Any reference to any real monkey, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. However, if you are a monkey and if the cap fits, please do not hesitate to wear it.
Reader and listener discretion is advised.
PS This manuscript was begun at midnight and completed just before mid-day on April 1, 2012.
These Monkeys Bite
A large sign at the entrance to Bristol Zoo, off Clifton Downs, announces to visitors the zoo’s motto: “Ask the animals: they will teach you.” My visits to Bristol Zoo always lead me to the Monkey Temple. It is an old, ruined, Indian Temple, half-hidden in the trees and populated by a colony of monkeys. Sometimes, the monkeys are playing in the open, sometimes they aren’t. Patience is everything: sooner or later, the monkeys will appear, revealing themselves in all their splendor.
I do not like to call these refuges from modern city life zoos; rather, I think of them in terms of nature reserves, preservation centers, museums, art galleries with living portraits, areas where human beings can break from the city’s restlessness and come face to face with a tiny part of a lost natural world, a world which we are so busily destroying.
Are monkeys people, you ask? Of course they aren’t. But they do have human qualities and there is no better place to see these human qualities than in the Monkey Temple. Do animals accurately reflect human qualities? Of course they don’t. The monkeys in the Monkey Temple are the distorting mirrors of fair ground, circus, and exhibition where bodies are fattened and flattened, thinned and skinned, turned inside out into falsified figures, stick creations bent out of woolly wires designed for cleaning pipes.
Please be reassured: the poems in Monkey Temple do not refer to any specific monkey, living or dead. If you see an aspect of yourself, or myself, twisted beyond the norms of reality, do not fret: it is entirely accidental, taken from the monkeys themselves.
Remember: “Ask the animals: they will teach you.”
But, be warned: do not place your fingers near the cages — these monkeys bite.