At the upturns of your grin, the red beard
This year's begun threading itself with white.
"Each agéd hair a gift"—kiss—"from you."
You're joking, mostly. But in some deeper sense
It's true: we're married now, you've vowed
Your life and all your coming years to me.
Whatever other nuptial rites we cast out
As too tribal, not our style (the virgin
Gown, the given girl, the fertility-
Provoking garter), we assume we'll weather
Through the turning hairs, or their decline,
Together. And if we're successful, one of us,
Barring some unlikely twinned demise,
Must end without the other. That's why
I cried before our rustled-up, gum-
Chewing justice who kept calling you "Andy"
By mistake. You thought it was my normal mild
Hysteria, mixed with trying not to laugh.
(I did wonder whether it would count as legal
If he pronounced me the wrong man's wife.)
But it wasn't the Southern Gothic bridal
Sapped me, love; it was all I was consenting
To: the life ahead we hope will use us fully,
Wizening our bodies well as two liveoaks
Whose branches interlace fantastically
Before they fail. Half-felled
Myself, I stood below the courthouse chapel's
Fairy-lit take on the Bower of Bliss,
Facing past the plastic fern to the abyss.
Nothing bridges it. But you
Stood on its edge with me, grinning broader
Through your beard each time our tipsy
String-tied gentleman bluffly
Rechristened you. And seventy-five dollars
Later, on the streetcar toward our fancy
Lunch for two: "It isn't every groom who'd eagerly
Give up his name. That makes you ... Mrs. Who?"
By then, you'd driven my existential vapors
Off enough so I could laugh. And
In spite of the humidity, the trolley
Chuckling fast along its tracks stirred up
A cheerful draft. On either side the trees
Refreshed the street with sunshot shadows, so
We flashed giddily through alternate
Bright blinks and blacknesses. Somewhere
In the canopy, a woodpecker
Uncorked his bubbling flute. Time felt
Suspended, balancing between symmetric
Poles where gravity is countered by
Velocity as, years before, our bodies
Pressed together learned to take the hair-
Pin curves along a coastal cliff by gently
Leaning with the motorcycle's angle
Toward the road.
Then you turned to me
And, with a question, broke the spell. Remember
How I answered you? "I will. It's true. I am. I do."
Whose Flesh is Flame, Whose Bone is Time
Waywiser Press / Dufour Editions