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.
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.