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Return of the Monkey Mind: More Poems and Wandering Thoughts

Return of the Monkey Mind:

More Poems and Wandering Thoughts



Rob O’Keefe

Copyright 2015 Rob O’Keefe

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“Quantum song” and “World traveler” originally appeared in The Syzygy Poetry Journal, Volume 1, August, 2015.

For Dianne



With this second publication of the Monkey Mind series, the momentary capture of wandering thoughts continues, a salute to the freedom of “why not?”


This collection is bookended by the formality of Tanka and Haiku poetry, but between those two pieces it ambles along, pausing for a bit of anguish in “White room,” some nonsense in “Turkeys,” the found in “Spare parts: concrete delusion,” with a few other stops along the way.


I hope that the work in this collection provides a diversion from whatever is on your mind.



Opening tanka

Hanging on

Intemperate joy

Meeting for the first time


Feels like a spell

Spare parts: concrete delusion

What remains of Maya

World traveler

Quantum song

Spare parts: intent unknown

Warrior cook

Third rail

Not dreaming

Hard edge



Coming to terms

Your virtuous ping

White room

Salt-free diet

What a candle am I

Compulsion revulsion

Closing haiku


Opening tanka

I would follow you

across a rickety bridge

under the red sun

our shadows seek their escape

to dance among the willows

Hanging on

I’m staring at the wall

where the picture once hung,

the one we found at the gallery

on a pier in some seaside town –

we pretended to know about art,

using words like composition

and abstract expressionism,

but we didn’t fool anyone.


We hung it on the biggest wall in the house –

it felt like it had always been there,

exuding a serenity, a clarity

that neither of us possessed but wanted,

at times it was inspiring,

a reminder of what could be,

pigments of possibility

captured on canvas.


But those were no more real

than our own artistic pretentions,

the colors fading with each day,

all conception lost or simply misplaced

over the years, we barely noticed

how it receded into the wall,

leaving an apologetic outline,

some unformed thought of what was.


Until one day we took it down,

uncovering a patch of color,

the residue of an idea

that hid behind this incarnation of us,

who wait to be taken off our wall,

and placed in the attic,

one day to be discovered, dusted off –

raised up and acknowledged once more.

Intemperate joy

Rail against the random


the promises of

all, if not more


Cherish ephemeral


that linger long

enough to leave a footprint


Reject the clever


etched in ebony

sanded and glossed


Embrace smirks, tears, outraged


the quiet perfection

of no expectations

Meeting for the first time

The world changed today,

shifting my arc of possibilities

just a degree or so,


imperceptibly significant:

an existential nudge,

a cosmic trifling,


significantly imperceptible:

a newborn’s smile,

a fleeting zephyr,


and with this change

I felt a trace of hope –

but just for a moment,


and with this change

I felt a hint of despair –

but just for a moment,


and in that moment

I suffered the elation of your love

and the misery of your rejection,


the new boundaries

of what might become

our discordant affection.


We once launched rockets into space,

three, two, one – lift-off!

First they were unmanned,

but then we all got on,

held in place by g-force,

pinned through the abdomen,

removed from the killing jar,

held up to the light,

examined by some sentience

that (not who) wondered,

What do these do?

What purpose do they serve?


We once played games,

one, two, three – red light!

If you moved, you were out,

banned forever,

hydrogen stripped from your molecules,

fissures spreading between your cells,

making you drift away

in all directions at once,

from all you thought you knew,

until you wonder,

What do I do?

What purpose do I serve?


We once made ice cream,

no numbers could describe it!

Not two, not three, not one numeral –

just a sensation that enveloped

our tongues, our being,

in an endless stream of celebrations

that are no longer observed, like rockets,

or understood, like games,

leaving nothing to do,

no purpose to serve,

how it was always destined to be,

once we learned to count.

Feels like a spell

Passing shadow

Lasting night

Hunger forward

Mortal fright


Light is thwarted

Vaunted dark

Wicked purpose

Grim and stark


Tale of terror

Peril nigh

Stories linger

Whispered lies


Distant horror

Cries that bind

Crimson flower

Haunted mind

Spare parts: concrete delusion

old house collapsing

buildings crumble

we eat the cold


the cold of judgment

the cold of forgotten promises

our hope is frozen

What remains of Maya

Between each flicker

the unseen image passes,

screening a life not captured,

each snapshot a subtraction

from what we think we know.


