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The Bride Slept In, a Poem by Nora Hutton Shepard

by | Jul 17, 2023

The Bride Slept in

(Marguerite Williams photo)

her newly dead mother-in-law’s room:
where a silver mirror and crystal hairpin dish
still held their places on the lace dresser scarf.
She surveyed the papered blue toile walls where shepherds and shepherdesses, so at ease,
posed on their painted tussocks
laughing among their flutes and sheep. She
reassured herself—she had tightly capped her toothpaste,
placed it beside her blue toothbrush.
Donning her new nightgown of white lace
and satin, the bride tied the ribbon bows
and unpinned her hair, placed her pins
in the little dish. It was quiet
in the bathroom now; so she wriggled
beneath the embroidered, yellowed, sheets.

The bathroom doorknob rattled:
her new husband. The moon was bright enough
to see him, a procession of himself
coming toward her until
he stubbed his toe on the bedside table
and roared a string of curses, caught
himself, and looked at her and began
to laugh. And she began laughing,
and he held her laughing. Then
under the covers on the old sleigh bed,
their new fumbling ritual—like first communion
or learning to walk in high heels. Later

they slept in their room of almost moonlight,
sunk in the hollowed shape
of her mother-in-law, on a slope of years,
among her silver and her shepherds fading
in the dark. Out of her nightgown, out from
beneath the cocoon of sheets. His long leg
thrown over her. A long time ago.

(A version was first published in an Anthology titled Intimacy, Jacar Press 2015.)

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