Handlebar von Scruples

Used to be you could spot him a mile away.

His mustache styled and waxed, anachronistic

though well-kept. Top hats and bowlers,

and always a black cape, even in the stick

of summer, over a black suit. Tip-toeing.

Handwringing. That compulsive snicker.

And the kidnapping. Always

tying women to train tracks.

One woman, his third victim that week,

freed herself before help even arrived—

xxxxxxxxjiggled the knot loose and slid right out.

He enrolled in a rope-tying course

at the community center. Dug the aesthetic

and decided to move out west.

Found a few months’ work on a rodeo tour.

Drank hard with the clowns.

Bought a black cowboy hat and changed

his name for a spell to Stubble.

Ran with a rough crowd and robbed a bank.

Got bogged down in shady land deals. Lost a horse

and two men to the law. A third to diphtheria.

xxxxxxxxxGot lonely.

He wanted to make a better life for himself.

Went off to college. Bought a lair with his loans.

Studied engineering and biology. Gained

fetishes and gold. Bred white longhairs

and built a couple lasers, but the cats

kept chasing them. Built bombs instead.

He called newspapers and leaders

demanding money and fame. Wanted

witness so terribly that his downfall

was a Facebook live event officials traced

xxxxxxxxto a basement in South Bronx.

He cut his losses and went professional.

Hired a brand consultant who told him

evil we can see we know we can defeat.

It’s the unrecognized that we ought fear.

So he shaved the mustache, added some pastels

and whites to his wardrobe. Got a stress ball

to help with constant handwringing.

All of a sudden, evil looked

xxxxxxa lot like us.


Andrew Lee Butler is a PhD student at the University of Tennessee in English and Creative Writing, where he’s also a poetry co-editor at Grist.  


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