Matthew Lippman

The Monkey Bars

Nancy’s heart shut down
so they put her on Lipitor,
said, Sleep more. No one could tell
if it was because she was drunk
half the time
or just wanted out.


I wanted to tell Bob if he meditated on the chair
he could sit still in one for thirty minutes
and actually have an experience
like birds have when they sit on a tree branch
and whistle. He insisted on the Adderall that he had been taking since 1996,
three times a day and twice before bed
to make him thrush.


Mike’s eye began to twitch when he studied for the SATs.
He started the Kaplan course at age five,
Suzuki violin at three
and what if you are not so fortunate? Live in a tenement
with no father and have no violin?
They put you on the Ritalin anyway
stick you in a classroom with ninety kids, scream


I know a guy, forty four, nut-job baboon type, when he was ten,
on Bastille Day, stormed the school walls—
uniforms and trumpets, played both the rebels and the French Army,
the whole thing, bayonets, cannons, three dimensional experience
for grades 1-6.
He bled out on the playground, next to the Monkey Bars.
No one thought to call the nurse.
Got an A for the year.
Today he’d be on the six o’clock news, stuck in a shrink’s office
jammed up with a Prozac filled tube, his face puffed up like a Botoxed marshmallow.
Who’s to blame?



I say it’s the mothers who work too much and the fathers
who come home and beat the car.
Maybe it’s an explosion of video games and the absence of Leonard Cohen.
If Susan can’t read by 3
they stick her into a socket.
If Pedro falls asleep during first period,
they blast him up with Motrin.
Motrin, I scream.


No matter, the pharmacies swim in blood and money.
The doctors dine on caviar while a whole generation of young people
crawl the halls, turn their eyelids inside out,
beat themselves against radiators when the heat’s up high.
On Halloween their orange and black bags
are filled with Dexedrin, Concerta and Wellbutrin.


Soon there will be a drug for people
who go to the beach and watch seagulls eat trash off the sand,
little needles, wet paper bags filled with bones; a pill
for eating tomatoes, one for starting up the car.


But what really scares me is when they make that 500mg tablet
for getting back to that place
when there weren’t any pills,
when there was just the discomfort of too many people in one room,
the wind in one’s face,
the joy of silence when you didn’t even know
there was joy there to be found.

Matthew Lippman