Ode to Milk
O divine juice. You
were the very first taste
I can’t remember.
Hard to believe I was ever
that small – and you that necessary.
Later I found you by the back door
in the custody of glass bottles,
held down by a thick plug of cream.
You were utterly perfect
with peanut butter and jelly.
Your cool stream poured into mouths
from waxed cardboard lips. Still young enough
to drink what was supposed to be good for us,
lovingly praised by mothers laced
with Strontium-90 and DDT.
I discovered you in the most
unlikely places: sap of milkweed, cap
of mushroom, rumour of walrus and yak.
You taught me the rich flavour of words –
clabbered, clotted, café au lait.
How things go bad, curdle from being
held too close, for too long.
That we separate the world into good and evil,
as though it were as simple as making cheese.
O you coagulated curd,
you wishy-washy whey. White
as the cloak of the KKK, innocent
as alabaster, ivory.
How you satisfy the desire
for whatever is convenient, fast,
always the same. Shaken, malted,
chocolate-coated, powdered, whipped and creamed.
Changeable as a buttermilk sky.
You become cheesecake, gorgonzola,
cappuccino, crème caramel.
Nourishment, you know, comes not
form suckling, but by soothing
the hunger of others.
You trail a hundred billion stars over the moon.
Yet like novels and the news,
you become condensed, suffer
the same short shelf-life as books. Sorry,
but now I get my calcium from beans.
Don’t have to check your best-before-date,
still worry though, about bovine
growth hormones and the news.
O milk of human kindness, don’t desert me.
Bathe me with your silky rhymes.
Wash my feet in butter.
Let me scoop into you.
Come, cloud my morning coffee.
Mark me with your white smile.
Sit down beside me.
And when I’ve made a mess of you,
when I weep like Job:
Hast thou not poured me out as milk?
and curdled me like cheese?
console me, tell me once again
what I need to hear.