Zoo #52 – My Last Word on the Subject

The beast that shakes the tiger’s cage
And stirs gorillas into rage,
Who loads the straw on camel’s back
And goads the lions to attack.

Who throws the dregs of KFC,
Pulls faces at the chimpanzee
And finds in every petting zoo
The chance to pinch a chick or two.

Who locks away in fenced-in void
The species that it first destroyed.
The beast that
should be in a pen
We call it Homo Sapien…

The zoo is now closed.

Zoo #50 – Rhinoceros

The short-sighted rhinoceros
Is known to try and charge a bus.
If you were driving, would you dare
To ask a rhino for his fare?

A short nonsense rhyme again this week about a rhinoceros because, well… you see I was watching a television programme about fish.  The fish were blind cave tetra, and they were being introduced into a zoo’s aquarium.  These little chaps wile their lives away in pitch-black caves where eyesight is of no value to them at all, so evolution has equipped them instead, with what is more or less, a highly tuned sonar system and a sense of smell that could detect a Stilton cheese in the Sahara.  In return, it has taken their eyes.  Now, the tank which was to become their new home was nicely dressed, very cave-like, except for one distinctly incongruous feature: in order that the fish were visible to the glass-tapping multitudes, it was very brightly lit (not, of course, that the fish would have known it).  Well, it just occurred to me, if they were kept in such conditions for long enough – year after year, generation after generation, eon after eon – would evolution give them their eyes back?  Is evolution reversible?  Moreover I wondered, if this poor benighted planet of ours should survive long enough with us on it, would evolution start mitigating our effects on other species?  Would it, perhaps, rob the elephant of its tusks given that tuskless elephants were much more likely to survive to old age without becoming part of a piano?  Would it rob the sharks of their fins, because on balance, what was lost in agility might be gained in stealth (eg not being spotted off the beach by troubled town sheriffs) and the liability not to wind up in noodle soup?  Would whales cease to be slaughtered by the Japanese if they could monitor their own stocks?  Could the leopard change its spots?  Would rhinos evolve without horns; shorn of the fearsome ability to charge, but far less likely to be consumed by some ancient idiot with erectile dysfunction?  Could the human race begin to realise that it is merely part of a whole, and not the entire reason for its being?  I’m not sure, but I shall keep a very close eye on the tetra…

Zoo #48 – Red in Tooth and Claw

Nature executes her duties,
Fills the world with savage beauties
Sharp of tooth and fierce of claw –
Mighty is the carnivore.

Creatures which are most beguiling
Merely furnish stomach-lining:
Nothing in the world as edgy
As animals both small and veggie.

This earth was never meant to be
A place of equanimity:
Reality, it seems, is bleak
The strong will always eat the weak

Might and muscle, fast and sleek,
Feast on fluffy, cute and meek.
Fortunate the favoured few
Nature paints in vivid hue.

Red provides a broad suggestion,
‘Eating me gives indigestion’ –
Always saved a savage mauling
Anything that tastes appalling.

Hunters know that prey dressed kitschy
At very best will leave them itchy
And those that wear a peacock suit
Are seldom worthy of pursuit

Creatures written most prosaic
Merely join this earth’s mosaic
Fate and future clearly wrote;
Listed under Table d’hote.

A few double entendres and a scattering of preposterous rhymes.  I look out of my window as I type this and the countryside is currently beyond beautiful.  Everything is in full leaf, most is in colourful bloom; everything that bloomed in early spring is full of fast-ripening fruit.  Nature provides the most stunning backdrop to the most gruesome of fates…

Zoo #47 – Unicorn

The Unicorn was no bright spark,
He missed his place on Noah’s Ark
While looking at his own reflection,
Trying to find some imperfection
In the flawless beauty he
Supposed that he was meant to be.

Admiring each and every feature,
Mother Nature’s favourite creature
Buffed his horn and groomed his coat…..
Sad to say, he missed the boat.
Perhaps if he had been less vain,
We might have seen his kind again.

(The moral of this story’s simple:
Don’t get worried by a pimple.
You should always view with scorn
The story of the Unicorn.
He worried over every flaw
And now, alas, he is no more.
So, if you have to be like him
Perhaps you ought to learn to swim.)

Another poem aimed directly at children and at my two granddaughters in particular, but this time with a slightly more melancholic air.  As I know that patience has a limit, this will probably be the last mythical creature to find a place in my zoo, which is anyway nearing closure.  The unicorn had to be male because my granddaughters know that no girl would be so vain…

Zoo #46 – It (2)

It’s red and green

         and in between

                 its spots are sometimes yellow.

