Superpowers

By Bonnie Proudfoot

If all of my thoughts have been thought before, who was the one

who thought them? Probably it was some stranger, but maybe not,

maybe it was someone I knew or maybe someone I loved so hard

that she is actually a part of me, like my grandmother,

who came by on poker nights, maybe I inhaled her like the smoke

from the tip of her Parliament, or I ate her up like a slice

of her poundcake with lemon drizzle icing. And my superpowers?

I used to think they were accidents or destiny, like winning

the Lottery, or that someone could be switched at birth, or

that there could be the slightest chance that a baby, say, me,

could have hurtled down to earth on a tiny cradle-shaped spaceship

from a place sort of like Krypton, but maybe all my powers slipped in

under my bedroom door with the smoke, the smell of gin,

the pink and green neon light sifting through those slats

in the venetian blinds, my brain soft and doughy like warm silly putty,

taking in the patterns on the wall, sometimes everything is pink,

and sometimes everything tastes like lemon, sometimes the soundtrack

in my head is the overture to Guys and Dolls, and what the men

in the control booths who want to learn more about brainwashing

don’t know is that once you hear that overture, all you can think of

is how you can’t wait to see Frank Sinatra make his entrance

as Nathan Detroit.

And of course, one day I see myself, in my sixties,

(for crying out loud), seated at my dining room table, facing

my own grown children, using some of my super powers to count

the face cards and take tricks, to know exactly where the line is

between luck and skill, and these fingers of mine start to fuss

for an invisible cigarette, though there is none in sight. And I know

that the odds are good that life will betray them, that their bodies

will betray them, that winning flashes off and on like a Lotto sign,

and that I, who at age six dressed up to trick or treat as a Parliament

flip top box, all white and blue and glowing, I will betray them, too,

I who cracked open the egg and hopped the train, and they, who filled

pickup trucks with sleeping bags and hit the road, but for now I am here,

the dealer, my elder son on my right, thinking things like luck be a lady,

and wash the cards, thinking, shine the bat signal, spin out that web,

go ahead, cut ‘em.


Bonnie Proudfoot lives outside of Athens, Ohio. She has an MA in English from West Virginia University, and another MA in Creative Writing from Hollins University. She is a recipient of a Fellowship for the Arts in Creative Writing from the West Virginia Department of Culture and History, and has had fiction and poetry published in the Gettysburg Review, Kestrel, Quarter After Eight, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Northern Appalachia Review, and other journals. Her short story “Old Spirits” placed first in the 2020 Sand Hills Journal Short fiction competition. Goshen Road, her first novel, was published by Swallow Press in January of 2020, and it was selected by the Women’s National Book Association as one of their Great Group Reads for 2020. The novel was selected for the Longlist for the 2021 PEN/Hemingway award for a Debut Novel.

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