Blemmya

I.

Headless, hunched here: how heroes hove haphazardly home,
heavy (with) hearsay histories, hollow (with) heeding,
horizon-haunted hunters, homeric handers, handicapped haberdashers,
Herodotus’ homunculi hammer home habeas corpus.

II.

Their eyes, and faces, have migrated south, heads vanished into torsos. They are attested to in traveler’s tales spanning centuries. Herodotus wrote of them, as did Mandeville, always as somewhere over the horizon: past the Carpathians, over the Mediterranean, beyond the Sahara, across the Atlantic, along the Silk Road. Medieval Europeans, credulous enough, placed them now in Libya, now in Ethiopia, now in Hyperborea, now in Edenic India. As Europe expanded, their range decreased, though belief still lingered. Later scholars, desperate to explain away that Christian credulity, assigned their “real,” “historical” origins in misunderstood reports of gorillas, chimpanzees, human hunters crouched low with their heads pulled down. Sir Walter Raleigh, in the 1600s, asserts their existence: “every child in the province reports the same.”

III.

We are born, not made; cast in the womb and by every day that passes after, comfortable in our skin. We do not lack community, nor family, nor understanding; it is only with the arrival of traders that we are marked with difference. We gawk at them, but they pass away, bearing tales, and when they return their world washes over ours, carries us above the tideline onto unfamiliar shores, pulls us each from all, and leaves us exiled among people who cannot meet our gaze. The body remembers, but the mind forgets; we have heard of others like us, but seldom met them. There is always some further distance yet to go.

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