Wedding Poems: Bounty & Permanence


by Emily Threlkeld, Contributing Editor

Wedding Poems: Bounty & Permanence | A Practical Wedding

In our previous installment of wedding poems APW-style, we shared poetry on two themes: gifts and laughter, both of which are perfectly appropriate for weddings. This time, the themes are a bit more serious. Hang with me, though, I promise not to bore you.

The ceremony is when you get to say your piece on what this whole marriage thing means to you. And for a lot of you, the meaning is more complex than smushy romance; it’s about the bigness of committing forever. So first up, there are poems about bounty, and the sense of abundance that comes with joy. (Happily, this includes one of my favorite forms: the list poem, which always reminds me of counting my blessings.) Second, there are poems about permanence, about the inevitability of falling in love and of everything that happens after.

Bounty

Wedding Poems: Bounty & Permanence | A Practical Wedding

It’s all I have to bring today (26)
by Emily Dickinson

It’s all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

A Blessing for Wedding
by Jane Hirshfield

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
  or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
  or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Mark Eisner

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Permanence

Wedding Poems: Bounty & Permanence | A Practical Wedding

since feeling is first
by e.e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Resignation
by Nikki Giovanni

I love you
  because the Earth turns around the sun
  because the North wind blows north
    sometimes
  because the Pope is Catholic
    and most Rabbis Jewish
  because winters flow into springs
    and the air clears after a storm
  because only my love for you
    despite the charms or gravity
    keeps me from falling off this Earth
    into another dimension

I love you
  because it is the natural order of things

I love you
  like the habit I picked up in college
    of sleeping through lectures
    or saying I’m sorry
    when I get stopped for speeding
  because I drink a glass of water
    in the morning
    and chain-smoke cigarettes
    all through the day
  because I take my coffee Black
    and my milk with chocolate
  because you keep my feet warm
    though my life a mess
I love you
  because I don’t want it
    any other way

I am helpless
  in my love for you

It makes me so happy
  to hear you call my name
I am amazed you can resist
  locking me in an echo chamber
  where your voice reverberates
  through the four walls
  sending me into spasmatic ecstasy
I love you
  because it’s been so good
  for so long
  that if I didn’t love you
  I’d have to be born again
  and that is not a theological statement
I am pitiful in my love for you

The Dells tell me Love
  is so simple
  the thought though of you
  sends indescribably delicious multitudinous
  thrills throughout and through-in my body
I love you
  because no two snow flakes are alike
  and it is possible
  if you stand tippy-toe
  to walk between the raindrops
I love you
  because I am afraid of the dark
    and can’t sleep in the light
  because I rub my eyes
    when I wake up in the morning
    and find you there
  because you with all your magic powers were
    determined that
I should love you
  because there was nothing for you but that
I would love you

I love you
  because you made me
    want to love you
  more than I love my privacy
    my freedom my commitments
     and responsibilities
I love you 'cause I changed my life
  to love you
  because you saw me one Friday
    afternoon and decided that I would
love you
I love you I love you I love you

Superbly Situated

by Robert Hershon

you politely ask me not to die and i promise not to
right from the beginning—a relationship based on
good sense and thoughtfulness in little things

i would like to be loved for such simple attainments
as breathing regularly and not falling down too often
or because my eyes are brown or my father left-handed

and to be on the safe side i wouldn’t mind if somehow
i became entangled in your perception of admirable objects
so you might say to yourself: i have recently noticed

how superbly situated the empire state building is
how it looms up suddenly behind cemeteries and rivers
so far away you could touch it—therefore i love you

part of me fears that some moron is already plotting
to tear down the empire state building and replace it
with a block of staten island mother/daughter houses

just as part of me fears that if you love me for my cleanliness
i will grow filthy if you admire my elegant clothes
i’ll start wearing shirts with sailboats on them

but i have decided to become a public beach an opera house
a regularly scheduled flight—something that can’t help being
in the right place at the right time—come take your seat

we’ll raise the curtain fill the house start the engines
fly off into the sunrise, the spire of the empire state
the last sight on the horizon as the earth begins to curve

First and third photos by APW Sponsor Gabriel Harber; second photo by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos.

