She leads me into the worn out wildlife park
where all the kookaburras care to say is ‘lol’.
Brown kangaroos remain slumped upon the green
like used teabags on a kitchen sink.
Alligators dreaming of their glory days
as stars on Miami Vice refuse to move until
they score a bit-part, one that’s bound to cost an arm and a leg.
While the Aldabra tortoise munches on salad
as it’s done for a hundred years, the great vegetarian
who has never thought to demand anything more of lettuce.
My girl skips and charges, fierce and innocent,
we come to this park every week.
She confronts the big reds—as buff as steroid users
who could kick the shit out of Olympians.
Singing her ABCs at the top of her voice
as emus beat box by, the lop-dop of a well-drum,
a billabong hidden somewhere inside their throats.
And the Burmese python who waits for us
inside the Reptile House, does nothing when we arrive
because it’s shed its skin and need do nothing again for weeks.
She gallops into darkness, past the whiptail lizard,
chameleons barely roll their eyes, the hog nose snake
forever smirking at her nostrils spread flat on the glass.
Then she turns the corner, finally stops, there is a girl
up ahead with her mum, the shock of a creature
the same age and height, they stare.
She backs into my legs.
This poem comes from the excellent joint book (with Kevin Brophy) called Radar.
It's available from :