Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Gray Monkey

A few years back, I used to be part of an extremely active email poetry group and one of the finer poets, Eve, was talking once about the fear of death and dying. Most of us, I think, for the most part (using “most” twice and now three times in the same sentence)…and then losing my train of thought completely. Old poets never die; they just digress away. Or metaphor away. Where the hell was I?!!

Oh yes, Eve. And my thought that most of us, most of the time, handle fear of death and dying pretty well. We’ve developed lots of techniques to deal with it. And if I have the courage, I’m thinking of talking about some of that in the next few blogs.

BAGMAN: I’d rather watch an hour long video of a baby making vowel sounds!

Anyhow, Eve once said that she never dwelt on death or worried about it much, but that sometimes in the middle of the night, she would suddenly wake up and find “the gray monkey sitting heavily on her chest.” Hence the title of this series, if, indeed it becomes a series. I read once that the most difficult subjects for married couples to talk honestly about were: 1. Money. 2. Death. 3. Sex (or maybe it was Politics).

BAGMAN: Let’s talk about Sex.

BUTLER: We’re not a married couple.

BAGMAN: We argue enough to be a married couple.

BUTLER: But we’re not attracted to each other.

BAGMAN: I thought we were talking about married couples.

I’m doing to ignore the B-boys for the moment although getting through the changing cycles of marriage is also a good topic for another series someday down the road. And this will be short anyway today. I really just wanted to share a gray monkey poem I wrote a while back, although it doesn’t contain the word “gray” or the word “monkey.”


(Definition: A conical heap of stones built as a monument or as a marker, sometimes used by hikers to indicate a trail they are following)




words of stone

beside this path

before moving further on.

I woke beside the ash of last night’s warmth,

watching how the gap between lonely and alone

has grown. Broke camp sensing something lost,

something small, perhaps a single word, a thought.

My early fears of avalanche or sudden storm

assuaged, replaced by watching only pebbles

rolling one by one away. Another grain of sand

eroded from my brain, leaving me forever less.

Ahead, the trail appears to disappear in fog,

I fear there will be fewer stones to find,

to mark where I have been

or maybe I will cease


what stones



Tomorrow or the next day, I’ll continue on this theme. I think. I’ll have to do it alone since Bagman just went out, slamming the door after him.


  1. But you are like a married couple, well, in the upbraiding way I consider Oscar & Felix a fantasist married couple. ~Mary

    ps slamming the door, just like the pissed spouse....

  2. I have been thinking a lot about the end of things...not necessarily death...but just how many things I may be doing for the last time and not know it. My grandchildren have become huge markers of the passage of time.

  3. Though I like your lighter side, and agree with Bagman, I have to admit that was an excellent poem.

    However, even though I am as old as you, I never think about Death. I think it sends out signals to his base. I like to fly under his radar.

    There are millions of people calling out for Death everyday with their thoughts, and even writing poems about him, so the little old monkey has plenty to do without worrying about me.

    I don't want to see him coming, anyway. Just take me fast and...Wait! I am thinking about Death. See what you have done. Hum, hum, hum.

    So how did you like the Kentucky Derby? Imagine betting a grand on Mine That Bird? I could buy new camera gear and shoot for myself and blog all day.

  4. Death is no more than the closing of the final chapter of our life. We open and close so many chapters, as we write our book. Death, the final the only one with a title before it is written.
    The poem is beautifully written. Tabor's comment was excellent! many days will we discuss this topic?
    Will rainbows and lollipops be the next topic, please? ;)


  5. I am a big believer in the light touch... always a good thing (the lighter the touch, the more successfully you can deal with even the darkest thorniest issues) -

    also love the "Cairn" piece (I like the way the way it is shaped, and I like the phrasing... lyrical, eloquent, evocative... a piece that lingers, I like that)

  6. I don't know what to say about death and dying, except that from my view right now it sucks. I do, however, like your poem very much!

  7. I am way away from being an expert on poems - but I liked this one, clear easy to follow.
    My early morning sleeplessness is usuall the fear of living, where should I, How,how to fill life in with markers, how to eat when I get old..... how or what about death never comes into it.
    Now Camillo is 83 this June - we don't talk about it.

  8. Hello there. There's an award for you on my blog, should you choose to accept it. Lovely poem. I like typological picture poems. Have you read George Herbert's Easter Wings?

  9. I love the poem, a conical heap of stones in an of itself, and it even looks like the "silhouette" of a boob, and certainly boobs are cairns of a sort too -- showing us the way home, back to the beginning, where we first found sustenance from mama.

    I know, it was a leap, but I like the connections. Maybe you should tell Bagman and he might come home.

  10. Well, I'm not into death and dying either, too busy trying to make the most of the time I have left, but love your poem. Give Bagman a hug for me next time you see him -- we seem to behave pretty much the same!

  11. I think about death a lot. My first Zen teacher, when I kept bringing up the subject, (I was all of 24 years old at the time) finally got fed up with me and said, with, perhaps, a hint of annoyance, "Death is NOT a problem. Life is the problem!"

  12. Excuse me BB but where the hell are you???


  13. Strangely, I don't think a lot about death either. I don't run from the thought; but, like Sylvia, I just seem to have to much to do.

    Evocative poems to read, for example.

  14. We deliberately think not on death, or else we'd all drive ourselves into a keening mental state...

    I think as a society we have got too far removed from death, and that makes it harder for us to deal with, than when our ancestors were buried, or turned to ashes, closer to home, near to the cairn house in fact, and we celebrated them on high days and holidays, as we do so seldom now...

    That's the Pagan Celt in me, though...

    Cairn was a beautiful and poignant poem, thank you.