Wonder Woman

The day I told my parents I wanted to trade in
G.I. Joe for Wonder Woman must have set off alarms.
I wanted to surrender my guns for the golden lasso;
more than the dolls, mind you, I wanted to be
Wonder Woman.
I don’t remember who stitched the costume:
blue underwear with glued-on stars, a red bustier
wrapped around my seven-year-old sunken chest,
the golden eagle oddly deflated,
the head band and bullet deflecting cuffs made
of cardboard and the length of rope my father had
spray-painted gold in the yard hooked at my side.
I lassoed my poor dad first, demanded the truth,
but there was no magic in those rough, twisted fibers.
If the rope could have squeezed out an ounce
of what he was really thinking,
I would have been dressed up as Superman or Batman,
a manly cape flying out behind me as I ran
around the back yard, hidden from the neighbors,
while my dad devised a way to build
Wonder Woman’s invisible plane.

I'm posting "Wonder Woman" (which appears in my collection Render from Sibling Rivalry Press) for the students in David-Matthew Barnes' contemporary literary course at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado. Barnes is teaching my poem this semester (thank you!) and asked me to share a few thoughts about my creative process for this poem.

I was a fan of Wonder Woman even before the famous TV show of the 70s starring Lynda Carter. I discovered her in comic books and thought that Wonder Woman's backstory, powers and secret identity as Diana Prince were a lot more interesting than others in the mostly male-dominated superhero universe. My discovery of Wonder Woman coincided with the discovery of my sexuality, which happened at a very early age. It's an old cliche about gay men being attracted to strong, fierce women (divas, if you will), but for me it was innate, instantaneous attraction to someone who was independent, brave and confident. Who wouldn't want to emulate that?

The poem was written in 2004 and spurred by a writing prompt given to me by fellow poet and friend Cecilia Woloch to write about a childhood memory. It's one of those rare poems that changed very little from the first draft. Usually, I redraft and redraft until the original poem is almost unrecognizable, but "Wonder Woman" sprang to life fully formed and ready for action. After reading it at several open mics and sharing it with a few other trusted poets, the poem was chose for publication in 2005 by Chiron Review and has since appeared online, in my chapbook Slow To Burn, in anthologies and, eventually, Render. The video posted above was shot in London as I read "Wonder Woman" to a fantastic audience at the Polari series at Southbank Centre in 2012.


Shawnte said…
I love this one.
I'm glad students will be taking an interest in it, too.
Collin Kelley said…
Thanks, Shawnte! I'm always thrilled to hear about when my work is being used in the classroom.
Jeffrey Ricker said…
I've said it before, I think, but I love this poem. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that you weren't the only gay kid who wanted to be Wonder Woman. (Some days, I still want to be her.) What a great poem to have students read!

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