You’d build a fence that could hold water before it would keep in a scared goat. An animal with the unique ability to divorce itself from its vision, cast out its eyes like weighted lines, lost to woods deep as water, tangled on the bottom. A scary look, when you come invisible in the eyes of an animal staring right into you. If they had the force, those eyes would push you, and if he gets a chance, the body would too. Poor fellow. Ran headlong away from the only creatures in the world who care about him. Thinking that he needed to. Broke through wire two. Five thirty on a November night means there’s men up in the trees wearing orange hats and a gun laid across their knees. Like an arrow, like this flimsy pasture was his bow, tightly drawn and full let go. We will never see that goat again. Like a grain of sand. Flaked off and fallen. This pasture was his stone.
A creekbed drops ten feet and I can see bright green tops of adolescent trees, shaking. I just fenced a solid quarter acre of late April and let eighteen goats on it. Soaking wet morning after full rain, they’re up first thing realizing the boundaries have changed. They seem so predatory, considering they’re plant-eaters. I suppose if something can’t scream we don’t attribute it to the same value system. These bony, thick bodied and thin legged vultures rip and bark-strip their immobilized, submissive prey. Fleshy unfurled ferns and green razor wire and so much poison ivy my eyes itched.
My heart now light and airy as jack-in-the-pulpit down low in a morning breeze.
I feel vindication for the work I’ve done over the last two days.
I’m looking twice everywhere I scratch and watching new life devoured incrementally by many goats. And if I stretch my awareness a touch, I think how I’m going to drink that treeline in my coffee tomorrow morning. I feel like if the world were a perfect circle, it would have ended where it began. It didn’t. And though the earth is round, I feel nature is spiral like a sprig of DNA. It does come back around but not to the same place,
or ever the same way.
A herd of goats annihilates a creekbed
and old notions of predator and prey.
Nailing up fourth walls for actors who won’t obey them.
Instincts speak ‘betray them’. Blue tarp barriers
and cold breathy chicken wire stapled over gaps.
Trying to trap heat in is as hard as keeping them.
Sharp-bearded performers with brown alpine stripes along spines.
Thick cotton fur white at the roots, or feathers stiff and bowing
against thick slow moving winter air.
Going over lines.
Talking to the world like you would chatter to yourself.
Actors enamored at no longer just hearing,
but to see the vapor of their very own breath.
I am no goat.
I make no pure living eating grass.
Or tender leaves off young trees.
But more like a scavenging dog.
I paint my teeth red.
Lay down the living into the orange clay bed of the dead.
Buried, and dig up what was already, by me, buried.
Chase flighty rodents I know I will never catch.
Stare down cotton tails who stare back black beads
embedded in the thorn-covered brush.
Consume the shit of others, and lay mine
in coiled mounds just on the cusp of my urine-marked territory.
I will consume meat, and half rotted, ant-dotted pears from off the ground.
I hold my panting breath at each distant sound,
and will spill the blood of any creature who seeks to make a meal of mine.
Dirty. Ceaselessly hungry. Curious. Covered in fleas.
Hiding plump gray lumps beneath loose ears.
I am no goat.
I am not pure.
Fit to be no God’s sacrifice.
But I make for a pretty good knife.
I am a scavenging dog. And when I come across it,
will gladly make a meal out of any red-blooded life.
Three goats, eyes closed, legs folded, in the front yard, soaking up the morning sun. Four hours ago, their day had just begun, nibbling the verdant buffet of a springtime lawn. Humans can not imagine. The hours I have seen people trade to feed their children. From bovines alive on common grass. What is it that we can’t see past? Our selves. Our advancement. Our epidemic of retreat into our own homes. Comparable size. Comparable intelligence. Comparable insight and compassion. Feeding their children on our common nuisance. The money we pay and the gas we burn to wage this war on our front lawns. Why can’t we. See. This place. For what it is. Why do we waste so many assets to shape it what it isn’t. Four hours in on a day that is risen. Though I have not. Spilling out thoughts. Quick clacking of keys on a board laid across my knees. Jealous of the intentionality of herbivores. Something about four stomachs just opens up the world like a key, so that they can eat just about everything. And me, only after it has passed through them. Steak in the refrigerator. Grass too. Invested in the musculature of an animal five times my size, dull brown eyes, windblown black calves chasing down their mothers. You do not have to be a poet to witness this. You just have to be humble. And if you aren’t already, the world will see you humbled. Before your life is really over you will know the thoughts of grassblades and the minds of clover. You will know them to the soul. And why our ancestors believed the animals who feast on it wholesale are cleaner than we are. Three goats, eyes closed, legs folded. Using their breakfast as a bed until the warm reaches their head and then right back to neck bent down nibbling on it. There isn’t much more boon to comparing the two ways in which we live. Who knows whether or not one is any better. Just know, ours if vastly more expensive.
Put a goat on a tie out and the farmer will watch a dumb beast tread pointless circles.
Lock it in a dense, knit-wire fence, the brute paces the same ignorantly beaten path
until the grass is dead, and stupidity scars the lawn. Do not watch too long.
Feed. Water. Checking in between, fine. But be cautious of staring at goats.
You will have funny thoughts. Same as in the head of any other domesticated.
Certain questions are going to get asked.
Like, why a fence?
Let that goat out after saying goodbye to your garden, all the bark wrapped around every crab-apple and cherry, sure to freeze next winter. A free goat is happy crossing roads, stopping cars, grazing lazily into neighboring yards.
Why does she pace that way, back and forth, steady in circles. Is it lunacy?
Precisely. All creatures, humankind included, can run only so far so fast,
no fence or chain to hold us. Before we reach mountains. Oceans.
The very verge of space outside all knowing, new and wild,
where some leap and others linger awhile.
Those are our boundaries.
You would not think to expect it, but many thoughts
never get considered without having limitations.
Without seeing through iron and restrictions.
And the lunacy you perceive,
is the domestication of questions.
Why? Correct. The question is why.
Think you’re so clever. Say why?
All right. I think you should consider going inside. There is no such thing as a fulfilling answer out here. The world is full with conclusions. Just none of them leave you satisfied. Like living in the wild. Unencumbered guile. Where a step taken in any direction is its own answer. Hunt against hunger. Medicine against sickness. Company for comfort.
The questions are different when you are tied to a stake. Closed behind a gate.
Missing a world we can never escape. We will never cease being a part,
or feel it absent, or cut it off. If it was not happening to us all the time,
everywhere, to every species, it would be called impossible.
A creature confused about its own origination to the point of denial,
believing it came from nowhere. Born into violent,
intensely lucid, vibrant creation,
somehow without parents.
So, what is it about the other side of the fence, the inside, where my new, young Alpine paces like she is going crazy. How does she view herself? Her life?
She thinks she is God. Chosen. Over a goat’s world.
Filled up buckets with perfectly comprised, completely nutritional, pellet shaped,
sugar soaked feed. Blue water spilled over silver pales, poured dirt into mud
even in drought. How the grass and the weeds and young trees are dying out.
Yet goats live on. Still pass away, each one, but out of sight.
So, to an animal, it never dies. Believing it lives forever
even as it is pushed onto the knife. A kid no mother,
no father, no purpose is calling. No horns,
or forest to solidify her deep heritage
of instinctive thinking.
She is an animal with unending questions,
false notions, and confusions regarding life.
Trapped, where all the answers are foreign, in another animal’s world.
Contained, so completely, that this circle is her only path forward.