03 June 2011

Michael Walsh

[from Michael Walsh's The Dirt Riddles, Arkansas, 2010]

Morning Milkings

Mother slaps every sleeping cow
with a chapped, leathery hand.
Once, twice, as many times as it takes.
Then, with the lightest touch, she announces
to the first startled flank
her bucket, her brown paper towels, her iodine,
her plastic syringes for the sick.
She washes each udder,
overripe and leaking
faster in the rag
with each wipe, careful
of any touchy warts.
One long squeeze
into her palm and she's done.
The milk's ripe and opaque
in her lifeline,
no flecks of red
today, no odd clots.
A skeptic, she pushes
her greasy glasses
back up her nose, closer
to her nearsighted eyes,
then tosses the sample, quick as spit.

After His Lessons from the Belt

my mother would always sit on the bed
and spread out the great map
of his fault lines – that webwork
of unpredictable tensions.

We studied where the quakes
were most likely to occur: in barns, fields
near sheds.

                   We learned to sense the shifting,
the slow grind of plates, the opening
chasms of his hands.

Quilt Rags

Every time we molt our blue jeans,
Grandma takes the busted pairs.
First she trims that feathery fringe
from the worn-out knees.

Then she hangs them
over a cardboard box, unravels
long, golden threads from the seams,
and razors the empty legs

down to spare parts, squares
and triangles for her quick pins.
The awkward crotch she cuts last,
pulls out the zipper like a gizzard.

Miller Williams & Michael Walsh

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