Wire Mother, Cloth Mother

In a famous experiment, the infant monkey
taken from its biological mother is given

a choice of two surrogates—a wire mother,
or one rigged of rubber and terry cloth.

Wire mother has the bottle dispensing milk,
and cloth mother has nothing but its soft,

nubby surface. It's easy to predict
the ways this story will be told;

so clear that the organizing principle here
is one assigning maternality to certain

traits assumed to naturally reside
in a female that has given birth to young.

If the mother, still anxious and groggy
from labor and lack of sleep, at first

pushes the tiny, rooting mouth away,
does it necessarily mean she'll have

no love to give? Years ago, preparing
to leave my children in the care of

relatives so I could go to graduate
school in America, I was called

selfish, self-centered. Even the man
on my fellowship interview committee

took one look at my information
and said, But you're a mother! as if

that should settle anything and every-
thing. Another colleague said, Mark

my words. It may not show now, but
there'll be an effect on them
. Meaning

something like those infant rhesus
monkeys after being left with a wire

surrogate: some stared at the ceiling
or circled their cage; some engaged

in self-mutilation or even wasted
away and died, after refusing to eat.  

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