The Wedding Party cover

The Wedding Party

Deborah Landau

Copyright © 2013 Deborah Landau. All rights reserved.

Well look, the wedding guests are here again.
Why not just send a card?
Snapshot. Smile and kiss. Snapshot.
But this bride has such a red face!
Let her scramble past pardon en route to the loo.
Evacuate the taffeta dire and paunchy.
The groom is erect.
The groom downed three pints
and stole from the caterer.
He would never be no grownup.
This part we'll remember. Dull and easy.
Before the corpses and officers.
Before the dementia-nurse
and waiting for Mama to die.
Silverware. Cloth napkins. Carafes. Gather round.
Sit pious and clench yourself.
What's within should be held in.
Choke it down. Medicine for the long haul.
No more wildness is why
I chose no more wildness.
Now scurry ho, before someone else
goes down on the bride.
Isn't that her in the distance, up the pole?

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing
Mr and Mrs of the moment now and dancing.
Mr and Mrs end of suffering.
Mr and Mrs safe and headed where.
In the reach of night she'll have him. He'll have.
A series of days filled up and emptied.
A welcome closeness and a womb.
He pours her a fizzy one. She pours him hers.
Love so far has been all
let's keep on doing this let's do it together.
A bit drunk and full of wishing.
(Two people jumping out of a building holding hands,
R said).

The uses of the body are manifold.
Lips, fingers, the back of the neck.
One should make as full a use as possible
before time's up. In Paradise.
You should appreciate. Don't squander.
Take a deep juicy bite then swallow.
Peaches are meant for tasting.
A lapping up. In Paradise.
We lay and many afternoons
brought pleasure and relief.

History drew me. It had a face.
Pale and angular with a curved beak.
Someone from the gallery of photographs
lining my grandfather's hall.
To begin with, I wanted to talk to him.
The corner table received us, two large animals
in a dinner booth composed entirely of light,
the Jack of Blue Matter,
sitting across from me in the unknown air.
Long after dark we walked south along the avenue
like a couple of drunks.
Once every few months we met for dinner.
Then the long quiet interval of years
between us. Improbable.

The uses of the body are wake up.
The uses of the body, illusion.
The uses of the body. Rinse, repeat.
To make another body.
September. Draw the blanket up.
Lace your shoes.
The major and minor passions.
Sunlight. Hair.
The basic pleasures. Tomatoes, Keats,
meeting a smart man for a drink.
The uses of the body.
It is only a small house. It gets older.
Its upper and lower.
Its red and white trim.
It's tempting to gloss over this part,
so you won't really see me.

Men look at me like they have the thing I want.
That somber hungry forcefield smack on.
It lies there. Is he aware?
I cannot see where this will end.
I can see where I need to go
but never get there. It's operatic.
When I lie in bed my limbs go numb.
When the sky darkens.
The urge is there
but also the mandate
to damp it down.
Always the urge.
Always the mandate.
You're still young, he says,
but youth will burst all at once
and be gone forever.

In opera you get what you need.
It isn’t marriage.
A man to sleep with.
A place to lay my head at night.
He knows every road of me.
Can find the turn-off without a map.
Can drive along the low stone wall
in the dark until he reaches the open field
and I go with him, countryside.
In married sex I haven’t broken any law.
I am in my own car steering into my own
parking place.
He is my co-, my accomplice.
I hardly see him.

At night, down the hall into the bedroom we go.
In the morning we enter the kitchen.
Places, please. On like this,
without alarm. I am the talker and taker
he is the giver and the bedroom man.
We are out of order but not broken.
He says, let's make this one short.
She says, what do you mean?
We set out and got nearer.
Along the way some loved ones died.
Whole summers ruined that way.
Take me to the door, take me in your arms.
Mother’s been dead a decade
but her voice comes back to me now and often.
Life accumulates, a series of commas,
first this, then that, then him, then here.
A clump of matter (paragraph)
and here we are: minutes, years.
Wait, I am trying to establish
something with these people.
Him, her, him. We make a little pantomime.
Family, I say, wake up. The sentences
one then another one, in a line. And then
we go on like that, for a long time.

The uses of the body are heavy and light.
Raspberries, cradles, houses in Maine.
Biopsies, second opinions, MRIs.
I am cozy, I am full of want until chest pain,
until a heavy cramp. The pain of form.
See how caught up we are
in our habitual flying patterns
until we have to look the unfair doctor in the eye.
The genitals are irrelevant then.
Dr. Rutkowski, what was it you said?


Several sections of this sequence have been featured in Boston Review and the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day series.

Deborah Landau
Photo © by Sarah Shatz

Deborah Landau is the author of two collections of poetry: The Last Usable Hour, a Lannan Literary Selection published by Copper Canyon Press, and Orchidelirium, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye for the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, The Best American Erotic Poems, The Wall Street Journal, and Boston Review, and have been translated into Mongolian, Romanian, Russian, and Greek. She lives in Brooklyn and directs the Creative Writing Program at New York University.