“Father and Son”

Happy Father’s Day!

“Father and Son”

Five AM, midwinter morning,
coffee steaming from the cups
we left behind in our wood-warmed house
to make the trek from house to barn,
to milk the cows and gather eggs.

Four rubber boots crunching through the snow,
one pair a size eleven, one pair a size seven;
two shivering figures against the forest,
one six feet, one four foot six;
one inky, black sky in its darkest hour
before the sun brings our world the dawn,
before the ice will melt and fall from the eaves.

A propane lantern hisses
as it swings from your outstretched hand,
each leafless tree a bear reaching toward me
until your lantern passes the vague predator
and my terrified mind can forge on ahead.

I run ahead of your leading body,
eager to bathe in the lantern light,
eager to walk surrounded by yellow
rather than stand with the night on my back,
but my childish frame covers the lantern,
throwing too much shadow on our path,
so I run back behind you instead.

I remember the orange fire of a rising sun,
remember the swish of milk in the pail,
remember the sweet smell of molasses and grain,
remember an alfalfa stem between my teeth,
I remember you handing me the coffee you made.

“Do you remember,” you said,
“the air being so cold the milk would steam
and the splashed milk would freeze
to the side of those stainless steel milk buckets?
Ah, those are the days we had together.
Those are pleasant memories in my mind.”

“I remember.”

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