I Passed Three Girls Killing a Goat

By Miriam Bird Greenberg Miriam Bird Greenberg
I passed three girls killing a goat, shotgun
leaned up against a tree and the entrails
spilling into a coil on the ground. It was hooked
between the tendons of its back legs
to a high branch that gently creaked
like a dry hinge busybody aunties wouldn’t oil.
Blood drained into a pail, you could smell it
shifting with the air, and black flies landed
in the shadows of things where the wind
didn’t touch. I dreamed I was carrying a sack
filled with animals, and it dragged blood
in the gravel and stained my skirt hem, you could follow my trail
to the county line where old men
sat on the liquor store porch. One crooked his half-arm
for the bottle where the auger had caught his hand.
I dreamed I was in a new country rinsing livers
under a spigot, and the men cracking
black walnuts on a stone named my limbs
like the weather, like none of us knew
the same words. By the tree the girls and the goat
were faltering, one squatted to sharpen
her blackened blade on a strop, and the men
on the county line leaned back on the heels
of their chairs talking about anything, each other,
spring weather, the long-haired boy scalped
by a combine, and one of them swore you only plant
beans with the moon in Capricorn otherwise
the fields choke up with scrub juniper. One
looked intently at his left palm; his right wrist
uselessly brushed the woven seat of his chair.
When a wind came, the screen door leapt up
on its leather hinges which never creaked
and slammed shut. Mud daubers in the muck
by the spigot blew sideways around my ankles and up
under my skirt, and inside I could hear
the woman who lived with the liquor store proprietor
cursing as she locked up the vanilla like she knew
how to break the back of a ghost.

Source: Poetry (November 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2010
 Miriam  Bird   Greenberg


Miriam Bird Greenberg was born in 1980 and grew up in rural Texas. She studied English and studio arts at the University of Pittsburgh, earned an MFA in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers, and currently lives in Oakland, CA, where she is a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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