Man Up And Carry On

His mother is an echo in the tread of his soles,

smaller

her steps swallowed up by the forward march

of man up and carry on.

She sees her own father

in the square set shoulders,

spine now a rod

to be turned into a weapon

when sadness finally stews into anger.

 

He will tell people how he’s never hit a woman,

because that is the same as respect.

His mother raised him better

than to paint a girl’s skin with fists,

so he’ll call it love

when he uses words to do the same

where it’s invisible,

and call it consent

when he talks the ‘no’ away to a half yes.

 

When the glasshouse eventually does break,

he’ll pretend away the damage.

Not realizing that you can’t

until the last pane shatters.

Bravery mutates into desperation,

shame,

escape.

Nothing else seems to fit

when the world is framed that way.

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40 Comments

  1. I’ve met this guy. I like that spine used as a weapon, and the invisible wounds he inflicts. Of course, he’s damaging himself more than anyone, but I guess that’s hard to see.

    1. I think we often do the worst damage to ourselves. The first three lines were actually the start of a completely different poem so I was a little surprised myself where this ended up.

    1. What frightens me is that there are still men who see themselves as ‘just being men’ when actually they are ignoring their own mental health and not valuing the people around them. There’s a long was to go before society actually deals with all the issues that people have to face.

  2. One of the most shocking aspects of this I saw once was an elderly couple in Paris. He always walked in front, she walked behind. He gave her the ‘tu’ and she replied with the ‘vous’.

      1. Those were the good old days when women knew their place. You can’t get quite the same verbal oppression in English. Imagine, every single day for years and years.

          1. I’m not religious, but I like the fact that it’s the intimate, informal voice used with God, etc. “Nearer, my God, to thee”. You’d think it would be the other way round.

  3. Those invisible words that he thinks won’t hurt. He is a scary guy. For something I’m working on, I was reading an article yesterday that said that powerful men sometimes actually believe women are giving them signals that they want to have sex, even when they are not. All those creepy guys believing it. . .or convincing themselves.

    1. I think I’ve read that to and it gave me chills. The whole idea that women play hard to get because they want to be chased, just continuing this idea that we’re somehow prey.

  4. I wither under the weight of your words, for some of my life, I was a clone of this asshole–always an angry control freak, so proud not to be a batterer. Decades ago, my present wife loved this crap out of me; but still, my cheeks redden with shame as I read.

    1. She sounds like an impressive woman and it’s always a victory if you can look back at past behaviour and pinpoint the things that you have to change. The problem occurs when you carry on oblivious and fail to understand the impact those actions have. Thanks for the honest comment Glenn. It’s not always easy to be so open.

  5. Your opening reminds me of how legacies are carried on – men’s men. Even the mother is diminutive in size, foreshadowing the rest. Well done.

  6. I don’t know what’s worse, Carol, physical or verbal abuse, both are painful and both leave scars. I have experienced both, personally and through other women in similar situations, and I know how difficult it is to get out of the cycle for the women – no idea what it’s like for the man. This kind of man is scary and damaged, and he will always justify his behaviour. The opening lines are so powerful, as are:
    ‘…he uses words to do the same
    where it’s invisible,
    and call it consent
    when he talks the ‘no’ away to a half yes’.
    The glasshouse metaphor is very effective, especially the last pane that shatters and the play on the word ‘framed’.

  7. powerful poetry Carol, what is not physical does not mean it hurts any less or not at all, your use of words has a deep impact on the mind too

  8. My shoulders tightened as I read this. Far too many of us have known this man and his surety that if the wounds aren’t physical, they aren’t real, even as he hides from his own. Painting skin with fists did me in.

  9. I know this persona you speak of .. they still reside here where I live.. the country is full of them. A most chilling and potent write, Carol! ❤️

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