Today I was asked to choose a poem for my son’s wedding

I think through my own meagre offering of poems and that doesn’t take long. There is nothing there about weddings or couples.

So now I’m looking for a poem about love. But it shouldn’t be too direct, because direct is not good when it comes to poems.

It probably shouldn’t be too religious, or at least not religious in any specific way, because the people there will not be singing from the same song-sheet religiously. It would be nice if it didn’t make anyone’s raw feelings over their own heartbreak any worse. And it shouldn’t sound as if it is a given that the marriage will be happy, or that it won’t be happy. It shouldn’t make it sound as though marriage, the patriarchal institution, is fine with me. And the couple shouldn’t cringe because the poem refers to breasts and penises. It would be a bonus if it contained references to the worlds of the bride and groom. Her hair perhaps or his way with a fried egg. Or maybe the world that they will soon be seeing, after they leave New Zealand.

Despite all these constraints, it has not been difficult and here are ten. OK, there is a series of 3 that might be a bit raunchy, and one that is way to cheesy, and the others. Poems I like tend to be on the austere side, but I’ve tried to depart from that at least some of the time. Personally I’d choose the Estonian Songs, but it is not my wedding.

3 poems from Estonian Songs by Jenny Bornholdt

Waking the birds

Wake birds,
the sky loses its dark
because of you, light
slowly coming around
the corner to surprise

A lion worries a bone
into morning
and berries come out
from behind their green

Boats in the harbour
planes in the sky
the wings and wheels of the
modern world are

Praising the cook

They say the sexual impulse
is like a fiery horse.

When you break an egg
one handed
into the frying pan
it sounds like distant hooves
crossing a dusty plain.

Instructing the newly-weds

Listen bride
listen groom
don’t be afraid.
At night, the dark trees at the end
of the street—how frightening
they seem, then
morning comes and uncovers
nothing but leaves.


Wedding Song by Jenny Bornholdt

Now you are married

Try to love the world

As much as you love

Each other. Greet it as your husband,

Wife. Love it with all your

Might as you sleep

Breathing against its back.

Love the world, when late at night,

You come home to find snails

Stuck to the side of the house

Like decoration.

Love your neighbours.

The red berries on their trampoline

Their green wheelbarrow.

Love the man walking on

Water, the man up a

mast. Love the light moving

across the Island Princess.

Love your grandmother when she tells you

Her hair is three-quarters ‘café au lait’.

Try to love the world, even when you discover

there is no such thing as The Author

any more.

Love the world, praise

God, even, when your aerobics instructor

is silent.

Try very hard to love

your mailman, even though he regularly

delivers you Benidicto Clemente’s mail.

Love the weta you find on the path,

injured  by alteration.

Love the tired men, the burnt

house, the handlebars of light

on the ceiling.

Love the man on the bus who says

it all amounts to a fishing rod

or a lightbulb.

Love the world of the garden.

The keyhole of bright green grass

Where the stubborn palm

used to be,

bees so drunk on ginger flowers

that they think the hose water

is rain   your hair tangled in


Love the way,

when you come inside,

insects find their way out

from the temporary rooms of

your clothes.

– Jenny Bornholdt –

Love Poem, by Bill Manhire

There is no question

of choice, but it takes

a long time.

Love’s vacancies, the eye

& cavity, track

back to embraces

where the spine bends

& quietens

like smoke in the earth

Your tongue, touching on song,

darkens all songs. Your touch

is almost a signature.

An Irish blessing ( the cheese)

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

Habitation by Margaret Atwood


Marriage is not
a house, or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back, where we squat
outdoors, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder

at having survived
this far

we are learning to make fire

This Marriage by Rumi

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.


Years later they find themselves talking

about chances, moments when their lives

might have swerved off

for the smallest reason.

What if

I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?

What if you’d been out,

as you were when I tried three times

the night before?

Then she tells him a secret.

She’d been there all evening, and she knew

he was the one calling, which was why

she hadn’t answered.

Because she felt—

because she was certain—her life would change

if she picked up the phone, said hello,

said, I was just thinking

of you.

I was afraid,

she tells him. And in the morning

I also knew it was you, but I just

answered the phone

the way anyone

answers a phone when it starts to ring,

not thinking you have a choice.