Goats on the Left [Matthew 25]

The goats do not go off to hell because they are goats

or because they are inferior to  sheep

or because Jesus liked sheep better than goats.

The goats do not go off to hell at all: nations do, it says,

peoples who are stingy with water and food

and keep themselves warm and let others freeze

and visit no one in prison because people in prison

are horrible and do not deserve any visits.

The goats do not go off to hell: peoples who get

huffy and hurt and defiant and finally menacing

when someone says, what about poor people?—

they are the ones the implacable angels drive into

fire on the awesome Day when the Judge calls

everyone together for the sifting of wheat and tares.

It could just as well be the fat sheep

who do not make Christ’s cut of kindness

and the wiry goats who get the happy welcome home.

As adorable as most lambs are and as bad-tempered

as some goats can be, being sheep or goats

has nothing to do with why Jesus is telling the story

and what he means.  They are stand–ins:

 the goats do not go off to hell because they are goats,

but because they are nations that have not been

as human as humans should be.