My father said I could not do it, but all night I picked the peaches. The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily. I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden. How many ladders to gather an orchard? I had only one and a long patience with lit hands and the looking of the stars which moved right through me the way the water moved through the canals with a voice that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering and those who had gathered before me. I put the peaches in the pond’s cold water, all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors, all night my back a straight road to the sky. And then out of its own goodness, out of the far fields of the stars, the morning came, and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses just after it has been rung, before the metal begins to long again for the clapper’s stroke. The light came over the orchard. The canals were silver and then were not. and the pond was--I could see as I laid the last peach in the water--full of fish and eyes.
Listen: there was a goat’s head hanging by ropes in a tree. All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat’s head Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away Beside which the goat’s headless body lay. Some boys Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined. The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything. The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks. The head called to the body. The body to the head. They missed each other. The missing grew large between them, Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills. Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder, Sang long and low until the morning light came up over The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped.... The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after The night’s bush of stars, because the goat’s silky hair Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit. The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train’s horn Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats. She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming Made it so. But one night the girl didn’t hear the train’s horn, And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat’s body By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles At the goat’s torn neck. Then somebody found the head Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take These things away so that the girl would not see them. They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat. They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke.... But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they Had imagined, this silly sacrifice, but they finished the job, Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark. What they didn’t know was that the goat’s head was already Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn’t know Was that the goat’s head would go on singing, just for them, Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen, Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last, a song, The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call. Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.