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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    In the shadow of the last statue
    has he tutored her.  Precepts and statutes
    long ignored, the opinions of the dead --
    her suitors all, those great judges --
    Kara has learned them all rote in her head
    like... Like a tune whose name you forget
    but can't stop humming, all for bread
    and to ransom her parents from jail.
    It's not enough for Hyra-Khan, though;
    her learning thus far's to no avail, so
    she flashes an alluring smile
    and returns to the last statue
    to beguile her patient mentor.
    "It's very handsome, teacher,"
     says she.  "This last statue, that bears
     the label 'Jor-El The Second.'
     He is last of the known dead,
     but, was he was also my uncle?"

           --     Yes, child, and a great man
                  who would have saved us all
                  had not the dullards
                  whom he made his masters
                  closed their ears to his pleas.

    --     Father never said he'd a brother.  How come?

           --     Jor Two gave Rao his due;
                  but, Zor?  He feared no one,
                  not even the Sun.
                  They split over this
                  and never spoke again.

    --     What reasons there, sir?  I see none.

           --     The Els were more apt
                  than any other clan
                  to argue religion.
                  You should know that.
                  Do you not recall
                  all that you've been taught?

    --     I have learned the preachings
           of all the great Prophets
           and memorized tables of Law,
           begat charts and fables,
           and I know the teaching of each
           and all the generations
           of Krypton's poets and statesmen.

           --     Then, repeat them.

    --     All of them?  Again!?

           --     All.  Again.  Now!

    So she did, and when she'd almost done1
    the High Priest, with no little pride, said:

           --     Aye!  Who can forget?  Or forgive?
                  Yet, we must pity poor Pir-El,
                  for what did it merit him
                  that he won the world's governance
                  at the cost of his brother's love?
                  Yes, we pity poor Pir-El
                  and all who came after his deeds
                  forced Kryptonians to live
                  without their fathers' god.  We
                  pity Gam-El, who begat Var-El,
                  father of your grandfather,
                  Jor-El the First.

    Then Kara cut him off and finished:

    --     The same Var-El who dabbled at science
           and perished as a result.
           And the generations after,
           until Krypton's destruction,
           tried to recoup the loss of him
           through constant experimentation.
           Teacher?  My father Zor-El was one
           of these experimenters, an engineer.
           Does Rao declare his trade forbidden?

           --     No, dear child, merely...

    --     Then why must you keep him
           and Alura my mother
           away from me and hidden!?

           --     He is a hostage!
                  It is an ancient practice!

    (Indeed yes; for, even in Earth's past,
     Coeur de Lyon was captured
     and traded for vast sums in gold,
     enough to have built the walls of old
     Vienna with.)

    --     And you affix
           to their freedom
           what price?!

           --     He will be released
                  at cost of your knowledge first,
                  then your devoted service.
                  With the former you progress, true,
                  yet the latter eludes you. 
                  I can wait until you receive
                  Rao into your heart.  Can you?

    In answer, she spits in his face,
    at his mask, and runs to her room
    and more pleasing tasks: Grooming
    herself, changing the decor.
    Soon, though, she comes to deplore
    her vain resistance; she regrets
    it, and tries to forget it,
    and hopes the Priest will forgive.
    His persistence won't lessen,
    most likely.  If she's to live,
    to eat, she'll learn her lessons,
    she'll run 'round his Socratic loops,
    jump through his dogmatic hoops
    and over doctrinal hurdles.
    She will absorb the rituals...
    and enjoy the fine fabrics.
    Father made her study too,
    albeit different subjects,
    and, she must admit it's true,
    she likes the comfort
    attendant on the ruling cult.
    She'll get her parents out yet,
    will do it his way and try not
    to grieve their absence meanwhile.
    It has been a long, hard day.
    She sprays her room with scents,
    readying for bed, wishing she believed
    in Rao.  Her pillow is soft,
    cased in something like silk.
    She lays her clean, milky-blonde
    hair upon it, closes her eyes,
    and wonders what good a dead god could be.

1 Coming soon, in the next act of this comedy (Superman, The American Way, Part Two: The Great Metropolis), the entire tract, "The House of El and Its Legacy, A Super-Clan Family Tree."  Watch for it!

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