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by Donald Hall

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Also by Donald Hall:
When the Young Husband ... (1993)
Distressed Haiku (2000)

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Fifteen years ago his heart
infarcted and he stopped smoking.
At eighty he trembled
like a birch but remained vigorous
and acute.
When they married,
fifty years ago, I was twelve.
I observed the white lace
veil, the mumbling preacher, and the flowers
of parlor silence
and ordinary absurdity; but
I thought I stood outside
the parlor.
For two years she dwindled
by small strokes
into a mannequin--speechless almost, almost
unmoving, eyes open
and blinking, fitful in perception--
but a mannequin that suffered
shame when it stained the bed sheet.
Slowly, shaking with purpose,
he carried her to the bathroom,
undressed and washed her,
dressed her in clean clothes, and carried her back
to CNN and bed. "All
you need is love," sang John and Paul:
He touched her shoulder; her eyes
caressed him like a bride's bold eyes.

Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1996; The Wedding Couple; Volume 277, No. 5; page 103.

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