“Toy Marine, 2011” by Alex M. Frankel (This poem vanished from the web when the journal Word Riot suddenly disappeared; however, it can be seen here–but not heard!–as well as at this link, thanks to the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20160822232115/http://www.wordriot.org/archives/6501
of ancient queens posing online as babes
and famished youth easy to deceive.
I’m none too proud of my invented self—
hardly the life my parents dreamed for me
when we lit the Shabbos candles long ago
or when they watched me walk in cap and gown
among Greek statues, ivied walls and fanfare:
who could’ve guessed that walking next to me
was our Head-of-State-to-be, admired and loathed
by billions now, but way back then my equal?
These days He preaches from the White House steps,
the Dow Jones hanging on His every word
while I sneak pictures of a random schoolgirl
to surfers, swimmers, wrestlers, soccer jocks.
from a rugged friend I’ve made on AOL
(he can’t see my baldness or my beard,
he can’t see my wrinkles or my back hair):
Edgar Ramirez, SupermanMarine,
twenty-one and stationed in Iraq—
to him I’m just a snapshot of a girl,
while he treats me to webcam shows so hot
I nearly weep. Hours and hours a night
I run away from drabness to my strangers,
but of all the twinks I dupe, this one is gold,
of all the body parts, this chest is heaven,
how he’s sculpted and defaced it with an S:
huge Superman tattoo across the chest—
imagine I could access it with tongue,
lips, nose, even teeth: they’re always rushed,
these urgent sessions in the barracks john.
While he performs, I sniff my wrists and forearms—
can’t get enough of my own smells, they’re great!
After he’s done he needs some pillow talk,
as if we were going out—I cringe, it’s nuts.
I’d like to tell him, “I once knew God a bit,
the well-known One who speaks from the East Room.
At school we were two nobodies together!
(I began my death, my flight into the Web,
the day I realized He’d become a Star.)
Look, I’m not your peer, I’m not the coed
whose pics I spread around the Internet.”
But…I let the fraud go on…Was it for this
my parents spent a fortune on Columbia?
“I hate Iraq and I’m lonely,” he’ll type,
“I love that you’re somewhere in my life, Jasmine.”
He wears a lot of gear, looks like a spaceman,
which makes it hard to get to know the legs
and all a soldier’s legs can do for men,
but once or twice he shows them and I’m smitten
with the reckless tats he’s inked around the ankles.
“You ever see combat?” I ask one night.
“You ever see a man blown up?” “Yes ma’am,”
he types, “right next to me and had to save em.
Can we change the subject LOL?
Horned up and need to bust!—you down at all?”
That night he puts on a flawless webcam show,
I’m drained and filled at once. In the shower
I have a vision of a house—my own house!—
try to scrub away all vestiges
of Tina, Lana, Maricela, Jasmine,
take my mind off SupermanMarine.
“Edgar Ramirez died in Helmand Province
among five victims of a roadside blast.
On his chest he had an S for Superman
since he’d always get in trouble, come out fine.”
His buddy says, “I loved his goofy smirk.”
A local news report from Florida:
Puerto Rican father with a portrait
of a white-gloved boy in formal Blues:
“Yo quisiera que hubiera paz…”
Two brothers helpless. “Edgar he’s my life,
he meaned the whole world for me, part of me
isn’t coming back, he’s my baby brother
and I’m mad. Got his Superman on his chest
senior year. Always thought he could save you.”
Edgar is still my pal on AOL,
but what’s his status there? It says only
We find no visible activities
in this Lifestream. I hit him up tonight,
I send him an emoticon salute.
About the author:
Alex M. Frankel’s poetry collection Birth Mother Mercy has just been published by Lummox Press. He has published poetry and prose in magazines such as The Antioch Review, The Comstock Review, The North Dakota Quarterly, and The Gay and Lesbian Review, among other journals. He is working on a full-length memoir, based on his essay “Cycles of Rejection: An Elegy for My Four Parents,” viewable online in the journal Switchback. About Birth Mother Mercy, Alicia Ostriker has written, “Days and nights in Los Angeles, roots tugged out, wrung out, chat rooms, classrooms, malls, toilets, Help Wanted at the 7-Eleven, elusive boys, ‘urgent hunger,’ the American 20th century, loneliness and betrayal—these poems have begun to haunt me. Alex M. Frankel sings in a register almost beyond hearing, the pain is so keen, the writing so fine.”