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‘An Armadillo Takes To The Stage At London Zoo’

I’m really not cut out
for showbiz.
I may look tough in my
leathery armour, but inside
my heart is
soft as mud.

I’m not
flashy. I don’t have the
meerkats’ swagger.
Nobody gasps
when an armadillo
shuffles in.

You’d think with all these plates
of bone covering my body, I wouldn’t be so
thin-skinned. But the
hardest shell won’t shield me from
the sniggers, the taunts.

My keeper says I should
try visualisation. I close my
eyes. Curl fossil-tight.
And suddenly I’m back
in Puerto Pinasco,

digging for grubs, the sun
hot on my back, my
claws thrust deep into moist soil.
Those aren’t butterflies
in my belly, oh no, they’re
termites. Those aren’t

jeering children, they’re
capuchins in the canopy.
The bell rings, and I’m
back in the green room.
Break a leg, mutters the
cloud forest pygmy owl.

I flex my claws
and commence my
head-down scuttle.
The cameras
flash and the crowd
goes wild.



Alex English is a children’s author and poet who lives in the south of England.

“I wrote this poem for Francine Elena’s open workshop ‘Dear Zoo – Writing Poems about Rare and Exotic Animals’. I was particularly inspired by Jane Yeh’s poem ‘An American Panda Leaves the National Zoo’. I love the conversational tone and humour. My poem came about after I took a trip to London Zoo with my sons and saw a rather shy armadillo who was part of one of the live shows for children. This is what I imagine was going through its head beforehand.”


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Image credit: Nathan Rupert