under the cowl

Mark Redford

Without design or purpose Batman haunted the fibre and breath of my emergent childhood.   He was the thrill of possible action and the immobility of grim tragedy, both rolled up in the same moment.   I saw the shows on a neighbour’s tv, I read the b&w reprint books in trance, I placed the hues of blue in the jigsaw puzzles, I wore the costume to explore the possibility.   Then I found the comics – imported, second hand, scattered numbers.   A whole literature, a whole syntax, a whole lineage.   A whole history deepened like a pocket – everything could be ‘read’ through history.   I grew new emotion through Infantino’s skies and lines, I spoke discernment through Adam’s hands and brow, I smelt the docks of O’Neill’s scenes, I tipped the opportunities of Sprang’s angles.   In so many ways I am Batman, but … shssh



                in the cities
                the walls of shadows
                receded from the page


                the bay was foggy
                the bridge lights
                hung – from overhead to

                the other shore –

                there were solitary
                hills with a small tree that
                reached over the

                boroughs and districts

                the ceiling was bottle green
                the light was a triangle
                and Batman paused

                under his cowl


                                                                              the Bat-parent

                                                                during the entire fourth flight
                                                                Robin was silent, ‘but then
                                                                what if …’ bracing his knees against
                                                                the wall under the sill Batman, ‘still
                                                                you haven’t …’ hung out locked
                                                                by Robin’s arms and, ‘if that were …’
                                                                caught the toddler falling, ‘even’ –
                                                                whump! – ‘then it …’ from the eighth
                                                                floor transfixed by the, ‘so it isn’t …’
                                                                red roof of the church looking,
                                                                ‘yes …’ like a floor


                                                                                                the silent night
                                                                                                of the Batman

                                                                                   even while they carried
                                                                                   their gift-wrapped parcels
                                                                                   and looked to each other
                                                                                   with smiles of belief
                                                                                   the shop signs hummed
                                                                                   against the dark-marbled fronts

                                                                                   while above them the quiet floors
                                                                                   of stone-framed windows
                                                                                   looked east looked south
                                                                                   the same in an ink-black sky

                                                                                   enough to write a novel
                                                                                   in a single sitting
                                                                                   enough to hold a fleet of stars
                                                                                   above the skyline taxiing slowly

                                                                                   then the sky turns ink-green
                                                                                   the rooftop gathers ink-blue attention
                                                                                   and leaps without step
                                                                                   or swing through the glass
                                                                                   and cornice of city vistas and breeze
                                                                                   to shadow the guilt
                                                                                   to alley the share
                                                                                   to streetlight the fear
                                                                                   and river the rose
                                                                                   cast high and wide to the stars until

                                                                                   marzipan fingers reach
                                                                                   across the ink-purple sky
                                                                                   and marshmallow lights

                                                                                   go out


                             the Batman had kept
                             a roof-top vigil
                             for so long
                             staring into
                             the top-floor window
                             at the over-coated men

                             that the night sky had turned
                             red-vermillion red
                             and the Batman himself
                             was now eighty feet tall
                             face to face with the window

                             moonlight edged
                             his shoulder and forehead
                             and his cape flowed upwards
                             behind his unmoving cowl



                                                in 1966 Batman was costumed
                                                in a pink and sky-blue world

                                                by 1968 he stood on buildings
                                                under bottle-green skies

                                                by 1971 he was also hooded
                                                in the black and yellow 40s

                                                by 1973 his brow cape and hands
                                                did the talking

                                                in 1986 he retired
                                                and the world filled with beige and traffic



                                                                                                              stands on a

                                                                                                              his cape
                                                                                                              standing out


                                                                                                              there are no people
                                                                                                              in the buildings

                                                                                                              or on the streets
                                                                                                              just the moon



                                            I stood upon the rooftop

                                            the great stage of dissent
                                            the great stage of disclosure

                                            but all my enemies
                                            stood silent like buildings

                                            but I stood upon the rooftops


            as Batman
            he could


            on the OUTSIDE –

            the tower is
            a landscape
            made vertical –

            at the top –

                     on the pointed roof –

            were thugs
            who beat him
            down with …

                     sleeping gas! –

            he lifted
            into space –

            nothing to hold onto
            but his identity –

            as he caught hold
            of the hour hand
            at one o’clock

            cape lifted
            legs reaching he
            hung above

            the cars stretched
            riddled and alive



                                                                  running stiffly

                                                                       awkward angle
                                                                  with the buildings as

                                                                  the previous night’s
                                                                  ash is swept out


                      Midnight Conference

                                the Batman leaned –
                                            both hands –
                                on the desk

                                the paper was passed
                                to him

                                his cape billowed out
                                behind him

                                as he took it
                                he cast a red

                                on the yellow wall


                                                                                                in clear
                                                                                                oil air

