Jun 13, 2010

Thomas Lux, "To Help the Monkey Cross the River"

To Help the Monkey Cross the River by Thomas Lux : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

Maybe this is the Thomas Lux poem that will make you a fan, especially if you like story problems in math class, or monkeys, or underdogs, or oblivious creatures who ought to be desperate. Or if you've noticed how wide some rivers are. Or if you like poets whose inner tough guy struggles with a big, soft heart.

I just drove along the Ohio River for a couple of days, and at some point I recalled another of Lux's poems, where he offers one of the better lines anywhere: "if a river could look over its shoulder." In one sense, that line is a team player in the poem, blending in, doing its job; it's not especially interested in stardom. In another way, it tore my head off. What if something as powerful and important as a river is as nostalgic, wistful, uncertain and maybe as sad as we humans are, to be leaving?

So why a goat picture? First, I don't have a monkey pic; secondly, goats are almost as goofily fetching. Finally, as Vonnegut says, "Vy you, vy me, vy anybody?" (Slaughterhouse-5).

To Help the Monkey Cross the River by Thomas Lux : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.


Brenda's Arizona said...

It is easy to be a fan!

Anonymous said...

Charmed; I'm charmed. And bring on the goat pictures. (Funnily enough, just learned today that crocs travel in a straight line. So if you're ever chased by one, take the angles.)

Banjo52 said...


Hiker, life-saving info. Thanks. I'm also seeing a lot of potential symbolism as well as the literal, re: straight lines vs. angles.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Banjomyn, expand on the symbolism? It is easy to get caught up in visualization of the event instead of symbolization!

Banjo52 said...

Brz, alas, I was mainly attempting wise-acreness, though I suppose I had in mind the straight_____ (straightforward, straight head, etc.) vs. the sneakiness of the oblique angle or some such. So maybe I meant the straight approach of the croc, no trickery, no strategy, just straight-ahead butchery of poor monkey.

And did I mean croc the was therefore more . . . honest? . . . about his mission than the snake? Works for me, but I'm only now trying to actually think about. (And now you've made me split an infinitive!).

Speaking grammar, etc. . . . About "comply" the other day--my understanding is that either of its uses is now OK. First, from days of yore, "The team comprises 20 players." As weird as that sounds, I had thought it was the ONLY acceptable use. But in the last few years, I'm told the other, more common (and more modern?) usage is also OK: "Those three poems comprise his major contribution."

Enriching, eh?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Do you ever watch "Burn Notice" on TV? It is one of our simple giggles here at our house. Anyway, I showed my husband this poem... he turned and looked at me, said "what is this, a Burn Notice technique?" and burst out laughing.

Another fan you have created!

Banjo52 said...

The more, the merrier. I have seen a few Burn Notices but cannot get past the girl's skinny and odd looks--one more reason I cling to CSI Miami and Criminal Minds. And after a slow start, I'm warming to the new Elmore Leonard cop show, Justified, set in Kentucky.

I'd love to hear Lux's reaction to having his poem compared to a shoot-em-up. The populist in him just might like it, but would he admit it?

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