Feature > Poetry
Kathleen Graber

Kathleen Graber

Kathleen Graber is the author of two collections of poetry, Correspondence and The Eternal City. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, and American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Virginia Commonwealth University and the low-residency MA Program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Postcard: Greetings from Wildwood (or Thinking of James Wright and Everything Else in the World)


This afternoon in the shop—as I was bagging & boarding
300 hundred comic books from the early 80s—a young man told me,

with utter earnestness, that he'd been looking a long time
for the right superhero.
                                        Only recently had it occurred to him

that You know, Daredevil really is a dude with a lot going on.
                                                                                                    And it's true:
the Daredevil is smart, though blind & broken, & like so many of his kind,

a mutant orphan, more or less.
                                                   And though he often chooses violence,
he seems to at least half-way dislike it. He'd certainly rather not

take anyone's life.
                               It isn't an exaggeration to say it meant a lot to both of us
that I could understand where he stood on the subject, for it isn't easy

to recognize what counts.
                                           On my desk—beside the two still-unopened volumes
on practical ethics I bought last year—is a green plastic action figure

of the Swamp Thing, a hulking vegetable elemental, who has absorbed
the memory of a murdered scientist & therefore suffers from the delusion

of thinking he is a man.
                                        Yesterday a friend left me a message
telling me her husband had just told her their 18-year marriage was done.

The reason, if even knowable, must seem to her at once vitally important
& nearly beside the point.
                                            As I scan my bookshelf, I see the thin edge

of a stapled anthology that contains a poem my younger brother wrote
when he was twenty-one:  
                                           Though geese can fly, they cannot kiss

in Philadelphia alleyways.

                                             I cannot remember now the name of the girl
for whom he wrote it. He's been married so long to someone else.
     
It is our mother's birthday. She would be ninety, though she is not,
& so, there, too, is a stack of her worn books on competitive bridge:

overcalls & preemptive bidding.
                                                       The Daredevil has been trying since 1964
to clean things up.
                               After the comic book fan left, a man my own age,

or a little older, came in with a sad story:
                                                                   his hotel room had been robbed.
He looked at first like a ragged version of someone I should know,

but he was a stranger.
                                      He asked if there was anything
he could do—something he could clean or repair perhaps—

to earn a little money.
                                      He'd filed a police report, but the officer had said
there were so many thefts; the city would go broke if they gave bus fare

to everyone who asked.
                                         He looked scared & ashamed.
He said he'd spent hours on a bench in the sun trying to figure out

a way to get home.
                                In the end, he claimed the cost of the journey
would be twelve dollars & change, & though I don't think I'm naïve



or generous, I handed it to him.
                                                     A few days from now I will see him
cruising a side street on a battered bike & know I have been scammed,

but he must have worked hard, maybe years, concocting
                                                                                            so compelling a plot.
His performance, impeccable; the details, just right.

He said he didn't know anyone able to help.
                                                                         And maybe it mattered
that I had once been alone in a foreign city & just that poor myself.

For many philosophers, there is no virtue greater than reason.
                                                                                                     Aquinas
is called an empiricist now because he believed we could know the world

as it is.
             He thought we could even know the unknown through the known,
know God through His creation, tracing back through everything

that needs a cause to that which needs none.
                                                                          Tonight, when I finally open
Parfit's great tome, I will feel a little lonelier, imagining that we might be

the only rational beings in the Universe.
                                                                    There may be life elsewhere,
he writes, but there may be no other animals like us.               
                                                                                       The Swamp Thing
thinks that he is human.
                                         I have sometimes wished to be something else.
His one job is to protect the swamp, yet still, somehow, he manages

to find a woman & fall in love.
                                                     And when he does, the wild tubers sprouting
from the impossible landscape of his back break into blossom.
                                                                                                       A blooming,
beyond figure & guile—its tender script evident, undeniable, bright.

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