Superman Steps Up, #178

At birth, little more
than six pounds of flesh.
No muscles yet, soft head.
Tendons and ligaments
unconnected to the joints
and to the bone. There
is much work to be done
here, much of it painful,
most couched in games
involving sticks and stones,
tasks creative and mean
spirited meant to
force the young body
to move at high speeds,
leap from tall buildings,
stretch beyond
its capacity. Oh, at first
nothing more than
sitting up, rolling
over, skills at eating
a pea. Soon enough
though they’ll demand
you crawl, walk, run down
the hall and pick up
some toy you left out,
for your mother.
From then on
it’s all chores.

By four they’ve got you
tying your shoes,
learning your letters,
using animals and rhymes
to learn your right
from wrong, left
from right, throwing
and catching and napping
on cue. It’s all
a bluff, when what
they really want
is your undivided
attention to this
special offer.
Learn now to
keep your clothes
and your shoes on.
Take your vitamins
and brush those teeth,
stop running your crayons
along the new white walls
where you’ve been told
we just painted. At birth,
little more than six pounds
of flesh, no muscles yet,
soft head, tendons and
ligaments unconnected
to the joints and the bones,
just sit here and wait till
your father comes home.

Eight, and it’s too late
to change anything,
by now you figured out
the kitchen appliances
and the lawn mower,
right? Figured out how
to convince your sister
to lie for you when
mom comes home
to find the last of her
collectable glasses, ones
she has been losing
over the years due
to attrition, broken.
It won’t mean a thing
except that her father
gave them to her
and he’s dead, so
these are the last
shards of a fantasy she
had been keeping. Fear
not, at this age you
are still too cute to
kill and too young
for the girls to kiss.
Enjoy being icky
because soon, gross
becomes a badge
rather than something
to wrestle with, a bar
of soap and water.

Twelve, what hell you
can get into at this age.
The girls at school make
no sense, but the scent
of them is enough to
raise the fresh hairs
growing on your arms,
those strange psychedelic
strands you spend half
of math class staring
at and fondling
and the other half
looking towards
the window,
appearing lazy,
gazing for an excuse
to keep one eye
on that special one
whose desk is set
right under the sill
who licks her lips
and flips back
her hair in such
a way that you’d
think she was a spider
trying to wrap the world
in a shoulder length cocoon,
and maybe, if that were true
a slow poisonous death
might just be worth it.

Sixteen, ready to wreck
the universe, tear
down the buildings,
stomp and punch
and kick every
dumb grown up
who doesn’t understand
what a fossil they are,
who holds on to
ancient ideas from, like,
twenty years gone,
and who’s too blind
to see the writing
on the wall. Some coach
better put you on a court
or a field. Some girl
better put out
on a couch or backseat.
You are that damn good,
know every day stuck
in some grey classroom
learning trig or calc
is a day wasting your
talents. Little more than
flesh. Thin, taut muscles,
hard head. Tendons,
ligaments wrapped to the
joints and bones. Just wait
till my dad comes home.

Twenty, there’s plenty
of life to be lived, but time
has gone by faster than
a bullet. Nighttime janitor
in a tall building, veteran
of a foreign war, both
pay well to sit in class.
Can we meet at the cafe
and have lunch together?
What are you studying?
This afternoon there’s
a pickup game of ultimate
in the fields by the tennis
courts. Can’t sorry. Court
this afternoon for speeding
through town. Call home,
find out what’s wrong
with Dad. An accident,
he’s fine, but they found
something unexpected.
Come home this weekend
and wonder when you
will get this paper
and this project finished.
Look to friends for guidance,
to girls for solace, for
a shoulder and a breast.
The rest is settled law,
heartbreak, death and happiness,
out of which, Superman rises.

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A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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