Wedding Day

There should have been roses . . .
Instead, I clutched red and white
carnations my aunt bought
from a street vendor
outside the courthouse.

I should have invited a few
close friends, had a party after,
but such things aren’t possible
when one secret marries another.

We got married at 9am
on a Monday. My aunt cried the whole
way down to New York on the I-95
to watch her niece
marry a stranger.

People I’d known all my life
had let me down, too often.

I’m a gambler at heart,
and I slapped my heart down
on the green table.

My father called from,
was it, Abu Dhabi?

“Do you two realize what
you’re getting into?”

I’m a philosopher at heart.
This was my big moment.

“How can we know?
How does anyone know?”

Author’s note: The first line of the poem is from Jens Peter Jacobsen, as quoted in Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.

Photo credit: Linda Ibbotson

A Cave Canem graduate fellow, Safia Jama has published poetry in Ploughshares, RHINO, Cagibi, Boston Review, Spoken Black Girl, and No Dear. Her poetry has also been featured on WNYC’s Morning Edition and CUNY TV’s Shades of US series. She is the author of Notes on Resilience, included in the New-Generation African Poets box set (Akashic, 2020).