…and time for a festive poem
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the zoo
A heavy snow fell and the winter wind blew.
Lions and tigers were curled up like kittens
While shivering apes dreamed of blankets and mittens.
The littlest monkeys were cuddled together,
Huddled up safe from the cold winter weather.
Old giant tortoises snored in their shells,
And none of them heard the faint tinkle of bells.
None of them saw the bright sleigh in the sky
That raced through the dark in the blink of an eye –
An old-fashioned sleigh pulled by nine flying deer
And a man dressed in red, bringing warm Christmas cheer.
None of them saw, save for one little chap,
A stripy young foal woken up from his nap.
The zebra foal yawned as he shook out his mane –
Were those bells he just heard? Was he dreaming again?
And what was that thing he could see in the sky,
Pulled by small antlered horses (if horses could fly)?
He stood in the snow, gazing upwards in wonder,
His little legs shaking, heart drumming like thunder,
But the zebra foal smiled as he watched them descend
Because somehow he knew that the man was a friend.
With a jingle of sleigh bells they came into land,
“Whoah-ho!” cried the man with a wave of his hand,
Then the laden sleigh drew to a halt by the foal
And a warmth filled his head and his heart and his soul.
The gate in his paddock fence melted away
And he trotted across to the magical sleigh.
“Hello little friend,” said the old man in red,
“I thought you’d be tucked up all warm in your bed,
But now that you’re here you can help me, perhaps:
My lead reindeer’s poorly and ready to collapse,
With a cold in his nose and a cough in his chest
Poor Rudolph could do with a bit of a rest.
I wonder, my friend, could you lead us instead?”
The zebra foal nodded his black and white head.
Soon he was harnessed, all eager, all ready,
The man took the reigns and he held the sleigh steady
As up, up, up they soared into the night,
And the zebra’s heart sang as his body took flight.
They soared over paddocks and snowy white grass,
Over cages with icicles gleaming like glass,
The snow stung his face and the winter wind blew
But the foal barely noticed and battled on through.
Then swooping down low over each nest and bed
The man left a gift next to each dreaming head –
Wonderful presents for all birds and beasts,
From woolly trunk warmers to monkey nut feasts.
There were cosy new slippers for sleepy sloth claws
And brushes and toothpaste for crocodile jaws,
With knitted hump hats for the cold camel calf
And an extra wide scarf for the long necked giraffe.
Soon every last creature throughout the whole zoo
Had a special gift waiting, all shiny and new,
Then the proud little foal brought the sleigh into land
And the man stroked his mane with a warm, loving hand.
“Well done there, my brave zebra friend,” the man said,
Ruffling the fur on his black and white head,
“Poor Rudolph seems better for resting a while
And it’s all thanks to you,” he announced with a smile.
“But there’s still one last gift that we mustn’t forget
And I hope you’ll agree it’s the best present yet,”
Then he reached up his hands and he pulled from his head
His own velvet hat, all cosy and red.
“If ever you’re lonely, or teary, or scared
Remember tonight and the magic we shared.”
Then the man tucked his hat over each zebra ear
And the little foal’s heart filled with fresh festive cheer.
“Merry Christmas, my friend, and farewell!” the man said,
As he led the foal back to his warm waiting bed,
Then he re-harnessed Rudolph and took to the skies
And the young zebra foal shut his tired little eyes.