself
Pots and Pans         she cooked in them
All sorts of sialagogues
Some say        that happy women are immaterial

So here we might dispense with her
Gina being a female
But she was more than that
Being an incipience            a correlative  v
an instigation of the reaction of man
From the palpable to the transcendent
Mollescent irritant of his fantasy
Gina had her use        Being useful
contentedly conscious
She flowered in Empyrean
From which no well-mated woman ever returns

Sundays       a warm light in the parlor
From the gritty road          on the white wall
anybody could see it
Shimmered a composite effigy
Madonna           crinolined          a man
hidden beneath her hoop
Ho for the blue and red of her
The silent eyelids of her
The shiny smile of her

Ding dong         said the bell
Miovanni            Gina called
Would it be fitting for you to tell
the time for supper
Pooh      said Miovanni     I am
Outside time and space

Patience said Gina      is an attribute
And she learned      at any hour to offer
The dish        appropriately delectable

What had Miovanni made of his ego
In his library
What had Gina wondered    among the pots and pans
One never asked the other
So they     the wise ones      eat their suppers in peace

Of what their peace consisted
We cannot say
Only that he was magnificently man
She insignificantly a woman who understood
Understanding       what is that
To Each    his entity    to others

their idiosyncrasies    to the free expansion  v
to the annexed    their liberty
To man his work
To woman her love
Succulent meals    and an occasional caress
                So be it
                                     It so seldom is

While Miovanni thought alone in the dark
Gina supposed that peeping    she might see
A round light         shining      where his mind was
She never opened the door
Fearing that this might blind her
Or even
That she should see    Nothing at all
So while he thought
She hung out of the window
Watching for falling stars
And when a star fell
She wished     that still
Miovanni would love her to-morrow
And as Miovanni
Never gave any heed to the matter
He did

Gina was a woman
Who wanted everything
To be everything in woman
Everything everyway at once
Diurnally variegate  v
Miovanni always knew her
She was Gina
Gina who lent monogamy
With her fluctuant aspirations
A changeant consistency
Unexpected intangibilities

Miovanni remained
Monumentally the same
The same Miovanni
If he had become anything else
Gina's world would have been at an end
Gina with no axis to revolve on
Must have dwindled to a full stop

In the mornings she dropped
Cool crystals
Through devotional fingers
Saccharine     for his cup
And marketed
With a Basket
Trimmed with a red flannel flower
When she was lazy
She wrote a poem on the milk bill
The first strophe        Good morning
The second        Good night
Something not too difficult to
Learn by heart

The scrubbed smell of the white-wood table
Greasy cleanliness      of the chopper board
The coloured vegetables
Intuited quality of flour
Crickly sparks of straw-fanned charcoal
Ranged themselves among her audacious happinesses
Pet simplicities of her Universe
Where circles were only round
                                      Having no vices.

    (This narrative halted when I learned that the
house which inspired it was the home of a mad
                                                —Forte dei Marmi)




from "The Lost Lunar Baedeker, Poems" selected and edited by Roger Conover, 1996, New York, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
© 2018 Estate of Mina Loy, courtesy of Roger L. Conover.





Circa. summer 1915. First published in Others: An Anthology of the New Verse, pp. 66-70. The parenthetical postscript is reproduced here as it appeared in the first published version. Loy spent the summer of 1915 in the Italian seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi. ^

This version follows the first publication, to which I have made the following emendations:

  Line 5: Gina] Gian  ^  
  Line 23: correlative] correllative  ^  
  Line 60: idiosyncrasies] idiosyncracies  ^  
  Line 87: variegate] varigate  ^  
  Editor's Note: "Gina" and "Miovanni" stand for Loy and Giovanni Papini.

This poem drew early and favorable comments from both Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, and has commanded as much critical attention as any poem from Loy's Florence period. Eliot pronounced it "extremely good, and suggestive of Le Bosschere." Pound found it "perhaps better written than anything I have found in Miss Moore." Later, Pound excerpted this poem in two anthologies, under the title "Ineffectual Marriage." In 1932 he still considered "The Effectual Marriage" one of the most memorable poems of the last thirty years, one which defined its epoch. But in memorializing the poem, he also distorted it.

Carolyn Burke has written persuasively about the effect of Pound's "framing" of this poem. See Burke's essays "Getting Spliced: Modernism and Sexual Difference" (American Quarterly 39 [1987, pp. 98-121)) and "Mina Loy," in Bonnie Scott, ed., The Gender of Modernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). ^