I stretch for the comic book at the top
of the spinner rack but I can’t reach it
–I’m too small and my heroes are too high.
I don’t think about what that means then but,
forty-three years later, it all makes sense
and would make a good comic book, too, if
I could pencil and ink and color and
letter. I still can’t do any of these
but sometimes I write stories, even if
they are inside poems. If this is one. I
don’t know–and I have a PhD in
literature and creative writing.
It was Justice League of America
–you get more heroes for your money and
they’re good by themselves but work together
even better here. I’m a little boy
from the rural side of Marietta,
Georgia, which is countrified anyway.
I get into town only once a month
when my parents show they’ve kissed and made up
by taking me with them to eat out at
the Davis Brothers Cafeteria
where we slow-mo sideways-move through the line.
But I can’t have spaghetti and French fries
together–Father won’t let me. It’s not
done, he says. Why, I ask. Well, it’s just not,
he says. But why, I ask. Because I said
so, he says. Oh, I say. I get it now.
After supper I get my allowance
–twenty-five cents–and go to the drug store
to buy two comic books (twelve cents each and
a penny for Georgia sales tax–four cents
on the dollar: it’s 1965).
Or one comic book and two candy bars
and two pieces of bubblegum. I can’t
blow it yet but I’ll get the hang of it,
like tying shoes or always zipping-up
when I get dressed, and after I pee. Means
I’m growing up–I’m somebody’s hero
who’s younger than I but I have few friends,
none, really, at school, which we live far from,
so I’m a role model for nobody
but the dog, who got run over last month.
So I have an imaginary friend
and she’s a girl. One day we’ll get married
because we like each other–I don’t know
about sex yet, how it makes babies and
causes divorce. I meet my parents at
the fountain in front of the clothing store
an hour later. Father sits on the edge
of the little pool with the lights under
the water. Mother, smoking, stands over
him. Well, sure thing, Honey, he says. You bet.
I appear, and cough so they’ll notice me.
It’s like being born one more time except
I’m nine years old and not covered with blood
nor screaming, not that I remember that.
Hello, Son, they say. They say it as if
I’m the one thing that holds them together.
I’m like glue, I guess, but I don’t smell bad.
I’m ready, I say. So are we, they say.
So we find our ’65 Chevy II
–I crawl in and sit alone in the back
–and we drive home with the sun behind us
and it’s setting. I’d read my comic book
but I get carsick. Anyway, I want
to save it for tonight, after the Braves
on the radio. Then I’m alone in
my attic bedroom with the Justice League.
I fall asleep and someone’s asking me
if I’d like to join the group. You kiddin’,
I say–where do I sign up? Then I
wake and my heroes are back in the book
and it’s too late for serious reading
now anyway. Father and Mother go
to bed–I hear their door slam so I read
my comic, and all the ads, twice over,
and it’s righteous and I’m going to be
like Superman, but no kryptonite, and
trounce evil if it’s the last thing I do,
and outrun trains and stop bullets, and smoke.
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.