Two Monkeys, a Raven, and a Lizard King
by Nicole Nicholson

Dear Jim: you kept
talking about lizards,
but I think you had
a monkey crouched
behind your eyes.

I’m just as guilty,
wringing ravens out of
a writing desk while
my violet-eyed,
rainbow-skinned capuchin
shovels moon dust
into his mouth and
screeches as he hops
between neuron branches.

I can’t tie him down.
I tried to kill him, but
was left with a smoking match
and charred skin like
the cracked charcoal
I once swallowed as
glittery black cocktails
in cheap plastic cups.

And I see yours,
floating downstream
in a stinking amber flood.
You drowned in that river
long before the Paris bathtub.
You killed the monkey
and you killed the man, too.

I know now that wires
poke out through my skin
and stand at attention.
I hang letters and signs
from their silver, pin-prick
heads: autism, ADHD.
And my monkey still lives.
Ask your monkey sometime
for his name, and see
what he tells you.

Why don’t we trade
scar stories like stickers?
Tell me how you
rebuilt your wings out of
powder, pills, books, and
liquid heaven because
your original ones were
pulled away from your body
when you were five.
In return, I’ll tell you how
I almost skinned and gutted out
the red drum inside my chest.

Meanwhile, our monkeys
can get gone on cheap stardust
and toast to two things:
one, the fabulous ends
of our ignorance,
and two, that they’ll
never receive eviction notices
from our frontal lobes.

Nicole’s process notes:
I wrote this over a two-day period. It began as kind of a snarky, messy thing but I spun part of it off into this poem while the other portion will become another poem, eventually. It’s an epistle to Jim Morrison, who I suspect was also neurodivergent–specifically, I think he either was bipolar, or the more likely scenario, had ADHD.

In private conversations with others, I’ve compared my battle with impulse control to trying to restrain a wild monkey. I’ve also woken up in the middle of the night with a mind that will NOT quiet–I nickname this tendency “monkey mind”.

Morrison was an intensively creative mind, impulsive, and a risk-taker–but he paid a heavy price. I know some folks will call me out for trying to diagnose a dead man, but I consider this poem an act of echolocation and reflection. So, I invite the reader to read, and consider.

5 thoughts on “TWO MONKEYS, A RAVEN, AND A LIZARD KING, Nicole Nicholson

  1. Of course Jim Morrison was not like the majority of the population that rises at dawn, puts in its 40 hours a week & relaxes watching a film, novel, TV drama something that was convied by one of US!! Sounds like an interesting biography. I am often overwhelmed by Janis Joplin and Emily Dickinson (and many, many more!)

  2. Wow. wow. Not a very eloquent review, but I’m stunned pretty speechless by this poem. The way you weave these strands together just knocks me out. Than k you so much for sharing this with the online world. Looking forward to reading more.

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