A Toast to the Lovely Couple

by Andrea Auten

You danced a wedding pas de deux,
winning a cash prize and a bottle of wine.
Strong arm curving around her,
you posed for pictures
in an orange blossom-scented sundown.

Our feast followed the humble walk down a cobbled aisle,
her beach curls framing an organza and satin bateau neck
your dying brother, a sentinel Best Man in his military dress
stood up for honor and accountability,
a scarlet stripe running down the length of his trousers.

Wet-cheeked cousin, husband, parents, friends,
alighting candles in the trees—
small watchful wind-moving faeries.
Tapas passed down on plates of joy.

Cuban-Spanish, German, Scotch-Irish, and Dutch; carafes pouring
favorite songs and stories told
gathered together, a union.
White on white towering cake dotted with American Beauty roses,
picking up the same scarlet in your uniform, the same uniform as your brother’s.

Roundtable good wish filled with presents,
wrapped and ribboned boxes and bags to place in
your ground floor one room apartment
twenty steps from parents
promising a private start, Sunday family breakfasts.

Arms around her small shoulders, crying,
“Someone stole our $75 dollar prize and the bottle of wine.”
Kiss this new cheek to make the sting better,
To glue the broken figurine, to clean up this night.

I awake instead to the Communist morning
your t-shirt courthouse elopement
no guests, no songs, no pictures, no gifts, and no honor.
A printed certificate folded in your sock drawer.


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