Alchemy Practicum and Goat Visit
Goat, you were the only one among the three goats who pressed his head against the fence when Rachel and I came to you after picking crab apples and black walnuts. I returned to the paradise of childhood labors: Piling walnuts onto a flat wicker basket for Lena’s dyes, their sun-warmed green husks stained in their own juice. Goat, you approached to the gate and pressed against me. Stiff fur, incurling horn, your goaty smell preceding you as incense precedes the enthroned Eucharist in a Corpus Christi procession. You condescend for me to touch your head and back, return the gesture of friendship with a look from your rectangular pupil. “Feed him the apple,” says Rachel handing it over the fence and I offer you the crab apple on the supplicant plate of doubled palms. My fingertips, stained and perfumed with black walnuts, you consecrate with goat cider. I know the flavor in your mouth: sour as the crack of an apple breaking, bitter like black walnut juice, and sweet like the distillate of sun. Goat, you return to your pasture and I return to the laboratory. Today we prepare oil of rosemary, oil of sun. A wasp enters through the sky window. All day my fellow alchemists fidget. Rosemary fumes suffuse the yurt. When the wasp takes leave we pour the yellow oil that rises into three vials: one for each alchemist. Goat, while I labor in idleness do you, too, hasten slowly? Do you, too, make distillate of sun? Or do you turn your devil eye and grin, shake your thinning beard at the wasps who swarm the fermenting crab apples you cannot reach while they, unharvested, seep sweet yellow in the sun who tilts to his equinoctial crossing, the Tropic of Capricorn?
First published in Residual Heat under my pseudonym Aga Black.
Distillation by Retort (Public Domain)