Spirits made a plague to rule my city.

Infected all with such dis-ease and pain that – –

Pity! they begged. Relief from grief and sickness!

How was it caught? What could have caused it?

They paused and thought.

Saw me, whose milk they drank as babies.

Mused over the pranks they used to play.

Remembered that one day the milk was bitter – –

That was the day!

(Me they saw, they couldn’t see the spirits.)

The time the milk was sour – –

That was the hour!

Aha! they cried, From you we were infected!

Me, whose back had borne their childish games before,

they rejected. Once more I bore.


On cloven hooves my aching bones

stood meek on the paving stones

as each laid his pain on my back.

With curses and sticks they drove me from our town

and locked the gate.

Staggering, outside the wall I waited,

bewildered and alone.


One day a stranger came and cut my burden down.

A goat’s not made for guilt, he said,

but to leap carefree upon mountains,

like fountains springing.

So, shedding that load,

I climbed up to the high place

to race

and leap

and caper

with my fellows.


That gate was not my exile, but their prison.

High above it I have risen. And yet

sometimes of late they call, or seem to call.

I long to play with them upon the mountain,

to watch them fill their lungs with healthy air.

It wasn’t fair.

The plague does not abate.

It feeds on its own seeds.

It passes to their children.


Down crags and deep crevasses into the valley

I creep sometimes to weep outside the wall.

Why do they call?

I wait, and for my children weep outside the wall,

and raging,

butt my head

against that wall.





┬ęBarbara Fryrear 1998