by Beth Copeland

It was like catching a cold.
If he coughed without covering his mouth,
if he sneezed, you could have his baby.
Or so I believed

at the age of nine when I read the chapter
on reproduction in a medical text. I knew the facts
of life had nothing to do with storks and bees,
but I couldn’t figure out the mechanics

of sex, that tab A had to be inserted
into slot B like the cardboard figures cut
from the Rice Krispies box that always fell
apart when I tried to put them together.

Conception was a kind of weather
or photosynthesis: as leaves absorb sunlight
and turn green, I thought a man’s floating spores
could penetrate a woman’s pores,

that they could be on opposite sides of the room
just looking at each other or looking out the window.
One could be reading the newspaper and the other
playing Heart and Soul on the piano

when, WHAM, BAM, sperm and egg collide
and nine months later she becomes a mother.
I thought the microscopic sperm
could pass like germs from unwashed hands

contaminate a door knob, spoon or drinking glass,
or as Casper
floated through brick walls
on Saturday morning cartoons, believing

a wife could receive her husband’s seed
like milkweed sown from the pod,
that every birth was a miracle, a gift from God,
that all you need is love.

SOURCE: “Misconception” was originally published in Atlanta Review, and is published in the author’s collection Transcendental Telemarketer.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a young girl.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I asked my mother about reproduction at a young age, but she was not comfortable talking about sex with me. Instead, she brought a book home from the doctor’s office for me to read. I understood reproduction on a cellular level, but I was clueless about the rest of it.

Photo on 2012-06-26 at 21.17 #3

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beth Copeland’s second poetry collection Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVOX books, 2012) was runner up in the North Carolina Poetry Council’s 2013 Oscar Arnold Young Award for North Carolina’s best book of poetry. Her first book Traveling through Glass received the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. Copeland is an Assistant Professor of English at Methodist University. She lives with her husband Phil Rech in a log cabin in Gibson, North Carolina.