Reflections on 300 Goats by Naomi Shihab Nye

This morning I am reading 300 Goats by Naomi Shihab Nye. Goats were on top of her mind that year because she had returned from China where there had been an active debate on whether it was the year of the sheep or goat. With her heightened state of awareness about goats she seems worried about Goats on a ranch in Texas which was experiencing icy cold weather. 

The poem reminds me of Guru Arjan’s poem, “kahe re man chitveh uddam”. Why O mind  ?  The ants that live on rocks find food. Flamingos fly off after laying their eggs; when the young ones hatch they find what they need to survive. 

It also reminds me of Jane Hirshfield’s poem about saving an ant. We take on the responsibility of the savior. But are we really saving anyone?

Naomi Shihab Nye: “300 Goats”

In icy fields.

Is water flowing in the tank?

Will they huddle together, warm bodies pressing?

(Is it the year of the goat or the sheep?

Scholars debating Chinese zodiac,

follower or leader.)

O lead them to a warm corner,

little ones toward bulkier bodies.

Lead them to the brush, which cuts the icy wind.

Another frigid night swooping down — 

Aren’t you worried about them? I ask my friend,

who lives by herself on the ranch of goats,

far from here near the town of Ozona.

She shrugs, “Not really,

they know what to do. They’re goats.”