No Thanks

A wedding poem by Zoë Fairbairns

A strange couple
With a man’s name
Have written to say it would give them great pleasure
To have me at the wedding of their daughter
To a one-time lover of mine

No thanks.

But don’t misunderstand.
It was years ago,
I also have another.
Besides, it wouldn’t matter
if the pair were strangers
ratting on a pledge,
or the groom my father
or the bride my dearest friend.
The answer is the same –
I give the greatest pleasure
if I stay away from weddings

(The only wedding I was ever good at
was one between consenting gays,
he with citizenship to bestow
upon her, who wished to stay in the country,
her lady being here.
I behaved well, I wore flowers
If there had been hymns, I’d have sung.)

Normally, though, on these occasions
I am less than an asset.

When a sister I know has happily sensibly fucked with her man for 16 months
glides down the aisle, white as a milk bottle,
my face cracks

When father hauls the girl to the rail,
I lean to the mother on her second greatest day,
and, tender for the tears that give her away,
ask, ‘Weren’t you her parent too, then?
Did you do nothing?’

When the minister dares me to stop the proceedings
by freeing the wife from the attic,
I cry, ‘There was an earlier commitment!
They said they would not do it!’
He says, ‘Oh, everyone says that
when they’re scared they won’t be asked.’

And afterwards,
I fix my glittering eye upon the wedding guests
(‘Wasn’t she lovely?’ ‘No-one means it nowadays’
‘It’s nice to get together and look at all the presents’)
and rave of birds chained down to necks of sailors
till death parts them. ‘Enjoy your gifts and moments
some of us do without.’

(You take my point
about staying away?)

No thanks
I won’t come just to the party either
though what a nice suggestion!
I might just park my horse too close, you see,
and, pretending to dance, might scud across the floor
and scoop up bride and groom beneath each arm
and the three of us never be seen again
I might not be able to stop myself.
So you see, if you don’t mind…
or even if you do.

Alternatively of course Zoë Fairbairns thanks you for your kind invitation

And deeply regrets a previous engagement

(first published in One Foot on the Mountain, an Anthology of British Feminist Poetry 1969-1979, Onlywomen Press, 1979)