what element of the womb’s hush little goat
_____groomed your aptitude to bleat so sidling
your silken haunches up to me?
the way you press your distended
_____pintsized abdomen against my knee
& butt my outstretched hand
with your horn buds begging for the sun-
ripe shoots along the far side of the fence
_____brings me to a robust belief in need…
o bleating babe no I won’t leave
you before the cricket-song’s lull is in full swing
_____though the dusk is rushing in
to replace afternoon’s haze
& twilight’s adamant touch would usher me to the dark
of another sleep sorrowing signifiers for insufficiency
_____like the moon engorging
on the horizon weeps to streak the soft hills silver…
last night I dreamed a familiar dream
of my children when they were still young
in which there was never enough time & never enough help
to rise & feed so many all-too-realistic demands—
_____from the toting of two pajama’d bodies to the car
to park them in a driveway four houses away at the crux
of their convoluted breakfast ritual to rejections
_____in equal parts irrational & resolute of the given
dream-morning’s cereal offerings—
_____& still hope
to make it anywhere on time or at all…
what mother doesn’t dream of baby goats?
hear their cries in her mind as melodies & answer
in harmonic bleats?
hunger for sweet greens just out of reach?
bed down in warm hay beneath the starlight
bleeding through the barn’s worm-worn roof?
STEPHANIE L. HARPER
Thank you to the SELJ Editing Team for selecting “Answer” as one of ten finalist in SELJ’s 2020 Poetry Prize and including it in the beautiful 2020 issue! I’m grateful to editor Dave Essinger for his impeccable professionalism, and for making me feel like a welcome member of the SELJ community!
Please peruse the Slippery Elm Literary Journal website, and perhaps purchase a copy of this fantastic journal to support Findlay University’s students in editing and publishing. Please also consider entering SELJ’s annual Deanna Tulley Multimedia Prize, now open for submissions!