American Life in Poetry: Column 255

A honeymoon. How often does one happen according to the dreams that preceded it? In this poem, Wesley McNair, a poet from Maine, describes a first night of marriage in a tawdry place. But all’s well that ends well.




For My Wife



How were we to know, leaving your two kids



behind in New Hampshire for our honeymoon



at twenty-one, that it was a trick of cheap



hotels in New York City to draw customers



like us inside by displaying a fancy lobby?



Arriving in our fourth-floor room, we found



a bed, a scarred bureau, and a bathroom door



with a cut on one side the exact shape



of the toilet bowl that was in its way



when I closed it. I opened and shut the door,



admiring the fit and despairing of it. You



discovered the initials of lovers carved



on the bureau’s top in a zigzag, breaking heart.



How wrong the place was to us then,



unable to see the portents of our future



that seem so clear now in the naiveté



of the arrangements we made, the hotel’s



disdain for those with little money,



the carving of pain and love. Yet in that room



we pulled the covers over ourselves and lay



our love down, and in this way began our unwise



and persistent and lucky life together.




American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Wesley McNair, whose most recent book of poems is Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems, Godine, 2010. Poem reprinted from Five Points, Vol. 12, no. 3, by permission of Wesley McNair and the publisher.




Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.