A good place to hide a drop of water is a stream.
A good place to hide a stream is beneath an ocean.
A good place to hide a man is among thousands
of men. Watch how they rush
through the city like water through a ravine.
I’ve searched many famous cities for you.
There are three listings for “Bruce Wayne”
in Houston, two in Pittsburg, one in Miami and one in LA.
In Tampa, Bruce Wayne is a retired chemistry teacher.
In Flagstaff, he drives a taxi and hopes
to procure a diamond for his soon-to-be fiancée.
A good place to hide a star is a galaxy.
A good place to hide a galaxy is a universe.
Look at the night sky. Justice
used to be a cowl and cape, the flicker
of wings under an etiolated moon. And you,
like a gargoyle, crouched atop some stone edifice.
To conceal a universe, place it in a multiverse—that hypothetical
klatch of alternate realities. The dilemma of the word
“alternate” is how it implies a norm, a progenitor stream
from which the alternate diverges. Which is the alternate?
Which is right here, right now? There is no such thing
as Gotham City, but here is Gotham City and I’ve been
so naïve: believing the truth of the old mythologies.
How they promised a recognizable villain,
a clown with a ruby-slashed mouth, a lunatic’s laugh.
In the universe where I exist, supervillains
look like everyone else. Give them an old flannel
to wear and a square jawline to smile at the world.
They’re hanging noose in a middle school bathroom.
They’re shouting, Get out of my country,
from the window of a passing car.
They’re pulling a pistol in a crowded barroom,
or bus stop, or the middle of the street.
They could be anyone. They could be everywhere.
A good place to hide a sociopath is a full-length mirror.
A good place to hide that mirror is the heart of America.
In the battle of Good versus Evil, I was so sure
Good would win. Now I just hope something Good will survive,
get a job cutting hair or selling cars, make it home for dinner.
I suspect there’s a parallel dimension where you, Vigilante,
long for this as well. To have a normal life is victory enough.
To remain anonymous and not be spat upon on the subway.
In Boston, Bruce Wayne owns a pawn shop.
In Milwaukee, he plays pinochle and feeds stray cats.
In New Hampshire, he goes fly fishing on the Sugar River,
reels in one brook trout after another.
When he removes the hook from a mouth,
he might place the fish in a cooler.
Or, he might set it back into a stream—
the alternate or the original—no longer certain
in which he stands.
Copyright © 2022 Matthew Olzman
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.