The Way It Should Be

From Poemeleon. After a photograph by Lauren Preller

Things shouldn’t have turned turn out this way. When her husband was still alive they would lie in bed and talk about this day: the sonnet he would read during the service, the eccentric relatives they would invite, the bagpipe player who would play after the ceremony on the church steps. She thinks now about the daughter, the young woman who is waiting, the bride who needs her mother.

Her gown is zipped, her hair half done. The young bride waits for her mother, who has been in the bathroom for at least ten minutes fiddling with her lipstick and the gardenia that refuses to stay pinned to the collar of her lavender linen suit. The mother is trying not to cry, looking at herself in the mirror as if that’s where she will find strength. She has never felt so alone – this day that she has hoped for, this day that she has dreaded.

Outside, beneath a tent, the band is tuning their instruments and some of the grandmother’s friends are already sitting in the front row of the rented chairs. They are all wearing hats. Gracie, everyone’s favorite, has on long white gloves. She is holding Victor, the black and white Boston terrier in her lap. He chews on the ends of the giant bow, tied around his neck. Gracie brought a fan, because she thinks of everything. She is fanning Victor. He pants in the heat and tries to lick the air that Gracie is mixing in front of him.

A steady stream of cars passes slowly through the driveway now. This all seems a million miles away to the bride, who is no longer watching out the bedroom window. Barefoot, her veil neatly draped on the back of her chair, she holds the roses and lavender lightly in one hand. Half dreaming, she waits for her mother to come and finish dressing her – like when she was small and couldn’t button her shirt or tie her shoes… She likes the solitude, and she wants it to last. It gives her time to look up and imagine that her father is standing in the doorway wearing a tuxedo. He is waiting to take her hand and walk her down the stairs. Out the front door. Into the garden. Out into the world.

Beyond scaffold enshrouded steeples,
sunlight weaves through leaf-thick oak trees
now filled with blossom and song, though war
saturates the brick and memory of wind
spinning with salt through summer air
that simmers beneath the blood streaked sun.
Red runs through ribbons of sun
across the skyline and steeples
lifting off tin sloped roofs into air
filled with flowering trees.
Always the tireless ocean wind
ripples the worn-out flags of war.
The names of the enemy change, but war
is the inscrutable language spoken beneath this sun.
The flag at half-mast, stiffens in the wind.
Funeral bells sound from the steeples.
In the cemetery, beneath the oak trees,
taps linger on the broken air.
The sounds of war will rumble in the wind.
As steeple bells call through the sun filled air,
birds nest in trees twisting toward heaven.

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