Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Two Goats (Gustave Dore), Sonnet #239

In Memory of Jim McNiece

A cataract has cloven the mountain
For centuries -- unnumbered leaves and stones,
Ripped tree limbs, clots of mud, and broken bones,
Fall for miles in the deafening fountain.
A sycamore tree topples in a burst
Of lightning, and forms a treacherous bridge
From a mossy patch to a granite ridge.
Two old goats cross (neither arriving first)
And butt heads at the middle of the tree,
Gently, a nudge, a token of greeting,
Of grudging respect, then a wild bleating
Of hatred and threat. There'll be no treaty.
Only one backs up for a running start.
The other charges, blasts his hornlike heart.

Jim McNiece was my writing teacher and dear
friend at Northern Illinois University. He was
a merciless editor, expunging the lazy, prolix,
or innaccurate word or phrase. I thought of him
as I rewrote this poem many times. We also
butted heads more than once.

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