In Madison, Wisconsin, two goats are kissing.
Bright white goats standing tall as gods.
One goat’s teeth, large block teeth
chiseled from white stone
attack the other’s teeth.
My father, next to me,
recoils from the goats’
stretched toward each other.
The goats’ front legs
wrap around each other,
not in the way a dancer
might wrap around her partner
but harsher, basic and rough,
their hooves lamenting the lack of fingers
with which to grasp each other’s hair.
My father says such a thing
should not exist, says I should look away,
but the way these goats hold each other
is the way I have always needed
to be held,
not by my father’s gentle arms
that hold me like a glass doll
while I hold my breath.
A homophonic adaptation of Rilke’s “Spaziergang”
Shown, it’s mean black and huge,
it be stone, it wedge,
then itch come, big and foreign.
So fast run us. We were night,
fast and content, followed our sky like vermin.
And wandered us, arched toward the night.
War is ahead, karma is ahead, sin.
Our psyche wet, and withered, unsure,
we were amber spurned then given wind.
My mother returns with a bird
after hours of hunting, during which
I sat alone, played with a ball, heard
rain hit the roof. I would switch
places with her if my fingers knew
how to hold a knife, or if my ball
could kill a bird. She cradles the bird, her two
hands stroking the bright feathers, she calls
the bird a pheasant, says it flew straight
into her knife, she simply gripped the blade,
held it up and bore its weight.
I ask why did it do that? She plucks each feather, prays
over each one. We gut. She answers, nods
to herself. I think it knew me. I think it thought I was God.
Julia Wagner is a poet and teacher from Minnesota. Her writing is influenced by her family and by growing up queer in the Catholic Church, as well as other experiences.