. Two Empty Chairs “We did the NFP bit for awhile ... and have felt revulsion over it ever since. During that time we might have had at least two more children.” ---Letter to the Editor, Seattle Catholic, 2002 Two empty chairs, each in its place— The kitchen table’s vacant space, Where our six children see the chill Of unworn seats, both standing still Like Tiny Tim’s by the fireplace. We timed the marital embrace To procreate at slower pace. That empty phrase means none shall fill Two empty chairs. Our family planning did erase Two precious souls we can’t replace; We chose ourselves above God’s will. Their nonexistence buys each frill, And never shall their presence grace Two empty chairs. . Poet’s note: The Catholic Church forbids artificial contraception, but allows “natural family planning” in grave circumstances. There is debate among the faithful as to what qualifies as sufficiently grave circumstances. . . The No-Life Algorithm based on a letter to the editor of Seattle Catholic, 2002 The priest gave papers teaching birth control Through tracking monthly cycles, maddening us With calendars and charts and stickers, full Of codes far more complex than C++! Thank God we’ve never tracked the monthly rhythm; The papers, shredded up, we’ve never missed. For, had we learned the no-life algorithm, Which of our seven children would exist? Would it be Mary, Peter, Anne, or John, Or Paul, Elizabeth, or Catherine Whose lights of life would never even dawn Because avoiding children seemed a win? Well, all I know is this: I’d rather give My life than not allow my kids to live. . Poet’s note: C++ (pronounced “see-plus-plus”) is a computer programming language, criticized for its complexity even by some notable programmers. . . Untitled Joshua C. Frank found this poem in the 1951 book by Archbishop Sheen titled Three to Get Married. The book can be found here. by John Davidson Your cruellest pain is when you think of all The honied treasure of your bodies spent And no new life to show. O, then you feel How people lift their hands against themselves, And taste the bitterest of the punishment Of those whom pleasure isolates. Sometimes When darkness, silence, and the sleeping world Give vision scope, you lie awake and see The pale sad faces of the little ones Who should have been your children, as they press Their cheeks against your windows, looking in With piteous wonder, homeless, famished babes, Denied your wombs and bosoms. . . Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas. His poetry has also been published in the Asahi Haikuist Network.