Camelopardalus, from Johann Bode's UranographiaThe name, borrowed from the Greek alloy
of leopard and camel, suggests myth:
a hybrid as improbable as a sphinx.

But there’s no corresponding history:
No tales of adventures like the Centaurs.
No special talents or abilities
like the basilisk and manticore.

Where’s the mortal eager for godlike powers?
Or criminal turned into animal?
What about heroic deeds, a fatal sin,
accounts of seduction or revenge?

No wonder it’s hard to find the giraffe,
big but lacking bright lights,
outshone by the lion and the scorpion.

Lost among the zodiac,
the camelopardalis needs a myth.

A shy guest who joined the party late:
To lack imagination is a dismal fate.

Copyright © 2008, Pat Tompkins

Image courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries; copyright the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.

Pat Tompkins is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poems have appeared recently in Thema, red lights, the Aurorean, iota, and flashquake.