Crisis on Infinite Earths, Issues 1-12

By Bethany Schultz Hurst

I. I’m at a poetry convention and wish I were at Comic Con. Everyone is wearing boring T-shirts.

When I give the lady my name, she prints it wrong onto the name tag. I spell it and she gets it wrong again. Let’s be honest: it’s still my fault.

Japanese tsunami debris
is starting to wash up
on the Pacific shore. At first,
they trace back the soccer balls,

motorcycles, return them
to their owners. That won’t last.

There are millions more tons.
Good news for beachcombers,

begins one news article.

III. In the 30s, William Moulton Marston invented the polygraph and also Wonder Woman. She had her own lie detector, a Lasso of Truth. She could squeeze the truth right out of anyone.

Then things got confusing for superheroes. The Universe accordioned out into a Multiverse. Too many writers penned conflicting origin stories. Super strengths came and went. Sometimes Wonder Woman held the Lasso of Truth, and sometimes she was just holding an ordinary rope.

Grandma was doing the dishes
when a cockatiel flew in the open window
and landed on her shoulder.
This was after the wildfire

took a bunch of houses.
Maybe the bird was a refugee,
but it shat everywhere
and nipped. She tried a while

to find to whom it belonged,
finally gave it away.
Then she found out
it was worth $800.

Yeah, so there are a lot of birds
in poems these days.
So what? When I get nervous
I like to think of their bones,

so hollow not even pity or
regret is stashed inside,
their bones like some kind
of invisible-making machine.

VI. Is that black lab loping down the street the one someone called for all last night?

Phae-ton, Ja-cob, An-gel, or Ra-chel, depending on how near or far the man dopplered to my window.

VII. I can’t decide which is more truthful, to say I’m sorry or that’s too bad.

One family is living in a trailer
next to their burned-out house.
It looks like they are having fun
gathered around the campfire.

The chimney still stands
like something that doesn’t
know when to lay down.
Each driveway on the street

displays an address on a
large cardboard swath, since
there’s nowhere else to post
the numbers. It’s too soon

for me to be driving by like this.

IX. Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) cleared up 50 years of DC comic inconsistency, undid the messy idea of the Multiverse. It took 12 issues to contain the disaster. Then surviving superheroes, like Wonder Woman, re-launched with a better idea of who they were. The dead stayed dead.

Now the Universe is divided neatly into pre and post-Crisis.

I confess stupid things I’m sorry for:

• saying that mean thing about that nice teacher
• farting in a swimming pool
• in graduate school telling everyone how delicious blueberry-flavored coffee from 7-11 was
•posing for photographs next to beached debris.

How didn’t I know everyone liked shade-grown fair-trade organic?

XI. I wish I could spin around so fast that when I stopped, I’d have a new name.

Here’s a corner section
of a house washed up
on the shore, walls still
nailed together. Some bottles,

intact, are nesting inside.
I wasn’t expecting this: ordinary
things. To be able to smell
someone else’s cherry-flavored

cough syrup. There is
no rope strong enough
to put this back together.
To escape meltdown

at Fukushima-1, starfish
and algae have hitched rides.
They are invasive. What if
they are radioactive? Thank

goodness for the seagulls,
coming to peck out
everything’s eyes.

Bethany Schultz Hurst is the author of Miss Lost Nation, winner of the Anhinga Poetry Prize and finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2015 and in journals such as Ecotone, Gulf Coast, Image, Narrative, and Ploughshares. A recipient of a literary arts fellowship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she is an associate professor in creative writing at Idaho State University. You can visit her website here

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