Ryan Murphy

The Milk Poem

Late, at the bottom of the field, my sister and I
watch the dairy cows turn in for sleep. They cry
in the barn. We hear them low across the grass,
each of them moaning: moon, moon.

My sister turns to me and asks if sky is animal,
exploded: I tell her yes, and also that she is matter,
compacted. Light hardens on her hands like prayer
as she stands beneath the moon. It’s dripping milk.

In Catholic school, they taught us that all of creation
has only one heart. That it beats within us.
That cigarettes may clot God’s will. That science
makes every human organ a milkless flower.

Sister Jamie poured a drop of red food coloring
into a bowl of milk and told us, as the veins branched,
that God moved both within and without us,
but that we infinitely absorbed Him. Sun

to Earth; cycles of dark. My sister and I know
that in the blue night, light is anything that can
be caught but never held. Spilled milk. Our bodies
set each other into bonfires: the moonlight makes us look obscene.

And yet we know this blind field exists only to collect milk
and meat. Each female cow swells with her own liquid
while my sister’s hair rolls away from her like cream.
Our bodies answer to moons, not to milk—

each of us licks the shores of our skin
until we become banks of our own blood.
Here, in the clockless night, the only fluid
is white. God drips red. Moon, moon.

My sister tilts her head to the constellations—
her lips are pink, as the meeting of milk and blood.