The Burdens

By Stephen Sexton

Before any of it, a goat appeared
in a piebald sweater, beardless
and tethered at the collar
on half a tennis court of land
up a rutted lane above the road.

Doubtless a horse once clip clopped there
before a trap, a whip, a tweed of farmer
with bushels and crates
of cabbages, parsnips, blue duck eggs
to pay the country doctor.

Not now, and not then,
we drive home between the fields.
She is radioactive, or lately was
and sleeps on the doses of nitrogen mustard
a country doctor has called for.

Little goat forgive me. I shouldn’t do this.
All you do is munch your poxy plain of grass,
your kingdom for a caper.
If at night you sing your tired chin to sleep,
it’s not a metaphor, it’s a tragedy.

Instead, let’s say a ship arrived one day.
Let’s say its decks were delicate, polished oak.
Let’s say happy impossible winds steered it.
Let’s say the captain, sweeping his spyglass
over the hills, after all this time, found us.


Directed by Matthew Thompson.

"The Burdens" by Stephen Sexton (Cheryl's Destinies, Penguin, 2021).