I used to mail-order the little monkeys in a cup,
advertised on two-bit comic book back covers,
but the compact box with air holes at the top
didn’t come—I know it was dumb, but I sent cash:
laureled one cents, buffalo nickels, burning-torch dimes,
and Liberty quarters scotch-taped to a card and sealed
in a stamped envelope addressed with best penmanship.
Years and many moves later—they must have tracked
me down like schools their alumni—the delivery arrived:
the miniature hermit monkey snug in his sturdy
live-in cup of Horn & Hardart cafeteria china—
he was a born commuter, a philosopher in a tub.
He’d climb out and walk around wherever set down,
and despite the ad’s fine-print disclaimer about luck,
he had the knack of picking out winners at the track—
dogs, thoroughbreds, and trotters—offsetting expenses.
He’d tell fortunes as a parlor trick, with a deck
of mishmash cards almost as tall, laying out the draw
and discerning the gist with tiny finger to tiny lip
and detective tics of his head. He’d mime the result
with movements precise and unmistakable:
going to the bank, falling in love, fighting a battle,
earning a degree, sailing a ship, and marrying.
Somehow, the single monkey in a cup multiplied—
each Saturday breakfast, the row of mugs had grown,
with furred pates and bright eyes peeking over each brim.
I figure that back in the day a shipment of monkeys
must have escaped and hid out in a post office store room;
they intercepted crates of mugs, and in a few generations,
resumed fulfilling the long-delayed orders,
boyhood to manhood. That would explain it.
Javy Awan’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Solstice, Ghost City Review, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Ekphrastic Review; two of his poems were selected for reading at locations on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour in 2019. He lives in Salem, Massachusetts.