May 22, 2003

Wedding Poem for Schele and Phil

by Bill Holm

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Wedding Poem, for Schele and Phil," by Bill Holm.

Wedding Poem
For Schele and Phil

A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don't need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.

So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.

But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other's flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alo
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1859). In 1881, he graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in medicine. It was there that he met Dr. Joseph Bell. Bell would later serve as the model for Conan Doyle's famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Upon graduation from the university, Doyle served as ship's doctor on two vessels that sailed to Greenland and West Africa. He eventually set up his own practice in Portsmouth, England and wrote fiction in his spare time. In 1887, he wrote A Study in Scarlet, his third novel and the first that introduced Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. John Watson. Encouraged by his publishers, Conan Doyle wrote The Sign of Four three years later and published two-dozen short stories in The Strand magazine. The stories were immensely popular, but Doyle began to grow tired of his creation and attempted to end the series in 1894 by killing Holmes off in The Final Problem. There was a huge public outcry. One woman wrote him a letter with the opening line, "You brute!" He felt obliged to resurrect his hero, and Holmes and Watson later appeared in 34 additional short stories and 2 novels.

It's the birthday of children's author and illustrator Arnold Lobel, born in Los Angeles, California (1933). He was often sick as a child, and missed most of the second grade. However, he used this time to draw. When he returned, he made friends by making up stories and mixing in his own illustrations. These experiences formed the basis for his book Frog and Toad Are Friends (1971). In it, the main characters Frog and Toad have many wild adventures, but remain friends in spite of everything that happens. His book Fables (1981) won the Caldecott Medal, the highest honor in children's illustration.

It's the birthday of painter Mary Cassatt, born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (1844). After getting her degree at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she moved to Paris in 1865 and began studying the great masters in museums across Europe. Her career came into focus when she met Edgar Degas. Although he was an avowed misogynist, upon seeing Cassatt's work Degas said he would have never admitted that a woman could draw so well. He introduced her to the Impressionists, and she began showing her art in their exhibitions. Unlike the other Impressionists, Cassatt focused her painting on women and children in intimate settings instead of large social scenes. One of her favorite subjects was her sister Lydia.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Peter Matthiessen, born in New York City, New York (1927). He writes largely from his own travels to places that are isolated and where ways of life are disappearing: Peru, Nepal, and New Guinea. His first novel Race Rock (1954) established him as a writer who loved description and imagination. After visiting all of the wildlife refuges in the United States, he wrote Wildlife in America (1959), which tells the story of America's relationship with its animals over the years. Matthiessen won the National Book Award for his novel The Snow Leopard (1978), which chronicles his journey through Nepal in search of the endangered animal. Even in his fiction, he's concerned with putting the characters in the context of their environment. He said, "I like to hear and smell the countryside, the land my characters inhabit. I don't want these characters to step off the page, I want them to step out of the landscape."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show