Sarah Nichols lives and writes in Connecticut. She is the author of four chapbooks, including Dreamland for Keeps (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming, 2018), and She May Be a Saint (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2016). Her poems and essays have also appeared in Luna Luna, Thirteen Myna Birds, The Ekphrastic Review, and the RS 500.

Sarah Nichols

The Monkey on My Back

after a detail in Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte, 1884-86 My pet monkey was a shadow. A skein of a leash held us together. I played a woman in decorous skirts. The monkey gamboled and clawed beneath them. What is a whalebone stay next to a ghost with claws? The one who says You will always need me as it bites into my neck. For something so small, it wrecks havoc. Feeds on my sweat. Opens old wounds. She hisses demands, and I do nothing but obey. No one sees me, she says. Only you, and the choke-chain around your neck.

I love ekphrastic poetry, and I think the best examples of it go beyond whatever piece of art is under examination in the poem. For "The Monkey on My Back," I focused on a detail in Georges Seurat's massive pointillist painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, a woman with a barely visible monkey on a leash. I related this to my experience of active addiction: a woman who took pains to hide it, and all the time being ruled by it, and no longer able to keep it from biting back. Having a "monkey on the back" has long been used as a metaphor for addiction, and in the case of the painting, the monkey is on the leash, barely visible, but in life it's already taken control.

Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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