The Art of Manliness
I never plunged a sledgehammer into drywall, never
Tore apart a motor with scarred, blackened hands.
I never slit a slain buck from throat to balls, the steaming guts
Spilling onto November snowfall, antlers mounted on a cabin wall.
What I learned about manhood at an early age was rage,
Voices that startled like early morning thunder from the garage,
The basement work area. Dad and grandpa unleashing
Their inherited frustration. The wrong socket, a dropped screwdriver,
The flashlight’s beam aimed at the wrong side of the engine compartment.
You cry too easy, be a man, toughen up, be more like your cousin…
Rage poisoned us when you taught me. Maybe
That’s why I pounded down my first beer at eleven, refused
To vomit up the swallowed chewing tobacco, tried working
The night shift in suicide factories. I needed to understand what “tough” was.
Alcohol stopped working for me, so I took a walk away.
Two last rites in three years. Dad, grandfather,
Ancestral ghosts one and all,
Have you ever come this close to death before fifty?
Am I tough enough for you now? Am I worthy of throwing tools
In fits of anger in a way that only makes sense to you?
God forgive me
And bless the sons I never had.
About the Author: Troy Schoultz’s poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in Seattle Review, Rattle, Slipstream, Chiron Review, Word Riot, Fish Drum, The Great American Poetry Show, Steel Toe Review, Midwestern Gothic and many others since 1997. He’s the author of two chapbooks and two full length collections: A Field of Bonfires Sings (Wolf Angel Press, 1999) and Good Friday (Tamafyr Mountain Poetry 2005), Biographies of Runaway Dogs (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press 2016), and No More Quiet Entrances (Luchador Press 2020).
Image Credit: John Vachon “Abandoned casket factory, Dubuque, Iowa” (1940) The Library of Congress