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Phillip Bannowsky


The Milk of Human Kindness

Dreamstreets Press, 1986

To Buy


Cover art by Debbie Hegedus

The Milk of Human Kindness

Every chosen charity’s
an unchoice—each

belly-full of milk

a belly empty-bloated.


Hands warm with earth
and harvest, nuzzling for eggs

from feathery purring hens

turn cold to cull and kill.


We stage pour ethics with small

company or small class.  

May I reach into the blue light
of your being? Do you feel
the living warmth of my grasp?


All things eternal flow

through us, as the rain

flows back to the sea,
complicity is abstracted:

the violent world whose blood sweetens

my wine, whose bones whiten by bread,

hides its snakey hair and head.


While the night stays out of my heaven,

my heart won’t turn to stone;
my milk will flow.



Welding Car Door Hinges



Welding wire charged

crackling flash and sharp shadows


human beings

in coveralls and space helmets

smoke and steel


arc star bright and white hot light

framed in visor's green glass dark


wire draws a sizzling bead

a burning worm


along a seam


joints turn: fingers wrist arm



legs and



hear: each weld's special note


a bow drawn across a string


2,592 times

per nine-hour shift



Model Change



The autoplant's been down three weeks for model change:

retooling, repairs—an annual chance

for me to catch up on life and drink some beer.

Today, late summer lush and leafy,

it rains relentlessly.

I can't help but feel

a sort of back-to-school oppression,

back to cliques and subordination,

rolling an old stone uphill again,

this time at forty-one, not fourteen;

this time not four years to graduate

but fourteen till the stone drops

one last time: 30 Years and Out!


I dream sometimes of school

as someplace where cornerstones

and columns are set for

"sound body and sound mind."

But these years have been stolen temple stones

and acid rain, exploitation,

misuse and disuse, dammit!


When I grow up and retire

I'm hoping to reclaim my life

like Greece reclaims its marbles

from the former empire, but I'm fearing

how my feet may stumble in the ruin

of my ancient burden,

rubble clacking sharply

in the hard gloom of some September rain.


© 1986-20021Phillip Bannowsky