The Milk Man
If, motherless, a child should suck
for long enough at my nipples, the milk
would come at last, a ticklish stream,
an embarrassing miracle. Carefully farmed,
like rocky soil, my body could nurture
a sort of furtive, guerilla nature:
a baby already halfway to wolf
by the time I've weaned her from myself.
Vestigial windows on other lives,
my dead tits sleep like soldiers' loves,
their bleared eyes closed to the infant need
that shames all barren, masculine pride;
yet they stand ready for what the world
might do to my wife. To let our child
grow up, my shut, furred breast could bleed
itself so white that the latent, delayed
lactation of men would return to become
the heart's first secret, finally known.
Not sad, but crying,
the baby is signaling
her newfound needs—
the world's in a holding
pattern, and knows it.
We work the angles
of blankets and breastfeeding,
tilt at the windmills
of burping, navigate
the pink circumference
under a diaper,
discover the truth behind
rumors of new uprisings
from the south,
decode the morsels
that drop from her mouth,
and then relax all the way
back to delight
seeing her eyes open,
Outside at last,
at any cost,
she ambles purposefully,
for a day twice as windy
and half as warm.
Persuaded to let go
of my hand
and avoid the street,
she's still determined
to cling too tightly,
or else to climb
each set of steps,
accost every bush
and pry loose
every piece of gum
from here to the corner.
She falls, and then
picks up sticks and rocks
as she wends
her endless way
on the return
and roundabout trip
which now begins—
half an hour
and one whole block
The runaway is safe in her bed.
Outside, the accident she might have had
recedes into hypothetical,
for tears, her tragic form becomes
a blur—her uncut, beautiful hair
falls forward, spreads wide, seems like her
wild energy ebbing, yet treading fire
Unfathomable, her ending
will not wholly disappear
though it grows fainter.
She lies prone
and stretching, turned away again
as if still seeking a deeper meaning
than I can follow or reach in time.
I didn't see her. It was my wife
who caught her and sent her ghost along
this mistaken way.
I round the corner—
repercussions of unknown grief
still hang suspended in a dream.
She is running away from her own dear life
and I am wrong to call her name.
For more about Brad Buchanan and these poems, read our interview with him.