The Black Milk

(for Alec Finlay)

I still remember the rattle of the elk-cart delivering freshly-bottled elk.


Was it elk-milk, elk-urine, rendered elk, or a blend? I don’t know. But remembering the smell, the backs of my eyes sting just like they used to.


Father always woke us in the middle of the night to drink the fresh elk-juice. By morning it would be rancid, but in the dark it was delicious!


‘The Black Milk’ he’d call it, whatever it actually was. ‘The Black Milk is the coldest milk of all!’ Everyone had their own yellowbone straw.


I recall the bottles were hollowed-out alabaster – laborious work with the tools we had then. It seemed to glow in the darkness of the cave.


The Black Milk within the bottle was darker than the night itself – and this was the absolute middle of the night. The air above it wavered.


When you drank the elk-juice a terrible shudder passed through you, then a vast calm, as though a moon rose within you, illuminating permafrost.

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