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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Moving Shades of Light and Dark

This is the second instalment of the adventures of this particular monkey. You can read the first instalment here.
This instalment was written for Manicddaily's prompt, Light and Dark for Groundhog Day at dVerse Poets
It was raining when I visited
the monkey in captivity. 
The squirrel monkey (as I am
now told he is) and sexy wife had both
been given names and set to work
with children's paints and brushes.

So are they thinking (Kerry speculates
of his tormentors, all-those-White-Coats-
looking-into-monkey-minds-and-how-
their-brains-perceive-the-world)
my cage is a round blob to me? 
that tree a longish smudge along the ground? 

Well yes, that sums it up, I guess. 
That's what they think. Paintings 1 to 5,
for instance. Monochrome. 
Dark, blotchy lines. Up and down the page.
Like ink blots that have run together.
Just one light corner. Bottom Right.
(That's where the sun pokes in the cage.)
Painted yellow. And then a growth
of pale blue crystals - seemingly.

First time, though, they all saw
it differently. A memory of the forest then.
Then came the day of darkness and a lorry parked
beside the cage, a blaze of light. Kerry
in his element -- until it moved. Then
he went ape and threw himself around
the cage and hurt his arm. Later he drew
lines across the page before attacking it
with vicious force. The theory was 
he had responded to the shadows of the bars,
the way they'd swept across the floor.

Kerry and Kitty often think 
(the theory also is) of all those images 
of heaven and of hell (their versions of, 
not ours) and sit there staring at 
the latest work (this one jointly executed)
without flinching hours and hours.

Their version of... consists (I'm told)
of shadows moving, creatures looming
(That's their hell) while heaven is
each other and their chattering.

Ask how they know a monkey's thoughts
and the white coats speak of
Stage 2 of their study.
This follows when a painting's 
finished, framed and hung.

The monkey sits 
like someone meditating,
immobilised, except the hands and eyes
are free. But nothing he can reach or see
except the painting. We scan the brain.
Observe which cells light up
and which go out. His latest painting
was a revelation, the way he 
circled blobs with his small finger,
but when we trundled bands of light
and darkness up and down the work
or columns of thick shadow horizontally,
he freaked out totally. Then when we let him go
he made for Kitty, stroked and cuddled her,
then ran back to the painting
and did the same to it. We have concluded 
that it's Kitty birthing fanny.

Their keeper, though, proclaims
he could have done as much -- no need
of scanners, infra red or head 
restraints -- all done with love 
and empathy. I, too, can follow --
 with my eyes -- to see
where their eyes go. 

The birthing picture Kelly worked with brush 
as kitty pointed to herself or stroked
to show where was the hidden birth canal, 
then making circles round her breasts 
and abdomen. Their gestures are
a proto language other monkeys know
(and we could learn if we got close enough)
They painted it small blobs at top 
where Kitty smiled, then larger 
going down to where she grimaced.
At the bottom: cries of pain. 
Biggest and best of all the blobs
with strongest darks and brightest lights
are here. Gold medal goes 
to Baby Fanny's head. 
Big feelings get big contrasts and big blobs.

14 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

A very dynamic piece with a lot of humour. I'm still thinking of "he went ape". Brilliant.

Greetings from London.

Leovi said...

A great poem. I think the monkey can run the paintings and to contemplate the human mind creates with, ie by abstracting gives meaning. So in this way I feel like a monkey with a camera in hand.

manicddaily said...

First, Dave -- this wonderful poem is not linked to dVerse - do you want me to link it? I think you will get more visits (If you want them) if you link.

Now to the poem - whoa. (Stay away from Peta!)

This is so interesting. Agh. Poor monkeys. I can't help feeling for them, even as I am fascinated both by your images of them and their researchers. I love the part re the keeper saying the infra reds aren't necessary --just look at their eyes.

And I loved all the staring at the art work and images - very Plato-like and who is not in this strange cave but an animal a monkey in a cage.

What is poignant here - and I don't know if you mean all this on an animal level - but the comparison to humans is so strong, and the idea to me of that distant jungle and painting the bars and lines--I don't know--just a great sadness comes, even with your humor. You know they've been releasing a lot of chimps from U.S. research activities.

Really interesting poem, raises so many questions - here we are, here they are--daubers. k.

Dave King said...

A Cuban in London
Thanks for this. Appreciated.

Leovi
Yes, I do so understand this. Thanks for saying.

manicddaily
Much thanks for these observations. The link to dVerse seems to work OK from this end.

Yes, I did intend the conclusions you have drawn -- though I hadn't thought of the comparison with Plato, which I do share, now that it's been pointed out. I did very much intend the comparison with humans, and did debate with myself whether I should make it more explicit.
Very many thanks once again for your feedback.

Laurie Kolp said...

This has a science fiction feel to it... imaginative and very interesting, Dave!

Mary said...

Wonderful imaginative and poignant write, Dave. No small thing to get inside the mind of the monkey.

Brian Miller said...

oh goodness man, i really enjoy your story telling...it def has a scifi feel to it...but that quickly becomes reality as well...your humor and wit are fun...i like the look into their eyes....intensions can def be measured there....

Claudia said...

a memory of the forest...think that was what hit me most...tight verse dave.. makes me sad as well for them and surely you draw parallels to human life as well with it

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Wonderful and clever humor sprinkled throughout this :)

Definitely has a sci-fi feel as well!

Louise Gallagher said...

This poem is really intriguing -- and though it contains lots of humour I find it sad -- the comparisons of us and them, the restraints, the bars. Really provocative.

Helen said...

Both of these pieces are so well done ... 'but these are insights he could never own or formulate'
... my heart did a little flip flop when I read that line .. we have a chimp rescue facility right here in my city. I visit fairly often. I must say when I look into the eyes of these wonderful creatures, I find myself wishing just once we might have a conversation.

lucychili said...

Oh we are so clumsy. I agree with their keeper that we are brutish in our observation. Thank goodness they have each other.

Nicely observed David.

haricot said...

The last two poems make me think of our origin, and aside of the theories they are stunning. Although the details and abstract thoughts are difficult for me, your affection for art works well in the both poem, I think.

Dave King said...

Laurie
Thanks Laurie - the science fiction reference surprised me, though.

Mary
Ah, but there's more room in there than you might imagine! Thanks for the compliment.

Brian
Much appreciate this - guess I feel you have to have a bit of fun as you pass along!

Claudia
Yes, I did intend to draw parellels to human life and also to reflect n human activities. I did feel there was an inherent sadness in what I was going to write, even before I began.

Optimistic Existentialist
Many thanks for the feedback. Good to know your thoughts on it.

Louise
I agree. I had those thoughts in mind. Good to have you visiting and to know your thoughts on it. Thank you.

Helen
Yes I know the feeling. You can feel so close to being able to, but then ultimately we can't. I kinda feel that we could make a start through their body language and their gestures (the proto language) which in many instances are so close to ours. (The arms out sideways with the palms upturned, for instance, meaning help me or frustration.

lucychili
Yes, there is nearly always a better way than the one we find more convenient.
Thanks for this.

haricot
Thank you so much. Your comments mean a lot to me.