The Camel Girl’s Camel Bemoans His Fate
In 1886, Ella Harper was born with a deformity of the back knee and later twinned with a camel in W. H Harris’s Nickel Plate Circus in Tennessee — she the star, the camel the shadow.
Just as the Ottoman Empire again
loses its independence,
I too lose mine,
arrive here, come to this --
seasick, unquenched hump
flopped over, nostrils clamp-weary.
I stand tethered, legs locked,
atrophic, rot in my own muck.
My moldy foot pads ache.
My coat peels away, soft clumps
fall on cold concrete.
My urine concentrates,
my dung dries.
My stench sickens me.
My heart cracks.
There is no other of my ilk,
no Cheng or Eng to turn the pages
as I moan my sour music
while Ella plays camel, smiles at you,
a sweet Alice in your carnie Wonderland,
clutches 200 a week, grabs an education,
nabs a husband, loses babies — barren
as the desert I belong on.
And they wonder why I bellow,
spit foul brown.
What is not here, fades: sand
underneath my feet, the caravan
I belonged to, the soft blowing
of my naqah on my muzzle,
nuzzling that is understood.
Hearing my name: Jamal: Beauty.
Mikki Aronoff’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Lake, EastLit, Virga, Weaving the Terrain: 100-Word Southwestern Poems, bosque, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Love’s Executive Order and elsewhere. A New Mexico poet, she is also involved in animal advocacy.
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