He sat at the end of the maple kitchen table
younger brother’s spot,
extra leaf yanked out and sprung up for more space
now that we had company.

Fork in left hand, knife in right,
talking, eating eggs and country ham,
—the North Carolina of him—
biscuits and butter and strawberry preserves.

He smelled like tobacco smoke
and pomade, hair smoothed straight back.
I waited, smelling him in, listening.
Tidewater Os and disappeared Rs.

It took a minute of chewing for the dime-sized circle
on his right cheek, and no other skin,
to start sweating. My yearly thrill.
Because I knew, I knew. I knew it would.