Yesterday, I was on my way to visit my…well, technically my step-grandmother-in-law, but since that’s a mouthful, I just call her Bubby Lola. She lives in a town about two hours away, and I found myself driving and listening to the Interdenominational Protestant Service of Worship at Marsh Chapel (part of Boston University, streamed on NPR). Wedding, a haunting and beautiful poem written by Amos Wilder, was read as part of the sermon.
I share it here as part of the series February Beautiful.
Brother and sister in this world’s poor family,
Jack and Jill out of this gypsy camp of earth,
Here is where the injustice is greatest
And you feel it obscurely,
And you have a right to storm within yourselves
And seek sanctuary in one another’s shabbiness.
This boy and this girl with all their abandonment and futility,
Folly and dereliction,
Whirled from ignominy to ignominy,
Condemned to all the wretched chores of the community-
O tribute of forlorn humanity! Come for his benediction whom they have
And somehow sense that they touch- what?
God, the Higher, all that they have missed:
Innocence and mercy and compassion.
Poor lad, scoured from humiliation to humiliation,
Pressed by dirt and danger, squalor and exhaustion,
And bred in blasphemy and the poison of men’s bitter spirit,
And the maudline imaginations of their lust;
Where else could it end but in this makeshift marriage?
And well may you storm within yourself,
at the same time that you feel the awe of it
God and the devil both have a hand in joining you
And you are hardly at fault.
Poor sister in our earth’s poor family,
Stupid and stupified and hallowed all at once,
Poor creature of poor moments,
How else could it come out but in the tumble of that first assault,
And yet God has put his finger on even this.
No bridesmaids nor flowers for you,
The groom hasn’t given you these.
You came in an old coat.
One of the gang is best man and witness,
The boy minister goes through with it,
And there is no shower as you go out.
The sleigh waits outside in the heavy snowfall.
It is movie night in the village, and no one
is about to spy you at the parsonage,
And so you go off in the blizzard to the lumber camps.
This is all the world gives you.
But the Son of Man of the wedding feast haunts such occasions
and understands you.
He can turn water into wine and such shame and loss into gain
In some world some time;
Lucy Hanks bore Nancy seven years before her marriage feast.
The Son of Man knows too well what the hells are,
and the dumb wonderings and sicknesses of the soul,
And he is the only one who does know.
So endure these gust and whirlwinds of the night until the morning breaks.
I heard the organ roll behind the snowfall
and saw in it the confetti of the heavenly bride chamber,
Glimpsed the sons of the bride chamber rejoicing
In that City which is full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof,
Before the Father whose face the angels of
little children do always behold.
The Healing Waters: Poems 1943.