Those Extra Stripes

by Duncan Jones

“I wish to look so strong and tough
And wear those extra stripes!”
Said the youngest of the zebras
(His were only blacks and whites)

The quickest glance across the herd
Would show a sea of scars
Some seen only in the daylight
Some seen even under stars

And the unaware was mesmerized
He wanted to look brave
He did not understand the look
Was not a thing to crave

So one by one he met and asked
The elders marked and scarred
And all the hardened others
That he held in high regard

He found some had met the giant teeth
That wait below the deep
And many had met the golden cats
That haunt the herd asleep

Some had heard the laughter
In the darkest, blackest night
And some had run with the painted dog
And exhausted, turned to fight

But then he met an older one
With no scar upon his hide
No mark of any kind at all
No limping in his stride

And so the younger asked the old
How this had come to be
“I mean no disrespect at all
But you still look like me!”

“Well how can I speak of circumstance
Fortune, destiny or fate?
You may soon yet wear extra stripes
All you need to do is wait

For I too have run with the painted dog
And I have met the golden claws
I have heard the haunting laughter
And I have met the river’s jaws

I guess that some of us are lucky
And time just lets us last
But then again,” the elder grinned
“Some of us are very fast!”