I. In The Basement Of The Psych Building
We chitter at each other through the mesh of our cages
and all our noise is an echo of every primate’s chatter since Oldavi:
“Me! Me! What about me!
And why has my skullcap been replaced with a Lucite dome?
And why has my brain been shot full of electrode things?
And why does my monkey chow come out only when I pull this lever?”
We are not really listening to each other
but we like the way it all sounds when we do it all together.
It is better than no noise at all.
II. Approximate Latitude 7’ North, Longitude 15’ East
When I clung to the fur along my monkey mother’s belly
and put my opposable thumb in my mouth,
I thought things were pretty darn good.
Then she started talking to me
and then I started understanding what she said
and it was things like:
“Watch out for boa constrictors ‘cause they love to eat monkey babies” and
“Watch out for the panthers on the ground ‘cause they’ll just rip you to shreds for fun” or
“Watch out for humans watching out for you. If they are indigenous, they’ll pop you in a pot and cook you up for soup. If they’re from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, they’ll try to blame you for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
“Watch out, my little monkey baby. Watch out.”
Well, like most kids, I didn’t listen to her
and I toddled through the leaves and branches of the canopy
and I played with all the stuff lying around on the jungle floor.
I started putting things together and started thinking about putting other things with other things and, like most kids, I got me some ideas.
I taught myself to tie knots. I taught myself to weave leaves.
I invented glue. I pondered representation and, later, non-representation. I considered money.
My monkey mommy hovered above me in the canopy
and her “tsk tsk tsk” followed me benignly until
she saw me on the verge of bending some twigs into a pleasing shape
and then she swung down from the trees
and beat my monkey baby ass quite red all the while shrieking in her worst mommy monkey voice:
“Art? You monkey moron! Art?
This hurts you far more than me
but I won’t stand by and
watch you end up inventing religion.”
I got the point, you betcha,
and I never ever tried again to juxtapose incongruous elements to imply or signify a representation of neither any kind nor any abstraction nor to convey a particular mood or feeling.
I still think about forming a coalition of disparate monkey groups
to examine the underlying tensions that
undermines individual monkey goal fulfillment
but I’ve got monkey moron babies of my own and,
oh my oh my,
do I beat their baby monkey asses monkey-ass red.
III. 1967—New and Improved Primates
Boys’ Life magazine,
the official monthly publication for all Boy Scouts of America,
had in its classified advertisement section in its back pages,
small notices from small companies from which
one could order small animals through the mail.
Various companies offered sea monkeys and pheasants,
sea horses and quail, hermit crabs and squirrels,
rabbits and lizards, raccoons, and, best of all,
spider monkeys all delivered parcel post
straight to our doors, no C.O.D.,
check or money orders only, allow four to six weeks for delivery.
She arrived 36 days after we sent in the order,
shipped in a cardboard tube featuring air-holes and
she wore a tiny soiled diaper made from foreign tissue paper and
she was stark raving mad, I mean,
her eyes were as big as dimes,
which is big for a squirrel monkey,
and as blank as punched silver money but always moving.
At night, at the bottom of the birdcage become her cage,
she would burrow deep within a mix of shredded newspaper and cedar shavings,
and she whimpers and shivers and dreams her small monkey dreams
of a river and some trees and a long green darkness uncoiling forever.