Poetry: THE CARTOGRAPHER’S WEDDING

This I share for Dan. Our friend Melanie Bassett read this favorite poem at our wedding 24 years ago last New Year’s Eve.  We were, against all odds, still hopeful for a good married life after my three failed marriages and his divorce after eighteen years and four hardy, smart and challenging McMullen children. He was nearly 52 and I was 40. It’s hard to be hopeful when you’ve seen more failure in your relationships than anyone ever warned could happen. Those failures want to force cynicism into our hearts like cement hardening us, making it more than a little difficult to hang on to any part of our innocence.  But we tried: I put on my brave-flowered dress and Dan matched my call with his tuxedo, Father Charlie donned his robes, and we try and we continue to try, and we have succeeded.

Dan Garter

Our Wedding

Our Wedding at Father Charlie’s House in Pacific Grove, CA


The Cartographer's Wedding by Sam Hamill_1981

THE CARTOGRAPHER’S WEDDING


Nobody knows what love is anymore —

not the groom in his rental suit

flushed with desire, not the bride

blushing in her one-day dress and flowers

smouldering with the fires of expectation.

Nobody knows, and I least of all.

.

Still, we are here, against all reason,

the products of that ancient spoken

or unspoken vow.  To the east, across

nearly insurmountable summits caked

with snow, the Great Plains rise

and fall while we continue to remain

steady as November rain, having grown

accustomed to a cold that never freezes,

to a shade of deep, spectacular green

intact, season after season. And so we find

ourselves outside in fog, in hoarfrost,

in rain or snow, living as we do

.

at the edge of a continent or a dream,

living perhaps with our hearts

not in our hands, but on our lips,

although they are seldom spoken.

(Friendship hereabouts is assumed

like an old mackinaw or a blanket.)

.

But that time comes, and it will come,

when you try to recite the names

or find the odd, almost familiar faces

that move beyond the old events, like fog,

that made you what you are.  The years

that disappeared like falling stars

are lovely to remember.  And there will

be time aplenty for flowers on a grave.

No, nobody knows what love is.  Nobody

understands the past.  Saddled with

all the hopes that will outlast

a lifetime’s dedication, we,

.

groom, bride, friend and friend–

we step into the day amazed to find our-

selves among companions eager to weather

the winds of change that turn us

heavenward, poor fools together,

never to learn what love is, we

.

who map the country where it lives.

  Sam Hamill, Fatal Pleasure,1984

 Breitenbush Books, Portland


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