(a song to cover the cries of a bride; the commemoration of a definitive marriage; to be at the threshold)
I know how to cook rice, now.
I have eaten cakes whose names sound like hope
and seen strings of pearls like disappointment
the market that smelled of grease.
I AM WRITING NOW from the inky heart of empire, its assonance no
more unknown to me.
I shall knock the pillars out from under you
and label you up
in room upon room of Wedgwood blue.
All the uses of my body and what others would have me put it to. Blood
is so contrived.
Texts are porous.
I am walking
to the other.
Like this I am primeval as a woman in a sundress.
I have become one of the gritty women, with freckles peppering the
loose skin of their arms.
I am walking through a many-furrowed field which in relinquished
seasons is feathered with asparagus.
In this late light of an early century, the ash shades of earth and stubble,
I plight (give, pledge) you my troth (fealty, loyalty, truth).
A marriage should not be a forsaking of all others. It is instead a many-
witnessed act enabled by all others. I stand before you today (I imagine
myself say) with the emotional health to choose this person because of all
of you. I can face the enormity of this decision because of you. I know
what love is because of you: its bluntness, its grittiness.
Let us enter into oaths knowingly. So I ask you now in the presence of
In defiance of state.
It is the vowing which interests me.
I call upon these persons here present.
The cause for which marriage was ordained (this is not included in the
civil script, having been cut in twain at the time of the burnings)
to love and to cherish
from this day forward
incumbent on me
all that I am I give to you.
(but were they their all, at the time of their giving? And how did they
know?) (I am suspicious of this knowledge which apparently simply
Then they shall give their troth to each other
(the deep bone know)
from this day forward
against all manner of foes.
There are long conversations: in bars, in kitchens, in the illegal extensions
of council house flats.We get drunk too much.We know nothing about
wine.We spend our money on shoes.We press our palms together to
dance in the amber-coloured oak-panelled dark.We bowled forth to a
city that didn’t really want us.
When my mother vowed in the face of those persons then present
to commit to my father to the exclusion of all others,
that cold day in October with the Assyrian lions
and the red buses streaking by,
the imminent grapes,
my mother was protecting my father
from the violence which could come for him
in the night or the day, at work or at rest,
and take him back to the islands where little love waited for him.
My mother was twenty-one, bullish and
It was her boldest act in the time of walls falling.
All over the world.
My father resents this narrative.
He says it was love.
Which it was.
But we must not forget
the bodies that eyed this union for a full year after. My parents are brave
and the choices I make will be made
in the vault of this precedent.
They made us a world where private, witnessed love could win over
nations and all the stories they told.
They made me richer, for all these confusions.
My parents made a promise in the face of the state.They stared it down.
When asked all the monumental questions they replied: I do.
Between them and those present.
But my parents also did something which was within the most primal
framework of the state.
I propose something different.
A love so unsanctioned, no promises exist for it.
Hitherto, society has been underpinned by the institution of marriage.
The covenant.The sacrament. It has been used for the warehousing, at its
most recent and benign, of intelligent women.
I call for a reordering of its ceremonies. I call upon those here present
today. I solemnly swear. I pledge to relinquish the matrimonial retreat
which has ordered us unto this brink.
As we hurtle towards the coughing future, I promise to hold tight to you.
I promise to hold you up and hold you close and hold you down
when you feel you may go spinning off the earth.
All that I am I share with you.
I promise my presence in good times and bad. In suchness, and even in
the eventuality of wealth.
I wish you good fortune in the time that we will travel through together,
and the changes
that we will forgive in ourselves and in others.
I promise to stand by your side as we move through changing worlds.
I promise to respect you, and query you when I am in doubt.
I made my friend smile. One of his best smiles, the ones that knock the
knees out from under the sun.
I had made him a birthday banner.
He saw it coming up the garden path.
I was in the dining room.
He smiled up at me.
It tackled me sideways, this smile burning into my memory,
tackling all my pre-empts by surprise.
My beautiful beaming friend.
I made him smile.
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
It tackled me sideways.
Him smiling on the garden path, turning twenty-three.
That flush of love.
My friends whom I adore.
It stuns me how it runs so deep.
I am amazed. How? Where the warning?
This friendship form to take.
It sloshes in the cup.
I swore no solemn oaths.
And yet in these times when I brim and spill with grief
at the time’s consequence,
I find myself at the foot of this most sacred undertaking:
to love and defend in the present tense; with no deferral or commingling;
to be my lone line self and look the monumental questions in the eye;
to defend you all until my lungs give out.
You have made me gentle,
you have made me brave.
In these the weeks of our need,
we have come to one another
on the tides of work and day.
We are charging at the best befores of our rage, a most minimum thing
this age commands.
I will defend you all until my lungs give out. I will love you all my life.
All these things being said, it is not always necessary to operate only at the
register of vow;
you may suffice yourself with subtext
and all its crowds.
And the bitten truth is this:
when I am with you, teleology drops away, and the days need have no
given meaning. For, in the quiet of your company,
I am of consolate closeness
and bristle of it along every pore.
And standing by your sides,
I feel steadied and prepared
to face the yawn of years.