Notes on Pet Monkeys and How to Manage Them
I. CAGE ITEMS
This box should be fairly heavy. The door
never needs opened or undone. Bend the rim
into a square. Little danger to your
self—the room to be afforded him.
A looking glass hung up by a small chain—
your pet’s vanity exceeds belief. A
flimsily made affair is soon bitten
to pieces. Body of a cage. Many a
good monkey is killed by swallowing
fragments of glass. Rub on a coat of
maroon. A little ornamental topping.
Or Venetian Red, most suitable of
colors for a cage. All that remains
is to procure your monkey and put him in.
From the time my fingers were big enough
to manufacture fly-cages with hollowed
cork and pins—all other lines of
fancy well threshed out—Simians have held
great fascination. The schoolboy’s definition
is “the plural of monk.” Or humonculous.
Much is lacking in what might have been
told. I cannot pin. Great naturalists
have labored to show a relationship.
I cannot pin my credibility.
Below the average human idiot’s,
the head of a chimpanzee. I am drifting.
What might have been. A fertile source of
drollery. My fingers were big enough.
Disease—Symptoms of Indisposition—
Quinsy—Good Riddance—a small apple
hollowed out—Toothache—Headache—treat him
as you would a child—Useful Article—
as you would—Broken Limbs—a human
Being Bitten—first he should be en-
veloped—Treatment—in a bag—Costive-
ness—Biliousness—Monkeys Eating Their
Own Tails—a ready sale is better than
the nuisance—Excrement—the “Kill or Cure”
Treatment—treat him as you would a human
being—Simple Remedies—a small apple hollowed
out and plugged again is greedily devoured
IV. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
Savagely grabbed, the hand that has fed and
petted him all along. The very moment
novelty is lost, sit and write off an
advertisement to Exchange and Mart,
Bazaar. I haven’t always had the heart.
A passing menagerie generally
has a vacant cage. With an iron bar
a sharp and heavy blow. An exceedingly
human-like affair. As if we all of us
come at last to this. In skinning him
yourself you’ll find his hide fairly tough.
Put him in a natural posture. A bit
of dried moss, artificial leaf you might
purchase at the milliners. Keep him in full light.
The source material for these pieces is Notes on Pet Monkeys and How to Manage Them, Arthur Patterson’s 1888 handbook, which was published in response to the colonialist British fashion of adopting exotic animals without any idea of how to properly provide care for them. These poems erase and rearrange the text into sonnet form. The poems were originally published in The Florida Review (43.2, Fall 2019) and were the winner of the Humboldt Poetry Prize.