Volume 30, Number 4

Reality TV

The bad guys in black leather jackets on TV
who roar like lions down the back alleys
on their 550s are make-believe, we tell him
as he slurps from a juice pack,
dangles his legs from a chair too big.

The bad guys who kidnap Arnold Schwartznegger’s daughter
and chase her to the top of a building are make-believe, too.
And the karate guys performing airborne katas
and flipping switchblades in inner city parking lots.
And the handsome man in the tux
who speaks with an English accent and prefers
his martinis shaken, not stirred—
he’s pretend.

But the young ones who strafed a concert hall
in Paris, and those planes that smashed
into the Twin Towers, and the gentle-faced man
who stroked his semi-automatic like a kitten—real.
Consider the mustachioed one
who built mile-long palaces,
plastered his image on buildings,
gassed his people when they protested,
encouraged his son to torture soccer players—real.

Yet he tumbled in the grass with his children,
laughed in the sunshine,
bought them toys, incited
his people to action with poetry. Poetry!

How do I explain to my first-grader
who lines up Hotwheels, cuddles
during bedtime stories, believed me
when I told him that bad guys are make-believe

that some of them are real?

That sometimes,
we cannot tell the difference?

—Terry Cox-Joseph