If Being a Man Allowed for Emotion
...it would be like hearing the grass grow
or the squirrel’s heartbeat, and we should die of that roar
which is the other side of silence —George Eliot
My mourning is quiet, stealthy like the pause
before bad news. An inherited trait near as I can
tell. All the men in my line are instinctually stoic &
hidden—brackish bodies, damned at the gates.
My last uncle just passed away, also of cancer,
and with my brother Tyrone I discuss this too as inheritance—
annual X-rays to hunt what would prey on us.
Memories surface of fishing trips
and nickel poker, except my grief has substituted
his face for Tyrone’s and dad’s for mine.
What am I if not mane,
if not king,
if not crown & control
& grass-shadow-eyes hidden?
My son’s first time sinking a hook in ocean water
was with him just a few months ago and we split
a can of High Life and hovered over the entrails
of a sausage sandwich and laughed
at everything and he was the last of his brothers
and the closest thing to seeing dad again—I breathe
deep and slow like a big cat when blood is in the air
or ground, drop the phone on the bathroom floor,
slide down the wall against the shower door
like an avalanche crashing down a glass mountain,
head cupped in open palms & become a prayer
built on bad knees, become swinging
jaw—unhinged, become throttle & throat &
remembering my pride.
Copyright © 2020 by Junious Ward. This poem appeared in Sing Me a Lesser Wound (Bull City Press, 2020). Used with permission of the author.