Gentle Giant - Poem by Laurie Van der Hart

This hefty behemoth
This heavy herbivore
King of the African waters
Has teeth like ivory knives
The strength of an ox in its hips
The power of Hercules in its belly
It handles a crocodile with ease
Laughs at the hungry cats
Tramples humans in the course
Of protecting its space
Or its calves
And yet...

The humongous hippo is not a predator
It's the most tolerant parent
Of playful kids
Patiently putting up with their antics
Posing as a rock of refuge
For egrets and turtles,
Letting off only the occasional
Steamy snort and echoing grunt
And have you seen a hippo
Doing somersaults?
On my oath
I have

But most endearing of all
In the croc-infested rivers
And lakes of Africa
Where many a gazelle
Or impala, or little gnu
Falls prey to the lurking crocs
Submerged in the muddy water
When they lower their heads to drink
Or have to cross over
In the Great Migration
Something happens that l call
Hippo Rescue 911

A desperate creature
Caught in the clench
Of crocodile jaws and teeth
Struggles for its life
Kicks and writhes
But cannot escape
When from the waters
Themselves, help emerges
A hippo moves into the scene
Reminds the croc
Of his superior strength
And the croc is off

Hippo nudges that little
injured thing with his snout
Against the water current
Gently escorts it to the shore
Opens those enormous jaws
And encloses the creature's tiny head
In his mouth - I'm not kidding
Fondles it, nurses it back to life
Helps it onto its wobbly legs
Shoos it away from the danger
Fiercely wards off any attempts
Of the croc to reclaim its prey

And when, sometimes, that
Little gnu or gazelle
Succumbs to its injuries
Breathes its last
On the muddy river bank
The hippo stays by its side
Hoping to will it back to life
But, finally, finally
Leaves it lying there
For the tender hippo knows
That crocodiles also
Must eat

Poems by Laurie Van der Hart

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