“Married in Tennessee” originated in an experience my wife and I had while driving from Ohio to Florida several years ago. As I am notoriously inept with maps and directions, we naturally veered west into Tennessee where I-77 intersects confusingly with I-81 instead of continuing south toward Charlotte.
We also needed gas. We didn’t want to be heading into Tennessee, but eventually changed our minds and decided to spend the night in Knoxville. It being summer, The University of Tennessee was a maze of orange construction, but the chicken tenders at Fieldhouse Social downtown were the best I’ve ever had. The beer selection wasn’t bad, either. Note to readers: Knoxville is located in a beautiful part of the country, but make sure your car is reliable and gassed up because the mountains are steep and the surrounding small towns can be a bit forbidding, especially for Yankees.
My wife is a Turk, so often that day (and others like it, for we made many road trips between Ohio and Florida) I wondered how she felt—a girl from huge and cosmopolitan (and different) Istanbul—in the American South. So the poem eventually turned into an exploration of those different universes brought together thematically by her surprising love of Elvis.
On another level, the poem explores what it’s like to be newly married—the getting to know someone through series of surprises, bewilderments, and pleasures. We got to Florida the next day, pulling through Gainesville in the awful August heat and humidity. Hurricane Frances would come that September, and in candlelight we played backgammon, drank rakı, and noted how suddenly different both of our lives had become.