• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 07
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The Difference Between

the men teach the boys how not to cry,
how to withhold their shame, to stand up
for their pride, defend all their boundaries,
to do what is necessary, to bang their hand
on the table or throw things across the room.
Sometimes, It gets physical, tears rise and fall.
After a while a fortress surrounds the heart,
They toughen, prepared for whatever
will be meted out. Once the clamps are in place,
their sensitivities recede, and they turn to face
a mirrored world they see as cold and cruel.

something else is going on, where the gates
are left open, a softening, a feminizing trait
they will one day come to yearn for.
It reminds them of the womb they emerged from,
the tender touch of their youth the cajoling voice
of mother teasing them to unclench their fist,
causing the man to stutter in rediscovery.
It is the only thing that keeps them from
becoming wandering lawless beasts.

It is a common Wednesday, time for the weekly bath.
What transpires is a tender, maternal, intrinsically
female ritual to do with the washing of the feet,
and by extension, how to begin again,


The Difference Between

after the long winter sleep, the missteps, the mistakes,
the insensitivities, the filth we gather up
between the toes, that smudge the heart,
now cleansed and washed away by soap
and spring rain and mothers gentle kneading.

to begin anew. The teaching is in the act:
how to do it for oneself, and by extension,
how to do it for another.