Cheap Reproduction


If I were to refuse and allow

Vanity or flippancy

To hang her image

Among the blurred collection

Of Friday night pictures that could be dreams

Signifying nothing,

                                                “Would you write a poem for me?

                                                No one ever wrote a poem for me.”


Would chase me into hell’s loneliest pit

            And echo rightfully within its walls,

Would bind me to the earth

            When joy would have me soar,

Would mark my soul with a sin

            Of which hers is clear.

For I would be denying the pain

            That I know has conceived this request,

Contradicting man’s myths:

            The Father who hurled His Son from Heaven,

            Mary at the Convict’s cross,

            And the Titan who bore concealed fire

            For the love of humanity.

For I would be refusing a mother’s wish

For life for this unworthy child.


Sympathy is too cheap.

A flick of the wrist at noon, six, and eleven

Can guarantee its growth within our guts.

This with callous logic

And social distance

Could sterilize even a poet’s heart

Especially one

Whose knowledge of birth can never be genuine

Whose voice cannot reach the same heights.

I must attempt, however,

To make real the cheapened feeling

And so, as far as I’m allowed,

I imitate her

Bearing her wish ‘til the hour of its fruition

When I tear it from my spirit

And hand it over.


Written in the Spring, 1985.  (Original title, “To Jenny.” Renamed Fall 1985.)