Molly Ruffing

Applause Issue 32 Label

Six Servings Per Can

Three scents will always remind
me of my father: the Permatex I could find

sitting in a puddle of soap scum
at the shop, the wood shavings from

his circular saw, and the salted maybe-ham
that the world knows as SPAM.

On Sunday mornings, he would tie
his apron and sing Sinatra while

frying Something Posing as Meat.
He never gave up trying to feed

my brothers and me his childhood
delicacy that spattered

our poor mother’s cabinet doors
as he plopped it on the cutting board.

We huddled together behind
the sofa, for once putting aside

our GI Joe and Barbie woes
to hide from our father’s spoils.

With a mouth full, he called it a luxury
and ignored our gagging pleas

as the smell of salted meat
seeped into our meal

of pilfered peanut butter
and saltine crackers.

Driveway Worship

Sundays, too, my father got up early.
But instead of lacing up his grease-stained steel toes,
he’d polish his church shoes, sipping coffee black
before the fasting hour.

He would slip two handkerchiefs into his pocket—
one for the homily, and one for when
the congregation was forsaken
by the AC. Father’s collar would wilt,
but my father would pretend he didn’t see it.

He always pretended he didn’t see—
didn’t see me scanning the Bible for a psalm
about the sanctity of leaning over an engine
as the blacktop radiated warmth. Searching for just one
verse of father, daughter, and holy brakes
to explain what I could never find
stowed away in a gold-plated tabernacle.

$5 Rosé

Because you bought the bottle, I want
to make sure your cup is filled to the brim

with the sophisticated blend of strawberry fields
and ethanol. The fusion dances in the lights

that line our makeshift dinner party, and the flecks
giggle against the base of your mug like a baby

discovering the joys of splashing
in their very first bubble bath.

As soon as the wine kisses your tongue,
you’re grinning like my kindergarten boyfriend did

when I kissed him behind the slide at recess.
Your cheeks radiate a gentle warmth,

heated by the innocent infatuation
inevitable in a glass of wine. It may have been

the cheapest bottle on the shelf, but it still makes our eyes
shine bright and blurry like an oceanic reflection of the stars.

Molly Ruffing is known for her love of Fireball, O’Doul’s, and incongruities. Has a loosey-goosey eye and no depth perception. Verified by Jeff Mason.

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