The Zookeeper Sings the Blues

Jeni Curtis

I’m here to keep the animals, wolf, bear or kangaroo,
I’m the keeper of the animals, wolf, bear or kangaroo,
we aim for preservation, that’s the purpose of a zoo.

They live in their enclosures behind tall strong iron bars,
dwell in their enclosures, behind tall safe iron bars,
so people can enjoy them, their claws, their jaws, their scars.

You can hear the snarling tiger, and feel the lions roar,
the snarling fierce tiger, the resounding lion’s roar,
the squawking of the parrots, toucan, lorikeet, macaw.

The lemur from Madagascar has a long ringed curly tail,
he came from Madagascar with his long ringed curly tail,
to live in a foreign country, behind bars as if in jail.

The grey-backed hippopotamus, she swelters in her pool,
the gap-toothed hippopotamus rolls over in her pool,
it’s round and small and shallow, no way to keep her cool.

Their eyes watch me constantly, topaz, agate, amber,
I feel their eyes follow me, topaz, agate, amber,
they bore me like stigmata, with reproachful silent clamour.

The Romans they had circuses, the Spanish they have bulls,
the Romans had bread and circuses, the Spanish slaughter bulls,
all forms of entertainment to satisfy the fools.

The saddest of the animals, the big black chimpanzee,
he huddles in the corner, the sad-eyed chimpanzee,
we contemplate each other, which is him and which is me?

So many are endangered, we keep these in reserve
we’ve killed off all their brothers, we keep these in reserve,
if we manage now to save them, it’s more than we deserve.

One day I’ll take my keys and I’ll open every door
I’ll take my bunch of keys and open every gate and door
I’ll make a bid for freedom, reverse to jungle law.

But for now I take my bucket, filled with bone or grain
I take my metal bucket filled with bone and flesh and grain
I whisper to the animals, “you’ll soon be home again.”