“Real Man Talk”

I ran* a poetry workshop called “Speaking as a Man,” in a men’s prison in the North of England. The theme was male identity and sexism. An ex-soldier wrote a poem that showed the harshness of internalised male oppression and underneath it he scrawled angrily, many times, “Real Man Talk.” The men and I decided to make this the title of their booklet. Then they challenged me to write a poem and this is what came out:

Wait. Real man talk comes
slowly. After dark corners
have been checked. After
safety locks have been
proved. Again. And again.
After you no longer will it
to come. It will come.
Stay still. Real man talk
startles easily. Recedes
fast into itself. Watch.
For a minuscule facial tick.
For a bead of sweat.
For a sideways glance
that lands. And bounces off.
Approve. With words. With
eyes. With an unspoken Yes.
Real man talk always
has its reasons

Leah Thorn
Folkestone, Kent, England

* “Ran” means conducted.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00