My daddy packed a pinch of Skoal Mint
sexier than most things I’ve seen women do.
Once, he offered me and my adolescent tongue
a taste out of some old-school, parochial sense
of education—let the rod of experience thunder
loud and profound, where the lips might only
whisper unintentional invitations. Like the clued-in
Junebug I was, I heard alarm bells blaring behind
my eyes, blind with admiration. I decided,
simply to watch and marvel at the way my daddy
carried himself with so much swagger. The way
he kept a Diet-Pepsi bottle in his back pocket
stuffed with paper towels and dip spit—as cool
as the coldest mink on the coatrack. I settled
for a different red and black map of imitation—
a can of Jack Links Beef Chew. Fattened my lip
with the finely ground meat and juice, slipped
the faux-snuff into the back pocket of my baseball pants
with scandalous intent, as if it was the plastic foil O
of a condom wrapper, leaning into my little secret—
the lead-up to my big joke, my wry smile and reveal.
My daddy’s vice as beautiful as a well-made blade…
The astringent mint making Jean’s Nicot(ine) sing,
setting the gums ablaze. He quit and un-quit
and I learned what you can and can’t make of a man.
But one day, on the red clay of Black Miami,
where the diamonds go mostly unused,
I got bit by a wasp while fielding groundballs.
My father took the wet contents of his bottom lip
and pressed it to the bite, stemming the pain and swelling.
I got to return to one of baseball’s cherished
rhythmic routines—catch, step, and pitch it to first.