The issue of gender isn’t anything I consciously court in my work, but it’s certainly essential to my poem, “Gender Issue.” Shortly before writing this poem, I heard a woman speculate that if men had babies, there would be less violence committed against women. Then I heard George Costanza, in an episode of Seinfeld, say he’d like to play with dolls, an activity historically associated with girls. The union between those two ideas gave birth to the poem.
George thinks he’d like to play with dolls.
This man loves women but envies girls
their dolls and wants his own, no GI Joe or Ken
but a real girl’s doll, Miss Alexander or
Muffy, Ginny, Barbie, or an American Girl.
He dreams of a portmanteau full of doll’s clothes,
a purple party dress with hand-smocked bodice
and genuine lace, pajamas with pearl buttons,
black patent leather dancing shoes, and changing her
from swimsuit to gold lamé evening gown.
Most of all he wants a baby doll, not
plastic and hard-edged, but with skin that feels
human. Tiny Tears, Cuddle Baby, or Cabbage Patch.
He does a Google search, orders a baby
off the internet, a modern immaculate conception.
Nights he tucks it snug as an embryo under his shirt,
craves pickles, hot fudge sundaes, buttered popcorn.
Soon the yeasty rising of belly, taut and round
as a drum, shifting and pulsing inside.
His arches collapse, his lower back aches.
In bed he grows restless, flops from side to side.
Electrical charges down the lightning rod of spine.
He breathes and pants—phh, phh, phh—as women
on television do, legs bent at the knees, and pushes,
feels the hot rush of water, the salmon-swim of child.
She slides between his legs, a perfect home
delivery. He bathes the petal-soft skin, like any real
mother would, feeds and burps his baby,
strokes the pearls of her toes, remembers
the dancing shoes, and vows to kill the man who harms
this child, pink and delicate as a tea-rose.
–from What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006)
Diane Lockward is the author of What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006) which was awarded the Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize. She is also the author of Eve’s Red Dress (Wind Publications 2003), and a chapbook, Against Perfection (Poets Forum Press, 1998). Her poems have been published in several anthologies, including Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times. Her poems have appeared in such journals as the Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and The Writer's Almanac. She is the recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and is the current Poet Laureate of West Caldwell, New Jersey. A former high school English teacher, Diane now works as a poet-in-the-schools. Visit her website at: www.dianelockward.com