I Was a Hero Once

A dormant satellite in a room
with children, bouncing
atoms off the walls.
They are faceless, sweaty
and every storm-based verb.
I corral them before the television––
an antique microwave cooking
colorless cartoons.
As the constellation of them settle,
I move to the next room and see it.

The ceramic planter which held
a tittering ficus
had been kicked into slices.
This sight weakens me
into obscene prayers while
pulling shards from the black
pudding soil as if harvesting tombstones.
I caress the threads of roots,
squiggling in my fingers,
like the hand of a dying grandparent––
my heart pours itself empty
through disbelieving eyes.

And to think I was a hero once.
I followed a pack of thieves
who hid in a darkness unnamed by science,
yet I could still see them
              and felt sorry for them
as I levitated above the yard.
The stitching in my palms itched
emitting ophidian beams of flame
igniting every wet, incombustible
thing, synthesizing everything else
to greasy ash.

                         I could not be defeated.
I was so alone.

                         And look at me now:

Stacking broken pottery,
Pawing through soil as hissing
tears drop like dead moths.

Only a _________ can be bested
and crushed from within by indifferent children.


From Martian: The Saint of Loneliness. Copyright © 2022 by James Cagney. Published by Nomadic Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.