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A Survey of Masculinity

My horse, my stallion, I ride you unprivate

through whispery villages. Falter not

from their gossip that you were once a man

mimicking an animal’s affectionless muscle

to become more man. Bury beneath

your hooves’ hopscotch these upright beasts

caught in night’s sleight of hand branding omen

in their hair and meat. Watch boys be forced

into men by men who’ve forgotten their own

forcing. Haloes of flies bite the boymen as mules

slobber through wheezy chaff and bridle in a district

of hands. Gaze of denotation, of well-bred

taxidermy, of ghouls misnamed Mandingo

till the weight of their manhood stuck

like a mannerism. Is it loving men that removes

my manacled mouth, mutes my mule dick’s howl

as the gelding knife lands? In this land manicured

by manure and blood, hyacinth and bullets, the tool

and the temper rule while the suicides of sons

feed the softened earth beneath our stampede.

I, too, could learn to neigh and drop dead in this

claustrophobic strobe of fireflies at my flank.

Some beasts were trained to eat their own. Some

were trained to flinch at their own reflections.

from Thief in the InteriorFind more by Phillip B. Williams at the library

Copyright © 2016 Phillip B. Williams
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Phillip B. Williams Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.