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So, after recovering from my New Year's Eve reading, and knowing that people had been quite busy themselves, with pianos, and chainsaws and the like, I waited until the afternoon of the 2nd to wish Neil Happy New year as you do.

The conversation went pretty much like this:

Roz: Happy New Year, Neil.
Neil:Happy New Year, Roz. You'll never guess.
Roz: Bet I can.
Neil: What?
Roz: You and Amanda are getting married.
Neil: Oh, yes, that...

And then told me a lot of very cute details that I won't go into as such - except that some of them found their way into what follows.

Because what do you do when one of your oldest, as well as most famous, friends falls madly in love and gets engaged, if you are a poet? Well, you write what used to be called an Epithalamion or a Morgengab or whaever...

And so here it is - Neil and Amanda got it a couple of hours after Neil told me, but I have held off making it public until they did, if you see what I mean.

So, no spoiler warning, but possibly a cuteness alert.


ENGAGEMENT PRESENT

Not just bells
Though bells too
Lots of them
Huge Iron Russian Bells
That go Bong, Bong BONG BONG!
For the defeats and deaths of Tsars
some of them singing bass;
and chinese bells
Hoarse little dragon voices
Bronze, wooden clappers, welded sides
and great imperial gongs
adventurers strike;
English church bells
echoing round the fens
high moors, and London streets
messages of joy and victory
told in equations
rounds and round they go
left hand to right hand
quarter turns to half
and have strange names like Glossop's Seventh Son.
The Swiss, the French
the carillon
plays tinkly tinny tunes
Tintinabulation rataplan
You hear and then say 'oh, it's from that show'
Bells make you smile
The ringing brings
The smile.

But there is other noise for you as well,
banging of chaos drums
chords from guitars
and twenty grand pianos play along
and one off-tune trombone
that limps behind
and then the cannons roar
the cannons from the 1812.
the snarl
of one sharp chain saw
and massed piccolos
that twitter chorus.
Whispering
the ninja tambourine of tinkly death
today on happier duties.

Such a noise
such an appalling noise
appalling joyful noise
of all your friends cheering you on.

2
It had to be a fairytale of course
the three proposals,
the third time the charm,
the kneeling in the snow
the ring drawn-on
her finger with a sharpie
borrowed and blue
old and new.
Because
It had to be a rom-com scene
the scene that happens in the biopic
the money shot
passion and art and sentiment
highdolly shot
then closeup for the kiss.
Muses applauding from director's chairs
and guessing all the art that comes from this
breathless anticipation
of the act.
Because
the drawn-on ring
is symbol of the joining of two arts
the joining of two worlds
telling of tales
bitter and sweet
bitter and sweet
her cynic songs.
And lives of course
it joins two lives
in ink that stands for blood
and gold and sweat and tears

3.

Watchers know
some of the facts
none of the feeling
little of the love
most of the story

Watchers have to guess
And ask and still not know
And yet can sometimes see the crucial thing.

Some twenty years and change
since he became my friend
Some eighteen months ago
he said her name
and I thought 'oh and this is something new'
and then I saw her sing
and I thought ' she's so good'
and met her family
and thought ' these people might become my friends'
and watched him watch her
heard him whisper in a crowd
' gosh, she's so awesome' and I knew it all
three months before it happened.

Watchers get to cheer
to lead the cheering
heard above the bells.
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