Rough Beast

Don't tell a camel about need and want.

Look at the big lips


in perpetual kiss,

the dangerous lashes

of a born coquette.

The camel is an animal

grateful for less.

It keeps to itself

the hidden spring choked with grass,

the sharpest thorn

on the sweetest stalk.

When a voice was heard crying in the wilderness,

when God spoke

from the burning bush,

the camel was the only animal

to answer back.

Dune on stilts,

it leans into the long horizon,


the secret caches of watermelon

brought forth like manna

from the sand.

It will bear no false gods

before it:

not the trader

who cinches its hump

with rope,

nor the tourist.

It has a clear sense of its place in the world:

after water and watermelon,

heat and light,

silence and science,

it is the last great hope,

Noah's ark,

Virgin of the oasis

who brings forth milk

under a deadly sky.

Year after year

it follows the bright stars

east, falls to its knees

for the lowliest king.

Except, of course, when the top lip

lifts like a curtain

on a mighty sneer.

Then you may hear,

out of the mouth of that rough beast,

the walls of the wide world