Being a Man

A zuihitsu poem

Mark Harbinger
The Kiosk (at the Coffeebeat Cafe)
4 min readFeb 12, 2024

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Notice the clever enumeration, yeah? Well, I’m closer to the end than the beginning, too. I’ve been male since birth. ‘Been a man?’ Well, how long has it been? Let’s see…I guess I’ve been a man for a while now. Why do you ask?

[1]

My first child was born about a decade after I signed up for Selective Service. As I held him, the newborn, in my arms in the hospital room, I was unemployed and husky by emotion and BMI metrics. I didn’t feel like…anything, necessarily. But I felt very human and, you know, for just a little while I stopped worrying about…anything.

[2]

Dear [insert name, here],

I am in fairly constant contact with [names of children redacted]. Just wanted to let you know-they’re doing great. Really. Amazing young men. They’re going to be all right. You can stop worrying.

Sincerely,
_Mark

[3]

I was gender confused for a lot of my childhood. I enjoy watching Frasier. Every episode is about his gender confusion. There’s truth in that Art. Growth comes from confusion, you know (See, for example, [4] below). As we curate our gender identity, might be good if everyone hung onto that kernel of chaos in our shared humanity — the irony of living alone in society — forever. Maybe even pass it on to our kids, if we have avoided being s — — .

[4]

“…growth comes, first, from confusion.”
— Said el-Mokkrazel, Lebanese philosopher, from “Letters of Apocriphae to Sardis” (984 a.d.), as cited by ChatGPT-4

[5]

“Everything is Everything!”
— Jack be Nimble to Kermit the Frog “Sesame Street” (1975) — although I could’ve sworn it was Roosevelt Franklin.

[6]

Next to a glowing salt lamp sits the matching urn that contains my mother’s ashes.
My younger son asked: “Does the urn light up, too?”
I laughed and said, “If it does? Run.”

[7]

Like Watching Your Dad Cry (2011)

It was part of our bedtime routine:

Say good night to the sun in the corner (hanging from your ceiling)
Say good night to your self (in the mirror wiping your sleepy eyes)
Say good night to the sheep in your crib (as I set you down)

and then you’d ask.

Well, once upon a time a boy wasn’t loved enough
or not just right. Parents are so bad sometimes
at what they do.

But someday he knew he could grow up and love his own Son. Better.
And part of that was to let his Son know that he wasn’t perfect

and that the Sun wasn’t real

and that the mirror was just that.

The Sheep couldn’t hear you.

But I always listened. You were my dream come true and you saved me.

And, someday, you’ll lean over my tiny body and I’ll ask you
to tell me a story. And maybe you’ll tell me mine.

What a happy ending.

[8]

man (fifth draft, 2023).

Zuihitsu, cause:
Normal Western poetry
S’no way to be a…

[9]

This space intentionally left blank.

[10]

Is it okay to feel rage? Rage at how all these reactionary bullies are taking over our society?

Have you ever spoken to them in their element? When I took my introductory arms training at the gun range, the mousy little middle-aged psychologist-to be clear, that was just his secret identity, his true calling was as a right-wing proto-terrorist-anyway, nazi-wannabe shrink-boy showed me a picture of the one-gallon canister of pepper spray attached to his master bath’s shower rod. Pointing to it and talking about those times when he ‘wasn’t home to protect her’, he was soooo pleased that his wife “…no longer had to live in fear, now.”

[11]

“Low Testosterone is a bitch.”
— t-shirt sighted at a recent healthcare industry junket to a conference in Australia, which was funded (the conference, not the t-shirt) by a generous grant from the Roosevelt Franklin McArthur Foundation.

[12]

Sixty years ago this week was Doctor Strange’s first appearance in the comics. I used to love the once-a-year “Avengers Annual” events which would feature Strange. He wasn’t actually a part of the team, you know; but, inevitably, in the big annual events, things would go all to hell, see, and the Avengers would be in over their heads, and then Doctor Strange would show up and it was like: “All right, then! Daddy’s home!”

[13]

“…the great legacy that the two of you leave, is, uh, demonstration of how to be a guy. You know — just how to be guys. And that’s invaluable.”

-David Letterman, to NBA players Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird (aired 04/11/2012), as they promoted their documentary “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals”

[14]

“How are you doing?” is what he always asks me, whenever he visits.
Such love in that question.
There are no words.

Originally published at https://markharbinger.substack.com.

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Mark Harbinger
The Kiosk (at the Coffeebeat Cafe)

Since '03, Mark's poetry, SF/F/H shorts, & Lit Fic have been featured online. Print: Running Wild Anthology, Wondrous Stories, (debut novel) The Be(k)nighted.