Emily Threlkeld

Emily’s first marriage was to her stuffed raccoon Ringo (named for the Beatle). She wore her yellow Easter dress to the ceremony, and her mother officiated. She has a BFA in Creative Writing, a cat named after the heroine of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a permanent case of wanderlust.

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  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    swoon. lovely selections (i am, of course, biased, but i mean all of them, not only the one that is the most accurate love story i’ve ever seen in writing and makes me lose my senses as if i hadn’t loved nikki giovanni enough before i discovered that poem…)

    • SJ

      THIS. I already loved her work, her soul…but I think she must have been following me around without my knowledge.

      My soul is so moved.

      • Kat

        I was just sitting down to write my speech to my G, but I think Nikki Giovanni has already said everything perfectly and there is no need to improve or paraphrase. Copy. Paste. Save.

      • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

        yeah – resignation is actually the poem i *didn’t* use at our wedding. i seriously considered it, but found it felt too personal (which in some ways sounds ridiculous – too personal for a wedding – but simply having the wedding was as gushy as i get in public).

        • Jessica

          Yes, I agree with you. Reading that poem at my upcoming wedding would be too many deep feelings laid open in front of people (even people I love) and I wouldn’t want to have that vulnerability associated with what I want to be a very happy, uplifting day!

    • Emily

      I got to see her read Ego Tripping live once. A highlight of college, truly. She’s such a badass.

  • Rebecca

    This is perfect for today! We have been putting off decisions about readings and I think this post may help us make some decisions tonight! APW has been so perfectly timed to my wedding planning needs lately. Spooky!

  • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

    Oh man, that Hirschfield. I think I went through some universal fabric and was at my wedding day just now, hearing it. . . .hopefully the man has similar thoughts about it.. . .

  • Megan

    Thanks for this! Resignation is one of my favorites, but I’d never read Superbly Situated before – love it!

  • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    YES YES YES to “Superbly Situated” – I think I mention it or “Exactly” someone else’s mention of it on every poetry thread. I can’t wait to hear it at my wedding.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    I love these posts.

  • M.M

    Dickinson (one of my favorite poets) and Hirchfield.. Ahh.
    Poetry. It’s been a long while since I’ve soaked any in, and I needed that.
    Thank you! Thank you APW! As if you weren’t already my favorite thing!
    (I’ve been “just-appreciating” for a long time, but am inspired to break my shyness!)

    It’s a little bittersweet, but one of my favorite love poems – I read it at a friends wedding a few years ago..
    And I can’t resist posting it here after all the fields and bees..

    Those Days – by Mary Oliver in ‘Thirst’

    When I think of her I think of the long summer days
    She lay in the sun, how she loved the sun, how we
    Spread our blanket, and friends came, and
    The dogs played, and then I would get restless and
    Get up and go off to the woods
    And the fields, and the afternoon would
    Soften gradually and finally I would come
    Home, through the long shadows, and into the house
    Where she would be
    My glorious welcoming, tan and hungry and ready to tell
    The hurtles gossips of the day and how I
    Listened leisurely while I put
    Around the room flowers in jars of water-
    Daisies, butter-and-eggs, and everlasting-
    Until like our lives they trembled and shimmered
    Everywhere.

    • Emily

      I love Mary Oliver! I haven’t read this one before, though. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Laura

    Ooh yes. Probs I am going to poach at least one of these poems for my ceremony, but.

    More importantly.

    I am going to replicate that cheese board at “Craft Night” tomorrow night. We use a very loose definition of “craft.” As in, my craft will be replicating this cheese board, then eating it.

    So, thank you!

    • Laura

      Oh, also, with wine. Of course.

    • Emily

      Don’t the figs look amazing?!

  • Katelyn

    I had never read Resignation before…wow that was like a punch to the gut. Love it! Must print it!

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