A Poem for Newlyweds

I was at a wedding this weekend, which reminded me that, at least in Minnesota, summer is the same as wedding season.

I’d only met the bride and groom a few months ago, after they’d already sent out the invitations. They were carrying a couch out from a duplex in Kenwood, trying to figure out how to fit it in their minivan; I was carrying my Lunds bags filled with books and DVDs into said duplex. I was to occupy the room that Dan, now a young husband, was vacating so that, for two months, he and his now-wife could live in mild sin.

"Whuttup," I said.
"Yo," they responded.
"Word," I said.
"Word," they agreed.

My roommates – fine, eligible young men – are good buddies with Dan, and he still brews beer in our basement. It’s a pretty regular occurrence that I’ll come home from pretending to work at an Internet hub, and Dan is in our kitchen, washing out old bottles to re-use, or boiling down hops, or sampling a recent brew out of a wine glass. ("Whuttup," I’ll say…)

Naturally we – my roommates, Dan, and I – end up drinking together a bit. Sometimes we accidentally get drunk. Which has led to some expedited bonding, to the point where it would have been awkward if I didn’t go to the wedding. (Upping the ante: a half dozen of Dan’s friends from the west coast were staying at our house this weekend.) And yet the invitations were gone.

Dan and I get along, but are still not so close that I should be able to disrupt the entire invitation/R.S.V.P. protocol of classic wedding tradition simply because I live where he used to live. I got the sense that for a couple days there was a ‘what should do about Max’ conversation going on, though that may be have been my narcissism speaking and not actual people.

It was decided that I would tag along as a ‘plus one’ of one of my roomies, whom I’ll call Robert, even though that’s not his name. Everyone was happy – the protocol was undisturbed, I’d scored an invite through normal means, and Rob didn’t have to scramble for a real date.

Rob did, however, have to read a poem at the wedding.

And he was totally cool with it – Rob’s been a poetry hound for some time now. Mornings, he sits in our living room with his headphones on, bobbing his neck and mouthing lyrics – except that his iPod is filled not with hip-hop, but with recordings of Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot reading their own poetry. No joke.

And so an incredibly appropriate poem was selected. A good poem, that will partially be copied below, called "Epithalamion/Wedding Dawn," by local writer Michael Dennis Browne. Rob committed it to memory and everything. But then he found out that Mr. Dennis Browne was good friends of the groom’s family, and would be in attendance.

For two days, Rob’s hands didn’t stop shaking.

At five p.m. on Saturday, we were sitting in our assigned chairs at the Event Center on St. Anthony Main, Rob running the stanzas over in his mind, a crumpled facsimile of the poem in his back pocket. Soon an eminent-looking man crouched down beside his seat.

"Whuttup," Rob said.
"So what part of the poem are you reading?" asked Michael Dennis Browne.
"The last part. Part three."
"Ah," said the poet. "That’s the best part."

I’m inclined to agree.

"Epithalamion/Wedding Dawn" (Part 3)

You must not be angry with this planet.
For we are in a company
whose music surpasses its pain.
For I tell you, I sat in the dark, also,
and the wedding light came onto my window,
and the hills were cleared for me,
and the field spread out in front of me, remarkable, like marble.
And I thought; this is their day,
how it breaks for them!
O sir, the angel flies, even with bruises
O lady, a bird can wash himself anywhere.
The dawn that came up the day of your wedding
took me in its hand like the creature I am;
and I heard the dark that I came from
whispering ‘Be silent.’
And the dawn said ‘Sing.’
And I found the best words I could find around me
and came to your wedding.