Seeing Goats

You might encounter one in a dream,
meaning fair weather, bountiful crops
or the welcome arrival of friends
from the margins of your life.

Sightings, while numerous, have never
been validated. Sheep in dreams
foretell an inability to protect yourself
while the appearance of a goatherd

and his belling entourage will soon
put that inability to the test.
Distance and blind faith can deceive
the serial reporter of sightings

and encounters — the spectral forms
of goats, winter-coated, their necks
and legs overlong, turned out to be
alpacas, standing sentry where a mob

of black-faced Border Leicester sheep
were feeding, oblivious to danger.
Reports of goats behind tall wire,
levitating on a plain at Narromine,

became a ragged parcel of deer, elevated
by heat lines, raw belief and dust.
Coleridge saw goats, as did Keats
and Marvell. Despite what literature

and film have to say, goats are not
tormented fiends with nowhere to rest —
they exist among us, avoiding exposure.
And for those who insist they’ve seen

a goat, it’s more than likely a profound,
persistent memory from a time
when fairytales and life were one
when fact and symbolism traded blood.

Midnight tours at penal colonies
offer flashlit, expert commentaries
on how, when graves were exhumed
in the name of genealogy or mistaken

identity, shapely heads and horns
were found beside the bones of men.
Make of this what you will. One goat seen
is another left to imagination.

First published in Meanjin, Vol 69, No. 1,2010, Anthony Lawrence, used by permission of the author. The recording is taken from Flying Low in the Minor Key (River Road Press, 2011) Anthony Lawrence/River Road Press, 2011

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.