Two Poems

Metal Mothers

To follow up that classic
experiment done in the Sixties
on young primates fed by wire

figures, how they always rushed
right when the bottle emptied to snuggle
with some padded forms

though those never fed them
anything nor ever hugged them
back. What hunger

that softness satisfied
science wanted to know.
So now to have the facts

on this early lack of mother,
a modern steel-lined crib
for infant rhesus monkeys

without the former cotton
clutter, each in its own
cylinder, sealed.

(The scientist had quite a bent
for lab language
who named that place

“a well of despair.”) Forty-five days
and forty-five nights
of maternal deprivation.

While it lasts
each babe gives science its best
moments through one-way glass

as their spindly arms
trying to cuddle the smooth steel
sides of those metal mothers.


Last night a calf was born
to my yoke partner’s mate
and we moaned though low
because it is to live as we

and all before us live
we who have never lived
wild. Nor will this new tiller
already stumbling

after his mother as she returns
to the grindstone rounds
rise up to rebel
and lead us out of slavery.

Oxen have no other fate.
We gave up
counting our steps in the fields
or the persistent prods of the rod.

We know no longings
but for food. We drag
over the difficult earth.
But sometimes the smell of dew

on new-cut grass or the shadow
of a bird rippling over
the furrow ahead
lets us know our despair

we who tow the boats and bear the loads
we who turn the wheels and push the carts
and feel nothing
but the soft powdery explosions

of the clods that burst beneath our hoofs.
Yet when times are bad
and men eat the grain
meant for us

then the fear of nothing
finally makes us yearn
to hold even this
treadmill life of pulling.

About Sarah Brown Weitzman

Sarah Brown Weitzman, a former National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, is widely published in hundreds of journals and anthologies including New Ohio Review, North American Review, The Bellingham Review, Rattle, Mid-American Review, Spillway, and elsewhere. 

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