She Said Today’s Been Fair to Good

Leaving the Ellington Vet we pass the sagging trailer

once home to a Nubian guard goat, or maybe

it was a Toggenburg, stinking and mean, faster


than a German Shepherd. How we smelled it

long before we saw it, and yet it still had the advantage

with its rectangular pupils, butting horns. As miles unfurl


I distract my son holding the sick cat with his sister’s

dash across that yard ahead of lowered horns,

the wobbly porch railing our only barricade


I tell him about the fairy ring of naked babies

encircling the glowing Round Oak, elfin creatures

wreathed in palls of smoke like premonitions


how I’d schooled his sister to smile and head for the tiny

kitchen with its forever ironing board, to find that one

spot between piled laundry for the casserole we’d brought


like some lost Madonna, the babies’ mother pulled thread

with silver flecks to hook into tiny bells while we made small talk,

kept an eye out for her brutish husband who disdained charity


and its bringers, we, the disdained, chattering alongside

gnawing fear that more than the goat pawed the door

the Madonna saying today’s been fair to good but


we should leave soon as she glances furtively at the clock

the babies gone still as the trailer shakes under a heavy tread

whispering now about next time in the echo of the door’s slam


we edge past him making nice, giving our excuses

dwarfed by his Paul Bunyan presence, our heavy secrets

until we said the goat was more than we could handle.