Ten Men (6/30)
Ten men women have warned me against becoming:
The man who takes up too much space.
Whose legs need their own chair in
public spaces, who plays awful, shitty
guitar at parties, whose backpack
can’t touch his lap and must therefore
have its own seat on the bus
while senior citizens and young
children stay standing.
The man with the 1-10 scale, for whom
beauty is sport; for whom beauty is empty,
is foreign, is obvious. For whom beauty is
his to own, but never to know.
The nice guy who’s so nice. He’s so nice!
SO NICE that he can’t possibly have done
anything wrong and why are you
speaking to him in that tone?
He who believes you live to seek
his approval, so he withholds it
like an ugly hand-me-down
that nobody actually wants.
He whose mouth is clamped open.
Whose talking points are a record
on repeat. Whose ears have wilted
from misuse and neglect because
listening, like, actually listening,
is a Herculean task in humility.
He who makes a home in sheets
until the deed is done, but can’t be
bothered to share the sunrise.
The Soulmate. Flawless artist’s
hands too delicate to dirty so
when he learns of his beloved’s
depression, his beloved learns
how her sadness can shrink
a man back into boy.
The boy with the strong thighs.
Who does not ask permission.
Who calls his victim conquest.
Who calls it just another Saturday.
The one who as a boy, raises
fists to his sister. As a man,
raises voice to his lover.
As a man, learns to speak
with satin tongue and
The man with the wooden spoon.
Whose name is control.
Who sees his girl too skinny
so he fattens her until she’s full,
until she’s bursting,
until she sees his meals
reflected ugly in her flesh.
They are an army of specters digging
trenches behind my best intentions.
They are the eggshells beneath conversations.
I have known and loved them.
I fear becoming them.
I have already been
the space taker, the beauty butcher,
the nice guy, the broken record,
the little sister abuser.
I can’t promise I haven’t been more.
More. It is the rallying call of my gender.
We are the tempted, the takers.
The never question our own power.
Never learned to human.
Only taught how not to monster.
Pray for the boys not blessed with women
whispering them through anger, through
ignorance, through fear. They are a navy
with no lighthouse. An ocean with no moon
tugging the water upward.