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.
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.
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.