Poem of the day

The Milkman (by Isabella Gardner, 1915-1981)

The door was bolted and the windows of my porch
Were screened to keep invaders out, the mesh of rust-
Proof wire sieved the elements. Did my throat parch
Then I sat at my table and ate with lust
Most chaste, the raw red apples: juice, flesh, rind and core.

One still and summer noon while dining in the sun
I was poulticing my thirst with apples, slaking care,
When suddenly I felt a whir of dread. Soon, soon,
Stiff as a bone I listened for the Milkman’s tread.
I heard him softly bang the door of the huge truck
And then his boots besieged my private yard. I tried
To keep my eyes speared to the table, but the suck
Of apprehension milked my force. At last he mounted
My backstairs, climbed to the top, and there he stood still
Outside the bolted door. The sun’s colour fainted.
I felt the horror of his quiet melt me, steal
Into my sockets, and seduce me to him from
My dinner. His hand clung round the latch like rubber.
I felt him ooze against the screen and shake the frame.
I had to slide the bolt; and thus I was the robber
Of my porch. Breathing smiling shape of fright,
The Milkman made his entrance; insistent donor,
He held in leprous hands the bottled sterile fruit,
And gave me this fatal, this apostate dinner.
Now in winter I have retreated from the porch
Into the house and the once-red apples rot where
I left them on the table. Now if my throat parch
For fruit the Milkman brings a quart for my despair.

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