Don’t often talk about this, but I am an ordained celebrant. I perform weddings, house blessing, child namings. I create ceremonies for people who need a special ritual in their lives. Sometimes when I say “ritual” people think of incantations and swinging a chicken over your head and yelling “Shalimar!’ but that’s not what I do.
This wedding is low-key and simple. It will be on New Year’s Eve. The couple were each married before, and after almost two decades of being alone, have found each other. I visited them today and their path to getting married is so complicated and highly patterned. Tonight I wrote their ceremony, and found a poem that is perfect for them. I thought you’d enjoy it, too. The title is the author’s, and names people he knows.
Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil
A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don’t need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.
So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.
But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other’s flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.
–Quinn McDonald loved spending an evening reading poetry, looking for just the right ones, even though she should have been working on the garage sale.