Danielle Shutt

Jim was a boy who one day overheard a rowdy group of men saying many things about making love. That night, in his bedroom, Jim swaddled his penis in cling-wrap and said, I won't be a father. The first time he fell in love, he stapled his underpants to his waist and said, I am not a rapist. A few years later, after a long shift at his dishwashing job, he said, I am in control, pressing a pistol to his acne-scarred temple. We can see Jim was confused. We lament his seeming lack of guidance. No one told him that the best way to make use of desire is to bend it into a question mark, to regard it as a strand of yarn searching for a spindle. This is any male's tourniquet. It is neither a toy nor a branding iron. A boy should tauten it when deadheading the self’s static pressures. As with a parachute cord, he should at some point pull it loose, then steep in the calm reservoir wicking from his lungs.







The first version of this poem was written about five years ago, when my brother's struggles with mental illness and substance abuse had reached a frightening peak. At the time, I think I wanted to make sense of his frustration and confusion. This revised version carries a strain or two of those original intentions, but I think it's become a more general examination of masculinity and (self-)destruction.