haunted house

maybe there is nothing new
that can be said
about a haunted house

all men
have one

maybe it’s not the house
but the man

spirits
in spite of best efforts
stick around

maybe it’s worth noting
that when the haunted
thing arrives
unbidden

mostly it wants nothing
but to be noticed

a man
will burn down the block
to not occupy space
with the spirit

when he
did not call it

and so it stretches
up into the smoke
and spreads itself out
pervasive

in every soft fingertip
of ashes
maybe it’s quieter
for a moment or two

in the blackened field
of the razed neighborhood
momentary
relief

then the sirens

what a man
refuses to see
will grow

it’s not the house
it’s worth noting
it’s quieter

when
he turns
and looks at it
the spirit

the thing haunting him

and grieves
and acknowledges
head bowed

usually
a soft rain can wash
the streaks
of ashes

from his face

5/12/2022

Dear rural white boy

I remember
when I was ten
or eleven

being in my room
not mine really
I shared with two of my brothers

there were three mattresses
on the floor
and two battered dressers
and a closet

it was on the second floor
up the narrow steep stairs

the ceilings were
low on either side
sloped under the roof
covered in ancient wall paper

crooked farm house

anyway,
I remember

crying
wailing

I want to die
I want to die
I want to die

and thudding my head
against the glass

I think my Mom
had told me
we were moving

again

I don’t remember
motivations
were plentiful

the window looked out
over the front yard
there were maple trees

shading the whole front lawn
150 years old
planted when the house was new

I do remember
the glass in that window
there were ripples
in the surface

I didn’t know then
glass is still a liquid
even if it feels solid
slowly, so slowly
it changes

I didn’t hit it
hard enough to break it

I’m 51 now
and the maple tree in our yard
is 7 years old

After reading ‘Kids Who Die’

What is the ‘Something’ that I should be doing? I see thousands of miles in every direction without moving or turning my head. There’s clear water in the Maldives. Bali is beautiful. And the graduates look stunning. Schooled. I see into the end game with every new tab opened and paragraph half read. I feel lost to follow-up and get back to and circle around to close the loops left open left and right and right. Now. There’s a massive die-off of farmed schools of salmon in New Zealand.

2000 tons of fresh fish in landfills. The soils of the Midwest are dying like school children, neglected and over-processed, largely ignored but for the corn-syrup saccharine platitudes, soy-bean snake-oil salesmen selling long-passed American dreams, and the amber waves of grain-fed cattle off-gassing in my timeline. You see the price of gas? Shocking. Elon heads to the bank to purchase free speech. Another break in Antarctic sheets.

It’s 105 degrees in Spain and 5 people I know are planning to walk the camino de Santiago this year. Insta wandering, I’m wondering. Is that doing something? Scientists in places far from here are screaming but their end is near sandwich boards cannot get attention over the din of separation. Division accusations multiply from god-fearing people peddling terror of transgender athletes ruining the gospel. It’s competitive sports cut down to what’s in your shorts. He and She and They and Them. All God! Damn! It doesn’t matter when winning and losing are both offensive to everything dying defenseless this minute.

Horrified Gene Roddenberry is sitting with Langston Hughes and the two of them can’t stop weeping. For the kids who die, uniforms red, exploring this strange new world. Malcolm and Moses are fighting again and nothing MLK can say will get them to let up and let their people go peacefully. Shop hopping Gandhi is looking for one thing home spun but the spinning wheels are running on an algorithm and all that’s woven is a narrative of numbing. Us. We keep saying … we need to do something. But the Edmund Pettus bridge is built to nowhere and we are all in bad trouble.

Thoughts and prayers. Future despair denied. More children just died. I pray for the families of the dead. We are all covid-coughing and sputtering our way to the grave. I pray that a new epic zombie limited series set in the near future will take me away. Thy will be done with one to the head. And post apocalypse say us all. The fight for Life for a monthly subscription. Church of the streaming service where all worshippers are welcome. The sons are here. The fathers are gone and we are surrounded by ghosts.

There are a baker’s dozen places to buy a gun within minutes of where I sit. Still. Around here in this every town rounds are easy to come buy. Stop by and see what’s new in recreational fun target shooting machinery of mass safety self-delusion. 2A rights, right? Hell yes! We the people say. Open late Friday. Get ready for the long weekend. Yes we can. A baker’s dozen, 13. Thirteenth amendment long overdue. Be proud and see red, white, and blue, clearly these rights to life and liberty are not for you. You already knew. The kids who die.

