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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


35



    The answer, I fear,
    is both "Yes," and, "No."
    Clark was indeed supra-
    heroic, but it didn't go
    quite as planned (see infra
    (that's Latin for "below")).
    The foe retreated, yes,
    but at what consequence?
    Answers to this:

    One. (Good) --

         Forty-five years hence
         on 9 July 1988, a Saturday,
         a reporter for the Associated Press
         will not write that any survivor
         of a "Smallville Storm of '34" said,
         "All we could do was just sit
          in our dusty chairs and gaze
          at each other through the fog
          that filled the room and watch
          the fog settle slowly and silently,
          covering everything;"
         Nor quote another describing,
         "(O)ur faces... as dirty
          as if we had rolled in the dirt;
          our hair... gray and stiff,
          and we ground dirt between our teeth."
         He won't write so in the reality
         of this my epic because its people
         are spared such torments, mostly.
         No storm removes "300 million tons
         of soil" this day, nor leaves "a film
         on the President's desk in Washington,
         on store shelves in New York City,
         and on ships 500 miles out" to sea.
         No, it does not, though it strove to.
         The mythic Midwest this poet gives you
         has a champion.
         Fictive reporter, forgive me.

    Two. (O.K.) --

         Lana and Ma are allied in the quest
         to marry off our protagonist.
         Tacit agreement was reached in conference
         between them, held in a crypt
         where Clark rushed his friends
         (invisibly quick) when the storm hit.
         They all woke flushed (super-speed trips
         can knock the unacquainted out cold), but
         were swiftly re-oriented by bold
         martial sounds without.  There was war
         going on up there for sure.
         John Ross was up first.  He lit a match,
         saw where they were and asked,
         "How'd we get here?"
         The Prof. wondered, "Where is here?,"
         and Sally said, "Are we dead?"
         Ralph Dibny answered.  "Not dead," he said, "Just
          underground.  The stone reads:
          'The George Small Family'."  Pete
         piped in, "We're in our founders' tomb?,"
         Lana added the call, "Where's Clark!?," and
         Sarah, who was asleep, groaned, "My womb."

         "He's out there," Ralph said pointing up,
         "Don't worry."  An eerie stillness fell
         at that.  Lana would have gone after Clark,
         but Ralph reminded her of Sarah.
         Someone should stay by her side,
         and venturing out would be futile.
         "Hear that whir?,"  Pete whispered,
         "What is it?"  "Dust storm," said John,
         "Bound to hit us sometime.  Other counties
          been buried; whole states."
         Ma stirred. "Clark?  Out there?," she said,
         "We're safe."  Only Ralph understood.
         Sarah had faith.  In hushed tones to Lana
         she spake:

         --    I dreamt a dream I've been haunted by
               before.  In the dream, my brother-in-law
               becomes an octopus and eats America.
               But, this time the 'pus became
               a cloud that swirled as it consumed.
               The cloud hardened and became my womb.
               I looked into it.  It was empty.

         (Sarah drilled her nails into Lana's shoulder
          and drew the wincing girl closer.)

         --    Give me grandchildren, child!
               Join my boy in marital bliss,
               have the baby that was denied me
               from the joy of Pa's first kiss.
               Will you promise?

         Lana was baffled.  Ma's delirious
         ramble she summarily dismissed,
         but, politely, she made the promise.
         In that instant, outside fell silent,
         of a sudden, prompting the comment,
         "Someone should check," on the Prof.ís part.
         (He, of course, would not.)
         Pete volunteered,
         but got no chance to perform, as...
         ... The blast that downed the doors
         sounded a call like "DOOM!"
         It was as if the very storm
         had battered into the room.
         From without a shaft of light
         shone far too bright
         and framed a mighty form,
         face obscured to their sight,
         and all his raiment torn.
         The figure fell down the flight,
         the stairs Pete would have climbed,
         and on the landing where he might
         have lately reconnoitered,
         young Ross heard Lana cry.
         She caught the tumbler;
         Clark was a wearied sight.
         It's like that, for a warrior,
         even after a winning fight.

    Three. (Bad (?)) --

         Clark got to rummage through
         wreckage left lying around
         the Kent home
         after the wind sacked it and was thrown
         into orbit.  The artifacts he found
         would form quite a catalog.
         It would include:
         loose nails, lumber shards
         and bits of brick,
         things which, with labor --
         equity called sweat --
         go into house-making;  photos in cracked
         frames (the dust coats them thick,
         so the pictures can't be seen);
         his old crib that he once kicked
         to pieces, but Eben fixed; a sheet
         with two holes cut in it; and blankets
         red and blue.  He'd forgotten all about
         these last two.  Must be indestructible,
         given all they've been through
         since the fourth canto.
         As it happens, they are.

         Clark must learn to sew.



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