Superman at 95

By Gregory Djanikian

Featured Art: The Collector of Prints by Edgar Degas

It was never a question of age, finally.

Time for him had always moved

too slowly, wasn’t he faster than time,

outrunning it whenever he wished?

Even now, he could hear the sound

of every second before it clicked.

Oh, he was powerful enough,

still wildly aerodynamic, able

to leap imagination itself.

But he’d grown weary of it all,

the adoring looks, the caped crusading

in the name of righteousness and truth:

hadn’t it frayed a little, lost

its gleam through the turbulent years?

Nothing had changed really,

annihilation, ruin, the horsemen

of every apocalypse still riding through

like bad cops and pestilence,

knowing where everyone lived.

And his own life, emptier now

with so many friends gone

or on the way, Jimmy, Lois,

doddering in their last stages

in a metropolis of fear.

Even his shadow-self had had to die,

mild-mannered to the end, grown

stooped, with failing eyesight.

Who would he be tomorrow?

Car salesman? Auto mechanic?

It was all greasepaint and mirrors,

so many cheap parlor tricks

everyone seemed fooled by.

What he wanted more and more

was pouring himself a drink,

turning the TV up like everyone else,

some canned laughter for the road—

and always, there was too much road,

too many voices buzzing in his ear, asking him

for liberty, for justice, things that required

compromises, disappointments.

Frankly, he’d always been better

at disasters, a couple of earthquakes

to attend to, some small-time hoods.

And a beautiful woman on his arm

with a bird’s eye view of the earth

that could still astound.

Sometimes he found himself lying back,

scanning the night sky without X-ray eyes,

without the hair-trigger hearing.

He liked not knowing what would come next,

feeling his head against the ground,

his palms cool on the moist grass,

being able to see only as far

as the darkness would allow.

Gregory Djanikian has published seven collections of poems with Carnegie Mellon, the latest of which is Sojourners of the In-Between (2020). His poems have been published in numerous journals and anthologies and have been featured on Fresh Air and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He was for many years the director of creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania and now lives with his wife, the painter Alysa Bennett, near Philadelphia.

Originally published in NOR 6

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