The Wedding

Ireland, 1874


“We want you to marry us Father.”
What cheek the priest thought
sitting there with a baby in her lap,
asking me to marry them.
“I’ll need to hear your confession first.”
The man flinched, not raising his head;
rough hands kneading his cap, twisting it like rope.
“I’m not sorry for anything,” she said,
except coming here, under her breath.
Bold as brass thought the old priest
though he knew enough to hold his peace.
“There’s something we can all find
if we come to the Lord child”
and it won’t be anything I need
as she remembered the damp cottage
the stink of wool, the rotten vegetables
and the hunger.
“I’ll find something Father
if you’ll make the match”
and a fine one it will be thought the priest
as he looked past them and the baby
down the mud rutted road,
the sky filled with black clouds
and twilight fading.
The man never looked up
as they walked to the church
and the small light of the vestibule.
She knelt with the baby;
when the priest pulled back the screen
she crossed herself and spoke without faltering:
“Bless me Father for I have sinned,
it’s been a while since my last confession.
I’ve wanted what I’ll never have,
what I’ve got I may not keep”
and that was it.
He gave her the usual penance
knowing a thousand rosaries
wouldn’t chip the flint off this one.
The man kept his hand over his mouth
while he mumbled his contrition;
the old priest didn’t have the heart
to say speak up, couldn’t bear his own voice
echoing in the emptiness of the cruciform.
The man may have cared more
but he was beaten harder.
He’d shoulder a burden
but whatever light he’d had was gone out.
She’d carry them both with her fire and fierce will.
The priest called his housekeeper to bear witness;
he didn’t bother about rings
knowing they hadn’t one between them.
“What God has joined together…till death do you part”
as the baby wailed, the hat twisted tighter
and the girl thought the day will come soon enough
as they forced open the wooden door into the growing dark,
the wind raking the leafless trees with cold rain falling.




17 Responses to “The Wedding”

  1. Bill Dare says:

    Truly a gift to this recovering cradle Catholic, Don.

  2. John Albright says:

    Powerful words, Don. Life can be pretty harsh and unforgiving at times, but look deep enough and want to, and we’ll “find something,” together.

  3. David Banner says:

    What angst and sadness in this all-to-true poem, Don……

  4. Mel says:

    Powerful…. Gripping…
    Well done Don !

  5. gus duffy says:

    well, that was pleasant—
    one of your very best–vivid.

  6. Ron Silver says:

    thank you for the truth, pain and life in this poem.

  7. Maria Frid says:

    The story of many a Catholic……….thank you Don. This story could have been written about my relatives. Your depiction is so well sad.

  8. The fighting Irish were around for centuries before Notre Dame.

  9. Paul Blythe says:

    With Richard Rohr and others, “The times they are a-changin.”

  10. Carol Carlson says:

    Wow. Human, powerful.

  11. Athena Coleman says:

    I could glimpse a whole lifetime in these words; very powerful.

  12. Jack says:

    Ahhhh…….and you’ve got the gift of the storyteller in you too, Don……and well told it is……

  13. Jim Ehmke says:

    Beautiful, Don. Very much enjoyed this. Your prose is as sweet as your poetry. I too was raised Catholic. But guilt, shame and the illusion of sin are not unique to any particular religion……as is clearly evidenced in our world.

  14. Linda says:

    Love the hidden stories that will keep me wondering all week.Thanks

  15. Tom Wilson says:

    Lovely narrative prose poem, Don. Last night I watched again The Cider House Rules, and amazing film and wonderful book. The theme is that those who live in the cider house are the one’s to make the rules, and the girl in your poem has the same attitude.

  16. richard sims says:

    I like the the cold, wind-in-the-jacket urgency. It reminds me of the poignant movie, “Zelary.” Thank you.

  17. Interesting use of the dramatic monologue; I think you have the knack of it. Browning is a great inspiration.

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