by Patrick Campbell
So the little man appeared
looking frankly rather weird.
It was Deepak a local farmer
dressed in crimson red pyjamas
and hair in total disarray
not having seen a comb all day,
as though he’d just got out of bed,
which, in truth, he really had.
My goodness, it was hard to say
who was more scared, Deepak or they.
So Chair remarked, all honey-tongued,
“It’s good to see you here among
your fellow creatures at this event.
Your invitation card was sent
but sadly must have gone astray;
you just can’t trust the post these days.”
It was of course extremely glib
of Chair to tell this awful fib,
but let’s forgive her for it made
Deepak a little less afraid.
“You are our friend,” Chair softly said,
“though certain humans do we dread.”
But poor Deepak felt quite subdued
with Tiger eyeing him as food,
and took some seconds to collect
some thoughts to which they’d not object.
“Ten minutes past I was in bed,
but couldn’t sleep a wink,” he said.
“And since my house is just behind
the beach, I thought I’d clear my mind
by coming down here for a stroll
where normally there’s not a soul.
But tonight, out of the blue,
I find the inmates of the zoo
and feel that I’m the captive here.”
Tigress came a shade too near.
“Aren’t you rather short on tact
in mentioning the shameful fact
that humans have throughout the ages
locked us up in dreadful cages?
Tell me, have you ever eaten
creatures present at this meeting?”
The man gazed sadly at the sand.
for yesterday he’d had roast lamb,
and what was more, his staple diet
was chicken curry. Why deny it?
“Yes, there are some at this meeting
That I must confess I’ve eaten.”
Tigress snarled and slowly crept
towards the little man, then leapt.
But Deepak quickly saved his skin
by clambering up the Tamarind
so quickly that the polecat asked,
“How could he get up there so fast
without some monkeys in his past?”
But, you see, no-one had grasped
that he had first shinned up that tree
when he was only two or three,
so every foothold did he know.
MeanwhileTigress raged below
And snarled, “You’ll never get away
you’ll be my breakfast yet, I say!”
And then that lovely, dangerous beast
Retreated twenty yards at least,
and with a powerful running jump
landed on the Tamarind’s trunk,
gripping it with fearsome claws;
but then .... oh such a pregnant pause,
for to her horror and her shame,
she couldn't lift her muscled frame
another inch; so she was stuck
like a limpet to a rock.
What's more, she couldn't turn around,
so gingerly she reached the ground
bottom first, which meant her pride
sank as low as prides can slide.
There is a lesson here for all
about how pride precedes a fall,
for when the strong attack the weak
outside their own backyard, defeat
may loom for the invading foe,
who never knows what locals know.
Still wounded by the accusation
Of being man's long lost relation,
Chimp ran up the Tamarind tree
shouting, "Hey there! Look at me!"
then swung from one branch to another
as though his limbs were made of rubber.
"You can't do that," he told the man,
"so how can we be cousins then?
For if you have evolved from us
why would you lose a skill that must
have helped your species to survive?
And since you seem to be deprived
of skills like swinging through the trees,
what can you do that's special, please;
give us one of your party tricks?"
This put Deepak in a fix.
He scratched his tousled head and thought,
"I'm not the acrobatic sort.
Nor, as I willingly admit,
do I have a ready wit.
So what to do to prove that men
are cleverer by far than them?"
Then from his house along the lane
behind the head-high sugar cane
that covered more than half his farm,
he heard the sound of his alarm,
that awful jangling noise that keeps
us from enjoying extra sleep.
It was set for half-past five
ten minutes clear before sunrise,
for from first light did Deepak toil
in that grudging, sandy soil.
The clock told him that very soon
the sun would chase away the moon;
and though the night was black as coal,
very soon would they behold
the dawn make bright the shadowed land.
"My party piece is rather grand,"
he said. "You see how dark the sky is?
Well, my friends, what I shall try is
conjuring up the light of day
because I, Deepak Dinkar say!"
They waited just a minute more
and then the sun began to pour
her gentle light across the sea
into the branches of the tree.
The animals were all amazed
to see the mighty planet raised
by a little man in red
pyjamas not long out of bed.
Now frightened, they stood back a bit
but guilt led Deepak to admit,
"They wanted party pieces, Chair,
but what I did was hardly fair,
feigning powers I don't possess.
Perhaps you will more impressed
by a poem I wrote about
two friends I couldn't do without,
my lovely wife and faithful dog.
when they are sleeping like a log
and I’m awake; a strange idea
goes round my head as you shall hear:
The biped and the quadruped
with whom I nightly share my bed
display a curious rapport
as they whistle, snort and snore.
In unison they play sonati
on their breathing apparati,
as though a maestro had composed
a serenade for throat and nose.
It pleases me, this dialogue,
but which is wife and whìch is dog?
When silence reigns again, I think
about the strange primeval link
that makes a spaniel and a dame
sound fundamentally the same.
By day of course they're chalk and cheese;
he only comes up to her knees
and has a rather hairier chest
than that with which my wife is blessed.
But who, dear spaniel, can deny
that we're of one blood, you and I?
For aren't our organs, limbs and faces,
situated in like places?
This should be quite enough to show
that out of one seed did we grow.
But, friends, let's face the facts, and one
is, though we can't command the sun,
in brainpower frankly we're the tops;
that's why we, not you, grow crops
of paddy, rice and sugar cane
and fly about in aeroplanes"
Mink sniffed, "why do you men pretend
to be all-knowing when you spend
your life behind the farmyard walls,
cut off from all that's natural?
You may think you've worldly cares,
but were you ever chased by bears?
And have you ever watched the sky
in fear as hawks and owls passed by?
Can you imagine how it feels
when coyotes stalk and steal
towards you in the undergrowth.
Why not admit it? You'd be loath
to swap your life for mine; yet think
of all the harm you do us minks
by shooting, trapping, breeding us;
And why? To eat us? No, it's just
to warm your wealthy ladies' shoulders.
But would they really be much colder
wearing cloths in weaves and twills
made by machine, so no-one's killed?"
“I have no answer, little one,”
Said Deepak. “Things are surely done
That shouldn’t be. What can I say
but hope it will be stopped one day?”
But then Crocodile complained
that his species had been slain,
not for food but ladies’ bags
as advertised in glossy mags.
“Coats and bags!” protested Chair.
“I know I should be neutral here,
but though not skinned of hide and hair,
we elephants know this crime, I fear.”
A tear fell from Chairlady’s eye
as she recalled the sad demise
of many thousands of her kind
killed for ivory humans find
will make them rich in countries where
concern for living things is rare.
“Look, we know that Nature’s cruel.
To eat, we kill. It’s Nature’s rule.
It’s such a pity more can’t be
vegetarians like me.
Why not join me? Why not beat
this antisocial taste for meat?
But men! to kill for things to wear
and ornaments at which to stare!
For this we surely must condemn
the greed and cruelty of men.”
Not a single beast or bird
From this point of view demurred.
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