Milk from Chickens

The day my son declared with hammerhead certainty

that milk comes from chickens was the day

I yanked him out of the city

and drove west to farm and prairie land.

Like a nail pried from hard wood, he complained

from the backseat, missing electronic games and TV.

Near the South Dakota border, he saluted

a MacDonald’s as we flew by.

In my country, always summer,

it is never too late to find freedom,

to open a screen door to an entire day spent outside,

not missing anything.

I wanted my boy to take a turn lifting barb wire

to slip under and into open fields

keeping an eagle eye out for the crazy bull. 

I wanted him to hold a bottle for a lamb

to feel the fierceness of animal hunger,

the suck of an animal mouth.

He needed to sleep out in nights encoded

with urgent messages of fireflies,

to see the bright planets in alignment overhead,

to stand on the graves of his grandparents,

dead so many years before he was born,

and to trace the names etched on granite pillows,

hard as the last sleep.

How else to plant in him the long root of prairie grass,

help him reach water in drought,

know who his family is?

© Margaret Hasse

Milk and Tides, Nodin Press, 2008

Changing Voice

Because he is only thirteen, his anger

flares, a gassed fire.

Because he is only thirteen, he snarls like a cur,

dislikes everything about his parents,

especially what they like,

books they read, jokes they tell.

Because his voice trips and falls,

as if on a loose rug, he breaks into tears.

Because the salt caves in the pits

of his arms are newly rank, he locks

himself in the bathroom for a hot

shower, steams paper from the wall.

Because he is small for his age,

he disparages his brother’s thighs

carried by those long bones:
You’re flabby, he screams, dangling

upside down like a bat from

the upper berth of their bunk bed.

Because he struggles to read

when others kids are quick

to spit words from their mouths,

he runs as if to surpass the wind

on a windy day, bedtime on a summer day,

chores and studying and rules every day.

Because he is only thirteen, sometimes

he still curls in his mother’s arms,

grubbing for stories he stars in:

how he could climb from his crib

to claim his own baby bottle,

how he’s graded A+ in music

for notes his trumpet hangs high

like the sound of wild birds

over the heads of other kids

who can’t believe he’s only thirteen.

© Margaret Hasse

Milk and Tides, Nodin Press, 2008

Poems from Milk and Tides by Margaret Hasse

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