Harlow’s Monkeys *

No one denies that the monkeys were harmed
by surrogate milky nipples attached to stiff wire skeletons.
The other mothers, titless in terrycloth, could have been
my mother, holding a swaddled infant, smoking a Camel.

Brooding psychologists wallow in secrets they can never release,
just as cichlids, aiming to protect their fry, sometimes swallow
them. Reliance on measurements spawns hubs of uncertainty.
The average adult male despises brutality, yet shoulders on

powerless as those baby monkeys. False soldiers may splash
fake sheep blood in forged solidarity, but cruelty
trumps kindness every time. This moment, that epoch
appears suddenly, bloats forever in fouled hindsight.


Risa Denenberg is an aging hippy currently living in Tacoma, WA. She earns her keep as a nurse practitioner and freelance medical writer. Recent poems have appeared online at Sein und Werden, Mudlark, Scythe, Chimaera, and This Literary Magazine. Risa blogs about poetry, aging, death and other matters here.

* “It is our opinion that we engineered a very superior monkey mother.”
–Harry Harlow.
From “The Nature of Love,” Harry Harlow, 1958.