Two cheers for the little guy!
No one can relate to him like a poet. We are naturally inclined toward the second best, the also-rans, the almost-but-not-quites.
We’re little guys, too. We launch poems into some deep space called Submittable, then look through the telescope for months sandwiched on months, catching only empty blackness and distant stars (apparently known as “editors” who are rumored to exist).
Not much happens when you’re a little guy. Day in, day out. Same old, same old. Only when you least expect it do you get a meteor flaming out in your Inbox. Usually it’s a form letter saying, “Thanks but no thanks.” Never is it a form letter saying, “Do you realize how many thousands of poems we have to wade through? These never even got past the first readers, who are overworked, by the way, and often distracted. You’d be, too, if you were given the minimum minimum wage (read: nothing per hour) to read this stuff.”
That’s why I like best the first-time published poets when I see them designated as such in poetry journals. Heroes. New poets who ran the gauntlet and actually came out the other side, bloody but still on two feet. Anything-but-safe-poets. Anything-but-well-known-poets-who-take-up-bandwidth.
The poet Ron Koertge gets it. In the poem below, he sings the praises of sidekicks, those little guys forced to stand in the shadow of heroes, the heroes viewers demand, the stuff of our little-guys-yearning-to-be-heroes dreams. I think you’ll identify. Give it a go:
They were never handsome and often came
with a hormone imbalance manifested by corpulence,
a yodel of a voice or ears big as kidneys.
But each was brave. More than once a sidekick
has thrown himself in front of our hero in order
to receive the bullet or blow meant for that
perfect face and body.
Thankfully, heroes never die in movies and leave
the sidekick alone. He would not stand for it.
Gabby or Pat, Pancho or Andy remind us of a part
the dependent part that can never grow up,
the part that is painfully eager to please,
always wants a hug and never gets enough.
Who could sit in a darkened theatre, listen
to the organ music and watch the best
of ourselves lowered into the ground while
the rest stood up there, tears pouring off
that enormous nose.