Grass Roots Open Writers

Animal Kingdom


I am Tal-a-roo-rus, which means 'Basket Tail'.  In fact it is my hips which are basket shaped.

I am a dinosaur belonging to the ankylosaur family. I have four tree-trunk legs and stand four square.

Not all ankylosaurs have armour, but I'm built like an armoured tank. I stand 5.7 metres long and 5 metres tall. I need my club of a tail to repel the predators that are twice my size. I am able to topple them with a mighty swing against their leg. With a leg broken, it cannot rise so is left to the mercy of the other meat-eaters. In spite of such a heavy body, I can run at 20 miles an hour, if needs must.

Ankylosaurs have beaks which they use to nose their way through low undergrowth and to feed on the soft plants. Having no teeth the mashing of the crushing of the leaves is done inside the muscular stomach, with the help of swallowing stones.

All dinosaurs come from eggs. With luck I will die of old age at about 100 years. Most herbivores had some sort of device to protect themselves. Some had horns or whip-tails that, when used, broke the sound barrier. Some could run up to 40 miles per hour. Some had daggers on their feet and hands.

Maggie Palmer


There is one zoo, and because it is far north, they can have animals who like winter the most. There is a polar bear, a polar fox, a snow leopard, white wolves, snow crabs, snow rabbits, almost white squerrils, snow owls, white mice and snow fleas, siberian huskies, siberian tigers and canadian geese. Fattened snow birds are coming back from Texas at Spring to nest. Reindeer give children rides on the sled, or on the back around the parameter of zoo.

Polar bear lives right next to the pool with the seals. The bear wakes up every morning with the idea: today I am going to catch my own seal. In the evening, when he goes to the cave he says: it doesn't matter, I will catch one tomorrow.

The bear lives by hope. Seals don't care, they know there is a wall between their headquarters and polar bear's. They do what seals do in one cold fall day: they swim, dive, frolic and have fun.

The bear tries to sleep in his cave, he is grumpy, because he realizes he probably will not catch his seal not today and not tomorrow either. 

Marie Neumann

The bears

Polar bear was lonely and being lonely for long isn't good even for polar bears, so people from the zoo did some thinking and money counting, and they decided to get another polar bear.

They wrote a letter to Philadelphia zoo where they had a young female bear. The answer came: she is too young, so she isn't suitable for such old grouch like Northern.

So people from the zoo sent e-mails to other zoo's. Second day there was an answer from the zoo in Brno, Czech Republic. Yes, they have Standa, and Standa will be just right company for Northern; the bear is for sale, and a bill was also pleasant.

Both zoo's agreed and a preparation for Standa's voyage began. Standa's housekeeper packed a birth certificate, list of shots, allergies (none), and a list of favorite foods. Northern zoo didn't have to do anything. Polar bear quarters were big enough to accomodate two bears and they can get enough of fish for both of them - no seals.

"The Northern zoo will pay shipping and handling."

"No, Northern zoo will pay shipping and a round trip for Brno's keeper to do handling from Brno to New York port." So Standa and his keeper received a train ticket from Brno to Hamburg and a boat ticket from Hamburg to New York. Northern zoo even paid for brand new cage.

So Standa departed. No one missed him. Board of director's of the Brno's zoo told him to write a letter after arrival. Of course the bears do not know how to write, so they didn't expect one.  

Marie Neumann

One Voice

The land is dry and barren,
grazed by constant hunger.
The atmosphere is restless
rippling through; infectious.

I feel it in vibration
of the hardened earth.
I hear it from deep throat
calling of communication.

Instinct strong; I know it's
time to be moving on; for
my calf cannot grow here
and I cannot stay alone.

Herds converge; buffering,
masking the young.
Swollen in number, we
traverse the African plain.

Amid a cacophony of panic,
I arrive at the Mara River.
Murky and flowing fast,
dust rising, choking, beneath
the scorched cloudless sky.  

Hemmed in by stamping hooves,
I freeze. Sheer trepidation alone
holds me back from the water.
Bank too steep, drop too vast
only the foolhardy cross here.

A thousand eyes roll; anxious.
Except, for the voracious eyes
of our jaw salivating predators
waiting to twist and thrash, and
tear us apart limb from limb.

