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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    End of the previous night,
    before Lana found herself alone
    and the Kent farmhouse gone.

    (When the Superman origin
    was first done on television
    the actor who played Jor-El
    wore Buster Crabbe's costume from
    the first "Flash Gordon" serial --
    black on grey with starburst tunic.
    In memory of this, the ship
    my Kal-El bears on his shoulders
    now like Sisyphus his boulder
    bore up and down that Hadean hill
    (Divine punishment's eternal!)
    follows Dr. Zarkov's design,
    reservoir-tip nose-cone and all.
    Prior descriptions that conflict
    be all stricken from this record!)

    In order to take off with the ship,
    Clark's had to run half a mile with it; but,
    such a swath through the fields he's cut!
    Matters not: They'd had but a short while
    left to lie, fallow and frosty;
    no one will starve, by his plan,
    for want of grain this off-season.
    Plains of tundra wave below him
    like in a pastoral Monet
    if "Grass-Scape Under Superman"
    were among the former's works.
    Superman doesn't notice.
    Fully focused on his task,
    he nears his destination.
    Patches, now, of tundra pass
    to ice flows and white visions
    join white noises in his head,
    a numbing combination.
    Peary and his partner Henson
    would have called it "white-out" when
    they first passed this way, two men
    black and white, joined to find out what
    glories of discovery lay
    at the top of the world.  Clark may
    have found a cure for it: Hurry through
    to the pole by air and "white-out"
    won't have time to settle on you.
    Well, it works for him.

    The hull of the ship feels brittle,
    almost, in the brutal cold.
    Its insides are full of fragile
    things: Pa's watch; Ma's iron skillet
    with years of crud crusted to it;
    presents from Lana; a baseball mitt;
    photographs, and a few old books
    that Ma read him.  Mementos all,
    like Pa's carvings and fishing reel
    and rod that he taught Clark to cast
    with; pieces of a private past,
    to be buried but not forgot.
    To the high summit
    of a mountain of ice, he flies;
    ruby beams then plummet to it,
    a fire-fall from Clark's eyes.
    Into this highest snowy hill
    rolling to a pointed peak,
    heat vision drills melt a tunnel
    of mush that the ship then seeks
    (he hardly has to drop it)
    like salt dashes from the thumbs
    of the chef hungry for his fill
    and slips along funnel walls
    wet with juice of the kill and leeks.
    Over this site, Clark hovers,
    watching as the slush covers
    traces of the vessel's route.
    The flavor of the moment
    he savors, and yesterday
    banishes as the trinket-
    laden rocket vanishes
    under where Santa would live
    if children's fancies were real.

    "Honor thy mother and father!"
    the holy texts of two worlds shout
    in his senses as the ship sinks low.
    He does not try to fight the thought,
    though he has no idea how
    one honors legacies dual,
    traditions in the plural.3
    He does know what his life is about
    now after all these many years.
    His own life, and that is all.
    He needn't choose between his halves,
    for all is lost in the end
    when man to the dust returns.
    God alone on his shrouded throne
    knows what shape the world is.
    Man has to force it to make sense,
    has to wrench it into focus
    before his tiny, tiny face
    and crowd out all his knowledge
    of vast and empty space
    to carve himself his own small place
    in someone else's cosmos.
    The world doesn't make sense
    until you force it to.
    God will understand.
    He sculpted with a view
    to the impact of human hands.
    Clark's hands are human.  They will do
    what they must, will cut in grandeur
    like a craftsman cuts, straight and true,
    and let the Lord, who endures
    forever, say what will be.
    A man can only say: "I am me."
    Superman says it loud and clear
    (Yes!  And so can you, reader dear!)
    and in the saying flies free, free, free!
    Free at last, free at last to blast
    through the sharp arctic air
    like tomorrow's avatar,
    the avatar of Tomorrow and its man,
    the Man of Tomorrow.

    Man of Tomorrow.
    Superman.  He likes it, he decides,
    passing out of the Arctic Circle.
    Have to give those oilmen credit:
    It's a name with lasting impact.
    It has a nice ring to it;
    and, it matches the shirt.
    Now he won't have to explain it:
    That the 'S' is not in fact an 'S'
    in Kryptonese, but is the crest
    of his family there.  Let folks
    think its English referent
    was intended from the first.
    What could it hurt?
    Have to give them credit.

