And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel…putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away…into the wilderness.
— Leviticus 16:21

Hidden sins are an anvil
on the head: your jaw aches,
your brain bowed low
until it is an evil grin.

I learned this when I was 13,
wearing goat skins for the sins
of my tribe:

jeers and pointed fingers
bowed my back
under the heavy stink
of gray fur.

My throat choked
with the dust of their secrets,
I did not ask them to wear skins
in return for:

red trillium bruises blooming
on my covered skin,
my twelve year-old self wondering
if I was still pure
after my cousin shoved
his errant fingers between my legs,

and three weeks in an asylum
where I didn’t belong.

At 38, I now name
the sins my family
could not bear:

vacant-mouthed beer cans
with stinking breath,
and two sons conceived
by a trollop from Madison Township*
and a married man twice her age.

But even now, when
I hear weirdo or freak
hurled in my direction,
the stench of goat lives again
in my nostrils.

Original version written 4/26/10
Revised 8/1/14
© 2014 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

Okie dokie, folks…this is the second poem I’ve published here since I began my MFA studies at Ashland University. I’ll be posting more about my experiences later, and hopefully an article for Red Wolf Poems about it. I wrote this last week, but decided it would be a perfect (if not dysfunctional) offering for Red Wolf Poems’ Prompt #218: Time Travel. I decided to (try to) take a little of the advice that David St. John gave in one of the craft lectures at the residency in later July, and play around with time a bit in this poem.

I’ve written 17 new poems since the beginning of my studies, and nearly all of them focus on my life before age 18. The best advice that I could have ever gotten from my fellow poets and instructors in the workshops during my first MFA residency was this: “Write about what is real in your life”. I’d avoided doing this overly too much, afraid to touch all that anger and hurt in its intensity, but now that I have, I’m glad I did. Don’t worry: Aanteekwa isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the mythic in my poetry. But reader be warned: you will see a LOT more confessional poetry here in the future.

I am not sure, however, if this should be classified as a revision (because it is radically different from the original which I wrote in 2010) or a new poem entirely. But, let me know what you guys think about the change of direction and voice.

(*Note: the Madison Township referenced in the poem is in Butler County, Ohio.)



About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
This entry was posted in Confessional, Poems, Prompt Poems, Red Wolf Poems and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Scapegoat

  1. Sabra Bowers says:

    I believe it is important to “write about what is real in your life,” especially for a poet. You’ve written a powerful poem. One I will not forget. The title is perfect.

  2. The more I read about Autism and Asperger’s the more I see your childhood as a common theme. It must feel good to be part of the voices that are now speaking out and educating us – clueless ones. Glad to have ‘discovered’ your voice (and others) through poetry!

  3. Pat says:

    This is a really powerfully written piece — time traveling to memories not so pleasant is never easy, but it can be such a relief and means of letting the past settle itself – where it rightfully belongs, in the dust.

  4. C.C. says:

    This is poignant and deep. The imagery is rich and vibrant…..the title is absolutely perfect.

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