For Nicole and John
She drew a name full of winning flesh,
Victory, I mean, so that any Yes she has to say
We might say is a Yes achieved happily all her own—
And he drew a name large as any god,
Large as a wall in the center of the night, and as calm,
God in the most gracious, the tenderest way.
To be, like them, in a tenderness now,
Chill as April; to feel ourselves, like themselves,
In a communion of that sprung blood; and to trust
That in the dark, in even the wild, forbidding dark
Which by fact must come, is no threat,
No sudden evidence to break and unheat—
Then we’re complete. Flesh falls away. Gods do.
I will make a man out of you, says one
To the other. I will make a woman. Isn’t that
What to say I choose you means, means I let go
The name I held only for myself to step sharply into yours,
Into that bareness each for the other makes,
Outside the old conceptions, the old laws,
No she, no he—but together you become a single self
That spans the sense of the imagination,
Wiser than the oldest language, which is love,
More patient than the deepest song.
Copyright © 2015 by Rickey Laurentiis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
“I wrote and read this poem on the occasion of the wedding of poets and dear friends, Nicole Sealey and John Murillo. It took the better part of a year, up until the morning of the wedding itself, for me to complete the poem. And it wasn’t, I think, out of confusion about what I wanted to say to and about two people whose union I believe in or, more generally, about love, which I want deeply to believe in. But it took so long to figure out (as is always the case, huh?) how to say it honestly. Here’s to trying. And here’s to black love mattering.”