A Marriage Ballad

I have a hard time with “formulaic” poetry.  Not only does it usually sound forced…it sounds antiquated, which isn’t bad, when I’m reading a favorite “old” poem.  For example, I love Poe’s “Annabel Lee”…. but I would sound silly writing that – childish, and overplayed.  But, I’m going to give it a shot, as I am now on to Ballads in my challenge.

Elements of the ballad style of poetry include:

  • Commonly, stanzas of four, eight or twelve lines, with variations on these. The rhyming pattern is usually ABAB or AABB. There is no limit to the number of stanzas.
  • A narrative story being told, perhaps of heroism or folklore
  • Many ballads use humor
  • personal characteristics of loyalty, courage, heroism, etc. being extolled
  • sometimes there is the use of a repeated refrain 

“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table…”
(The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot) 
 We set sail across the straight,
North, toward lights in an adjacent harbor.
Cool, late winter wind made
the water choppy and my cheeks sore.
Feet on land, we walked
up and down the store-lined streets
searching for just the right ones.  We talked,
laughed, and stopped into a pub to eat.
Our quest to find the perfect symbol
of our promise to one another
could have taken days, whole
weeks or more.
How does one find a piece of gold,
maybe a sprinkling of jewels,
that can hold
the meaning and story of two?
In the window of a tiny, dark store-front,
a delicate antique ring caught my eye,
 but the Irishman wearing a jeweler’s apron
could not tell me its story.
In a glamorous case under fluorescent lights
several streets away,
flashy diamonds and dollar signs
left us disoriented and dismayed.
The Claddagh’s strong sentiment,
love, loyalty, and friendship,
was overshadowed by price
and poor craftsmanship.
But, finally, two simple white gold bands,
mine with small diamonds and filigree.
We purchased them
and set off back across the sea.
How does one find a symbol
for a love that is more than love?
For a love that is lust and friendship,
trust and hope and afterglow?
That night, when none were watching
my ringed hand touched yours
and somehow we were something
that we were not quite before.
As skin touched skin and breast touched chest,
our thighs were intertwined,
and in the dark, our bodies one,
aligned were hearts and minds.
It’s not the gold that binds us,
it’s the promise it represents,
and the words that cannot be spoken,
the braided story that is kept
not in a book, but in our bones
not in conversation, but in looks exchanged
during moments of anger and forgiveness.
Moments of passion rearrange
the elements and place them back changed.
Each time my hips rise to meet yours,
tangible pieces are exchanged;
we filter into and out of one another.
In a sea of expectation,
waves of anticipation or contentment
lead onto shores of what is and will become;
cyclical, cylindrical, rings of moments spent.
Your first ring lies at the bottom of a lake,
a night we fought because you pushed me in unexpectedly.
I could swim, but it was dark and late.
I came up without my glasses, furious and gasping.
We recovered the glasses months later.
But never the ring.  It had to be replaced.
This time, by something you wanted more, something better.
And somehow, that is fitting, in this case.

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