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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Comes the swift hero, back from his task,
    swift comes he now from the battle's blasts.
    Clark steals through the late night air,
    a creature of steel being spat,
    like an arrow shot,
    a bullet, liquid metal hot,
    from the crucible's fiery heart.
    That heart, so terrible,
    yet so beautiful,
    was like unto his own,
    and, for having seen,
    he is a boy no more.
    The clay of a man's purpose
    bakes in the beehive oven
    of his soul, his man's soul
    which has this night seen,
    etched on its inner eye,
    twin horrors to remind it
    of the two houses that birthed it
    and from which it has just been weaned.
    One devil is a man who is rich,
    the other a false god with an itch to kill
    that Kal-El had thought scratched out;
    and he has seen a Hope that may yet
    mold him a future to contrast
    with his o, so lonely past.
    For every man there is a woman,
    carved of his flesh on the morning
    of the world's birth from the rich clay
    of the Garden the Lord walked in.
    The die of their meeting then is cast!

    Flying very fast, he reaches the mouth
    of the tunnel he once dug from a "duster"
    (a dry well not plugged by the diggers,
     who, disgusted by their failure,
     leave them stand, uncapped),
    a duster many miles distant,
    to the vault of the bank
    where he's the manager's assistant.
    Very private spots, both.
    He hopes no one finds it.
    The roaches who take
    human form to burgle could make
    use of it to enter and escape.
    No one in the bank would even know
    it had been robbed, nor when, nor by whom.
    He likes his job -- doesn't want to lose it
    -- so he hopes no one finds it,
    or him while he uses it.
    In the vault -- cold steel,
    like an abandoned crucible --
    he changes, boxes the uniform
    in safe deposit and locks it.
    He hopes no one finds it.
    He is quite late.
    It was an important date
    and he is late.
    Should have told her sooner,
    for now her just anger
    will clog her ears.
    If he even tells her.
    Yes, dear reader,
    he is that much changed
    by things seen and learned
    in the late oil field fire,
    changed enough to do the tough thing,
    abandon romance if needed for the chance
    to be forged anew elsewhere.
    Change rears its ungainly head
    as it pleases, not when one is ready.
    If he must break the old mold,
    best it's broken and the change told
    at a party, if the party's still going.

    He looks through the vault door,
    scans left, scans right.
    The pavilion's empty,
    but, in the office
    of his boss is...
    The crowd, and the cot
    that they've put Ma on.

    He would knock that vault door down
    and scatter that crowd from the room.
    He does not.  He turns slowly around,
    jumps back in the tunnel
    in civilian clothes,
    and whispers (not too loud;
    he doesn't want them to hear him,
    doesn't want them to fear him),
    whispers, "No.  No.  No.  No."
    His whisper echoes through the duster
    as he re-traverses it, but is drowned
    down in his own ears by the rush
    of his flying and the fierce pounding
    of his heart pumping.
    Steel heart, Man of Steel's heart,
    pumping like the pipes that rub
    the earth, that puncture and scrub
    at the life's blood of her
    until she bursts.  His heart would burst.
    It does not.  He is a man
    and in control.  He turns, sharp right
    and through the nitro-man's shoot
    of an active well, cleaning its walls
    as he goes a new secret route
    to the bank.  There's always a way,
    a way for a man, a way out.  Always.
    Then he's out, and up, and away.

    "There's always a way," he thinks,
    "Always a way (Up, up, and away).
     Always, always, always.
     Mother, please; mother, please.
     Always a... Up and... Always...
     Please, please, please, please, please,"
    he pleads, "Always a way.  A way.  Please."

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