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U3A Writing: The Zoo

Cassandra Bicker’s splendid poem is a rebellion in rhyme against life behind bars.

’Twas on a day that seemed the same
As all those gone before.
A gentle mist obscured the scene
And muffled pre-dawn roars

Of three old lions, waking still
Within their lair of bars.
Of lonely tiger, fellows gone,
To prowl among the stars.

None could possibly have known
What this day would entail,
Though the elephant claimed feeling
A strange twitch within his tail.

The monkeys chattered, teasing him,
“Ol’ droopy nose ’as lost it!
’E can’t tell ’ead from hand or foot!
They took ’is mind and tossed it!”

The wizened rhino shook his head,
And menaced with his horn,
But he no longer scared the chips –
Its point was blunt and worn.

Then as the zoo gates spread out wide,
Their iron hinges creaking,
A little boy with golden hair
Ran in, new sneakers squeaking.

“Do you remember jungles?”
Came his tiny, piping words.
“Savannahs? Snowscapes? Mountains?
The sound of multi-coloured birds?”

They shook their heads, eyes growing dim,
But then a voice replied,
“I remember how an Indian Brave
Claimed me to be his Guide. . .”

They all looked at the young she-wolf,
And murmurs spread around.
“I remember grass!” “I remember wind!”
“Curling up upon the ground

With all the members of my herd
And knowing real content.”
They nodded, shifted, rumbled low,
Giraffe, long neck she bent.

“Why taunt us with these memories
When we live trapped in here?
Why speak to us of heaven
When, alas, it’s nowhere near?”

The boy just smiled, tapped his nose,
And gave a little wink.
Then with a laugh, skip of his toes,
All vanished in a blink.

Away from bars, away from chains,
And taunting, teasing crowds.
Away to where they all ran free,
Their softened cries grew proud.

I do not know how they all went,
Though I was there to see.
I often fancy he was God
And set His creatures free.

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