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Giraffe Painting*
by Shelly Blankman

My walls are lined with pictures,
posters, and paintings from travels.
and craft stores,

photos of kids and pets,
of events and celebrations,
bar mitzvahs and weddings.

But my most prized possession
has a wall to itself, a priceless
piece of art that appreciates

with time only in my heart, a
masterpiece done by the tongues
of giraffes, lapping gentle colors

of spring on a canvas of white, a
gift of peace to seal a life of passion
well-known at the zoo from a staff

who understood how I felt
and felt it, too…who knew I was at one
with these beasts of peace.

Giraffe eyes tell their stories that
have no voice, and have seen my
unspeakable pain fade.

And when in despair and not at the zoo,
I can now look at my painting at home
and my most precious treasure of all,

and breathe in bliss with my masterpiece,
my giraffe painting.

*Dedicated to the two giraffe trainers, Paula Blair and Loren Berry, who arranged my behind-the-scenes tour and the giraffe painting.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR/PHOTO CAPTION: My passion for giraffes goes back as far as I can remember. In fact, my first poem, written when I was very young, was about giraffes. Since the giraffe feeding station opened at the Maryland Zoo about 10 years ago, I have been first in line to buy browse (leaves) to feed the giraffes. On the saddest days, they help me heal. I became known as the “Giraffe Lady” and the staffers who arranged a behind-the-scenes tour for a one-on-one visit with the giraffes. After the tour, the staff presented me with my giraffe painting, which left me speechless — not an easy task. The painting, signed on the back by the all the staff, is my prized possession because it represents my love of giraffes, and the acknowledgement of my passion by the staff who fully appreciate and understand how I feel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her husband Jon, a retired schoolteacher, and four rescue cats. Jon and Shelly are the proud parents of two sons: Richard, 32, who lives in New York and Joshua, 30, who lives in Texas. Following graduate school, her career path led her to journalism and public relations, but her first love has always been poetry.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Taken in 2016 at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore at the giraffe feeding station.