Poems About Boulders


‘Cabeca do Velho’ in Serra da Estrela, Portugal.


Ayear has passed since the boy’s obsession with drawing penises first started. It’s the same one every time, a log hewn from his imagination, misshapen boulders. He slaps it everywhere. That’s what his mother calls it. He slaps any writable surface he can reach without exerting himself. The wall at home where she measures and marks his height once a year on his birthday, low ceilings not in stucco, the one lampshade not pleated, pillowcases, doors no one’s watching, wings of paper airplanes, bus seat, rubber of shoes, his own itchy cast, pages of hymnals, his desk at school, walls around urinals, his binder if it’s not part of his portfolio requirement, beige rocks in the landscape above the highway, places for strangers to discover long after he’s drawn there. His mother takes pictures of the penises for the boy’s father to analyze from his office in Chicago. ‘They are as consistent,’ he observes, ‘as letters in a typography font.’ He speaks as if she could never see without him. He takes a breath and describes boys around the world drawing as a hip hop reference the same exact penis. ‘But if you don’t follow popular music,’ she complains, ‘how could you know this?’ The only way of spreading she’s familiar with is the phenomenon of going viral, yet children were playing the same hand-clapping games on every continent on the planet long before the advent of social media. ‘Same rhythms, same hand sequences, same melodies, same toothy smiles, same joy of laughter,’ she enumerates for the boy’s father, ‘how does it get everywhere? ‘Think of a phallus metaphorically,’ he offers. ‘It’s about power.’ ‘He’s twelve, Gil,’ she counters. But who can stop it now? He will express his fear of powerlessness to as many people as possible until a time when he’s growing more spiritually androgynous.

In this 1983 book of poems Fracture, Clayton Eshleman (1935-2021) writes, “…as a white Anglo-Saxon heterosexual male, I must confront the fact that what I represent as a social identity is the great boulder that must be rolled away from the entrance to the cave in which energies of the minorities of the world have been sealed.” In the twenty-first century, the boy, grown to a man like Eshleman, arrives at coffeehouses to read aloud his poems about boulders.

Also see “Men in Funks”