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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Aug 10

August 11, 2016

Red Wheelbarrow Poets
Poem of the Week 8/10/2016

Janet Kolstein

Zarafa

In captivity, she sailed down the Nile
far, far away from her home
and across the Mediterranean Sea,
Africa behind her, Marseille ahead,
the first giraffe ever seen in France.

A sight of wonder and delight
the moment her hooves touched land,
she walked to Paris to be
another jeune fille
in the king’s menagerie
in the Jardin des Plantes.

A star, an oddity, an obsession,
alone in her sphere,
she would live out her life
in solitude
among the hundreds of thousands
who came to stare
and buy wares with her likeness.

Was there a man, woman, or child
who pitied her plight,
looked into her unguarded gaze and wondered
if giraffes can dream of herds on savannas
and other long necks to nibble
and twine?

(A gift from Muhammed Ali Pasha to King Charles X, Zarafa (“lovely one”) landed in Marseille on October 1826 and inspired “giraffemania” until becoming passe. She died in 1845.)

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