Goat, you were the only one among
the three goats who pressed his head
against the fence when Rachel and I
came to you after picking crab apples
and black walnuts. I returned
to the paradise of childhood labors:
Piling walnuts onto a flat wicker basket
for Lena’s dyes, their sun-warmed green husks
stained in their own juice.
Goat, you approached to the gate and pressed
against me. Stiff fur, incurling horn,
your goaty smell preceding you as incense
precedes the enthroned Eucharist
in a Corpus Christi procession. You condescend
for me to touch your head and back,
return the gesture of friendship with a look
from your rectangular pupil.
“Feed him the apple,” says Rachel handing
it over the fence and I offer you the crab
apple on the supplicant plate of doubled
palms. My fingertips, stained and perfumed
with black walnuts, you consecrate with goat
cider. I know the flavor in your mouth: sour
as the crack of an apple breaking, bitter like black
walnut juice, and sweet like the distillate of sun.
Goat, you return to your pasture
and I return to the laboratory.
Today we prepare oil of rosemary,
oil of sun. A wasp enters
through the sky window. All day
my fellow alchemists fidget.
Rosemary fumes suffuse the yurt.
When the wasp takes leave we pour
the yellow oil that rises
into three vials: one for each alchemist.
Goat, while I labor in idleness do you, too, hasten
slowly? Do you, too, make distillate of sun?
Or do you turn your devil eye and grin, shake
your thinning beard at the wasps who swarm
the fermenting crab apples you cannot reach
while they, unharvested, seep sweet yellow
in the sun who tilts to his equinoctial crossing,
the Tropic of Capricorn?
First published in Residual Heat under my pseudonym Aga Black.