Monkey Fire

by Mara Jebsen

I met a tipsy older lady in a place;

She said, “Honey, it doesn't really come clear

'til you're sixty.” But she wouldn't say

what. The television was blaring

about chimpanzees. Some journalist

had likened our president to a chimp.

Meanwhile, a chimp named Travis

was reported to have sipped

wine; and more recently tea, laced with Xanax,

before his “unprecedented

killing spree.” The reporters said Travis

“had no history of violence,” but one of

my students, who'd grown up in T's town

knew a guy Travis had attacked-back

when they were kids. The bartender, Gene

checked it on his i-phone, and there were photos

of the owner–or should I say “mother?” snuggled

up tight with the chimp, before bed.

It's a modern tragedy, they said (Travis

is dead now) and there's such vague pity

and unlocalized outrage that I can't figure out

what I'm thinking.

Yesterday I sat kind of across from Justin

Timberlake. He had juice. I was eating

a Cuban sandwich. I wanted to tell him

that my sisters adore his albums; that he cracked

me up in his leotard when he danced on SNL,

and that I really wasn't sure about his clothing

line idea, but Jessica Biel was there

and I didn't have the nerve. Can any

of this really come clear, when you're

sixty? The lady was ripping pages

out of a magazine from Sotheby's. She said,

“You want em?” ” I took the good art out.”

and I took them gently from her

because it seemed polite. She'd left

La Misericorde, which is a man

in a suit, whose head is an eyeball, and near him

is a fire, on a strange blue plain. The caption says

Magritte shows the modern man, confronted

by fetish, desire, the unknown. There's a squarish

object in the great, healthy fire—but its not

at all clear what's burning.