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 #51 – Monkey

A monkey screamed with righteous rage
At those who locked him in a cage.
So sad for him, he didn’t know,
They’d chopped his home down long ago.

This was one of the very first Zoo Rhymes that I wrote, but it seemed so melancholy that I sat on it until now.  It emanates from the films of the last Orang Utan climbing to the very top of the only tree left standing in the middle of a burned out forest.  The pictures are excruciatingly sad,  particularly as the Orang is pretty much as close as we get to a family in the wild.  The real selfishness of the human race is that it puts its own needs so far above the needs of every other species, whilst it salves its conscience by preserving the last of the line in a zoo…

NB I do know the difference between a monkey and an ape, but it’s just a little rhyme after all, isn’t it…

Shameful bloody humanity…

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 #44 – The Rhinohippoeleraffe

Having spent a few days writing poems for my grandchildren, the zoo poems have taken on a rather more fanciful air.  I hope you will forgive this temporary lack of cynicism…

When all the world was cold as snow.
And ice-cream grew from carrot trees
And camels fluttered on the breeze
There came along a fearsome beast
A creature who, to say the least,
Would not be happy should you laugh;
The Rhinohippoeleraffe.

His eyesight was so very poor;
He had a horn upon his jaw.
He lived in water, eating weed
To satisfy his massive greed.
You may have guessed, I must suppose,
He had a trunk where you’ve a nose.
His fur was filled with blotchy spots.
He looked like he’d got chickenpox.
A neck so long he touched the sky
(He never ever wore a tie)
Completed this ungainly creature.
(In fact it was his nicest feature.)

He had, as you may well conclude,
The disposition to be rude.
His temper frayed so very fast
No wonder that his days have passed
No longer does he walk upon
The greenish land where he belonged.
But then, it couldn’t last for long,
He always was the only one.

If a zoo is going to hold any attraction to a child, it surely has to include a creature or two that only otherwise exists in their imagination…

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 #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.

Zoo #40 – Toucan

Anyone in the zoo can
See the stately toucan.
Anyone in the queue can,
If you join them, you can.

I’m not a kangaroo fan
But what I’d like to do, gran
Is go and ask the zoo man
If we can see the toucan.

I know the cockatoo can
Achieve a proper view ‘nan,
So if he can, then you can,
And if one can, then two can.

I have very little to say about today’s little rhyme.  The last few ‘zoo’ poems have become a little serious and over-considered, so I thought it was time to do something that is just silly: how the ‘zoo’ thread actually started.  Childish silly nonsense.  I should do it more often really.

Zoo #39 – Woodworm

Of all of the things in the zoo you might find
That the woodworm are probably best left behind;
I suppose, in their way, they are fairly benign,
But there’s just this one thing that has stuck in my mind.

In biblical times, when the skies all turned dark
And all of Earth’s creatures lined up in the park –
At least forty days ‘til they could disembark –
What stopped the woodworm from eating the Ark?

It has always puzzled me, this Ark business.  What actually stopped the hunters from eating the hunted?  I wonder if everything was given its own little pen?  That is quite a construction feat.  “Right, so let me just get this straight Noah.  You want a boat that’s big enough to hold two of all of the world’s creatures and you want them all to have separate little compartments.  I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what are you doing about the, er, toilet arrangements?”  Also, I wonder, what were the carnivores fed on?  Was there, perhaps, a second boat, marked ‘Food’, full of all the animals that Noah didn’t really want to save?  If that’s the case, why weren’t the rats on it? 

Forty days and forty nights is a long time to be trapped in a tiny cabin with a member of the opposite sex and nothing much to do: “Oh come on, we might not make it you know.  There are no guarantees.  Besides, what could possibly go wrong?  Precautions?  Of course…”  I admit that my knowledge of boats is fairly limited, but I can’t help but think that if all of the large mammals decided to get it on at the same time the journey might well become a little uncomfortable for the humans on board.  According to the Bible there were eight humans on board – why we got such preferential treatment I do not know – but I imagine that if the humans, too, had their own little cabins, life may have become a little fraught after forty days: “Oh come on, we might not make it you know.  Well yes, I have seen the mess outside and no, of course I can’t expect you to feel at all sensual with that smell, but I don’t know what I can possibly do about it.  Yes, I have opened the windows.  No, I don’t know why the ship is so rocky when the sea is smooth.  Look, can’t we just rejoice that we are two of only four couples left alive?  Well, that’s a little harsh, I must say… You know how much I hate being compared to my brother, particularly in that way…”

As the floods slowly subsided, the Ark landed on mount Ararat, which, I imagine, would have annoyed the heck out of some of the human cargo as it was so far away from all of the ‘sights’ and, while I imagine the positioning was fine for, let’s say, the mountain goats, I can’t help but wonder how the elephants, the rhinos and the hippos went about finding their way down.  Especially since Noah’s family, by then, would have been very hungry and elephants are a very big meal…