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    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.

    Brigit Peegen Kelly

    This poem needs nothing from me. What could anyone possibly say, to add to a perfect thing? So grateful this exists, that she followed it all the way true.





    1. a short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung. "a beautiful song"

    synonyms: air, strain, ditty, melody, tune, number, show tune, track, anthem, hymn,chanty, chantey, ballad, aria;

    informal earworm

    1. singing or vocal music. "the young airmen broke into song"

    2. a musical composition suggestive of a song.

    3. the musical phrases uttered by some birds, whales, and insects, typically forming a recognizable and repeated sequence and used chiefly for territorial defense or for attracting mates.

    synonyms: call(s), chirping, cheeping, peeping, chirruping, warble(s), warbling,trilling, twitter

    1. birdsong "the song of the birds"

    2. a habitual or characteristic manner; a violent, abusive, or noisy reaction <put up quite a song>

    3. a small amount <sold for a song>

    4. a poem, especially one in rhymed stanzas. "The Song of Hiawatha"

    5. archaic poetry.


    Old English sang, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zang and German Sang, also to sing.

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