MISTER MAGNIFICENT FEEDS HIS FAMILY
John Buckley and Martin Ott
It was different back then, Dan thought.
No one's shift supervisor wrote him up for
spacing out about Hayley's crooked teeth,
if Mike would pass driver's ed, and how
The Skulker kept getting in bank vaults.
Even the guys with just fake wings, Moon
Pigeon or whatever, were wealthy playboys.
Even Will Watson, orphaned newsboy, never
seemed to have a problem getting his ring
out of hock whenever Colonel Thunderblast
was needed. Dan's mutant abilities to project
feelings made him wish he'd never promised
his wife Malinda, killed by his arch enemy,
that he'd never use powers for financial gain.
How he wanted to force his much younger
boss Dylan to writhe in agony, cockroaches
of the imagination packing his urethra, eyes
filling with hypothetical paper cuts as they
narrowed to stare at the stubble on Dan’s
face. No money for fresh razors till Friday,
no way to block the voice of his mother,
living in his former man cave on a fixed
income, from complaining about his lack
of empathy. Oh, the irony. Oh, the self-
immolation of a glittering hero’s tired, tinsel
alter ego on a pyre of guilt, unpaid karmic
debts, and past-due notices. Was it really so
urgent to have ditched the spires of Decopolis,
to have given up the statue with interlocking
M's on the courthouse steps for fatherhood?
The Mega League reunion brings back tales
of how he single-handedly saved the squad
by radiating camaraderie, an alien feeling for
the hordes of the Locustarians: “This is called
friendship,” he’d cried, “And friends don’t eat
friends!” The ships left, nobody died, but Dan's
signature disco victory spin kept him reeling
for years after catching the eye of Malicious,
the team's bad girl martial artist turned feral
for him. One marriage. Two kids. Three years
without her, a sliding scale mortgage crushing
his chest without a heart to support it. Revenge
against the financial industry remained off
the table so long as the few good guys were
committed to safeguarding any citizen, whether
Joe Schmo (like him?) or Scrooge McDick.
But maybe a bigger and better breaktime was
coming, a chance to restructure our malaise
on those days in the lunchroom when tuna
sandwiches stick in the vending machine,
the clock ticking to the expiration date,
everyone looking for one hero to say,
"Stop being selfish. Reach deep within."
This. Finally. An emotion worth feeding.
Authors' Commentary: We wanted to write about a superhero without a fancy job, someone struggling at least as much with being a single father as with fighting crime, someone whose special powers and abilities didn’t help navigate family dramas or pay the bills. Based on the emails we sent back and forth, each of us adding a couple of new lines at a time, we had very distinct, quite different visions of Mister Magnificent. But as usual, we were able to weave together something that depicted both of our perspectives.
John F. Buckley and Martin Ott began their ongoing games of poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Since then, their collaborations have been accepted into more than seventy journals and anthologies and gathered into two full-length collections on Brooklyn Arts Press, Poets’ Guide to America (2012) and Yankee Broadcast Network(2014). They are now writing poems for a third manuscript, American Wonder, about superheroes and supervillains.