Monster Mother
by Reese Conner

Although the infants were distressed by these pointed rebuffs, they simply waited until the spikes receded and then returned and clung to the mother.
–Professor Harry F. Harlow, 1965

He called her monster mother
and I imagine he was proud
to sneak silliness like that
into his study – a hiccup
in the quotidian. The truth is
he opened a thing’s skin
and never intended on calling
what he had done
a wound,
and then everyone said
it was science, and then everyone
tried it for themselves
because the scientific method
said so, and so they perpetuated
an arrogance of dreams, of believing
that everything we touch
ought to turn into what we want,
and that somehow the touching
is all right.

He called her monster mother
because her belly growled
with sharpness – knives and nails
and points. He called her
monster mother because
he hid his tools in her
to punish the baby – her baby –
for not knowing most hugs
don’t hurt like that.
He called her monster mother
because he hid his tools in her
to punish the baby
for hugging her, anyway,
over and over and over.
It never occurred to the baby
not to love, and it never
occurred to him to call it love
and stop.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 1.

Reese Conner (and friend)Reese Conner is the winner of the 2020 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize for his manuscript The Body He Left Behind. He received his M.F.A. from Arizona State University, where he has continued to teach composition and poetry workshops. His work appears or is forthcoming in Tin House, The Missouri Review, Rattle, Ninth Letter, Cimarron Review, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. Reese is an Assistant Poetry Editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal. He received the Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award, and the now-defunct Chili Pepper from Rate My Professor. He was a finalist for the 2019 New American Poetry Prize, the 2018 Cider Press Review Book Award, and his poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart.

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