                                                                                                the sky is always
                                                                                                the buildings

                                                                                                the Boy Wonder
                                                                                                with glass eyes
                                                                                                points away

                                                                                                to the Batsignal
                                                                                                the Batman
                                                                                                holds the steering wheel
                                                                                                staring ahead

                                                                                                the light gleams
                                                                                                over his oily skin
                                                                                                and fleshface



                                on the crowded street

                                me,” – and a guitar strummed
                                       from a natural to a
                                                  seventh –

                      her brown shoes
                      stood on the angled street and
                      in jangled
                                clanging piano runs
                      Batman swooped down from the dark
                                rooftops and
                      stood with his cloak flapped ‘round him


a small group of people stepped out of the registry office.   Clouds passed over the sun for a minute.   The party split up.   Some got into a car and said goodbye.   Others walked over to the bus stop.   The street was quiet.   The bride glanced up and noticed the Batman perched on a ledge on the old office buildings.   There was a cloud overhead.   He had yellow eyes.


                  at midday the Batman walked across the square
                  his blue cloak billowed once

                  some of the people ate fruit
                  some of them stopped their children from falling in the fountain
                  some said he had white eyes


                                even though it was late
                                Saturday afternoon
                                and the sky was
                                dirty yellow and
                                even though there were only
                                telegraph poles to swing from still
                                Batman swooped down
                                to scoop Linda Paige –
                                who had fallen into a dream
                                like a mannequin –
                                from the path of the
                                tall tall truck


            the batarang hit
            the knuckle split
            the fingers flew
            the gun of the
            thug who

            in the orange air
            brown suit and tie
            was rather thinking
            of the futility of life’s


                                we play a game
                                while covered in oil costumes
                                I the solver
                                you the foiler
                                squeaking and clinging
                                as we move the pieces
                                the Batman
                                and the Riddler


                           fir trees

                Batman jumped       WHOOSH
                from the car falling
                from the cliff and falling apart
                           but really

                there was a raspberry
                ice lolly sky and vanilla
                on the horizon



                                      whoosh marks from Batman’s cape
                                          in the red red sky



                                                      the bright
                                                      yellow world

                                                      ran Batman
                                                      rising out of

                                                      BATMAN his head
                                                      locked in the great

                                                      cape held out
                                                      behind him


                                              Let’s Go

                                left arms swung outwards
                                as they ran

                                under the orange moon
                                capes unfurled

                                their heads reached
                                through the oily night

                                with white eyes


                strands as thick as rope
                tangle the limbs and
                cape of the Batman
                which pull and crease as

                     the eight legs
                no escape can’t move
                     and six eyes
                chin in neck grimace
                of the monster advances
                but one hand is still free
                a batarang still thrown


                                          Statue of Liberty

                                not that the assailant stood
                                on the rim of her crown

                                and shot at the Batman secured
                                ‘round her upstretched arm

                                not that the bullet grazed the arm and –
                                          was that flesh
                                          under the shards of stone? –

                                but that her right brow was
                                          ever so slightly


                                                          lost cape

                                  on the yellow boards of the jetty
                                            under the pink sky

                                  Batman had snagged
                                  his assailant                reaching
                                  far ahead with a fishing rod

                                            aghh but the prey
                                  in a green suit and question marks
                                  who had effortlessly reached back
                                  and guided the rod’s cast
                                  was actually the Batman


               even though the light
               behind the smashed glass
               as the Batman crashed in
                         was lemon

               fear was painted white
               and blue across their
               elbows and shoulders their
               hair and hats and creases

               it was all over
               the Joker’s face


                                   The Batline

            even while the Batman
            pulled – his whole weight
            folded back from the edge
            of the water –

            and Robin wholly relied on
            the foot of rope between them
            as though he were deep
            out in the lake

            the autumn trees and grass
            on the far shore remained



                                          short eyes: orange
                                          street lamps
                                          iron puddles

                                          soon eyes:
                                          car lights 5:30

                                          smart eyes:
                                          brush the ankles

                                          crown eyes:
                                          golden paper and
                                          green eyes

                                          arching eyes:
                                          reindeer’s eyes
                                          Batman’s eyes

                                          coat of snow
                                          crate of sharp eyes


©2012 This work is the property of the author.

  1. I thought this series by Mark was too good and unique to pass on but it wouldn’t work as part of the one-poem-a-day schedule, so I decided to give it its own page. With a lot of help from Mark, who supplied the HTML, MM presents “under the cowl”, a series of poems about a man, his cape and his struggles with duality.

  2. They are really cool and well presented , I am fast becoming a fan of his writing

  3. I think it is a very good thing

  1. Pingback: Under the Cowl by Mark Redford « The Poetry Jar

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