Wedding Tent

The canvas billowed and the guy wires swayed.

Up and down the long communal tables
first one and then another guest looked up,
stopped talking, silent for a moment, then
as if on cue, chairs falling back behind them,
everybody ran with wedding programs
held to bent heads through the downpour
through wet fields frantic, pressing keys to find
their cars among the rows of cars all flashing
Hey over here! No over here! No Here!

The canvas flapped and billowed and the poles bent.

The guy wires whistled with the wind that pushed
clouds into clouds whose paler edges pulsed
erratically with light so massive yet
so eerily mute it could have been itself
a violence too big for any sound.

The canvas billowed, and all outside poured in

as banners loosened and broke free and flew
like just unshackled dragons dragging tails
over tables toppling place names, bouquets,
wine cups and water glasses, crumpled napkins
tumbling to the grass with paper plates
the steaks had been too eaten to hold down.
And as if greater vows had only just
now been exchanged,

the canvas clapped, the guy

wires swayed and whistled and the strung lights swung
over blown over barrels spilling out
already rancid cornucopias
of trash that leaped and spun maniacally
out through the entrance like a wind-roused rabble
unready for our revels to be ended—

What did they think, the fools, we’d let them just
drive off as if there’d been no sloppy toasts
or sloppier forget-me-nots, as if
what they had set in motion wouldn’t follow
right to their very doors, houses, bedrooms,
their sweetly scented undefiled sheets?

The bent poles finally broke, the guy wires snapped,

and the collapsing canvas whirled away
to join the antic fanfare of a refuse
that refused to stop, for whom the party now
was always just beginning as they leap-
frogged over one another, tumbled and shoved
and pushed on joyously through a hard rain inch
by patient inch after the flashing car
lights disappearing far across the field.

Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro has published many poetry collections (including Reel to Reel, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Night of the Republic, finalist for both the National Book Award and the International Griffin Prize), 4 books of prose, including The Last Happy Occasion, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, LA Times Book Prize, an award in literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, he is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His newest book is Against Translation.
Alan Shapiro

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Author: Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro has published many poetry collections (including Reel to Reel, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Night of the Republic, finalist for both the National Book Award and the International Griffin Prize), 4 books of prose, including The Last Happy Occasion, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, LA Times Book Prize, an award in literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and The William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, he is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His newest book is Against Translation.