To Help the Monkey Cross the River

By Thomas Lux b. 1946 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.

Thomas Lux, “To Help the Monkey Cross the River,” from The Crade Place. Copyright © 2004 by Thomas Lux. Used by the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: The Cradle Place (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004)

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Poet Thomas Lux b. 1946

Subjects Animals, Nature

Poetic Terms Metaphor

 Thomas  Lux

Biography

Acclaimed poet and teacher Thomas Lux began publishing haunted, ironic poems that owed much to the Neo-surrealist movement in the 1970s. Critically lauded from his first book Memory’s Handgrenade (1972), Lux’s poetry has gradually evolved towards a more direct treatment of immediately available, though no less strange, human experience. Often using ironic or sardonic speakers, startlingly apt imagery, careful rhythms, and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Animals, Nature

Poetic Terms Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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