Milk by Bruce Guernsey

Milk

When I was a boy
there was music to milk in the morning,
its windy ring, the bottles clinking
like chimes in the dark
when I’d wake before school
to hear the milkman bringing
on his white wings our milk
thick with cream for the licking.

From the tin box on the back stoop
I’d lift them slippery as fish still dripping
cool against my small boy’s chest, hugging
glass to the white, icebox door,
my morning chore before the nuns,
those angels on broom-sticks over me hovering
asking why, why God made thee,
their steel-rimmed eyes and me, still yawning.

Milk, oh milk, sweet, sweet milk,
it melts a winter morning
this milk I warm for my kids, this soothing
silk from the carton with its faces now
of the missing, vague in wax, everybody’s children
who late for the school bell’s ringing
took a ride one day forever.
The bus, kids, it’s here. I love you, get going.

by Bruce Guernsey, from From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010.

Editor’s Note: Though this poem begins with simple narrative description, it soon transforms into a meditation on childhood (difficult, frightening, and nostalgic, all at once).