By Dilantha Gunawardana

The giraffe says I’m too tall
And evolution – like man – doesn’t like the tall poppy
And yet the bamboo bows to the brown ants
Letting these busy bodies know
How humble they really are. While the elephant
Wags his trunk and pick pockets some lunch
From the leafy bushes, trumpeting
Like an aboriginal man high on some pituri,
Blowing a didgeridoo. And all the while
The platypus looks in the mirror
And gives a pep-talk on how the ugly duckling
Transforms to a beautiful swan. An ostrich
Runs with a train, falling over like a ball of fluff,
Rolling like hay balls in a ghost town.

The fruticose lichens grow into coral like shrubs
While the coralloid Cycas roots rise up for a wisp
Of air, as the great barrier reef goes
Through yet another episodic bleaching cycle.
And in this imperfect equilibrium you find
A ghost owl screeching loudly, harbingers
Of the inevitable – a warming world.

And out there on an Arctic iceberg, a polar
Bear looks up at the glare, while little penguins
Become tanned on their snowy skin.
While in a beach in Sydney, a little melanoma
Will soon metastasize to the breast canals
And the lymph nodes. Still the common man
Looks at the mad men of science, the egg heads
Shouting inconvenient truths and puts the
Air-conditioner on. Far away, in an oil-polluted
Creek in India, a little boy floats a paper boat
While a stray puppy sleeps next
To a mammoth garbage dump. Animal whisperers
And Dr Doolittles gather around a round table
In Nairobi, listening to neglected voices,
Of those who only have an embattled identity
In a red list.

All the while, the crimson tide rises
On makeshift graveyards, where vultures
Hover like drones and hyenas laugh
Like giggling teenage girls. And all we can do
Is sit in front of a TV, and watch the National Geographic Channel
Wishing upon lustrous starfish on a sooty sky.
And I ponder how simply awful it must be
For a species to be like the three ignorant monkeys
“See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil”.

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