I have been chasing smoke for my entire life;
dancing with shadows of imaginary friends,
centuries old myths turned only to mist
against my ears, fantastic ideas turned
to wisps of ash before my fingers.
They say that you either exhaust the flame,
or the flame shall exhaust you. But I am
both I and the flame, simultaneously
aroused and extinguished. False prophecies
visit me with their enchanting allure,
and enraptured in song and promise do I
entertain such delights. At what cost?
That of unfathomable misery, of course.
For the primary purpose of a flame, after all,
is to burn. So at every turn, more smoke,
pillars choking the clouds like a signal
to which none care any longer to respond.
False idols fall from their castles in the sky,
such timely fates yet always ill timed.
The ghosts haunting the stations and passes
grow bored of their posts, think nothing
of the smoke nor flame nor I. The world spins
as though nothing has changed,
even when everything has. Such grand illusions.
The news makes the morning papers
-that elusive fire has finally been put out,
put to rest, out of its misery for good. But every
now and then, you can still smell the smoke.
“Read AstroCity,” they said. “It’s a classic superhero comic,” they explained. “It’s by your favorite comic writer,” they enticed.
And then THIS STORY HAPPENS. (“The Voice of the Turtle”, if you want to rip your still-beating heart from your chest).
The story of the little kid who read too many books and decided he was going to find the way into Narnia. So he ran through mirrors and hid in wardrobes and tried to get himself lost down back roads. And he didn’t have any friends because they weren’t the people inside his books, though he WANTED a partner so bad, like Lucy and Edmund had each other, or Jesse and Leslie, or Robin Hood and Little John. Because ALL the best stories had partners, had someone to watch your back and go on adventures with.
And then as he got older he became a mathematicianbecause that world is filled with just as much wonder and magic and discovery.
And then, when things suck? When he’s at his lowest? Who does he think about? Who keeps him going and gives him hope? The kids he grew up with–not the real ones, not the pale imitations of righteousness and loyalty. The Pevensie’s and Gamgee’s of the not!world. They gave him the strength to keep going.
And I just need… a minute. Or a day.
I can’t believe how close the themes of Tarnished Angel (the 4th collected Astro City book, where this issue is from) are hitting me. It’s like, there couldn’t have been a time in my life more appropriate than right now for me to read this. And it kinda sucks. But I guess it’s good, too. Maybe.
My eyes are going to be all swollen tomorrow morning.