by Dante Di Stefano
Clark Kent’s Guide to Authorship, Readership, Text, and Existence
Honestly, I’m embarrassed when somebody calls me Superman because I’m not that great and most of my heroics are egotistical acts of self-dramatization. I hate wearing tights and I eschew the red, white, and blue, although some misguided souls equateme with cold war notions of patriotism. I hate many of my super powers because they are clichéd and shameful, or downright ridiculous. Never again will I use my breath to freeze a hoodlum’s Glock or burn through an iron door with heat emitted from my eyes.
Sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a mask of ice that’s always melting, like I’ve cloaked myself in icicles ripped from the dripping faucet of a sink inside the Fortress of Solitude, and I can’t figure out what my life is about, despite the letter emblazoned on my chest. What is an “S” anyway? A swerve on slippery roadways, a serpent eating its own tail, a wind that whispers calumny through leaves.
It’s important to note that I cape myself in the blanket that swaddled me. In other words, the hero I hide inside is a self-fathered foundling. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped inside a Kryptonite thorn tree. Ruinously avowed by the jowls of meaning, I hinge myself to the singed skirts of home and depart from all beginnings.
Yes, I’m thoroughly Midwest. Although Metropolis blessed me with purpose, my purpose is all surface—all this disingenuous business of saving the earth and skirmishes with arch-villains—it’s just a front I elide myself behind, my self-justifying lie. I could care less, really, if Lex Luthor makes bank or conquers the state of Florida, which is not a real place in the DC universe, but whatever. My enemies, in fact, are even more embarrassing than my name, or my more preposterous superpowers. I refuse to fight Bizarro, General Zod, or Mister Mxyzptlk on the grounds that they’re anachronistic, at best, and sophomoric, at worst.
Anyway, as I alluded to before, all this fighting is merely an attempt to narrate my life in a way that increases my self-esteem. Or maybe it’s all metaphor for the fracas I go through all day,
pondering how instability forms the core of identity, which could implode at any moment, wondering when and how a man can be without becoming what he dreams himself to be, or, to say it another way:
I am not the business uniform I don above my costume before I go to work, but I’m not the costume either, or the man of steel beneath it; I am just an ordinary man and, like all ordinary men, I could loosen my tie and tear off my button down shirt at any time. I could break into flight, like any man; I could ascend through the atmosphere, invulnerable. In an instant, I could be something other than I am right now.
And yet when I kiss Lois Lane, I taste her somberness and I know who I am: one who has known pain and fear, like any man. I am a shuffling between inconstancies and doubts, an accretion of griefs, tied to loss and smiling, while the whole world seduces me into saving it. No Locomotive, no tall building, no speeding bullet. Just this brief, lingering, hard kiss.
Bruce Wayne’s Guide to Breaking Down a Poem into Component Pieces
First of all, I always encounter them in dark alleys, like the one
my parents were murdered in, and they’re always addressing
the moon, or grief, or joy, while trying to rob some citizen
of his sense. I’m usually wearing my Bat Suit, so I press
the advantage and come out swinging, with a jujitsu move,
perhaps, or a bat-a-rang to the temple, maybe, although
I mostly save that as a last resort. I often apprehend them
quickly, but they subsequently elude my grasp and a struggle
ensues. I’m not afraid to fight dirty, especially if they’re sent
by a particularly formidable adversary, Wallace Stevens, say,
who is the Riddler of American Modernism, with all of his Joker
tomfoolery jaunts with form and his seductive Cat Woman
struts through meaning. One time I caught “The Dove
in the Belly” trying to pick an old man’s pockets on his way
to the DMV. Needless to say, I lowered my shoulder
and charged. I descended on that poem like a word vigilante
in a language butcher shop. However, after a protracted
combat, its selah built a nest in my brain, heaped my clavicle
with esplanades of corn, and cooed panniers of green
on my vertebrae. Its people in costumes, and snow that never
falls to earth, broke my ribcage. The whole of appearance
hit too close to Wayne Manor, and I could not placate
its hiddenness, so while the tempestuous bird had me
in a choke hold, I pretended to vomit and dry gulched the fiend
with an elbow to its solar plexus. Its excellence
is collecting excellence in Arkham Asylum, sharing a cell
with “The Idea of Ancestry” by Etheridge Knight,
which is kind of ironic I guess, but that poem didn’t put up
as much of a fight, although it’s in the same league
and similarly interrogates perception and identity. Anyway,
when dealing with such underhanded rogues, one can’t
be too careful. I suggest body armor and a crash course
in ferocity. I suggest the anodyne of intuition and the foresight
of ruthlessness. I suggest taking the law into your own hands
and killing the terror that lurks in doorways. Nobody
need be a victim. Just remember, be vicious. Start
with a vigorous chop to the title and don’t stop
until it loses consciousness and you remain fully aware,
vindicated, magnificent, and terrible, while your sign
illuminates the sky, like an approximate moon,
that won’t be sung to, emblazoned with the mark
of your deepest, archetypal, and operatic fear.
In this way, know you are neither the hero you pretend to be,
nor the millionaire you are, but a nothing in search
of knowing a deeper nothing. All of appearance is a toy.