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Poems

In the Salt Marsh: Poems (2004)

Love in America

When I paid for my flowers, six white roses,
the florist, Mrs. Abdoo, said, "Is this
your saint´s day?"
She admired the gown Ifd made in secret.
It brushed my knees, a white cotton dress
I´d wear for everyday after this wedding
with no priest to bless us, without my father
to give me away.

I´d give myself away to my first love,
photographer and grandson of the best
harness maker in Uppsala who sailed
to the New World and Detroit, where few loved
the sleek flesh and loyalty of horses
clop-clopping towards death. Flesh
is a poor investment. "What blessed weather
for your day," said Mrs. Abdoo, putting
a small box in my hands. "A wedding gift.
Open it together."

The white house of the justice of the peace
in Mabbettsville, New York, smelled of fresh paint.
His wife opened the door.
A black-and-white TV played Nixon´s face.
Behind her, I caught sight of an old man
in bedroom slippers, sweeping the kitchen floor.
She asked if we´d brought extra witnesses.
"We need one more."

She called to the mailman. He agreed to serve.
My love and I sat on the sofa, waiting.
The justice changed into his marrying clothes:
a tie printed with small basset hounds,
a navy vest, and chocolate wing-tipped shoes.
Two continents away, we strafed a shore
I´d never heard of. Cut to the president:
"We seek no wider war."

The justice said, "Turn that thing off." His wife
switched off the sound. "Do you take this manh-
My love and I gave promises and rings.
Nixon kept making faces: Love won´t save you!
Outside, we opened our first gift: this picture.
Our Lady of Good Voyages holds her son.
Her other hand offers a model ship-
the Santa Maria looked that small to God.
We stopped for gas. Outside I found a phone.
"Mama, I´m married. Papa, I love you both.

We´re on our own."