Cobber

1 May 2017

I will summon again the wise, unreliable counsel of what remains
of childhood memory, to make what I can from the times
I saw myself in the eyes of the animals who lowered or turned

their heads to me. I was curious, and while not without fear
I wanted to be close, if not to touch, then to inhale
and understand, my senses tactile and raw. When a goat came to

the end of its rope where I was waiting on my knees on a carpet
of thistledown and the bones of sticks from a dying cottonwood
it looked at me, its breath like bits of wind off a wet paddock.

When it put its face to mine in a gesture I saw as curiosity
and welcome, its eyes contained black slashes, as though identical
cuts were still healing, then it stepped back and chewed sideways

before my forehead was printed and opened by twin mounds
of horn. I was laid out cold on my cousin’s farm by a head-butt
from a goat called Cobber. Years later, my father told me

that Cobber had been led by his rope to be prepared, then served
with beer and salad to cricketers by the Bendemeer River.
I can still see myself in a small way, leaning forward in my need

to be nuzzled and accepted into that eaten-down world.
I can imagine the shape of my mouth before the country light
went out, it was trying to make all kinds of sounds for hello.

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