Roughly translated,

it means

a smoke pot, burning red like gold.

Then many ways to say greatness

and forgiveness, witness

as a goat is sacrificed

in the bloodiest of detail,

body parts and sacred drips.


And though I am riveted

by the red gold, the smoke,

my spirit stilled and inward,

the goat gets in my way

every year,

its eyes open and helpless,

its throat open, hooves



while I flip pages backward,

looking for a place to rest.

Published in Carmina Magazine, Mythology for the modern day – September 2022

Author’s note:
The root of this poem is the scapegoat ritual as told in the traditional Yom Kippur Torah reading. The reading tells of Aaronโ€™s offerings to God as atonement, including a bull and two goats. Living in Amsterdam, and not especially religious, I would go once a year to services at the magnificent 17th century Portuguese Synagogue. Perched on a cold wooden bench in the womenโ€™s rafters, Iโ€™d spend the day in an entranced state, alternating my gaze between the cavernous, candle-lit space and the prayer book. I donโ€™t speak Hebrew and therefore would follow along in Dutch, its harsh consonants and twisted diphthongs somehow making the telling of slaughter and sacrifice even more graphic, riveting, and unsettling. As synagogues have come to feel less safe, I no longer go. But the scapegoating feels more poignant every year, and myths are alive and well.


Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash