Iowa Writes

"Lesson in the Sunday Comics"

Because he believes we are helpless to fate,
a blindfolded six-year-old Calvin
pushes off the hilltop in his red wagon

as we asks his friend the old question:
why are we powerless to rush toward oblivion?
Though Hobbes is a tiger

that believes in free will, he knows
also that humans are stupid to consequence
and so covers his eyes.

The friends, one named after a theologian,
the other a philosopher, hurtle pell-mell
down eight panels of hill,

between haphazard probabilities of trees,
past stones waiting to chock rubber wheels
and pitch them into a watercolor sky.

The Radio Flyer instead hits a tufted rump of grass.
Our illusion of control is shown in the wagon's flight,
how we ride backseat to our own lives,

thinking for a moment we can make choices
other than those allowed by who we are.
Hobbes's furry bottom is where the artist wants it

and in the last panel, Calvin has once more
released the steering handle, one arm crossed
to his other elbow,

a finger thoughtfully to his black dot of mouth.
Hobbes peers over his paws clamped
to the wagon's rim, electric and goggle-eyed

at the ground rushing to meet them.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting


Jonathan Travelstead works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro, Illinois and is finishing his MFA at Southern Illinois University. When not on duty, he backpacks twice each year in Central America and Europe and works on an old dirt bike he hopes will one day get him to Peru.

"Lesson in the Sunday Comics," along with another poem by Travelstead, is included in the Spring 2013 issue of The Iowa Review.

This page was first displayed
on June 26, 2013

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