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Milk

You press it from the six goats
morning and evening
and renew your own. The baby
is harnassed to your back,
her dark head wobbling. Your life
and its order that isn’t mine.

I’ve come as close to you
as I can. Over the sudsy milk
I watch your hands,
the little tough spots
at the tips of your fingers.
We tell it again:

how grandma stopped eating
and spit out her mush,
how the rich fields were burning,
how you stayed in your room
with the candles and incense
and played your guitar.

Once in our terrible anger
you struck at me wildly
and I couldn’t see. Light
was a bolt from the laser
riveting my eye. Black flakes
floated between us for a long time.

The buckets are full I lift
your daughter from her warm pouch
into your arms
as if I were lifting you
out of my empty body.
We’re not who we are

to our mothers. Even now
in this sweet flesh
isn’t there something starting
to withdraw? The child
is reminded of herself.
She wakes to cry.

An Israeli citizen who has lived in that country for thirteen years, Shirley Kaufman’s most recent book of poetry is Claims (Riverdale, N.Y.: Sheep Meadow Press, 1984).