Saturday, July 18, 2009

Monkey Algebra? Why not? (Sunday's Poem 25)

To Help the Monkey Cross the River,
Thomas Lux

which he must
cross, by swimming, for fruits and nuts,
to help him
I sit with my rifle on a platform
high in a tree, same side of the river
as the hungry monkey. How does this assist
him? When he swims for it
I look first upriver: predators move faster with
the current than against it.
If a crocodile is aimed from upriver to eat the monkey
and an anaconda from downriver burns
with the same ambition, I do
the math, algebra, angles, rate-of-monkey,
croc- and snake-speed, and if, if
it looks as though the anaconda or the croc
will reach the monkey
before he attains the river’s far bank,
I raise my rifle and fire
one, two, three, even four times into the river
just behind the monkey
to hurry him up a little.
Shoot the snake, the crocodile?
They’re just doing their jobs,
but the monkey, the monkey
has little hands like a child’s,
and the smart ones, in a cage, can be taught to smile.


Well. That had a twist ending to it, didn't it? I picked today's poem out solely because it had the word "Monkey" in the title, making it the only poem in the list I was looking at which had that feature. And then about halfway through it I wasn't going to choose it at all, but I was won over by rate-of-monkey, and then that twist: firing behind the monkey. That made the poem. That one little twist, that one thought, made me look at the world in a different way.

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