Sudden Wedding: March 27, 2020 by Sarah Pirtle

Sarah Pirtle was a founding member of a traveling feminist poetry troupe in the 1970’s. Sixty songs from her nine recordings are free on Sarah Hope Sings. Her five books include An Outbreak of Peace, a novel which received the Olive Branch Award for outstanding book on world peace.

Sudden Wedding: March 27, 2020

The Goshen Town Clerk met them outside their car
wearing masks. They signed the papers on a clipboard
through the window, and then did a grinning selfie
while snow covered the windshield with confetti.

I am their pandemic minister. Their church
is a picnic table on a peninsula of Great Falls
in Barton Cove. Rochelle wears a red coat
with blue safety gloves matching her blue dress.

When we get to the picnic table, river
water lapping the stones carries up the voices
of the Narragansetts, Nipmuks, Pocumtucks
who came to this same spot for shelter.

Awkward in the new cloth mask my friend sewed,
any ministerial dignity completely absent,
I struggle to play a flute to bring us
into a golden circle for the ceremony.

A blue sky with rare 60 degrees is our canopy.
Small boys on a picnic creep closer and Rochelle says
— tell your Mom we’re getting married over here —
and gives them flowers from the bouquet.

On the phone that morning her Kentucky friend
had laughed, “Only you would get married in a pandemic.”
Abandoning the future June wedding,
they’d raced for the immediate.

It was going to be nine of us here,
and I dreaded trying for six-foot distancing
in a precarious do-se-do around the cliffs,
but then their best friends being older and

with pre-existing conditions nixed the idea
of mingling with Rochelle’s grown children
who still had day jobs, and it shrunk
to a wedding with just the three of us

out here with the wind. Dan uses stones to stop
gusts from grabbing the small cloth bags
waiting on the picnic table that hold the rings.
Gripping my papers before the air takes them,

I tell them what is evident, how their extraordinary
kindness towards each other has already forged this
wedding. We breathe in a cocoon of profound joy.
Do you vow to be ready for your love to grow deeper?

Here are the praise songs spoken by the eagles nesting
out on the island, the swans on the river,
the bending trees, the small blue wildflowers
waiting to rise. Put down the words

typed on the papers. Look out at the river
and back to their faces. Before our recessional walk
when we find a surprise wooden post along the
trail with chance graffiti proclaiming, “Good job,”

and before we get to the parking lot where wine glasses
in my car wait for sparkling cider, I declare
you are enveloped in a lasting dimension of trust.
Witnessing grasses jump up to the sun.