Polish the table? No trouble,
but chopping wood may prove
a burdensome chore.
Eben Kent isn't
a young man anymore.
His hands perspire -- pick: tighten grip,
or let the blade slip?;
he squeezes harder -- as he lifts
the axe, swings it, and splits
the log. Each splint
falls to a side of the stump
as he takes another off the pile
and repeats the sequence. In one style
for the entire store -- raise, drop,
choose the next and then chop --
he cuts, keeping time with the sea's roar,
the crashing of waves against a shore,
that tune, like the soothing pulsation
of divine respiration,
that underlies the Cosmic Score,
those songs which in him too resound --
just that, now, they're a bit too loud.
His temples pound (pain!) and his breast
aches -- pick again: get some rest,
or break a bone? -- so he sits
to consider his half-cord.
It's a good morning's work,
he thinks, as the tremor hits
and jerks him toward
a sinking, grassy floor.
(What's this? Shifting plates?
An earthquake in Kansas?
for humanity's offenses?
Presently this interpretation
is erroneous. My plan
is merely to lead us
to a happy occasion:
before this canto's done,
of a prostrate old man
and his space-born pseudo-son.)
Eben perceives a green horizon
of blades that scratch his eyes and chin.
His forearm intercedes, defends
his nose and throat from dirt
falling into the dew,
and, though the dust blocks his view,
Eben rises and steps
in the direction of his task.
Then the ground stops and he tumbles down
and passes out in a crater,
a feature just added to his estate.
Moments later, warm hands cradle
Eben's dazed form. Hazy lips ladle
air into his lungs, focus,
then become those of the boy flung
earthward on a dovish ship
whose shiny tip
protrudes now, putting Clark's profile
in stark relief.
The son's been self-apprenticed,
this morning's trial
having been a brief introduction
to a tutorless instruction
which will bring him much grief.
Skills uniquely Clark's possession
(he's practiced landing methods
and learned resuscitation)
he must develop on his own,
in secret until he's grown.
At contemplation of this
tears well up in weary little eyes.
Pa sits up, gulps bile of fear,
and dutifully hears
his son's confession.
"Father," quoth Clark, his jaw quivering,
"I fell, I... I... flew." Shivering
within, but outwardly steadfast,
the elder Kent holds the younger
in supportive silence, nodding
subtle approval 'til the sniffling
desists and, without prodding,
Clark proclaims his fondest wish:
"I want to be human, Pa."
Then Eben, awkwardly, swallowing
"Son, you are human."
"People don't fly," Clark protests.
"But, we all cry," Pa insists,
making warm his countenance
as he loosens the hug.
"In His Garden, son," he says:
-- God carved a life-array so vast
that no creature save the last
could he invest with a variety
of emotions to display.
The strife of youthful days
signals the start of much commotion,
but proves that you're a part
of the grandeur of Creation,
one, in fact, with its culmination.
(from under Clark's eye
he lifts a tear and lets it lie
on his fingertip, balanced
between them in the air -- )
"...And this," he says of it, "is why."
Clark chuckles. Droplets dry
on his cheeks, dampening
Pa's neck as he rocks the boy
and looks around, his face cramping
at a scene as bleak as the moon.
He reads it as a sign:
days of want are coming soon.
"I want this hole filled, son," he says,
his former bluntness returning.
"It'll be done, sir," Clark pledges,
"before this afternoon."
They climb out of the pit
and, taking care to omit
any upsetting details,
Clark tells Pa of his flight,
and of why Ma might be mad.
Eben listens, but is assailed
by other concerns. ("Shattered,"
he observes, stepping around scattered,
silt-covered kindling, wondering
whence next winter's warmth will come.)
They pass the woodshed. Clark turns
and glances overhead, relieved
at not having been followed.
His sigh is premature.
Eben goes in ahead of him
and so misses this absurd scene:
a flying dog descends with a SWOOSH!,
hovers over the Kents' covered porch,
then speaks in stentorian tones
that would ill befit
an ordinary pooch.
"How long has it been?" it asks.
"Two years. I am ten," says Clark,
keeping his composure as it issues him
-- You are a man, then, by our standards,
and capable of choice; yet, you ran
(most culpable!) at the sound of our voice.
You may betray us, if you can,
but, if treachery you intend,
tell us, that we do not tarry here.
We have needs you could not comprehend.
We must be fed, and, in far off lands
there are greedy men who would be our hands,
whom we can lead joyfully to vassalage,
and drag their thralls in tow.
Our strength, then, would meet our will,
and we would return, Kal-El,
to extract your suffrage as well.
You know this is true, so why not kneel
before us now, save yourself troubles on
the morrow? Bend your knee, child!
Great Rao commands it: Pick your pantheon!
Clark refuses, and thereby chooses
to make his stand on and for the earth.
The rejected dog departs,
dejected and doubting its worth --
it so hates it when it loses --
and, with glazed eyes, Clark gazes,
as what was once his pup
up, and away.
What a day.
The back door creaks and Eben speaks
to the dazed boy, charging him with a chore.
"It shouldn't be any trouble,"
Pa says, handing Clark a shovel
(the one he always uses).
"Not for you, anyway,"
and he leaves his son standing.
To Clark, the door's slamming
sounds louder than ever before,
as do the distant squeals
of four wrought iron wheels.
The Rosses' coach squeaks.
Clark cringes at the screech,
lessens his perception of it,
and braces for Ma's approach.
(His hearing's a topic
he'd rather not broach, just now.)