Toledo Zoo was heaven…

Bubbles and Cupid and Toledo

Bubbles and Cupid drew us to Toledo,
Ohio – Toledo…, Ohio… for vacations – In
Toledo? people there asked us
as if no one, ever, vacationed in Toledo,
Ohio, and in most places I guess this is a
normal way to think, but this was
our Disneyland, our holiday, and
Bubbles and Cupid the main attraction;
these were grand days with grand hippos
bathing and swimming casually in the world’s
(once) only filtered hippoquarium where
we came nose to nose with the hippos
for hours and hours of loyal visits,
there from open to close, acquiring
a familiarity with these pachyderms
and the scents of the Zoo, posing for
family photos for Christmas cards,
buying anything and everything imprinted
with a hippo; it was innocent enough –
our love affair with hippos came from a son
who, for some inexplicable reason which
refused explanation (inexplicable, remember),
as such reasons should; we loved, no…, obsessed,
over all kinds of animals and especially
hippos – thick skinned, non-ruminating
leviathans , secreting that blood-like goo
under duress like Jesus in Gethsemane,
the most dangerous beast of Africa,
deceptively fast from here to there,
swimming laps with hind quarters
suspended as they floated like ballerinas,
breached like whales, and wallowed lazily
in the shallows, submerged for minutes
on end before surfacing with a burst,
with twisting ears and flaring nostrils
in front of wide eyes dark with age
but never fear, this couple we loved
and could tell apart but not by
obvious reasons – ours was a defining
devotion uncrowded by other distractions
and recognized by a befriending
zookeeper who once took
us inside the shelter and lifted our
children up, leaning over a high, sturdy
barrier, over the gaping mouth of Bubbles
so they could toss a treat of a whole,
unpeeled banana and then an apple
down her throat with her ivory tusks
just there, inches away, and after that,
well, there was little more to do
than revel, for who can say they’ve hand-fed
a hippo and lived to tell about it; such were
our exploits, such are our memories.

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