Dew and Manure

Maddie Woda

The cows wrest him from bed
between two and four AM
every morning with a primal call
that predates alarm clocks, simply
stirs his soul and drags him
from the warm confines of the old

quilts my mother covers our pilled
sheets with in winter.
He moves slowly, creak of joints

and floorboards, both to avoid waking
her and to give his bones a moment
to accustom themselves to the air,
dense as wet cake, heavy as a fist.

He’s in the office, “office”, overturned
milk crates and squeaky garage
sale desk chair, by five AM, surrounded
by vats of blood not his own

with a cup of warm coffee.
Coworkers trickle in, this blood
his own, and pull newspapers from
canvas bags, stifle yawns, lean against
doorjambs to swap feeble bleats

about the game, the war, how
the world is going to hell. He shakes
his head, three hours into his day.
Encased in flame, he would still rise
before Dawn’s rosy fingers and keep
the underworld supplied in milk and meat.

He is asleep before I am home from
kissing the dirt in a striped jersey;
he too played football, same number, same
coach. His wide shoulders, broken nose,

we share more than comfortable silence.
Dinner is on the counter, my mother says,
Don’t wake your father. Rare steak and beans,
he wanders out of his bedroom, grey hair
unaware that his head still isn’t on the pillow,

and asks about my day. I’ll sleep when
I’m dead, he says, refusing the steak,
helping himself to fresh peaches and cream.


Maddie WodaMaddie Woda is an undergraduate at Columbia University in New York City, studying English and American Studies. She is a member of the Columbia Review and has upcoming work in ANGLES and Reverberations.