A day at the zoo

elephants resized

We took our grandson to the zoo at half term and I started writing an account of the day for my personal blog. Then I realised it had rhythms and hidden rhymes so I worked on it till I had a free-form poem.

It was a grey day

in February

and we paid a lot to get in.

They seemed to think it their due.

They were not there for our entertainment

but rather we

were there to contribute to postponing

their extinction

and after all

that’s the stated purpose of the zoo.


The elephants

were first. They stood stone still,

a faint greenness on their hides suggesting

moss had gathered

while they watched their waterfall.


The rhinos

regarded an English February

as beyond the pale.

They dozed in their dim house,

the baby disguised as what we thought at first

was his mother’s swollen knee

but his ear flickered slightly

giving the deception away.


The meerkats

had disappeared

(maybe underground?)

and we couldn’t find

the giraffe.


The monkeys

were truly glad to see us.

I think we

alleviated their boredom.

They scampered out to their

moated peninsula with glee.

Each time we left their house to see

they climbed back in

and when we returned

to the leaf shaded glass hall

out they went again.

A fine game

was had by all.


The zebra lay sleeping side by side

in a stripe of sunlight they had found

while next door to their compound

the bongo

gracefully camouflaged himself

in the shadow of his wooden hall

and pretended he wasn’t really there at all.


There were deer

(of various kinds)

too shy to give us more

than a fleeting glimpse,

A warty pig

(not to be confused with a warthog)

and a capybara

that seemed to be where

the map thought the meerkats might have been.


And still we couldn’t find the giraffe.

You’d think a long neck would help but no,


we saw some camels huddled

in a knobbly ring.

They circled,

doing (perhaps) an esoteric

camel dance.

The reason was something

not for us to know.


Only one tiger

was visible, pacing

with a look of impatience

while his mate and child


somewhere safe and secret

until the keepers were due

to bring their meal.

The male, I’m quite sure, saw us as an alternative

if the keeper should chance

to be late that day at the zoo.


The cheetahs tried

to hide

(to cheat?)

on a roof in their enclosure


it was still winter so we

could see them through the bare trees

and they looked less than pleased.


The Asiatic lions,

however, were proudly on display,

the male roaring a huge sound

– far too big for his size –

to let us know we should stay away.


There were birds ignoring us:

storks, cranes, and I think

a flamingo


as I missed it I have no

idea whether it was pink.

There were also ducks,

some of which were strolling on the paths like us,

like the blackbirds and starlings joining in

a general search, human and avian,

for snacks (or crumbs).




had decided there might be rich pickings at the zoo.

They must have had the sense

to avoid the big cats.

Either that

or they were extremely fast.


The fruit bats

simply dreamed on their branches all day

though a few


and fought and slept again

pretending to be strange fruit

and by this ruse fool

their natural prey.


The chimpanzee

house was closed for maintenance,

whether of the house, inmates or both

the sign failed to say.


By the time we reached the butterfly house

that was closed too

because it was almost the end of our day

at the zoo.

There were signs

saying ‘aviary’ and ‘aquarium’

but by then

we were on the way


They would have to wait

for another day.


We joined merging streams

flowing towards the gate.

There was tension in the air,

an anxiety not to be late,

locked on the wrong side

at some keeper’s whim.

What did the inmates make

of all these others in their bright coats

who came every day and invariably left

at teatime?


Then we were all spilling, tumbling into car parks,

chattering about what we hadn’t seen

and what we’d wanted to see.

(We still hadn’t found the giraffe.)

But whatever we had observed

it was time we dispersed

to our own family paddocks,

our own keepers

and our own tea.

4 thoughts on “A day at the zoo

    • Glad you liked it. Colin has photos. My camera appeared to be sulking and Gail hadn’t brought hers. I suppose it might work as a children’s book – will think about it!! Thanks.

  1. Delightful! The elusive giraffe made me grin and grin, and also the rhinos grumpy in English winter, and the camel dance, and the family paddocks at the end 😀 I agree, this would make a delightful children’s book with a good illustrator.

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