BOOK TWO: OLD GODS LIE
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.