Monday, December 5, 2016

From Volume 37: A poem by Henry Walters

By Henry Walters

Not till this old-fashioned morning, Son House singing
through fifty pushups, fifty situps, some pain-
ful stretches into lower registers

that can’t be reached, on a skipping record,
Got a letter this morn-, Got a letter this morn-,
not till I rifled every kitchen cupboard

& poked through sacks of nothing but dry goods,
& the fridge the same, no eggs, no meat, no greens,
& I, who have never been poor, sat down, tired,

not till then did I think about the milkman,
a real man to my parents’ generation
but myth to mine, who’d come in the dawn & leave

two bottles on the stoop beside the door,
uncapped, they said, & frothy, &, sometimes, warm,
narrow-necked bottles that flared out like the bell

of a gramophone, like the mouths of changeling twins
you found each morning, unswaddled, unexplained,
& take in full, & put out empty, & think

no more about than mail arriving twice,
or papers by evening, or kids after school, or sun
going up & down by everybody’s watch.

But now your bottle floats up into mind,
milkman, minstrel, waylaid messenger,
without a message, without milk, without

even a sun to slip slow through your glass,
& you say, Hush—I thought I heard her call
my name, & suddenly your being gone

delivers me a second time into the world,
brimful, & fuller, maybe, than before,
having had no taste of what there’d be to lack.

*reprinted with permission from Field Guide A Tempo (Hobblebush Books, 2016)