THE CLEANSING (from A Year of Dreams) She brought him a thimble of milk from his childhood, her breath on its bony rim timid as down. He chose her a chalice that steamed with her youth; it boasted of bridles round wrathful brown heads. Gold-soft he watched: he would win her. She lent him a tankard of froth from his manhood. Strong as wet ropes, he strode round its warmth. He gave her an earthenware jug for her cleansing, took – from her morning-cheek – crumbs of cold sleep, slops of small tears. Copyright © JENNY JOHNSON