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.
(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
Monkey has worked for forty years
among foreigners and lunatics,
afraid of the rats who keep him company,
devoured by his monkey lust
to drive silver knives and forks
through the watch springs
of their inhuman, foreign hearts.
Is there a gem concealed in those hearts,
he wonders, a blood-red heart stone,
like the jewel in the crown
of the green toad’s throbbing skull?
Monkey explores new territories
with his knife and fork.
He lifts the flap on the ventricle’s
dark, pulsing cave,
and is aware of bright red sparks:
blood diamonds, perhaps?
Rose petals gently bleed.
Monkey wipes his scalpel on his ruby apron,
and opens another heart,
searching one more scarlet oyster
for the perfect mystery of its imperfect pearl.
Roger Moore’s Monkey Temple is available on Amazon.
Monkey Receives Tenure (In the Monkey Rhyming Dictionary, tenure rhymes with manure)
“Gentlemen of the Committee: have you reached a verdict?”
“And is it unanimous?”
“It is, your honour.”
“Then will the committee Foreman stand and read that verdict to this court.”
“Guilty, Your Honour. The defendant is guilty, on all counts.”
“And are there no mitigating circumstances: a failure to complete an assignment on time, for example, or a questionable reference?”
“None, whatsoever, Your Honour.”
“What a pity! What a damnable pity!”
The monkey judge puts on his black wig, and raps with his gavel.
“Will the defendant stand.
I sentence you to a term of two years’ hard labour
at the Monkey Temple, renewable for another two years.
Should you continue to publish, and should you fail,
over that four year probationary period, to fall by the wayside,
or to do anything wrong, I sentence you to life imprisonment,
till death do you and the Monkey Temple part.”
The monkey judge coughs.
“There, now. Stop your sniveling. You’ll be reasonably well treated,
as long as you remember your station.
Life imprisonment in one of Her Majesty’s Monkey Temples
is not that bad.”
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.
An acolyte in a charcoal suit runs by.
He neither stops nor speaks
but slips on slippery words
dripping from another monkey’s tongue.
This other monkey has eyes of asphalt,
a patented pewter soul,
ice water flowing in his veins.
“Hear not! See not! Speak not!” The hatch of his mind is battened tightly down.
Nothing gets out nor in.
The acolyte’s fingers grasp at a khaki folder,
his manifesto for success.
The other monkey stalks to his office
and turns on the radio.
His favorite music is the clink of mounting money.
Disturb him at your peril:
this monkey is very important,
and very, very busy.
First, he empties all the chocolate candies from the box.
Then he sorts them into little piles:
green with green, brown with brown, blue with blue, red with red.
Then, like the Good Shepherd counting His flock,
he counts them again and again,
to ensure that not one has gone astray.
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.
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.