American Wedding, by Joseph Millar


The yarmulke hides the bald spot on my goyische skull
as I watch my new son-in-law’s size 13
stomp down on the linen-swathed wineglass.
My daughter looks radiant, no other word
for it, gowned in white satin the color of light.
We’re surrounded by Jews dressed in black
like the sea, like the streets of Manhattan,
whose young men will soon bear me up
on a chair, a floating throne
over the circle clapping and singing.
I’ve eaten roast duck at the rehearsal dinner,
listened to the cantor’s plangent tones,
stood by while the two signed the ornate
ketubah, gold-leafed promise
unschooled like a map of the world.

My small wan gaggle of distant family
clumps together next to the aisle,
divorced, remarried adopted, nervous:
our dead father’s third wife coughing behind
my stepchildren, ex-wife, half brothers, motley,
ragged, one nephew wearing a baseball cap.

When the groom lifts the veil from her
delicate temples, I’m thinking someone
should warn them: a future of funerals, car
payments, taxes, kids throwing up in the night.
It’s a job you mostly won’t know how to do,
your naked arm deep in a jammed kitchen sink,
burnt rinds of eggplant crazily adrift.

Your children will lift their small faces
toward you and give you reason to weep
and if you manage to stay together
there will be nights you lie down
like strangers back to back
falling away from each other in sleep.

Above us the moon looks speckled, torn,
fluttering over the courtyard and I’m dazed by the perfume rising up
from this fleshy rose pinned to my worsted lapel.
I’m swallowing down the thick nuptial wine,
getting reading to dance all night.

via How a Poem Happens: Joseph Millar.


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