Mud, Apples, Milk

Even though I didn’t grow up milking cows myself, I grew up with people who did, and I knew their connections to the cows, and I knew some of their cows. This poem makes me homesick for a childhood I almost, but didn’t quite, have.

Mud, Apples, Milk
Michael Walsh

Of all things to miss, it’s silly
to miss how cows drowse in mud.
They blink slow as toads.
Instead I should miss
light on the blond corn
or trails of gravel dust
that rose like kites and vanished.

But I don’t miss that.
I miss how I could bring
bruised apples, press them
like smelling salts
to sleepy noses.
You had to let go
real fast or risk a finger
to the lick and snap.

I miss their udders too,
the mud fresh as wax
on the swollen skin.
Each day I broke the seals
with hot rags, and milk
flooded my palm—
a white creek down
the gully of my wrist.

from The Dirt Riddles. © University of Arkansas Press, 2010.

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