Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Rob Sandman May 2016
Playin' games.
=============
Jay Text Sandman aka Skitz Text

Set the timer click click now the clock is tick tockin'.
I came to play the game. Like a KNIK KNAK knockin'.
Your rhyme flow is slow you know like PLAYDOUGH.
I gobble up fine rhymes like a HUNGRY HIPPO.
Like SUBBUTEO I kick it.
Shruggin' off your challenge like BUCKAROO kickin'..
..up ****. I sunk your BATTLESHIP.
You played out your game of CHARADES. That's it.
I dig deep in me rhyme dictionary.
You scrawl on the the wall like palsy PICTIONARY.
Not strugglin'. I'm jugglin' the rhymes in me head.
Slam dunk. KERPLUNK. Nuff said.
No, never. No way. Who am I kiddin'?
You know I got the rhymes. And I got the rhythm.
I confess. Like a game of CHESS.
Checkmate. No debate. Not a pretty pawn missin'. *  

It’s the end of the games like RIP,
I Multikill MC’s like COD,
Keep your mind on your MINECRAFT can’t catch me,
Cause Skitz is EC's Artillery,
droppin bombs watch the FALLOUT or you’re Dogmeat
FAR CRY from the old days of CRT
So your attempt is DOOMed best clear the room,
SWAT’s get Swatted Mic shotgun BOOM!,
Blast backdraft will destroy your CIV,
No cheat codes PAC em up MAN time to give,
RESPEC- to the PORTAL gun hangin’ on me hip,
You’ve got HALF a LIFE left faster than NO CLIP
But I said no cheatin’ Hackers get Hacked up,
No Multiplayer,cause you’ve no backup,
I’m glorying in the games we play,
Checkmate VS XBOX  pass to Jay.


Chorus
Not mentionin' names. We're playin' games.
Energetic and poetic and it's Jay to blame.
Set the mic aflame. We burn it up now.
Set the timer click, click.  

When I flex it's hectic. Like SCALEXTRIC.
Switch lanes to PERFECTION.
I've a MONOPOLY in this game.
Don't pass go. Go straight to jail.
You fall like DOMINOES. I leap like a salmon.
Tisk tisk. Big RISK. Now I have BACKGAMMON.
Stamina. A steady hand OPERATION.
Ace up me sleeve and I'm just playin' PATIENCE.
Got me POKERface on.
Read 'em and weep as the game plays on.
I got a dead mans hand but I animate the mic.
BULLDOGS charge. You know I'll reach the other side.
Back to me den.
Repeat after me like SIMON SAYS.
RED ROVER, RED ROVER. I call Jay over.
You think it's over ?
No my friend. *  

Not mentionin' names. We're playin' games.
Energetic and poetic Schizophrenic to blame.
Set the mic aflame. We burn it up now.
Set the timer click, click.  

This Steam Machine is heatin' up a treat
So don’t be TEKKEN the ****,just feel the beat,
This KOMBAT’s MORTAL to enemies,
But it’s a full HEALTH PACK to Fans of E.C.,
So OverClock your CPU,
get your Soundcard Jumpin like chimps in SIM ZOO,
drop DICE on ICE from here to Timbuktoo,
STREET FIGHTER’s and Writers BIOSHOCKin' you


Not mentionin' names. We're playin' games.
Energetic and poetic Schizophrenic to blame.
Set the mic aflame. We burn it up now.
Set the timer click, click.  

I SPY with my little eye.
Somethin' beginnin' with J. I let fly.
As your JENGA tower wobbles.
I smile. You drop tiles. Dropped your poxy box of SCRABBLE.
Look out. That could spell disaster.
Triple word score as the rhymes rip past ya. Blast ya.
Quick out the trap like The Flash playin' SNAP.
Check the lyrical master. *
As the Dungeon Dragon spreads his wings-lets fly
playin' the game the pied piper pies,
catch you rats in me MOUSETRAP its a snap,
"cause I wrote the rhymes that broke the bulls back"
I'm the KING OF THE HILL I got ya QUICKSCOPIN'
in THE SHADOWS OF MORDOR prayin' and hopin'
for a hero like MARIO to bust you loose,
Jay's SNAKE'n' up the LADDER time to twist the noose


Not mentionin' names. We're playin' games.
Energetic and poetic E.C. to blame.
Set the mic aflame. We burn it up now.
Set the timer click, click.  

What ya think ?              
Me rhymes kink, bend and fold like TWISTER.
A wicked rhythm like DOUBLE DUTCH. Skip, skip.
Like EVEL KNIEVEL. Flywheel spinnin'.
Rev it up. Dump the clutch.        
See me grinnin'. Knockin' down the pin and..
SPIROGRAPH lines in me rhyme. I'm spinnin..
..out of control. You can't cope with me GYROSCOPE.
I bring you back to the beginnin'.*

Not mentionin' names. We're playin' games.
Energetic and poetic E.C. to blame.
Set the mic aflame. We burn it up now.
Set the timer click, click.
Jay came up with this idea and tried to mention as many games we played as kids as he could fit in,when  he invited me onto the track I went more down the PC/Console game route,
let us know how many we missed!.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

There is a glacier.
Its blue tongue’s tip just tastes a frozen gorge.
There is a gorge, its walls shattered by cold; a once-green thing that, in dying, birthed a thousand aching fissures. It works its jagged way downhill, round ragged rifts and drifts until it comes upon a little frosted wood.
There is a wood, an island locked in ice.
Within this wood the gorge descends. It wanders and it wends; it brakes and all but ends outside a clearing wet with sun. And there, forking, its bent and broken arms embrace a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a glade.
And in this glade the black bears sleep, though salmon leap fat between falls. Here the field mouse draws no shadow, the eagle seeks no prey; they spend their while caressed by rays, and halcyon days are they. Here rabbit and fawn may linger, no longer need they flee. For in this timeless, taintless space, the Wild has ceased to be. (Outside the glade are shadow and prey, are ice and naked death. There blood may run freely. There the eagle, that thief, is a righteous savage, a noble fiend. But once in the glade he is dove, and has no taste for blood, running freely or otherwise).
And in this glade there nests a pool:  a dazzling, blue-and-silver jewel; profoundly deep, pristinely clear. All who sip find solace here, for this is the Eye of Being. They lap in peace, assuming blear, not knowing it is seeing. And ever thus this pool shall peer:  a silent seer, reflecting on—all that Is, and all Beyond.
(Outside the glade there lies a world where rivers ever run, where ghastly calves in random file revile a bitter sun. East, the day is born in mist. West she dies:  her rest, the deep. And North…North the Earth lies mute. Wind gnaws her hide, wind wracks her dreams. Wind screams like a flute in her white, white sleep).
But in the glade are tall, stately grasses, sunning raptly, spinning lore. Roots render the rhythms, blades bend without breeze, as signals ascend from the glade’s tender floor. (In this wise the glade weaves its word, airs its views. All the glade’s flora are bearers of news). They do not wither with fall, for in the glade there is no fall. They do not bind or wilt or brown—they gesture, spreading the mood, the mind; conveying, indeed, the very soul of the glade. As ever they have, as they shall evermore.
Bees do not hum here; they sing. They fatten the dream. Mellow and round are the timbres they sound, sweet is the music they bring. Birds do not sing here—they play. They carry the theme. Dulcet and warm are the strains they perform. Gifted musicians are they. (All in the glade are virtuosi. They were born to create. Melody, harmony, meter…are innate). Now the performance is lively and bright, now full, now almost still. For, though all in the glade may lean to the light, they must bend to the maestro’s feel.
And yet…there was a day, long ago in a dream, when this ongoing opus was torn. And on that day (so the lullaby goes) the wind brought a scream, and Dissonance was born.
There was a noise.
Moose tensed, their coffee eyes narrowed, their patient brows creased. Bees mauled the tempo, birds lost their place. The grass stood *****, all blades pointing east. There was a crash, and a shriek, and a naked, bleeding beast burst stinking through the fern, fell stumbling on its face.
Moose scattered:  unheard of. Sheep brawled, geese burst out of rhyme. The symphony, forever endeavored to soar sublime, fluttered, plunged, and, for all of a measure, ceased.
The pool was appalled…what manner brute—what kind of monster was this? Furless flank to forelimb, hide obscured by blood. As for its face…it had no face; only a look:  of shock frozen in time, of horror in amber. A deep welling rift ran temple to chin, halving the mask, caving it in. Such a grievous wound…the pool watched it stagger, on two legs and four, thrashing about till it came to a rise. There it labored for air, wiped the blood from its eyes, lashed at illusion, looked wildly round. Beholding the pool, the beast tumbled down.
And there this wretch plunged his thirst, drank his fill, fell back on his haunches.
The pool became still.
The two traded stares.
The glass read his features:  that durable eye pondered the wreckage and probed the debris. Revolted, the pool sought the succor of sky. But that thing remained—that face…in all creation…surely there could be…no other creature so ugly as he.
And he gazed in the glass.
Beneath the surface were…images…swimming in currents of shadow and light. He saw half-shapes and fragments…hideous men, exotic beasts…saw blue worlds of water, saw white worlds of ice…it was all so vague and unreal—yet somehow strangely familiar. Deeper he peered, but, as his mangled face neared, the sun smote the pool and the shapes disappeared. The brute pawed the ground and, dreaming he’d drowned, shook his head sharply and slowly looked round:
There were starlings at arm’s-length, transfixed with suspense, their tail feathers trembling, their dark eyes intense. Fantails and timber wolves, stepping in sync, paused for a sniff, stooped for a drink. Bees, pirouetting, threw light in his eyes. Seizing the moment, the pool pressed its hold.
And the glade revolved.
The freak watched it spin—saw the ferns’ greedy fingers reach round and close in, saw the tall grass rise high in an emerald sheen, swaying to rhythms from somewhere obscene. This place was madness; he struggled to stand, but, weak as he was, keeled over cold.
And the glade heaved a sigh, and the tall grass reclined, in curious patterns once rendered in whim. Far off in thunder the hard world replied, as iced pines exploded and screamed on the breeze. Down bore the sun, a chill just behind. The pool, grown blood-red, fended frost from its rim. Details dissolved in the oncoming tide. The pool dimmed to black. Night seeped through the trees.
Now flora found slumber while, pulsing below, the pool was infused with a soft ruby glow.
Soon birds bearing beech leaves, and needles of pine, laid down a spread and returned to the limb. But breath from the North blew their blanket aside. The wind grew in earnest, the air seemed to freeze.
And the wolf and the she-bear, of contrary mind, abhorring their task approached, looking grim. They sniffed him for measure, then, loathing his hide, growled their displeasure and dropped to their knees.
All night these glum attendants flanked his naked quaking form. The rising moon drew dreams in gray.
In time the man grew warm.

