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Monkey in the middle
sitting in the zoo
just some bars
between me and you.

Monkey, monkey says
to me “only yesterday
I saw you swinging
through the trees.”

I said “Monkey, monkey
that wasn’t me,
higher than three feet
makes me weak at the knees.”

That monkey looks at me
says “You’d look better with a tail
but you cut it off
to make you look smart.”

I replied “Monkey
if only you went to school,
you’d know it’s evolution
that made me a fool.”

Monkey said one last time,
“Every man is meant to be free.”
I turned to answer
then I realized

the monkey is me.



gonna take my easy chair down by the river
stars wheel through the night
down by the water where stars multiply
rock me away from here in my easy chair
gonna rock my way through the night

‘cause the one I love is so close, but so far
the river is cold and deep and wide
and the one I love — she’s on the other side
so I’ll be here, near her all night long
rockin’ away my cares, sittin’ in my easy chair

you got me going with that thing you do
there ain’t nothing I wouldn’t do
you say I’ve been democratically selected
I tell you I don’t need Viagra to get elected

I’ll be your fence post when you need to fence
I’ll be your shotgun for self defence
I’ll put the sugar in your soda pop
Oh please baby don’t you ever stop

I need you like my car needs the road but
the cops would give me a ticket for overload
you got me going like a house on fire
you make me whole, I’m a real live wire

you got me tingling from my head to my toes
oh tell me Mama there’s more beneath those clothes

Author — if everything I write comes true, how come God never answers my letters?

Killer — Which letters?

A — Here (throws him a stack of envelopes tied together with string — each one stamped “Undeliverable”)

K — (unties and sorts through the stack), hmmm, “ God/ Eternity/ Postal code unknown,” “Jahweh/ any burning bush will do,” “God/ if you’re Buddha, please reincarnate in time to receive this letter/ Nirvana,” — very inventive, nice touch including the return address (rips open an envelope) “Dear God, If you’re reading over my shoulder right now, you’re not breathing hard enough.” (crumples it up and tosses it, opens another) “When you look over my shoulder like that I want you to know that suffering up close and personal and not from the perspective of omniscience and eternity is no fucking good. I don’t like suffering and I don’t need it. And while I’m on that point — I don’t think we need cruelty to delineate beauty, love can exist without hate, and landlords suck.” (crumples it up and throws it away) you were on a roll until that last part, kind of a letter to Santa, wouldn’t you say? “God, when I watch myself writing, looking in a mirror, I wonder is that what you see, reading over my shoulder?” (pauses, sets letter aside) that one is good, closer to the truth than you realize.
Would you like to know something? When you write stuff, any kind of stuff, if you write about something before it happens and then it happens — well, then, of course it came true.
And of course, if you write it after it happened — well, that has to be true.
But other times, what you write, maybe it is still waiting to happen, and so it’s not true.
Reason is kind of pitiful don’t you think?
Did you ever consider: What you wrote wasn’t true enough? Perhaps, if you had written accurately, with greater feeling and greater conviction, God would have got your letter, and He might have been moved to reply — in which circumstance, it would be to late to caution you — be careful what you wish for.
However, for that to occur, I doubt pen and paper would suffice.
Other than that, there is no difference between you and me — we both create/destroy — I operate on a more mundane plane — and my messes are easier to clean up.

When you take the A train, be sure to tip the conductor.
Hear that? … a song of the caravanserai drifts in from the desert —
listen how the front row, all brass and horn, the back row
rhythm and bass, are nothing but the keyboard beneath
that plays in a sentimental mood as if that hue of indigo
can be summoned just like that. Sophisticated, lady
he laid the foundation of cool and made modern new,
like it was just before a kiss, the very first time.

“Humbly, I am the river.”

Counterpoint doesn’t cover it,
unless you rag, spackle, boogie it
with the barrel roll, classical riff
set free, dodge right, dodge left,
Mayor of Dodge City, all 88 citizens.

Always, the spring of life is melody.
You return from your extended tour
to show us the rag and the bone,
ebony and ivory, the house and
how you make it a home —where the
music is built, how you make it
into a jazz, more than jazz, the jazz;
others named it — you proclaimed it.

