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Mark Blickley/Christine Karapetian

"Monoprint" by Christine Karapetian. "11x 14," 2023.

Beast of Burden Unloads

I’m a donkey who hates being called an ass. It’s an attack on my species. Should we all apologize for not being born magnificent horses? There are 40 million four-legged asses in the world. The number of two-legged asses roaming the earth is unfathomable.

You’ve no doubt heard the term jackass, right? Do you know what that really means? It only applies to male donkeys who are horribly forced into the mating with horses so our sons and daughters can all become infertile freaks of nature they call mules. Instead of having forced sex with horses, I much prefer making love to Jennys—the human term for our female donkeys. I have family who were forced to have sex with zebras and people humiliated their offspring by calling them zonkeys. Zonkeys.

We do not want to carry humans on our backs. They must break us to do so.

As a beast of burden trying to survive a hostile culture, I am fast approaching my 12th birthday. I have few relatives, friends, or acquaintances who have lived to be that old. A female horse I was forced to have sex with once told me she knew of a pampered donkey who lived to be a half-century, but I don’t believe her. I don’t doubt the donkey’s age. I just can’t imagine one of us being pampered.

We’ve been working for man for many thousands of years and claim a proud Mesopotamian heritage. We are affectionate animals who love people and need companionship. Without companions, we donkeys become lonely and depressed. People seem to love us at first sight because of our big eyes with long lashes. I’ve noticed when one of us working donkeys is stolen or dies, it’s mostly women who take on our jobs as beasts of burden, hauling water and firewood for their families.

I am a domesticated donkey that people sometimes call a burro, but they’re wrong. I wish I were a burro because they are wild donkeys who can survive in the desert for long periods because they need so little food or water. Does the word resilient mean anything to you? Because at heart, that is what all we donkeys could be had we escaped human imprisonment.

Humans always force us to perform more work than our bodies can handle. We are constantly neglected and mistreated since new donkeys are so much cheaper than veterinarians. We injured and ill donkeys are often tied to posts without food or water and left to die. Did you know that some restaurants offer fresh donkey meat where pieces of us are sliced off while we are still alive? Humans don’t even have the decency to kill us. Coyotes are our only natural predator and they are much more civilized because they always kill before consuming us.

A distant cousin was an American basketball player in the United States. That’s right. A basketball player. Donkey Basketball became popular in America about a hundred years ago, but all the donkeys playing Donkey Basketball are unwilling performers. We are mounted by basketball shooting humans who yank, chase, whip, drag and yell at us to move closer to the basket so they can score. It’s frightening. We often buck off players, plant our hooves and refuse to move, or try our best to escape. For some reason, the audience finds that hysterically funny.

Donkey Basketball is a popular fundraiser for public schools. But their real goal isn’t athletics, but rather to teach children that animal humiliation and abuse is a wonderful and accepted form of entertainment.

Our donkey hides are valued because our skin has a gelatin that people believe, without any scientific proof, cures bleeding, dizziness, insomnia, dry cough. And surprise, it’s also considered a powerful fertility drug. Guess what they call our miraculous donkey gelatin? Ass-Hide Glue.

Our valuable skins get us crowded into trucks and driven for days without food or water. We often arrive dead at slaughterhouses, or with broken bones and open sores. No one cares about our condition because it doesn’t affect the value of our skin. We are often beaten to death by hammers for our gelatin rich hides. I saw my own mother hammered to death right after I stopped nursing. Had I known my mother’s fate, I would have pretended to nurse in order to extend her life. I’m so sorry, Mom. Please forgive me.

Many people when they hear the word donkey think fondly of Christmas. I am always glorified in Christmas mangers—what a joke! That baby in the manger is supposed to free all from death, but as a working donkey, our death is the only time we are free. FYI, there is no biblical record of any animals being present at the Bethlehem birth. So, who’s the true ass?

Oh crap, my breather is about to end. I can hear the fat master kissing his girlfriend goodbye. Girlfriend. It’s the wife of his good buddy whom he visits every Wednesday while her husband travels 40 kilometers to the marketplace. My bastard of a master delights in calling her his favorite piece of ass.

Mark Blickey grew up within walking distance of New York's Bronx Zoo. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the flash fiction collection, Hunger Pains (Buttonhook Press).

Christine Karapetian is an exhibited and published New York City artist. As an Armenian-American, she is the offspring of people whose history is rooted in Diaspora. Her response to this lack of place and the negation of her cultural history is to make objects that echo and build onto a collective memory of oppression, survival, and hope. She refuses to imbue meaning where there is none and to aggrandize her work to fit current trends. Her art is a record of a female human in a specific body, at a specific place, during a specific time, because it is exactly what is possible. The rest is bullshit. Christine Karapetian Artist Portfolio Home - Christine Karapetian Artist Portfolio


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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