Sunday, May 10, 2015

Harlow

"And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence" --Jane Hirschfield

Harry Harlow was her secret incubus. 
Oh, she would never admit it, 
and he probably Titanic-ed his pecker on the iceberg,
but he was there, always, 
a wire mesh cage in either hand.

My brother told me I fell out of a cereal box,
with Harry Harlow's research notes printed on the back.
Facts are sketchy and suspect when you're the youngest by nine years,
but the obvious
is the obvious
even to a monkey.

She knew what was truly valuable--
chairs,
linoleum floors,
gravy boats.
These are the eternal things, or should be.

One by one, the males swung off into the jungle,
except for the steadfast Harry Harlow,
who stayed up nights with her, drying her tears with a terrycloth towel.
One thing about her,
she was good data.

To protect the furniture,
she wrapped me inside of a good strong sack.
Harry Harlow painted a smiling simian face on the outside,
and then they swung it,
to the strains of a Benny Goodman record he had.
I remember the pulse of the percussion.

Harry Harlow's rhesus macaques were seriously fucked up.
They and I are sibling parcels, arriving via night terror,
our broken parts rattling alarmingly in the deliveryman's hands.
I have grown back well,
like a tree around an obstacle,
but the troupe is up in the branches, big-eyed and pissing themselves.

Harry Harlow was her secret incubus,
and together they proved what any imbecile knows already.
Pick me up, I'm a mess.
Swing me inside a tire, I won't know the difference.
Mama, be proud, I have never in my adult life broken a dish,
except in my dreams,
which cannot be logged by Harry Harlow or any other demon.
______

for Real Toads mini-challenge. Harry Harlow is known for his heartless maternal deprivation experiments on monkeys. Happy Mother's Day, Harry, wherever you are.

 

19 comments:

angieinspired said...

Upon second read, Benny Goodman cut a rug while I savored your linoleum floors, chairs &gravy boats. Very messed up maternal deprivation, but for God sake, the crumbs here were fit for a king. Keep singing:)

Cloudia said...

"She knew what was truly valuable--
chairs,
linoleum floors,
gravy boats.
These are the eternal things, or should be."
See, I like that celebration of the mundane; like inside a beloved coffee shop (Danny's!).


"Pulse of percussion" [to that demonic song you shared?] = beatings.....

We each are experimental beasts to those we never asked to be subject to....


Happy Mother's Day! [a perfect post for our past; Moms Day ALWAYS challenging.....] Thanks, my fellow survivor



( '>
/))
//""

ALOHA from Honolulu,
ComfortSpiral
=^..^=



hedgewitch said...

Girl, I don't care what they say, you and your monkeys can dance like Fred and Ginger(LOVE his spats) This has some mighty hardcore overload in a lot of lines, it slashes and burns and cries, but never whimpers--the image that stays in my mind is not the crazy monkeys, but the tree that grew around the obstacle. And like they say, it don;t mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Loved this poem.. :D
Specially the lines:

She knew what was truly valuable--
chairs,
linoleum floors,
gravy boats.

Wishing you happy mother's day :)
xoxo

R.K. Garon said...

Ok that was strange, interesting, and couldn't stop reading it. Good work :-)
ZQ

Mama Zen said...

This is fucking terrifying, if I may be blunt.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

What Hedge says, strength, not a hint of a whine........oy, for a woman who protected the furniture instead of the children. OMG.

brudberg said...

What they did.. that we already know.. I guess that Harry never really liked his mother..

purplepeninportland said...

This is a strange and wild poem. I love the items that you chose as being "eternal".

Other Mary said...

Intriguing.

I couldn't resist. But, this makes me think of a book I read recently, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It's about a very dysfunctional fmaily and chimp experiments.

Grace said...

A strange and terrifying story, yikes ~

Thanks for participating and wishing you happy week ~

grapeling said...

chilling. the darkest side of science ~

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Wow, this is the most incredibly powerful stuff! Now I want to do very nasty things to Horrible Harry Harlow. But you have already skewered him.

Outlawyer said...

This is wonderful work, Shay--I won't write here of my own mother, who actually is pretty great, but I can understand this emphasis on the furniture-the linoleum and the gravy boats--which was very moving and resonant, the putting in the sack to protect the furniture--easier than coating it with plastic, I guess--all the images are so strong--I especially like the tree growing around the obstacle--we have some beautiful ones upstate--one from a recent flood--with a plastic bathroom fixture--but an old one grown through a cart wheel--anyway, this is me rambling--very poignant poem. k.

Opal Onyx said...

This is incomparably phenomenal.

"he probably Titanic-ed his pecker on the iceberg"

"Facts are sketchy and suspect when you're the youngest by nine years,
but the obvious
is the obvious
even to a monkey."

Oh, forget it. It's the whole thing. Every word-picture is perfect and untoppably inventive. This is painful to read, which I suppose is what sends it to the top of my favorites list.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Great poem, but I disagree that Harry Harlow's work proved what every imbecile knows: I was raised / socialized as a man, and I did not know "Pick me up, I'm a mess" instinctively, and yes, I was an imbecile.

Harlow's work, however cruel it appears, helped to usher in a more compassionate, more humane school of child-rearing when it proved definitively the essential role that love and contact play in human development.

Superb poem, as always, Love Mosk

Susie Clevenger said...

I think we are all someone's science project. It depends on the size of the needle they prod us with whether or not pain scars our memory. " My brother told me I fell out of a cereal box, with Harry Harlow's research notes printed on the back." Love that line.

C.C. said...

Wow! Powerful. I love the last line...the reminder that no matter what abuses we suffer in life, there are some things that no one can touch, that no one can take from us....those things that we can always hold dear and keep sacred and safe within ourselves.

De said...

Oh, THIS:
"My brother told me I fell out of a cereal box" ;)

Yes.

Frightening piece, though, especially when steeped in its historic reality.