Jun. 18, 2013

To Help the Monkey Cross the River

by Thomas Lux

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.

"To Help the Monkey Cross the River" by Thomas Lux, from The Cradle Place. © Houghton Mifflin 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It is the birthday of musician and songwriter Paul McCartney (1942), born in Liverpool, England. When he was 14, he learned to play a left-handed guitar and met a local art student named John Lennon.

They formed a skiffle band called the Quarrymen in 1957, spending several years based in a small Liverpool club called The Cavern. After some success, they met Brian Epstein, who became their manager. He suggested they replace their current drummer, Pete Best, with a young man named Ringo Starr. By 1963, the band, which had changed its name to the Beatles, was the most popular rock and roll group in England. In February of 1964, they took America by storm with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists McCartney as the best-selling composer in popular music history. His song "Yesterday" is the most recorded ever, with 2,200 versions.

On this day in 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte lost his final major battle near Waterloo Village in Belgium. He is one of the most famous emperors of all time, and one of the only historical figures remembered by his first name. There are an estimated 45,000 books about him.

Waterloo was Napoleon's attempt at a comeback. He had been defeated by the British, and was in exile on the island of Elba, but he grew restless and devised a plan to march north with his army and attack the English and Prussian armies — he would split his forces to drive his allied enemies apart and defeat them separately. A heavy rain fell and delayed the attack, which allowed the Prussians to bring in reinforcements and help bring the English to victory, ending more than two decades of constant fighting in Europe.

Napoleon's army suffered 25,000 killed and wounded, 8,000 captured, and 15,000 missing. He abdicated and went to live on the island of St. Helena off the coast of Africa. The word "Waterloo" came to mean an impossible struggle or a decisive and final defeat.

It's the birthday of novelist Amy Bloom (books by this author), born in New York City (1953). She was in her 30s, practicing psychotherapy and raising her two children, when she realized she wanted to be a serious writer.

She said, "I've spent a lot of time listening to people, and I am endlessly intrigued by relationships, particularly by the gap between what people say and what they truly feel, and the gap between what they do and what they really want." Her books include Love Invents Us (1998), Away (2008), and Where the God of Love Hangs Out (2010).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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