MT 2-2 Monkey Visits the Snake Pit

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Monkey Visits the Snake Pit

Monkey’s masculine penis envy
focuses on the great snakes,
pythons, boa-constrictors, anacondas,
basking beneath hot-house lights
that maintain a rigid temperature,
desert and jungle warmth and moisture
ready at the flick of a switch.

They lounge in glass cubicles,
checking each other out
for size, weight, length, girth,
with a roll of the eye and a casual flicker
of a forked lightning tongue.

Fed for far too long
on fetched food
from the untroubled tenured trough,
many have become sedentary,
and much too comfortable

to even think about
renewing their lives,
or sloughing their skins.

 

 

 

MT 2-1 Kinder Monkey Garten

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MT 2-1
Kinder
Monkey Garten

Give him a magnifying glass
and monkey nit-picks!
He likes nit-picking.

Hunting for fleas,
he combs through the fur
of less fortunate monkeys.

Monkey see: monkey do,
and what monkey does best
is crack fleas between his nails
and stick his paw in the jam jar.

Here, in the Kinder Monkey Garten,
young monkeys learn monkey skills:
how to conduct monkey business,
how to throw a monkey wrench
into other monkeys’ plans,
how to wear monkey suits,
how to square round pegs
and fit them into triangular holes,
how to build better monkey traps,
how to reinvent the monkey wheel,
again and again and again.

Monkey likes to perch enthroned
at the top of the monkey temple.
Paradise is to squat
on the organ-grinder’s shoulder,
top banana that.

Monkey also likes to visit the rest of the zoo.

 

MT 1-10 Swine Flu Hits the Monkey Temple

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MT 1-10
Swine Flu Hits the Monkey Temple

(after a Fable by Lafontaine and with memories of Bakhtin
and his upside-down worlds of Carnival and the Antipodes)

Swine flu has struck the temple.
Unter– monkeys sniffle and grovel,
blaming each other for their snuffles.

They request a platypus duck to oversee a kangaroo court
with chief scapegoat monkey absent of course.

The unter-monkeys sit in a circle,
where all are equal but some are more equal than others.
They pass a lyre bird feather round and round,
weeping crocodile tears and lying through
the tight monkey grins of their alligator teeth.

A black-capped chickadee lends his cap to the platypus duck
who then pronounces sentence,
“There is no defence: guilty, in absentia, guilty as charged.”

“Fumer l’herbe d’autrui? Quel crime abominable!”* **

*”Smoking someone else’s grass, what an abominable crime.”
** “Manger l’herbe d’autrui? Qel crime abominable!”
LaFontaine: Les animaux malades de la peste.

 

 

 

MT 1.4 Pavlov’s Ostrich Monkey

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MT 1.4
Pavlov’s Ostrich Monkey

(after Pavlov)

A memory murmurs deep in monkey’s chest.
They dress him in a grey concrete coat.
Now monkey works at his desk
from eight in the morning
until whenever at night,
seven days a week.

Trees, stripped of branches,
disguise themselves as telegraph poles.

Their sharp wires shred monkey’s mind:
instant messages of work unfinished,
Herculean labours stabled on monkey’s desk.

When monkey asks for a lifeboat,
they send him to government surplus.
He fills in forms in quintuplicate.

Monkey’s laptop has all the bells and whistles.
When bells ring, monkey answers his emails;
when whistles sound, he drools.

Empty coffee cups litter the floor.
Monkey calls for the cleaner,
and a magic broom appears.

Monkey doesn’t want to be swept under the carpet
nor abandoned at the roadside with the garbage;
he sticks his head in the waste-paper basket,
raises his rear end high in the air, and hides,
like an ostrich.

 

Revisions: Wednesday Workshop

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Revisions
Wednesday Workshop
27 June 2018

Below are the texts of a poem that I am attempting to revise. Any comments on the text(s) or the revision process will be welcome.

In Absentia 1
Princess Squiffy

I hear her voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by her plastic plaything.
She isn’t there. He is and he’s talking.

I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his
other sex perfumes, but there he is and
when he stops talking, I can hear her voice.

I move to his talk box. A shadow, I
can’t quite make it out, then her voice again.
My whiskers stiffen, I lean forward, sniff,
but no smell. She has no smell, and scentless,

I cannot sense her, I bristle, she calls
me by my favorite names, mews, and I mew
back in reply. But I can’t smell her. There’s

no sense of touch … is this the hell all cats
will suffer … shadows on a screen, a voice,
haunting, memories shifting and dancing,
nothing solid … just shadows and absence?

