Jake Adam York

Self-Portrait as Superman (Alternate Take)

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[please see the PDF of this poem for the correct line spacing]

At twenty-four frames per second, sixty seconds is two hundred
feet of film you’ll never see: Christopher Reeve
ready to become mild-mannered Clark Kent—sharp

trilby and blue chalk-pinstripe suit—
once they call Action, the Who-me smile fading
to bit-lip circumspection, cover story and secret,

hand on the button-down’s placket, ready to pull
the buttons from their eyes, peel
the rough-hewn cotton from the ancient crest, the S

that curves like a river between the mountains,
a snake curled inside a chest, invulnerable aorta
of Kal-El’s dense alien body, gone spectacular

in the air of his new home planet, to run, almost,
out of his clothes and into the air, faster than
a speeding track star alone in the Kansas wheat,

faster than Lois Lane’s shriek
from the helicopter dangling from the Daily Planet’s roof,
faster than a B-movie pimp’s comic relief:

Say, Jack—woo!—that’s a bad outfit! When he swings,
centrifugal, the hotel’s revolving door,
when he leaves his suit, his glasses, his Aw shucks

for the prop girls to gather, he just rises,
just lifts off Broadway in his Funkadelic boots,
like he landed from the swing set, but

in reverse. Here, there’s no thought of a ladder,
no pause at the top of the McDonald’s-colored
slide, no turn where the cape unfurls

common as a hotel towel clasped
with an outsized safety pin around the neck,
no miraculous misremembered pause

in midair when the grass darkened in the shape
of a four-year-old boy who could
heat-vision ants with a grandma’s magnifying glass

before Tara Skinner looked out her window
and gravity, in on the game, pulled him down,
trying not to give anything away.

He will not stand, his stained knees stomach-
ache green. He will not limp to the back
door or hide what the doctor says must have been

excruciating pain for weeks. He won’t
have lain in bed, believing so plainly
in the helium of Odd, the fracture

just the splintering of polar ice he could feel
half a globe away, seismic as the twist
of the spine a physical therapist will describe.

He’ll smile again as he always does, boyish
and pure, the curl’s wag ready to swing free,
waiting for the call that lets him arc

across the sky, high over the heads of any tragic
chorus, arms open to catch the screaming woman
who, it seems, is hardly ever there. He’ll ease

again, two hundred feet of acetate,
to the ground, where they’ll curl in their questions—
Who are you? What was that?—in a darkness

where he can unbutton his shirt and graze
cramped fingers over skin
burned like a meteor in the rays of our yellow sun.