Feature > Poetry
Shawn Delgado

Shawn Delgado

Shawn Delgado attended a Poetry@Tech event featuring Dean Parkin, Neil Rollinson and Naomi Jaffa during his freshman year at Georgia Tech. The next fall, he met Tom formally and began to study with him. From there, Tom took the reins, sending Shawn to Sarah Lawrence in the summer, Palm Beach in the winter, and eventually UNC-Greensboro for an MFA. Shawn was fortunate to work with Tom in publishing through Jeanne Duval Editions and most recently did transcription work for I am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems, a selection of Bill Knott’s work.

Remembering Tom: 10,000 Books

Anyone who had been a guest in Tom's Atlanta home—and he kept the doors open to everyone, especially after readings—could admire his study on the fourth floor. I've heard a few people describe it as being inside Tom's brain—all available space held books. From floor to ceiling, on the overhangs running above the doorframes and below the windows were books resting on homemade shelves. Scanning the spines for titles, it was easy to see what really had wormed its way into Tom's imagination: poetry and the amazing, strange truths and stories of science and history. Apart from the work of his friends—I recall few novels or short stories—poetry and non-fiction were abundant. Tom loved authors' biographies. He loved to read about WWII (he was a product of it). He loved to dig into strange studies on poison or eels or an explorer's ill-fated expedition. He estimated his library to be roughly 8,000 books, but more importantly, he wanted to read 10,000 in his lifetime; immense as that sounds, I think he made it. His poem "To Help the Monkey Cross the River" reminds me of his world-hungry curiosity, his watchful guidance, and special fondness for all monkeys.

To Help the Monkey Cross the River

which he must
cross, by swimming, for fruits and nuts,
to help him
I sit with my rifle on a platform  
high in a tree, same side of the river
as the hungry monkey. How does this assist
him? When he swims for it
I look first upriver: predators move faster with
the current than against it.
If a crocodile is aimed from upriver to eat the monkey
and an anaconda from downriver burns
with the same ambition, I do
the math, algebra, angles, rate-of-monkey,
croc- and snake-speed, and if, if
it looks as though the anaconda or the croc
will reach the monkey
before he attains the river's far bank,
I raise my rifle and fire
one, two, three, even four times into the river
just behind the monkey
to hurry him up a little.
Shoot the snake, the crocodile?  
They're just doing their jobs,  
but the monkey, the monkey  
has little hands like a child's,
and the smart ones, in a cage, can be taught to smile.



from The Cradle Place, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004

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