“To Help the Monkey Cross the River,” by Thomas Lux
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
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.
From The Cradle Place
Houghton Mifflin, 2004
Copyright 2004 Thomas Lux.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright 2004 by Thomas Lux. For further permissions information, contact Ronald Hussey, 215 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10003, www.hmco.com.
About the Poet
Thomas Lux (1946 - ) is the author of numerous poetry collections, including, Child Made of Sand (Houghton Mifflin, 2012). Born in Northampton, Massachusetts to working class parents, Lux attended Emerson College and the University of Iowa.
Learn more about Thomas Luxat The Poetry Foundation.