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Not On My Watch

June 23, 2013
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The zebras gather, waiting to cross
the deep, rushing waters of the Mara
needing to go from here to there
across a flow so fast even adults struggle
in the river’s hasty rush downstream.

Today a zebra foal tries its luck
but Mara has no pity for the young
sink or swim she cares not
the striped head dips underwater
resurfaces only to go back under.

Something dark rises out of the water
the large head of a hippopotamus
followed by its hulking body
which lunges after the struggling foal
death is a certainty this day, one thinks.

The massive shape of the river horse
whose strength defies Mara’s vehemence
blocks the foal’s downward ride
shepherding the babe to shallows
on the sought side of the uncaring river.

Dazed, the youngster can barely stand
gently the hippo nudges the weary foal
into a sheltering nook of rocks
the zebra is nuzzled with great jaws
that seem too big to be so gentle.

The giant creature coaxes the foal
until mother is reunited with her lucky foal
while its savior returns to the river
standing guard with a watchful eye
“Not on my watch, Oh Mara. Not on my watch.”



(poem based on a true story read in National Geographic Kids magazine)

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