Milking Time

On a ship again, this time
the rocking makes the red gunshot
crevices in my torso quake and sting
with every pitch and dive. Seabirds
hover, like the maggies on the farm—
is it milking time?

The salt-harsh taste of bully beef,
the tepid tea, the damper bread—
in my mind’s eye, I see the flush
of mother’s cheek, as she pours out broth
and settles the little ones to their tea.
Is it past milking time?

Dusk, and in the greying sky
I hear an echo of the galah’s cry.
The cows will be coming up the hill
to stand in the yard, calm and still
with udders full and eyes soft brown—
They know it’s milking time.

Behind closed lids, I long to see the rush
of creamy white fall to the pail. But all
that comes is crimson rain that falls
and pools and comes again. I never thought
that Daisy’s teat would hold a memory so sweet
and make me long for milking time.

Young Bill, my brother still in school,
has risen early, retired late. He fights
his battle in the muddy paddocks of home.
Double milking, morning and night,
until I am home to do my share.
It is long past milking time.

© Julie Thorndyke

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