I'm a man, forged American. Learned to hurl cunt, faggot, & fat-ass
fast enough to stay on the simpler side of boyhood.

Lanky in high school—6'2", 150#—but I could eat twelve burgers in a sitting.
Enough red meat to prove I had balls.

Stopped shaving in college for something rough to cover my smooth Greek cheeks.
Twisted open Bud Heavy bottles with forearm skin.

To drink with Dad & Chris, carried a flask and forced bottom-shelf rye
every night after 10, July 2011, 'til I could stomach oak-aged mash & malt.

By 25, knew how to growl & pound my chest—earned the nickname MadBear.
Used my dick as a barometer for loneliness, those dark years after.

Now, I squat stacked steel to feel like a man. Measure testosterone in 20kg plates
to negate that weak teenager. I'm forging the boy who can climb—

despite depression, anxiety, the cyclical desire to die—through this world,
in this skin, with this porous heart he's not supposed to expose.

I'm a man, forged American: bearded, cockstrong, double Rebel Yell neat,
hold the door for any woman, but brother don't look me in the eye.

See how broad my chest? How stiff my jaw? Hope that leather jacket’s tight enough
to brace your spine. Don't let your girl see me make you a bitch.

I'm a man. I can do this all night. All my life. Another step up the ladder.
Another sad motherfucker with my foot in his face.

I'm a man. American man. Believe me yet? What else ya want? I'm running
out of masks I can act.

with thanks to Cameron Conaway

  • Cameron Conaway alerted me to the call for submissions in the (now defunct) The Human, for issue 6, "Masculinity on Film".
  • Yes, I did regularly eat 6–12 McDonald's hamburgers in a sitting when I was in high school. Monday was 49¢ cheesburger day; Tuesday 99¢ Happy Meals; Wednesday 39¢ hamburgers.
  • This poem was first published in The Human.