We drive all night from Stanford
to his sister’s wedding, with
Old Black Joe the labrador between us,
a tuxedo and a pine tree in the back.
We stop at daybreak on the beach
at Mendocino, where the two of them
(and Joe) rented the house one year—
convalescing and chain-smoking, fighting
the wind and screaming at each other
from the rocks; reading aloud from Poe
long nights and drinking so much gin
from Grandmama’s bone china teacups—
after her lover’s suicide that summer
in an L.A. canyon (selfish to the end,
he took the yellow Fiat with him).
We buy thick coffee, fried potatoes, clams.
In a public beachhouse, wet from swimmers
of the day before, we change clothes for
the wedding; and, still yawning, we emerge
as fresh as laundry into the young day.
As we drive on he tells me of when they and
puppy Joe played football in the street
and cards under the sheets by flashlight;
how he watched, not breathing,
from the curtain shadows, her first kiss.
Juliet in the highschool play—he fell
in love again; Lady Macbeth—he hated her
(“why did you have to do that, anyway?”).
He bought her a purple Italian ice; lost her to
a real Italian with thirty-three hectares of
stony vineyard in Apulia.
He slayed her dragons, fought off indians
from the pine-tree fort, flourishing
his long tin-foil sword; he filled her lap
with streams of colored marble jewels
and stolen roses from next door.
For wedding presents we bring Joe,
Napa champagne, a pine tree in a bucket—
when it grows fine and fat he says
she can lie hidden in its dappled arms,
held there as safe as childhood from
the dragons, indians, phantom lovers.