Morning swept through the glade in one broad stroke of the master’s brush, dappling the foliage with amber and rose. The pool was roused by the sweet pass of light. He opened his eye and the glade came alive:  into the whirlpool of life a thousand colors swam, chasing the scattering eddies of night. The magic of morning began.
Bluebird and goldfinch descended in rings, primaries clashing with robin and jay. Dollops of sun, repelled by their wings, spattered anew on the palette of day. Banking as one, the hues struck away.
There was a crowd.
And in this crowd that oddity sat, its chin on its chest, its rear pointing west. Its forepaws lay leaning, upturned and at rest. ***** and blood messed its muzzle and breast. Passed overnight. Or perhaps only dozed…tendril by tendril, claw by claw, the crowd decompressed:  the ring slowly closed.
And the stranger cried out and shifted his seat. His eyes sought his feet—rounding the arches, and topping the toes, the tall grass was questing. The little brute froze.
And the fauna took pause, and the flora went slack. Leaves followed talons, stems followed claws. Hooves tromped on paws as the crowd drifted back.
Not a breath taken. Not a move made. Stillness, like fog, enveloped the glade.
Now the grass tugged his feet, now the sea of jade splayed—left hand and right, the slender shafts reared. Gaining momentum, blade followed blade. The green field was torn till a deep swath appeared. The swath hurtled west, reflecting the sun. A hundred yards distant it died. Once more the grass stood, its tips spreading wide. The swath, born again, repeated its run.
Plain was the message, and clearly conveyed. The newcomer gawked. Confusion ensued.
The tall blades were swayed by the pulse of the glade.
But the swath was not renewed.
Something tiny bounced by. He ventured a peek, barely rolling an eye.
A chocolate sparrow, with pinfeathers black, popped past an ankle and paused to look back. The bird cocked its head, rocked in place, hopped ahead. It fluttered. It freaked. It glared and stopped dead. Vexed to its limit, it burst into flight.
The sitting thing watched till it passed out of sight.
Now a breeze bent his back, picked him half off his stern. The wind, done its best, grew flustered at last. It trailed to the west, thrilling lilies it passed. It wound round the willows and didn’t return.
So the fauna repaired to the live oak’s shade.
A strange kind of stupor fell over the glade.
From deep in the wood came a shape through the trees—a pronghorn, perhaps, or an elk swift and sure. But up limped a moose, a flyport with fur, low in the belly and wide at the knees. Wizened he was, scarcely able to see. Neither vision, nor vigor, nor velvet had he. He hobbled abreast, then groveled or died, his nose facing west, his tail flung aside.
The brute merely glazed.
But the glade was unfazed.
Those long shafts reshuffled. A tense moment passed.
The ominous shadows of badgers were cast. Three left their holes, as if to attack. They pedaled like moles and the stranger jumped back. He stumbled, fell flailing, and, kicking his guide, threw out his arms and tumbled astride. First he stepped on his tail, then he stepped on his pride. The moose bellowed twice and shook side to side while the little pest clung to his high, homely hide.
And the old moose unbent to his knees by degrees. He reeled like a drunk down the path of the breeze. Together they lurched through a break in the trees. And all morning long, and on through the day, both beggar and bearer would buckle and sway. The moose lost his temper, but never his way.
And the wind blew the sun to its deep ruby rest; the scrub, in obeisance, inclined to the west. Their slow taffy shadow in slinking would seem to slip round the rocks like a snake in a dream.
And the sun became a beacon, and the underbrush a stream. The wide Earth took their weight in stride, and the wind named him Hero.

                                               WORLD

When the sun was low the old moose began to stumble, at last limping to a halt beside a swift river lined with stunted pines. He’d half-expected a somewhat graceful dismount, but Hero, dug in like a tick, wasn’t about to let go. The moose knelt until his joints objected, shimmied, bucked, and with a sudden whirl sent the little bother flying.
Hero scraped himself out of the dirt and looked up forlornly. The ancient moose, his good eye gone bad, glared a long minute before hobbling away, his bony **** rocking with dignity, his scraggly tail fighting off imaginary flies.
Hero managed a few steps and dropped, staring in disbelief as the moose disappeared between half-frozen pines. He remained on his knees for the longest time, his jaw hanging, waiting for the moose—waiting for anything to show. At last a ruckus to his left snapped him out of it. His head ratcheted around.
Fifteen feet off the bank, three screaming gulls were dancing on an immense stone outcropping, fighting over a rapids-tossed sockeye. Hero was instantly famished. He wobbled to his feet and stumbled twice wading out, only regaining his balance by leaning against the current while rapidly wheeling his arms. The shrieking gulls reluctantly backed off as he stepped in slow-motion through the rushing water. Hero lunged at the slapping fish, cracked an ankle on the rock, and hopped around howling with both hands holding his shin. One foot was as good as none in the surging water. He went right under. Before he knew it he was being swept downriver.
This was glacial meltwater, so cold he quickly lost all sensation. Hero swallowed a mouthful and surfaced fighting for life; too disoriented to combat the current, too numb to realize his waving arm was striking something solid. That solid something turned out to be a swirling clump of rotted birches tangled up in scrub. He embraced one of these trunks as the mass slammed against isolated rocks, kicked his feet wildly, and somehow hauled himself aboard. The raft ricocheted rock to rock until repeated impacts sent it spinning. Giddy from the whirling and soaking, he clung freezing to the trees, retching continuously while the river roared in his ears. Through spray and tears he made out only cartwheeling fragments of the world.
But then the river was widening, its fury dissipating. The raft was approaching the sea. Hero gasped as the seemingly boundless Pacific swallowed the broad red belly of the sun. And as he spun he was treated to a panoramic, breathtaking spectacle:  the great indigo ocean with its slow traffic of driftwood and ice—voiced-over by the dismal calls of foraging gulls, and broken rhythmically by intermittent glimpses of the river’s rocky banks growing farther and farther apart. Whirling as it went, the dying man’s soul was taken by the sea.

At the 59th Parallel in winter, the Pacific coast plays host to numberless floes and minor bergs orphaned from Alaskan coastal glaciers. Hero cruised into a watery gridlock on a boat of ice-glazed birches, one bit of flotsam among the rest.
The cold wouldn’t let him move, wouldn’t let him breathe, wouldn’t let him think. He lay supine, feet crossed and hands clasped, terrified that to budge was to roll. An ice patina grew over the tangled trees like a white fungus—this growth soon webbed his fingers and toes, speckled his chest and thighs, glazed his hair and face, danced and disintegrated with his breath’s tapering plumes.
Floes and frozen-over debris tended to group with passing collisions; Hero’s married birches bit by bit accrued a mostly-submerged tangle of trunks and branches, all becoming fast in a creeping ice cement. Night came on just as resolutely, until land was only a flat black memory. The raft moved silently over the deep, still accepting the occasional gentle impact. And the floes became thicker and wider in a freezing doldrums; soon the proximate sea was all a broken field of packed ice, bobbing infinitesimally with the planet’s pulse.
Long ghostly strands of fog came striding over the torn ice field. They leaned this way and that, their mourners’ skirts tearing and patching and leaning anew. The ghosts were there to seal it:  their locked fingers and gray diaphanous wings were quickly becoming a wholly opaque descending shroud, its boundaries lost in the soughing wind.
Collisions came less and less. Darkness and silence, breaching some previously impenetrable barrier, began to take up residence in Hero’s chilling marrow. From his very center broke a weak little cry of refusal, of denial, as mind mustered frame in one desperate bid for freedom. His skin, frozen to the raft, peeled right off, and at that his inner brave succumbed. Hero’s smashed head arched back. His face contorted frightfully while the little lamp fluttered and paled within.
A raucous chorus slowly worked its way through the mist. It emerged a few hundred yards off—a tiny, terrified barking, growing in clarity as it grew in volume and urgency. It was a sound beacon. Hero strained eagerly, and when for one excruciating minute the beacon was cut off by a large passing body, was certain death had claimed him. Then it was back, and his heartbeat was quickening. He caught a heaving sound…something was moving his way down a wide tributary between floes. Hero could hear a gasping and snorting, accompanied by a hard slapping and splashing. The sounds vanished. In a moment the raft was rocked from below.
A sputtering muzzle blew salt in his eyes. A cold slimy flipper flapped across his chest and slapped about his face. The fur seal barked directly in his ear. Whiskers raked his dead cheek. The seal barked again.
Back below the surface it slipped. Hero listened anxiously as the splashing sound retreated whence it came.
The seal swam off perhaps a hundred feet and began barking hysterically.
From much farther off came a profusion of answering barks.
The seal swam back to Hero’s raft, circling and calling, circling and calling, while the responders approached en masse.
Now a sallow beam could be seen cutting through the fog. Several more showed vaguely along a plane yawing with some huge, barely discernible object.
A herd of northern fur seals burst into sight, barking madly, beating through the ice. They converged on Hero’s raft, really bellowing now.
Those odd yellow beams came in pursuit, and soon were close enough to eerily illuminate a gigantic wooden vessel parting the ice. The seals barked ferociously. Whenever the vessel leaned away, those nearest Hero’s raft would absolutely howl.
The fog deepened, condensed, crystallized, and then the collective light of a dozen lanterns was playing over a low, listing nightmare. Hero could hear the shouts of many aggressive men, but the waterborne seals, rather than scatter, boarded the ice and redoubled their din, fighting their way onto his quickly mobbed raft.
The sealers hurled serrated spears even as they clambered down rope ladders. When these men reached the ice the seals snapped and gnashed madly, refusing to be dislodged. The sealers lost all composure with the thrill of the hunt:  wielding clubs, spears, and hatchets—sometimes using iron bludgeons or any old utensil handed down—they crushed skulls, dragged carcasses, hooked animals still spurting and bleating. Clinging though he was, Hero was flabbergasted by the way the slipping and scampering men went about their butchery, hacking and smashing more with passion than with precision. But not a single seal attempted to flee—throughout the carnage they barked all the louder, egging on their slayers, carcass by carcass drawing the impassioned sealers to Hero’s ice-locked raft.
It was all so hazy and macabre. Hero’s eyes rolled back, and the next thing he knew he was sitting hunched on the vessel’s sopping deck. Two men were rubbing his limbs while another poured warm water down his back. He looked around in shock. The very notion of a boat containing more than one or two individuals—a sort of floating tribe—was way beyond his ken; so to see it, to have it come looming out of nothingness, was an experience almost supernatural.
He remembered some of those fur-covered men force-feeding him mouthfuls of halibut and seal fat, and he recalled a small group standing around him, shouting words that made no sense at all. After that he had a very vivid memory of their angry little chief repeatedly punching him while hollering one angry little word over and over and over. Hero couldn’t make out his inquisitor’s face, for the large feather-lined hood quite engulfed the man’s head, yet he could see those quick eyes flash as they caught the oil lamps’ light. Finally this man stopped boxing Hero’s ear. He stared hard. In these remaining decades of the tenth century it was fully within his power to administer as he saw fit—he could have ordered Hero’s immediate execution and not a man of his crew would have objected. He hesitated only because there wasn’t a hint of resistance in his prisoner’s pinched and frightened eyes. He leaned forward, studying the wound that all but split Hero’s face in two before grunting, raising his right arm, and yanking down its seal hide sleeve. Attached to the stump of his forearm was a primitive prosthesis consisting of a thick oak cap strapped to the arm with lengths of gut, and, hammered squarely into the center of that cap, a broad, cruelly hooked blade chiseled from a narwhal’s tusk. He held this obscenity in front of Hero’s eyes, traced the face’s deep diagonal rift, and once more demanded his captive’s identity. Hero then vaguely remembered being dragged along a tilting deck and thrown into the ship’s tiny hold. He retained a strong mental image of landing in a place of musty odors and dank projections.
There came a soft scuffling in the darkness, and presently a blind and exceedingly old woman felt her way to his side, mumbling as she approached. Her speech was comprised not of words; it was rather a running gibberish of cooing vowels and clucking consonants. The old woman was as mad as her circumstances; sick with sea and solitude, bedeviled by age and confinement. She sat cross-legged, patting her withered palms up his arm until she came to his face. Her strange mumbling soliloquy rose and fell as her bony fingers daintily explored the newly opened wound. Hero let his head fall back in her lap. A pair of hands like emaciated tarantulas scurried through the filth and tiny bodies until they came upon an old otter’s pelt bag that held her secrets. The woman loosened the bag’s cord and extracted an assortment of herbs, sniffing each in succession. She then scooped a handful of blubber from a bowl made of a previous occupant’s skull, kneaded the selected herbs into the blubber, and commenced gently massaging the wound, clucking and cooing while the black rats watched and waited.
For nine interminable days Hero remained in that cold, stinking compartment, rocking back and forth between life and death. The old woman never gave up on him. She clung to him during his seizures, rubbed his limbs vigorously when his blood pressure fell. She gathered various accumulated skins and, using woven strands of her own long hair, sewed him a multilayered, body-length wraparound with arm sleeves and very deep pockets, working by touch with a needle formed of a cod’s rib. By this same method she was able to fashion a pair of heavily lined snug-fitting moccasins. The old woman made him eat; she masticated the cod and halibut their keepers pitched into the hold, then shoved the results down his throat with a long gnarly forefinger. She called into his screaming nightmares, talking him out of sleep and back into their foul little reality. Together they lowed in the dark, while the keel groaned along and the waves beat time.
At the end of those dark nine days his strength was restored, but not his mind. Once again he was taken on deck.
The vessel had reached a chain of remote wind-swept islands, rocky and treeless, naked except for patchy carpets of hardy grass. These islands stretched far to the west, shrouded in mist. The ship was making for the smallest; just a chip on the sea. When they reached depth for anchorage Hero was hustled into a rowboat and lowered over the side. He looked up, saw two men climbing down by rope. These men positioned themselves at the oars and slowly rowed toward the islet. Seated between them, Hero felt like a man being led to his execution. He snuck a peek. The rowers’ heads were lowered, their features completely obscured by the heavy feathered hoods; they had all the somberness of pallbearers. Not a word passed between them as they rigidly worked their oars:  the only sound was the dip-and-purl of wood in water. Hero looked away. Against his will, he found his eyes drawn to that rocky islet waiting in the fog.
Not a bird, not a sea lion, not a shrub. It was lonesome beyond imagination.
Upon landfall one of the men used a spear’s point to **** Hero ashore. While his companion steadied the boat, he removed a skin sack full of half-frozen halibut, followed by a few armloads of precious tinder. These articles he tossed at Hero’s feet. He resumed his place at the oars and, without looking back, used the blunt end of his spear to shove off.
Hero watched the boat moving away, watched the men climbing their ropes, watched the boat being hauled aboard. As the mysterious vessel receded he saw a number of those silent men standing at the stern, stolidly returning his stare. Their hooded forms grew smaller and smaller, finally becoming indistinct. The vessel was swallowed up in fog.
Hero looked around, at a desolate world of rock and drifting ice. In the sunless pools at his feet a few purplish, flaccid sea anemones were waving in a sickly phosphorescence; along the rocks ran a tattered quilt of wild grass and lichen. It was the end of the world. He began to pace in his anxiety, only to crumple bit by bit inside his furs. At last he just sat with his face in his arms and wept. When he could weep no more he raised his head and opened his red, swollen eyes.
There were gulls all around him, staring like statuary in a madman’s garden. Standing in their midst were auks and puffins and murres, absolutely spellbound, unable to lean away. The silence was broken only by a wild, fitfully pursing wind—a wind that seemed, eerily, on the verge of producing syllables. And on that wind a flock of terns was rising slowly, their beady eyes fixed on the lone sitting man. The terns watched as he trembled, and banked as he swooned.
Then, beating as one, they threw back their wings and blew into the sun.

