Most men never think about patriarchy—what it means, how it is created and sustained. Many men in our nation would not be able to spell the word or pronounce it correctly. The word “patriarchy” just is not a part of their normal everyday thought or speech. Men who have heard and know the word usually associate it with women’s liberation, with feminism, and therefore dismiss it as irrelevant to their own experiences. I have been standing at podiums talking about patriarchy for more than thirty years. It is a word I use daily, and men who hear me use it often ask me what I mean by it.
Nothing discounts the old antifeminist projection of men as all-powerful more than their basic ignorance of a major facet of the political system that shapes and informs male identity and sense of self from birth until death.
Hold onto your voice. Hold onto your breath. Don’t make a noise,
don’t leave the room until I come back from the dead for you. I will
come back from the dead for you. This could be a city. This could be a
graveyard. This could be the basket of a big balloon. Leave the lights
on. Leave a trail of letters like those little knots of bread we used to
dream about. We used to dream about them. We used to do a lot of
things. Put your hand to the knob, your mouth to the hand, pick up the
bread and devour it. I’m in the hallway again, I’m in the hallway. The
radio’s playing my favorite song. Leave the lights on. Keep talking. I’ll
keep walking toward the sound of your voice.
First love is
a factory. We sleep in a bed that had once
been a tree. Nothing is forgot.
Yet facts, over time, lose their charm,
warned a dying Plato.
I find it unnerving when people say, “I just want you to be happy,” because they can’t understand what happiness is, or what happiness is to me. Happiness can be genuine and authentic, but it doesn’t last. It is fleeting. “Here is a taste. Savor it. It will be gone soon.” And, so, we are left with the emotions we don’t deserve, the emotions that paralyze us. Give me one more taste. Please, just one more taste.