International Men’s Day 2018: Four Men

I knew a man once whose wife left him.
She said he was boring and she wanted no more of him.
So she took his daughter to a commune in Wales,
And to see his child he drove four hundred miles.

For seven years his girl was raised
by a poet half his age;
A man who worshipped Ferlinghetti,
And spent his nights getting drunk and sweaty,
While he just prayed that she wouldn’t forget him.

The poet left them in the end,
Too young to be tied down, he said.
And the wife returned to town,
And nothing more was said.

The father and daughter still get along,
But she wonders why the bond’s not strong.

The second guy I met, had a face as white as milk,
‘cause he’d had a call from a former boss
– they’d had a Christmas fling –
And she phoned ‘cause she said
It was finally time to tell him
The truth:

“I’ve got a fucking kid! A baby. Holy shit!”
For a long time he just swayed and swore
Like a twenty-one-year-old confused
Who’s woken up on the morning after
And realised he’s just been used.

“She was thirty-fucking-five!” he spat,
meeting my eyes, with fear.
“… she was minted, she bought all the drinks …
… It was Christmas, I just didn’t think …
… I don’t even remember half the night …”

He didn’t even remember half the night.

He didn’t even remember half the night.

And so a little later
I started to wonder
whether calling it rape
just might be right.

The third was in his sixties,
Bald all over with alopecia,
He’d had a stroke some years ago
And had cheeks that were grey and sunk like stones.

“Sheeee… but sheeee… I don’t care!
He’s still my son!”
But he wasn’t really.
Oh no, not really.
Not when all was said and done.

The real father of the boy he’d called his son since birth
Was some guy his wife had known from work,
Who’d kept his picture by his computer
Along with all his other squirts.

“He’s still my son,” he said.
“I raised him!” Then he hung his head.
And I wondered if he had the strength
To live that lie until he was dead.

The final man is famous,
With a son who surpassed us all,
But he was written from the scriptures.
Eclipsed by the ghost who made us all.

He’d taught his son some handy-work,
Maybe how to build a dresser,
But he was nothing next to mother dear
The Virgin Mary, bless her.
And don’t talk about his real dad
He missed most family get-togethers.

But is that the perfect father?
A mythical creator;
An invisible provider;
Like a just supporting actor,
Or a car’s optional extra;
Who’ll come inside
Then step aside
To make way for the oppressed. Hah!

Being a dad’s like being a ghost.
So don’t tell me how it feels
to sit round a board room table and talk about the way we deal
with something so important,
but be dismissed with a smile.
I may be a man but I still understand how it feels to feel futile.

Now, misogyny is not for me
– I don’t blame a gender for their behaviour –
But let me make this plain:
If you really want equality,
Let’s talk about child custody
And we’ll change the world all over again.

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