Guest Poet Jeffrey Hanson

The Secret Truth of Weddings

The Old Timer threw down West Virginia like a stone quilt 

over an iron bed, and it bunched and wrinkled in random ways suggesting

He got distracted and left the state a rough kind of pretty.


I couldn't remember having met the bride before that day,

though I'd known the groom longer than I'd known my present self

it seemed, at least the who I'd become since high school. 


It happened outside, the wedding did, under the October leaves.

Someone whispered that the trees were painted by the groom's

mother, leaf by leaf by hand in speckled shades of Autumn.


And it seemed the wine was plenty and tasteful, that there were 

many people with curious accents, and that the music of Van Morrison 

was ever-present everywhere. And there was love, obvious and ebullient.


The love of deep friendships, devoted aunts, the love of two people

making a new sense of things together. The kind of love that makes one

embarrassed to be a cynic but glad to have been allowed inside the church, 


so to speak. There was a tall man, the groom's mom's date. He drank

and spoke like his profession was being a guest. They're here for us, 

pointing his wine-soaked head at the couple he told me, 


not us for  them.   I didn t follow, but I believed him. Understand I'd just witnessed

this man shoot, twice, a champagne cork over a rafter to land in a suit pocket.

I'd have believed every word he smiled.


Suffice it to say I get it now, months gone by, what I learned in the mountains 

under the leaves, in the presence of well-wishers, Van Morrison, 

and the Old Timer. Weddings aren't really for the bride or groom


but for the others, even  the cynics, to get and give love in a context 

of gushing purity, affirmation that life can be 

and often is exquisite, together.

August, 2000

Jeffrey Hanson's Questions:

There's a lot here I like, but every time I read it, re-tool it, I never get the sense that I've brought it home. I've tried adding characters, more anecdote, more detail. But I can't get it to a point where I say DONE. Here are some questions I hope you can answer, to get me nearer where I want to be with this

Do you think it's a lousy title, that it sets up an expectation or dictates an interpretation that isn't quite there in the poem?

Do you detect any kind of tone or voice shift as the poem develops?

I want it to end with that discovery, that secret truth, but I want it to be a velvet hammer, something that comes gently but profoundly. Am I doing that here?

I wanted "The Old Timer" to be a non-specific, folk deity referrence--kind of God, kind of some West Virginia folk story. How does this referrence read to you? Can it be strengthened. Does it get confused with the Van Morrison or Cork-popper referrences?

If you can answer these and give me some general feedback, I'd appreciate it.

I'm interested to see what this little experiment turns up.


The Albany Poetry Workshop