Gabrielle Bates

A backward looping arrow

appears on the screen. 
I touch it. 
The mountain goat 

is back in her matted wool coat, 
and the early spring snow 
is snow again, everywhere. 

I watch her spinning, bucking 
movements, the more-and-more 
cast rags of fleece 

until the white at her feet 
is water and all winter 
growth is off. The arrow 

again. It hunts itself 
back to the beginning 
and I am—what?— 

its servant? Its god? 
I touch it again 
under the shelter. 

Again on the bus. 
Only the mediation 
is human: this frame: 

a mountain goat and her new kid, 
too new to even know winter, 
mimicking her motions— 

her pale shadow. 
I try to look at them as them 
but I feel allegory 

straining to be born 
in the holes 
behind my eyes, something 

about emptiness. Inheritance. 
A self-shaped burden. 
The end of a cold season. 

An earlier version of this poem appears in the print anthology Cascadia Field Guide (Mountaineers Books, 2023) 

Gabrielle Bates is the author of the poetry collection Judas Goat (Tin House, 2023). Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she currently lives in Seattle, where she works for Open Books: A Poem Emporium and co-hosts the podcast The Poet Salon. Her work has been featured in the New Yorker and Ploughshares, among other publications. On Twitter (@GabrielleBates) and IG (@gabrielle_bates_)