‘Boy’ by Bret Anthony Johnston


From The American Scholar:

Twist your fist when you connect and tear the other man’s skin; aim for the bridge of his nose, his throat; if there’s something heavy to swing–a pipe or board–pick it up before he does and lay him out; drive a truck with a manual transmission; carry a knife, sharpen the blade on wet stone; when buying cedar for a fence, look for knots and warps in the wood; when your son grabs an asp on a tallow limb, take the chewing tobacco from your mouth and press it to the sting; open doors for women and pay them compliments as they pass; make eye contact like a man and not like the coward you’re so bent on becoming; this is how you drive a nail; this is how you hitch a trailer and change a tire; this is how you run a horse; this is how you clean its hooves; always watch the other man’s chest, not his deceitful head; the chest can’t feign; is it true you cried when the tow-headed boy whipped you?; mow the yard in the morning and water at night; when a dog is dying, don’t hassle with the vet; feed him fried hamburger until he stops eating, then carry him into the cotton field; this is how you load a pistol; this is how you fire a pistol; this is how you clean the barrel after a pistol’s been fired; but he didn’t whip me and I didn’t cry; eat steak with yellow mustard, the same with biscuits;  this is how you walk with a woman…

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