Broken Noose: Gender Norms are Killing Men

Faith Mashevedze | Zimbabwe


The following work mentions suicide


The song goes:

"I would tell you that I love you tonight

But I know that I got time on my side

Where you going

Why you leaving so soon?

Is there somewhere else that is better for you"


Grief envelopes me like a love letter in the tight grip of a giddy young woman,

As she bids her lover goodbye.

I am lost and once again at a loss of words.

Today my father sits me down,

“I have sad news,” he said.

“Your cousin has just passed away.”

My cousin is 22,

Somewhere with a noose around his neck

His weight suspended in the air

His lungs emptied of life

His voice muted by a wordless goodbye.

My father says, “Don’t be scared.’

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,”


In my culture,

The word cousin does not exist. He is my brother;

Though molded in different wombs.

How do I grieve for a brother without the tears of a child unlearning the threads carving our mouths shut?

How do I grieve without becoming living eulogy,

Dust muddied by the same heaviness of living.


My parents scan my face

For the grief of a child whose hands have also searched for a noose,

As tears roll down my eyes

I too feel a noose around my neck;

I too wish for a wordless goodbye ;

I too see the emptiness he must have seen;

I too wish I had a moment to tell my cousin he was not alone,

But Grief tightens Her grip,

I am all wounds: no healing has found me yet.

I am broken and yet to be consoled.

And am back in my bed at 22

When sorrow refused to unlearn my name

I am reaching for a noose too.

Mine was a box of well-calculated medicine,

Each prescribed by a doctor too bewildered I made to this appointment alive.

Doctors for whom I played the flute

And my melody was the desire to be better

I just wanted to be better.


The song goes:

“What is love if you're not here with me

What is love if it's not guaranteed

What is love if it just ups and leaves….”


I would tell them,

“In the night Grief whispers your name,

I tell her it is too soon. I do not have enough threads to complete this noose.”

His body hangs motionless and no one dares flinch.

I am somewhere far away from being informed

And I envy the freedom he has found.

There are things worse than death

Living is heavier than 1000 loadstones;

I am 22 again,

Waking up having not tied my noose tight enough

Having not locked the door

Having to face the living when I so clearly have courted death like a lost lover,

embraced her like an old friend.

I am 22 again in a hospital bed,

facing pastel ivory walls.

And knowing glances from the nurses who keep me sedated,

I cannot breathe as the grief returns.

For you dear brother it is over now.

There are doctors on call.


You are free and the world may not see it that way

but I have been living on the other side of a broken noose for years now

And am still sedated.

I am sorry I wasn’t there brother

I am sorry I can’t greet you there now

I am sorry I am not there now.


Grief can wrap its hands around your neck and make you forget your face.

A five-letter word has stolen my name too,

it has rewritten my name and stolen my face.

It sat in the window of a hospital where doctors come and forgot what they said last week.

I have forgotten to stay on the other side of that noose.

I have faded into nothingness and returned to the meaninglessness of existence.


I am sitting at the table

As grief returns again and I picture your body swaying in the wind

“I am sorry,” I whisper to the wind.

My mother watches my tears and says

“We must live.”

I am alive but what is living on the other side of a broken noose?


At the funeral, there were those who tried to find blame,

Nobody mentioned that gran’ had depression;

How it tore at her on her last day;

How this is hereditary;

How the wound once opened can be an abyss

You cannot escape.

Nobody connected the dots.


I too find my mouth carved shut

I do not mention my noose broke

I do not mention depression

How once it has known you like a lover will breathe you in

and forget you belong among the living

I do not mention the rising rates of male suicide.


I do not mention why women often survive and men resort to extreme measures.

I do not mention I too longed for a slumber from which I cannot return.

I do not mention the rising epidemic of male suicide is the unsaid gender norm

We hear whispers and take them for granted.


How we seldom notice the living eulogies set before us.

How we seldom notice the walking wounded among us.

How we seldom notice the broken noose above our children's heads.

Or how often that noose has been hung.


But the song goes:

"What is love if you’re not here with us?

What is love if you are not here no more?

What is love if it’s not guaranteed?

What is Love it just ups and leaves?"


‘And in the end, will we meet the place where there is no darkness?’

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