words by j. ward
photo by jose r. borras
It’s October of 1969. There’s a Superhero convention
in a secret location just outside of Metropolis.
The Brown Hornet and Wonder Woman get stuck in an elevator.
I know what you’re thinking; Wonder Woman, of course,
could break down the door and fly to the top floor.
Just as easily, Brown Hornet could snap his fingers and,
using his super powers, naturally escape unharmed.
Instead, the following conversation ensues.
Swallowing his nerves into a bundle of quivering steel cables
much like the ones holding the elevator in place, he says,
“What’s a fine super mama like you doing in a place like this?”
She says, “What’s a jive wannabe hero like you doing in a place like this?”
He says, “Hold on foxy lady, I just wanna know your name.”
She says, “My name is never have never will.
Never have fallen for smooth talkers, never will give my heart to a thug;
aren’t you less hero and more cartoon within a cartoon?
Kids tune in to your stereotypes.
You are shucking and jiving for laughter and adoration,
how will you help your people?
I’ve known so many guys like you. Your arms and chest are as big
as your intentions, but your muscles, like your goals, lack definition.
Wearing just enough mask to hide the realest part of you.
Unlimited misused power combined with awkward pudding pop smiles
makes you sadly predictable, and we are in a line of work
that prohibits predictability.”
He says, “… that’s a long name,”
then says, “what’s predictable is that you refer to me as a thug
and you don’t know me, don’t know that I have saved 7 street kids
from becoming thugs. Those cartoon kids faithfully watch my cartoon.
I am a hero to them no matter who I am to you.
Funny, your aversion to stereotypes. Your male colleagues wear tights
to their wrists and ankles, you fly behind them with bra and panties on
leaving little for the minds of pubescent teens to wonder about.
You are from the jungles of the Amazon, which is in South America,
but somehow you are white with blue eyes.
How will you help your people?”
She says, “You don’t know, don’t know my past,”
and starts to pull apart the doors with her super strength.
He says, “Wait – please don’t go,
this is not how I x-ray envisioned this conversation would go.
Sometimes it’s hard to separate the real me from my alter ego.
My real name is Joe. I am as soft on the inside as my exterior is hard.
I fall harder than I love, and I love hard,
and when I am with you there is a dance floor jackknifing in my ribcage
like break beats over troubled waters.
Your Amazon has kindled a fire in my homeland.
I challenge you in the name of Jungle Fever, dare you to accept,
we are in a line of work that often ends in death
so if our enemies hate seeing us together, I couldn’t care less.
I just want to be in your arms thru the apocalypse.”
He says, “Can I call you sometime?”
She hesitates, parts her lips
with awkward pudding pop smile and says – “yes.”
He snaps his fingers. The elevator starts. They naturally escape unharmed.
Later they married, racially charged. A twinkle in their eyes grew from that spark.
Those were my parents, apparently metaphor;
for those that need to be trapped with fear and misconception
to finally understand and ascend their transgressions,
for those who claim superheroes to be imagined idealism
not worth the brain tissue they are printed on.
Metropolis needs more elevators.
I am the son of change made possible, so naturally
I fall harder than I love, believe in second chances,
think a woman’s smile is a tribute to dance music everywhere,
think my parents are the only heroes I’ve ever known,
know there is a calm prior to each doomsday storm,
and believe, though we may be faced with Kryptonite cage,
there is a hero inside each of us waiting to naturally escape.