My poem, “Photos of Your Daughter’s Wedding Under the Mandap, Not the Chuppa,” is the Featured Spotlight poem this week in Amuse-Bouche, a weekly online publication of Lunch Ticket lit mag, out of the Antioch L.A./MFA program. Shoutout to Barb Cohen Aronica Buck, whose daughter’s wedding photos inspired this poem that I wrote on the day of the San Bernadino shootings in December 2015.I’m honored to be published in this terrific journal.
On a night many nights after we spent
five days a week in a fluorescent-bulb-lit classroom,
you made grilled salmon with pesto,
sweet roots roasted in your white oven.
You poured me glass after glass of Beaujolais.
I had to hover my hand over the glass
to stop you. We killed two bottles.
Talk of decades ago: I was young,
you were younger, our words danced around the years,
wove stories of those you knew, and I didn’t
or ones I knew, and you didn’t
or boys and girls, now grandparents, we both knew.
In the morning I saw the photos
of your daughter’s Indian wedding.
Bridesmaids with hennaed hands and arms,
each arm extended as they danced.
The groom and bride weighed down
under their rich wedding garments, their crowns,
fair, dark-eyed bride with bindi.
You saw to it that a branchlet of cypress from your yard
was tucked with the flowers pinned on orange cloth.
You’d tended the plant for a chuppa someday—
Now it graced the mandap. Your husband
tried to look comfortable in turn-up khussas,
long white kurta.
We could’ve talked all day, but
I had a train to catch, you had work to do.
All the time I rode back to Boston
ignoring announcements, Next stop: New Haven, Mystic, Kingston,
things were happening—“unfolding,” the media said—
in California. Long guns, body armor, shooters,
“They came prepared,” the police chief told reporters.
He didn’t say to do what, but we knew now.
So many dead, so many trapped in offices, so many
watching, so many questions, so many theories,
so many posts online.
Rifles and handguns, holiday banquet,
police chase, shootout—we‘ve seen this movie
more than once.
Assault rifles, handguns, ammo rounds,
remote control toy car, explosive device.
Thumb drives, cell phones,
car rental agreement.
The AG said, “This is not what we stand for;
this is not what we live for.”
Prove to me she is right. Show me we live for
the wedding day, sunny November, the pale bride,
her dark groom under the mandap,
the Jewish grandmother in a bright blue shawl.
A day of peace, utter joy under bright Connecticut sky—
—what we live for, who we are.