How articulate, the eyes
of silent animals when I chose
to shoot the sick goat. All day,
the dogs would not look at me, not
let me touch them, legs folding away from
the level to which I had lowered my hand.
And the chickens ran,
following their crazed paths,
every which way, but every
way away from me. The goat
looked as if she were running
as she lay, after, legs kicking.
But don’t chickens always run
like that? And this is no new
remorse. The light has always
been leaving my narrow,
north section. Place of the long
history of short days.
It’s the frost that stays. More mornings
than not here, no sun is enough
to undo the frost. I should have given
her southerly pasture. I should have
gone in another direction.
But consider where goats live
the world over. They browse
on woody brush. On rock, on cliffs.
In deserts, harsh habitat. They choose
cursed land. Who chooses goats?
I chose goats. I liked the bone shapes
in their eyes, the strange, slit pupils
they turned to me, chewing the corners
of my heavy coat. I wanted to live here,
on an old hardscrabble farm.
In this era, when there is no need
to farm, who is drawn to have livestock,
which die so much? Piss and blood
pour out of the back of a shot body.
But it’s piss and blood keeping them
alive too. Cleaning the stalls, cleaning
the wounds common to animals so curious.
She worked herself through fences,
under walls. She worked her head into my
pockets. Worked her way in
to every opening.
What’s different about a dead body
is what comes from the other end,
a great cursive scrawl of steam
from the mouth. It is the last word,
soundless, without the stop and start
of syllables, definitive.
What comes from the mouth
blows away. Didn’t I say
I was done with livestock last winter
when the calf froze to the ground, then to
death because it couldn’t move?
When I ripped it loose, the intestines,
threaded through crow-torn holes
in its belly, clung to the grass and shattered.
I said those were my ties to the place.
They were too cold to bleed. A quick job
to clean up and bury, I claimed.
I said I would never use animals
as the figures for my sorrows again.
But when the goat dropped shot,
the bread I’d brought to get her
to put her head down still in her teeth,
the chickens pecked at it.
I’m still here. I can’t stay away
from the hard images. Bread
taken from her mouth even then.about the author