Maxine remembers the goats

Once she had been able to tell time
by the tone of their bleating.
Five goats in a pen, siblings, bought for her
to be raised for 4-H. As kids, they were loud
and long. Maxine and her sister dressed them
in baby clothes, named them after their mother’s favorite
soap opera characters. They would eat anything.
Each day the girls would bring something new
to try—buttermilk soap, pencils, shoestrings,
hunks of liver, foil candy wrappers, fingernail clippings.
The goats entertained in their simple goat way.
They would not fetch a tennis ball, or curl up
on the screened porch bed for a nap with Maxine. One day
the goats were in the house, chewing the paper snowflakes
hung from fishing line across the hearth, a scattering of red
and green Monopoly houses, handfuls of dryer lint. They were wearing
Maxine’s old dresses, now too small, even for her sister,
their floral patterns faded from hand-me-down existence.
At this moment, for the first time, Maxine could imagine herself
as a mother. That is until her own mother returned,
early from the market, finding goat shit
on the kitchen linoleum, and Erica Kane
swallowing a five dollar bill from a bowl by the front door.
Soon after, the goats were gone, sold to a neighbor,
Maxine realized that she liked only the idea of goats,
remembering them.