I found the human animal in the zoo.
When I walked around the inside
Perimeter, the right-hand side of the
Raised path was done out like a garden.
‘What’s the animal in this one?’
I said to myself in jest. The Garden
Of Eden, where Eve animal and Adam,
Were wild in their ancient nakedness,
Surrounded by this fence? Among
Bromeliads and spiky succulents,
Amid rockeries and gullies,
This land to the right as I travelled
Around, was like the enclosure for
Humans instead. So that was the
Beginning of my trip round the zoo.
Little did I suspect it would end
With an echo. For coming back on
The way out, I saw on the other side,
Over the fence enclosing giraffe and
Zebras, the ostriches and, in the
Distance, the Nyala (an antelope) and
The rhinoceros – but before the rocky
Cliffs that reached down to the field,
(But nevertheless over the fence) –
A post in the ground, faded boots in
Foreground, a rusty gas cooker nearby,
A backpack hanging over the post – and,
A human animal hide: a faded shirt,
Once the pride, of a human
Humanimal in the wild Wild.
Zebra stripes are famously vertical,
But today at the zoo, I finally observed,
Looking down from above, the
Horizontal stripes at the back of his back.
The black and white stripes on the
Rear of the zebra, fall horizontally down
His back legs! So: ‘Z is for Zebra’
Is truly the truth – for his midriff
Is the negotiation between vertical
And horizontal – the true ‘Z-shaped’
Stripes are in the ‘mid-flow’! They
Go across diagonal til the rear has
Them straightened; straight across his
Rear back like the lines of a rug.
The midlines, the ‘Z-lines’, run
Wonderfully ‘Ziagonal’, like
‘Z for Zebra’s’ truth, truly impressive.
And the kicker, another mystery, is
Another observation, looking where
The rear stripes get low and now wide.
In the white spaces appear soft narrow
Lines, pale brown, like a centreline,
Running along each wide white stripe.
So that it seems to ‘add to the extra’
Dimension of the zebra; not just
‘Z for zig-zag’, ‘Z for black and white’,
‘Z for vertical and horizontal’ – but
Z the midway diagonal, the zygote:
The evidence of the middle way,
The soft light brown quantum leap,
Not ‘grey’, but who would’ve guessed:
In the middle of the black and white zebra
Are light brown clefts.
Something of a laugh,
Did you know the name ‘giraffe’
Is good to go for single and plural?
These things make me question
Whether I was ever informed.
Don’t be daft – we always knew
The hide was like a turtle, in
Young a smudgy brown,
In adult the white interweb
Gets more distinguished, the
Lines sharpen, in the web-netting
Of the giraffe. We always saw
Their seahorse faces, but with
Soft mouths mouthing flatly
The leaves they, kings and queens
Of height, eat on their path.
Always knew we their heaven’s eyes
Looking down from on high,
Highest of any animals like we’d
Be perusing the sky. What
A laugh! That we didn’t know
The tallest males, in their
In their brushed cotton patchworks,
Were not so gentle giants when it comes
To a battle for the female.
Giraffe, that is, two adult males
(‘Giraffe’ – what a laugh!) will swing
Their strong necks like wrecking balls,
Slamming into one another, til
One’s proven his craft!
A is for aardvark, ape, or ant.
B is for Bear, baboon, or bee.
C is for Cat.
D is for Dog.
E is eel, elephant, or eagle!
F is for Fish, fox, or could be falcon.
G is for Goat, goldfish, guinea pig – no, Giraffe!
H is for Hare, hippo/hippotamus.
I is for Ibis, iguana, or inchworm.
J is for Jolly kangaroo, or Jellyfish.
K is (just joking) for sure the Kangaroo!
L is always Lion.
M is always Monkey.
N is almost always Newt.
O is Octopus equally with Owl.
P is Parrot, pufferfish, puffin, and Pig.
Q is (thankfully) the Quetzal bird.
R is the running Rabbit, or the rhino/rhinoceros.
S is Snake.
T is Tortoise, turtle, Tiger, or Tyrannosaurus!
U is the lonely Unicorn.
V is the vicious Viper or equally vicious Vulture.
W is always a Walrus, or maybe a Whale.
X is eXcused from this poem (if no-one complains).
Y is always the Yak.
Z is only and ever, always and evermore a Zebra!
The tortoise is not big,
Or even heavy;
He is still.
Still as stones,
His shell of bone
So hard but sensitive.
It bruises, bleeds, the keratin
Is the magnificent excess of
The same that is our fingernails.
If a ‘shell’; if you don’t think that it
Is so very much a part of him,
Think ‘why a shell?’; what animals
Do you know with a ‘shell’?
The weight of ocean molluscs
Is with him; the animal
That is shell, is ocean, ocean stone,
So still, the weight of ocean, land,
And time is with him.