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Published: Wed Jul 1 2015
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Tennessee Wedding on VHS

Here I come down the aisle again, all a-blush
and halting across the carpet’s carnation plush.

The man at the altar unblinking—eyes negative
black—his smile striving forth to get me, guts me,
_                                            _stops me lockstep.

His smile down under the hem of my frothy things,
fingering the bones of my catfish corset
_                              _like he can guess my true name.

A tail tumbles out the back of his morning coat.
_              _A splice.
_                            _He turns to the pastor, says,
“Someone’s been telling lies about us.”

I’m kneeling at the altar. The pastor calls for
_                                             _the laying on of hands:
“Who will bless this woman’s tender heart and loins?”
_               _A silence.

Not the groomsmen. They are newspaper flat.
The bridesmaids have long since dissolved
like sugar in their satin shoes.
_                                                             _This is how “I do.”

_               _A shake.
There’s our waxed limo lurching forth.
There’s his slaw-white boutonniere
_               _against the green hills of Tennessee.

_               _A scratch.
Then I am perched on his mother’s vinyl ottoman.
_               _She props her embolistic ankles on my lap.
_               _She sees babies under my peplum hips.

Cottonmouths slink through the French doors,
_                               _coil round my kitten heels.
The men on the porch take turns handling
_                               _my husband’s ten-foot fishing pole.

_               _A prayer.
“He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
_                               _Everyone’s drunk on milk punch.
_                               _No one’s watching where they step.

During the Superbowl spectacular,
_                               _a stray pig gets loose on the field.
_               _A cheer goes up.
Something tickles my insides like a catfish whisker.

Quietly, my father-in-law feeds me
_                               _frosting roses from his finger.
From the kitchen, we hear,
_               _“I’ll get a gun in her hand if it kills her.”

Karyna McGlynn is the author of I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl (Sarabande Books, 2009), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize, as well as Scorpionica (New Michigan Press, 2007), The 9-Day Queen Gets Lost on Her Way to the Execution (Willow Springs Editions, forthcoming), and Hothouse (Sarabande, forthcoming). Her poems have recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, West Branch, Seattle Review, and The Academy of American Poet’s Poem-A-Day. McGlynn received an MFA from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of Houston, where she served as managing editor of Gulf Coast. Karyna is the 2015–2016 Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. (updated 11/2015)

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