Walking through Florence's Piazza della Signoria at dusk, I took the above picture. I wonder if this bride would mind that she's become a permanent part of my photo album and my memories of Italy?
I share her with you now because she reminds me of this evocative poem by my friend Jane Satterfield:
On Valentine's Day I Pick Up My Wedding Dress
Dragged across a sculpted lawn, hem half undone,
the Sophia Long Ivory Silk
was smeared with August grass.
A thrill to wear the Empire waist
with shirring at the bust, complete
crossover detail and tiny shoulder pleats—
The bit of luxe I delayed for months
putting into the cleaner’s hands—
I loved how it dangled
amid the darker palette of my wardrobe
with its tattered trail of stains—
Prosecco, pollen, one niece’s sandal print,
another’s cookie smears . . .
Any of my black slip dresses would have done the job.
But my ’tween daughter said,
It’s supposed to be a celebration, Mom,
not a witch’s Halloween.
Several years ago she and I walked with you,
old friend, new love, along the Grand Canal.
A wedding party’s passing
stopped the swirling crowds.
In upraised arms the unveiled bride
held her baby girl. Noonday sun,
the streets still puddled with the morning’s tide.
But her dress! Cat said, just eight,
thinking of ruined fabric, the dirt and grime,
where I thought, The world’s full bouquet.
Today’s poems in class were sex,
not love; sex and Singles’
Awareness Week. My cynics
beyond their years didn’t even
Google Valentine, imprisoned bishop
who worked to keep lovers’ hope aflame.
I gave out chocolate, wishing for some
grand passion to sweep them away.
What I love most about Jane's poem is how the wedding dress feels all the more precious for the stains it has accumulated. All that ivory silk is a canvas on which the events of the wedding day have been recorded, and all of them speak of celebration and familial love. As passionately as a bride-to-be might wish and work for the perfect wedding, the inevitable imperfections are part of a wedding day's glorious fabric, part of "the world's full bouquet."
For more of Jane Satterfield's poetry, check out Her Familiars.