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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Now he flies nightly with purpose,
    jets up high enough to get
    a good view of the whole parish,
    the struggling farms and derricks
    newly pumping, the dry ditches,
    and the dirt roads, bumpy at best.
    There's a crack in a septic tank
    in the northwesterly district,
    the Weston ranch, he thinks.  Hard pressed
    to patch it up in secret, he does so
    nonetheless -- this year's low water table
    mustn't entirely perish.  Done; no
    seeping waste will tarnish the wells
    in this region of his country.  Still,
    he has to be as anonymous
    here as he is everywhere else.  None
    can know of all his daring-do;
    that he has foiled heists in Milwaukee,
    extinguished tenements in Boston,
    victims of arson, and forests
    in Oregon, where lightning sparked them;
    nor that he has stayed collisions of boats
    afloat on the Okee-Fenokee,
    snatched burglars from their Roanoke sprees;
    nor even that he saved a cat
    that was caught in that Brooklyn tree.
    No, despite his garb (so garish)
    he has done all this silently.
    Someday Clark may fly in the daylight,
    when men can view the El crest
    ablaze, yellow and red on his blue chest,
    and, amazed at the sight, pray that crest
    stands for all in the world that is right,
    for sky blue and the gray of winter's rain.
    Someday.  Until then, only one
    person has seen him.  It was she
    whom he closes his eyes to see.

          Lana was the new schoolteacher.
          She was not yet twenty-one, but
          it was a young woman's career.
          On a field trip with her students,
          she swerved the wheezing bus to miss
          a free-spirited buck deer.
          And, they were coming down a hill.
          Had he not been there, spying on her
          like a suspicious lover,
          they'd have crashed and all been killed.
          But, he was there.  He caught the way
          she ordered the children from here
          to there, from moo-cows to their milk;
          how her arms moved to guide them, like silk
          falling; the depth to which she bowed
          to meet them at their level; and how
          good a driver she really was.  Not
          good enough.  Had he not been there to grip
          the roof of the bus like a preying
          praying-mantis, they'd have crashed
          and all been killed.  As it was,
          they were all in shock, afterward.
          Just as well: He needn't vibrate his face
          to hide his features from sleeping waifs.
          Not all slept.  She was up, barely, her eyes
          twitching in faint recognition of him,
          of a face faraway through the cracked glass.
          He flew off and sent for help, then came back
          as Clark to help the dazed class off the bus.
          She must not have remembered.  The next day
          they held each other and... No mention,
          not even haltingly.  They rolled in the hay,
          were as friendly as the chaste can be,
          and he did not crush her.  That was dream.
          Waking, reality is much harder
          than tragic finishes, truth much harder
          to swallow than spinach is
          for babes to chew.

    If they're to be together
    he must tell all.  One can't hide
    the truth from a love forever.
    Affections can go out like the tide
    and partners often can't dissever
    the fact undisclosed from a lie.
    Will their love survive disclosure?
    Let tomorrow tell, he decides,
    and keeps his full composure.
    Tonight he flies.
    There is good he would do.
    He tries.

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