Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 12 • Winter 2004 • Featured Writer • Poetry

Are You a Sheep or a Goat?

(sign outside Trinity United Methodist)

Wayne Johns

Picture the pitiful thing, shivering,
raw nicked skin showing through

patches of fleece. Redness clumped
in the pile of wool. Careless shears have ruined

the exposed skin. The horns of the sheep
or goat look small and tender. Those little

annihilations of blame in each feeble bleat.
Such sad accusing eyes. Maybe you

will lie awake tonight, like me, wondering
which is worse before falling

into a dream of the hall of mirrors you got lost
in as a child, each frame distorting

your image more, until you grew to fear
enclosure. Your elastic face locked

in glass like the figure that waits,
each night, underneath the lake

of dreams. From the dark water the pale
drowned one reaches to draw you down

like the gloved hand of the dentist lowering
the black mask, and your breathing

the laughing gas until your mother stands before
you in a field of wheat, red kerchief over her

white hair. Behind her, the goat, which must be you,
bleats helplessly. She can tell you are lying

in the path of the scythe. It would be too much
to ask her to watch the slaughter, though you must

bite your tongue when she turns
and sets out to shepherd the others.

Wayne Johns

Wayne Johns's poems have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Cortland Review, Image, The James White Review, Meridian, and Ploughshares, among others. His work has appeared in several anthologies, including American Diaspora (University of Iowa Press) and This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys & Barbarians 2 (Windstorm). He received a Reader's Choice Award from Prairie Schooner, an Editor's Choice Award from Mid-American Review, and the first annual Frank O'Hara Award for his chapbook "An Invisible Veil Between Us" (Thorngate Road).

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