Poems About Milk

by Isabella Gross


I’m tired of stirring this pot  
of boiling milk.  
It’s not boiling yet. I stir  
so that it doesn’t scald.  
It’s like a riddle: if you shouldn’t cry  
over spilled milk, what do you do  
over scalding milk?  
My whisk is hilariously short,  
like a toy from a kid’s kitchen  
the tips of my fingers are hot.  
They’re boiling, bubbling  
melting like mom’s face  
when she gets an MS hug.  
I stop stirring. When it stops  
swirling, it forms a white skin  
so thin I almost don’t see it  
until I plunge my whisk back into  
the milk. It’s so not-boiling  
that it needed a blanket.  
I don’t know what burnt milk  
smells like. Maybe it smells like  
being born underneath a kitchen  
table. Maybe it smells like the  
Polish recipes that my grandfather  
didn’t teach my mother to make.  
Maybe burnt milk tastes like saying  
“I love you” to your eight children  
in your native language that isn’t theirs.  
Does every drop of this milk  
remember that it belonged to one cow  
before the farmer poured every drop  
from every cow into a big metal tank?  
Does every 26 drops of Mom’s blood  
remember that it came from Scotland?  
do they pass 48 other drops in her heart  
press their lips together  
because they don’t know how to greet  
the other red blood drops in Polish?  
How much of my mom’s blood has  
to be American for her body  
to stop fighting her?  
She stands in front of  
the stove, stirring. I am  
50% her. She makes polenta  
with four cups of milk  
and so much mozzarella  
that it’s sour. She never  
writes down her recipes  
they never come out  
the same way twice. One  
day, they will be ghosts  
on my tastebuds  
and even though I make  
everything with my hands  
like she does  
I never know when  
the milk will burn. 


About the Author:

Isabella Gross is a senior at Central Michigan University majoring in English and Creative Writing. She is from Traverse City, Michigan and can often be heard playing pop punk classics on her ukulele in her bedroom.

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