My mama’s people farmed sugar cane in South Carolina
and cut up stalks of it
for us to suck the sweetness from,
shucked their own oysters
and ground their own grits in the corncrib.

My daddy’s people in North Carolina
wrung chickens’ necks with their bare hands for Sunday suppers,
slaughtered their own hogs and hung them upside down
from the branches of the pecan tree,
made their own sausages with black pepper and sage
and cured their own hams in the smokehouse.

My Aunt Addie thought Colonel Sanders was a carpetbagger
but considered Coca-Cola the elixir of life
and retired every night with two fingers of Canadian Mist.

My daddy drank black coffee at the kitchen table
late at night when everyone else had gone to bed,
staring straight ahead
and cooling each sip in a saucer
before he sipped it, slow as Christmas.