In the town where I grew up
I was put right away into
the smart box, the weird box,
the known quantity box.
I was not expected to be normal.

Still, like every other boy I was schooled
in basic manhood
: he who smiles best
smiles least and with a knife.
A man isn’t half a man without
a way and a need to fight; in my case

I got an extra dose of that,
made to live up to warrior codes
that expected me to fight
all the wars my forefathers ever fought,
and in the same old way. 

I learned the wrong very well.
I lived the wrong very badly. To this day
I sweat my fright at life each morning
before work. I live by half-measures
just to be safe, just to keep things safe.

Damn the town, the knife,
the history, the basic training
I was born to. I have no sons.
That’s my contribution, the least
I could do to change the world.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

One response to “Schooled

  • Eileen

    Sad. Understand. Led my first and last protest at twelve. Everyone else ran away when the police came. The entrance to our apartment was bombed in the mid 50’s because my editor father supported the first black to run for a seat on the school board in Houston. She didn’t win. When working for Project Equality at the NAACP’s office as the march on Washington was coming through Nashville, the SNNC and CORE members coming through hated whites and immensely enjoyed successfully terrifying me. Poetic justice no doubt, but discouraging at the time. Decided we needed something that changed people, not just laws. Thought Martin Luther King’s kind of Christianity could do it. Hard to find anyone with Martin Luther King’s commitment to that expensive kind of Christianity now. Decided some years ago, that yes we are evolving, but in such small increments we don’t often live long enough to see it.
    After this election year, I’m thinking animals may still be evolving, but there’s a good possibility humanity’s going in the other direction.
    And looking backward at my own life, can’t really see any achievement on a personal level.
    I sometimes have a tiny hope that things I said or did, but didn’t even notice, may have made a small difference for someone.

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