Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard itFelt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearingThe song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and thenThey lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat's headSwayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintlyThe way the moonlight shone on the train track miles awayBeside which the goat's headless body lay. Some boysHad hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But theyFinished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the schoolAnd 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, untilThe drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird fliesBack 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 overThe school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped....The goat had belonged to a small girl. She namedThe goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it afterThe night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hairWas dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.The girl lived near a high railroad track. At nightShe heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train's hornPouring softly over her bed, and each morning she wokeTo give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sangHim songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed dailyThat he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreamingMade 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 goatWas gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a stormHad passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rainStripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someoneHad stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She calledTo him. All morning and into the afternoon, she calledAnd called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feelingLike the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersidesOf her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat's bodyBy the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottlesAt the goat's torn neck. Then somebody found the headHanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to takeThese 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 hearThem say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke....But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to haveTheir fun and be done with it. It was harder work than theyHad 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 alreadySinging behind them in the tree. What they didn't knowWas 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 wouldWake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the treesOr a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. ThereWould 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 songIs sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.
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