Poems are like superheroes; they often struggle to get off the ground. But when they reach the open air everything they see is changed by being in flight. A city becomes a fleck of dust; an ant becomes a brontosaurus. And people? What happens to them? Some of them will look up with strange longing, then glance down to find superhero costumes welded onto their skins. While others, who have no doubt they belong in the stratosphere, find their jet-boots only nail them to the ground.
My superpower is writing poems…
Poetry is just another name for dreaming, but it’s also synonymous with nightmares. The nightmare of finding your superhero suit growing as baggy as your skin; of discovering that your real superpower is silence. That the fear you strike in others is easily eclipsed by the fear they strike into you. That power comes at a price that may not be worth paying. How much do you really want to take to the air? The handsomest birds are the easiest to shoot down. Even by-standers keep kryptonite in their pockets. What do we own, except for our dreams?
Not everyone is built for speed. It has been argued that the bravest person in the Marvel cinematic universe is the man who climbs to his feet in Avengers Assemble when Loki demands that humanity embraces its natural subservience and kneel before him. Is a god anything more than the one who wields the biggest stick? What force compels Superman to call the President ‘Sir’? In Alan Moore’s Marvelman the hero embraces his unnatural superiority and takes over the world to save it from itself. Tragedy eclipses destiny: but by Watchmen Moore has reversed the equation. The god-like Dr. Manhattan re-creates himself as Satan and leaves humanity to fend for itself. He adopts the moral high ground, telling us we’ll be stronger for living without gods: but perhaps he’s just bored with us. What god wouldn’t be?
Let’s come back down to earth. In a culture that demands we prove our worth by constantly improving our performance, whether we run the corporation or only the photocopier, have we all become ashamed of merely being human? What happens when you tear off the mask and find another mask beneath it? Or if you find nothing, not even a face. Maybe we’re nothing more – or less – than the sum of our dreams. No wonder we look up and cry Is it a bird, is it a plane? And answer no, it’s only me; trying my wings for size.
Here are a few of my wings. Why not try them on? They might suit you perfectly, and held you find your own. Or fly you to strange lands and abandon you there, forcing you to build a ship from your dreams and set sail on crimson seas. Travel boldly enough and you might never need a mask again.