Poetry: To My Son (Not Yet Born) by Jacko Pook

To My Son (Not Yet Born)

CW: mental ill-health, sexism, and suicide


To my son (not yet born),

Skin not yet the silk that is not yet leather

Not yet on the umbilical cord,

And not yet severed,

Not yet here to make your fate

Not yet seen the world that lies in wait.


To my son (not yet born)

The world is varied and vast

And fast

You’ll learn it’ll all go past

Without you catching a taste if you waste

A moment, a minute,

There’s so much to be seen within it,


But my son (not yet born)

You need to be forewarned –


You’re gonna hear hardship is lesser, it’s easier than ever,

But it won’t be long until you feel the pressure,

About what you wear,

What you do with your hair

Smile when you’re hurt act like you don’t care

Find somewhere,

And go there

If you ever think that you’ll dare

To divide your pain and let it be shared.


You’ll look for who you are

In men’s magazines,

You’ll find washboard abs in only six weeks,

Women sold as meat

On The Sun’s page three –

Legal bronze blonde; barely eighteen.

Maybe you’ll wonder why it’s on the shelf

Where it can’t be seen,

And ask, ‘If all I’m inheriting is dirty secrets

Was I born unclean?’.

You’ll be told bigger arms, bigger chest, 

Smaller waist,

And to train through your injuries

Like you’re unfazed.

Creatine, L-Citrulline,

The illegal stuff too.

You’ll think it’s natural to be unnatural

But that’s not true.

I don’t mind what your ambitions are

As long as they’re for you.

Do: Try hard.

Don’t: Bend yourself out of shape

For an expectation.

Take it from someone who came

To that realisation.

You might want to be tough,

The roughest and buff –

Make both your emotions and body robust

Think there’s nothing that you can’t do

And nothing you can’t lift,

Not a problem on this planet

That you can’t fix,

You’ll want to be beautiful

And six foot six…

Well I’m sorry for these genetics!

You might have to find a

Way to feel blessed

With a little less


Something happens between me and a



And if you can turn your insecurities into comedies

You’ll never be unhappy…



From a seed you’ll grow

And believe your exterior’s inferior.

But you can be strong like an oak

Or bendy like willow

Just know – 

A tree that measures itself by its bark

Is a tree that’s hollow.

You don’t have to be Adonis or Apollo

Or hold the sky up like Atlas –

Unless you want to, and then that’s your choice,

But don’t break your back for manliness.


I’m a self-contradicting adviser

But that’s it -

I’m a hypocrite,

Not a liar.

I know just what might entice

You to try and hold up the earth,

The sky, the sea, the universe,

So hold it all, if you think that’s you,

But it’s not the sum of your worth.


To my son (not yet born),

Build up your armour

Because the world will harm a

Soft soul, 

Bullies at school and internet trolls

Will leave a hole

Where your sensitivity was and you’ll be left not whole.

You’ve got to be strong, but sometimes we’re weak,

When you’re hurting please, please, please speak.

You’ve got to take the storms with the calm

And you can’t do it all with just two arms.

It took a long time alone, and hurt on my own,

To learn that stoicism is another word for self-harm.


So take your armour off when not in battle.

There are many who don’t;

Champions, chumps, losers and abusers,

Straight edge men and hard drug users,

Saints, sinners, the nobodies, the winners.

These boys are condemned

To hurt all around them

And Google painless ways to die when it’s three AM,

Delete an old friend’s number

From their most recent calls.


With themselves

By a human weakness disgraced

As if wearing armour didn’t show

Vulnerability in the first place.

These men are making people work to hold them together,

Feeling guilty about that and getting worse than ever.

They’re going out looking for fights

When they’re pissed,

Or hanging from a tree,

Or slitting their wrist,

Or taking enough pills that they go to sleep

Convinced that nobody left behind will weep.


To my son (not yet born),

Skin not yet the silk that is not yet leather -

I can’t protect you forever

If I can even protect you ever.

When I think of all this I think I ought not

Bring you into this world.

But then I remember

I’m a man too;

Flawed and faulted

And if it’s my mission

To give you the ability

To see through masculinity’s

Demand for flawless durability

In the face of a world of human fallibility

I have to give myself that same permission.


It’s ok to make mistakes.


If I build from my body

A fortress to protect you

From the world and it’s wicked tricks,

All you’ll learn from your father

Is that I’d rather

See boys turned to men, and men turned to walls,

And hearts turned to bricks.

I’d teach you it’s OK

To smother someone

In the name of protection

Leave you with the same male infection

That makes captors out of those with the best intentions.


Here’s the truth:


A man who makes

 Every kind of mistake

From which I’ll learn from later.

Flawed and faulted,

But nowhere near a failure.

I’d rather you saw that

Than some show of sinless saviour.


I hope we always talk

Of a better world together

Until both our silk skins have turned to


Jacko Pook is an artist living in the south-east of England, making work for theatre, music, and poetry. When he's not working he's usually watching sports, gaming, or spending time with his pets.


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