Are you sublime in those missing moments,

or are you something less?

did you live another life,


not dancing, not lovely?


Were you always there to be pictured,

if we could just spot

the spaces between the light?

if we could learn the dark

learn the absence, learn to witness.


We long to ask:

we know your laughter, don’t we?

we know your sadness, don’t we?

are we your achievement?

are we your hope?


Our specters project their contents,

puffed up by silver and iodide,

while your light pours through

us, combining our stories

to gift us infinite versions of you,


Until we forget who we are,

where we are,

but remember why we are,

and in that remembering,

we know what you have given us.

World traveler

I’d like to take a bus to Mars,

or maybe hike to Venus,

there’s much to see among the stars,

weird species and strange genus,


I’d try a Martian Tonic,

I hear it’s all the rage,

it’s made with liquid arsenic,

and two parts rum and sage,


A train to Saturn might be grand,

with stops at all the rings,

although there’s no place there to land,

and unload all my things,


Jupiter’s the place to be,

the largest of gas giants,

the locals help you with such glee,

they’re nice to all their clients,


But maybe I’ll just take a walk,

and look up at the sky,

it’s hard to visit other worlds,

when you don’t like to fly.

Quantum song

I have heard the quantum song,

its sentient rhythms laid bare,

streaming harmonics and half-lives,

singular and ever-present.


It is sung by the ion ships,

in the voids between galaxies,

near the gaps between existence,

an echo of stardust and bone.


“We have felt the quantum song!”

so sing the recombinant souls

from the last world to be known,

soon to burst in melodic close.


The song calls relentless, to life

encompassed – as a phrase, a chord –

rising to crescendo, binding

all: resonant and eternal.

Spare parts: intent unknown

Of kings and thieves

and those who were both,

they disperse their lives:

rise and ruin,


that mythic place –

a spec, a meme,
all stop:
passion and pain,


in chained absence,

the percussive force,

wordless and bitter:

the end to meaning.

Warrior cook

I am the warrior cook,

Soldier of sustenance,

Archangel of caloric wonder.


Fear my utensils –

They shine with the light

Of organic goodness.


Weep in awe of my recipes,

my inscrutable mixtures,

my runes of nutrition.


Through me comes breakfast,

Through me comes lunch,

Through me comes dinner,


And the fervent hope

Of the most holy of events:














Not dreaming

I’d like to say I dream of you,

but the truth is,

I haven’t dreamt

in years, decades, forever –

I fall asleep,

I wake up.


Between those points

there are no thoughts,

no dreams,

only the ceaseless

what isn’t –

I am not.


Perhaps I go somewhere else –

a fancy nightclub,

or on safari with other people

who do not dream,

and we interpret

the meaning of our nonexistence.


If I did exist,

I would like to have

one of those dreams

that randomly jumps

from one setting

to another.


I’m in a room,

then I’m screaming at goats

(they have my car keys),

then I’m flying

over hills and valleys,

looking for you –


To let you know,

I want to dream –

I want my dream to be of you.

Hard edge


I, the wall,


My eminence,


My haughty encumbrance

To repel and conquer



I, the change,

Leaching through,


My muscular portents

Leaking invasion –

Massive in thought and act



I, the vestige,


Sediment and residue,

Clinging finality,

My quiet terminus looming,

But not my end.


Turkeys in the trees.

turkeys in mid-flight,

turkeys in the morning,

turkeys at midnight.


Tiny little heads,

large expansive wings,

lots and lots of feathers,

very little bling.


Turkey tetrazzini,

turkey a la king,

turkey with potatoes,

turkey with stuffing.


Hiding from the hunter,

running from the fox,

wishing to be faster,

tripping over rocks.


Turkey is a country,

turkey is a bird,

turkey – so symbolic,

turkey – so absurd.


