Tiny Switzerland, tiny town
Home to Dancing Red Monkey—
She climbs up and she climbs down
As high as a bell-tower tree
Moon-gone sky makes her feel most free
Soft leaves and young birds and berries
To eat, sit, pull ticks from his hair,
At the foot of the sleeping tree
What if it were only a dream?
Because night falls on red monkeys.
Troops disband with lone-danced commands–
Up there in her own sleeping tree
Inspired by: Julien Rondez’s Jura Skyline, 2018, a collection of symbols representing bell towers from churches in 45 Swiss villages.
Symbol: #3 of 45
Poetic Form: Since the Canton of Jura borders France and its habitants are French-speaking, I chose the kyrielle, a French four-line stanza form from the High Middle Ages. There are quite a few rules for writing kyrielles: a) the poem must incorporate a rhyme scheme; b) each line has eight syllables; c) the poem must be at least three stanzas long, and d) each stanza must contain a repeating refrain, usually in the fourth line. Refrains are a big deal—they carry a lot of weight so they have to be good!
Process: In his artist statement, Rondez explains that the names of his symbols are the nicknames of the inhabitants of each featured village. Symbol #3 is labeled “Les Patas”—which, according to one translated article I found online, could refer to tools used in the manufacturing of sauerkraut (a popular industry in that region?) or the patas monkey, a ground-dwelling species from West and East Africa. I learned that patas monkeys favor wide open spaces during the day, but at night they each find a tree to sleep in—one monkey per tree, and they do not sleep in the same tree two nights in a row. I loved the idea of this gorgeous primate from Senegal climbing up a bell tower in Switzerland, so that image became the central metaphor of my kyrielle. As French is spoken in both countries, the monkey in this poem is not so out of place after all.