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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Having exhausted its day's worth
    the sun sets and dusk reigns,
    bringing a certain crispness to the air.
    It chills his wild dark hair
    as, in Clark's innermost ear
    a voice that names him "heir"
    whispers, riding the wind
    through swaying stalks.
    Out amongst them he walks,
    the voice taking him to a spot
    near a pond where he is oft wont
    to play.  Here, between the hillocks
    by the road to town, where it crosses
    the edge of the Kent property
    and divides it from John Ross's,
    Kal-El will become properly
    acquainted (he will think) with a ghost.

    A green, unearthly film coats
    the pond's still, algae-free waters.
    These swirl, make a mockery
    of the Milky Way Galaxy
    then, from this fakery's spiral core
    it upward bloats, the hoary host,
    capturing Clark's stare as it towers
    over the Prairie, long white locks
    flowing out and hanging down across
    a stylized `S' emblazoned
    on its nude ectoplasmic chest.
    Emitting no sound, its mouth moves.
    Red suns flare up in front of its eyes,
    then these spheres pop and the tension stops
    and Clark finds himself suddenly...aware.
    A flood of blue blood blazes in his veins,
    transmutes the Farmboy back into the son
    whose father's pride he'd surely have won
    had he not been torn from the world
    to which he was rightly born.  He kneels.
    Assuming he knows the image,
    he presumes to speak its native meter:

    --    Father?  Father, here I am!  Teach me!
          You were a prophet, no?  Preacher
          of doom, that dreary word?  Yes!
          Your voice resonates in my soul
          as it rocks the Council halls
          and the elders listen
          to your petition,
          but laugh in your face.
          They condemn themselves,
          lying down in disgrace,
          and make me last of my race
          as they're crushed by crumbling walls.
          Such was your tomb, and mother's too,
          and I can view, in this vision of night,
          through tears that drown more ready sight,
          the picture of shifting plates in upheaval:
          the very ground revolts
          and grinds your bones to dust.
          This end, I trust, was Fate's decree
          to all our folk, save I; for,
          before you gave your final cry
          you put me in a rocket ship
          and sent me on a one way trip
          far from your dying world.
          You hurled me to this place
          across vast expanses of space
          and have watched me genuflect
          at an altar that is surely
          tainted in your all-seeing eyes.
          My speech falters, but you must realize
          that whence I came was a mystery
          to me, prior to this revelation.
          I have no cause for guilt --
          I have but knelt to the spirits
          nearest my waking heart,
          as taught in rituals practiced
          by forbears more intimate
          than you have been, my liege.
          Now this rude awakening -- I see it
          so, as the initial exhilaration
          fades -- signals the start of a siege.
          Shade falls.  A pall of ignorance is cast
          where you would have shown light; I am thrust
          into shadow, knowing not to which quarter
          my loyalty should be granted.
          So I'll keep to old appearances
          until change is wrought by circumstance.
          No decision tonight, father -- forgive me.
          Division's seed is sown in my heart
          and I fear that, unless you disown me,
          and so usurp my choice,
          we will be forced, presently, to part.

    The night sky -- alive with emerald fires
    that writhe, suggesting the outline
    of his long deceased sire --
    rumbles as Clark's declaration,
    stated in an elevation
    by spectral influence brought, ends.
    Magical lightning flashes, descends
    from the heavens to the pool below
    to hold Clark in its electric arms.
    A breeze rises.  He wades into the reeds,
    tumbles into depths all a'sparkling,
    alive with an ethereal energy
    that supplants his need for air and tends
    his thoughts toward tales told by Kryptonians
    from time immemorial, legends
    of heroes bold, deeds of greatness,
    and quests for glory, stories he will hold
    in deepest memory.  Thus he is schooled
    in the grand tradition, made to serve
    a dynasty of rulers felled
    and linked to the vitality
    of dead generations that meld
    into him and live again
    by, through, and in him.
    As this ancestral chorus chants
    the most triumphal hymns
    in Krypton's collective mind,
    the rechristened Kal can't help but find
    the houses of El and Kent
    alike in dignity,
    with each its deference to impart him.
    But, his heart's present master won't condone
    the difference -- one course alone
    he insists his son must take.
    This answer to his challenge causes
    Clark to flail in the nascent lake,
    striving after wisps of green,
    the tenuous tendons that lend
    "Jor-El's" shade its mystic shape.
    They slip through his fingers --
    one supposed father
    dissipates into morning mists
    while another, more solid, nears.

    Usually more stolid, Eben Kent
    has grown dour through many hours
    of search.  His hopes sink further
    as he rushes forward
    and the image underwater clears,
    appearing to confirm his worst fear --
    that his charge has drowned.
    But, then, at the border of the pond,
    he is by some dark power
    thrown down, made to cower
    in the presence of an otherworldly
    scourge strong enough to bend
    trees which long have kept the wind
    from clearing men off the Prairie,
    one able to mold a twister of itself
    and blast the water hole,
    casting its captive up,
    with all the mud and muck,
    into clear skies.
    Clark twirls in its eye
    as the shiny funnel
    of scheming, sentient steam
    teases Eben by licking the tips
    of his bare toes as it wryly shows him
    glimpses of the boy's calm smile,
    a radiant contrast
    to the chaos afoot in the land.
    Frozen atop a hillock,
    his forced stillness mocked
    by the wily storm,
    Eben wrings his hands,
    feeling anguish born
    in sleepless worry,
    until the torrent stops, suddenly,
    and scurries away, as if in fright,
    and Clark falls like a feather
    and alights into his waiting arms.
    The child's valor abates
    as the shimmering vapors evaporate;
    he clings, and cries.
    Pa tries to give comfort,
    tenderly gazing into veined,
    weary little eyes,
    orbs which, though once innocent,
    are now by torment tainted.
    Then, in seeming reply
    to Pa's concern,
    their blue lenses burn
    and spit forth ruby beams
    that singe his cheeks.  He screams,
    spills Clark into the mire,
    and runs home holding his face,
    trying to contain the pain of fire.
    Encrusted in filth, Clark sits.
    Memory of the faith
    entrusted to him of late
    fades, along with the golden halo
    whose glow had aided his descent.
    He whimpers in renewed ignorance,
    and at his dual loss,
    for he has dismissed the old troops
    who passed in review
    and unwittingly spurned
    the man who weaned him too.
    Later mother will clean him.
    As for father and son --
    neither speaks to the other
    for a long time to come.

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