There was a blaze.
Behind that blaze a pair of black, bug-like eyes met his and immediately withdrew. A man wrapped in caribou hides stood abruptly, drawing angry swarms of sparks.
The Aleut peered queerly into the icy Pacific, his craggy profile merging seamlessly with a jumble of rocks showing just beyond his shoulder. The man was very tall, closer to seven feet than to six, and thin almost to emaciation.
He was also a mute. Soon enough he would display a talent for communication through gutturals, but now his body language spoke louder than words. It told the shivering stranger that he was not only disliked—he was feared.
The islander removed the hides he’d piled on the sleeping man. He produced a bone awl and strategically pierced a caribou hide, draped the hide over the old woman’s handiwork, and ran a cord of tightly woven tendons crosswise through his made holes, knotting it at the bottom to create a kind of cloak. He then killed the fire, heaped wood, fish, and remaining hides into Hero’s arms, and led him to a tiny cove where his long skin canoe lay in the grass. This was not the one-man kayak used by his people for centuries, but an actual canoe modeled on the graceful vessels he’d observed under the control of northern coastal tribesmen. After dragging it into the water he perched Hero in the fore, placed the cargo in the middle, and stepped into the rear like a gaunt furry spider. The Aleut dug out a paddle and began pulling with smooth strokes of surprising muscularity, his black eyes trained on his quiet companion’s back.
So began their long island-hopping journey. They stepped the chain one stone at a time, living off the sea. But much as the islander disliked Hero’s vapid company, it was not in his nature to proceed expeditiously; his people, remote as they were, had learned to count not in days but in generations. Given this, the Aleut took his time. He showed Hero how to build shelters of skin and gut; during bad weather the two would sit on an island in utter silence while rain hammered on their stretched seal-intestine window. And one very clear night he pointed out constellations while attempting to demonstrate, using broad gestures, just how the brighter heavenly bodies were in perfect alignment with the Aleutians. Hero followed his guide’s gestures as a pet follows its master’s movements and, like a pet, soon became bored. The Aleut did not grow flustered. He grew ever more wary:  behind that granite, weather-beaten exterior squirmed a very primitive imagination. Superstitious as he was, the Aleut was almost certain Hero could read his mind. So one time, and one time only, he threw a searing look at the back of Hero’s bowed and listing head. After a long minute of vigorous thought-projection he shifted his gaze aside. The brute appeared to feel this shift, and gently turned his head. And both saw the ocean break rhythm, and watched as otters and sea lions surfaced, noted their progress, and slipped without tremor beneath the waves.
In spring the fogs lifted. The grimness gave way to serenity, a generous sun buttered the dappled sea. On the islands grass grew lushly. Wildflowers leapt on the color-starved eye.
And one day the islander’s nape itched. He turned to see a flock of arctic terns casually tracking them under a gorgeous, white-plumed sky. As the day progressed the terns came drifting high overhead, slowly but surely taking the lead.
The Aleut squinted against the sun. He’d never known these birds to pursue a westerly migratory pattern—the terns were distributing themselves into a rough wedge shape, much like geese on the wing.
For a while he let the flock be his guide. Then, to test his stars, he cunningly steered his canoe north. At once the wedge disintegrated. Not until he’d lowered his eyes and pulled purposefully to the west did the disrupted pattern reassert itself. He peered up timidly. The wedge was now in the shape of a perfect arrowhead.
Just so were the fates of mariners and aviators inextricably entwined. At night, once the Aleut had landed his canoe on the nearest pearl, the terns would light in a quiet circle and remain until sunrise. As the Aleut and Hero took to sea, the flock would quickly form that same authoritative pattern.
In time the Aleut paddled his companion clear to the westernmost islands of the Aleutian chain. His people had dwelt, even here, a thousand years and more, but no contemporary islander knew for certain what lay beyond. Legend told of an enormous land mass forever gripped by cold, where a cruel people waylaid innocent seafarers for barbaric sacrificial rites.
So here the islander paused. But even as he vacillated he noticed the terns were veering south.
If the Aleut had been able to curse aloud he would have been vociferous. He was being compelled to follow an even less desirable course—that of the unknown open ocean. Now he looked upon his passenger’s hunched back not with fear but with loathing. He took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, and defiantly continued west. The wedge broke up immediately. The terns dive-bombed the canoe, whirled around the windmilling Aleut, tore skyward and hovered determinedly. Something huge broke surface behind them, but the Aleut was way too frayed to turn. He dropped his head, a beaten man, and began paddling south. Little by little the birds returned to formation.
The tiny canoe had no business going up against the mighty Pacific. It would soon have been swallowed and smashed, had not the terns veered in close formation whenever the distant sea appeared too rough. Once he’d lost his bearings the Aleut religiously followed their serpentine course.
The days began to warm.
Now the sea’s bounty all but leapt in the canoe.
It seemed the Aleut was forever catching the finest currents, practically sliding down a corridor entirely free of peril. In this manner he was able to safely navigate waters no such craft had mastered before.
They were proceeding south by southwest, awed children of a plenteous, generous sea. The going became easier by the day, the ocean heavier with cod.
Nights the Aleut drifted comfortably, but a lifetime of wariness made him wake off and on. He’d slowly rise to find Hero sitting quietly under the stars, and soon he’d see, pallid in moonlight, a large body neatly pleating the ocean’s surface. The shape would precede them a while, only to vanish without a ripple.
All this strangeness kept the Aleut’s heart in a whirl, though he took pains to maintain his poise.
To allay his fear he kept a flat black stone planted squarely between them. It was his oldest treasure; an oddity he’d taken off the body of a mauled Tlingit woman when he was a child. Who she was, and how she’d come by the stone, were mysteries far beyond him, for no such piece had ever been known to Aleut or Inuk.
The stone was smooth and had been worked perfectly round. Bright yellow specks were scattered about its dull black face.
Long ago someone had etched a quaint and clumsy rune on that flat black surface—it was the crude, universal symbol for sun:  a broad circle surrounded by several rays. When the stone was rubbed against a pelt it possessed the curious property of growing quite warm and bright in the rune’s grooves, while the surface remained cool and dull.
This stone, both friend and overlord, had always “spoken to him”. It caused him to become restless when it was time to move on, and allowed him to relax when a destination had been reached. In this way he’d come to the familiar islet and discovered the unconscious little man. Just so:  the stone, he was sure, was responsible for making him “feel bad” as he watched the stranger shiver, and “feel better” once he’d built him a life-saving fire from the small pile of tinder he’d found nearby.
By now, however, the Aleut was wholly disenchanted with his stone, and deeply regretted having done its mysterious bidding. Never before had he been so long from sight of land, and never before had he felt so very, very small. The unimagined immensity of the Pacific was really starting to get to him when, after all their while at sea, a gray, seductive haze broke the horizon. They had reached another chain of islands, an Asian chain, the dark and smoky Kurils. Here a cold current kept the climate cool and foggy, and the chill, along with the prevalence of otter and seal, made him feel almost at home.
But this place gave him the creeps; he was a stranger, a trespasser somewhere sacred. There was a looming quality to the island mountains that made him extraordinarily aware of his transience, his pettiness, his puniness. He grew more and more cautious, sure their progress was being monitored—he could have sworn he saw wraiths in the trees, and wolves padding warily in the brush. The big islands looked on breathlessly. All along the rocky cliffs, thousands of auks and puffins followed the canoe in dead silence, their heads turning simultaneously, their countless tiny eyes peering redly through the fog. As the weeks passed, the Aleut’s anxiety was manifested in tics and sighs, and he’d cringe each time the crimson sun sank behind those black volcanic summits. In his imagination the mountains would rise right out of the sea, as though to pluck him. But the islands, in all their dignity, would always refuse to acknowledge so meek a stranger, and return their eyes to sea. The Aleut would hang his head, and timidly paddle by.
Then for days and days he pulled his weary canoe west—through a strait parting two mighty islands not part of the chain, and thence across a sea that was a warm, enticing bath. Spring had come to the East Asian coastal waters, and the Ainu, alone and in groups, were venturing deeper in search of increasing bounty. The Aleut, absorbed in his thoughts of sweet climate and bitter fate, was unaware they’d been spotted.
This first meeting between strangers of different worlds was a brief and awkward one. A lone Ainu fisherman, seeing the Aleut come paddling out of the unknown, dropped his net and turned to stone. The Aleut, for his part, instinctively froze with his body turned half-away to make the leanest target possible. Their stares locked. Never had the Aleut seen a face so heavily bearded, and never hair so fair. The Ainu began banging on his bronze catch pail. Other fishers soon appeared from the north and south, effectively cutting off the canoe. The Aleut caressed his stone and looked to the sky. The wedge had vanished. He put down his head and paddled for all he was worth.
With the word out, uncountable fishing craft appeared out of the blue and broke into hot pursuit, their pilots determined to force the canoe ashore.
Suddenly they were in sight of land, and the sea was absolutely riddled with watercraft. A train of small boats cast off from the mainland, even as a posse of two-man coracle-like tubs began to surround the battered skin canoe, their inhabitants calling back and forth in astonishment at the sight of these dark, savage newcomers. But the pursuing little coastal men, banging excitedly on the sides of their boats, were not Ainu. They had very straight black hair, prominent cheekbones, and strangely slanted eyes. And their speech, oddly marvelous as it was, was a rapid series of coos, chirps, and barks. Their boats formed a tight semi-circle around the canoe, forcing the Aleut to approach the mainland. The little men banged their boats maniacally, with more joining in as the canoe neared shore.
A bit farther south was a natural harbor swarming with fishing vessels of every description. As the canoe was forced into this harbor, people along the rocky coast began banging whatever they could get their hands on, until the air was filled with their lunatic percussion.
Tiny brown men came running along a soft yellow cliff overlooking the harbor, gesturing wildly. The canoe was squeezed between a chain of tubs and the shore, and, as it slowed, the tempo and ferocity of the banging decreased accordingly. When the canoe came to a halt the banging and shouting stopped. Hero creaked to his feet. The first North American to set foot on Asian soil stepped out shakily.
There followed the profoundest silence imaginable.
A second later it was as if a dam had burst.
Hundreds of hysterical, yammering voices erupted from hundreds of hysterical, clinging men and women. Hero was spun around, jostled about, handed along. He stared into their astounded, pinched little faces, and the sun, pulsing between their heads as he was turned, repeatedly stabbed his eyes. There came an excited outburst and frantic splashing which could only have been the Aleut’s violent demise, and then Hero was somehow limping alongside a primitive fishing village, blindly following a narrow dirt path that hugged the yellow cliff’s base. The warm spring sun caught the dust as he shambled. He rounded a bend and stopped.
Half a dozen children stood in his way, too fascinated to run. A chatter and scuffle rose behind him. He looked back to see that he was now in the midst of a small crowd of these children, and that more were running up with cries of amazement.
A stone struck his shoulder. As Hero turned another glanced off his chest.
A moment later he was being pelted from all sides, and the giggles and gasps had become something wildly unreal. He dropped to his knees in a hail of hurled rocks, covered his head with his arms, and slithered up the path on his belly.
A new voice broke in; an older, authoritative voice.
The children scampered off squealing.
Hero, shaken to his feet, found himself face to face with a diminutive, shouting, incomprehensible old man. The old man threw his arm around Hero’s waist and, jabbering all the while, led him to a secondary path cut into the cliff’s face. This path sloped gently upward over the waves. Together they picked their way to a place maybe halfway up, where the cliff’s face was honeycombed with natural alcoves and dug-out caves. Most of these spaces were used as one-man shelters; a few, cut deeper in the earth, as family hives. Strange gabbing people slid out of these holes like worms, reaching, but the little old man, who was evidently a little old man of some stature, embraced his find possessively and shouted them back inside.
The path narrowed as they climbed.
At its summit spread the upscale end of the neighborhood. Hero was led to a hovel nestled amid dozens of similar hovels, all scattered around a dainty stream wending between patches of stunted vegetation.
The old man’s place was basically a one-room hut fashioned of earth and salvaged boat hulls, with a slender side-yard surrounded by dry, dusty hedges. But inside it was clean and tidy, with rice paper partitioning and, built into the far earthen wall, a miniature stone fireplace. The old man sat his guest in the exact center of the room. There he fed him scraps from his bowl, using long sticks to pluck out bits of fish and clumps of tiny, starchy white pellets.
He studied the brute closely, watched him chew, walked round and round him. He poked here. He pinched there.
And that night he lit a fire on his crushed-shell hearth.
Hero curled up on a mat where the gossip of flames could reach him. Nearby, at his delicate wicker table, the old man sat in semi-darkness, illuminated only from the waist down.
But his eyes were alive. They spat and darted as they reflected the fire’s light, and, when at last they’d begun to sputter, his scratchy little voice came pattering out of the dark, muttering something vile and oddly modulated, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a gathering snarl.
Hero feigned slumber, unable to ignore those paired ominous flashes. Still, the room was cozy, and the fire warm, and the play of light and shadow kicked sleep in his eyes.

