I'll tell you this secret about men: we crave,
desperately, to be seen. When we step off the train, we hope
you notice the heft of our footsteps, the weight we believe
we carry. We want you to see our neck slope into our shoulders
and imagine our back upright & strong. Have you ever
told a man he was beautiful? I'll tell you now
that man has never forgotten you, never forgotten where,
never forgotten the flutter below his throat
as that creole crossed the threshold into language.
He had no idea what to say, how to smile, which foot to shift
his weight to, whether to broaden his chest,
pull you into his arms, or wait for more
of this delicious new grammar to fill your mouth.
He had never been so disarmed. All his life,
he thought he knew his role: to see, to say, to offer.
Then you came along, and suddenly, this uprooting.
And the moment after that, when his body felt unworn—
when he would have believed anything you said,
when he would have accepted anything you offered.

after Ada Limón

  • See What I Didn't Know Before, Ada Limón's poem that inspired this one.
  • It continues to amaze me when a poet I admire shows up in my work. Besides Ada, this poem probably wouldn't exist in this form without Art Smith. When I was a younger poet, this poem would have ended at line 16; but reading & studying with Art helped develop an instinct to push through an obvious ending into the final three lines that, I think, deepen the poem.
  • This poem was first published in The West Review.