Myotonia congenita

Here’s the “Fainting Goats” poem I referenced in an earlier posting. It appears in the Spring 2013 issue of Philadelphia Poets.

Fainting Goats

Next door, the neighbor’s raising goats.
I hear them bleating in the mornings while they wait
for feed, their stuttering punctuates the day.
Evenings, they murmur like a small crowd at a magic show.

The goats fall into a brief paralysis at any sign of danger:
they bleat and stiffen, roll onto their sides like live piñatas,
legs outstretched, then collect themselves and bolt
fast as they can, to the far side of the pen.

My neighbor says they’re bred by shepherds
to distract roving predators from the sheep,
sacrificed to the wolf or bobcat if the startle
lasts too long or if the predator’s swift.

Think of the white sheep fleeing in droves,
shunting themselves away from their fallen companion,
trammeling hillside toward safety while the goat
recovers, bellering, attempting its escape.

My neighbor chose them for their novelty,
chases them with an umbrella, makes certain
they maintain the reflex that causes their bodies
to seize and stumble. This is how

we keep our frailties alive, inbred, and how we fall,
sometimes luckily, sometimes into the jaws
of a starving winter day, asking ourselves if it’s destiny
or heredity, lost before we determine the answer.


For other poems, see the Poems page here. Or buy my books–see the Books page here.


2 comments on “Myotonia congenita

  1. So much here: language that paints a clear picture in quick, direct strokes and then a closing stanza to ponder on. Those inbred reflexes, habits that we repeat over an over again could apply to us personally as individuals or to human activity in the world. These reflexes and frailties can be a source of cruelty but maybe kindness too.


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