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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner



    Earth, nineteen and twenty-eight.
    A dry Iowan engineer
    sees times of plenty nearing.
    Voters too note their approach
    and deny a fair hearing
    to the wet candidate,
    New York's papist governor --
    too ethnic for the White House.
    Americans have never liked
    holy fathers, but seldom take
    to violence with their hate.  They let
    bigotry simmer quietly.

    In the Kent home that year
    bigger gaps -- and some fear
    on Eben's part -- open up.
    Family members drift apart,
    but not so far as to obscure
    the heartwarming instances.

    One -- May:

      Clark catches a pet one day
      when a soaking wet stray
      scratches at the back door.
      A luxury they'd thought
      they could never afford,
      Eben and Sarah adopt the mutt
      and hope to see their son
      break free from his rut
      of lonely nighttime strolls. 
      He does.  Clark and the albino
      hound that he (for unknowable
      reasons) refers to as "Krypto,"
      are quickly inseparable,
      rolling in the Prairie grass
      on hot summer nights, amassing
      ammunition to fight the rabbits
      that spring up like weeds this year --
      they are like rambunctious brothers.
      Thus, to Clark it is no bother
      that the dog's eyes seem to flare
      like red suns when it laps the pond
      on walks there with its owner.
      Clark stays forcibly unaware
      of this strange, unsightly stare.
      He has someone he cares for;
      he's no longer a loner.
      What else could possibly matter?

    Two -- November:

      Eben, in town to cast
      his ballot for Hoover,
      happens on a radio down
      at the general store.
      It's a cathedral, a prize
      Clark will surely adore.
      The clerk takes it off the shelf
      and Eben buys it -- for his son
      and for himself -- and brings it home.
      Then Sarah says, "It's a lovely
      cabinet, dear.  Waste of money,
      though."  She sighs.  Eben replies:

      --    Maybe so.  But, jus' lemme turn it on
            in the living room when supper's done:
            You'll hear its pretty, warm tones
            and sing along, and Clark
            will learn every song by heart
            and be far less likely to roam.

      She starts to speak, but leaves
      her sentence incomplete.
      After eating, then, she'll see --
      the four of them, dog and boy
      and mom and dad, will sit,
      basking in their new toy's glow --
      they'll be one: she needn't ask why.

    So it goes; or, so it went.
    Raising up the hero Kent
    was a task done in many parts,
    each act of will a summary
    of their sum.  He was taught well,
    for all his lessons took place
    when it was thought that the race
    could be won.  That cathedral,
    though, was closed long ago.
    A choir somewhere singing,
    we watched dinosaurs die,
    hoping birds would grow wings
    while we did mechanical things --
    swimming in bile and digging ditches,
    turning dials and flipping switches.

    The radio's off.  Hear the music play?
    God is dead?  Let us pray.

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