“MILK//” by Laila Tova

Momo use’ta say,
coffee nee’ a li’l’ milk;
anyt’ing too Black no good
and ‘er second son-in-law
proved ‘er right by beatin’ ‘is chil’ren
for bein’

‘e and ‘is friends
my father, one’ah th’ seven—
my father, eleven years ol’,
filled ‘im to the brim wit’ acrimony until
‘is richness spilt over,
displaced. then ‘n’ after,
somthin’ in ‘im curdle’
coffee got a li’l’ vinegar
sour cream made ‘im bitter’r

‘n’ watchin’ ‘im at dinner
I alway’ caught a grimace
when ‘e ate it,
swallowin’ ‘ard
to keep
‘is dark sweetness
a plain-sight secret
nex’ to th’ unused
mammy bottle of molasses
sittin’ on
our whitewashed fam’ly table.

Daddy use’ t’ say,
drink your milk
‘n’ I obey’d.


Authors Note: I am a Black biracial person. I don’t remember my father ever addressing his appearance directly; the church in which he was a Reverend was adamant about Christ being the only identifier he would ever need. But at dinner time, I paid attention. “Momo” is what we in my father’s family call his maternal grandmother.