I’m currently working on the final edits of my new poetry collection, Heroes without Capes, which has been in the works about two years. It’s been three years since I released a new poetry book—the last being After the Steaming Stops in 2012. I took my time with the new poems in this collection. After Steaming, I was kind of forced to write new poems since the ones in the book were all published, but not only that I decided to take my poetry from a memoir base to a fiction base using the structure of the Hero’s Journey.
I teach the Hero’s Journey in my memoir and fiction workshops. Starting with a death, the hero, who can be anyone with reasonable intelligence, ventures from the known world to the unknown world. He or she is pursuing a goal and this goal can likely change before the hero gets what she wants. Along the journey the hero meets many obstacles, enemies, friends and a mentor. The hero experiences successes and then encounters a horrible failure, which I label the “Little Death,” that takes place right before the climax. After the hero survives the Little Death, surmounts the climax, she returns to the community and is now able to teach and mentor within that community so that everyone is able to heal and thrive.
Of course, while the writer is writing about the Hero’s Journey, they are also experiencing their own real Hero’s Journey. I know I did—many of my friends in my two writing groups, one live and one online, didn’t get the direction I was taking my poetry. They didn’t get my historical and pop culture references and were sometimes mad I kept writing about Star Wars and Finding Nemo. But I pressed on and later, for other reasons, the groups broke up. In 2013, I only had one poem published. At this time, I was somewhat uninspired when it came to poetry, so I decided to take violin, guitar and Irish dance lessons. That decision proved magical. With more creativity inflow, I continued writing my Hero’s Journey poems and then something cool starting happening: they got published by literary journals and anthologies. I could do this! Then last year I had a hankering to make metal jewelry with Monnda Welch in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Monnda told me I’d be inspired to write new poems from the experience—she was right. Out came many poems about alcoholism, fatherhood and surrendering control.
And now, Heroes without Capes is almost ready.
Within this collection of dramatic monologues, odes and some personal narrative poems, you’ll meet some the famous and infamous figures from history, myth and pop culture who show varying degrees of heroism and loneliness. Some of these heroes are not “good” people, but they appear in my book because they have followed-through on their agenda. They didn’t pander or skim—they did what they said they were going to do. Some of my heroes have killed before, but they are trying to make right—or in the case of the hunters Predator and Boba Fett, they have their own personal code of wrong and right. Many are in the middle of making a hard decision that will prove costly and will probably change their lives.
Boba Fett is a recovering alcoholic working hard at changing the script of his past. “Holding the door for an old man in a Braves hat,/I keep my eye out for movement among the parking lot pines/and mutter a tiny prayer while backing out by the Drive-Thru./And an even bigger one when I take a bite/to drive east into the sun./Telling myself this ketchup on my armor is real,/even if the past isn’t.” While all the Predator wants to do is buy beef at Walmart. “Ring butcher bell, and Charlie comes right away./What wonderful service! And fills up cart./Few ground chucks spill out and hit feet./Ouch, I have tender feet like bananas.” Also featured are the Devil, Ellen Ripley (Aliens), Marshal Will Kane (High Noon), the Virgin Mary, LBJ, Darth Vader, Benedict Arnold, Captain Bligh, Princess Leia, Dick Cheney, the Road Runner and many others. You’ll also meet Nolan, the split foyer house who is under tremendous stress and Dina the Delta jet who wishes her passengers possessed more taste in their style habits.
Any of my heroes in this book could be you. Have you been forced to make an unpopular decision? Have you done the right thing when no one is looking? Have you broken through fear to embrace faith? I know you have, my friends.
Heroes without Capes may be about fictional characters from galaxies far, far away, but they share the same vulnerabilities, fears and hopes we do. Being a hero doesn’t mean you’re not scared; it means you push through the fear and do it anyway.
Enjoy this poem from Heroes without Capes about the hard decision former marshal Will Kane (High Noon) must make against the vengeful Frank Miller.
Do Not Forsake Me, a Sonnet
After our wedding I hung up my tin star,
while Frank Miller’s men drank shots awaiting the noon train.
He’s comin’ for me from afar;
Dear Amy, wherever we go, they’ll kill us out on the dusty plain.
So I turned the horses around. I didn’t run.
The whole damn town, including you,
the judge, old friends are afraid of Frank’s guns.
He’s crazy and doesn’t like to lose.
Maybe I’m a fool to act in this crazy show,
but he won’t call me a coward.
Hear that train whistle’s nasty blow,
It’s high noon, Amy, don’t be a doubter.
Stay with me, don’t you leave.
Frank can take my breath, but it’s you I need.