The Son I’ll Never Have
The son I’ll never have is crossing the lawn. He is lying on an imaginary bed,
the coverlet pulled up over his knees—knees I don’t dare describe.
I recoil from imagining him as meat and bone, as a mind
and hands stroking the fur of his pet rabbit.
I never gave him the accordion I used to play, my mother and I
in duets: “The Minnesota Polka,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,”
never watched him push noodles into his mouth with fingers
while I wished he would use the spoon shiny with disuse.
I am free from longing to be free; I do as I please,
my money is my own, all the mistakes I make are only my mistakes.
What is it to look at something you made and see the future?
What is it to have someone made by your body, but whose mind
remains just out of reach? I’ll never know. Come here, little rabbit.
Eat these greens. I will pet your cloudy fur with the mind’s hand.
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Wunderlich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This poem explores my deep ambivalence about not having children. As I have watched many of my friends become parents, I have had occasion to review the circumstances that have led to my own childlessness; this poem documents those considerations.”