James Tate

(8 December 1943 - / Kansas City, Missouri)

It Happens Like This - Poem by James Tate

I was outside St. Cecelia's Rectory
smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me.
It was mostly black and white, with a little reddish
brown here and there. When I started to walk away,
it followed. I was amused and delighted, but wondered
what the laws were on this kind of thing. There's
a leash law for dogs, but what about goats? People
smiled at me and admired the goat. "It's not my goat,"
I explained. "It's the town's goat. I'm just taking
my turn caring for it." "I didn't know we had a goat,"
one of them said. "I wonder when my turn is." "Soon,"
I said. "Be patient. Your time is coming." The goat
stayed by my side. It stopped when I stopped. It looked
up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew
everything essential about me. We walked on. A police-
man on his beat looked us over. "That's a mighty
fine goat you got there," he said, stopping to admire.
"It's the town's goat," I said. "His family goes back
three-hundred years with us," I said, "from the beginning."
The officer leaned forward to touch him, then stopped
and looked up at me. "Mind if I pat him?" he asked.
"Touching this goat will change your life," I said.
"It's your decision." He thought real hard for a minute,
and then stood up and said, "What's his name?" "He's
called the Prince of Peace," I said. "God! This town
is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there's mystery
and wonder. And I'm just a child playing cops and robbers
forever. Please forgive me if I cry." "We forgive you,
Officer," I said. "And we understand why you, more than
anybody, should never touch the Prince." The goat and
I walked on. It was getting dark and we were beginning
to wonder where we would spend the night.

Comments about It Happens Like This by James Tate

  • Pranab K Chakraborty (12/23/2014 11:06:00 AM)

    Prince of Peace idea is unique. Poetry is much liberal to admit any form and content and expression if it delivers at least such a single term....Prince of Peace. Nice. (Report) Reply

    (12/23/2014 6:22:00 PM)

    This term is not original, it is used for Jesus Christ. Here I think it is ironic.

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  • (12/23/2014 8:32:00 AM)

    .............loved reading this one....t's an original....it's nice he didn't claim what wasn't his.... (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (12/23/2014 7:30:00 AM)

    Nice little short short story, but I was kind of expecting a poem. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: fairy, family, change, child, peace, people, dark, dog, children, smile

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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