Mother on Men

by Petra White

Mother what is a man?
Put on your red hat,
but don’t let a man see you wearing red.
Mother what is a man?
A man is a piece of burnt toast, a glass of vinegar.
Never pour a man into your eye, never eat one at night.
Mother what is a man?
The white stew of cabbage moths
simmering around my cup of tea.
Mother what is a man?
It is the shadow of an eagle over the man-mouse
that makes him tremble like a living thing.
Mother what is a man?
Things, electric ruffles, places to hide,
he is vast and gargantuan, a piece of rubber.
Mother what is a man?
I found him in the rubbish, I loved him back to health,
he perched on my finger like a friendly sparrow.
I was waiting for him to bite me,
I waited a long time. Didn’t I tell you this?
When he grew strong I ate dust and capers.
Mother what is a man?
He walks upright like a toad,
I mean, like a cloud.
Mother what is a man?
Never look him in the eye, bow your head,
walk backwards away from him.