“Layla”

I never cared for Cream or Eric Clapton’s songs,
Though his guitar can break my heart, as it does on “Layla,”
Only not because of the song. Susan and I went to the wedding
Of a friend whose name I can’t remember, and her fiancé

Butchie, in a picture-perfect church I still remember on Cape Cod.
There were pews and vows, tuxedoes and a wedding gown
As they came skipping down the church steps, beaming, with a bouquet
Held aloft and “Layla” chiming like a hymn of celebration in the background,

Prefiguring a happiness that wasn’t going to happen, as a truck crash
Left Butchie paralyzed, while she, “She went to the bad.” (E.B.)
I barely knew them beyond my memory of their song, but that’s enough for me.
It’s funny how these chance associations that originate so privately

Come to color your world, as though its underlying nature were coincidence.
It’s funny how what actually occurs—like the wedding and the reception
I probably complained about in that annoying way I have—
Becomes irrelevant, while what lodges in your mind years afterwards

Is a shade of feeling that you never even noticed at the time.
When Diane and I get married next year (which no one knows about)
There won’t be rice or bouquets or white at sixty and seventy-three
Respectively, but after nearly twenty years of it there’ll be more

Happiness to come, or so I hope (no truck). It all comes down
To love and luck and a satisfactory playlist we’ve got to work on soon.
“Good Timin’ ” and “Archie, Marry Me” (as sung by Betty)
Are among the possibilities I suppose. But I don’t want “Layla.”

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