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November 6, 2002

The Masonic Temple Bride

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2002 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2002American Medical AssociationThis is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

JAMA. 2002;288(17):2182. doi:10.1001/jama.288.17.2182-JMS1106-8-1

The man in the black tuxedo inhaled.
With the long pull of wind, an atmosphere brewed
at the tip of his Pall Mall. A pinpoint of orange
flared in the vacuum as a brief red sun.
Over its light he loomed as a god, king and creator—
a Mason, a patriarch of the groom's family.

The cigarette dimmed with his exhalation.
Smoke from deep in his chest rose up,
rolled through his throat, curled from his lips
to wallow with the evening. His mist of ash
joined Appalachian fog, and settled over
the fiberglass sphinx—giant and golden,
glazed in condensation—a beast
that crouched by the doors of the temple.
The bride's honor guard, all fezzes and Southern accents,
laughed and cursed as red sand billowed
in the mural behind them—a freeze-frame of wind,
the North African desert, a mirage of water.

In the window I could see my aunt's attendants,
exotic and toothless, swarming around her.
The doctor had stained her skin with hash marks,
a permanent dye to aim each treatment.
With cosmetics, the attendants powdered the marks,
made her body seamless for the night of her wedding.
As her flesh was smudged, my aunt stared away
ready for the aisle, the walk through the crowd,
the eyes of her family, the glare of radiation.