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  • David Mathews

You can't have too many poems about hippos



I'm reading my poem 'Hippopotamus Cambrensis' at Caffi Soar in Merthyr Tydfil tomorrow, 23 April at 2pm. It’s a launch for Arachne Press’s A470 Poems for the Road/Cerddi’r Ffordd. I thought I’d better have an extra hippo poem handy.


Asylum

As hippos go, he is light on his feet, not strictly the tango king, but nimble enough to climb the scree, and shimmy over the compound’s palisade.


Guided by stars and night breezes, he pads through villages and sleepy lanes to the channel shore. In the dark, he searches soft and soundless along the beach.


Soundless on the shingle? No miracle this – our hero’s pace matches the breaking waves.


At the water’s edge he finds discarded zodiacs. He steps in one. It sinks. Another floats, and hippo’s robust farts propel him seaward, into the jeopardy of the shipping lanes.


Ferries and tankers skirt him at first light, till hippo looms at HMS Vainglorious. Oh God, Skip, says the officer of the watch, what’s the protocol for rescuing a hippo?


We look at hippos, and we smile, don’t we? But at sea hippos are, how to say it, tricky?


Somehow to Dover, fodder and the RSPCA, until the world stops to watch, on deck, a pachyderm prime minister applaud the migrant, uniquely eager for Rwanda.

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