Monkey Teaches Sunday School on Mondays (With apologies to Pavlov and his dogs)
Younger monkeys e-mail elder monkey
and expect an answer within two minutes.
Elder monkey drools and writes right back.
He is turned on by the bells
and whistles of his computer.
His handlers hand him a biscuit.
Elder monkey has grown to appreciate
tension and abuse:
the systematic beatings,
the shit and foul words hurled at his head.
The working conditions are overcrowded.
Elder monkey is overworked.
Yet he has managed to survive,
to stay alive and fight
what he once believed was the good fight.
Now he no longer knows:
nor does he drool anymore
when bells and whistles sound
and his handlers bait him
with an occasional, half-price biscuit.
I will record and post the whole of Monkey Temple, poem by poem, with voice recordings. I’ll use two key trigger elements: first, the grinning monkey in the picture and second, the MT 1-1 designation, standing for Part 1 Poem 1 … this will continue 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 etc. If you are enjoying these poems and readings, keep your eyes open for those two triggers and catch your favorite monkey as he goes about his monkey business.
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.
Summer walks along the garden path,
imprinting its footprints of flowers.
Green dreams wander the wind-lisped
grass with its multitudinous tongues.
Bright birds toll the morning bells
and announce a midsummer madness.
Occupational therapy, this forced feeding:
a million beaks and bellies nurtured.
All too soon, the shortening of days,
fall’s stealthy approach, the long trip home.
The moon will then swing its winter lantern.
Orion, dog at heel, will hunt his star-frosted sky.
Crows, those eternal survivors, will take salt
and the occasional meal from icy roads.
It’s cloudy this morning and there is a chill in the air. The rowan berries are a bright yellow-turning-rapidly-to-orange. The crab apples are little red faces peering from laden tree and branch. The whole world has a sense of imminent change. Winter is never far away and the fear of frost-on-high-ground is always upon us.
My body has so many rooms and you,
my love, possess me in them, wander
through them, and I see you, here, there,
everywhere, your presence a shadow
glimpsed in a mirror, or your warm touch
a breath upon forehead or cheek. Where
have you gone? Why did you leave me
here on my own to languish in your absence?
I walk from room to room, but when I knock
you open no doors, and though I seek,
I fail to find. I know you are somewhere near.
I hear your footstep on the stair, your voice
in the silence that surrounds me. My name,
a syllable or two, whispered in the way
I so clearly remember. How can it be true,
my love, that you have gone, that you have
left me here and forged ahead into another
time and space? I count the hours and days.
Will you prepare me a place? Will your face
be there to greet me? Alone, I clutch at straws,
embracing dust motes, counting the angels that
dance on the rainbows on the head of a pin.