But what should I do?

5/28/2022
by Boysen Hodgson

The New Macho

He cleans up after himself.
He cleans up the planet.
He is a role model for young men.
He is rigorously honest and fiercely optimistic.

He holds himself accountable.
He knows what he feels.
He knows how to cry and he lets it go.
He knows how to rage without hurting others.
He knows how to fear and how to keep moving.
He seeks self-mastery.

He’s let go of childish shame.
He feels guilty when he’s done something wrong.
He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children.
He teaches others how to be kind.
He says he’s sorry.

He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain years ago.
He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships.
He stopped letting his penis run his life.
He has enough self respect to tell the truth.
He creates intimacy and trust with his actions.
He has men that he trusts and that he turns to for support.
He knows how to roll with it.
He knows how to make it happen.
He is disciplined when he needs to be.
He is flexible when he needs to be.
He knows how to listen from the core of his being.

He’s not afraid to get dirty.
He’s ready to confront his own limitations.
He has high expectations for himself and for those he connects with.
He looks for ways to serve others.
He knows he is an individual.
He knows that we are all one.
He knows he is an animal and a part of nature.
He knows his spirit and his connection to something greater.

He knows future generations are watching his actions.
He builds communities where people are respected and valued.
He takes responsibility for himself.
In times of need, he will be his brother’s keeper.

He knows his higher purpose.
He loves with fierceness.
He laughs with abandon, because he gets the joke.

This is a picture of mature masculine, of healthy masculinity — it is one redefinition of masculinity for the 21st century. By no means is this list complete. You are welcome to come and add your gifts to this community. www.mkp.org

©2010 Boysen Hodgson. All rights reserved.
Used with permission by the ManKind Project.

You say you don’t want to be here.

I hear you.

But how about we wait until you’ve had a chance to smell a box full of kittens.

How about we wait until you’ve been in the ocean again, holding for that big wave to catch you off guard and knock the wind out of you.

And what about one more time screaming in the rain as your clothes get soaked and you spin as the drops smack down on the pavement.
Streets washed clean in rivers of spring.

What if we waited until you actually hit that one note you’ve been working on in the shower for these past months.
It’s right there.
I hear they’re coming to NYC in July.

We could take the train.

Maybe until you’ve been in love.
Maybe until you’ve had your heart broken in love.

I don’t want you to miss that longing pounding crying pain.

And loved again.

What if we waited until you’ve made your first full turkey-day dinner.
Held hands awkwardly at the table.
And meant what you said.

Oh and there’s this time, to buy wine on your own,
The confounding abundance of it.
Maybe wait until you’ve ordered your first drink at the bar.

There’s something to be said for that first hangover as well

I think we all need a story about throwing up on someone we love.

What if we hold off until you’ve met someone.
What if we hold off until you’ve experienced god.

And the ocean — did I mention the ocean already?
It changes every time. It’s never the same. Not even once.

What if we waited until you saw the sun rise on one side of the island and set on the other side?

I’ll drive.

What if we spent a day just looking for one shell.
Not that one. That’s almost the one, but I think we should keep looking.

What if we waited until you’ve just watched your children open presents for their 8th Christmas.
Or 9th. That’s the one I think. It just, I don’t know it’s hard to describe … sparkles.

I almost forgot. Sledding.
You really can’t miss that.

And then some time later that year, we can go to the beach.
I’ll keep an eye on the blankets and you can go down to the water.
Have a race with your kids to see who can go under first.

Ocean water and tears have something in them.
I think the salt might change things.

How about we wait until after that some time.

We’ll talk.

GenXulinity

Me: the towhead on the right.

GenXulinity

I was born in 1971. I’m a cisgender heterosexual white man. Everything I say here is from my perspective. Results may vary.

GenX is a transitional generation.

From analog to digital.

From outdoors to indoors

From the Lone Ranger to Mr Rogers … and From Mr. Rogers to HeMan … and Hulk Hogan and Die Hard … from Tyler Durden to Ted Lasso and “Top Gun’’ to “This is Us.”

From the Cold War to the Culture Wars. (and back to the Cold War?)

