Published in Pilcrow and Dagger

Next to the Safeway
where Dad got his Washington Times,
we graced the doors of the Church of Marvel,
aka Joe’s Books.
No speaking allowed in the dusty sanctuary
where the congregation gathered
by the racks of fresh comics out every Wednesday.
While in the back,
next to the “Sacks are Loaded” baseball card trading dude,
my father ingested new history tomes
dumped off by a World War II widow.

Joe often oversaw the service
from behind a wooden podium, no inkling
all comic book men hereafter will clone
themselves after his chubby stomach, beard
and supreme fondness for faded KISS T-shirts.
Every Sunday I searched for Star Wars #65
in the back issues bins with Leia and her blaster—
the one Dad ripped up in front of me
when I was nine. Never found it.
While cleaning the register glass, Mrs. Joe
yelled at me if my index finger
initiated a turn of the cover—who wants
to buy a sucky book? Her limp brown hair,
glasses and ponytail every week reminded me of shame,
but I prayed to this kind of religion.