Milkers Broken Up

Donald Hall
I was sleeping in Madison, Anthony Bradbury's spare room, after a day when we visited a gallery to look at collages

he had pasted from illustrations tom out of magazines;

we stayed up late reminiscing about twenty-five years

of friendship, about youthful marriages and grown-up children. We knew each other first in our thirties, when we appeared

to have settled into the orderly progression of our lives

as into houses on streets lined with elms and Plymouths,

before the divorces and assassinations. In nineteen-sixty,

we met Wednesdays at the Grasshopper Tavern near Fenway, half a dozen novelists and poets, gossiping, telling stories, monitoring the systems by which we confirmed eminence

and notoriety. I remember eating a hamburger while Hanema said again, "He always speaks well of you," and Da Silva laughed again - as Robert Lowell slid through the door; rapidly and furtively he drank a Bass, glanced quickly around, and bolted. He look like a cartoon of misery - "as tortured," Michele or somebody said, "as one of his damned linebreaks."

At Tony's I dreamed the familiar dream in which we remember a duty neglected: I walked up and down in the farmhouse, pacing, the way as a boy I paced, planning my life out...

Then I remembered: My grandfather had died a week ago

and I had forgotten to milk the cows! I ran to the pasture;

their udders had swollen and split: Covering my mouth

I saw the black-and-white milkers break up into pieces

like the roadkills crows pick at, their body part floating
over rocky pastures, ripped meat bloody and still alive
Page 3, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 28