I can buy two comics for a quarter
at the druggist near the department store
next to the restaurant where we eat out
almost every Friday night. ’66
it is, and I’m just ten; my allowance
is twenty-five cents a week. I blow it
on superheroes. I’m a good student,
bring home A’s and B’s, and am Captain
of the School Safety Patrol. I’m what you call
responsible. But on weekends I’m free
to do almost anything I want to,
so I read comic books, play with the dog,
ride my bike, play baseball or football or
basketball–it depends on the season,
and we have four of them here in Georgia.
In the drug store I stand before the rack
of magazines. Below them, the comics.
I’m looking for Superman and Batman,
Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Atom,
Hawkman–if I can find the Justice League
then I have them all for the price of one,
and watch them work together to defeat
evil, which isn’t much of a problem
in our town, though I’m still too young to know
that crime can pay, and that politics
is organized crime, but somehow legal.
And we haven’t lost in Vietnam yet,
Nixon’s not President, and LBJ
can still talk-up the Great Society.
But in the comic books evil never wins
but still gives goodness one heck of a fight.
I like it when things begin wrong but end
right. Me, I don’t know much about failure
–enough to know I don’t want to be one.
Fight evil and you can’t go wrong, even
if you’re killed–you’re a hero and that’s heaps
better than being alive and nothing.
Look at Ferro Lad, of the Legion of
Super-Heroes: he gave his life to save
the galaxy–it says so right there on
his statue. What a guy, and he doesn’t
even exist. It’s a head-scratcher, though
–he’s alive somehow (forget that he’s dead)
among the four-colors and drawings and
words in word-balloons and staples and ink
in my copy of Adventure Comics,
but the nearest I can come to know him
is by reading the story; without it
I’m nothing to him, only make-believe.
But in my collection of the Legion
I’m sort of an honorary member
whenever I read along. So which world
is real? I wonder if the Legionnaires
pass around a comic book about me
and turn the pages to see how I pan
out. I hope I won’t be canceled, at least
not for a very long time. Who knows but
that I’m a hero to those teenagers
of the thirtieth century? And this,
my mild-mannered life in Marietta,
Georgia, is just the one they’ve given me
by believing. When Monday morning comes,
I’ve got to go to school again. I know
someone’s watching me–in church they say it’s
God, but I think it’s the eyes of readers
following my exploits. They’re happy that
I don’t give up, and hustle on the field
and make good marks and obey my parents
at least most of the time and clean my plate
and make my bed and take out the garbage
and wash the car and feed the dog and clean
out the garage and mow the grass and sweep
the porch and pick up my clothes and say Grace.
I must really be something else to them.
And when I die of old age I’ll be well
-thumbed, but still a collector’s item, Poor
or Fair or Good or Fine or Near-mint
or Mint condition. But still a classic.
I have had poetry published in Ascent, Reed, Journal of Black Mountain
College Studies, The Font, Chiron Review, Poem, Adirondack Review, Florida Review, Slant, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Roanoke Review, and many other journals in a dozen countries. I have authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives.