Post Road Magazine #8

It's Your Turn to Do the Milking, Father Said by Mark Wunderlich

I spent a summer dancing on a bar. It was a summer of little daylight and I was mostly imaginary. Nights I sold my calves to strangers. They looked up at my white shorts and I blinked back, distant as a wren. Sometimes I smiled for their money. Sometimes I cared. In the back room, I counted the warm bills they tucked in my waistband, damp with small effort. I was infinitely expensive. My heart and head followed white lines to South America where jungle birds bloomed into shrieking hats. They beat inside my chest's bone cage, called so much into possibility—bar and boot and stray foreign hand.

As a boy, I was sent to bring in the goats. They were scattered in the hills, bleating, wet eyes narrowed, bells hollowing, udders dripping sweet blue. I called and they would not come. They had seen the serpent coiled in the loafing shed, his poison mouth sprung with needles. While it struck at my shins, I chopped it into pieces with a hoe, ground its vile head in the dust with my boot. I hung the mess in a sack from a post where it twisted until sundown. I made a hat band with its skin.

I am not as I would appear, you see. There is so much you never thought me capable of. The poor goats. I brought them in and milked them, they were so uncomfortable •

Mark Wunderlich is the author of The Anchorage, and his second poetry collection, Voluntary Servitude, will be published in fall 2004 by Graywolf Press. He lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

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