Pouring the Milk

16 Sep

My dad, Joseph Winters, holding me as a baby.

I woke up this morning feeling out of sorts and couldn’t quite figure  out why. Then I saw this poem by Louise Erdrich posted on Facebook by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Berg. She commented that she just about came undone after reading it. So did I.

The Glass and the Bowl

by Louise Erdrich

The father pours the milk from his glass
into the cup of the child,
and as the child drinks
the whiteness, opening
her throat to the good taste
eagerly, the father is filled.
He closes the refrigerator
on its light, he walks out
under the bowl of frozen darkness
and nothing seems withheld from him.
Overhead, the burst ropes of stars,
the buckets of craters,
the chaos of heaven, absence
of refuge in the design.
Yet down here, his daughter
in her quilts, under patterns
of diamonds and novas,
full of rich milk,

In my post yesterday, I was very rough on my dad. I’m not saying it wasn’t an honest account of my feelings about his alcoholism, but I didn’t write anything about how he got up each day before the sun came up to go to a job he detested just so that he could support our family. I didn’t write about how he gave up his own dream of being a writer because he had to raise three children. I didn’t write that he probably suffered from severe depression his entire adult life which most likely manifested in his alcoholism. I didn’t write that he was extremely intelligent, witty and well-read. I didn’t write about how he came to almost every one of my piano recitals. I didn’t write about how at Christmastime, when we all watched the black-and-white version of  Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” he would cry silently, fat tears rolling down his cheeks. I didn’t write about how much my dad loved me, and even with all of his faults, managed to tell me that regularly.

So I’m writing it now.

8 Responses to “Pouring the Milk”

  1. meleinsb September 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I really wish I could have met him! I have never seen this photo before and I am struck by how much Tony I see there…
    Thanks for the misty eyes at work lol

  2. Becky Green Aaronson September 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I love Louis Erdrich. But I think I’m starting to like your writing even more. So poignant.

  3. Kay Bess September 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    I loved your Dad. Despite its alcoholic dysfunction, your house was a refuge for me as a teen, and I’m grateful for how your parents took me under their wing. It’s really a gift that you are able to recognize and share the complexity of your father. Nobody’s perfect, and we all have unrealized dreams, right? Really nice, Jess. xo

    • Allegro non tanto September 18, 2011 at 4:50 am #


      I know my dad loved you, too. I remember the two of you throwing barbs and puns back at each other.
      He got a big kick out of you, that’s for sure. Thanks for the lovely note, my dear friend.

  4. babyangel1213Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    The story I love the most about our childhood is that for most our growing up together, you all thought Joe’s family was from England. With a name like “Winters”, why not? But to find out that his family came from Italy, with the surname of Intrieri, which is Winters in Italian! You kept saying that’s where you got your curly hair! So you really are a Piasana!
    Ciao mi amica

  5. Melanie September 18, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    Brings tears. Tenderly written. I love your refrain, “I didn’t write that…” made all the more poignant through your simple closing, “so I’m writing it now.” Beautiful.

  6. Pam September 19, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    I love your sentiments about your Dad, you know Im your number 1 fan…… Beautiful

  7. Kristin Schwartz November 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    I just found this unopened message in my inbox, opened and read it. Really nice, Jessie! Miss you! Kristin 🙂

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