Goat, Cow, Man

After the mob murdered the man for eating
a cow, it was found to be meat
from a goat. Why can I not
stop thinking about it—
the stringy flesh inside his gut,
and the microbes run riot when his heart
stopped—how fast they started
breaking down the blood-clotted
muscle of his stomach, slick intestines,
as though they were meant
to destroy the evidence of human—what
can I call it? sin? the curse of certainty? some twist
in the helix that insists on splitting
us apart?—the cow is not the goat. I am not
you. The man is a few inches of old newsprint,
a knot of hair, eye sockets,
but I keep picturing that
kitchen, his wife and children stuttering,
it’s goat, it’s goat,
and the goat, her white
coat, the little kernels of her teeth,
her pale slitted eyes.

Originally published in The American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of the poet.