Goat Mother

A woman keeps a goat in her apartment
in Manhattan, close to Central Park.
Sunny days they descend from the fourteenth floor,
take long walks. The goat especially likes
the carousel, which spills children who bring it popcorn,
snowcones, hot dogs. The goat believes in
bonhomie and eats everything in great gulps,
wrappers, paper bags, napkins, soda cans,
plastic forks and knives if he thinks it will please them.
They laugh and pull his beard.
They laugh and run their trembling hands
along the furry length of his back.
Where did he come from? they ask the woman.
She sets down her book.
I’m his mother, she says. He is mine
to keep for a short time, the way you
are your parents’ to keep, until you run away.
Mother goat, they cry, mother goat,
and scatter from the park bench like pigeons.
One day the two of them are going home,
when a man gets on the elevator. He too
has a goat, who turns herself
so that she too faces the door.
From the tinny loud speaker in the ceiling
of the car comes the voice of Edith Piaf.
The goats press together,
nuzzle each other as the long vibrato
of Piaf fills the car and the woman’s eyes fill
with tears. “She was an angel,” the man says,
then, “She breaks my heart.” In the past
the woman would have said nothing,
but suddenly she feels he knows her heart,
and she knows now she will say yes. That night
alone in bed, she lets a hand fall
to the floor, searching the goat’s flank,
and she thinks of the man and Piaf
and the beauty of loving what’s lost.
She wonders if the goat will ever dream
of the park, the lush grass, and the children,
their hands full of gifts,
rising on wings and flying away.

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