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College of Arts and Sciences

Monsters in the Mirror

By Etienne Toussaint

At first, you believed it was 
his eyes that mesmerized you;

in them, you were convinced 
you had discovered a silent rage 
that burned through human flesh 
& stifled warm breath in ways 
your father never could; but,

it was a rage you secretly craved; 
while the other boys ran wild outside 
under the blistering sun casting screams 
into an orchestra of thick city sounds 
rolling out of fifth floor windows 

& climbing over roaring subway trains 
on elevated tracks, you sat near the stove
studying Bruce Banner, a mysterious
complicated angry man you would
never meet, but still, you prayed –

maybe one day I might understand.
A chubby eight-year-old boy, 
you were taken by the thought of
decoding the secret behind Bruce’s
godly strength; you wanted to sink

into the depths of his cryptic smile, 
witness the beauty beneath his 
lingering grimace, feel the power 
pumping through his bulging veins, 
surface the blind faith that kept him 

afloat; like you, his was different;
a skin that melts into shadows,
a heavy hue that swallows sons 
like the nighttime sky; but still, 
there was no denying it – he’s a man.

Did he too have late night dreams
of running for dear life; of being 
mistaken for the hooded villain; 
was he too angry at his reflection,
angry at an old galvanic rage, 

angry at a fear of self regard, 
his growl a broken cry for love;
even during his darkest moments
transformed into the raging beast
he never stopped trying to be a man;

they called him Incredible Hulk, but
he felt like hope; you would sit for hours 
at the kitchen table on Saturday afternoons 
staring at a sheet of white paper with a 
pencil in hand as Granny prepared lunch 

(a ham cheese butter sandwich & juice box)
& in the secret place, in your solitude, 
you prepared to erase every silly mistake, 
you allowed your caged mind to roam,
black bleeding nervously onto the white 

in curved lines & shaded corners that felt 
like water flowing free out of a hydrant 
on a humid summer day, awakened by
the sounds of nakedness & sweaty ambition.
What makes this Hulk so incredible?

You juggled the question round & round: 
do they hate him because of his skin; 
do they hate the timbre of his song; 
do they know the history in his fist;
don’t they see, their monster is

a social experiment gone wrong? 
Eventually, you realized it was not 
his inkwell eyes that mesmerized you;
it was something residing far deeper 
than his resolute & determined glare; 

you decided it was his ability to live
in a skin other men hate to see,
a decision to fight for belonging in
a world of monsters in the mirror.
Isn’t that incredible?

This poem was published as part of UniVERSE: UofSC Poetry Initiative. Share your own poem here!


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