We never had a baby


No child will have our poor vision,

no girl–rawboned and gaptoothed,

no boy–truck-addled and bow-legged.

Is our love less than, not holy,


selfish or selfless? It takes more

than love to keep love alive,

couples splitting all around us

with a nasty thud, clatter


of lawyers’ billable hours.

The couples ferry children

back and forth like cargo,

but we never boarded ship,


never wanted those dangerous

waters, marital cowards.

No couple should have kids

to prove they’re a couple,


hurling their DNA into the gene

pool just because. What sense

does it make to blame us

for what we didn’t want to hold,


scorn us for a lack

of progeny when you can’t

tell love when you see it:

everyone greeting us


as strangers at

every hotel check-in,

servers always asking

if our check should be split.

Photo by Anna Laura Irsara

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About Author

Allison Joseph lives, writes, and teaches in Carbondale, Illinois, where she is part of the creative writing faculty at Southern Illinois University. She serves as editor and poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review, moderator of the Creative Writers Opportunities List, and director of the Young Writers Workshop, a summer writers workshop for teen writers. Her books and chapbooks include What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand Press), Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press), In Every Seam (University of Pittsburgh), Wordly Pleasures (Word Tech), Imitation of Life (Carnegie Mellon UP), Voice: Poems (Mayapple Press), My Father's Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), Little Epiphanies (Imaginary Friend Press), and Multitudes (forthcoming, Word Tech Communications). Her awards include fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council, the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers Conferences, the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Emerson College and Ploughshares, the 2009 Aquarius Press Legacy Award, the 2012 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the 2014 Paladin Award from RHINO for "extraordinary longtime contribution to poetry in Illinois," and an honorary doctorate from Kenyon College in 2014.

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