The Camel

By Eric Norris


The love is in the writing, yes. It is
this pencil—architect of all my hopes.
I suck on my eraser, like a nipple.
The friction of the lead provides some heat.
The little squiggles which adorn my man-
uscript, swim wonderfully between the
lines, like freshly ejected sperm,
seeking, out of instinct, a nice, warm
place they can kick off their flippers,
crack a Michelob, exhausted, and unwind.
A mouth, a hand, some other place. Who knows?

Your last poem mentioned your career,
retiring from porn, continuing to appear
naked, reading poetry in California.
I was in college then, learning from my dad
sucking cock was probably something
a boy in Buffalo ought not to do.
Soon after dad discovered my diary,
I found myself searching for a butt one
night along the shoulder of a road
so dark it seemed to lead into a future
paved entirely in blackness, coal.

A scattering of stars, a slice of Moon,
the prick of a pink planet, Mars, I think,
took pity on me, like the passing cars.
Those headlights allowed me to pick out
a discarded pack of Camels which
concealed one cigarette and a puff of air.
How incredible that find! Yes, Moon
And Mars, Camel and cars, kept
me company that night. But the sparks
of a tossed Marlboro let me smoke
where I was going—a dim, orange glow.

I thanked the driver as he sped away,
truck dwindling to a pair of rubies. I
had no matches in my pocket—no-
thing useful, no money, no house keys:
A Latin book in my backpack, Ovid’s
Metamorphoses, toothbrush, clothes,

socks and soiled underwear. But
how lucky I felt then—no longer cold—
now that I could smoke. The poetry
we’d write together was so far away—
Farther than Mars, that truck driver, you

standing naked in L.A. And love,
while that Camel lasted, didn’t seem
a possibility all that remote.

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ERIC NORRIS is the author of two books available on Lulu.com: Terence, a comic translation of A.E. Housman’s tragic masterpiece, A Shropshire Lad, and Takaaki, an epic love poem written in the style of Alexander Pushkin. Along with Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, he is co-author of Nocturnal Omissions, an epistolary series of poems exploring love, death, time travel, aging, AIDS, sex, religion and reincarnation, soon to be published by Sibling Rivalry Press. Eric lives in New York City.

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