Ali Whitelock is a Scottish poet and writer living on the south coast of Sydney. Her debut poetry collection, ‘and my heart crumples like a coke can’ was published this year by Wakefield Press, Adelaide and my memoir, ‘Poking seaweed with a stick and running away from the smell’ was launched to critical acclaim in Australia and the UK in 2010. Her poems have appeared in The Moth Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, Gutter Magazine, NorthWords Now, The Poets’ Republic, The Red Room Company, Beautiful Losers Magazine, Backstory Journal, Other Terrain Journal, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Canberra Times, Bareknuckle Poet, The Bangor Literary Journal, The Glasgow Review of Books, Neighbourhood Paper, The Burning House, The Hunter Writers’ Centre ‘Grieve’ Volume 6 Anthology, Poethead, The Pittsburgh Quarterly Magazine and upcoming in The University of Wisconsin’s Forty Voices Strong: An Anthology of Contemporary Scottish Poetry.
natural born goat killer
After James Tate’s ‘It Happens Like This’
i keep my kitchen scraps for my neighbour’s
goat in a bag on my kitchen bench. sometimes i worry
the goat will die because i’ve unknowingly put something
in the bag that’s poisonous to her. sometimes i’m so paranoid
i check on the internet to make sure things like coriander
stems, star anise, used earl grey tea leaves are not toxic
to goats. i read once parsley was poisonous to parrots. who knew?
& my fears of goat toxicity are not founded on nothing. my friend
carolyn’s goat milly died after her neighbour unwittingly
fed her seemingly innocent rhododendron leaves. rhodo-fucking-dendron leaves.
& even though i am vigilant i still worry something deadly
will slip into the bag unchecked, the goat will eat it, her belly
will swell & she’ll fucking die, most likely in excruciating pain.
the vet will be called. questions will be asked, ‘& what EXACTLY
did you feed this goat?’ the vet will demand of its owner.
‘i didn’t feed her anything!’ he’ll reply, ‘my neighbour
brings all her food!’ then the police will be called in. a burly
sergeant will come to my door flash his i.d., ‘okay so exactly
what did you feed this goat?’
‘only scraps from my kitchen,’ i’ll plead, trembling, ‘you know,
celery leaves, parsley stalks, star anise, the odd rotten tomato.’
‘well the fucking goat’s dead,’ he’ll say, slapping his truncheon
into the palm of his left hand, ‘and i need answers. i’m sorry,
but ah’m gonna to have to take you in.’ then he’ll handcuff
me, throw a blanket over my head & lead me through
the mob of mourners & protestors already gathered outside
my front door screaming, ‘why did you kill her?! what did
that poor goat ever do to you?!’ a dozen police officers will form
a human shield around me, manhandle me into the back
of the paddy wagon turn on the siren & screech through
the streets to the station for further investigation & possible
strip searching. once there they’ll make me hand over my shoelaces
& belt, read me my rights & i’ll get to make my one solitary call.
i’ll call my lawyer alissa, who’ll tell me she’s never
had to defend on a goat trial before––she normally
only does conveyancing, divorce that sort of thing,
but she knows some hot shot lawyer in the city
who specialises in goats & never lost a case yet.
i’ll have a sigh of relief lay back on my wafer thin mattress
in my surprisingly spacious cell. hours will pass. from my bed
i’ll be able to see the flat screen TV at the night sergeant’s desk.
i’ll be all over the nine o’clock news with that fucking
blanket over my head journalists jostling, shoving microphones
& iphones into my face. someone in the crowd will throw an egg,
yell out, ‘MURDERER!’ the pushy journalist in the front row
will thrust her microphone near down my throat,‘the death
of this goat has rocked this community,’ she’ll scream, ‘people
are calling you a murderer. do you have anything to say?!’
‘yes,’ i’ll cry, whipping the blanket off my head, ‘i have this to say.
i have faith in the legal system of this land. i believe my innocence
will be proven. the internet police need only sequester my laptop
& look at my browsing history to know i am vigilant about every
scrap i put into that goat’s bag.’ the reporters will scribble
frantically before another barrage of microphones is thrust
into my face. ‘but do you have anything else to say?!’ another journalist
will roar above the frenzy. ‘yes,’ i’ll say, my voice cracking
tears spilling, ‘i have this to say: no one loves goats more
than i do in this little town.’