Welcome! As I get this blog off the ground, I intend to post new poetry every Thursday and share some of my old poetry every Monday. This poem is part of my series on sexual harassment.
* * *
I hear men complaining these days, saying
“I can’t be paying women compliments
without them claiming sexual harassment.
My intent is flattery and it bothers me
that women can’t see that.
As a matter of fact,
I’m afraid that a compliment paid
will be made into a lawsuit.
What can I say or do
without it being misconstrued
or used against me?”
You want to know what you can do?
really want to know what you can do?
For starters, you
can stop making this about you.
Boohooing about women misconstruing
your compliments and doings.
You’re pursuing sympathy
but you’re barking up the wrong tree.
You see, all we hear is whimpers
and nothing flares my temper
like men who act like dogs.
You’re afraid of what you can say?
Try being afraid to wake up every day
and take the subway
because a stray hand may
land on your ass or thigh.
Try being afraid to be anywhere alone,
be it at work or home,
without assessing the space
for routes of escape, just in case.
Try being afraid of someone stalking you
when you’re out walking
in your neighborhood or the woods or at night,
prepared to fight with pepper spray.
Try being afraid to report anything
because it could bring
retaliation, condemnation, termination,
or an even worse situation.
Try being afraid of your boss,
manager, or employer,
who might exploit your vulnerability,
your need for a salary.
Try being afraid to walk down the block
and hear a group of men talk
about your body in crude ways
and expect you to say, “Thank you.”
Try being afraid to speak up and out
because some men will pout
and get defensive,
which gives way to more extensive harassment.
Try being afraid to stand up for yourself
in a world that continually minimizes your wealth,
that commits violence against you,
then seeks to silence you
and make its lies the truth.
So excuse me
if I don’t feel sympathy
or shed any tears
over your infantile fears.
Stop talking and hear us,
muster the grit to sit
with discomfort of it.
For it’s a small price to pay
compared to what we face each day.
Besides, if what you were going to say
or do could be misconstrued
as poor behavior
then save your comments.
was not to compliment us
but to flatter yourself.
So put your ego on the shelf,
let your words melt
behind your teeth,