The Milk Maid's Tale Sally Hewett 2017 33x33x12cm Lycra, foam padding, embroidery silk, quilting hoop

The Milk Maid's Tale
Sally Hewett
Lycra, foam padding, embroidery silk, quilting hoop



The Body of the Mother

                           after Robert Hass

I do not want to write about my mother’s nipples,
or even consider that she has them,

twin markers of order mammalia like mine
leaving her cow-heavy and sore each month.

I know I should praise them,
les fontaines de jouvence,

and yet I imagine other fluids from her body flowing
into my mouth: blood, piss, pus.

(I once read that dairy milk has an allowable pus content,
overbred nipples scabbed from too much feeding.)

I do not want to think of my mother as Herrick’s Julia
a cherry double grac’d, strawberry half-drown’d in cream

to think of her bare before the man her mother
taught her to save herself for.

I do not want to consider her nipples like my own
to hear my husband ask if I think nipple size is hereditary,

to imagine my mother’s nipples like the shade of lipstick
we bought without realizing the other owned it.

I do not want to imagine my mother’s nipples
meaning my nipples recalled by a daughter of my own

who might have seen them once, accidentally,
coming to me cow-heavy and womb-hollow,

blood between her thighs
my own mother’s nipples pumped full of formaldehyde.



The Day Before

Tennessee brushfire - November 7th
I heard they suspect arson,
and I remain unsurprised.  
I have lived for months in the valley
of two blazing mountains.

That day I wrote it’s the first day of the year
to feel like Fall
the smoke a wall, parting
to let me pass alone.

I noted the women who wore their college
student version of power
suits -- wide-legged  
polyblend pants and blazers, stickers
on their lapels:
I voted.

That day I wrote today is the last day
before we know what violence might
happen, how soon
the world might end

So I went to class, studied
film criticism and The Pardoner’s Tale.
Around me, people in orange bought sodas
put up posters for a screening
of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  

What else could we do?
We, who wished to be important
and didn’t know how.




Chloe Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee.  Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Heartland Review, Contemporary Verse 2, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Rag Queen Periodical, and Public Pool.  When she has free time she can often be found with a beer in her hand and her dogs by her side.