[Persuade these waves, insistent]


to be immersed

the intimate vastness

teeming with pregnant demise

lost in the promise of being


[Remain this ocean, indifferent]


held by fingerless grasp

moon-swollen undulation

beckons our sleepy corpulence

with deepening temperament


[Arise this creation, sufficient]


these ill-constructed forms

helpless before the ancient call

our contrivance so complete

we must sink, always sink


[Be this life, impenitent]

Coming to terms

All the words

of this world

lie before us,

I choose







I ask,

are they you?

not the painting-you,

the sculpture-you,

the story-you –

have I done you-justice?


You ask,

whose words are these

that appear

of their own volition?

How do we glean their intention,

knowing they will never be us,

even when they are?


They lounge on the page,

float in conversation,

linger in critique,

haughty in their






Left unread






are they you?

or shall I try words

from somewhere else –

the ones we haven’t met?

Your virtuous ping

The first time I was pinged,

it was a surprise.


What could this mean –

some affirmation of value?


Recognition of a sort,

instant and fleeting.


Now I wait, vigilant,

at the ready.


Watchful for the next ping,

hoping for your non-corporeal tap.


I am a willing

and collaborative node.

White room

She haunts from the never-place,

playing treachery to languid dread,

teeth to the broken sticks,

again, again, again


Imperiled, impaled, impotent,

deep in honey, deep in blood,

screaming the dark, scorning the anguish,

rising, then rising still


She is, she is here,

neither creature nor creator,

pulled to the depths, clutch, rend, plead,

fade, oh, to fade


Falling through, disassembled,

everything scrambled, weightless,

wrong flesh, wrong breathing, seeping –

empty, empty, empty

Salt-free diet

Please do not eat

my meaningful scream,

it’s not ready for consumption.


If my splendid torment

finds its way onto your plate,

resist the urge to season it.


Cut my continuous misery

into small bite-size pieces,

so you can savor each morsel.


Wash it down

with my weathered sorrow,

no need to bring your own bottle.

What a candle am I

What a candle am I,

wishing to be fire,

aspirant to shine.


I willingly melt,

devoured by the spark,

diminished by its heat.


Pitiless heat,

stripping away my wax,

my affectation.


Absent flame I stand

an ornament – all aesthetic,

shorn of purpose.


The flame is my parasite –

it dies without me, and

I perish with it.


I burn, reduced entirely,

leaving only shadow

and a final wisp of smoke.

Compulsion revulsion

Organic mechanic,

Hyper viper,


Apocalyptic triptych,

Pedantic romantic,


Disillusion fusion,

Plusher usher,


Precision incision,

Hustler rustler,


Ragamuffin puffin,

Mediocre joker,


Dumber newcomer,

Virgin sturgeon,


Multicolor cruller,

Yummy mummy,


Overheard word,

Precise device,


Formation gyration,

Recommending ending.

Closing haiku: three by three


doorbell unanswered

roses climb through broken panes

someone is crying



doorbell unanswered

wet rock hides a secret key

we dry off inside



doorbell unanswered

bye publishers clearing house

adios big check


Comments or questions can be addressed to the author through the following email address:

[email protected]

Return of the Monkey Mind: More Poems and Wandering Thoughts

Return of the Monkey Mind picks up where Living with the Monkey Mind left off – as another collection of random subjects that have narcissistically been deemed interesting: the nature of existence, the capricious nature of love, and the profound presence of poultry. In this second collection, formal constructs such as Haiku and Tanka sit side by side with free verse and experimental forms. Serious subjects abound, but so does the occasional attempt at humor. All in all, Return of the Monkey Mind aspires to be unsystematically systematic and intentionally unintentional. Enjoy the work. Some of the pieces in this series have appeared or are scheduled to appear in The Bitchin' Kitsch, Parody, Penny Ante Feud, and The Syzygy Poetry Journal.

  • ISBN: 9781311383112
  • Author: Rob O'Keefe
  • Published: 2015-11-15 21:40:10
  • Words: 2091
Return of the Monkey Mind: More Poems and Wandering Thoughts Return of the Monkey Mind: More Poems and Wandering Thoughts