The camel hangs from my Christmas tree
with a red saddle, ears alert, carved of pine
from a forest he’s never seen.
The camel is tall with big lips.
He carries myrrh and frankincense and other gifts.
He carries people across the desert
to tombs embedded in five walls
but his number is six and his name is Gilad
and he is a homeless philanthropist,
sleeping on the muddy banks of the Nile.
You cannot find his image on the friezes,
where Ra stands with the head of a hawk
and they worship the midday sun,
born of its sweat and tears.
Do not drink its milk or be bitten by tomb bats.
You will become sick.
The camel is at the top of my tree,
but he cannot climb to the silver star.
We ride on his humps
to mummies also bound to the earth
and pyramids of mud and brick.
The bodies will rise, they say,
as pharaohs balance the sun on their heads
and a god is born on a bed of pine needles
where the river is frozen.
We weave camel hair into blankets,
its fine undercoat insulating us from the cold.
I carry water.
I am always carrying water.
I keep it warm against my belly
when the air is frozen.
The camel never learned how to hold mirages
against a mirror, to watch water expand to seas
that fill my breasts with milk
when I make love to gods.
I touch the brown fur that blends with dust.
I am not afraid of the jackal or viper,
and the cobra dances under my outstretched palms,
while the camel rolls in ashes,
gazing to the East with yellow eyes.
Kika Dorsey is a poet and professor from Boulder, Colorado. She has been published in numerous journals, and her chapbook, Beside Herself, came out in 2010 with Flutter Press, and her book, Rust, will come out in 2016 with Word Tech Editions. When not writing, she dreams, studies myths, runs, swims, and raises her children.