It was the late 1990s, and gays (at least the ones on TV) were living again. Several aunts hugged me without head tilts. Martha pickpocketed my flask. Before the vows, I stood behind the lectern, reading from Ezekiel and Matthew, my magenta boutonniere matching my brother’s heaving cummerbund, his bride’s veil hovering like merlot left to air too long. Her large Baptist family sat in the east pews, dry tongued as a Gingrich scowl when the priest called for mercies and objections to the splendor of nine bridesmaids sheathed in a grey called pugilist. No one threw hands, no bastards were claimed, only one male voice called me fag as we funneled out the doors. Granny (hanging from my elbow like a peach satin drape) walked me to the reception hall, telling me how handsome and healthy I looked in my suit. I kissed her forehead, plated her barbeque, sweet corn and chips, poured her a red cup of water with ice. (Where was Martha?) After a sip, Granny said, I bought them towels. Cousin Bo sat across from us, gazed into his red cup as if watching a gnat drown, asked why I wasn’t a groomsman. If the answer had been mine I would’ve drowned it. But, when called upon I stood, saw Martha in the back, (emptying my courage,) smiled and raised my red cup of melted ice to wish the newlyweds a life long with love and happiness. My esses sashayed into a hiss of mimics and snicker. The DJ queued the Spice Girls’ “Who Do You Think You Are?” I thought of gays (I’d known) who would’ve loved them. The Baptists remained seated. Granny woke herself snoring.
In our dream band, on lips trumpet:
Ben Kline (he/him) lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Author of the chapbooks SAGITTARIUS A* and DEAD UNCLES, Ben was the 2021 recipient of Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry. His work is forthcoming or can be found in THRUSH, CutBank, The Holy Male, The Indianapolis Review, Limp Wrist, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Impossible Archetype, A&U Magazine, and many other publications. You can read more at benklineonline.wordpress.com/