Exclusive Poetry Feature: “A Modest Revision for Wedding Vows” by Josh Lefkowitz


In sickness and in health

goes the common ceremonial refrain,

but I would add in boredom

and while doing day-to-day mundane activities.


In grocery shopping on Sunday mornings.

In folding the laundry side-by-side

with country music radio accompaniment.


I’m not saying this is me

at my most romantic.

But let’s be practical, too.


The average life expectancies:

76 for men, 81 for women.

(Lucky you, with those extra five years

and complete control of the TV remote).


Average age of marriage:

27 for women, 29 for men.


That means we’re staring down the collective barrel

of forty-seven to fifty-four years of matrimony.

Yes, I think a pragmatic revision seems right.


And isn’t that the real meat, anyhow?

It’s true: a car accident or cancerous cyst,

an unexpected hospital stay

will often breed the most tender exchanges.


We know how to love

when the threat of a too-soon end looms.

So why do we forget how it always looms?


Let’s practice love on some dumb Tuesday evening,

where everyone’s exhausted from stresses at work

and neither party has the patience for risotto.


Let’s love as we heat up the leftovers,

love the familiarity of our ten-year-old

chipped tableware which we swear to someday replace.


That you, in spite of the terrible nightly news,

continue to sort our paper from plastic

strikes me as an impossibly hope-filled act.


I’m serious! Of course I loved you then, when

you wore white, your hair an immaculate bouquet.


But now, decades later – remembering

how temporal all this is – I watch you

floss your teeth for the ten-thousandth time

and my skin can still turn to gooseflesh.


The Parisian honeymoon’s a distant memory, and yet

I would not want to be anywhere other than here:

you putting on your nighttime t-shirt,

the one with the Rolling Stones logo

and a little hole in the shoulder material

through which your skin beneath shines.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I get you

to have, and – come here – to hold.


Josh Lefkowitz was born and raised in the suburbs of metro Detroit. His poems and essays have been widely published online and in print, including in The New York Times, Electric Literature, Washington Square Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Rattle, The Millions, The Rumpus, and many other places, including journals in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Hong Kong. This is his third publication with Grub Street.

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