Machu Picchu; Older Age; Spilled Milk

Spilled Milk

apology to a daughter, 30 years later


The train heaved out of Toronto Station. Together
We headed for subarctic lakes to visit your brother
At camp, your older and only sibling then.
I dreamed of northern air as our coach careened

Past clinkers, barrels, filthy railway sheds,
Ugly as you were lovely. I ordered a spread
Of lunchtime stuff, with for me some coffee, a glass
Of milk for you. A dozen miles would pass

Before you took a drink. You had a habit,
Almost willful, it seemed, of spilling whatever
You drank, and must have been afraid—oh damn it—
To reach for your glass while the club car swayed and quivered.

As for me, distracted, I was fixed
On the winking waters we’d find upstream from the mess
Of milky river at trackside. In time, we escaped
Those dreary outskirts into broad prairie space

And you spilled the glass. Of course. I pray at least
I said nothing out loud, but I have no doubt you could read
My miserable thoughts.
And now if I get to hell—
As I sometimes think I will if justice prevails,Precisely for things I’ve thought—my Hadean vision
May be of your shame-ridden, six-year-old face, all riven
By worry, which it should have been my fatherly duty
To soothe, restoring what had been its beauty.