By Stuart Dybek
Here’s what we’ve come to see: a boy
in greasy jeans, t-shirt plastered
to his scrawny ribs by a wind that doesn’t
blow on those sweltering below.
He’s scaling a railroad bridge
above the open sewer that in the ‘hood
we call the Chicago Insanitary Canal,
swinging between girders, the kid
who couldn’t throw straight or hit
a ball if his life depended on it,
the wuss too chicken to punch back,
transformed before our eyes
into an acrobat without a net,
exhilarated by the proximity of death.
One misstep from dashing out
his brains, and suddenly assured
as that ultimate athlete, a cat,
he balances along a ledge and shimmies
a high-voltage pole, ignoring signs
that picture skulls and promise
both DANGER and PELIGROSO.
He’s learned the edge is theater
and mounts the stage, not a star
but some artist of the strange,
a Fool who makes us kings with
our necks craned as he ascends
a drainpipe, and outlined against
cinematic sky, leaps the abyss
between roofs. Now, three stories
high he’s perched on Rita Colon’s
bedroom sill, peeping in her window
while she gets dressed for school.
And hey, we know a dare’s not
brave, but crazy, which is as close
as some guys get to being cool.
An earlier version of “Daredevil,” by Stuart Dybek, was published in The Mid-American Review