Letter to Bruce Wayne
—After Borges A good place to hide a drop of water is a stream.A good place to hide a stream is beneath an ocean.A good place to hide a man is among thousandsof men. Watch how they rushthrough the city like water through a ravine.I've searched many famous cities for you.There are three listings for "Bruce Wayne"in Houston, two in Pittsburgh, one in Miami, and one in LA.In Tampa, Bruce Wayne is a retired chemistry teacher.In Flagstaff, he drives a taxi and hopesto procure a diamond for his soon-to-be fiancée.A good place to hide a star is a galaxy.A good place to hide a galaxy is a universe.Look at the night sky. Justiceused to be a cowl and cape, the flickerof wings under an etiolated moon. And you,like a gargoyle, crouched atop some stone edifice.To conceal a universe, place it in a multiverse—that hypotheticalklatch of alternate realities. The dilemma of the wordalternate is how it implies a norm, a progenitor streamfrom which the alternate diverges. Which is the alternate?Which is right here, right now? There is no such thingas Gotham City, but here is Gotham City and I've beenso naïve: believing the truth of the old mythologies.How they promised a recognizable villain,a clown with a ruby-slashed mouth, a lunatic's laugh.In the universe where I exist, supervillainslook like everyone else. Give them an old flannelto wear and a square jawline to smile at the world.They're hanging a noose in a middle school bathroom.They're shouting, Get out of my country,from the window of a passing car.They're pulling a pistol in a crowded barroom,or bus stop, or the middle of the street.They could be anyone. They could be everywhere.A good place to hide a sociopath is a full-length mirror.A good place to hide that mirror is the heart of America.In the battle of Good versus Evil, I was so sureGood would win. Now I just hope something Good will survive,get a job cutting hair or selling cars, make it home for dinner.I suspect there's a parallel dimension where you, Vigilante,long for this as well. To have a normal life is victory enough.To remain anonymous and not be spat upon on the subway.In Boston, Bruce Wayne owns a pawn shop.In Milwaukee, he plays pinochle and feeds stray cats.In New Hampshire, he goes fly-fishing on the Sugar River,reels in one brook trout after another.When he removes the hook from a mouth,he might place the fish in a cooler.Or, he might set it back into a stream—the alternate or the original—no longer certainin which he stands.
“Letter to Bruce Wayne” (poem) from Constellation Route by Matthew Olzmann, Alice James Books, 2022.
Matthew Olzmann is the author of Constellation Route as well as two previous collections of poetry: Mezzanines and Contradictions in the Design. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, MacDowell, and the National Endowment for the Arts, Olzmann’s poems have appeared in the New York Times, Best American Poetry, the Pushcart Prizes, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Dartmouth College and also in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
"Olzmann’s approach is direct, unpretentious, deceptively literal-minded: a subject is broached—Comic Con, unicorns, a younger version of himself—and made to render its meaning or its absurdity."
—David Woo, The Poetry Foundation
"Poet Matthew Olzmann’s imaginative and inviting new collection, Constellation Route (Alice James), is, in its varied way, a celebration of the postal service and the art of letter writing. His addressees are wide-ranging: a pine tree, a cockroach, William Shatner, a bridge made of rope, a gone friend. The warmth and generosity of his tone remind a reader what a thing it is to be reached out to, to “talk to people who will understand you."
—Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe
“…a metaphysical tribute to both the Post Office and the act of letter writing as a way to understand and create meaningful connections with the world at large.”
—Alan Chong Lau, iExaminer