For the June of weddings here is a poem by Benjamin Alire Saenz, from his book Dark and Perfect Angels, published by Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, Tex. Saenz, who teaches at the University of Texas in El Paso, grew up in New Mexico, studied theology here and in Europe, was ordained a priest, left the priesthood, became a writer and married a woman he had known since his childhood in Las Cruces. He's also the author of a book of short stories, Flowers for the Broken (Broken Moon Press), and a novel, Carry Me Like Water (Hyperion). The poem reads like an epithalamium -- a poem to bless a wedding -- that must have been written for friends, one of the useful occupations of a poet:
The Wedding Feast at Cana
This, the first of his miracles, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.
-- John 2:11
for Larry and Katy
A man and woman meet. They fall
in love. This has been written; this
has been read; this is an old story.
In the body there is a place;
those who work will know this space,
will know it's hard and holy, will
know it wears away the heart. We may
curse it day and night; we may
speak of it, point to it, pray to it --
it will not be appeased.
Listen to your names:
their sounds are like
no other: whispers of the world
needing to know if there is joy.
Is there joy? Listen to the hunger
forever -- that song will never cease.
The song is sad. You
will never be full. Stay. Listen
to the hunger. Do not turn
from that sound. You cannot
run from earth. Naked
you came from the dirt. Naked you must
return. Flesh is flesh and it is flesh
This day, words
like thirst, and flesh, and hunger
mean marriage. Water is turned
into wine. This is the day of miracles.
Take. Drink. The best has been
saved for the poor. Taste. This is the cup
of salvation. Be drunk. Touch. Make love
through the lonely night -- but when you wake
remember: this wine is good and sweet
but you will thirst again.
The book of life is hard to write:
it is written with bone and blood;
it is written with hearts that labor
and labor, beat and beat until the walls
fall down. Begin. Write: in the kingdom
of the naked, working heart
shame is banished. A man and woman
meet -- this is an old -- write it!
Begin. Begin. Begin.
("The Wedding Feast at Cana" from "Dark and Perfect Angels" by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Cinco Puntos Press. Copyright 1995 by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Used by permission of the author and Cinco Puntos Press.)