is poetry Animosity? perhaps … poetry might be
Beauty, or Blindness, a grey gull flies through thunder it believes is night though it is day.
is poetry Cocaine? cocaine is a drug.
is poetry a Drug? poetry does not sell on the streets for a half million a pound.
is poetry an Effort? effervescently!
is poetry a good Fuck? always spell it phonetically — phuck
is poetry a Greeable? Green bulls are either impossible or the bilious spew that emanates from a liar — yes, probably.
but a gree a bull is a syntax error! strike any Key to continue
what happened to h? poetry should be like a Honky-tonk, or at the very least unpredictable
is poetry Ineffable?
what is poetry doing in a Joint like this? Choose one:
trying to look respectable,
moving uptown, looking downtown,
letting loose like a wild caboose;
pick all or one;
poetry is None.
poetry is Kissing my girlfriend! We already did K
poetry is ruining my Life (sorry, talking to myself again)
poetry is Metronomic Myself Madness — in a stroke, in a strophe, on a stick
poetry is not Of or from or is, only in
poetry is a Pen, deep steep’d, beaded with ink so black, I love it like the jungle
Quiet? never!
poetry Rationale redux
senseless Sutural attack on reality, order and or chaos as you choose to experience it
nature excepted for romantics on Tuesday
terrible what I am doing to the alphabet isn’t it? I’m not done yet! r U? no way! (close
Very close)
poetry is Warm and Wet on Wednesdays
poetry is full of eXcess — writing this is eXhilarating!
why? whY not? because no one has the correct or even one good answer
you fill in the final blank (note to self: complete with Zygote)

Harpo Marx is my God —
no longer.
Whenever I need Him,
God is silent,
except for some mournful hoots
on a bicycle horn,
or tin harmonica;
sly glancing finger
pointing directly to heaven —
obvious, from
the beatific smile on his face.

I could prove it any number of ways
but my mother told me:
“Ward, in deontological arguments,
be precise.”
Harpo must have been God
He is so unpredictable.

He’s funny:
gives you a coffee when you ask for a quarter,
lets the wall fall down when He moves,
pulls a sword and a fish from His pocket as the password,
makes faces when least appropriate.

did He know Groucho was going to move like that
when He traced him in a mirror of silver nitrate,
first frames in the explosion of man’s testament
to the capture of twentieth space century time?
did He know silence
would speak louder than talkies ever would;
did He know He would remain a manic child
for anyone who sees Him,
staring back at us, still alive,
though others have been washed away
like sand swallowed by the sea.

He taught me not to be afraid,
He taught me laughter is not serious business,
He taught me silence is never understood.
We hunger for the eternal in the moment of silence.
And He laughs.

He knows noise. He knows nonsense.
He knows bravery in a lunatic way —
never aware of the consequences,
never tempted by the explanations.
He will always answer the phone
but never says anything, though he listens a lot.
Sometimes, he honks the horn.

But He is no longer God —
because God is further away than ever —
and I have not rehearsed this scene before,
and the man over there with the fake blond hairpiece
scares me silly.

He is chasing people, brandishing scissors,
making them hold his leg.
I am holding a pistol
but I know it is only a prop,
it can be taken away from me at any moment.

He knows it —
leers at me as He
chases women —
they are scared too —
God bless them.

One moment He stampedes everyone
and the next He stops
transfigured by a grand piano;
He opens the top, looks inside, dreaming
plucks on the strings, then strums.
A muse floats through the open French door,
and Marcel Marceau is singing;
entranced, He pushes the support and winces
as the lid crashes upon His hand;
alpha the harp, omega the melody.

A final grandiose gesture
and for a moment we are all aware
of something missing,
something left unsaid.
We all laugh uproariously.

Harpo grimmels,
turns suddenly
and races to the exit.

How could such a serious man be so funny?
The Wittgenstein of laughter, he bared the bones of funny
and examined them with the truth in his mind and
whiskey as witness to his soul.

Dancing with the skeleton had him banned in several states,
but he wanted to do it—no one could dissuade him.

He loved bridge,
paused moments,
where everything coalesced into an instant
(not a whole),
a start perfectly prescribed
whose dissolution was a recipe
served on roller skates—

He rode the rails
over the valley of laughter—
the angel that foretells
the coming of the end,
the transformation coming round the bend,
the clown in the wilderness—
the new kid in town.

The clown does Shakespeare
and we laugh.

Hidden waif, tortured reader,
stolen son, serious child,

why do we howl when you misbehave,
cry, when you are kind?

We are all joined in this threadbare costume—
I can live without you, father, but must seek butter,
at least one mutt, or another; I steal without
you, mother, though I never cease to seek you.

I, the child who was no child still playing a child of the wild.
I, the wild found in the child, the child in you and me.
I, the man, chased through mirrors of cost, flight and possession.
I fly, you watch, I wait at the doorstep for you to arrive;
I cross the threshold, step on a loose board, stagger, roof sags,
symphony patiently waits for me to arise, you hold your breath,
a cymbal crash as it falls on my head; it’s so much like life,

that’s what you will say as you leave the theatre,

and the band plays on.

You will always remember me,
the words you never heard.
You will laugh as I sing
my silent song, dance it on your plate
with the food of my sorrow,
look at you with a love that knows you
won’t love me back. But, I will love you
and I will always smile, my eyes sparkle for you,
plain as the moustache painted on my face.

<This begins excerpts from my seventh book Numbers & Piano, and this is the first of three poems in a series titled, 3 Silent Comedians of the Silver Screen.>

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