Rachel Maddow AND Tucker Carlson are both Gen X.

“I like you just as you are.”

and

“Don’t be a girly-man.”

We are the last generation who had any time in a world not saturated by advertising DIRECTLY intended to make us life-long product consumers.

We are the last generation to live without the ubiquitous availability of streaming pornography.

Analog to Digital.

Homogenous to Broadly Heterogenous

From hegemonic belief systems to the end of truth

There are lots of wonderful mythologies about GenX men — about our toughness, cynicism, ‘above-it-all-ness’ … Resilience. And in many ways — these are true!

And what I learned — and what I think many other men in my generation learned — is to be experts at hiding, dodging, and adapting. Unlike the silent generation — we were taught to have a voice. Unlike the Boomers — we were taught that we weren’t the center of the universe.

We are a generation where post-modern frameworks for understanding & deconstructing gender, politics, national identity, capitalism, and more came into the mainstream.

Shit’s broken. We know it.

We pretend day to day that it isn’t. Many of this are doing this for our kids. (They know it’s broken too, but we play a game of make-believe so we can keep getting by.)

The promises about what it’s supposed to be like … are lies.

The buckets that keep things organized … good and bad … are bullshit.

What I see in working with GenX men is toughness built of hard work and practice, AND also a rigid shell of armor, sarcasm, and cynicism adopted to shield the festering wounds of living in this transitional time.

Underneath the facade of resilience — we are still trying to internalize and understand — still trying to grasp what it means to live out the idealism that we learned in our childhoods, heal the trauma of our personal histories, and not collapse in the bludgeoning reality of the present moment.

We are the generation trying to figure out whether we want to stay in the matrix, break out of it, or burn it all down completely.

And this energy of contradiction, this energy of push forward and retreat is taking a tremendous toll.

I grew up believing that women were strong, capable of anything and motivated to succeed … and the reason for our society collapsing.

I grew up being taught that women should be in positions of power … and that they should be restricted from accessing power.

Both — at the same time — from different voices.

I grew up being taught that my feelings were valid and welcome on the one hand, AND that those same feelings would get me hurt — physically and emotionally — by my peers and by adult men in my world.

I grew up being taught that equality between men and women was the way it should be … but what I saw modeled around me was mostly the glorification of submissiveness, and men’s anger and frustration at being asked to make things different.

So what I witness in the ManKind Project with the men’s healing work we do …

Is GenX men attempting to integrate the contradictions we learned about manhood, equality, men’s roles in the world … How do we have feelings … and use them well. How do we express the healthy aspects of ‘traditional’ characteristics associated with masculinity?

How do we reconcile that in order to reach gender equality, we have to face the shadow that maintaining dominance by threat of violence is the essence of the social and political construction of manhood.

What am I without that?

How do we go to where the hurt is … and heal there.

How do we stop hiding from each other?

How do we overcome the cultural push to backlash against feminism AND against masculinity.

Well. It’s complicated.

And complicated doesn’t sell well.

Ambiguity is scary.

I did learn though, the answer usually starts with talking about it. Maybe we should spend a Saturday in the library.

“You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

ANDY: …and an athlete…

ALLISON: …and a basketcase…

CLAIRE: …a princess…

JOHN: …and a criminal.”

to a man

To a man sitting in pain and confusion. I feel it also. Maybe this will resonate for you. If you’re a man with some of my out-facing characteristics, it may be easy to feel like a target right now, even with those we care for and are who we are actively working for justice and dignity with.

Here’s the thing I’m slowly learning. *I can hold the target without being the target.* This is the martial art that the times demand from me. This is the nonviolent protest of the privileged that this karmic play is asking for.

Shouldering the weight of history, using gifts both earned and unearned, AND shielding our beautiful souls are all parts of the work for men right now. Know who you are. Let what is true land. Experience it. There may be fear, sadness, anger, shame there. (May there also be pride, gratitude, and excitement!) I keep looking in the mirror. Ah yes! I see that in me. And it does not define me. I am a royal flush, white, cis, straight, educated, middle class, able bodied … the list goes on. There is no way for me to experience the subjective reality of my sisters and brothers who were not born with my stacked deck. Don’t argue with reality. Reality wins.

