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.
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.