IT'S HARD FOR SOME MEN TO FINISH SENTENCES
by Robert Bly
Sometimes a man can't say
What he . . . A wind comes
And his doors don't rattle. Rain
Comes and his hair is dry.
There's a lot to keep inside
And a lot to . . . Sometimes shame
Means we. . . Children are cruel,
He's six and his hands. . .
Even Hamlet kept passing
The king praying
And the king said,
"There was something. . . ."
Oh boy. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever read a poem that contains more simple truth that this short free verse gem by Robert Bly.
Sometimes there is so much to say and yet there is nothing that can be said. Generally, we men are the ones who can’t express ourselves; I know that most days I am content to sit back and just listen to my wife and my mostly-female coworkers and my mother, without adding much to the “conversation.” When my wife gets home from work, she gives me a long recap of her day’s events. When I get home from work, I’ve usually forgotten most of what has already happened that day.
The allusion to Hamlet is a great one. There have been Shakespeare references all over poetry for the last two-hundred years, but I’ve not seen one that uses Claudius’ inability to ask for forgiveness as a connecting device. I’ve not seen Hamlet portrayed as such a… “man.”
We (men) are told from birth that emotional expression is best left to the fairer sex, and I generally agree with that. But I wonder why we have also lost our ability to effectively communicate our lack of emotion as well. Are we so detached from the rest of the world? Are we best fit to live as Tarzan, romping through the jungle with our primate bretheren, communicating with a series of grunts and snorts? Maybe… But the part that really gets me is that I honestly don’t know if I want to be able to communicate better. I am content being self-contained, isolated without my own mind. Is that wrong? Is that what it means to be “a man”?
For such a short poem, this one has a very heavy weight.