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Lions And Tigers And Bears, Oh My

By John I. Blair

In 1944 my mother
Took me and my brother to the zoo
A small zoo in a small park
With a small budget.

It was during World War II
And people craved amusement,
Even if the best that they could do
Was stare at animals staring back.

I was too young to comprehend
Why the breeze smelled so bad,
Too young to feel
How sad it was to watch

The proud cats pacing
Two steps one way, two another,
Trapped in their tiny, filthy cages,
Scarcely twelve by twelve;

The bears, groaning
As they licked at sores
Worn by endless rubbing
And sniffed the sour ammonia air;

And the monkeys, worst of all,
Seeming in despair, no longer cared
What they did, peeing, defecating
In their food, their water.

We hurried through the rest,
Grimaced at the alligators,
Stopped our ears
Against the roars, the screams.

After, by the duck pond,
A cool drink from a fountain
Helped us to forget, released
Some smiles just for our Kodak.

2009 John I. Blair


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