Others wait in ambush; skulking
sandy, indistinct in the scrubland
weakness their last vestige of food,
before once more we return on mass
to grace their rain refreshed land.  

Survival bites, and I follow the tide
of steaming sinew further down river,
to a less precipitous approach.
The queue is noisy and impatient,
with bodies jostling for supremacy.

Suddenly; I am at the front, knees
buckling in the pressing weight
of Wildebeest and Zebra; the lighter,
Gazelles choosing their own path.
We all know what we have to do.

Mustering my hidden courage
I leap into the swirling melee;
galloping, legs flaying; ignoring
the debris of trampled muscle,
I focus only; on the bank ahead.

Midstream, I lose my footing.
Awash in the promise of death
I kick hard against the current.
The churning silted water;
floods my fully-flared muzzle.

With neck at fullest stretch
and channelling all abject fear
I strain for life-breathing air;
as my scrabbling feet, regain
the grip; of the solid river bed.

Grateful for release, and
with three reaching strides
I make it to the other side,
scrambling onto dry land.

I hear a desperate cry
individual from the rest.
Lost calf to a mother
survived to be reunited.

Joining the exodus
of the cloven snake line
we travel the way of our
ancestors to the new grass.

Moving, transient
following the rains
whilst he; will carve
his own charted path.  

Jan Hedger


A Red Kite  

'Look my son! Look
There's a kite flying high'
'Where Daddy, where?
Let me see!
But it has no string,
No tail of red ribbons
It has no one controlling its flight' '
Ah, no my son, it needs no string
No tail of red ribbons
No hand controlling its flight
For it's a kite of the air
A kite that is free'  

Jan Hedger


Have you sat in the shade?

Have you sat in the shade?
In the leafy glade
Beside the pool
Where it's nice and cool
And the frog rocks
In his purple socks
On his lily pad stage
Have you sat in the shade?
Cos' I have
I've sat in the shade
In a leafy glade
Beside the pool
Where it's nice and cool
And I've rocked
With the frog
In his purple socks
But I wore Yellow!  

Jan Hedger


Street Collection

I didn't mean to be sick! I tried hard not too,
but with the rockin' and rollin' - twists and turns, I couldn't help it. Please take me next.
I don't want to be the last dog in the van.

I know I look a frightful mess, but I've been sleeping rough you see.
My coats all matted and one eye's closed up.
Please take me next.
I don't want to be the last dog in the van.

I can hear you talking, saying 'we'll leave him till the end,
looks a bit of a brute; it'll take two of us I expect.'
Please take me next.
I don't want to be the last dog in the van.

I'm not a brute! I'm big but soft in nature.
It was the kick in the face that misshapen my teeth.
Please take me next.
I don't want to be the last dog in the van.

It's not really growling with anger,
it's communicating my fear. I've been cruelly treated, terribly.
Please take me next.
I don't want to be the last dog in the van.

They told me this would happen, the other strays on the street.
Gave me some advice, 'don't put up a fight.
Ask to be taken next,
You don't want to be the last dog in the van.'

You keep coming and going and ignoring me!
Dogs are leaving one by one. Just me, and little Scruffy left.
Please take me next.
I don't want to be the last dog in the van.

What's this? Scruffy is snapping and snarling!
Not like him. 'Alright fella, calm down, we'll leave you a while.
You can't be next.
You'll have to be the last dog in the van.

A hand frees the catch, quietly reaches in, so gentle I lick it.
'Are you okay with him?' 'Yes I'm fine; he's just a teddy bear.'
I'm going to be next!
I won't be the last dog in the van.

Scruffy winks as I pass his cage, with a knowing doggy look.
He did it for me! He knew it was my first time.
He's used to being next.
And not the last dog in the van.  

Jan Hedger

Billy the Bat

Have you heard about,
Billy the bat
Who sleeps upside down,
Like an acrobat?
Hanging from claws
His wings tucked in tight
He sleeps through the day
And flies by night
Flapping and fluttering,
And swooping low
But how does Billy,
Know where to go?
He follows the signals
That bounce here and there,
All round about him,
Vibrating the air
Munching on moths
And snapping at gnats
Feeding on flies
And teasing the cats
Skimming the water
Dodging round trees
Laughing at hedgehogs
Scratching their fleas
Oh Billy the bat Has so much fun
When the moon is high
And hiding the sun
But as he gets sleepy
And too tired to play
He flies back to his barn
To sleep over the hay.  

