If: A poem on learning to be a man

Inspired by Rudyard Kipling's 'If'.

 |  1-minute read |   01-08-2017
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    • If (with Kipling's blessings)


    • If you can measure yourself
    • with the eye scales of the woman
    • who survived your enemy


    • If you can hold the woman
    • you had leaned into until she warmed
    • and, looking into her eyes, say
    • why you are afraid


    • If you can walk out of the shadow
    • of your father's failing,
    • your mother's distress,
    • and then if you can turn to the cleansing heat
    • of summer sun and make a vow
    • to care a little less


    • If you can make flowers flower
    • on poisoned land
    • and kiss every fruit


    • If you can shut up
    • about a woman's dress when
    • you do not hope to wear it

boys_080117051555.jpgPhoto: AFP

    • If you can mutely nod
    • when women speak of what is done
    • in your name


    • If you can say,
    • never again!
    • and mean it


    • If you can stare deep into the well
    • of your heart and drink
    • up your twisted truths
    • and speak, though aflame
    • with shame
    • If you can build the grand things
    • that feed your hate


    • If you can cook the animals
    • your ancestors ate


    • If you can smile at neighbours
    • who will not cease their cry of 'apart! apart!'
    • and invite them in every weekend
    • for their antidote of art


    • If you can build a school
    • where all-all-all is the norm


    • If you can build a storm shelter
    • for lovers on the run


    • If you can take the place of sons
    • murdered for the wrong hat
    • or those mothers stripped and paraded
    • for living with their pride intact


    • If you can learn to dance
    • just because no one dances
    • any more


    • If you can sing the song
    • of the weak when their throats
    • are too sore


    • If you can hear the howls outside
    • and step out,
    • armed or not


    • If you can turn away from
    • those videos of the naked
    • and the harmed


    • If you can rally against those
    • who trade off your will
    • for wealth


    • If you can force your vote to translate
    • into water, hope and health


    • If you can let the gods be,
    • One or many or all,
    • let them speak from themselves
    • from above


  • You will have learnt to be a man,
  • my brother, my friend, my love.

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Annie Zaidi Annie Zaidi @anniezaidi

Annie Zaidi is known for her collection of essays, Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, which was short-listed for the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2010.

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