Poem: Harold Norse, ‘I’m not a Man’

“I’m Not a Man”

I’m not a man. I can’t earn a living, buy new things for my
family. I have acne and a small peter

I’m not man. I don’t like football, boxing and cars.
I like to express my feelings. I even like to put my arm
around my friend’s shoulder

I’m not a man. I won’t play the role assigned to me—the role
created by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver
Cromwell. Television does not dictate my behavior. I am under
5 foot 4.

I’m not a man. Once when I shot a squirell I swore that I would
never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me
sick. I like flowers.

I’m not a man. I went to prison for resisting the draft. I do not
fight back when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike
violence.

I’m not a man. I have never raped a women. I don’t hate blacks.
I do not get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think
I should love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I’m not a man. I’ve never had the clap.

I’m not a man. I cry when I’m unhappy.

I’m not a man. I do not feel superior to women.

I’m not a man. I don’t wear a jockstrap.

I’m not a man. I write poetry.

I’m not a man. I meditate on peace and love.

I’m not a man. I don’t want to destroy you.

Harold Norse (1916 – 2009)  was a North American poet associated with the Beat Generation.  He was openly gay and wrote poetry about gay liberation in the 1970s, favouring a direct conversational style of writing.  He died aged 92 in 2009.  I should read more of his work because I really like the simple but effective deconstruction of masculinity in this poem.

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