Know that I am not my ancestors, and yet I carry their legacy. Know that I am not a ‘bad guy’ and yet I swim in the same unseen water of culture. I have absorbed the same messages, learned the behaviors, taken the bait more times than I can count. Know that I am not the patriarchy, and yet I am a beneficiary (and an unwilling symbol) of it.

I will never be a perfect ally. Sometimes … I won’t even feel like an ally. (to you or to me) This isn’t going to be pretty or easy. I’ll keep showing up anyway.

Can I hold the container? Can I make space for rage and heart-shattering grief, and BE the rock, be the river, be the soil? Sometimes. Sometimes the weight of it is collapsing me.

The intensity of the heat and the repetition of blows hardens the steel. Now is the time to hone our edges and learn to slice with the precision of dragonfly wings. Cut the people free from the restraints of gangrenous systems. I set down the bludgeon I have used against my brothers and sisters, but first let me plant one stake. This marks the corner of the new temple. Bring your shovels.

I’m not alone. You are not alone. There are many brothers out here feeling this pain, and working together. I stand with HER … the big global her that is emergent. To be part of this emergence, I am asked to dig deep and bring forth the best of HIM — and there is SO MUCH power, compassion, and solidarity there to call forth. I will continue to be what I want to see as much as I can. I will stand with. Sometimes right now that means standing behind. This does not make me second, or less, or sub, or oppressed.

The weight of my legacy of privilege is immense. It is weight that I can use to help move the lever of history.

On toxic masculinity and character

The Growing Movement of Men Trying to Unlearn ‘Toxic Masculinity’

Another strong mention of the ManKind Project and #menswork. MKP believes in men; we love, support, and challenge ourselves to grow. And for many, the beauty and generative goodness of men gets buried in the muck of ‘toxic’ socialization, often now called ‘toxic masculinity.’ Under multigenerational wounds and damage, the true potential of men is suffocated. The damage caused is frequently played out in the world as violence to self (suicide, addiction), other (domestic violence, murder), and the world (ecological destruction).

The term ‘toxic masculinity’ can be misused or misunderstood, and yet it is valuable. We need men (and people) of strong character. A ‘masculine’ character trait, like strength, grit, stoicism, aggression, or even kindness can be used to help or used to hurt. Some natural human character traits that have been consciously and unconsciously repressed in men (excised from ‘masculinity’ as a typology), like empathy, compassion, communication, and interdependence, need to be reintegrated in a healthy way. How character traits are expressed changes with time; what was appropriate and needed even 75 years ago may not be what society needs now. And some distorted and hyper-expressed traits of masculinity (what we might call shadow aspects) are indeed toxic to healthy community AND to the men who embody them.

What masculinity was is not all it will be. What was life-sustaining and essential generations ago may be life-damaging now. The process of change is constant and necessary. How we adapt and shape change will be our legacy.

#Menswork is about taking responsibility for our impacts. It is about taking conscious responsibility for the process of change. This is soul work, heart work, and head work. Character is required and the healthy expression of character is a practice that we undertake to create a better world. We do the inner work of #healingmasculinity, creating a culture where there’s room for more beautiful masculine and feminine expression from all people.

We are all this.

Yes. Yes. Yes. We can be all this. We are all this. Kind, gentle, loving, patient, nurturing, artistic, empathetic, dreamers, scared. We can also be all THAT … all that feels opposite to what we see here. All that is hurtful, destructive, ugly, violent, and disconnected from our innate human vulnerability and empathy. And … it should be no surprise to us that both of these possibilities express in the same boy. Sometimes in the same minute. And boys become men. We contain all the collective conditioning of our personal histories, our culture, and every narrative that has found its way into our shadowed beliefs. We can think, feel, and act in ways that are anathema to our most deeply held and cherished values. This is a paradox of masculinity. It plays out every day. No man is exempt.

May it be that we create communities and culture that can contain and protect us from the worst of what we can be. May it be that we create communities and culture that can nourish, support, and celebrate the best of what we may be.

The ManKind Project exists to create spaces for exploration, healing, learning, support, connection, and revelation — the revelation of who we are. Beautiful and ugly. Worthy of love and guilty of perpetration. We continue to learn new lessons about our blind spots, about our transgressions, and about our ability to love and persist, to grow and evolve.

