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
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
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,
And to train through your injuries
Like you’re unfazed.
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
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.
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.