Problems:
Repetition of scents / smells, there, voice (4), plus avoid all cats

Solutions:
Seems easy to tidy up … but … how do I end the poem with I hate him? Would it make the poem stronger? It would man a total rethink and restructure. 

In Absentia 2
Princess Squiffy

I hear her voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by her plastic plaything.
She isn’t here. He is and he’s talking.

I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his
other sex perfumes. He stops talking. I
can hear her warm, sweet words: where can she be?

I move to his talk box. A shadow, I
can’t quite make it out, then her tones again.
My whiskers stiffen, I lean forward, sniff,
but cannot sense her. I bristle. She calls

me by my favorite names, squeaks, and I mew
back. There’s no sense of touch, of her presence.
Is this the way we all will suffer? Wood

burns. Firelight flickering, shadows on
cave walls, long gone memories revived to
haunt us. Are these the torments held in hell?
Will dark shapes shift on half-lit screens? Will the

memories of loved ones come back to taunt
us, haunt us?  Will there be nothing solid
in the afterlife, just outlines and absence?

First Revision:
I quite like it, but it has become much longer and the cat’s voice has either been conflated with the human voice at the end or it’s an exceptionally intelligent cat, knowing all about Plato,  unless those can pass as feline memories because she was in the cave with him.

In Absentia 3
Princess Squiffy

I hear your voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by your plastic plaything.

You are not here. He is. I can hear you
talk. I stalk to his noise box. I see a
shadow, moving, but I can’t make it out.

My muscles first tense, then stiffen. I sniff,
lean forward, but find no trace of female
smell. I cannot sense you. You call me by

my favorite names, mew at me, and I
respond. Shifting shadows, your haunting tones,
memories dancing to the music of

your absence. I can’t eat. I bristle when
he laughs. Where are you, my love? He doesn’t
care for me the way you do. I loathe him.

Second Revision:
This is much shorter, builds up to the proposed new ending, eliminates the repetitions, and replaces hate with loathe, a very catty sound. However, I have lost the ending that I liked so much: the suggestion of Plato’s Cave has now been lost. So, let’s head to Plato’s Cave.

In Absentia 4
Plato’s Cat Cave

Princess Squiffy

I hear her voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by her plastic plaything.
She isn’t there. He is and he’s talking.

I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his
other sex perfumes, but there he is and
when he stops laughing, I can hear her voice.

I move to his talk box. A shadow, I
can’t quite make it out, then her voice again.
My whiskers stiffen, I lean forward, sniff:
she has no smell. I bottle-brush my tail.

Envoi
by Plato

Firelight flickering, shadows on walls,
distant voices echoing, memories
perched on our shoulders, night owls hooting.

Is this the hell we all will suffer, shapes
shifting on a screen, voices taunting us,
memories dancing to half remembered
melodies, nothing solid, shadows, absence?

Third Revision:
This poem has now changed shape and direction. I quite like it but it is dependent on a knowledge of Plato’s Cave. Does the cat belong in Plato’s Cave … I think of Kipling’s Just So story The Cat that Walked … perhaps it does. Perhaps it doesn’t.

Decision Time:

Playing around with the text was fun. The text moved in several directions and now I must choose my final direction.

Comments on any of the versions or on the revision process I used will be very welcome. And yes, nothing perishes. My poems, like my cats, have nine lives (well, four in this case, with possibly a fifth to come).

MT Warning and Prologue

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Monkey Temple

Warning

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.

 

Prologue

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.

Monkey Presses Delete

 

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Monkey Presses Delete

Monkey loves walking behind the gorillas.
He loves to see fear in faces,
tears in eyes as the gorillas smash
and grab and break down doors.

The gorillas break and enter:
and when they do,
monkey simply points
and the gorillas do their thing:
it’s that simple …

Monkey has a code word
that he took from his computer course.
“Delete!” he says with delight
and the gorillas delete
whatever he points to.

Monkey loves burning other people’s books.
He loves deleting parents in front of children,
and deleting children in front of their parents
can be just as exciting.

The delete button thrills monkey:
maneuvering the mouse
tightens his scrotum
and he feels a kick like a baby’s
at the bottom of his belly
as he carefully selects his victim
and “Delete!”

The gorillas go into action:
ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy
years of existence
deleted with a gesture
and the click of an index finger
pointed like a gun.

This poem is from my book Monkey Temple. It is available on Amazon.