They built the casket together
as a father and son project
before flames consumed the workshop.
Ma didn't know (she'd have thought it
morbid and been upset), but it's
Eben's and his secret no more.
Into a humble pit
the pall bearers lower it.
Clark pulls Pa's watch from his pocket.
(Ma'd given it to him that morning.
"He ordered it from Sears,"
she told him through her tears,
"he'd've wanted you to have it.")
He thumbs the insignia etched
on the casing, an 'S' design.
What referent, this symbol?
The seller? Almighty Dollar?
The House of El? Not the latter.
It looks like the carving
he saw at the lake on the chest
of a god disguised as a ghost, but,
such stellar gifts have come thence that --
no, it heralds no Kryptonian host.
He is free to forge his own meaning, so he sees,
in the flaking gold plating, that tree,
deep rooted in Black Forest's floor
whence grew the line of Kent. Its progenitor,
for honor (or was it mere greed?), hung cages
over the Elbe, burnt Varras' legions
alive and so kept the Wald from Rome.
That warrior's successors then roamed
afar, sailed forth from frozen fjords
to conquer Britannia's lush counties
and brand the serfs, each for his Lord.
Among the bolder peasants, one,
after years of staid settlement,
sought glory in the New World.
Across the vast Atlantic he went
to plant in an unsullied continent
a fertile crop like those his grandson
Eben reaped before the firmament closed.
Now fallowness has claimed the last
of that line. Eben rests --
a twig from the tree pruned --
but is the boy he adopted doomed
to heed the wanderlust which cursed
(or blessed?) his human lineage?
As the loving visages
Clark long has worshipped dim,
will Smallville lose its grip on him?
Sarah frees herself from the crook
of her son's arm, embraces Sally Ross
and confers with John. Lana crosses
to Clark to comfort him.
Clark has no remorse for the distraction.
He does miss the adults' conversation,
but, someday he'll learn in one nod to hear
distant sounds and noises near. Meanwhile,
Lana's company compensates amply
and Ross seems ready to satisfy
his curiosity anyway.
Pinching the lapels of his Sunday best
with pensive thumbs, Eben's old nemesis
steps up to address the former's son.
-- Your Pa 'n' me... We was friends once
back in '17... death merchant
coup... Bryan quit the cabinet
(you must'a read 'bout it
in school)....We protested the war,
and other things, injustices done
the farming man, whose borne
this country along from Day One,
Clark. We deserved more
than a draft for our sons
and to hear they died
defending foreigners. Eben felt
mighty strong on that score -- lost Sam,
his brother, in that Spanish war --
but he didn't go in much for
politics, less so after you were born,
after the movement got beat, the Green Corn.
He ever tell you 'bout this?
(Clark nods "no," incredulous.)
No surprise. Eben was... no talker.
He and I... we fell out 'bout that time,
both awful bitter 'bout it, too.
I kept fight'n', had new takers,
new names for the new forms,
but Eben hadn't the patience,
not for organizing, for... resistance.
Now, I guess...
I can't blame him; he....
"For shame, John!" Sally prates,
having sidled to their midst and replaced
Miss Lang (whose sudden absence
Clark now thinks to notice). Mrs. Ross:
"Such talk... at this time, in this space...
You leave the boy alone
'til after his grieving's done.
Come along!" Off she waddles,
her husband following fast,
projecting a "Keep in touch!"
back at Clark out a neck
left near whiplashed by the effort.
Ralph joins Clark under the arch of the gate
to the graveyard and they stand there, framed on
a rolling backdrop: The tinderbox plain.
The Salkind film contains a like tableau.
(That work is legitimate, has its place
in the "Superman" canon, despite
the sanitized Hollywood flash. Show it
to your kids. I will borrow from it
for my verses.)
Dibny opens the dialogue:
-- Sorry our paths had to cross
at a time like this, Clark;
and that I've had no chance
to tender my sympathies --
it seemed inappropriate,
chatting while your Ma was upset.
Glad to see she's settled a bit.
What are her long term prospects?
-- She's a strong woman.
-- And you?
-- For now? Keep at the land,
maybe hire a hand
who'll work for room and board.
You a farming man, Ralph?
-- Never harvested a bushel,
though I've dug ditches with the best
and shucked corn to finance my quest.
-- For that magic potion?
-- The gingold, yes; it brought me west.
I'll gain a portion soon, then stretch
my way to fame and fortune.
The Nebraska Fair is next.
-- Guess I won't ask 'bout that job, then.
-- I'm not ready
to exchange quests, Clark,
and this soil'd be a struggle.
-- Yes... (and he drifts off).
-- If I can change the subject...
-- Be my guest.
-- Your gal can help with the rest
of whatever work needs doing,
this season and next...
and the next... and the next.
Get my drift?
-- Ralph, Lana's not even my 'gal;'
she's not about to marry me.
-- What I've seen today, I'd say she wants to.
-- Not likely. I'm not that lucky.
-- Clark, I saw you catch a horse-drawn cart
with one hand; then you beat two men
with rooms ahead of yours in hall
down to your dad unseen.
(Clark nods, vexed that he failed
to cover his trail, to draw the thin veneer.)
-- Well, I'll not speculate. I'll just keep
the crushed ladle for a souvenir,
and that say most ladies I know would heap
attentions on a man so quick and strong.
-- I don't know.
-- You need practice. Won't take long
just to talk to her. She's with the Prof.,
your Ma and... who's that?
-- Pete Ross.
-- He and the Prof. have hit it off;
similar senses of humor.
-- Both pretty sullen now,
standing there by the plot.
-- So are the women. And she won't
wait forever, Clark. Be careful,
or this Pete'll become a rival
soon, diluting her affections.
-- Thanks for the instruction, Ralph.
I always wanted a big brother.
-- No bother. Every man's got to test
his mettle fighting for some gal's heart.
-- Guess you can't be convinced
to settle in these parts?
-- I'll not be settling anywhere,
my friend, not for a long, long while.
-- I'm glad we met, Mr. Dibny.
The two young men shake hands and wait
for the others to reach the gate.
Ma would tremble, but stays composed,
wants to resemble a stable
matron. "The Greens have made table,"
she tells the Prof., "so I could close
my kitchen. I'd hate to be late;
such nice people. What's the time, Clark?"
He tries to read the watch through its case
in his pocket, can't, (just a dark spot),
so he pulls it out, looks at its face
and says, distraught, "Nearly noon, Ma,"
his thoughts of the moment closer to:
"What's the metal been frosted
o'er here with gold?" Sarah: "We've almost
an hour then. Good. Your 'Carriage,'
Professor," she insists, offering her arm.
She needs a shoulder to lean on
today and so accepts a stranger's charms,
and the problem of the gold plating
has Clark so absorbed that the Prof.ís grating
gets ignored. Not by the rest of the bunch.
Pete forces warmth, says he'll see them at lunch,
then meets Ralph. They walk down the hill
to Smallville, talking of the Prof.'s intentions
and of their worries. They reach the bottom
in a flurry of decision.
They'll spread no false alarms
regarding hypothetical harms, nor...
"What's that noise?" Ralph must ask,
"Like, I've heard tell,
the gathering of a locust swarm?"
"The other boys are gone," Lana says
on the hill. She and Clark hug into one.
They would here kiss, but, suddenly,
it is noon and something blots out the sun.