The monkeys appear, as if by magic.
They tumble out of windows and doorways.
They clamber through the holes in the temple’s ruined roof.
They are quiet at first.
They inspect their surroundings.
They ogle the crowd gathering for the afternoon show.
They watch the watchers watching them.
They pulsate, for no reason at all, they pulsate, then ululate.
They jump up and down and swing from the temple’s roof.
They pontificate, gesticulate, and regurgitate.
They sit and sift for fleas.
They defecate and urinate.
They masticate cautiously.
They castigate and fornicate.
They ruminate. They masturbate.
They rush to the top of the temple
and on the uplifted faces of the crowd they ejaculate.
Monkey Temple is the first poem of the book of the same name. It serves as a Prologue. Below is my oral presentation of this poem.
Monkey’s Book Burning (Remembering Cervantes’s Scrutiny of the Library
and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451)
Who burnt Monkey’s books?
Who took them from their shelves,
evicted them into the courtyard,
built them into book stacks, like hay,
then applied gasoline, and a lighted match?
Monkey watches in horror
as smoke and flame devour his beloveds.
He tries to approach, but the fire is too hot.
One book jumps out from the smoke, still smoldering,
and monkey snatches it and carries it away beneath his coat,
the fire burn branded into its cover,
the skin still sizzling on monkey’s hand.
How many books were burned that day?
How many monkeys now walk in the woods,
trying to re-create their lives,
circulating their memories by word of mouth?
Moth is to candle as book is to flame.
Monkey runs his hand in and out of the candle.
He recalls the bonfires in the streets.
He coughs through the throat burn of smoke.
He touches the blistered scars of flame.
I am continuing today with my experiments with voice recordings, something that interests me very much. As I said earlier, my voice changes with audience and mood, and early morning, in Island View, with the microphone and Princess Squiffy as an audience, and the window open so the cool morning air can circulate before the heat of the day, is not the best way to induce mood, well, not in this reader anyway.
When I made the recording, I was reading from my book Though Lovers Be Lost (available on Amazon) my head was slightly turned away from the laptop’s built-in speaker, and, as a result, the reading is not as loud as I would have liked. It is also a little bit fast. I don’t mind the speed of it: when I was younger I would read this poem in a single breath, all 90 seconds or so of it. Now I need many breaths to get though it successfully. Ah, a young man’s fancy turned to dust …
I will do a retake of the poem, not on my laptop, but on my IMac, and I will add that later, below the first recording which will appear just below this introduction. Then I will add the text. Yesterday I offered text, then reading. Today I offer the reading first. That allows the listener to listen first and then read the text OR to start the audio recording and then follow the text as it is being read. This is a Wednesday Workshop and this is all part of my workshop experiments in reading. Wonderful fun and highly recommended. Thank you for being here with me and remember, your comments are more than welcome, they convert a workshop from a soliloquy into a dialog.
Second recording to follow
To be Welsh on Sunday
To be Welsh on Sunday in a dry area of Wales is to wish, for the only time in your life, that you were English and civilized, and that you had a car or a bike and could drive or pedal to your heart’s desire, the county next door, wet on Sundays, where the pubs never shut and the bar is a paradise of elbows in your ribs and the dark liquids flow, not warm, not cold, just right, and family and friends are there beside you shoulder to shoulder, with the old ones sitting indoors by the fire in winter or outdoors in summer, at a picnic table under the trees or beneath an umbrella that says Seven Up and Pepsi (though nobody drinks them) and the umbrella is a sunshade on an evening like this when the sun is still high and the children tumble on the grass playing soccer and cricket and it’s “Watch your beer, Da!” as the gymnasts vault over the family dog till it hides beneath the table and snores and twitches until “Time, Gentlemen, please!” and the nightmare is upon us as the old school bell, ship’s bell, rings out its brass warning and people leave the Travellers’ Rest, the Ffynnon Wen, The Ty Coch, The Antelope, The Butcher’s, The Deri, The White Rose, The Con Club, the Plough and Harrow, The Flora, The Woodville, The Pant Mawr, The Cow and Snuffers — God bless them all, I knew them in my prime.
Photo Credit:Princess Squiffy, my favorite listener. She never complains, but she rarely stays awake.
I am the all-seeing eyes at the tip of Worm’s Head;
I am the teeth of the rocks at Rhossili;
I am the blackness in Pwll Ddu pool
when the sea-swells suck the stranger in and out,
sanding his bones.
Song pulled taut from a dark Welsh lung,
I am the memories of Silure and beast
mingled in a Gower Cave;
tamer of aurox,
hunter of deer,
caretaker of coracle,
fisher of salmon on the Abertawe tide,
I am the weaver of rhinoceros wool.
I am the minority,
persecuted for my faith,
for my language,
for my sex,
for the coal-dark of my thoughts.
I am the bard whose harp, strung like a bow,
will sing your death with music of arrows
from the wet Welsh woods.
I am the barb that sticks in your throat
from the dark worded ambush of my song.
Continuing with the audio experiments of the last couple of days, here is my voice recording of On Being Welsh. This poem can be found, along with several other Welsh poems, in Though Lovers Be Lost, available on Amazon.
Comments on the readings are very welcome. For my regular readers, if you have a favorite poem of mine that you would like to hear, just let me know and I will record it, specially for you!
I am indebted to my friend Jeremy Gilmer for this second reading of On Being Welsh. We will be collaborating on the creation of sound files and posting contrasting readings of various poems to see how different voices and rhythms change sound and meaning in poetry. Hopefully, this is the first in a longer series.