Animals of the World Unite! (Part Two)
Then Hippo boldly took the floor,
and gazed towards a distant shore
as though imbued with noble thoughts
to put before the animal court;
and with a grave, imperial air
he turned towards the tusky Chair,
and said, “Your Excellency, pray,
I have important things to say.”
He stood there like some great black pig.
"I know,” he said, “I’m rather big,
but though a featherweight I’m not,
I still can reach a nifty trot
of more than thirty miles an hour,
the ultimate in grace and power.
Though I bow to hares and cheetahs
over just one hundred meters,
I’d beat the pants off any man.
as most of you here present can.
A hunter once strayed near my herd,
shooting anything that stirred.
What did I do? Beat a retreat?
and let him make us hippo meat?”
At this point he chose to pause,
anticipating some applause.
Together they all answered, “No!”
and called his name, “Hippo! Hippo!”
Loving his fifteen minutes’ fame,
he called for silence, then proclaimed,
“You’re right, my friends, I upped and ran
hell for leather at the man.
He turned and sprinted for his car;
(you know what cowards these humans are!).
for even with a gun in hand
he hadn’t got the guts to stand
his ground. I caught him up of course
running like an Arab horse,
and rammed his fleeing derrière
so he went faster through the air
than ever had he on the ground
making a sort of moaning sound.”
Chair thought these remarks revealing,
and sought to know the general feeling.
"How many of you here tonight
have seen a human taking fright,
turning whiter than a sheet
just because you chanced to meet?”
Paws and wings reached for the sky
to catch Chairlady’s beady eye;
but her unexpected choice
fell on Spider’s tiny voice.
From high up in the Tamarind.
the insect now began to spin
downwards on a silken thread
and landed on Chairlady’s head.
She, though huge, was scared of all
such tiny things that crept and crawled;
but cool she dutifully kept
as the spider slowly crept
down her trunk onto the beach
to make her little maiden speech.
“Often have I crossed man’s path,
usually when he has his bath.
Once, when I climbed his naked foot,
he made blood-curdling screams that put
the sparrows of the town to flight.
It’s not as if I even bite.
Yet, yelling still, the man rushed out
into the garden, still without
a stitch of clothing; why did he,
a beefy man of six foot three,
a thousand times the size of me,
behave quite so ridiculously?”
They scratched their heads and racked their brains
but no explanations came.
Then Tigress, not the type to seek
permission from the Chair to speak,
produced a rather deafening roar
and uninvited took the floor.
She said, “I’d gone out for some supper
and at the time was strolling up a
lonely jungle track when lo!
incredibly, there was the foe.
There he was as bold as brass
the animal who preys on us,
who shoots us for our gorgeous fur.”
Here she gave a girlish purr
and asked what other quadruped
was thus adorned from toe to head;
and to the great surprise of each
she fairly minced along the beach
like some feline fashion sort
on her special bigcatwalk.
This rather shameless show of pride
one must admit was justified
by Nature’s wondrous painting skills
which leaves all tigers dressed to kill,
with sable streaks on tawny tints
all singular as fingerprints.
Tigress then resumed her tale
of happenings on that jungle trail.
“As we exchanged a wide-eyed stare,
he said a not so silent prayer,
and as my taste buds weighed him up
as something choice on which to sup,
as entrée or perhaps hors d’oeuvre,
the beast we fear quite lost his nerve.
He quickly dropped onto one knee,
refusing utterly to flee.
Now there are rules about these things;
no self-respecting tigress springs
upon a meal without a chase.
Puzzled, I breathed upon his face,
urging the rascal to obey
the ground rules for impending prey,
the first of which is Run Away.
To my surprise this made him faint,
at which I exercised restraint
and left him on that lonely track
to get his famous sang-froid back.
You see, just take away his gun,
and strength and courage has he none.
So what’s the silly theory worth
that he is master of this earth?”
A distant gurgling noise was heard
as though some fish desired a word.
Chair called out, “Now don’t be nervous;
bring your mouth above the surface
so we’ll hear you loud and clear.”
And so Cod’s tiny head appeared.
“This won’t be easy, Madam Chair,
for I can’t breathe landlubber’s air.
I need my natural H2O
that I can only find below.
So should I disappear from sight,
please don’t think I’ve taken fright.
It’s just that every now and then,
I need a whiff of oxygen.”
“You’re welcome,” Chair said with a grin,
“whether out or whether in.”
So, though submerging now and then,
Cod gave his carping views on men.
“My grumble’s all about the odds
against survival for us cods.
Safety in numbers we always say,
and, my friends, there was a day
we never knew there was a whole
new world outside our family shoal.
For countless as the stars were we
with cod as far as the eye could see.
But now it’s a different kettle of fish
and not the kettle we would wish.
If now I see a cod within
A hundred yards I wave a fin.
He waves in recognition too;
it’s what endangered species do.
Then we survivors of the nets
sing a lachrymose duet
in memory of those who’ve died
and ended up boiled, grilled or fried.
Look, I know men have to eat
but soon we’ll all be obsolete.
So gaze upon me well, my friends,
you may not see my like again.”