Goat, Cow, Man

After the mob murdered the man for eating
a cow, it was found to be meat
from a goat. Why can I not
stop thinking about it—
the stringy flesh inside his gut,
and the microbes run riot when his heart
stopped—how fast they started
breaking down the blood-clotted
muscle of his stomach, slick intestines,
as though they were meant
to destroy the evidence of human—what
can I call it? sin? the curse of certainty? some twist
in the helix that insists on splitting
us apart?—the cow is not the goat. I am not
you. The man is a few inches of old newsprint,
a knot of hair, eye sockets,
but I keep picturing that
kitchen, his wife and children stuttering,
it’s goat, it’s goat,
and the goat, her white
coat, the little kernels of her teeth,
her pale slitted eyes.



Previously published in The American Poetry Review



Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass’s poetry books include Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), and Mules of Love (BOA, 2002). She co-edited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! (Doubleday, 1973). Her poetry has appeared frequently in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and many other journals. Among her awards are Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and The California Arts Council, three Pushcart Prizes, The Lambda Literary Award, The Pablo Neruda Prize, The Larry Levis Prize and the New Letters Prize. Her nonfiction books include Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she teaches in the MFA writing program at Pacific University. www.ellenbass.com. Photo by Irene Young.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 22:46