    Hurdling south with these thoughts,
    his heart beats.  Man of Steel's heart,
    it beats at the core of his mold,
    power of the sun to smelt gold
    of its own rays into new days.
    Man of Steel's heart, beat like a drum!
    Beat like a drum on the night air,
    drumbeats reverberating far,
    into the animal's ears,
    ears of the dogs and bats' sonar --
    Announce his arrival to them
    the way a cock's crow can open
    the night to Tomorrow's sun.
    Crow, rooster, crow!; and, Superman,
    with your long flight home, be done!

    In frenzied anticipation --
    of his future, of the unknown --
    Clark (Superman!) Kent returns
    to his family's farm.  It's been
    an hour (maybe two) since he left
    Lana Lang sleeping on the hay,
    but, O, what a difference
    a few moments makes today!

    Everything of importance
    he has removed from the house.
    He made the determination,
    when his plans with a spouse-to-be
    were unmasked as futility,
    that he would burn down behind him
    all his bridges, all connection
    to Smallville:  Blow it all away.
    Blow away every memory:
    Of foes fought -- water, wind and flame;
    Of the fields -- the dirt and the dust,
    and pond-bed muck with the dog-games
    rolling; The storm with its blowing,
    and the oil a'burning, its thrusts
    licking him like the mutt did (hurts
    the skin like friends' betrayal the heart);
    Of lies told and of white masks worn
    and hoods with holes to talk and breathe through.
    False faces:  Blow them all away!
    He will never wear a mask.
    He will go about his tasks
    bare faced in his uniform
    and let all see who dare look!
    They'll be blown away.  Let them be!
    And let the old homestead with a huff
    and a puff come down:  Blow it all away!

    Out back, in Ma's flower garden,
    he stands, feeling the engine
    of his lungs expand.  They will run,
    not blower-like, but, like a fan,
    never needing to be quite full,
    but giving double force to all
    the air that they do take in,
    and more; their top capacity
    being more akin to a speed
    in measure than a quantity.
    His lips part, ever so slightly,
    timed to the start of a whistle
    low in tone, from the cavity
    deep within him.  The air begins
    to move, the whistle builds to a moan.
    Soon, he will be truly alone,
    but on terms that are of his own
    making.  The house the Kents and Clarks
    built -- house with no studs in the walls,
    held up by nothing but the faith
    of two farming families, faith
    of dirt under the fingernails
    from the hard life before tractors
    when men pushed and pushed themselves hard
    and gravity wasn't a factor --
    house that's known a heap of living:
    It falls like a house of cards.  Taut
    wires sag like a tired horse
    too sick for the glue factory.
    To the wood and window-glass shards,
    then, he applies the eye-fire.
    His mere glance ignites pipe and paint
    of lead alike, and soon the house
    is a black cloud of detritus
    billowing up like a movie
    of a waterfall run in reverse.
    In the cloud's shape, a countenance
    seems to Clark to form.  Can it be?
    Yes.  By black tress framed, and a voice
    seems to call her from under the flame's
    dull roar.  He had not recalled that
    at the Fair a man had said her name.
    "Lois," he said, "I thought I'd lost you."

    Not all memory's blown away, blesséd be!
    And, though she spoke not a word that day,
    somehow Clark's heart knew, even then,
    "Lois" is his destiny.
    For such are the dreams of men
    haunted nightly by a face.
    This the reason, and no other,
    that, as he once heard Ellis quote,
    in a sermon from someplace: "A man,
    he shall depart the bosom of his mother
    and cling to his wife from his heart."
    "Lois" is the one for him (another
    double-'L'?).  Wherever she may be,
    he shall seek and he shall find;
    they will end their days together
    united, body and mind,
    flying with one heart, flying free.
    The fire's roar a whisper now
    and the pile of planks, tile and bricks
    reduced to a heap of ash,
    Clark takes another draught
    of pure prairie air:  Pollen,
    odor of pistil on stamen,
    with just a hint of compost
    and smoldering house to taint
    its naturally rich taste.  He blows
    like we would blow to extinguish
    birthday cake candles, and off goes
    all the ash.  A super-gust
    scatters the dust
    as dawn gives way to day.
    After hardly a cough,
    it scurries off,
    he scares it all away.
    Now to the face of his future
    his thoughts drift back through thickest grief
    the way in the cliché the thief
    always returns to the crime scene.
    "Lois," he incants, "who are you?"
    How he burns to know.
    He will learn.  All in good time.
    "Time to go," he says aloud
    before he thinks to feel proud
    for having crossed this threshold.
    What must be, shall be,
    and there isn't anything to say.
    Except, maybe...
    ... and he decides he should:

    -- Up, Up, and Away!

    It is done.  He is gone.  It is good.


    3 Maybe on this spot he will build memorials to each half of his heritage, or perhaps but one hermitage, with high sleek walls of ice, to both.

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