Men who write

He once said that

Men who write poetry aren’t manly.

He lived by an arbitrary ideal

Of tall men, strong men, silent men.

All the flowers and fauna and feelings

Are for girls.

Yet disappointment

At the unachievable

Plagued him.

As if the canon has not been defined by men.

By Shakespeare and Wordsworth,

Coleridge, Byron,

Blake, Shelly, and Keats.

By Joyce and Yeats,

And Kavanagh and Heaney.

And Whitman

And Eliot

And Pound.

Poetry is a woman’s game for sure

And his toxic masculinity

And fear of poetry

Has nothing to do

With his inability to verbalise

The disappointment he felt

Having never reached the ideals imposed

On his gender.

Don’t dance, don’t speak out, don’t feel small.

Society regulates us all.

Expectations of gender in teenagers

While all the young boys

Talked about fiddling with themselves,

Normalising it.

We could be branded as a durty slut

If we openly admitted to it.

Or made feel totally ashamed

You never even tried

To do it yourself.

We were told to

Keep our legs closed

Or boys wouldn’t respect us.

That’s probably why we

We have so little for them now.

It was all about the boys really.

We were to police them

To tell them no as if we didn’t want it too

To tell them where our eyes were

And tell them when to use a johnny

Because they wouldn’t if we didn’t.

We are told what to wear

So men won’t leer at us

And if we don’t adhere to the strict dress code

We were asking for it.

We can’t wear thongs under our clothes

Because it would give them the wrong idea

Even before they see it.

We were given rules

Don’t be a slut

But you need sexual experience.

Don’t be a prude,

Or dress like an aul wan.

We are intended to be both

Virginal and sexual

And put clothes and makeup

For the attention of men.

We are to always be on alert to ward men off.

This is the self-serving duplicity

Of the patriarchy.

….

An ‘aul wan’ is an older woman, a sometimes derogatory term from Dublin.