124/365: The Good and Silent Men Who Stand By

by Matthew Wiebe,  via Unsplash  (cropped)

by Matthew Wiebe, via Unsplash (cropped)

Beyond the shaming and vilification women receive
should we attempt to turn them over,
the cultural survival of abusers and rapists is borne
by the silence of good men.
It is borne by the silence of good men when we are catcalled,
those who stand by while we are groped,
those who are still when we tell our stories,
those who offer a shoulder when we describe
how an uncle touched us here
and a boyfriend punched us there
and a man choked us on this spot at the base of our necks,
which still bears the invisible thumbprint he placed there.
How do we turn over every quiet man who says nothing,
every quiet man who hears and shakes his head
and pats our backs and agrees that this was all so terrible,
as though comfort is any kind of justice?
We pay tens of thousands to send our daughters to institutions
where assault is the natural tax of a woman's education.
Good men undeniably accept this,
these quiet men,
as they pay fortunes for their daughters' experiences
and say little of the well-documented lessons in fear and suppression
kindly left off the bill.
Those of us silenced under threat of violence or death,
skeptical hopefulness,
and empty promises of change and good men who stand by
are exhausted.
We do what we can within a system that awards through few other paths
next to silent men who hold our hands,
and we are taught to be grateful,
even for these good men who cannot turn over fathers, brothers, friends
without admitting to smaller and greater complicities,
these men who say nothing,
these men who refuse to model public resistance,
these men who take the soft, silent path
while our voices echo in public halls
as though there are no men there to hear them,
men who haunt our sidelines like apologetic ghosts
and say I believe you and we didn't know,
who swear not my friends, not menot anyone I know.

We are tired,
and our history's predictions tire us:
we will be taxed for our sex,
and there will be more silence,
and more good and silent men will stand by.

Ours is a world full of voluntary ghosts,
and we are grateful for any seeming kindness.

I am writing one poem every day in 2016, and I am using the hashtag #365poems to document my progress.