MICHAEL HARPER

poet, teacher, et cetera

GROWING UP WITH A MIDDLE-CLASS WHITE PENIS

 

Born of this easy anatomy

 

a dick-shaped inheritance:

indefinite ineffable irreverence

 

so I was taught in boyhood   dem bones  

 

     the penis bone’s connected to the brain bone

          the penis bone’s connected to the money bone

               the penis bone’s connected to the no-crying bone

                    now hear the word of the lord

 

the impetus for transformation is often called guilt

like white guilt

 

but what about male guilt, and also

straight guilt, cisgendered guilt, just-being-alive guilt?

 

All I want is to be honest & aware, so I keep on writing about myself,

glory-glory-hallelujah to me, a white man born into a white man’s body

 

I have no struggle and get paid so much for it

it makes my bank account blush, but I have to tell you:

 

I sort of like my overpriced apartment –

this is a called a white guilty pleasure

 

But molting complacency is a naturally learned yearning

 

So all this dangling power, salary fortification

and an offering to the hungry for love

 

like a lobotomized heart listening to anyone

a chunk of me vestigial to intellect

 

hopped up on assglances

and the hope that lies under t-shirts

 

or that glowing lover loading in the dark who sits behind keys

behind every possible word that can be written, behind the knowledge

of everything that you can search for in the reflection of a satellite,

the big cold recycled pop cans we’re tossing towards the sun

 

this intrepid flouncing power dangle is not a dowsing rod

 

Born with this run on sentence between my legs saying nothing

an overly viable pendulum

 

it sneezes & a child is born

it’s plumb & pointing to hell all day

 

the tongue in the bell of my skirt

rings the same old song

 

but born into this molting body

yearning is an abiding forgiveness

 

and the marrow of transformation

is unlearning

 

originally published in MORE SURFACE