Bill Trowbridge's "Old Guy, Superhero, Counterterrorist"
Apparently, there is such a thing as Metrophobia, the fear of poetry. “Metro” is for meter, the underlying “beat” that you find in metric poetry like sonnets or sestinas. I read about this first on the health website, VeryWell.com, which blames “overzealous teachers” for instilling this phobia in students by having them “rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down and search for esoteric meanings.” At first I thought this piece was a joke, a tongue-in-cheek essay poking fun at people who run in fear from poetry. But it appears to be an actual phobia, listed in the latest DSM, the big book mental health professionals use to diagnose their patients. For people who suffer from metrophobia, even the suggestion of poetry can cause panic attacks. VeryWell.com recommends finding a good therapist to help with a treatment plan. No doubt it will gladly connect you with one for a small percentage of your fee.
I have a money-saving proposition: read William Trowbridge’s highly therapeutic new illustrated chapbook, Old Guy, Superhero. Old Guy is everyone’s favorite superhero, who wears an adult diaper, carries a denture grapple in his utility belt, and drives the Oldguymobile, which he’s refashioned from a used Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. He’s a hilarious creation, sure to relieve you of any residual metrophobia you may be harboring since those traumatic days when you first encountered Shakespearean sonnets in your sadist-of-an-English-teacher’s classroom.
William Trowbridge is something of an Oldguy superhero himself. He lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and is that state’s Poet Laureate—elected to a two-year term back in 2012. Here’s his poem, “Oldguy, Superhero, Counterterrorist,” slightly edited for reading on air:
Oldguy’s in line for his Social Security check
when a man enters carrying a gun and wearing
a suicide vest. Though people start to scream,
Oldguy continues dog paddling through
the shallows of his memory, till the terrorist,
noticing his scarlet cape and blank expression,
shoves the gun in his face and asks how it feels
to face certain death. “Same as usual,”
says Oldguy, mistaking the treat for a rare
show of interest, which prompts him to dust off
his five examples why everything’s gone
all to hell since Truman fired Custer.
After a while, the terrorist’s eyelids droop,
and he slumps into a nearby chair, snoring.
When the gun drops to the floor, Oldguy politely
retrieves it, just as the SWAT team bursts in.
“How did you do it, Oldguy?” asks the press.
“Glue what?” he says.
You can find William Trowbridge’s poem, “Oldguy, Superhero, Counterterrorist,” in his illustrated chapbook Oldguy, Superhero, published by Red Hen Press in 2016.