Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Pursuit of Happiness"

This poem came out of the March 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] librarygeek and [personal profile] bairnsidhe. It also fills the square "The Pursuit of Happiness" in my 9-2-18 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] librarygeek in memory of the fires today at BOTH Notre Dame Cathedral and Al-Aqsa Mosque. What is remembered, lives. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"The Pursuit of Happiness"


The nineteenth century was a time
of transcendental enlightenment.

People reexamined old beliefs
and practices, improving them
for contemporary uses.

One thing that needed fixing
was the institution of marriage.

Joseph Smith began the practice
of polygamy among the Mormons
in the 1830s, which sparked
many arguments between them
and the federal government.

It went all the way up to
the Supreme Court who ruled
that freedom of religion and
the pursuit of happiness were
guaranteed to all, and the Mormons
were free to marry as they wished.

Many other territories and states
promptly passed laws banning
the practice, or defining marriage
as a sacred contract between
one man and one woman ...
but not all of them did.

In April of 1841, Brook Farm
began in Massachusetts. It was
an experimental free love community
of Quakers, Shakers, Mormons,
and various other blithe spirits.

The members sought harmony through
individual freedom and humane relationships.
They balanced physical labor with a love
of the arts and entertainment, creating
a healthy environment for body and mind.

In 1848, John Humphrey Noyes founded
the Oneida community in New York. They
took their name from a local tribe who
contributed several founding members
and a considerable amount of culture.

They practiced complex marriage in which
each man was married to each woman
in pursuit of inclusion and selflessness.

Their offspring all lived together in
the Children's House, raised by
the adults in general instead of
by their individual parents.

As a result, the youth cohorts
formed strong sibling bonds that
became the cornerstone of their lives.

In 1862, Frances Wright established
Nashoba, a free-love community
in Tennessee near Memphis.

The large communal farm
united blacks and whites
to make love and labor.

It taught skilled trades
to slaves so they could
buy their freedom, without
bankrupting slaveowners
and making them resist
the processes of freedom.

Originally the plan was
to transport the freed slaves
to Liberia or Haiti, but instead
everyone preferred the idea of
sexual passion as the best source
of human happiness, and they
stayed together for love.

Nashoba became one of
the first fully integrated,
multiracial communities.

In Massachusetts,
a variety of options
began to develop.

First there came
the Boston marriage
in which two women
lived together, with or
without sex and romance.

Then Audenzia Amato
founded the Boston Line.

It began with a group of
women (and a few with
different body shapes
who identified as women)
living together in a brownstone.

Some of them loved only other women,
some loved men as well, but none
of them wanted to marry a man --
so they all married each other.

They took the surname Dione, but
people called them the Boston Line
because they married in new women
one at a time, spreading out the ages.

This left them in want of a way
to have children, though.

So together they launched
the House of the Crescent Moon,
a brothel with high standards
as well as high aspirations.

The women who wanted
to get pregnant worked in
the brothel, while those who
wanted nothing to do with men
raised the children or found work
as writers, artists, seamstresses,
and many different trades.

The girl babies were kept
and raised in the line family,
while the boys were adopted out
to couples who could not conceive.

Over time, both the business
and the family grew larger.

They spilled out of 101 Beacon
and bought 103 next door, then 105,
and so on until they owned all six.

Some sections of the row were
kept as whole houses, while others
were divided into apartments --
not everyone wanted to be married
to everyone else, so there were
some Boston marriages among
the daughters as they grew up.

Eventually, the Dione family
even began admitting men,
although they never gave up
the brothel and its opportunity
for women who wanted mates
instead of actual husbands.

The pursuit of happiness
left America with a patchwork
of laws regarding marriage --
polygamy was legal in Utah,
group marriage in Massachusetts
including line marriage in Boston
and the Boston marriage for couples,
complex marriage in New York,
interracial relationships in Memphis,
and many more options beyond.

Reciprocity grew among states,
some recognizing only marriages
made in the state where it was valid
if they moved to another state, and
others allowing people to move in
to get married and then back out
so long as they stayed a few years.

It took a while before any state
would honor marriages made on
a brief trip instead of residence,
but that too came in time.

For many years, it stayed
a patchwork, with rights
scattered across the land
like multicolored hearts
against a gray background.

Eventually, though, people began
to recognize the pursuit of happiness
as a universal human need, and
more types of marriage gained
legality in more places.

Interracial marriage became
the first to win national recognition,
later followed by same-sex marriage,
not without some flack from those
who considered them immoral.

The people who practiced other types
of marriage continued their efforts
for equality, dreaming of a day
when the blanket of love
would cover America

in one whole cloth.

* * *

Notes:

Poly marriage has a deep history. Line marriage, polyfidelity, and group marriage are just a few examples. Brook Farm, Oneida, and Nashoba belong to the "first wave" of polyamory in the United States.

Just in case anyone thinks it's "un-American," there's a trio of bald eagles doing it.

Polygamy is a feature of the Mormon faith. As the Constitution claims freedom of religion, it is blatantly wrong for the government to say Mormons cannot practice the plural marriage of their tradition, let alone threaten to murder them for it.

Brook Farm was established as a transcendental utopia which aimed for work-life balance.

The Oneida Community was named for the Oneida tribe. In T-America, the Oneida tribe contributed both people and culture to the Oneida community.

The Nashoba Community espoused free love and equality.

A brownstone is a type of townhouse built from local rock.

101 Beacon and its neighbors belong to a historic rowhouse in Boston. See a map of its location. This is the exterior. There are pictures of the modern apartments including 101 Beacon Apt. 5 and Apt. 6.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, politics, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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