Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


Lisa Dordal holds a Master of Divinity and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry, both from Vanderbilt University, where she currently teaches part-time in the English department. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Cave Wall, Sugar House, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Sinister Wisdom, The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011), and The Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press, 2013), among others. Dordal lives in Nashville with her partner, Laurie, and their two retired greyhounds.


As if the past were present completely
in the laden air of that June day, molded
by the unyielding stone walls of the sanctuary,

I walked, as my mother had taught me,
down the aisle, my body
pressed into taut, pallid lace. Her own.

Even the tightly folded note my mother
slipped to my bridesmaid to tell her
she was holding her flowers wrong

was a summons from the past
to get things right. And the look
I gave my Maid of Honor, straight

into her eyes during the spoken vows,
was a calling forth, a calling out.
You don’t have to do this, followed by:

But you do; all of us—grandmother,
mother, daughter—there in that moment
of keeping and quiet, quiet breaking.

And the Gospel—slinked in by the preacher—
an appeal to rightnesses of the past, above
the muted aching of our female bodies.

As I said “I do” with almost every cell
and, in the process, began to die
the long and tight-lipped death of my mother,

who taught me how.