Our four "chuppah sisters"--my sister Elizabeth, Michael's sister Mette, and our symbolic sisters, Nancy and Jenn, each stood at a corner of the chuppah (the ceremonial Jewish wedding canopy) and read this poem. I included their initials so you can see who read what part; it was so lovely having their four voices chiming all around us, at times joining in chorus:
The ChuppahLater in the ceremony, my anam cara, Catherine, read this poem:
by Marge Piercy
E The chuppah stands on four poles.
M The home has its four corners.
J The chuppah stands on four poles.
N The marriage stands on four legs.
ALL Four points loose the winds
that blow on the walls of the house,
M the south wind that brings the warm rain,
N the east wind that brings the cold rain,
E the north wind that brings the cold sun
J and the snow, the long west wind
bringing the weather off the far plains.
ALL Here we live open to the seasons.
M Here the winds caress and cuff us
contrary and fierce as bears.
N Here the winds are caught and snarling
in the pines, a cat in a net clawing
breaking twigs to fight loose.
J Here the winds brush your face
soft in the morning as feathers
that float down from a dove’s breast
E Here the moon sails up out of the ocean
dripping like a just washed apple.
Here the sun wakes us like a baby.
ALL Therefore the chuppah has no sides.
M It is not a box.
N It is not a coffin.
J It is not a dead end.
ALL Therefore the chuppah has no walls.
M We have made a home together
open to the weather of our time.
We are mills that turn in the winds of struggle
converting fierce energy into bread.
J The canopy is the cloth of our table
where we share fruit and vegetables
of our labor, where our care for the earth
comes back and we take its body in ours.
N The canopy is the cover of our bed
where our bodies open their portals wide,
where we eat and drink the blood
of our love, where the skin shines red
as a swallowed sunrise and we burn
in one furnace of joy molten as steel
and the dream is flesh and flower.
E O my love O my love we dance
under the chuppah standing over us
like an animal on its four legs,
like a table on which we set our love
as a feast, like a tent
under which we work
not safe but no longer solitary
in the searing heat of our time.
Honey Locust, by Mary OliverMarge Piercy and Mary Oliver are two of my very favorite poets, so it was wonderful to be able to incorporate their rich, wise words into the ceremony, and to have them read by such beloved friends and family.
Who can tell how lovely in June is the
honey locust tree, or why
a tree should be so sweet and live
in this world? Each white blossom
on a dangle of white flowers holds one green seed—
a new life. Also each blossom on a dangle of flowers
holds a flask
of fragrance called Heaven, which is never sealed.
The bees circle the tree and dive into it. They are crazy
with gratitude. They are working like farmers. They are as
happy as saints. After awhile the flowers begin to
wilt and drop down into the grass. Welcome
shines in the grass.
Every year I gather
handfuls of blossoms and eat of their mealiness; the honey
melts in my mouth, the seeds make me strong,
both when they are crisp and ripe, and even at the end
when their petals have turned dull yellow.
So it is
if the heart has devoted itself to love, there is
not a single inch of emptiness. Gladness gleams
all the way to the grave.