Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thomas Lux - To Help the Monkey Cross the River,

Thomas Lux
from The Cradle Place

To Help the Monkey Cross the River,

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.


At 1/10/2007 1:25 PM, Blogger Andrew Shields said...

I'd forgotten about that one, which meant I had forgotten the wonderful punch line. Thanks for typing it in.

At 1/10/2007 4:05 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Love the ending. Hate that I used the same "if, if" phrasing and line break as Lux without knowing it. Good thing that poem's back in the draft folder anyway--his use is better.

At 1/11/2007 6:28 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

This poem has haunted me for some time now. Lux gets to something deeply true about the human condition, I think (in this poem and many others). When I hear people talk about poetry "saying the unsayable," I think of poems like this, that really do enact something that feels true and other-than at the same time.

Plus, it's just really cool, as my students said. Hah!

At 1/11/2007 10:12 AM, Anonymous renew said...

I love the many twists and turns in this. Lux plays perfectly with the anticipation of the reader, throwing them off every time. Nice one...


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