Another Realm of Discourse

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I. My Father’s Household

As a youth, my father devoured flannel
Cakes mauled in blackstrap molasses, an
Electric percolator’s cover knob rattling
Like a lone brown penny spun heads up
On a wooden counter. His grandmother
Dipped snuff, and the repurposed blue
Maxwell House can chimed like a barber
Shop cuspidor. Buttered potatoes sweeter
Than the notes of an ocarina graced most
Depression-era supper tables. Piping hot,
A yam often bore the mark of the spade
In its orange skin. Soon my father’s pores
Squinted like accordion beads beneath
The blazing sun at Peleliu and Tarawa.
I still own the bolt-action rifle he took off
A Japanese Imperial Marine he killed
In the heat-refracted nightmare of single
Combat. An amphibious soldier’s only
Respite lay in cracking open a cold quart
Of Falstaff. The amber bottle’s lip fumed
As he slaked in humidity for all the world
Akin to the Mississippi Delta in August.

II. My Mother’s Schooling

Teresa, you are first to enter my mind
Every time I recall my mother’s text on
Etiquette purchased at Mississippi State
College for Women. Never mind the house
Wine be it crackling Italian red intended
To accompany bread and brie or an ice-
Hot chardonnay served by the carafe.
She told me to observe the cork’s brand,
Its frail hermetic scrimshaw, whenever
Sommelier or steward broaches a bottle,
And always to sniff for any hint of taint.
Neither gourmand nor tosspot, I noted
Scrupulously each wine glass: base,
Stem, bowl, and rim. I often longed
To trace the ruby, amber-lit claret’s
Translucence to its roots in the Latin
Claritas or a vineyard’s cultivated rows.
Like you, I preferred the sacraments
Of sun and soil, eschewing the impulse
To filter these through the high artifice
Of institutional adornment such as light
Staining the windows at Saint Chappell.

III. Coda

Our own generation endowed the locution
“Plastic” with a negative resonance. We did
Not recall that it derives from Greek: plassein
“To shape or mold.” How many lyrics spun
Out of 33 r. p. m. discs awakened in us strains
Haunting as The Beatles’ “Long and Winding
Road,” the molten gold and plangent loveliness
Of Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never”? Can we forget
Gladys Knight’s rendering of “Midnight Train
To Georgia” penned by Ole Miss quarterback
Jim Weatherly? Teresa, the wine list was least
On my mind seated opposite you one last time
That rain-swept evening in April. Moistening
Your lower lip, you knew I couldn’t forgo a taste.