Instead of Flowers and a Card

A poem by Linda Muller, December 2019

“I wrote this poem for my husband for our wedding anniversary, called ‘Instead of Flowers and a Card’. I first read it to him on our anniversary at a poetry slam. It didn’t win the slam, but it won over my husband. But he’s a little biased. Your objective opinion is appreciated.”

Linda Muller’s work can be found in the University of Iowa Writing Center’s “Voices,” in “Lyrical Iowa” 2018 and 2019, and the 2019 Anthology “Writers of the Depths” from the Writers’ Rooms. When she isn’t arguing with her husband about which one of them the dog loves the most, she can be found in coffee shops, reading, writing, or procrastinating.

Instead of Flowers and a Card
(with apologies to Barrett Browning, Burns, Keats, and Blake)

We celebrate in depth and breadth and height of pairing
our souls, bonded with vows and bands. Our promise
becomes invisible.
Invisible melding into our forever-ending
life of ideals and graces measured by days and sun, candles and
night, lawns and laundry, decisions and dishes, dates and dancing
in the kitchen. Everyday quiet reminders between
anniversaries that a marriage is more than one plus one equals

One sum of us — one engagement ring (your grandmother’s)
plus two wedding bands (my parents’) reshaped for our fingers,
equals one family, one pair, one us.

In a continual cycle of striving for comfort, affection, and passion in the face of old
griefs, loss of love by loving, by growing up and growing
old, we are the sum of the red,
red rose of June sprung
sweetly in the depths of love plus
life run through the hourglass
and across the miles.
A thousand
miles added up and poured
out until the seas
run dry and the sun
melts the rocks and sand
into lava and looking glass.

Reflection of you my steadfast
bright star, your splendorous
love shining among all other stars aloft
in the dark, opens my eyes,
sleepless and patient,
blessed by earth
and water and human ritual. Your
gaze unchanged in the eye of snow and sleet
and moonlight.
Still unchangeable.

We are the fall and swell of breath and heartbeats.
We are awakened stillness of newlywed
breath and sweet unrest.
We are forever-taken breath and soul and laundry and dishes and kitchen-waltzes.
We are graves and tombstones and flowers long after the wedding.
We are three priests, two photographers, and one bartender at the reception.
We are bound by our briars plus dreams, joys, fears, and desires.
The sum of which is: We are the ones every day
leaning in to ask,
“Did I tell you I love you today?”

“You did now.”