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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Time's strands writhe, whip-like in the sand,
    each cracking free of the others.
    So it seems on the ground,
    but to the Eye Above
    all appear wrapped around
    one another, a single rope
    turned from much hemp that
    drags all men together from birth
    to berths at which God deems
    that they should rest.
    Babes ride these snaking cords
    as do the day's giants,
    their destinies, all alike,
    So it is divine behest that:

    1)      To a new abundance
            young Kal-El falls,
            as Wilson preaches
            in Versailles' ancient halls;


    2)      From Paris the President sails,
            entering in triumph a capitol
            where crouch his waiting foes; and,
            The Kents clear a foyer corner
            and an old bassinet becomes
            the scene of Clark's nightly throes.

    Dark dreams of rending worlds plague them:
    The trauma burns away in small doses as
    Sarah turns Clark
    and pats his sweaty, cold head; while,
    body expiring with his term,
    withering Woodrow,
    scorning senatorial amendments,
    slays his Treaty by decree from his bed.
    His wife will govern by whim in his stead
    until a "Normalcy" that will flow
    fluccidly into Teapot Dome flushes in.
    But, for now, Wilson licks his wounds
    and retreats to a house down the street,
    thence to fade into a coffin
    that will be laid in the dust
    in tandem with Bryan's.
    Then all the of lions
    of the Progressive Age
    will have stopped roaring,
    and the child who will soar
    as the Man of Tomorrow
    can stop pouring out all his woes.

    The fever breaks.
    It is Nineteen Hundred and Twenty Four.
    The fires within Kal's frame
    of steely flesh recede
    and a mock humanity prevails.
    It is a cage
    whose bars he will bend
    when the time to mend
    a torn nation unveils
    itself on history's stage
    and the source of his fame
    stands revealed.
    Let him, until then, be concealed
    on a lonely farm, where labor makes
    for a fine education;
    to a taste of which
    we now hastily proceed.

    Ahead two years to '26,
    where, while the cities are heeding
    the trumpets of Hooch and Swing,
    in the sticks they hold
    to an older rhythm.
    Clark's eighth "birthday" is typical,
    mostly spent in Ma's vegetable
    patch hoeing dirt, ripping out weeds,
    poking deep holes and dropping seeds --
    all at a speed that's natural
    (for him), and no-one sees to call
    the thing (or him) odd. He is strong
    and quick -- he crushes rocks that lie
    in the way of planting --
    and the days are growing longer,
    so there is more to do:
    milk their few cows (done at sunrise),
    help Pa with the plowing
                               {"How he pushes!"
    Eben exclaims, "Better than two oxen!";
    then he pauses, swallows enthusiasm,
    and the memory of his impromptu
    adoption of eight years ago,
    before he starts to wonder
    about forces his nature tells him
    men were not meant to know};
                               and help Ma in the kitchen
    with kneading their daily dough.

    Food fascinates him. His eyes,
    drawn to a basket on the counter,
    fix on an apple; they describe
    the arc of its crown, its slick amber
    skin flecked with lines of green and white
    that all together glisten bright.
    An old carrot, rustic orange hide
    tapering down from base to tip,
    sits next to it; he licks his lips.
    Then Ma caws,
    "You'll spoil your supper, Clark,"
    and hands him a bucket.

    Outside again.
    It's the opposite of milking:
    gravity's against him, but
    the well's got no feelings, so
    he needn't pump as gently
    as with the tender cattle
    on whose udders his hands
    must move softly,
    like we would pet hen feathers.
    The black handle, encrusted by rust,
    already bears the imprint of his grasp;
    his fingers, like an owl's claws as they grip
    a field mouse's throat, have formed the iron.
    As water fills the tin, he looks in
    to it and slips back a week to when
    the thawing ice
    transfixed him for hours.
    He thought he saw...
    some half forgot icescape,

    Ma rings the dinner bell.
    He and Pa wash at the well
    and go into the house together.

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