Its head is red

         its feet instead

                 are something much more mellow.

Its beak is white

         except at night

                 when some of it is dotted.

It’s fair to say

         that anyway

                 it’s rarely ever spotted.

Clearly a part two to last week’s ‘It’ and just as much of a ‘children’s’ rhyme.  My three-year olds don’t get the joke, but they still think it is funny – and that will definitely do…

Zoo #45 – It

Continuing the rather more fanciful little spate of zoo poems aimed more directly at children.

This thing is like two balls of string
With half a horse between.
Its head is like a cream éclair;
Its feet like butter beans.

A tail of green, a mane of blue,
With spots along its back –
A cheerful disposition
Although its mood is black.

It could be `He’, it could be `She’,
It could be `Them’ or `They’
(I think it knows the answer
But is not inclined to say).

Its eyes are green, like tangerines,
It hasn’t any hair.
It’s really very common
Although extremely rare.

In fact, I’ve never seen one,
I promise you, it’s true,
And if you stay awake all night
You’ll never see one too!

Q.    What is it?

A.    I haven’t the faintest idea.

I’ve always written ‘children’s poems’ (even when I’m trying to do otherwise, my output seldom rises above the infantile).  The absence of any call for logic is incredibly refreshing and saves hours of time in Wikipedia research.  Spike Milligan had the greatest gift of writing for the child in all adults.  It is something to which we should all aspire…

Zoo #43 – Ptarmigan

A ptarmigan is a bigger partridge
(Though hunters use the same size cartridge)
A little larger than a grouse,
Substantially smaller than a house.
Its fate is often Christmas fare –
It tastes a little like a hare.
Ptarmigans come with a silent ‘P’,
Like toddlers swimming in the sea.

The Ptarmigan is classed as a ‘game bird’ e.g. it has obviously been placed on earth with the simple function of giving the ruling classes something to point their guns at when they’re not starting wars.  It is the ultimate arrogance of man that everything else on this planet has been placed here solely for our benefit and such things that clearly do not fit this criteria, probably need to be eradicated.  Weirdly, the creatures we protect the best are those that we eat.

N.B. the bird was originally known by its Gaelic name ‘Tàrmachan’ until a man called Robert Sibbald (Psibbald?) thought that it would look far more classy if it appeared to have a genus name of Greek origin, so he stuck a silent ‘p’ at the front.  I’ve always been intrigued by silent letters.  How did they get there?  I know (that is, I have been told, and I am trusting enough to believe) that some of them were originally pronounced – e.g. both the ‘k’ and the ‘g’ in the word ‘knight’ were originally spoken – but I cannot begin to imagine how ‘igh’ ended up in so many words.  Some kind of lexicographical aberration.  I’m sure the Greeks would have a word for it…

Zoo #42 – Poison Dart Frog

The poison dart frog has a many-hued coat
That you really wouldn’t want to have stuck in your throat

It has always puzzled me why a tiny little frog should contain enough poison to kill ten fully grown adult humans.  What on earth is nature trying to protect them against?  A dinner party?  Ten French people willing to munch five to a leg?  I understand in nature that bright colours warn of toxicity, so why aren’t butterflies weaponised?  Why do Black Widow Spiders carry enough venom to kill a human, when all they need to see off is a fly?  What’s more, if you’re a spider a spider who has just killed a fly with sufficient venom to bring down a human, how do you then eat it without suffering the consequences?  How did nature choose the venomous?  Why did she miss politicians?  Thank God she did…

BTW in case you ever wondered, a frog in the throat is a simple literal allusion to the fact that you sound croaky.

P.S. I do understand the difference between poisonous and venomous – although I’m not convinced that the frog does.

Zoo #41 – Prey

Who’d want to be a chick or mouse
Within the darkened reptile house
Where neither rat, nor slug, nor louse
Is born with greater cause to grouse.

Yes, cows and sheep share common fate
But here’s the truth I must relate
That neither beast, when comes the date,
Goes live onto the dinner plate.

There is nothing in this world quite as disturbing as seeing chicks hopping around the terrariums in the reptile house, blithely unaware (I hope) that they are there just for one reason, to be eaten.  They are alive only because the snakes will not take dead prey: they need to see it move.  Keep still little chicken: don’t twitch little mouse!  Sooner or later the snake will sleep.  The best thing about going live to the dinner plate is that you might yet have the chance to hop off it.