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Caleb Parkin What We Animals Do A poem inspired by Bristol Zoo

Bristol City Poet
Caleb Parkin

Written by Caleb Parkin

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A poem inspired by Bristol Zoo Gardens.

When the gates are locked
     and the lights turned off,
            what do the animals do?

Does the lemur remove
     the bright rings of his tail,
hang each, brightest white,
     out to dry on a rail?

Do the flamingos line up
     and line-dance in sync,
in the highlighter-glow
     of their feathery pink?

When we visitors leave
     and the gift shop goes dark,
            what do the animals do?

Does the chameleon select
     her favourite shade of – what?
We’ll never know which colour
     she chose, with no-one there to watch.

Do the butterflies land
     on one extra-large leaf,
try on different patterns
     like it’s Fashion Week?

And when they all sleep
    at night or by day,
            what do the animals do?

Do they dream from the earth,
     wound round branches on trees;
do they sigh for bright forests
     or the echoing seas –

and can we dream with them,
     in fin, fur, and scale?
With one ant-sized action,
     hope, big as a whale?

When the lights go back on,
    and we all meet again –
            just imagine, imagine

what we could do then.

Bristol Zoo Gardens has been working with Caleb Parkin, Bristol City Poet, to create a series of online poetry classes with top tips and advice on honing literary skills. Visit this page to find out more.

Image credit: Paul Samuel White

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