Rituals

On Thanksgiving, over the gravy, the conversation turned to animals –
turkeys, pigs, goats – the hostile mean-spirited boar who attacked his owner,

the lack of value in billies, the croak of the auctioneer selling kids
for ten, fifteen bucks, small white baas bouncing around the stage.

I drift off to that morning ritual so long ago, my head against Mrs. Goat’s side,
fingers steady on her teats, the rhythmic zzzt, zzzt, into the pail.

Both of us held in the white breath of morning, chewing our grain of contentment,
our lives the color of hay, the gray between the floor boards of the shed.

No thought yet of a packed motorcycle, a hot room under fetid air
from Miami International and Pan Am’s belching jets, the loss of a kid,

the aching sorrow of Johne’s disease, a divorce, a house fallen in slate-
covered shadows, empty except for crayoned drawings on the walls,

boys who took so long to grow into the exuberance of manhood,
this table with salt, pepper, turkey, in-laws, everything crowded into one room,

only the warmth of that four legged-body against my cheek, the white milk building
in the pail, finally her rear leg stamping, the signal that milking is done.

Published in:
Clementine Unbound
Dec. 2016

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