The Year in Which Our Hero Fails

The year in which our hero fails is better than most.
Spring is bright and clear, the trains pull in on time,
and when, in June, he stumbles off a highrise,
the idiot's near-sacrifice endears us to him further.
You spend whole afternoons in the new museum
before the opening exhibits get shipped back to
their permanent homes. Stocks soar on the prospect
of less-filling beers, and bars tremble with the groans
of the stools. When he slips again in August, we watch
the frame-by-frame pieced from bystanders' phones,
then a still of the thieves' helicopter banking safely
towards Newark. After seeing it a thousand times,
we start to think that they were the heroes. How otherwise
could we stay so long? The jukebox, soon, will die,
a blonde draped over it, and the barman who's been
feeding you drinks since you were sixteen
will drive you home down streets you can't distinguish:
all the closed storefronts the same, the scene a diorama
that a hand might pull you from. Somewhere you find
the presence to say, "Wasn't my hero. Nobody was."
Shut the car door, fumble your apartment keys.
All through autumn, no friends call, and you don't call them
to meet for lunch in the atrium between Bronze Age armors
and UFO's. You can feel the cells turning over, blood
going out red and coming back blue, like the lover
you've missed, then stop missing one day in the vestibule
of Primordial Migrations. November, the year our hero
couldn't live up to his crest and cape, his alter-ego's
tie and tails: no weather to tell, no master plots or
last minute escapes. Just echoes of his fall in every
taxi's wake of air, the sideways rush of blood,
of the walls' vacant displays. All at once, it seems,
you've forgotten what they held, what they held off,
why you spent so many serious hours there.

Stephen Lackaye has his MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and his MFA from the Johns Hopkins University. Other poems have appeared recently in American Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Conte, and Grist: The Journal for Writers. He lives in Beaverton, OR, where he works for Powell's Books, and teaches online for Northeastern University. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761