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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Sir Walter Scott conveyed me
    a rule Ariosto derived:
    Fictive works are wholly contrived,
    so an author, he is free
    to conduct his pieces
    in any order he pleases.
    We'll therefore now leave
    Kal-El's cousin Kara,
    her aged mentor, and all things Kryptonian
    and move on to the matter
    of Clark's wandering mother.
    The motor rumbles... Pistons churn...
    Her berth vibrates in reply.
    Grease-laden gears, legacy
    of gilded years, turn,
    reluctantly at first,
    but then they yearn for speed.
    Sparks fly... Steam cries out,
    joyful at needed escape,
    as, with a hum,
    the train is nudged out its station
    and the disembarkation comes.
    Sarah hopes it isn't too late.
    She shouldn't worry --
    nothing is more powerful
    than a locomotive.
    A soothing cadence rises
    from the tracks below;
    Sarah's chest, full of sighs,
    falls to the wheels' loll.
    Through drooping eyes
    she watches misty droplets
    spread into rivulets
    upon the window's pane.
    Her senses join the chorus
    of the currents' rush,
    lashes thickening in their grain
    as she becomes oblivious
    to the iron horse's refrain.
    To dream, it would seem,
    is all that remains... dream... house-mirror memories
      of a warrior's funeral
      (mauve grass?
      the cemetery gone concave?):
      Rough Rider survivors pass
      by an open grave
      as their Colonel recalls
      the sinking of the Main,
      the fight against Spain,
      freedoms precious to all,
      and men who heeded duty's call
      to save them for others.
      Eben has no use for eulogies,
      and little for Cuban liberty.
      Bitter with loss (his big brother
      Sam got shot in the head;
      that's often the origin
      of the honored dead),
      he won't talk to his guests,
      neither Marti nor Roosevelt,
      though both offer condolences.
      Questions he won't voice plague him,
      permitting no rest: Why'd they bother
      charging that hill?  Had his brother
      some need to kill?  He doesn't know.
      He never will, and so he wallows.
      Sarah shares his pain,
      but remains aware of her dream.
      Things aren't what they seem,
      and none of it's the same
      as reality was.
      The man her sister now loves
      is here (Jonathan Dent had yet
      to enter their lives then; he met
      Martha later, when she went to school),
      but he looks different, wears a cruel
      grin and a cool stare.
      Eben doesn't care,
      but she feels the changes --
      Dent's presence rearranges
      the purple plot in a pall
      and makes the mourners vanish.
      From the sky, yellow spheres fall
      into Smallville, don Klan-ish robes,
      and fly off to haunt the whole globe.

    The porter looks in,
    but tries not to wake her.
    She'll wish he had,
    as, under each lid,
    an eye flutters faster;
    her Id's not her Maker,
    but now it's her Master.

      The subconscious shape-shifter
      twists Dent's green face.
      Mists pour out the poor man's ears
      an inky black, shade of primal fears,
      and his arms fade, to be replaced
      by attack-tentacles, slimy
      rippers that grip the golden fields.
      The Octopus feeds on the hay,
      emitting offensive stenches,
      clouding the torn day
      as if feeling its way
      through deep, oceanic trenches.
      Hissing and kissing
      with suction-cup hands,
      the monstrosity grows,
      traps Kansas under its toes,
      and goes on to swallow
      all that she knows.
      The city she'd visit,
      the land, past and present,
      drown in the undertow
      as, in the belly of this beast,
      acid waves spill over captives,
      readying them for a feast.

    ... With a start awoken,
    feeling like she's broken
    an old pledge...

    ... Turning in the dark
    to palm the damp window
    and watch wheel-sparks
    fly off the rail's edge...

    They are coming to a halt.
    The nap did no good.
    That psychic squid, her wily Id,
    grew a hell-bent serpent
    from Jonathan Dent's head.
    It slew the world and bled it white
    and soon there'll be an endless night
    in Metropolis.  She knows it,
    but tries not to brood.

    Cold sweat isn't ladylike,
    thinks Sarah Kent, pulling a shawl
    across her shoulders.
    Neither is an upset stomach.
    By an awning near the tracks
    her sister waits.  She'll go back
    in two weeks, not time enough
    for disaster.  They embrace.
    Sarah feigns a rested mood.

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