NPR logo 'One of the Monkeys'

'One of the Monkeys'

Nicholas Johnson offers a view from the author's desk with imagery both amusing and sinister in this selection from the chapbook Degrees of Freedom, published in March of this year.

To mark National Poetry Month, is featuring a series of newly published works selected by the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about this and other titles at the academy's New Spring Books list.

One of the Monkeys

Nicholas Johnson

I'm one of the monkeys they've got typing

in a room full of monkeys. It's a play

Shakespeare wrote back in the old days

they want us to write again. So we're writing

a play we never read. They keep inviting

strangers to watch us and the strangers say:

"They wrote 'to be or nutti to be'!" They stay

too long if we write something exciting

but the bananas flow like wine. We know

it's a crazy, morbid, ranting play, a stew

full of murder, love, but with a noble feel.

Shocked, I see hack monkeys come and monkeys go.

One keeper killed my father. What should I do?

I'm watching him. My teeth are as sharp as steel.