In the morning he woke in the old man’s side-yard, his head pounding, a rusty iron clamp securely fastened around his neck. This clamp was attached to the outermost link of a crude three-foot chain, and the link at the other end to a long stake driven into eight inches of solid rock. The chain and stake, like the clamp, were hammered of local iron. The clamp was too tight for comfortable swallowing, the chain too short to make standing possible. Hero could, however, spread out on his chest and stretch an arm to a low row of hedges. By parting the tangled undergrowth he had a limited view of the fishing village below, and of the harbor beyond. As the days passed he was able to tweak himself a view-space discernible only from his peculiar vantage. He accomplished this by gently breaking small branches strategically, then guiding their interrupted growth with the utmost tenderness. It was his secret garden.
He had no memory—none whatsoever—of being staked here. Obviously the old man hadn’t set this up overnight. Hero’s mind prodded timidly…how many others had been chained to this spot, and why?
But over the subsequent weeks and months he went beyond caring. Each day was the same:  just after dawn the old man would storm into the tiny side-yard swinging his reed whip wildly. The lashings were savage and unremitting. The old man, except for his eyes, would be mute. Only his whip need speak. And the snap of his reed had but one message:  when you see this whip you go down, and you go down immediately.
The naked savage, scarred head to foot, learned to go prostrate on the moment. Even so, the old man couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge in the occasional good old, all-out thrashing. And after each session he would toss the prisoner a vile mess of dead fish and rotting leftovers.
Hero lived like this for many months, lost in a confused world of pain and anticipation. Perversely, he came to look forward to the bite of that whip, for, whether he flogged him in passion or just for sport, the old man was always sure to make it personal. It seemed their relationship might go on forever.
But one day there was a great commotion in the sleepy little fishing village. Hero parted the leaves and beheld a small train of oblong coaches at rest near the harbor. Large oxen yoked in pairs lolled between the carriages, immune to the clamor around them. There were dark shaggy horses and colorfully dressed Bactrian camels. The horses and camels were tethered in the rear, but were occasionally paraded around the carriages by little men wielding long painted bamboo poles. The whole affair was exotic and mesmerizing, eccentric and profane. Hero watched all day in amazement, infected by the hubbub, though he was totally mystified by the crowd’s fascination on the carriages’ far side.
And late that afternoon he saw the old man come walking out of that crowd, talking heatedly with another man. The stranger was shorter and broader than the old man, with long stringy hair and long stringy mustaches. He saw them climbing the path, saw them crawl inside a hole lashing furiously. They were lost from view for a minute, then popped up big as life. Hero glowed and curled up eagerly as they approached.
The old man and stranger came into the narrow side-yard still arguing. The old man grabbed Hero by the hair and twisted until he was facing the newcomer.
The stranger had oily, porous skin, and a round but grave countenance. His highly slanted eyes were bright and restless. He studied Hero’s mutilated face with keen interest before borrowing the old man’s reed. When Hero scraped at his feet he grunted and returned the reed.
The stranger pulled out something shiny and hefted it in his hand. He then raised his other hand while considering Hero, as though weighing him too. The old man’s eyes glinted, and for an instant his expression became grotesquely servile. The stranger and old man, facing, nodded curtly in unison. The stranger dropped the shiny thing onto the old man’s itching palm. The old man whipped Hero frantically before taking a small ax to the chain. A few hard blows split a link, the broken link was bent back by the tool’s shaft, and the prisoner was at last released.
The old man handed the stranger a short hempen rope. The stranger bowed deeply. He then tied an end of the rope through one of the remaining links and began dragging Hero along. Hero’s hands sought the old man, who kicked and cursed him all the way to the path. The three stumbled single-file to the bottom. The old man waved his arms and shouted hysterically, trotting behind until he ran out of breath. But he got in a final kick and, before he came to a gasping halt, managed to lash Hero once for old time’s sake, and to spit on him twice for luck.

