Marriage is, the priest intones, sitting hunched over his desk
Like a card sharp trying to figure if he can fill an inside straight,
Not unlike love itself, the deepest and most beguiling of all mysteries,
And I repress the urge to snap To you, certainly
(The man has, after all, said no to the pleasures of the flesh,
Though he must be at least slightly aware of their existence,
As his gaze often returns to the telltale swelling of my midriff.)
He is, you have to suppose, right in terms of the big picture,
Because love is certainly goddamned complicated:
For the good father, it’s the ecstasy of the saints,
The little bit of that he taps into with the wine, the dutiful nibble of the wafer.
For some of us, it’s a tit-for-tat bargain,
Me scratching your back and you scratching mine.
Then again, it’s your mother weeping over coffee (with an additional kick)
At three in the morning when you finally work up the nerve
To tell her what’s what and what will be down the line.
More often than not, the whole thing is like walking through a blackberry patch,
All thicketed and maze-like after years of neglect,
And you end up tired, dirty, and scratched all to hell
To get to some berries that likely aren’t at all sweet, anyhow.
Still, the show must go on—the congregation must have their white dress
(Folks came from out of town, after all, and the uncles on my mother’s side
Have kicked in for an expensive and utterly pointless silver service)
So I walk down this aisle as devoted cousins beam from their pews
And various great aunts wear their fixed smiles in various shades of disapproval
As the organist (near ninety now, flubbing notes and missing pedals,
Her tempo unnaturally adagio) fights the wedding march to a draw
I have fixed my mind on playing my part as best as I can,
Giving my brightest high-school-yearbook smile
As I run through rice and whispers on the way to Uncle John’s tank-like Continental
(Long and black as the ride at the end of our days)
To ride to the Legion Hall at the edge of the village,
Where I will dance and shine, and blithely toss the boquet
For brides are beautiful
And brides are holy, holy, holy
Yet in the midst of my revelry I chance to look upwards
Toward the stained-glass windows,
And the light waxes and swells until it is nothing but a glow
Which threatens to engulf everything in its path.