“Song” is a poem in Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s 1995 collection of the same title. It is a powerful narrative poem that describes a group of boys killing a young girl’s pet goat. Although the poem takes the form of a single stanza, there are several narrative turns throughout that lend the feel of a series of clear scenes or images from a story. Each scene stands alone but also leads into the next, as in the following passage:
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit.
Here, the empty yard looks and feels menacing. Without knowing the details of her goat’s disappearance, the girl immediately understands that something awful has happened, a strangeness mirrored by the landscape. The storm—in the form of a gang of boys—has passed through and left the yard bereft.
Just as there is no stanzaic pattern in “Song,” there is also no regular rhyme scheme. Instead, the poem relies on imagistic and tonal shifts to move the reader through. The poem also includes many examples of enjambment, or breaking the poetic line where there is not a syntactic break (such as a period or comma). This pattern also emphasizes the places where lines are end-stopped, as in the following passage:
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The strategic placement of line breaks creates propulsive movement in the poem and balances the speaker’s narrative—even occasionally plainspoken—voice. This tension underlines the combined normalcy and drama of storytelling: an ancient form and a common one, an act that can be both quotidian and dreamlike.
To further emphasize the paradoxes of storytelling and of song, the poem frequently proceeds by repetition—for example,
. . . She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked.
The repetition feels heavy, portentous, and itself like the refrains of a song. Here, readers feel the girl’s despair as she calls for her goat, her feet becoming heavier with each step.
The poem does not only rely on repetition within single passages; it is also framed by an...
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