Wedding Poems: Shelter & Eternity

Poems about building a life

Today we bring you the third and final installment of wedding poems, APW style (compiled from your excellent suggestions and my poetry fangirl-dom). If you’re just tuning in now, we’ve got two more poetry roundups here and here, on the themes Gifts and Laughter and Bounty and Permanence. Rounding out the series today we bring you poems on Shelter and Eternity. As a nester and someone who isn’t the biggest fan of change, these are my two favorite themes of the bunch. There’s a primal element to these six poems. Yes, marriage is about building a life, but it’s also about building a home, about making a fire under your own roof and holding up your ceiling together. Next on my to-do list is a wedding reading roundup for prose lovers, so if you have more suggestions for wedding readings that aren’t poetry, leave ’em in the comments.


A Marriage
by Michael Blumenthal

You are holding up a ceiling
with both arms. It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you. Your arms
are tired, terribly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceiling
will soon collapse.

But then,
something wonderful happens:
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arms up
to the ceiling beside you.

So you finally get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood flowing back
to your fingers and arms.
And when your partner’s arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.

And it can go on like this
for many years
without the house falling.

So Much Happiness
by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…..

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house, or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
         the unpainted stairs
at the back, where we squat
outdoors, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire.


Love Song for Lucinda
by Langston Hughes

Is a ripe plum
Growing on a purple tree.
Taste it once
And the spell of its enchantment
Will never let you be.

Is a bright star
Glowing in far Southern skies.
Look too hard
And its burning flame
Will always hurt your eyes.

Is a high mountain
Stark in a windy sky.
If you
Would never lose your breath
Do not climb too high.

From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Married Love
by Kuan Tao-sheng, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung

You and I

Have so much love,

That it

Burns like a fire,

In which we bake a lump of clay

Molded into a figure of you

And a figure of me.

Then we take both of them,

And break them into pieces,

And mix the pieces with water,

And mold again a figure of you,

And a figure of me.

I am in your clay.

You are in my clay.

In life we share a single quilt.

In death we will share one bed.

Photos, from top to bottom, by: Lisa Wiseman Weddings, Gabriel Harber, and Emily Takes Photos.

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