Secret-Origin of a Super-Villain
The boy's injuries have stalled
his father's plans, made him question
all the years of plotting, of plans
made in lonely towers to gain
stature in this peasant state.
How he misses his late wife,
her coy aristocratic gait!
Alexei Luther strokes his beard,
runs a palm across his shaved pate,
pats his overweightness, and sighs.
The nurse is late. Lex stirs in bed;
Alexei rises: "Do not move,"
he whispers with long forgotten
tenderness. "Do not move, my son.
Sleep until the medics come.
Dream sweet until the dawn, my son."
The father sits, watches his son's
head twitch on its pillow. Both sleep.
Their dreams are anything but sweet.
Morning. Young Lex is first to wake.
He can't move or see, but he hears
Papa snoring. Close, in a chair
by the bedside, Papa has slept.
To be with his son on this day
was a promise he made and kept.
Lex smiles, too pleased to notice his thirst
or hunger, or wonder which is worse.
LEX LUTHOR'S MONOLOGUE INTERNAL
WHEREIN WE LEARN THE BLACK ROOTS
OF HIS TOMORROWS SO INFERNAL
The bandages come off today,
hurrah, hurrah! The bandages
are off today, hurrah, hurrah!
The bandages are off today
in the city under Papa's sway,
the city I will see today...
After what's seemed ages
of blindness, ages
trapped in traction --
Lex Luthor will see action
the city that's his inheritance --
If only a fraction
of my expectations comes true
I'll be one happy patient
with a spectacular view
of my city: Metropolis!
City settled with fanfare
near the port where Perry fought
a navy royal, where he caught
the King's admirals unawares,
where he caught them in their bottoms
and sent them into deep slumber
on five Great Lake beds.
To the beat of heavy cannon
they sank, one fathom
for every measure of war served.
To that same dull, steady rumble
the ensuing century swerved,
Victory's rhythm spurring on
the Heartland's refugees
to heed its so hypnotic call
and march, or grope their way
to the city's glittering halls.
Metropolis! One day you'll answer my call!
(But, he does love his Papa so.
Papa will wake up soon
and remove the straps of gauze
from Lex's face, or help the nurse
at least. That will end this curse,
this monotonous darkness.)
Couldn't wait, could I?
Couldn't wait for Papa to die
simply of natural causes.
O, no: too slow a pace
to greatness, the natural course
of things; I've no such patience!
I wanted what was mine. That's fair,
that's fair! I wanted what was mine
right then, right there! And so I dared
to take it by force, by the might
that makes a man a force to fear
and makes the worst cause the right cause
when all the smoke has cleared!
Now how many weeks has it been
that I've been denied my vision?
How many hours to pout
since my plan blew up in my face
and on my face and clothes and hair?
No fair! No fair!
(He tries to rub the tears from his eyes) --
Damn this gauze, this bloody gauze,
like cotton stuck to my face!
Damn that town, that nowhere town,
bloody out of the way place
with its meddling 'hero'.
He's let me live in disgrace!
(And that disgusting disguise!
Gaudy colors he despises;
so, even before Lex's eyes see
what they're to see, he decides:
It's the fault of the flying man.
Not a rational conclusion,
but one you might derive
after surviving an explosion.)
"Stop moaning, son," Papa says,
words muffled by a bandage-haze.
"Nurse Collins is here. She says
you can come home today
and you may be able to see.
I will take a vacation
and we will take a trip on the sea.
You like the sea, no? And the boats?"
Innocent accident victim:
that's all Alexei sees
when he looks at his son. To him,
the boy is only what he seems.
This should come as a reprieve
for Lex; but he can't conceive
letting himself be forgiven.
He has to have an origin. He does.
"Hold very still, Lex," says the nurse.
She works, pausing often, so the gauze will off
slow and leave the scar tissue behind.
The senior Luther holds up a mirror
to Lex's head as it's unwrapped
like a Christmas gift. The glass
with its gilded trim captures
the room's dim light, lets it pass
onto the nurse's white tunic
and takes a blank reflection.
Collins straightens and steps back.
Alexei Luther sees an arm
grab the mirror. He hears it crack
on the tile when Lex slaps it down
from his hunched-over position
on the floor, face to the wall,
Lex's two hands rubbing his bare crown
over and over again.
"It may grow back, son," Papa says.
"At least, that is what I am told."
Bald as a billiard ball, Lex thinks.
My brow reflects the mirror's trim
as it will the gold of the grain --
and all because of him,
all because of him.
What Lex sees when he turns isn't there:
Superman picking up the mirror
and saying, "Your mother loved this."
Supes won't be in Metropolis
for some time yet; still, Lex sees what
he sees, and lunges. Collins runs, screaming.
Lex's hands are around a white throat
and they are squeezing, squeezing, squeezing.
Once Papa has finally choked
Lex will let go and see his 'truth':
Superman's murdered his father!
'The flying man killed my Papa?',
he will say over and over
as he pulls away at his scabs.
"The flying man killed my Papa!" --
never quite rational.
The scabs will heal. But Lex can feel
the roots gone from under his hair,
can scratch where the follicles were
and peel away at his marked face
with overgrown, neglected nails.
To trap Superman in those claws
will become his poetic plan.
'Vengeance be my cause!' he will shout
and waste no time getting about
his new business.
All this time Papa is wheezing,
Alexei Luther is wheezing,
wheezing and trying to say, "Boat?
You would like to go on a boat, no?"
That might have been fine,
but, no. Not this time. No.