Clara, the Rhinoceros of Venice

Lois Marie Harrod

after Pietro Longhi’s Exhibition of a Rhinoceros at Venice, 1751

Oh, poor Clara, the long boat ride from India in dark quarters
and then the shuffle around Europe until you came to a barn
in Venice, once a day trotted through the alleys by your trainer
who in Longhi’s painting holds your horn and a flail that looks
more like a fishing pole than a whip.  I hope it did not sting
when it hit your skin.  I hope your skin was much too thick. 

It’s obvious the people in the stands are not watching you,
they have the vague look of people sitting for portraits
in a drawing room, paying to become faces in another setting—
a penitent at the foot of the Cross, a pope at the Ascension–
here, the audience at your rhino rink. I do not know why
the Grimalis wanted you, an odd-toed ungulate, in the family picture,
when they are so obviously not sitting in your stall
or sniffing as you chomp your hay, which Longhi oddly
tinged with gold as if spun by Rumplestiltskin.
Hay—maybe a nod to their gold not yours. Half the Grimalis
wear Carnival masques; the others look elsewhere.

How we make much of the helpless. 

About the author
Lois Marie Harrod’s18th collection Spat appears in May 2021. Woman was published by Blue Lyra in February 2020. Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016; And She Took the Heart, in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press), in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton and. pre-pandemic, at The College of New Jersey. Links to her online work

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