My wife and I were married on the last day of February, three years ago. I had asked my daughter, who’s a poet, if she would read something at the ceremony. She did that doubly: first, a poem by Robert Burns. Next, an unexpected gift–a poem she wrote for us.
So, two poems, which goes well with how we mark our anniversary. As I said, we were married on the last day of February, which in 2008 was the 29th. I’m glad for the two poems, since during non-leap-years I tell people our anniversary is the day after February 28 and the day before March 1.
Love for Love
Ithers seek they ken na what,
Features, carriage, and a’ that;
Gie me love in her I court,
Love to love maks a’ the sport.
Let love sparkle in her e’e;
Let her lo’e nae man but me;
That’s the tocher-gude I prize,
There the luver’s treasure lies.
— Robert Burns
tocher-gude: dowry, marriage portion
A Roof Against the Rain
We did not always marry for love.
Marriage began as business, a mode of commerce,
a means of conquest. The right wife provides
heirs, status, income. So a rich man chooses
his bride without ever consulting his heart.
And the poor man, too, for he cannot afford
to dwell on a girl’s pretty face or sweet nature.
Both men must instead consider the count:
the number of cattle, or gold coins, or allies
that he needs. The number he desires.
So wives take lovers. Or their husbands do.
Every consort pays the price. Some are happy.
Some not. But kings die, and countries fall.
Livestock is eaten. Money is spent.
A loveless life lasts as long as any other.
And is our modern world so very different?
We come home to darkened rooms, sleep
between cold sheets, wake to a blinding silence.
We buy, and sell, and collect all the trappings
of civilization. Sex is a biological function,
like eating, or breathing. Love is a myth,
perpetuated by popular culture. And yet
we seek companionship. We long for
the quickened heartbeat, the flushed cheek.
We savor the first kiss, the next meeting.
We will the phone to ring, linger over coffee
with strangers, wanting to become friends,
wanting to hold hands in the dark, wanting
the happier life, where marriage is a choice,
and love a refuge, a roof against the rain.
— Gillian Devereux