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To My Beloved on Our Second Anniversary
by Thomas Lynch
That man who was married in the same black suit
he was laid out in, years later, and buried,
his widow's tears—they might all make sense to you,
now that the two of you are to be married.
You've seen old photos of the two of them
taken seven decades back or more.
They showed up smiling and said, of course
we will, for better or worse, and then
they raised their glasses, cut the cake and kissed
and tossed the bride's bouquet and garter out
and thanked their parents and assembled guests,
then danced until the candles were blown out,
then danced some more; they were that enamored.
And who could blame them, so nearly perfect
in their flesh and finery and desires;
in all ways poised and blessed and elect
as you are now, and may you always be:
each of you eager to please the other
to let the selfish minute pass, to see
yourselves perfected always in each other.
That old man, when he was young, he brought his bride
home to the house he had readied for her,
and swept her up and carried her inside
as was the custom then, and then together
they helped each other out of their new clothes:
his gabardines, her lace and satin gown,
his tie, her veil, his buttons and her bows
then stood there looking at themselves, alone.
Before they fell into their embracing,
because they thought they'd need them in the end,
they tucked their garments carefully away
in cedar boxes underneath the bed.
And when the going got a little rough
when patience frayed or tempers flared, when love
seemed to have left them only filled with loss
as in all lifelong marriages it must,
when forgiveness and forgetting seemed
impossible, they'd kneel beside their bed
and bury their faces in those wedding things—
her tears, his curses, her fears, his pride and dread,
all dried and muffled in that day's old raiments
which smelled of their sweet youth and promises.
And though they never settled everything,
they did their best to do the next best thing.
"Epithalamium" by Thomas Lynch, from Walking Papers: Poems 1999-2009. © W.W. Norton and Co., 2010.