Can a man have a baby?
        Paul McLaughlin

The stopwatch on my life ticks ...
                                    waits ...
                                           ticks ...
                                                  waits ...

In the momentary silences that hide between the ticks,
     a feeling for the shape of a value-laden thought
          a poem-seed
     will sometimes wriggle, unannounced, into my mind.
     Its ardent quest: to fertilize image with intent.

If I put on a social condom that
     prevents conception, and fill my time
     with all the beneficial shoulds of daily life
           talk to my wife when I've nothing to say
           play with my kids when it's their time to play
           visit my dad when it's out of the way
     I am the model husband-father-son
           a family man, they say
           responsible, respectable, predictable;
     but I half-live when every now mechanically becomes
      another second
                    minute
                            hour
                                day or
                                     month
        with nothing new begun.

But if I let the image and idea meet and merge
     and nurture this new life toward its birth
         escaping time as seen for time as flow
         forgetting where I am and what I know
         slipping off the leashing status quo
   I am a poet for a timeless, I-less while.
   My mind becomes a rich placental bed
      that feeds my verse the words it needs to grow:
   I feel it kick, and then it's born,
        and that's as close as I,
            a man,
        can come to giving birth.
June, 1999

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