Yr Dead | Sam Sax | Granta

Yr Dead

Sam Sax

I can’t make heads or tails of it, the goat on the corner of Union and Metropolitan. Of course, I’ve seen stranger things, living in this city: the Chabad men dragging a straw effigy down Myrtle Avenue cursing each other in Yiddish, the woman selling infant-sized dolls made out of her own human hair, the apartment fire at the popular Chelsea orgy – flames licking up the side of the building like the cheap wig of some messy god. But this goat, mottled gray coat with a short white beard, is just standing on the corner chewing on some long grasses that appear to materialize in his mouth as he chews. It’s 7 a.m. and commuters walk past without noticing. A group of boys run by on their way to school, trailing their baseball gloves behind them like giant leather hands. The elder waitress in ancient caked-on makeup smokes outside the terrible twenty-four-hour diner, looking deep into the distance, not about to be bothered by goats.

I pause only a moment; the twin slits of its pupils reflect back traffic, pedestrian and automobile alike, all seemingly uninterrupted by the wildlife. And though I can’t be sure, it almost seems as if people are passing straight through its still body. All I’ve ever wanted is to belong somewhere, and all I can ever feel is how out of place I likely appear. So, in this spirit I too walk past the goat as if it were a normal part of the landscape; I too accept what’s in front of me and what is to come as I head down the subway steps. I leave behind the borough, and the animal, and that older man’s fancy apartment, wearing his stolen French shirt after abandoning my own, pit- and popper-stained on his bathroom floor, knowing full well I’ll never have to see any of this ever again.

Weekends we drink forties on the flatbed of Edwin’s stepdad’s blue pickup. Behind the 7/11 after dark, anything is possible. The we’s always me, Edwin, and whatever collection of shitheads decide to gather that particular evening. I say shitheads but mean only boys. I say boys and mean some kind of mollusk, hard-shelled with tender meat inside. We get the beer with Edwin’s fake – says he’s from Iowa, twenty-nine, and his newly grown mustache offers a little wink. I use the money from my allowance, even though he’s got more, and we sit and drink until the police are called or we get bored.

These nights are endless, years blended into a stretch of asphalt, into Olde English bottles smashed into showers of light, into shadowboxing as our shadows cast huge kissing shapes below the parking lot’s uniform sodium streetlamps. And Edwin smirks through all this like nothing could possibly touch him unless he invites it. Timid grin, fat lower lip, thick eyebrows below his midnight-blue Yankees cap. At night in bed, when there is only my dark ceiling looking down at me, his face floats there, taking up the whole faux stucco surface, unnaturally big, eyes like two dimming headlights, his mouth a car door opening as if to say: Get in, queer, doesn’t matter where we’re going, I’m driving.

Sam Sax

Sam Sax is the author of PIG (2023, Scribner), Yr Dead (2024, McSweeney’s & Daunt), Madness, and ‘Bury It’. Sam's received fellowships from The NEA, Poetry Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, Yaddo, and is currently serving as an ITALIC Lecturer at Stanford University

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