Saturday, January 27, 2007

Beware the Monkey Bird My Son

Last week in Luanda Eran had a nightmare about a monkey-bird creature. It wasn't just the content of the dream that caught my imagination, it was the fact that he had a dream at all. Eran claims not to dream, or at least that he never remembers them if he does, so for him to have had a dream that he remembered, and that it was so specific and striking in its detail, I found kind of touching. Of course, naturally, it was all my fault! In the dream a monkey bird arrived in our bedroom, and I didn't want to touch it, so I asked Eran to get rid of it, assuring him that it wasn't dangerous and it was just a nuisance. So he went to grab it, and it caught one of Eran's fingers in its talons and squeezed so hard that he called out - which I actually heard him do - before waking up. He told me the pain was excruciating.

Something about his descriptions reminded me of two things: Lewis Carroll's the Jabberwocky...
...and the henchmen of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz...

Since its movie origin the winged monkey has maintained a
strangely prevalent hold on concepts for creatures: as this picture shows...

and I'm not even the first person to write a poem about one...

But here's my offering, and it's for Eran, and his rare dream:

The monkey bird

The monkey birds were the witch’s pets:
the wicked witch who cursed the birds,
and cursed the apes, and cursed the men
and turned them all blue.

I did not comprehend what I’d asked you to do.

The moment she died I took up her broom:
and on that throne I wore her gown
and her pointed hat in place of a crown.

And I stretched her stripy tights
right up my legs of wood
‘cause I could carry them off
like no-one else could
like not even she:
my predecessor of ugly nose.
Now I lay down with her man
and dressed up in her clothes.

But I did not want her creatures,
though they were part of the deal;
those monstrous servant birds
hanging on my every command.
Those tens of eyes, I could not stand:
begging for scraps of words.

So up upon my turret, amidst one hell of a gale
I sent them off, one at a time,
on a treacherous, storm-struck trail.

Fly my pretties, fly.
Fly far and bring me wealth
And I will use my broomstick
To sweep my ashen heart
and watch the skies and fear the rain
that will wash away your magic paint
and soak your feathers to your skin.
(As if the Icarus bird had a monkey twin.)

Blue ribbons of ink
flickering flames streaming forth.
I regretted my actions
when they plunged to the earth.

You fell through my turret and into my bed
with an almighty crash to awaken the dead.
I woke with a start and there it was on the rug:
it had flown in through the window
and was picking at threads:
all winged and blue and unnaturally bright
against the static of studio air
and a backdrop of night.

Maybe I really was to blame
and I had summoned the monkey bird
to awaken you to memory and dream
of which, until now, only I had suffered.
So out of spite I inflicted pain:
fuelled by a bitterness, twinged with envy.

So grouchy, like the Queen of Spain:
I hollered: “where’s my cup of tea,
and I thought I asked you to get rid of that thing”?!
And like the true blue, the soldier-servant you are,
you asked if that would be Ceylon or Jasmine
and went for the ape with the wings.

As you approached it,
it rose up and turned brown.
You grabbed it and hugged it,
but before turning round,
it took hold of your finger
and squeezed hard and pulled down.
And it would not let go
and it would not give in:
fearing for its life
in your memory bin.

You, the undreamer,
with your anti-dream shield
which failed to protect you
in the memory field
from dreams that do not happen,
and are not heard,
when you remembered your fear
of the monkey bird.

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