Saturday, December 06, 2008

Lux and Dumanis

December 6, 2008 . . . and two more poems I’ve gone to and have gone back to. These two poems circle the ideas of help and self-help, in their ways. Good things to remember. Good things to keep in mind.


Thomas Lux
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.


* * *


Michael Dumanis
Memoir


There comes the point
in every story
when I panic,

there comes this panic,
I catch myself clutching
a wrench at a Wal-Mart,

a wren in a field,
clutching a wrist
near a radio tower,

or someone’s key
I had not been aware of,
turning the knob

of a make-believe door.
Body the contour
of jazz in a speakeasy,

body the texture
of gaps in a gangway,
why I keep letting

you down is beyond me.
I’ve taken pains.
Practiced synchronized breathing.

Counted past ten.
Talked with zeal about things.
Even summoned the nerve

to look fetching in amber.
But can’t get past
that which rattles inside me.

Try to think back:
was I going
to flash you or juggle.

Or was there a story
I needed to tell you.
Was it important.

Could it have swayed you.
I meant to give objects
totemic significance,

refer to a childhood,
invoke certain towns.
And would I have broken

one heart or another.
It was the story of my life,
it would have started

with the note la,
then a couple of llamas.
Sometimes, a window fan

would, in it, pass for an eye.
Trust me,
it would have been riveting.

2 Comments:

At 12/07/2008 7:56 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

I've read and admired the Lux previously (and like his work in general as well). There's more than a little dialogue here with Tate's "Teaching the Ape to Write Poems," I think.

 
At 12/08/2008 3:11 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

That's one of my very favorite Tate poems! And my favorite Ars Poetica, as well.

 

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