The following poem by Anthony S. Abbott ’57 was chosen as the theme of this year’s Bealtaine, an Irish national festival that honors creativity in older age. The theme, “To Have Dreams and Speak Them Without Fear,” comes from Abbott’s poem. Abbott is the author of five books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated .
What Do Men Want?
“Drums, sweat, and tears,” says Newsweek
Magazine, telling of wild-man weekends
in the woods and tales of missing fathers
in the sweat-house. It’s not so simple.
In my fifteenth year my mother died.
Embarrassed not to cry, I tucked my head
under the sheets and feigned tears
for my older sister’s eyes and ears.
In my thirtieth year on the Monday
after Easter my daughter went to bed
and never woke. Strong men carried her out.
Her arm hung down below the stretcher’s
side. Dry-eyed I picked it up and put
it back. At thirty-five I struck
a boy for stealing from my son.
I spun and spun, darkly off balance,
hearing my voice, as if a stranger’s,
ringing in distant ears. By forty
I learned the stepping stones of grief
and how the smallest things are joined.
Bach and the Beatles and “Amazing Grace,”
the quaking aspen leaves and sugar maples
in the fall could set me off on cue.
At fifty I fake colds instead of tears,
blowing my nose at “Thelma and Louise.”
What do men want? I don’t know.
The right to grieve and not be mocked,
to touch and be touched, to walk
beyond the porch steps of the soul,
to have dreams and speak them without fear.
To lie under the willow tree of love.
To seek truth in whispers not in shouts.
I like that better than drumming.
“What Men Want” copyright © 2009. From New & Selected Poems 1989 – 2009. Lorimer Press, 2009.