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Milkers Broken Up


ISSUE:  Spring 1990

I was sleeping in Madison, Anthony Bradbury’s spareroom,
after a day when we visited a gallery to look at collages
he had pasted from illustrations torn out of magazines.
We stayed up late reminiscing about twenty-five years
of friendship, about youthful marriages and grown-up
 children.
We were friends first in our thirties, when we appeared
to have settled into the orderly progression of our lives
as into houses on streets lined with elms and Plymouths,
before the divorces and assassinations. In nineteen-sixty,

we met Wednesdays at The Grasshopper near Fenway

 Park,
half a dozen novelists and poets, gossiping, telling stories,
monitoring the systems by which we confirmed eminence
and notoriety. I remember eating a hamburger while
 Hanema
said again, “He always speaks well of you,” and Da Silva
laughed as always—when Robert Lowell slid through the
 door.
Rapidly and furtively he drank a Bass, glanced quickly
 around,
and bolted. He looked like a cartoon of misery—”as
 tortured,”
Michele or somebody said, “as one of his damned
  linebreaks.”

At Tony’s I dreamed the familiar dream in which we
 remember
a duty neglected: I walked up and down in the farmhouse,
pacing, the way as a boy I paced, planning my life out. . . .
Then I remembered: My grandfather had died a week ago
and I had forgotten to milk the cows! I ran to the pasture;
their udders had swollen and split: Covering my mouth
I saw the black-and-white milkers break up into pieces
like the roadkills crows pick at, their body-parts floating
over rocky pastures, ripped meat bloody and still alive.

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