Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Poems for Weddings - In Honor of Barak Obama's Historical Comments

This was found under "simple outdoor wedding"

Tis the season! Last week a friend asked me for poem ideas to read at weddings. Jane Hirshfield's poem "For What Binds Us" is my favorite poem for such an occasion. However, there are other poems that might be more uplifting. When my friends Stephanie and Gavin married almost ten years ago, I wrote a poem for their ceremony --- my first commissioned poem! I should also mention that writing that poem took months of work. 

In recent years several anthologies have been published featuring poems on weddings, love, marriage and the like. The two on my bookshelf are Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology edited by Robert Hass and Stephen Mitchell (1994) and To Woo and To Wed edited by Michael Blumenthal (1992). Interestingly, neither feature the Hirshfield poem. 

My instinct is always to cull my own poetry shelves for poems I have loved as these poems will be most meaningful to me -- and hopefully for the wedding couple. Of the two books I've mentioned here, my sense is that the Hass is of more use. If you know of a more recent anthology of wedding poems, please share it in the comment line.

Meanwhile here is the poem I read at Michael and Anu's wedding --- and 12+ years later, they are still married. I'd like to dedicate this poem (although it's Jane Hirshfield's and not mine) to Becky and Carlos who will celebrate their union this Saturday.

For What Binds Us

There are names for what bind us:

strong forces, weak forces.

Look around, you can see them:

the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,

nails rusting into the places they join,

joints dovetailed on their own weight.

The way things stay so solidly

wherever they’ve been set down ---

and gravity, scientists say is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back

across a wound, with a great vehemence,

more strong

than the simple, untested surface before.

There’s a name for it on horses,

when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh

is proud of its wounds, wears them

as honors given out after battle,

small triumphs pinned to the chest ---

And when two people have loved each other

see how it is like a

scar between their bodies,

stronger, darker, and proud;

how the black chord makes of them a single fabric

that nothing can tear or mend.

Jane Hirshfield

Of Gravity and Angels


  1. Hi Maureen,

    It is a favorite of mine. I believe Of Gravity and Angels is Hirshfield's second (or first) book.