Friday, April 2, 2010

Monkey Flees

Breathless from the chase, we gather ‘round the tree.
Our hands visor sunglare at the brow;
shadows, like scolded puppies, crawl under us.

We’re an odd lot, drawn out,
craning neck spectators in a harsh light,
saluting a primal beast.
That monkey led us on quite a chase,
but we’re the fools for leaving him
the open cage.

We followed him, yes, sticks pounding the ground,
a cacophony of voices and outstretched arms
trying to corral and contain, yet
he slipped through.

He’s gone up a tree.

We try the sweet talk, but he ignores us,
up there swaying from his branch.
We offer drinks of cool beverage,
the sun, after all, beading sweat upon us,
but he’ll have none of that.

This shouldn’t be so hard.
There’s really not much to him, the little ape,
so small and filthy, hair matted.
I’d lay into him with a firehose.

But threats and demands prove fruitless,
as did the bananas, so plump.
The monkey looks down on us, grits his teeth,
and tears weave down his fuzzy cheeks.

He leaves the branch, ascends slowly.

Beyond our reach now, he’s rising from sight,
and still we stand with upturned faces
calling out his name.

*           *           *             *             *
Though I don't consider myself to be Christian, I am very interested in the power of words, images and ideas. I went to a Pentecostal church in Superior, WI, for many years as a child. Also, Christianity is pervasive throughout American culture. Anyway, I've occasionally gone through periods of writing religious poems, or at least poems in which religion is explored. In "Monkey Flees" I was trying to imagine what the crucifixion of Christ would be like from the point of view of the angry mob. As the poem opens, the speaker is breathless from having chased the "monkey"under the hot sun (possibly having "followed" Him?). The speaker shields his eyes to see the captured one (inadvertently saluting Him), and the harsh shadow below the man cowers like a scolded puppy. The man has mixed feelings about his experiences with the "monkey," leading up to the monkey's capture and "escape" up a tree (the crucifixion, an image that always reminds me of Lawrence Ferlinghetti). The crowd taunts Him, mockingly offers a drink of sour wine, and turns more negative about the "little ape." The "monkey" looks down on the gathered masses, grits His teeth (in pain or as a smile?), and weeps for humankind. After leaving His branch, the "monkey" ascends to the heavens, leaving the sinners and looky lous staring up toward the sky, calling out His name.

While this poem first appeared in the online version of Hamline University's literary journal, I had it republished in a short-lived venture called The Facebook Review. It was there that readers had the option of commenting on published works, and where I could comment on others' contributions to the journal. The best thing that came of it was that I came to know Kim Groninga, a writer and editor in Iowa. We got to know each other and Kim invited me to join an online poetry workshop. I did and made some great friends, received a lot of deep critique of my work, and as a result developed a lot as a writer. 

First published:
and then:

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