Papa’s hacking cough awakens me
in the darkened shadows of dawn.

He removes a whistling kettle,
and sucks on a Domino sugar cube
as he sips a glass of tea,

we shiver in front of a cast-iron stove
as kindling ignites mounds of coal
that crackles in the gray morning light.

A pot of oatmeal plops along.

The chip, chip, chip of the iceman’s pick
cracks off a block of ice.

He heaves it on his shoulder
and trudges up steps, to fill an oak ice box
with brass hinges, catches and latches.

The chirping and tweeting of starlings
fluttering about a lone sycamore
growing up from the courtyard,

perks up the ears of our cat
in front of the stove’s glowing red embers.

Echoes of a milkman’s wagon
reverberate on the empty streets.
Steaming deposits of horse dung
fertilize fields of asphalt.

Frozen cream pushes through
tops of ice cold milk bottles
waiting on the doorstep
for a mother’s eager hand.