There were five carriages; a long one in the center hitched to four oxen, and two smaller coaches in the front and rear with a pair of oxen on each. The carriages were old and battered, built of splitting wood slats and rusted iron braces. Various hides, spare wheels, and a hundred odds and ends were tied to the sides and roofs. Hero’s new master, using him as a ram, shoved him through the crowd to the long carriage. He hauled him up the single wood step and watched the crowd’s reaction. Children hid behind mothers, mothers hissed and jeered, men spat in that smashed, disgusting face.
Satisfied, Hero’s master twisted the rope tighter and dragged him through the hide flap that served as the carriage’s rear wall.
A strange ruckus began at their entrance.
Inside the carriage were bulky shapes and quirky movements, yet the immediate and overwhelming impression was one of unbelievable stench. Hero, instantly covered with flies, was kicked and shoved down a foot-wide aisle. The carriage’s walls were riddled with black flecks of old dried blood, the floor coated with standing *****, a variety of small carcasses, and some clinging, indefinable slime. But the living contents of this hell were so horrifying, and so unexpected, that Hero at once dropped to his knees. Observing this, master grabbed a whip off the wall and lashed him along the floor.
A number of bamboo cages lined either side of the carriage, each four feet high, four feet wide, and three feet deep. In the first cage to their left, a quadruple amputee dangled in a leather harness in a cloud of flies, jealously gnawing a chicken carcass balanced on his belly. The second cage held a man who had been burned over ninety per cent of his body, and the third a middle-aged woman with no eyes or tongue, her head shaved. The next cage housed a fully grown black leopard, its bright eyes fixed on the horrified newcomer. Then an empty cage, and finally a cage containing a demented man whose long yellow nails were busily raking a face deeply scarred and bleeding.
The first cage against the opposite wall held two girls rolling in their own excrement. Siamese twins unable to part, they had developed a unique method of locomotion, and now executed a three-quarters cartwheel in Hero’s direction, their mangled, severely bitten hands attempting to reach him through the bars. In the cage next to theirs a naked dwarf glowered menacingly, his eyes following coldly as Hero’s master shoved him down the narrow aisle, occasionally pausing to lash a cage. The hissing and howling increased as each prisoner beheld the new neighbor.
The third cage held an intensely sick adult Bornean sun bear, so confined it was entirely unable to move. Its hide was a patchwork of scraggly fur and grayish skin, glistening with odd eruptions. It rolled its sunken eyes in Hero’s direction, its muzzle twitching feebly.
The next cage contained a man who was frightfully diseased. Broad fungal patches covered his face and limbs, terminating in waxy folds that dangled like a rooster’s wattles. Welling sores spotted his chest and back. His eyes were bugged and sallow; his lower lip drooped below his chin. He barked wetly at Hero’s passing legs.
The second-to-last cage housed a rare, completely hairless Chinese albino, and the last cage a very tall, skeletal woman. The albino snapped at Hero while repeatedly banging his head against the cage. The woman hissed and coiled like a snake, her spine arching amazingly.
Master hauled Hero to the empty cage on his left, swung its door open with his foot, and forced him to his knees by pushing down with all his weight. He kicked and punched until Hero had been squeezed inside, then shut and secured the wide bamboo door.
Master inched his way back down the carriage, hammering the **** of his whip on each cage as he passed. There was a glimpse of daylight as he lifted the flap.
Once he’d departed, the carriage grew eerily silent.
Hero cautiously turned his head. Less than a foot away, the black leopard was frozen in place, one paw waving hypnotically in his face. The beast’s fangs were bared, its ears straight back, its eyes glistening. Hero turned ever so slowly, until he was looking into the eyes of the demented man in the final cage. The man cocked his head quizzically. A second later he was screaming his lungs out in a bizarre downward spiral.
At once the carriage erupted. The freaks shrieked and scrabbled, the leopard spun in place. Directly across the aisle, the albino hurled himself against the bars of his cage. He batted his face with his fists, threw back his head, and just howled and howled and howled. The snake woman curled even tighter, her long scrawny legs entwined behind her head.
Hero sat with breath held, absolutely silent, absolutely motionless. He very, very slowly closed his eyes.

Later that night the flap was flung high. The menagerie came alive as master, weirdly illuminated by moonlight, slowly made his way down the aisle carrying a skin sack oozing blood. He stopped at each cage to toss in a dying chicken and a handful of smelt.
When he reached Hero’s cage he looked down thoughtfully.
He extracted a quivering chicken and held it above the cage so that blood dripped on the brute’s deeply pleated forehead. Hero lowered his eyes. Master’s face darkened. He smashed the bird against the cage, over and over, a vein throbbing in his temple. Finally he hissed and displayed the limp chicken high over the albino’s head. The albino yelped and kicked, thrusting his hand up between the bars and jerking it back to lick away the blood rolling down his forearm.
Master eyed Hero coldly before pointedly dropping the chicken into the albino’s searching hands.
Master hissed again. He slowly made his way out.
Soon there was a commotion outside. The carriage rocked a bit before settling. Hero, turning in his cage to peek through a rift in the wood, saw horses being urged forward. He could hear men shouting. The carriage rocked again. He looked up and saw the gibbous moon suspended in mist. For just a second something wedge-shaped cut across its soft white face.
But then the oxen were grunting, the wheels had been freed, and the horses drawn abreast. Master’s lash spat left and right, and the show proceeded…west.

                                              MA­STER

She was very round and very small, with very short, very shaggy black hair. Her arms bore the scars of numerous bites from beast and man, and around her neck ran long wheals from a particularly savage owner. Hero, having spent the better part of the morning watching master storm in and out of a strange screaming house, now watched him drag the little round woman through the dirt. For a while he listened to the song of his master’s lash, waiting for the woman to break. But there was never a whimper.
It had been a difficult transaction for master, and an altogether difficult morning. For hours he’d paced up and down the main carriage, alternately murmuring affectionately into, and lashing at, each cage he visited. The sun bear, long dead and stuffed, had been taken outside for barter. It had soon been returned.
Master had lingered over Hero’s cage for a good while, staring critically. He’d begun shouting, and three of his men had burst in through the flap, unlatched the demented man’s cage, and dragged him out by the feet for trade, master personally stomping on his torn and groping hands.
And now master was kicking and shoving the little woman down the aisle as his men restrained her by the hair and throat. Upon master’s command these men stripped her naked and commenced pinching and slapping while making threatening faces and mocking noises. The freaks sat right up in their cages.
The woman looked as though she’d fainted:  her arms were lax, her eyes rolled up. Her whole face seemed to purse, and her body, head to toe, began to run blue. Her fingers quivered, arched, and clawed—the woman was self-asphyxiating. Master fairly leaped with delight while the cages rocked around him. He had the men slap her awake. Once she was fully conscious they stuffed her into the demented man’s old cage next to Hero’s.
Master then looked in eagerly, one to the other, his hands balled into fists. The woman buried her odd round face in her forearms as she squeezed herself into her cage’s deepest corner. Hero gazed indifferently and went back to his peephole.
Master exploded. He smacked and kicked the cages over and over, swore up and down, ran the shaft of his whip back and forth against the heavy bamboo bars. Eventually he calmed somewhat. He stared coldly at Hero, made a ***** smile, and spat right in his eyes. A tense minute passed. Master slowly made his way outside.
Hero automatically relaxed. Across the aisle the albino ****** his face between his cage’s bars to sniff the newcomer. The leopard, bobbing rhythmically, emitted a high-pitched squeal that gradually descended to a steadily throbbing growl.
Hero looked the stranger over. Once she’d lowered her hands he saw that her eyes were crossed, her jaw slack, her face as round as the full moon. He looked closer. There were scars all over her throat and arms:  plainly, the small round woman had been treated very badly. Hero instinctively slid a foot between the bars; the woman cried out and scrunched even deeper. Across the aisle the albino quickly extended an arm. Without knowing why, Hero turned on him. The albino flinched, his eyes tearing into Hero’s. A second later he was stamping his feet and grinning wildly. Hero went back to his peephole.
Next morning master and two of his men dismantled the bamboo walls separating Hero’s and the woman’s cages. They bound the frames with broad leather bands, making a single cage of the two.
A common door was fashioned and secured. Master used his broad blade to shear away Hero’s rags. The men hunched around the long cage expectantly.
The naked couple backed away. Master was instantly exasperated—he shouted, lashed furiously, stamped and screamed, jabbed a broken shaft between the bars with malevolent intent, whirled and hurled the shaft at nothing. The carriage’s inmates went out of their minds. At master’s bellowed command a man scurried outside, returning with a long rope of woven leather strands. Master opened the cage and, applying all his weight, pinned Hero and his new mate in an awkward embrace while his men tied them together.
Again master and his men bent over the long cage to watch.
When Hero realized his predicament he made a desperate attempt to reach his peephole.
The men, misreading his struggles, babbled and cheered, but master threw up his hands. He then, through gesture, ordered his men to drape a number of hides over the long cage. Once these hides were in place he very quietly bent to one knee and placed an ear against the cage. After a while he cursed and rose to his feet. He shook the cage and stormed out, whipping and kicking the howling inmates.
In the semi-darkness the man and woman quit fighting their bonds.
A muffled patter began on the hide-covered roof.
Rain, as always, had a calming effect on the carriage’s occupants, causing the freaks and beasts to slip, one by one, into lethargy or slumber. Under such a spell, the attainment of master’s goal was inevitable.
It was a coupling both innocent and vile, without passion or celebration. Occasionally the freaks would surface, register their excitement by shrieking, shaking their cages, or otherwise clamoring…but very quickly the air would stifle them, weighing their heads and confusing their impulses. The atmosphere grew heavier by the minute. And, when night rolled over the carriages, the rain came down in sheets.

Leaning ******* the woman’s cage, master slipped his gnarly hand between the bars and slowly rubbed her belly in a counter-clockwise motion, his sinister features soft in the candle’s light. And he told, in nonsensical cooing whispers, of a lovingly secure and impossibly prosperous future.
How large and promising that belly had become! And how wise was he, the cunning and aggressive master, in his far-reaching business decisions. He turned his affection to the motionless gaping brute; stroked the battlefield of its face, tossed in another lizard. Master rubbed his palms together. From now on it was extra lizards daily, for both the woman and her mate. He remarked, with only passing interest, his star player’s continuing indifference. They didn’t know each other, didn’t need each other.
There’d been months of shows on the road now, broken only recently by this sensible rejoining of the mates at conception.
Hero’s horrible disfigurement was unquestionably top draw; he was a guaranteed crowd pleaser at every stop. So now master looked him straight in the eyes and smiled. He held the reeking candle high. The carriage was absolutely silent. Master smiled again, rose to his feet, tiptoed away.
Hero watched him retreat until the flap had fallen. He returned to his peephole, saw master round the rear of the carriage and slowly crunch by. For a time he could see nothing but the half-shapes of junipers bathed in starlight. There was a tentative movement to his right and a large shape came to obstruct his view.
The horse stood for a minute in profile. It slowly brought its head to rest against the carriage, applying its eye to the peephole. Hero froze. The two remained fixed, eyeball to eyeball, while a breeze played odd tunes on the outer wall’s hanging paraphernalia. The horse’s big dark eye rolled nervously. A long moment passed. Slowly the horse backed off. It stood uncertainly for a while, staring at the peephole. Then it quietly moved away.

