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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Hear a derrick fall on oilfields ablaze!
    Witness evil born in whom the hero saves,
    all in the prelude to the end
    of these my verses, this my maze.

    Phil Brown looks down from the Monkey Board:
    Not a good idea.  He squats on it
    for hours a day, wrapping chain
    around the pipe to connect it
    to the cat's head drum -- the pulley
    that rotates the pipe and the bit
    at its end (which does the real drilling) --
    then lets himself be lowered, real slow,
    seventy-five feet to the ground.
    Today he glides most of the way,
    eyes shut, making monkey noises
    like all roustabouts make as
    the driller works the traveler
    that brings them back to earth;
    only slowly, and under his breath.
    He vows, halfway down, to descend
    with opened eyes next time, so he won't
    look half scared to death, as he does
    on this "swing tower" (four to midnight shift).

    Brown never thought he might spend this shift
    actually swinging from the tower,
    but, all of a sudden, he is.
    The rigger has deserted his post!
    Phil tries to unharness himself
    from his Johnson Safety Harness,
    but the thing does its job too well.
    He can't free-fall, so he just hangs there,
    limp.  He won't be left like that for long.

    Decades hence, his awed grandchildren
    will ask:  An angel, was it, with wings?
    He will tell them, and their young friends,
    "No."  Not an angel, was it, who angled him
    in mid-air out of the harness
    while all he could see was the darkness.
    Not an angel, but a man who flew,
    who lifted and revived him miles off
    at the workers' camp, where the whole crew
    had been brought -- by him; all of them --
    for their own safety when something blew
    and the shock-wave toppled the tower.
    That's how he'll tell it, and he won't be
    far off, with one vital exception.
    One man was rescued only after Brown,
    and that was a disaster.  Here's how it went down:

          On the rail-track that has supplied
          the men, a container car lies,
          broken open and ablaze.
          Try to put out the like of that;
          you can't by human agency,
          not even this one, which is empty
          of oil.  Fortunately for the man
          trapped inside, Clark Kent isn't human.
          There are some others near the scene.
          They flee.  Let the costumed one (first
          time suited in daylight, though the thick smoke
          makes it black as night) take the risk;
          let him get Lex Luthor out before he chokes,
          or, what's worse, they both burn to a crisp.

          Clark scans the car's interior with his x-ray eyes.
          Its walls are of inferior quality;
          he won't try to salvage the property
          while saving the life.
          Through its walls he flies,
          impacting steel with fists
          more formidable still,
          wrapping the man in his cape
          and falling back through the gaping
          hole he makes and its slivers
          of metal (all in milliseconds),
          then rolling with his charge to safety
          as the car at last explodes.
          The tower topples.  Shock waves
          ripple back to the crews
          in their safe harbor, their huts
          of quonset metal and tinder
          on the old Kent farm, just ahead
          of the burdened hero.
          He pirouettes down to the men
          out of his swim through air
          and stops a helmeted foreman.

          Poor Lex Luthor
          is blackened to the third degree.
          "You," Clark commands the foreman,
          "Keep pouring water on his tongue,
           and sponge down these wounds.
           He needs first aid, and soon.
           I've something to attend to,
           first, so... excuse me."

          He is awkward as he departs,
          but Clark needs no words to lead.
          The foreman, dazed, has Phil Brown
          rifle the radiator
          of a dynamite truck
          for the water.  They will care
          for Mr. Martin Luther's injured son
          until the flying man returns.
          Until the flying man returns.
          In blue tights?  Try not
          to think on it.  Just do.

    Phil Brown did what he was told,
    then watched the flying man.
    He saw precious little
    of what actually transpired.
    Still, decades later, when he's old
    and gray, he will tell of the time,
    of the day he saw Superman
    rising, sans cape, into red skies,
    and of how it seemed that the great fire
    was vanquished almost in an instant
    after that Man of Steel,
    in the days before his fame,
    vanished into the peeling, loud
    and crimson heart of a cloud of flame.

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