I am currently going through my many collections and pamphlets to select poems for my American Selected, out next year. Here is one of the poems I will include, from 1999's Budavox, my debut collection...
A SOLEMN MEDITATION ON THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Gamma Rays pierced them, they returned heroic
though not without difficulties. When all changes,
much remains, but different, even unfortunately
strange, and powerful, so that men point in streets,
their hats tumbling off, and women drop groceries,
to see Galactus, or his herald, in bubbles of concrete,
atoms in galaxies in Manhattan, thrown for a challenge,
and earth-shattering conclusions left monthly, balanced
by the sheer crazy threats of barely thwarted annihilation
and what being super frames. It’s clobbering time, yet
not all matters can be solved with orange-granite fists,
limbs that stretch like gum, a molten body of a boy,
or a girl whose fields are clear as glass but cannot yield
their molecular force. Because human, we love as well
as when, to war, we put our armor on, and fend for Troy
or Helen; each wall that’s a breakthrough for one army
is another’s black hole, defeat whorling in like vacuum
and nothing left save rubble, weakness and air half-fire,
and the rumor of more ruin on the way, the next landing:
the world a place to be conquered by a Silver Surfer, or
a Submariner, blowing what belongs to Triton, Hudson
roiling at the emergence of an aquamarine attack, noble
in its grand indifference to the mere lunged New Yorkers,
abashed but inured to wanton villains and their grandiosity
now that the Baxter Building is the Ur-magnet for wild evil.
Yet, how can Mr. Fantastic knowingly enter the fragile
space of his own beloved, without a shameful thought,
that what simple anatomy has wrought, his husbandry
may undo, with his newfound abilities, pure expansion?
Obscenity is no part of the vows that bind a man to spouse
but in the broken house that is radiation’s special curse,
who can argue for his long-legged will to stay, just so?
And who may know the proper measure of Ben Grimm’s
agony: mightier than a slaughterhouse of oxen, still stone
on stone, and tangerine, his hands a clear sign of clumsy
cold, no subtle fingers here, a demolition of thumbs, a face
like a wrecking ball, and all the passion of a normal man?
Might he not want to break down, be regular now, and take
the blind girl in his athlete’s arms, again, no pressure to tackle
Victor Von Doom? Consider the Invisible Girl, later Woman,
whose grace is to go unnoticed, who can keep the rain off
with a shrug of atoms, does she want her genius long or short;
maybe after a homely battle, she may turn her back and leave
her powers on, so no marriage can reach, no matter the arms
that struggle to strain and pound at her inviolable places?
For Johnny Storm, no tonnage of car wax or peroxide obscures
his film idol’s grin eats only oxygen and spits lewd fire, his trim
physique a mitochondrion’s macrocosm gone supernova. Sure,
he’s beauty jetting from a flame-thrower, a solar rose, flight
hotly incarnate, a stream of fuel lit and flown across the sky,
lean muscle in a tight blue uniform that accepts the burn.;
but this, and less. He cannot lift his playmates to the sun
as he may go, but must return too soon with lovers to the ground.
They’ve found, all four, and each as fantastic as a bestiary’s apocrypha,
a sullen access to the null and void of life, where Midas fondled yellow.
POEM BY TODD SWIFT, COPYRIGHT 1999/2013.