We will sit all day on a bench in the sun watching the spider monkeys.
It will at moments resemble an internal Eden.
But we will not know this.
We will think that we are just taking pictures with our minds.
The male will stand upright and scratch his silvery-gold chest.
It will sound rough and shameless.
Over and over the egg of tenderness will break in our hearts
at the sight of the baby spider monkeys.
For nothing could be more guileless or curious.
The mother will stand on all fours and stare into space
and we will see by her eyes that all of this is beyond her,
though she is intelligent she is unable to fathom
this sweet injustice nature has made cling to her back.
And we will wait for those moments
when out of the concrete slabs piled to resemble a hill
a splendidly squealing chaos of monkeys
rushes, some trespass or crime in monkeydom,
causing us to cry aloud, Look at that one!
And then also there will be those moments we are embarrassed
and only through a deliberate effort
will we not look away as the monkey
reaches backwards to pull at the indescribable
pink something that dangles from its bottom,
and we will feel our humanity is endangered
and that our intimate moments might lap over into the animal world
and our privacies be beheld with such ghastly frankness.
But no monkey does any one thing for very long.
So soon the candor will pass.
And gradually the shadows of the trees will touch our bench
and it will get cool, then uncomfortably cool, and there will be fewer
and fewer monkeys, and no one will be on the opposite bench
with detached and absorbed expression, and even the thief gulls
will have left the moat, and we will say these words as we stand; no;
think them: Oh God, whatever else be true, though nothing is permanent,
may the myth of our lives be like this memory of monkeys; that real.
Stan Rice, Singing Yet: New and Selected Poems
One thought on ““Monkey Hill” by Stan Rice”
How delightful. I took a poetry writing class with Stan Rice at SF State College in 1963. He was a warm and encouraging teacher. It’s good to see his poem pop here.
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