Master kicked the cages one by one, left hand and right, as he slowly made his way down the aisle. Into each cage he delivered a personalized warning in passing—a growl, a hiss, a bark—but he was quickly losing control. Animal electricity hopscotched the carriage, cage to cage, ceiling to floor, front to rear and back again. Master froze. Much more of this excitement, he feared, could seriously agitate the woman—with grave consequences for master.
She was splayed on her back, in labor’s throes, her ankles and wrists bound to the long cage. Hero had been removed to give her room, and now sat hunched atop the snake woman’s cage, two men holding him by the throat and legs.
Master gnashed and snarled, listening to the woman scream, watching her stupid round head bounce up and down and back and forth. He knew it! He’d been suckered, hoodwinked, scammed—ripped off like a common rube. The woman was too ******* to handle even something as natural as childbirth. Still…it was too late to second-guess himself—all these months he’d been patient—he’d been supportive and vigilant and now he would not be denied. He flogged one of the men to alleviate his tension.
The blue lady was very slowly, very dramatically arching her spine. Master wiped the sweat from his eyes. When the bars were pleating her big round belly, her shoulders began drumming on the straw-strewn floor.
Master screamed one very colorful expletive.
A razor silence came over the carriage. Not a body moved or breathed.
At last two men tiptoed around their purpling master and leaned into the cage. One obediently ****** a foot between the bars. He pushed ******* her right knee while using a hand to grip the left knee, spreading her legs wide. The other man drew a broad leather strap between her teeth. After lifting the woman’s head he pulled the strap behind her neck, knotted it to make a gag, and yanked a skin sack over her face. He looked up anxiously. Master licked his lips and nodded. The man made a fist and frantically punched the woman’s face until her muffled screams ceased. She moaned gently throughout her contractions.
Master genuflected, brought a spitting candle in tight, and took a deep breath. As he raised his hand the candle’s light bounced off his knife’s chipped and scored eleven-inch blade. Master swore and reached down carefully. He flicked his wrist twice and the menagerie went mad.

The child was a tremendous disappointment.
Master had eagerly anticipated an infant ******* and deformed; something embracing the best qualities of its parents. He had even designed a special cage that could be expanded by degrees as the spawn developed. There also remained the tantalizing option of a family display, though such an undertaking would require the eventual construction of a structure even larger than the cage its parents now shared. Master anguished over the logistics, knowing it would break his heart to have to cut one of his jewels’ throats just to make room for a growing child. Nights he would slowly pace the carriage with all the possessiveness of a jealous suitor, one hand maneuvering a sputtering candle, the other tenderly rapping his whip’s **** against each visited cage.
But the boy was a flawless specimen; a beautiful, undemanding baby. From the moment master angrily tossed the placenta he felt cheated, even betrayed. He grimaced as it peaceably took to its mother’s breast, despite the surrounding horrors. Master hated it, immediately and entirely. The ****** thing was so docile it was almost charming. He drew his knife and was just reaching down, when an overwhelming sense of dread shook him like a rat in the jaws of a mastiff. Sweat poured down his squat, pig-tailed nape. He knew he would live to regret it, but decided to not cut the child’s throat right away. It was the oddest feeling. His knife hand had trembled for the first time in his life, and he had found himself momentarily contemplating right and wrong at the outset of a perfectly simple and commonplace procedure. That was it, then. His business instincts were letting him know there was a good, albeit unknowable, reason to let the sweet baby live. Master left the carriage anxiously, muttering in his ambivalence.
The boy grew to embody his worst expectations. Not only was it a poorly oriented child, clinging to its father rather than its master almost from the moment of weaning, but it soon proved a lousy draw with the patrons. Those who paid to view the child dangling in its special cage inevitably departed unsatisfied, some vocalizing, strangely, an acute sense of shame. So once again master entered the carriage with his knife hand steady, and once again he exited trembling, his heart in his throat and his soul in a whirl. He whipped the dwarf savagely before leaving. What place conscience in the mind of a businessman?
Soon as the boy could walk, master put him to work fetching and feeding. But the brat was slothful in his chores, preferring to hang around his family’s cage while staring wistfully at his father. For their part, the parents were wholly disinterested. Master would fume while Hero gazed for hours out his peephole—even as the mother lolled, perpetually ill. Sometimes that accursed woman’s condition riled poor master to no end. She could teeter at death’s door for months at a time, her body changing hues to the fascination of customers, only to bounce back with a hardiness that was of interest to no one. But at the peak of her performances the blue lady could really hold a crowd. Master produced an entire outdoors extravaganza around her:  within concentric rings of raging torches his men would slowly strip her naked before wild audiences, then allow the dwarf and albino to take her while the leopard strained against a gaily festooned chain. Master circulated his crew through the crowds to encourage his patrons’ cult-like behavior of breath-holding and fainting. No getting around it:  the customers were crazy about her—village to village, master’s Bactrian vanguard’s colorful robes shouted her approaching fame. And Hero’s popularity continued to soar. Many were the nights when master, pacing the perimeter, wondered just what devilry could have produced the lovely boy.
Overall, Hero remained his master’s favorite conceit and hottest property. Part of the little brute’s appeal was, of course, his exoticness. And certainly the ugliness arising from his deformity was compelling…but there was a detachedness about him that fascinated every soul with a fistful of copper cash coins. Whether they ****** him, cudgeled him, or spat in his face, he remained unflappable, staring only at the aching sky. Though many would leave uneasy, master noted with deep satisfaction that they almost invariably returned.
The boy soon evinced an amazing affinity for animals. No matter how agitated an ox or horse became, the child could pacify it with one hand on a lowered brow. This was a source of endless fascination for the crew. Wagers were made. The boy was pitted against oxen whipped to a frenzy. But they would not harm him; they would rather go prostrate and take the lash. Master tried to work this knack into a viable act, but his patrons just weren’t buying. They wanted freaks.
When the lad was a mere five years old, master had him trained in the peripheral art of the pickpocket. The boy worked well alone, and had all the makings of a fine little flimflam artist. Master sighed, his chronic nightmares a thing of the past. As ever, his business instincts were guiding him well.
Then late one afternoon he found the boy squatting outside his parents’ cage. The boy had done the unthinkable:  he had deposited his day’s pickings at the feet of his father instead of bringing the ***** to master. Master flew into a rage and raised his whip to give the little traitor the lashing he deserved. But before he could deliver a single stroke his other hand shot to his chest and he staggered back against the albino’s cage. He blinked down at the boy, who regarded him steadily while scooping the plunder into a little pile.
From that day on the boy placed whatever he could get his hands on at his father’s feet. As time passed he became ever more adroit at thievery, growing into a youngster both admired and despised by master and his crew; admired because theft was a cinch for him, despised because they were all that much lighter in their possessions.
Now, for eleven long years the strange little train had bounced along, sometimes camping outside villages for months, occasionally pausing on connecting roads. The show traversed the heart of Manchuria, skirted the Gobi in the north, and so eventually crossed almost the entire width of Mongolia before proceeding north to the confluence of the rivers Yenisey and Ob’. Much silver and copper had come to master’s coffer, much fame to his name, but he now sat looking over a vast, unmapped Siberian wilderness. The mostly nomadic characters they’d been encountering spoke in tongues unfamiliar even to his personal valet-translator-accountant, and the tone of these nomads had been unmistakably hostile.
Master huddled surlily under a canopy of sopping hides. Night was falling hard during a merciless rain, the wind was picking up, and his supplies coach was bogged in a growing sea of mud. At that moment he accepted the whole end-of-the-line concept, and knew he wasn’t going anywhere but back. And when he got back he was going to shine! He jumped from the coach.
The earth took his weight for a heartbeat—and he was up to his chin in muck, splashing about on his hands and knees, sliding forward on his palms and toes. He did a belly flop into a rain-filled depression and churned to his feet with the devil in his eyes. Wallowing in mud and bile, master stomped to the supplies coach and kicked wildly at the stuck rear wheels.
Somewhere between kicks he lost it completely.
Master broke for his whip. One minute he was blindly lashing his men, the next he’d succumbed to a mindless ferocity. He thrashed about like a berserker; whipping the beasts, the coach, the very night. His men were scarcely able to move in all that mud, but their dread of his savagery kept them hopping. They gathered as one and shoved the coach recklessly; slipping, splashing, shouting. A minute later, three lay splayed underfoot, but the mired wheel had been freed.
Throughout all this the oxen had swayed nervously, while the horses softly tramped their hooves in place. Master had his men turn the oxen about until the rickety train was pointing dead east. He checked the hitches and personally applied the lash. The oxen didn’t budge. Master swore and wiped the rain from his eyes. He had the horses hitched ahead of the oxen, but they were even less obliging. Master flew into a spectacular rage. His men, fearing for their lives, ran liberally with the lash.
The swaying of oxen picked up until the entire train of carriages was rocking. Yet the oxen could not, would not be compelled, under any amount of prodding, to take an eastward step. Master looked around in exasperation.
The night had gone insane.
Horses were fighting hitches, oxen walking on fire.
Master cursed the rain and mud and lashed all the harder. His men, seeking to please, whipped maniacally until the horses and both lead oxen broke their hitches and bolted west. The men immediately embraced the rear oxen, but the hitches shattered and the beasts stormed off. The remaining horses blew it, kicking at everything and nothing.
Inside the long carriage all was chaos. The albino was neighing and screaming, the aged leopard spinning in its cage. Hero stared out his peephole, amazed at the blur of figures stumbling by in the rain.
A pair of clopping blows rattled the opposite wall. Three slats cracked. A tremendous impact, and a huge section collapsed. A thrashing, hysterical mare burst through the breach in a veil of rain.
The horse went mad, killing the albino and snake woman in a flurry of hooves. She fell ******* the near wall, crushing the cages. The leopard shot into the air like a rocket, slashed at the mare’s throat and vanished in the rain. The horse reared above the family cage. She was just coming down in a wheeling storm of hooves when something made her freeze. Her stare locked with Hero’s, and a second later her eyes were rolling in their sockets. The mare kicked crazily and came down ******* her left flank, smashing the long cage’s side. She whirled upright and leaped outside.
For a tense minute the family sat in the rubble, rain bombarding their eyes. Nothing in their years of captivity had prepared them for such a situation. But by the end of that minute the son had taken full command. He rolled onto his back, braced himself, and kicked his parents across the aisle, through the remnants of the opposing cage, and out of the carriage. They all fell about in the mud and rain. To the west, the mare stared back strangely as she splashed into the night. The boy wedged himself between his parents, threw his arms around them, and pushed with all his might. Their bodies found a common center of gravity. Fumbling drunkenly, the family staggered through the rain in the wake of the mare.