(c) Jan Hedger


Feeling the warmth of the sun on his back, Tinker slowly opened his eyes. What he saw amazed him, gone was the dimness of a winter's afternoon and gone too was the pain from which he had been suffering. Moreover he felt better than he had for many a long year and to add to it all when he moved his back leg for a good scratch he realized that he was much slimmer than he had been. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, he looked and felt like a young cat again.  

As he took in his new surroundings, he saw that he was in a large meadow dotted with trees, large boulders each had a flow of cool clear water running down their sides and in their shadows were bowls full of food. A gate stood at one corner while at the opposite corner was a pretty hump back bridge which crossed a tinkling brook that ran down one side of the meadow. Overhead the sun shone out of a cloudless sky, the temperature was very comfortable but there were patches of shade by the trees and boulders if needed. All in all the closest Tinker could imagine was that it was Pet Heaven.  

He felt so happy and relaxed that when he noticed many dogs, canaries and budgerigars surrounding him, he felt no inclination to chase, argue or fight with anybody. There too were a smattering of snakes, chameleons white rats, white mice, and various other creatures which he could not identify. As he lay there in the supreme comfort of his new surroundings, he heard a yapping sound he felt was familiar, A small brown, white and black dog was running towards him, calling him by name whilst wagging a stumpy tail in feverish excitement.  

"Grover!" exclaimed Tinker "is it really you?"  

"Yes it's me" shouted the little dog joyfully "welcome to Rainbow bridge"  
"Rainbow Bridge?" asked Tinker "whatever's that? Pet Heaven? - it certainly looks like it!"  

"Not exactly. I understand that we have to wait here until something really exciting happens" Grover replied "but I'm not sure what it will be."  
"How long do we have to wait?"  

"There is no time here at Rainbow Bridge" Grover replied "we must be patient. But we have all the time in the world now and here there is no danger, fighting or animosity of any kind"  

"So I see" said Tinker shaking his head to dislodge a passing canary that had perched on it.  

By now the sun was setting, but it felt just as warm as earlier; the two friends lay down by one of the trees.

"I don't really know how I got here" mused Tinker "I remember feeling really bad, the pain was awful, I felt something sharp on the back of my neck and then I felt oh so tired. All I could hear was Her sobbing then that faded and the next thing I was here with you, Grover"  

"Yes I know" replied Grover "the same thing happened to me. I had been feeling bad for some time until this strange man came up to my basket. But I was hurting so much that I hardly felt the pain on my neck, I couldn't see anything but could hear Her sobbing too, then I found myself waking up here."  There was a silence "Tinker?" called Grover, no reply. Just a gentle purring and heavy breathing "night night, Tinker, sleep well...................."  

So the two friends enjoyed themselves at Rainbow Bridge.

Every so often a human would enter the meadow through the gate, and every time some of the animals would go to greet them. They would walk over the meadow to the little bridge, cross over and disappear from view. The two friends could not understand what was happening.  

Many days passed until one day Grover looked towards the gate

"It's Her" he cried and with his little tail wagging furiously, he sprinted towards the slim redheaded lady who had just come through the gate.

"Dogs" said Tinker to himself "no patience, always running everywhere!" and, getting to his feet, slowly followed in Grover's tracks.  

He and Grover were swept up in loving arms, once again he heard the sobs, but this time they were sobs of happiness.   Joyfully the trio walked to the bridge

"Come on" She said "we are going to meet a Very Special Person, we mustn't be late."  As they crossed the bridge Tinker said

"I think I know where we are going." . 

"Where?" asked Grover  

"Why Heaven, of course" replied Tinker.

(C) Henry Dallimore


Otter Watch  

They writhed and tumbled
Co-joined, play fighting
Sleek wet bodies
In aquatic display.  

Mother whickered
Calling her children
For the butterfish meal
She'd caught fresh today.  

Two whiskered heads
Popped out of the water
"We're coming", they cried
Bellies empty from play.  

The bitch stepped aside
As her offspring fed
Appetites healthy, for
She'd raised them, that way.  

As dusk falls, I leave
Another satisfying day
Filming the elusive otters
Of Ardmaddy Bay.

(C) Jan Hedger



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