Monkey Heart

I don’t know which part of the tale I like
best: the one where a beggar comes every day

to offer a piece of fruit to the king
as he sits in his private quarters,

which then he lobs without thinking
into his treasure house; or the part

where a monkey bites into one of these
daily offerings to reveal the surprising

jewel at its center. I wonder about
the room into which these gifts have been

so carelessly thrown— and why no one has come
to clean and bag the garbage these many months.

So now, amid sour-sweet clouds of ammonia
from rotting fruit: a pile of precious stones.

The story doesn’t say what one should do
with them: only that they’re mere preamble

to more difficult tests. For instance,
at the height of summer, how is it not

possible to pick up a peach or fig or plum
and hold its ripe intoxication, at least,

under your nose? How long will it take
before you set down the dead weight

you’ve carried so long, before it
exhausts and destroys you? I imagine

the monkey coming at twilight, drawn back
by the musk of mango, the yeasty headiness

of durian; and a man so absorbed in his
own overripe sorrows he can’t lift his head,

cut an orange into sections, lay a cool
wheel of melon on his fevered tongue.

Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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