The bride’s sixteen-year-old cousin
wore one white flower in her hair
(frangipanni). She herself
was beauty in bloom.
We had time to gaze,
standing about in the courtyard.
Honoured to be asked,
we made sure to arrive promptly
but nothing seemed to be happening.
Where were we meant to sit?
When would the priest turn up?
With such a long delay,
why did no-one look tense?
I approached the bridegroom’s aunt,
our chamber-maid who invited us.
‘When does the wedding start?’
She smiled, waggling her fingers. ‘Oh,
when we are ready, we begin.’
Gradually the courtyard filled.
Reaching for a delicacy on a passing tray,
I was politely admonished:
‘The old ones first. It will come to you.’
During the tooth filing ceremony,
that sacred Balinese ritual
without which they could not wed,
the bride was pale with fear
and brave, uttering no sound.
Her headdress was like a cupola.
The groom wore a long jacket
of bright embroidery, red and gold.
A gamelan orchestra played into dusk.
Three weeks later, we had the rhythm.
You can’t walk fast in floppy thongs
nor try to hurry the tide. The buffalo
move slow in the paddies, as do
women with baskets on their heads.
The chambermaid asked, ‘What time
do you make your tour today?’
‘When we are ready, we will leave,‘
we said. Then we all laughed.
November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2010: 9
Prompt: a ‘go slow’ poem.
Submitted in May 2013 for dVerse Poetics: 'Asians Are Ugly!' (We are invited to write of our own Asian experiences. This is one of many poems about my Bali experiences, which taught me that Asians are beautiful.)
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