The boy was the natural leader.
Master’s innocent-looking little ex-student could quickly assess and exploit almost any situation. He did the foraging and the figuring, slept with one eye open and one fist ready. He got what he wanted by charm or by stealth, slipping off at nightfall, returning at daybreak with small slaughtered animals and chunks of dark peasant bread. He also pilfered any bauble or oddity he could get his paws on, to be placed reverently at his father’s mangled feet. Breadwinner and watchdog, he faithfully held the family together; a nuclear son. He sewed hardy feather-lined cloaks of reindeer hide, and turned a cache of marmot pelts into a kind of side-slung backpack. He was doting nurse during his mother’s episodes, and unbending apportioner of calories in lean times. Dauntless when it meant crossing mighty rivers, relentless when it came to finding mountain passes. But the endless marching, the unreliable diet, and the countless predators made the three wanderers lean, haggard moving targets. There were times when the little lamp of family was all but extinguished, and long stands in places that seemed absolutely impassable. Still, the boy would work things out. He would stoop to any level to feed Hero, and for a stranger to threaten his father was to summon a psychotic, unyielding monster. He was both spear and shield.
The toughest job of all was maintaining a tight unit, meaning he was forced to become a hard-nosed ******* whenever his father was ready to wander off, which always seemed to be whenever the mother was hurting most. She’d become a tremendous impediment to Hero’s compulsion, and therefore her son’s chief nemesis. It wasn’t a big-picture concern anyway; the writing was on the wall. The blue lady’s attacks were increasing spectacularly on the steppe; her world had always been an enclosure of some kind, and the great horizon was proving just too much. Perhaps these intense affairs served as links to Hero’s suppressed memories, for at the onset of each attack he’d turn and hike, and then only exhaustion could curb him. The boy would press his mother on, dragging, shoving, and smacking—he could be mean when necessary, and though circumstances had made him the nucleus, their worlds unquestionably revolved around Hero. Where he sat, they sat. When he rose, they did the same. In this manner they marched for years across the vast steppes, single-file—father, mother, and son, respectively—unmolested, lacking possessions, always following the sun. Long before they could be measured they had drifted into obscurity.
The woman’s end came quickly and dramatically, in a rocky little depression on a half-frozen field. One moment she was responsive to her son’s prompts, the next she was flat on her back, her eyelids fluttering. That night she leapt from fever to chill, from alertness to stupor. The boy, squatting beside their campfire, watched her face and hands run cadaver-blue to fish belly-pale and back again. While he was staring her eyes popped open and her hands came scrabbling. He sweated through the clawing embrace until he could bear it no longer. He oozed out and ran down to fetch his father.
When they got back Hero watched incuriously for a while. His mate’s face was scrunched up and her skin the color of sapphires. She wasn’t breathing.
His gaze became glassy, his eyes returned to the night. As he rose the boy immediately grabbed an arm. Neither moved for minutes. When the boy at last relinquished, his father casually stumbled off.
Strange things were going on in Hero’s world. Some days he would notice how animals regarded him oddly, in a manner that seemed almost personal. He found, for instance, that particular creatures were recognizable even over great distances. A number of times he would sit with one in a stare-down, waiting patiently, until the animal’s natural disposition caused it to bolt. Though the meaning of these encounters was way over his head, he would watch, and he would listen.
In time he noticed an increasing skittishness in some of these familiar creatures. Something had them spooked. He then observed a number of lean gray wolves moving in and out of the picture with an air of complete indifference:  these wolves weren’t hunting; they were loitering—lounging in the grass, lackadaisically padding to the rear, filing by slowly in the distance. Once in a while a lounger would raise its head, yawn cavernously, and drop back out of sight. So unobtrusive was their behavior that even Hero’s ever-vigilant son began to take them for granted. They paused where the family paused, and halted whenever the woman broke down. Perfectly camouflaged by the gray boulders and dire sky, they were completely forgotten in the drama of her passing.
There were other, far subtler events existing for Hero’s senses alone. He could perceive patterns in everything around him; in the manner vegetation gave way wherever his heart was leading, in the way so many animals appeared to be not merely mirroring, but making his course. And wind, rain, running water:  these phenomena had voices. Yet not for everybody. No one—not his mate, not his son, not another soul on the planet could hear this call, for they were all of a sort. They were static, they were temporal. Hero couldn’t have cared less about the lives of his family, or about the mundane goings-on in the encampments and small tribes they skirted. Such beings lived in a world that was defined by the moment. They shouted, they banged, they clamored.
But west—west was music.
For his boy, once again watching Hero shamble off, the moment of truth had arrived. He looked back down, at his mother’s death mask being remade by the dying light of their campfire. As the flames dwindled he could have sworn he saw shadows creep into the wells of her eyes, while others, crawling up around her jawline, drew her bluing lips like purse strings. He hopped to his feet and ran for another handful of tinder. When their little fire provided enough light he dropped to his knees and looked again.
She was sinking right before his eyes, every aspect of her expression in collapse. The boy watched clinically, fascinated. As the flames began to sputter he thought he could see large purple bruises spreading across her cheeks like the seeping limbs of overflowing pools. He bent closer.
From deep in the night came the longest, the leanest, the saddest wail he’d ever heard. He turned to see the starlit ghost of his father, facing away, staring at a low barren hill. Uncountable stars embroidered the spot. The boy made out a low shape moving along the hilltop, cutting off patches of stars as it passed.
The wolf howled again; a mournful, spiraling cry to nowhere and nothing. Hero’s head notched upward. He began to hike.
Halfway to his feet the boy stopped dead.
It took a minute to sense why he’d frozen in place, and a good while longer for his heart to quit pounding. He was aware of a nervous padding, and, once his vision had adjusted, of a lazy stream of eyes gleaming in the dying campfire’s light. The eyes bobbed around him, glared momentarily, returned to the ground.
A massive gasp, and his mother was tearing at his wrist. He watched her hyperventilating, saw her bulbous yellow eyes sinking in a wide violet pool. With a sizzle and pop the last tongue of flame was taken by the night.
Then her clammy hands were all over him, pulling and demanding, caressing and beseeching. He had to pry them off like leeches, had to place them clasped on her shuddering arched belly.
A silky snarl rose almost in his ear.
With a little squeal he sprang to his feet, even as something nearby jumped back in response.
The boy stood absolutely still while the panting thing padded nearer. They stood very close, smelling each other. He instinctively extended a hand, palm forward. But it was no good; his arm was shaking out of control. The snarl rose again, not so tentatively this time. His mother’s nails tore at his ankle.
The boy gently stepped away, only to find himself surrounded by the shifting silhouettes of half a dozen gray wolves. They approached in a calculated manner:  two from the left, one from the right, another from behind. He was being goaded away from his mother; he could hear her fists beating the ground, and a few seconds later the sounds of a nauseating assault and ravaging.
He shakily raised his other hand. Now both arms were extended, and their message was clearly one of defense rather than control. Two snapping wolves stepped aside, leaving him a gateway into the night. A cold wet nose bumped his wrist.
Screaming like a woman, he took off after his father just as fast as his feet would carry him.

                                                  BOY

Alon­g the great Kazakh Steppe a man could wander a lifetime and never meet another of his kind—especially if his kind happened to be Alaskan Inuk, and if he happened to be the teenaged patriarch of a two-man family going nowhere.
Here history is mostly mute.
Upon this continent-spanning steppe, unnamed communities were scattered and rebuilt, lives blown about by the wind. The only centers of humanity a traveler might encounter, far removed from the Silk Road at the very crack of the new millennium, were temporary encampments of civilization at its rudest—shifting holes of cutthroat commerce existing solely for the barter of silk and spices and hapless souls. Life here was revered far less than merchandise, and the longest-lived men were those who kept their distance.
Hero and his boy hiked over permafrost and tundra for years; their meandering course a drunken mapmaker’s scrawl. Chronological entries along this imaginary line would reveal that they’d stopped, sometimes for months at a time, when the father had grown too weak and disoriented to continue. Hero’s internal compass was long-sprung, and his weight had fallen considerably. He’d sit on his lonesome, scarecrow-scrawny, wistfully scrolling a 360-horizon while his boy scouted and scavenged. Then, for no apparent reason, he’d just up-and hike—sometimes northwest, sometimes along a tangential plane that always threatened to spiral. It was brutal:  winters were frigid, summers, by odd contrast, running steamy to baking. Season by season these marches lost their tenaciousness, and eventually their heart. Hero’s obsession was becoming his demise.
Now, to a hypothetical observer, the ratty pair of woolly camels materializing out of the rising August heat might have been mirages.
These beasts were novelties here, and pioneers, for they were way beyond their normal stomping grounds. They’d tramped for months with a mind-numbing monotonousness, a thousand miles and more; round the Urals to the south, and through the hard territory braced by the Volga and Voronezh, avoiding anything that even smelled of men. They’d been wild camels; ugly, ill-tempered, and unpredictable, until the boy tamed them by touch…but this new pattern was a literal change of pace…for weeks the frail little man and his dark teenaged son rose and fell with the animals’ rhythm, lulled by it, sick of it, dreaming of lands far removed from hoarfrost and peat moss. In this manner they were borne clear to present-day Belarus, whereupon the camels’ stupefying march began to quicken. Mile by mile they put on steam, until one day they reached a broad area distinguishable from its bracing terrain only by its many deep surface cracks. Here the camels’ behavior became erratic; they crouched at an angle while tramping, their long necks oscillating, their noses bobbing along the ground. Eventually they came upon a dingy pool nestled in a pebbly depression. The local brush surrounding this pool was situated like iron filings about a lodestone. The boy hauled back his camel’s neck and laid a hand on its brow. The brute slowed to a halt. The other camel imitated its partner, move for move. Simultaneously the animals dropped to their knees.
The boy jumped off, catching Hero as he fell. The camels stood watching stupidly as son maneuvered father, but after a while grew nervous and began tramping their hooves in time. They slowly stepped to the pool’s rim and knelt woozily, their noses poised just above the surface. Their whiskers danced on the pool’s face, their lids became heavy, their hindquarters quivered as they drank. Their nostrils, having fluttered in unison, remained agape. They appeared to be asleep.
The boy began filling skins.
The water was quite warm; he slurped a palmful and almost immediately felt intoxicated.
He flicked it off his fingers; the water was bad.
Three heads were now mirrored in the pool; the camels’ at ten o’clock and two o’clock, the boy’s at six. He watched their reflections continue to ripple, long after the pool had become still. His face, melting and firming, rapidly fluctuated between extremes of age, and between his own recognizable features and those of some…monstrosity. The effect was hypnotic. He felt his joints stiffen; his eyes became weak, his thoughts muddled…his face was irresistibly drawn to the pool’s surface, and for a moment he was in real peril of drowning. He ****** his head aside and creaked to his feet.
Where the camels had knelt were only the prints of their bellies and knees. In the distance they could be seen galloping all-out for the horizon, right back the way they’d come. The boy watched until they were swallowed by their dust, and when he turned around his father was long gone.
Now he knew it was all just a matter of time.
And sure enough, after eleven more days of feebly staggering along, Hero completely ran out of gas. The boy bundled him up in a shawl, like an old woman.
Sitting there, cradling an unresponsive man weighing less than eighty pounds, he couldn’t help but let his morbid fantasies run wild. He was now old enough to realize his father had at some time suffered severe head trauma, and honest enough to accept that the man was rapidly approaching a vegetative state. This understanding accompanied him like a shadow, and that night he questioned, for the very first time, his own convoluted rationale.
He was just beginning to sense that his will was not his own.
He built a semi-permanent camp west of the Desna and foraged in a tight spiral, always returning in a straight line. Some days he came back feeling uneasy, sensing another presence. Then it was every other day. It bugged him to no end. At last, when it became every day, he hauled his father to his feet and began a resolute march to the west.
Again he became anxious, and after only a dozen yards.
He turned slowly while hunching, certain something bulky had just dropped out of sight. Nothing looked suspicious, everything looked suspicious. He walked Hero some more, occasionally peering back over his shoulder. There was…something.
He whirled:  only masses of rock and high brush. Yet, when he really strained his eyes, he was sure, pretty sure, that he could make out a large crouching body continuous with the rocks. Heart in his throat, he began a slow steady creep, only to pause, positive the bulge, whatever it was, had shifted in response. The boy very gradually raised his arm until it was level with his eyes, faced the palm outward, and extended the arm parallel with the ground. He could almost feel some kind of current passing between his itching palm and…nothing. He walked over to Hero, stopped again. There’d been the subtlest sense of traction. The boy propped up his father in a cloud of flies and waited.
In a minute the bulge drew *****.
Out of the brush strolled a furry gray wild ***, her back inclined from countless weary miles; stretching her neck, pausing to nibble, taking her sweet time. Grungy as she was, she fit right in.
At the boy’s first casual step she immediately hit the dirt and remained flat on her belly, one big dark eye staring between her hooves. Another step, and her **** bunched up. The closer he got, the higher her rear end rose. When he was almost at arm’s length she sprang back and danced away, seeming to bound with delight. But not to the east, as she’d come.
To the northwest.
She backpedaled while the boy came on whistling and cooing, matching him step for step. But the moment he threw up his arms in resignation she spun round as though cued, dropped on her belly, and peered over her shoulder.
The boy was first to blink. This time he approached fractionally, keeping movements to a minimum. She rose just as carefully, sauntering northwest in reverse, and at the first sign of hesitation turned, dropped, and cautiously gazed back. The boy glared at that huge mocking **** and broke into a sprint. She easily danced out of reach, plopped down, and continued to stare.
He began hurling stones, with venom and with accuracy, until she’d scurried into the brush.
But on the way back to his father he could feel her tagging along.
Twenty feet behind she halted, looking bemused.
The boy nodded ironically. He walked Hero over, murmuring baby talk all the way, and firmly placed a palm on the animal’s muzzle once her breath grazed his fingers. She stroked his hand up and down with her whiskers, gave a kind of curtsy, and waited on her knees while he helped his father mount.
At Hero’s touch a shudder ran down her body. She stood up straight. Her eyes became set, her back absolutely stiff. She put down her head and began the long trek northwest, never once breaking stride.
It was an amazing march, an impossible feat. For a little over three days and almost four hundred miles she progressed like an automaton, driving herself without rest, without food or water.
After trotting alongside for an hour the boy climbed on and force-fed his father berries and smoked meat, his dark eyes constantly searching the countryside. Occasionally he’d see a run of red foxes to their left, watching intently, padding cautiously. Sooner or later they’d vanish, only to be replaced by a train of feline or equine pursuers. Packs approached and receded while, high overhead, flocks formed triangular patterns that continually broke up and reformed. There was a peculiar rhythmic quality to this ebb and flow that lulled his senses further. The boy shook his head to clear it, but his exhaustion was deeper than he’d supposed—even the brush appeared to be leaning northwest.
That first day he grew numb with the pace, and that night the relentless pounding of her hooves drew him into a miserable slumber. He wrapped his arms around his sleeping father and lay half atop. When he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer he tore strips from his skins, then looped his tied wrists round her neck, his ankles round her belly.
On the second day she was breathing hard, but her back was still high and she showed no signs of faltering. Her eyes remained focused on the ground dead ahead. She always sensed the best routes; finding mountain passes, fording wetlands.
But by the third day they could feel her ribs quaking against their legs. Her breath exploded as she marched, blood frothed and caked about her nostrils. Still she pushed herself on, her pace so steady it was almost metronomic.
On the fourth day her legs were gone. She veered and stumbled, shuddering every few paces. The boy hopped off for the umpteenth time and tried to bring her to graze, but she wouldn’t be turned. He ran behind her as she staggered along, unwilling, or unable, to rest.
At last a foreleg gave and she went down hard. Sobbing and snorting, she plowed her muzzle back and forth in the soil, the useless leg repeatedly pounding the ground. After a minute she raised her head and brayed at the sky, her neck muscles taut, her head slowly swinging side to side. Her cry went on and on.
With a tremendous effort she pushed herself upright and butted the boy aside. Every part of her body was shaking. From her depths a low moan grew to a steady bray, and finally to a wild, pulsing howl. She came to a rise, but was too weak to climb without sliding. Stamping in frustration, she managed a few feet, reared feebly, slid some more. The boy got behind her and applied his back; it took all he had to assist her almost to the top. With a desperate lunge she crashed on her belly.
Amazingly, she dragged herself on, her howl now a scream, her head whipping left and right. When she could pull herself no farther she ****** forth her neck to its very limit and, with a shudder that ran from the tip of her nose to the tuft on her tail, shoved her muzzle straight into the dirt and died.
The boy hauled off his father and fell back. The animal’s eyes were fixed upwards, seeming, even in death, to be straining for a glimpse of what lay just beyond the rise. The boy half-dragged Hero the last few yards. They collapsed at the top, and together looked over the cold Baltic Sea.

