The Battle of the Camel

By SARA ELKAMEL

Camels on the moon art painting

Camels on the Moon, 2021, Mixed media and collage on cardboard. Artwork by Sara Elkamel.

 

Cairo, Egypt

When you’re not looking
I try on your big brown shoes,

pick a spot to run to, practice ducking
from winged pellets on the street—

but the hardwood floors mock me
and creak. Say I was with you,

on a journey to a holy place,
and if we squint we see heaven

            full of light that is disappearing—

Do we forget their prison
used to be a garden?

You feed me dust when I moan
for the dead boys in the garden.

            O, the man! O, the mountain!
O, the young gods of our garden!

The land, the bullet-birds, the navel
            —all full of light that is disappearing.

The young gods walk ahead, as usual.
The camels we thought were dancers
           
            trample my awful song, as usual—

            and in the end we die
and we do not die.

 

Sara Elkamel is an Egyptian poet and journalist living between her hometown, Cairo, and New York City. She holds an MA in arts journalism from Columbia University, and is an MFA candidate in poetry at New York University. Elkamel’s poems have appeared in The Common, Michigan Quarterly Review, Four Way Review, The Los Angeles Review, Memorious, wildness, and as part of the anthologies Best New Poets and Best of the Net, among other publications. She was named a 2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar by The Adroit Journal, and a finalist in Narrative Magazine‘s 30 Below Contest in the same year. She is the author of the chapbook Field of No Justice (African Poetry Book Fund & Akashic Books, 2021).

The Battle of the Camel

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