Drinking as a Political Act
The way my Virginia daddy made them,
mint juleps were a sacrament:
He folded ice cubes inside a clean
tea towel then pulverized them
with a wooden mallet that wasn’t used
for any other purpose,
picked mint he’d grown and tended
in a strip of rich black earth that
hugged the south side of our house
on the south side of Chicago.
My Virginia daddy’d been with
Dr. King on the bridge in Selma, so
I didn’t know ‘til I was a middle-aged
white woman that Black folks did not
share my view of the julep as a rare
and noble drink, but, rather, knew it
for what it was, plantation-born: ice
crushed by the strong arms of their
ancestors, sweetened with the blood
of others sold south to cut the cane.
But, wait – what if we reclaim
the mint julep, drinking as a political act?
I don’t mean we forget my Virginia forebears
who sat out on their wide porches and sipped
the minty coolness of the labors of people
they took to be their property. I don’t mean
forgiveness, even. I mean, let’s raise a glass
to those who unmade that hideous life,
who keep unmaking it each day with their
hard, truth-telling love. Come, here –
let me make you a sweet, ass-kicking julep.
Let me thank my daddy as I show you how it’s done.