March 11, 2004

Two Poems by Thomas Lux

The Late Ambassadorial Light

Light reaches through a leaf
and that light, diminished, passes through
another leaf,
and another, down
to the lawn beneath.
Green, green, the high grass shivers.
Water over a stone, and bees,
bees around the flowers, deep-tiered beds
of them, yellows and golds and reds.
Saw-blade ferns feather in the breeze.
And, just as a cloud's corner
catches the sun, a tiny glint in the garden — the milk
of a broken stalk? A lion's tooth?
Or might that be the delicate labia
of an orchid?



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.

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