Milking a cow means I’m in the barn
before sunrise, herding Molly into the stall
where I’ve laid a flake of hay.
Sweet timothy mellows manure’s stink.
My older sister
never seems to get the hang
of grasping a teat,
pushing with a little shake
up into the udder to start the milk.
Only two of us, my brother and mostly me,
are capable of this chore.
Dawn rises. I’m astride
a three-legged stool,
forehead pressed into Molly’s side,
feeling the heat of her body.
My head nods with each breath she takes.
Particles dance in sun blades
cutting through gapped barnwood.
Morning colors the Cascade
foothills bordering MacKenzie River.
Daylight reaches Molly first.
She turns, noses my hair,
sighs down my neck, under my collar,
warms my shoulders.
Her breath the fragrance of clover.
Feral kittens leap, catch
milky jets. Their mouths pink, wide.
How close wild babies will come
to taste promise.