That boulevard

We walked hand in hand,
the first time I had ever touched a man
and kept hold after the embrace.
We must, I suppose, have talked of much,
although of what I cannot now recall.
But nothing said more
than what was said with that hold
as we strolled down that boulevard
like we owned it.

Your culture is not your language, what you eat or what you wear. You can learn the first, get used to the second and wear anything that’s decent, and still not be assimilated into a culture. Your culture is the instant, without thinking way that you react in a given situation…the “from the gut” or “knee jerk” reaction that you not only cannot control, but is so instinctive that you do not even realize that is is controlling you.

In North American culture, people of the same sex do not touch in public, or if they do, only briefly. Opposite sexes touch in public, and can remain touching. In Africa, it is the exact opposite. People of different sex never touch in public, while people of the same sex display friendship by holding on to each other continually. While you will rarely see a man and a woman, even if they are married, touching in public, you will often see two men or two women strolling hand-in-hand and talking. So for me, taking hold of an African man’s hand and walking down the street talking with him was not just an act of friendship and trust, it was an act of culture bending unity. On that day, in that time, we did own that boulevard.

Thank you for reading That boulevard. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,


Filed under Poetry

3 responses to “That boulevard

  1. Each country has a different culture, in Indonesian man and man also do not hold hands.

    Warm regards,

    • Mei,

      Interesting. What about the rules for men and women in public?

      Another cultural issue I ran across, for example, is eye contact. In North America, everyone, even children, should look everyone directly in the eyes when conversing. It is considered a matter of “honesty” and “respect.” (Why, I don’t know.) However, in Africa, people, and especially children, often do not look you in the eye out of a sense of humility and courtesy.

      The sad truth is how much misery has been created in this world because one group has judged another group by their own completely arbitrary rules of behavior? Instead of looking at each other with unifying and non-judgmental eyes?


      • Men and women as you know Indonesian were majority Islam so its ok to hold hands but nothing more than it. As I understand in Ameika kissing in public was something usual which not allowed in here.
        Warm regards,