by Frank Modica

Man Up
Good Catholic boys in button down shirts
and blue jeans fought on the school playground,rising and falling in the masculinity standings.
This brutal competition snared everyone,large and small, Polish, Italian,
or Irish, and my turn was coming.I tried everything to dodge this bullet
but holy cards and rosaries didn’t save me,good grades couldn’t defer the inevitable,
I had to meet the bullies in the alley after school.If I didn’t fight back I was already a loser,
my adversaries would stalk me in the stairways,shove my head against a wall, call me a fag.
I had to show up, suck it up, and be a man,so I put my glasses in a book bag,
took a punch, threw a punch.Bloody nose, black eye,
so what, Italian boys don’t cry.

I borrow my father’s powder blue
1966 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan, an unsexy vehicle
but big enough to transport six testosterone-addled
teenage boys to a rock concert.I drive to Rockford, a 90 minute trip
from suburban Chicago to the indoor stadium,
parse the minutes for the warm up bands and REO Speedwagon,
hope nothing upsets my timetable.I dismiss the weather reports—it’ll blow by, just a dusting,
but the concert starts late, the warm up bands drag out their sets.
I watch the clock-we’re cutting it close,
hear murmurs through the crowd-a big storm’s on the way.After the first song of the headline band
I hustle my buddies out of the auditorium.
A freezing slush accumulates on the local roads,
the car feels unsteady at every stop and turn.By the time we hit the interstate big snowflakes
plaster  the windshield; a blowing, howling mess.
I wish away the truckstop phone call to my parents,
count the hours until I face the music.

Blurring the lie  

I claim I’ve gazed at women’s faces,
arms, legs, buttocks, breasts
because I admired their classical proportions,
their undeniable beauty.
I loudly assert that I’ve never acted likethe creepy guys who sit down uninvited
at women’s tables and hit on them,
who think they are God’s gift to every lady.
But can I be honest with myself,
re-evaluate all my interactions,make amends for all the times
I’ve been the arrogant jerk
leering at women who walk down the street,
who stare down the fronts of their dresses,
who look away only when they catch my eyes?   

About the Author:
Frank C Modica is a retired teacher who taught children with special needs for over 34 years.  His writing is animated by interests in history, geography, and sociology. His work has appeared in Slab, Black Heart Magazine, The Tishman Review, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, and FewerThan500.