The Camel

by Wislawa Szymborska

English version by Joanna Trzeciak
Original Language Polish

Don't tell a camel about need and want.

Look at the big lips
pursed
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,
bloodhounding

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.

-- from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, by Wislawa Szymborska / Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

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The Camel