ME&J Phillipines
Feeding Monkeys
by Catherine Moore

Behind the tremors, a broadleaf jungle breathing–
its exotic bird vibrato, a vague motion of wind, the exhausted fungi–
            lie broad mocking grins.

Hey, they want b’nanas not oranges,
my brother shouts in preschool tones.
We lob chunks of fruit into trees, a barbed-wired mysterious lush,
this foliage looms in always nighttime tones.
On a second plantain, the tiny glints emerge—
            a brow, a nose, expand into a face.

Under leaves of a Talisay tree, the eyes they hide
and they sway inches away within green camouflage—
            waiting, wily.
Not unlike the other things we don’t see,
            like jungle cats,
                        like the Viet Cong.

Now! In a rapid fire of glee we pitch them more.
Only the noise of the jungle knows—
machine guns & monkeys,
            together: one chants, one shrieks.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age three with her older brother James in their jungle surrounded yard, taken in 1970, Subic Bay, Philippines.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem originated from a creative idea generating exercise: list 10 things you know now but didn’t know then. One of items on my list was the Vietnam War. It may have been common for parents to protect their children from this kind of knowledge but I was raised in a military family and we were stationed in the Philippines during Vietnam. Just 900 miles across the South China Sea. I remember MP’s, machine guns, tight security, evacuations, and yet I felt a “normal” childhood. Normal if you had a jungle behind your back yard and could feed the monkeys your morning snack. When I came back to the memory I had a clear image of how eyes emerge from the jungle and it occurred to me that while this sight brought me joy, it could be the worst experience for the soldiers in Vietnam. Eerily similar, vastly different.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Moore’s work has appeared in Grey Sparrow, Tahoma Literary Review, Southeast Review, and in anthologies, most recently by Pankhearst Press. Her poems have garnered First Place prizes with both the Mississippi and Alabama State Poetry Society Contests. She is the winner of the Southeast Review’s 2014 Gearhart poetry prize and was nominated to “The Best Small Fictions of 2015.” Her chapbook Story is available with Finishing Line Press. Catherine earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa. She is an avid traveler and has visited sixteen different countries, including living overseas as a young child. Catherine moved to the Nashville area where she enjoys a thriving arts and writing community. She also volunteers as a literacy tutor. She is tweetable @CatPoetic.