Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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Harry Harlow in the Pit of Despair

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It’s easy enough to be thankful for the robin’s dappled
      egg, the crepuscular rays gouging
                                                     through the clouds.
Even the caged monkey can blow kisses at its captors.

      Why don’t the crow’s feet freeze
                                        to the snowy branch?
Why doesn’t the worm in his hole die of shame? Let us
      go on loving each other as if
                                        none of this matters.

All winter the sun lolls low across the horizon. What
      drives us out with a broom
                                        each morning to knock
the fangs of ice from the eaves of our lover’s house?

      Our vice is born in a folk tale:
                                        a fox by the roadside
feigning a lame foot, a scorpion asleep in a traveler’s
      boot, a fish singing
                      to the fisherman’s wife.
Why should it surprise us that affection can limp past
      the gates of cruelty? Should it
                                        astonish that we walk
so slowly when we return to an empty house?

Yes, the lamprey lives and dies
                                        by its lingering kiss.
Harry, after the long months of stumbling darkness,
      what will emerge to greet
                      us with outstretched arms?  end

“Harry Harlow in the Pit of Despair” from We Don't Know We Don't Know. Copyright © 2010 by Nick Lantz. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,

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