Chapter 16
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“Tennessee Wedding on VHS”

Book Excerpt: Hothouse

Tennessee Wedding on VHS

Here I come down the aisle again, all ablush
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 embolismic 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 Super Bowl 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.”

“Tennessee Wedding on VHS”

Copyright (c) 2020 by Karyna McGlynn. All rights reserved. Karyna McGlynn is the author of I Have to Go Back to 1994, Kill a Girl, and most recently Hothouse, which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Karyna is a professor of creative writing at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. She’s currently co-editing the anthology Clever Girl: Witty Poetry by Women.