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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    They can't find him.
    Their god has fled, or been exiled.
    He's probably dead, and in his absence
    each Kryptonian of Argos is
    as helpless as a child.

    Our next scene is set in deepest space,
    where it's still nineteen and twenty-eight
    by earthly reckoning.  On a...

    (But, wait --
    Relativity tells us
    we can assign no dates
    to events in that frigid place,
    thus a degree
    of chill uncertainty
    now will enter our story.
    Score one for the physicist
    with the frizzy hair,
    that quiet man who
    in innocent quest for truth
    helped set the world on ear
    and make all men hurry
    after solidity, scurrying
    in dizzy pursuit of peace.
    To reduce that pace
    I shall haltingly deny
    the relevance of Einstein's theories
    to my character's lives
    and get on with my narrative
    which tells truth and no lies.)

    On a
    ... lost asteroid
    dangling in the void
    tangled, greasy locks fall
    across blue eyes, are brushed aside
    by a blonde girl-child as she glides
    across a commemorative hall.
    It was latched shut
    (she broke in), but
    was lit -- by platinum's eerie glow,
    the radiance of the halos
    that surround her forefathers' forms.
    Resolute against the walls
    the statues stand, staring forward
    lips unmoving, not cognizant
    of the cobwebs that cover them all.
    No-one comes here anymore.
    There have been few respects to pay
    since that disastrous day
    when Krypton died and her dad,
    the governor, lied to the priests
    about what radio silence
    meant.  They tried to do him violence
    in return, and so ignited
    the fratricide that has tied
    the colony into tight, bloody
    cliques that practice the art
    of fasting and fight for morsels
    from the dwindling food supply.

    Chewing the stale crust of a rye
    loaf she stole, her stomach churns (pain!)
    and she thinks of her mother,
    now one of many parents
    who were caught trying to obtain
    a daughter's flight.
    She couldn't remain above --
    no, not for all her love --
    she had to run, had to run
    and now she has come
    from the stone shades' home
    to where sulfurous dust
    stifles all sight,
    to a cave at the colony's core.
    Tears flow more freely here than before.
    She collapses into a heap
    on the cold stone floor
    and falls fast asleep.
    But, a few seconds more
    and she's up, for there's a light
    being cast by a brazier
    near an azure brick door.
    She wants to speak, but doesn't dare.
    She fears the torchbearer may
    hear her and raise the hue and cry.
    He doesn't.  He mumbles a prayer,
    stows his flaming burden
    in a scabbard on the wall
    and prepares
    to speak the sacred name.
    Behind a stalagmite, entranced,
    the girl crouches.  The man
    sits down on one of the couches,
    doffs his high felt hat, lifts his arms,
    and lets his robe unfold.  Its once
    creased fabric unfurls and is caught
    in a rising draft, and the girl
    suddenly knows where she's at:
    This must be the Sodium Cove,
    where all the legends hold
    Raoman himself once sat,
    entwined first with his harem,
    then with his one Betrothed --
    The Holy of Holies,
    the High Priest's abode
    where he, and he only
    must go when duties left him
    under secular statutes
    (his highest, and those of least
    import) demand that he consult
    the son of Krypton's crimson Sun.
    He drinks holy water and begins
    intoning.  She stares in wonder
    and thinks, "This may be fun."
    Thusly do his words run:

    --    Great Rao!, Source of all power!
          Lord to whom we bow!
          Need we now renounce you
          O vanished father
          O unrisen sun?
          With feigned dumbness you chide us
          when e'er we approach to confide --
          Why?  Where are you hiding,
          and why did you go,
          and will we ever know you again?
          The air's music still rages
          at the world's death,
          but you deny us your life's-breath --
          its mist our spirit-wages --
          and we are greatly distressed.
          I know you cannot die,
          my king, for your reign is endless.
          Heed me, then, and give redress,
          tell the source of our reproach!
          Sing a bass reply
          and show your face,
          let give a gentle nod.
          Will you tell me why,
          O my rock, O my god?

    He weeps, his sobs birthing pity
    for this man of the holy city
    in the girl, whom he's robbed of mom.
    From a crevice she had earlier
    taken a stone for a weapon
    into her tiny, sweating palm.
    She returns it now and a dense calm,
    thick like a fog, carves a fiefdom
    in the caverns around her
    and within.  She listens in this state
    as her chief foe (she learned early on
    to label him the master reprobate)
    relates a tale all of her race,
    as toddlers, once were tested on.
    It saddens her, that such beauteous
    words, her poet-ancestor's best,
    should serve as desperation's utterance.

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