Hand a goat a piece of paper with the word goat
and it will eat it. Goats don’t know the word goat.
They only know the silence of having no words
to rub together and how to climb mountains
by being stickier than gravity. Hand a goat a piece
of paper with the word gravity and it will eat it.
The goat will eat gravity, which means nothing
to the goat but everything to the poet, for whom
gravity is also gravitas and gravitate and holiday gravy
because the poet won’t eat words or food
made from words. Place the word god on an altar
for the gods, and the gods will eat it. Don’t put the goat
on the altar. Put goat on the altar, put god on the altar.
Don’t play with real bones like the butcher. Don’t
play with your food. Play with words. Wrap your paper
in paper labeled paper. Then you will really know
what paper is. The essence of the sheet, not its symbols.
Paperness. Wordness. Goatness. Godness. Write the word
word and put it in a basket labeled WORDS. Then you will
know what a word is—how heavy, how attractive, how tasty—
which ones to salt, which ones to ketchup, which ones
to pepper. You will know which words to feed to goats
and which to feed to gods and which to bury at the foot
of the mountain so you will be light enough climb it.
Melissa Studdard is the author of two poetry collections, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, and Dear Selection Committee (forthcoming summer 2021), and the chapbook Like a Bird with a Thousand Wings. Her work has been featured by PBS, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and has also appeared in periodicals such as POETRY, Kenyon Review, Psychology Today, New Ohio Review, Harvard Review, Missouri Review, and New England Review. Her Awards include The Penn Review Poetry Prize, the Tom Howard Prize from Winning Writers, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and more.