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The moon temple ghosts, swinging on heavy doors.

They ride rabid dogs in the alleys of ill repute.

They decipher the language of crows at dawn

in ancient trees, the blueness of a god’s skin.

They tiptoe power lines, rope bridges around the city.

They throw stones at the ambassador’s sedan.

When afternoon prayers begin, they grown silent,

Lying in each other’s arms, dreaming of clemency.

The monkeys are no rounding up street boys.

At least, at first, it seems this is true, but in no time

The boys learn to single out a monkey in the throng

& wrestle him to the ground. He may try to bite

& to scratch, to howl, & cry ceremoniously, to plead

with the one word he knows, but then the fight

goes out of him when the rest of his great clean

returns to jabbering & the sacred picking of lice.

The boys zap him with a small laser gun.

A garnet of mute bells is tossed into the dust,

& chants go aeons back to the beginning & die.

The fearless illumination goes out of his eyes.

The boys tag him. He rises to wander freely.

As naked unholiness crawls into the night,

they’re wrestled one by one to the ground

& castrated for the music of coins jangling in a pocket.

Last of the Monkey Gods

Yusef Komunyakaa

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translated from the Ukrainian written by
Natalka Bilotserkivets