Accountability is one of our core values in the ManKind Project. Along with authenticity, compassion, generosity, integrity, leadership, multicultural awareness, and respect. We strive to live these values in our daily lives. We succeed. And we fail. In fact, without the ways we fail, most of us would never have arrived at this work. Most of us would never have become curious about what else could be possible.

The core of accountability is truth. It is being supported to speak the truth of our congruence and incongruence — without being raised up on a pedestal or condemned to the abyss. It is truth in the face of real impacts that our actions have in the world, regardless of our intentions, promises, or justifications. It is truth that is multi-perspectival and deeply subjective, that changes with time.

Truth is a variable. There are undeniable truths. Data. Facts. They are few. Most of what we call truth is interpretation and negotiation. Interpretation changes. Negotiation is a universal constant. We are reality translators with widely varying levels of experience confronted frequently with languages we’ve never heard. I pray we are gentle with our interpreters and spend most of our time just listening to reality. When we profess our own truth or witness the truth of others, that we hold it delicately.

We cannot reveal our greatest gifts without confronting our deepest darkness. Can we love both? Can we hold the truth of our impacts standing before those we have wounded? Can we own it all without tearing ourselves and our communities apart? Is it possible that this fearful reckoning will create the more beautiful community we know is possible? I hope so.

You cannot defeat the enemy

from a friend:

“People who tell themselves that President Trump is just another tired old politician from the past have likely been watching his enemies define him rather than watching his accomplishments. While CNN has obsessed over a witch hunt and a trollop, Trump has gutted regulations, supercharged the economy, announced changes that will protect our veterans and allow terminally ill access to medications. Meanwhile employment AND popularity among blacks have skyrocketed. Also, ISIS who?”

my response:

I’m not saying he’s a tired old politician. He’s a carnival barker. I think he’s a kleptocrat overseeing the largest campaign of social web destruction and transfer of wealth to the rich in our history while simultaneously destroying our position as a relevant or respected nation around the globe AND running a populist con-game on a percentage of our population based in xenophobia, nationalism, and racial fear.

Scariest … I don’t know that he’s even aware that this is what he’s doing. He may simply be impulsively trying to continue shoring up a desperate lack of self-worth with grandiosity and attention seeking.

Gutted regulations … on what? I would prefer to have increased regulations for the environment, stronger protection for consumers, curbs to global climate change, increases in renewable energy incentives, curbs to banking and finance, common sense federal gun regulation, protections for minorities and impoverished areas in the USA. Gutting regulations is good if you’re a global corporation looking to avoid accountability and outsource costs and impacts of your actions. For you and me — it’s a downside. It means less protection and less ability to impact the actions of polluters and unethical businesses.

Supercharged the economy … for who? (my answer … corporations and the ultra-rich who benefit from his tax policy and from the stock market)

Low unemployment. This is good for many — no argument there. And this in line with the global recovery (not unique to US, and on trend since 2014). And wages are not growing in line with demand — meaning that average people are working more for less money, while corporations take more profits and wall street booms.

Announced changes to protect veterans … how? (my answer … by creating a culture of suspicion and blame rather than care and accountability and by undermining workers’ unions) And on the other side … protections for active duty and veterans against banks for foreclosure were cut. And medical services to veterans have been cut.

Allow access to medications for the terminally ill (promised cuts to prices have not happened and are not predicted to happen) … while crippling safety nets for millions?

ISIS — I’ll quote a journal article

“The collapse of ISIS has created a terrorist diaspora with the potential to carry out sophisticated attacks in the West and radicalize other Muslims in the Arab world(8).” (http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2018/05/100-percent-defeat-isis-ideology-180508042421376.html)

It was a ‘Mission Accomplished’ photo opp. (‘War is Peace’) As in all cases of trying to ‘destroy’ the enemy … the enemy simply reappears in another way in another place. ISIS has gone underground. The root causes, ideology, and radicalization will never be defeated with weapons, killing, or macho rhetoric.

PS. The same country that made the coffee mug you’re drinking out of this morning and the toothbrush you used is also providing 50% of the weapons used by ISIS. Welcome to the global economy.

Popularity … so what? Popularity bump because of Kanye West has nothing to do with the fact that Trump’s actions and policies are hurting the African American community … and every other middle and low income person in the USA. That means you, too.

Social Darwinism is not how a sane society takes care of itself. And bottom line … there is no ‘America’ without the rest of the world.

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