One summer hot in Africa
Good water holes were very rare
Except one open area
Where heaven’s blessing did prepare.

So, to this blessed water hole
The King of Lions led his pride;
Some dozens made their royal stroll
To where refreshment did abide.

And also came the Hippo Lord
Who led his massive, thunderous pod;
Those families in one accord
Had thirsted much with every plod.

Both groups arrived in that good place
One from the east, the other west.
Opposing sides glared face at face,
Hostility was manifest.

But cooler heads prevailed that day.
The Lord agreed to meet the King
Within the pond about midway,
Two guardians the both could bring.

They met and talked and terms agreed.
The groups would share the hole as such:
Both groups were free to drink as need,
The water’s edge each one could touch.

But wash and splash or swim and play?
Each group was limited each week
To every other normal day
With rare exception they could seek.

So Hippos took days one, three, five
And Lions had two, four, and six.
Agreement meant both groups would thrive
And no one could deceive with tricks.

Day seven, both agreed, was out,
A Sabbath rest to honor God
Who brought this blessing to their drought
To both the pride and to the pod.

That day the hole would find its rest
Though all could drink to their content.
These choices both had thought were best
And made with all the best intent.

Some weeks gone by, both held their trust,
Abided by their contract made.
But slowly withering like rust
Their peacefulness had so decayed.

The Hippos thought the Lions had
Used too much time to leave the hole
Which cut their time and made them mad
And felt their time the Lions stole.

The Lions claimed ‘twas cultural
For royalty must not be rushed,
And lowly creatures bestial
Should have their peasant wantings crushed.

Now Lions thought the Hippos spoiled
The hole with all their washings for
Their bloated bodies always soiled
And massive droppings by the shore.

The Hippos scoffed and called them weak
For primping, preening, licking fur.
The strongest ones will always reek
And cause the weakest ones to stir.

These mild complaints turned deadly sour
When on a Sabbath day was caught
A Lion lounging in that hour
Within the hole when he should not.

The Hippos roared at that outrage.
The Lions snarled ‘twas just an err;
He’d dozed off and forgot to gauge
The time of day–this he did swear.

But that next day a Lion cub
Was trampled by a Hippo’s foot
They claimed ‘twas hard to see their stub
And where each giant step was put.

Revenge, claimed Lions, their cub maimed!
An accident, clapped Hippos back,
One like that erring Lion claimed
Whose overtime had just been slack.

With growls and snorts both sides were tense,
Both argued that their side was right.
The other side lacked common sense,
And every action was a slight.

Next day the Lions took a calf
Who’d strayed too close to their own group
And tore it up and had a laugh
Then cooked it up into a soup.

Unknowing, too, the Hippos stole
A Lion cub and used it for
A game of kicking to a goal
Until it moved around no more.

So when a Lioness had found
The body, all the pride grew mad.
But Hippos found some bones around
And then the soup the Lions had.

Both screamed and roared at both these crimes
And faulted all the other side.
Their life-long hate, in peaceful times,
Both parties could no longer hide.

An all-out war took place that day
Within that former peaceful pond.
Of equal numbers both did slay
Throughout the night as morning dawned.

The sunrise showed the sad result:
The Lions dead, the Hippos slain.
To find a spot was difficult
That blood and guts did not contain.

The Lion King lay dead beneath
The Lord of Hippos torn apart
By sharpened claws and angry teeth.
And few who lived did then depart.

The water hole had been despoiled;
It stank of blood, which brought the flies.
All passersby had cringed, recoiled,
And run away with frightened cries.

Some years gone by, it was agreed
By later generations there
To build a tomb to mark the deed
And make their children full aware.

And built it was for all to see,
A muddied sepulcher equipped
To show the heart of bigotry:
A dirty, Lion-Hippo crypt.

(Photo by Bianca Marolla)