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.

 

Lullaby

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Lullaby
Wednesday Workshop
11 July 2018

One of my close friends asked me if I would write her a lullaby. Without a moment’s hesitation, I said “Yes, of course”. Like a fool, I rushed in where no angel would ever care or dare to tread. I sat down and straightaway started to write.

The first thing I discovered was that a lullaby has to rhyme. I couldn’t write one unless it went bumpety-bumpety-bump + rhyme. I wrote several of those and they were all awful. Well, I thought so anyway, and I couldn’t imagine any young child willingly go to sleep while having an adult leaning over them and chanting at them.

The next thing I found out: it’s not easy to write poems, even a lullaby, for other people. Why not? It took me some time to understand that while I write poetry from within myself, heart, stomach, and gut, the lullaby I was writing was not written for me, but for a second person who was not me. What would this friend like to read? How would they like it to sound? By extension, there were not two people involved: I was also writing for an unknown child whom I had never seen. I didn’t know their likes and fancies, nor what would fill them with fear, nor what would successfully send them off to sleep. This three-way traffic was unnerving.

Third problem: a lullaby is a cliché and is filled with clichés. Close your eyes. Sleep, baby, sleep. I will rock you. More important, perhaps, the clichés are not just verbal, they live in the rhymes as well: sleep, deep, keep.

My telephone talks with other writers led me to the theory that rhythm was what mattered. Rhythm, comfort, rhyme, gifts, and the allaying of fears. So easy to write, so hard to fulfill, especially in an age of instant communication. As I wrote, so different formulae marched through my head. I recalled the lullabies my parents and grand-parents sang for me, apparently not very successfully, I was a terrible infant at bed-time. I have more memories of being set to bed, often without supper rather than being sang to in bed. Then there was boarding school (age 6) and the faceless matrons in comfortless dormitories where, more often than not we cried ourselves to sleep. Hush little baby don’t you cry.

So, rhythm, rhyme, nonsense words, dream worlds where everything is good. Along with traditional lullabies like All through the night / Ar hyd a nos, my head filled up with reminiscences of Dylan Thomas, and in the evening, when the sun goes down, / I ask a blessing on this town, and Federico García Lorca, La luna vino a la Fragua / The moon came to the forge.

So much happening. So much laundry passing through the washing-machine of my mind where the waters churned away and rhymes were soaped, rhythms were bleached, ideas were blended and rinsed. I wrote five. I am not sure of any of them. They certainly kept me awake most of last night, syllable counting on my white woolly sheep-fingers, that brought no sleep. I tried counting my blessings too, but that didn’t work either.

Question: does anyone actually want to read my lullabies to keep a child awake? If so let me know. You might persuade me to post one or two.

 

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 1-9 Monkey Turns Down Promotion

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MT 1-9
Monkey Turns Down Promotion

 “I hereby appoint you head of the asylum.”
The young office monkey with the plastic stethoscope
was dressed neatly in a white sheet.

“Dr. Freud, I presume?”
Monkey held out his hand
but his witticism was lost in a flood of water
flowing from the flush and over the floor.

Monkey stood there, paddling in piddle.

Inmates with crowded heads and vacant faces,
fools grinning at a universe of folly,
paddled beside him.

He wiped a sick one’s drool from his sleeve.

The office boy spat on his hands,
slicked down his hair,
and placed his stethoscope on monkey’s heaving chest.

“You have no pulse.”

“How do you know I have no pulse?
Surely, you cannot hear my heart
for you have a banana stuck in your ear.”

“Speak up!” said the doctor, “I cannot hear you:
I have a banana stuck in my ear.”

Then monkey felt fear.

Daylight diminished and waters closed over his head.
He spurned the proffered paw,
the life belt thrown by the offer of a new position.

Exit monkey left, pursued by a chorus:
“Run, monkey, run!”

 

MT 1-8 Monkey’s Verdict

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Monkey’s Verdict

(After George Orwell’s Animal Farm,
an inverted Mr. Micawber, and a Gower proverb) 

Although monkey has been the primus primate inter pares,
he has never done anything himself,
so he reduces all competitive monkeys to his own level
by negating anything they have ever done.
Only then, will he be their equal.

“All monkeys are equal,
but some monkeys are obviously
more equal than others!”

Here, in the temple’s garbage dump,
monkey finds the lowest of the low,
scratching for fleas and baring
their yellowed, monkey teeth.

They scrabble in the temple’s garbage,
searching for something,
anything to reject yet again.

Monkey writes anonymous letters
with a poisoned pen.
He conceals his hand
and throws ambiguous stones.
He has learned from blows
delivered to another monkey’s head
and has become a wise monkey:

Monkey’s template for survival in the temple:
“Dick other monkeys before they can dick you!”

Primus primate steadily ascends
the monkey puzzle tree:
but the higher he climbs,
the more he reveals
his asshole.

 

Triage

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Triage
A stitch in time

1

Banality or stupidity: how
did the knife slip from its intended path
and end up slicing through my finger? Blood

everywhere, oozing, then pumping, flowing
freely, deep ugly, red, between fleshy
cliffs, the wound’s edges. Chaotic, shrill pain,

short, sharp shocks, cold water flowing, flushing
out the sudden gulley, cleansing, thinning
my life’s liquid. Little finger, left hand,

right down to bright bone. Instant recall, first
aid course. Sheet from paper towel, staunch, press
down, pressure, find gauze, bandages, scarlet

ink, my blood, not royal blue. Take bathroom
towel, run down corridor to garage,
leaving fresh blood spoor, the cat following,

sniffing, licking the floor, hand clumsy on
steering wheel, drive to emergency, fast.

2

Three nurses attend me. The first completes
the triage, stops the bleeding, bandages
my hand, gauze pads press down, sends me to wait.

Second nurse inserts needles, kills the nerve,
cleans the wound, sews my little finger up.

Three stitches. A tubular dressing. Time
now for third nurse, anti-T-jab, checks me
for PTSD, smiles sadly, sends me home.