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About this Poem 

“‘The Atheist Wore Goat Silk’ is a phantasmagoric beast fable that draws from the realms of apocryphal science and family anecdote. Despite its title and atheistic speaker, the poem, I hope, becomes a lyric inquiry about belief.”
Anna Journey

The Atheist Wore Goat Silk

I’ve wanted to visit the genetically modified goat
spliced with silkworm DNA
spinning white threads from its pink udders
like a piebald spider. I’ve wondered how much
for a whole goat silk dress? Always I save
the spiders that shimmy near my eyes
but never the bristled silverfish
which drop to the boatwood dinner table
from the skylight. Come Indian Summer
the fuchsia bougainvillea unpurses
its dry lips, licks the sweat
from my neck. My mother tells her childhood
best friend—who’s dying from liver
cancer in Jackson, who consults
a Pentecostal woman who speaks
in tongues—that her two daughters
are atheists. Meaning my little sister and me.
Somewhere there’s a goat that squirts
a rare silk so bizarre maybe
no one would actually wear it. That webbed dress
sticking to my chest, the grandfather
clock, all over the bedroom walls like a past
that drags everything with it. The thread
leading back to an animal I badly
need to believe in. Its impossible milk
steams in the twilight. There’s a dress
that rises from its udders with a misted
sleeve I can almost see.

Copyright © 2014 by Anna Journey. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2014 by Anna Journey. Used with permission of the author.

Anna Journey

Anna Journey is the author of the poetry collections Vulgar Remedies (Louisiana State University Press, 2013) and If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), which was selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern California. 

by this poet

poem

My parents come from a place where all the houses stop
at one story

for the heat. Where every porch—front
and back—simmers in black screens that sieve

mosquitoes from our blood. Where everyone knows
there’s only one kind of tea:

served sweet. The first time my father

poem

for David

We imagine Natalie held a gelatinous green 
sliver on her tongue, that its watery 

disk caught the lamplight before 
she slipped from her yacht 

to drown in the waves off this island. This was
thirty years ago. And our tomato’s strain 

stretches back decades, to an heirloom seed
poem

My ex-lover received it at seventeen
skiing the steep slope at Wintergreen called

Devil’s Elbow. The early snowmelt along the Blue
Ridge had slipped the white limb of a birch

through the crust, jutted that camouflaged tip
into the center of the trail. He hit it, full speed,

flipped

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