Home > Poetry > Pamina’s Marriage Speech
Published: Mon Oct 15 1984
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Pamina’s Marriage Speech

We thank you all for your congratulations,
for the staves you loaned us
to lean on through the trials.
I hope I won’t darken our celebrations
if I affirm my marital consent
with an honest, but agnostic epithalamion,
in praise of that dubiety, sustained connection,
and love, that questionable reality,
unlikely, but possible, like resurrection.
I say this as I place a husband’s hand
beneath the breast so intimate
in act two with a knife,
exchanging steely certainty of blade
for malleable gold of wedding band.
Guard, oh my husband of the literal sex
against the male bias toward the radiant spasm
of heroic loss, sad captains gathered
at the last feast to applaud
the old lion’s shaggy, final roar
and toss love on the fire, ecstatic holocaust
suspiciously similar to male orgasm.
You see the carnal parallel I make;
so I too, for my husband’s sake
will discipline my woman’s love
of endless possibility, the maenad’s
blind absorption in sensation,
the response, naive, momentous,
to any cynic’s predatory kiss
by which our love of fresh beginning, generation,
follows bad directions and misprinted signs
to that much used freeway, promiscuity.
Remember, too, that love contains, but is not an emotion;
is not romance, that color photograph
of a smiling couple on a short vacation
whose kisses are purchased, pretty souvenirs,
in gabled shops with good views of the ocean.
Love is, in supreme form, concentration.
Enough of this. Raise the veil, beloved,
now I’ve made it dark enough to kiss
and teach those guests we’ve rendered skeptical
love passionate as doubt, as radical.
By these hands’ imperfect light
receive a resonance of knowledge,
through flickering palms, lucid embrace,
read by this uncertain flame,
achieve description of a face.
Pray that we withstand the shock of blessing,
assembled friends, with lowered heads,
Pray urgently that we may make
for good the crucial and ecstatic risk
we take, following brilliant torches to this bed.

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Patricia Storace was raised in Mobile, Alabama, and educated at Barnard College and the University of Cambridge. Her poems have appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and the Arvon anthology edited by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. She lives in New York City, where she is finishing a book of poems. (1984)

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