The Speeches

Early autumn, light - by Greg McLaren

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for Shel and Ben

If love is friendship written large,
then marriage is emotional skywriting,
Peter Kirkpatrick says,

or maybe, I suppose, a public mural, ongoing,
that you add to with your families,
and pets, and a squillion kids,

and have your friends come over, say,
for a New Year's barbie,
and they daub in their little bit.

But how do you imagine your life
differently to the one you're in,
and the people in it?

That deep, netty texture of living, eating, drinking
and talking with the people you choose
and don't choose, and would never choose not to,

and sitting silently with them
in the shade on a sunny day
with the flies buzzing and the ipod hooked up

to the speakers, and somehow your glass empties
and fills, and your plate grows crumbs
and maybe party pies with plops of sauce,

and the little gold-brown skinks perch
on the fence like slim leaves, panting.
Remember how poetry brought them almost

together, but how a birthday succeeded: another
beginning, another marked-in-the-calendar
day of continuations, like the prospect

of a long and gorgeous life, or,
as seen through gums and pines lining the ocean
just east of here, of New York City:

may it be fruitful, big and fruitful, may you let
bagels be bagels...
So I wonder what else it is

I wish for you. And come up empty,
other than what you have already,
other than the usual, what Les Murray calls

Sound genetics, delight, long resilience
against gravity, the sight of great-
grandchildren. It's obvious, of course,

what we wish for you most:
yourselves, and sometimes,
some of our company, and for a very long time.

By which I don't necessarily mean people
who arrive for Friday dinner, and don't leave
til four on Sunday arvo, with winter approaching.

Still, even then, with the sun,
half-gold, lowering in the afternoon's horizon,
there's a sort of clarity, even as it's thinking

of nudging the hem of the west,
and getting tucked in for the first
official night of funny business.

That honeyed glow there that casts about, daily,
is also in your eyes,
and the eyes of everyone you've brought here,

to this open-air wedding,
marquee at the ready
for if things get tense,

and weather threatens overhead.
We've come from all points of the compass:
driven, slept-over, stepped from boozy buses,

trailed across a route suggested
by, and along the way,
the scent of someone

turning over the earth in their garden,
and then everything smells like renewal,
like a constant vow to continue,

which is, anyway, always only a beginning.
So, this day is a beginning,
a stretching-out like a view

from a hilltop of suburbs waking
in soft dawn light,
or like the ocean, calm, ambitious,

more vast than it knows.
All these likes remind me
of a stronger word: love.

If love can be a city, let it begin
to sprawl, in any season's light,
as warm as sun-browned sandstone,

fragrant as frangipani umbrellas
scattering petals in your path on behalf
of all botany!

And now the sun, drooping away in the west,
cooling the air, and the bridge that joins this north side
to the inner west where some of us live,

on a day, well, like today, with you two wed,
reminding us of the impossibility
of ever knowing exactly how much

someone means to you, even the roughest dimensions,
trying to trace a limit, and finding none.