Monkey with Cymbals

John C. Mannone


Congo drumming begins to fill my room
and wild sounds seep inside of me—roars
of jungle beasts. I shake and cower. Soon
from under covers, the voodoo drum’s beat

grows louder, louder. To the attic door
I run, slam it open, then shimmy down
the ladder, skipping rungs by twos to floor,
I dart through hallways, stumble down the stairs.

My heart’s pounding. A shadow from behind
looms and monsters walls. The roar is louder.
Cornered in the foyer, I cannot find
escape. I cringe; the maddening shadow

overtakes me. I scream a bloody scream
…but there’s no ogre there! So why’s my heart
a beating drum? Imaginings, it seems;
perhaps it’s something that I ate, or just

the dust and mold that’s havocing my nose.
Relax! I whisper. Don’t over-react
to that toy monkey in my room that goes
on and on with its incessant banging.

For a moment it lowers the tremor
of its cymbals, the jungle beat then slows,
but just as quick, rises to a clamor—
macaque teeth chatter grows; I sense a roar

within my half-hid face. Through the windows
I see my wife approach, oblivious
to the infernal noise all around us
Thank God, I say, the door now opening

so easily in my hands. She stops dead
in her tracks and points, yells and passes out.
I lunge to her in frenzy—catch her head
before it hits ground. I don’t understand

why she remains so listless in my arms
and this lust I’m sensing. Why’s she bleeding?
I lay her on the floor to see what harm
I might have done by accident. I see
in the hallway mirror—my image sags
in horror—shows me what I have become
my teeth have turned to fangs and my hair shags
‘round my head—the flowing mane of lions.



John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, and others. He’s a Horror Writers Association Scholarship winner (2017), a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections and has been nominated for the Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He chaired the Dwarf Stars Anthology (2019). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, Liquid Imagination, and American Diversity Report. He’s a retired professor of physics near Knoxville, TN.