The Epic Poem [home] [contents] [comments] [discussion] [shop]
       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner




Of Great Wealth

    The chair is very old.  Leather snapped on
    its dark pine frame with brass buttons as squat
    as cheap stogies, it lacks padding, is flat
    but sturdy -- no finery for the fat
    man who in its confines sits, smoking.

    The table is made of marble
    imported from Milan.  Cigar
    ashes have piled up there and should
    be brushed off.  The bill could
    feed, clothe, and domicile two
    working families for a week.
    He folds it lengthwise and makes a trough.
    Over the pile he stays his hand, coughs
    once without disturbing it, then stirs
    and goes to survey his lands.  At the bay
    windows of the penthouse he stands
    and looks down at Metropolis.

    --     Sir?

           (An intruder:  In his study?
           Blazes!  The news had best be good.)

    --     What is it, Lex?

    --     It's happened, father.
           After all those false alarms,
           Wall Street has fallen,
           just as you warned.

    He smiles.  On the icy street below
    two beggars wait outside a mission.
    After winter that line will grow;
    there will be a new kind of cold,
    as the fiscal chill ripples westward
    from eastern towers of tarnished gold.
    Former pursuers of solid wealth,
    the creed of Carnegie's idol cult,
    will cluster on corners where, of late,
    warring, fedora'd gangs have scrimmaged
    and left their wounded for dead.
    `Til now most have waited for work;
    henceforth, they'll queue just for bread,
    the sullen plodding of their feet as they tread
    through the slush in the gutter
    crying out for a speedy end.
    Will he grant one in his kingdom?
    Maybe.  Or, he may just pretend.
    "Bring me an ashtray, son," he says.
    The boy spins on his heels, returns
    with that fancy porcelain piece
    the wife haggled over in Nice.
    It isn't him, but will do.  He cups
    it in his left palm, puts it flush
    with the tabletop brink, and pushes
    the ash into it with his cash scoop.
    He gives Lex the full dish and looks
    at his marble-ous reflection
    as he pronounces that, "Today
    is October the twenty-ninth,
    Nineteen-Hundred and Twenty-Nine.
    Mark it well, my son: Black Tuesday,
    Tabula Rasa."  He makes
    an abracadabra gesture
    at the lone forgotten man
    left standing, soup bowl in hand,
    out back of the soup kitchen;
    then sits and takes a match
    to another Havana.

    Expectant, compliant, Lex nods
    and pours his dad a glass of port.
    The elder lifts it high in toast.
    They drink.
    The liquor wets father's red goatee,
    Lex wonders, "What's in this for me?",
    and outside the streets are desolate.
    This pair's grown very bold.  Wait and see.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46
47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 

NEXT CANTO <font size=-1>NEXT CANTO</font>

Superman The American Way Cap!
The Epic Poem


Powered by