Dr. Harlow Studies the Nature of Love and Affection

Amy Meckler


“When you are tempted to pet your child, remember that mother love is a
dangerous instrument.” —Behaviorist John B. Watson


Mostly the lab monkeys reject the wire mother with milk
for the soft, cloth-dressed mother with no food to offer.

The lab tech records their choice. Some children
are given just one or the other.

This is often the case in the wild
where you cannot control all variables.

When my mother flirted with men
she used a baby talk that repulsed me.

I preferred the silence she served us dinner by.
In cages under twenty-four-hour watch

the monkeys will starve to death clinging
to the silk-soft dress in the shape of a mother.

A few monkeys across the room, their bellies full,
pricked and cut by the milk-dripping metal

will refuse eye contact and won’t comfort one another.
After dinner, when my mom went out, my sister and I

would race to her room, to try on her makeup and scarves,
cover ourselves in paisley and harlequin

and fight over who would be Rhoda
and who would be Mary Tyler Moore.


Amy Meckler’s poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Rattapallax, Margie, Lyric, Alyss, and Cider Press Review, among other publications.  Her first collection, What All the Sleeping Is For, won the 2002 Defined Providence Press Poetry Book Award.  She received her MFA from Hunter College and works in New York City as a sign language interpreter.



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