"Milk"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 27 2010 6:53 AM

"Milk"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  T.R. Hummer read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
.

It was a temple of the dark sublime with high-speed elevators
………that lifted us—O lyric lift—to the97thlevel.
Our cubicles resembled milking stalls in an agribusiness dairy
………where the farmhands—call them that, though their job descriptions
Said Lactic Technicians—are what they always were. I remember
………the mauled one whose left arm, ripped off by a sorghum cutter, 
Used to beat his children while he was sleeping; and the woman
………whose face was eclipsed by a malignant shadow of birthmark—
She saw small metallic devils twisting the hydraulic valves of the giant
………chrome tank in the milk room. The foreman was the normal one;
He kept an eye on us all but carried a pistol in the small of his back—
………For rats, he muttered with a sidelong maniac grin. Then there were the cattle:
They queued up continually at the barn door mooing for us to service
………their animal needs: food in, milk out, and cycle away the shit,
But they dreamed of liquid nitrogen, the tanks of sperm in a distant room,
………harvested from the bovine elite and stored like platinum: capital,
You might say, flowing from its mystical font into the bloodline
………of nonstop traffic, newsstands, a Cartier's branch on the corner,
The far field of Times Square, sterilized, the great political hosing
………now in the past, occluded by the digital billboard: Got Milk?

.

T.R. Hummer is author of 10 books of poetry. His 11th, Skandalon, is forthcoming from LSU Press. 

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.