At water’s edge a haggard fisherman sat on his boat’s ravaged deck, blindly staring out to sea. His was a queer vessel; a family structure built more like an aft-cabined barge than like seacraft typical of that period. The fisherman’s boat, like his mind, had been abused beyond repair.
He’d lost much in his life. Time had taken his dreams, pox his face, hardship his back and shoulders. And, more recently, a brawling band of drunken Baltic pirates had ***** his wife and daughter before butchering them along with his two fine sons, while he sat helplessly bound to the mast. Finally, to further their delight, they’d set the boat aflame and sent it crackling against the sun; knowing he could hear their hoots and howls, knowing he would drift undead, accompanied only by this last unspeakable memory.
But a squall, without prelude, had doused the flames and blown his home ashore.
There he’d remained for a full long day, staring at nothing, his shattered life caught on the rocks. On the second day he’d worked himself free and commenced staggering about in his memories, gathering shards. It was a pathetic claim. He made a pile of all the old bedding and linen and usable cords, and set about sewing a sort of mementos sail. All that third day he had sewn, and on the fourth he had hoisted this sail and been moved to see it billowing in a northwest-blowing breeze. Again he just sat and gaped. And later that day he’d become aware of a commotion taking place on the long grade leading down to the water, where a writhing mass of seagulls was proceeding like a tremendous slow-motion snowball. He’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t uncommon to find gulls in a group of many dozens or more, but there must have been two, maybe three thousand of the birds now swarming toward his boat. They were making an incredible racket. In the midst of this cloud could be seen a couple of slowly walking figures; as they neared he made out a small man accompanying a boy in his late teens, both dressed in odd skins. When they reached the rocks his eyes were drawn to the small man’s face. It was a foreign face, brutish and dark, with a deep cleft running from above the right temple to the jaw’s left side. Whatever instrument had felled this man had been devastating—everything in its path was smashed, and with permanence. The forehead was caved in. There was no bridge to the nose, the left cheek was completely collapsed, one side of the mouth was a mangled mess. The jaw itself had set improperly, so that it jutted to the side. The general impression, especially from a distance, was of some unforgettable circus freak’s countenance puckering at an angle. It was a face right out of a nightmare. But there was nothing frightening about the eyes. They were the eyes of a child.
Maybe half the gulls hopped screaming on the rocks. The rest circled overhead.
The boy considered the fisherman curiously before placing a foot on the charred deck. His gaze went around the boat, lingered on the makeshift sail, returned to the slumped figure. He passed a hand before the eyes. No response. He then leaned in close and placed his fingers on the man’s forehead. Immediately that bleak expression became fluid, brimming over with horror and heartbreak. Tears rolled down the fisherman’s cheeks as he gasped, shuddered, and backed up the scorched mast to his feet. Thus propped, he squinted at his visitors and was overcome by a wave of homesickness so strong he had to turn away. The feeling bewildered him, for this vessel, and this sea, were all the home he’d ever known. He clung to the mast while the boy helped his father board. Once he’d collected himself, the fisherman tore a heavy crossbeam from the toasted cabin. He and the boy used this as a lever, and together they shoved the boat off the rocks. The wind picked up nicely, and the little craft was swept across the water.
Exploding off the rocks, the gulls shot after the boat as if it were brimming with fish, the loudest and orneriest vying for favored positions directly overhead. The melee attracted additional gulls—they came shrieking in their hundreds from all sides, banking and calling in the oddest manner, until the mass grew so thick as to cast a permanent shadow on the boat. All day long the clamor continued, and all that night. The fisherman rolled with the rudder, listlessly, allowing the sea to control him. Eventually he let go, that the wind might bear them where it would. His sail ballooned but held firm, and the boat fairly zipped across a sea somehow smooth as glass, broken only by the vacillating ripples of bottleneck dolphins and migrating humpback whales. The three tiny sailors sat hunched together, motionless, all throughout the next day, until the black coast of Sweden loomed in the twilight.
As the boat neared land the cloud of gulls broke up, shot to shore, and landed in groups of a thousand and more; a dizzying, wildly uproarious reception committee.
The dung-covered boat slammed into the rocks, shattering the fisherman’s trance. He intuitively walked his **** up the mast and, swaying there, watched the boy draw his father over the side and lead him to a clearing at wood’s edge. There in the dusk he made out what appeared to be a hefty spotted runaway heifer hitched to a rickety wood wagon. He saw the cow gallop up to meet them, saw the boy look around warily, saw him help the little man into the wagon and climb in beside him. The animal immediately began picking through the woods, the large brass bell round her neck clanging forlornly.
The clarity of that bell made him realize just how quiet it had become. He craned his neck:  there wasn’t a gull in sight. He fell back against the shot mast and slid onto his tailbone with a clacking of teeth. His eyes were misting up. In the gathering dark a few sail fragments flew past and were ****** into the woods. The boat rocked and relaxed. After that there was only the sound of the receding bell’s sad, monotonous song being batted about by the wind.

The little cow strode through moonlit woods until she came to a path formed by the rutting of wheels over many years. She followed this broken, serpentine track throughout the night, and by morning was passing farms and, occasionally, crossing broader paths that might realistically be defined as roads. All day long she bore down that ragged track, until she came in late afternoon to a clearing near a village. Here many such tracks converged. And here the boy slipped away while she grazed.
Sometime after dark he returned with a load of straw, a couple of pilfered blankets, and a fat iron kettle. Crammed in this kettle were salt, tubers, cheese, a few loaves of rye, legumes, and a plump foot of lamb sausage. Most of this ***** he’d brought in tied to the bowed back of a huge, puffing, highly amenable black pig which, thus laden, now followed the boy’s every step like a fresh convert tracing the heels of the messiah. The boy built a fire under the stars, filled the kettle with creek water, and commenced simmering their dinner. While waiting, he couldn’t help but note an odd feature of the local flora:  plants, especially trees, all seemed inclined to a northwesterly disposition, though no amount of wind could account for it. He shooed the pig. But rather than run along, it backpedaled in a nervous circle, round and round in reverse, until it lost its balance and fell on its ****. There it remained, a yard behind the wagon. The boy fed his father and lined the wagon with straw. They settled in for the night. The boy must have nodded, might have dreamt, but while he was drifting he became aware of a stirring in the woods. He sat up, saw the pig’s eyes gleaming inches from his nose. And there were a number of animals, some wild, some strayed from farmsteads, arranged in a broad circle around the wagon, their eyes glinting with moonlight. Not a rustle, not a peep, was lifted from the woods.
In the morning he woke to find the pig still staring. The fidgeting heifer, impatient to roll, began her long day’s march while Hero and his boy were yet stretching and scratching, and the ******* pig, galloping heavily, fell in close behind. Each new day this routine was repeated. They banged past farms and small communities until the ruts intersected a broad rocky road wending halfway across the kingdom. The cow addressed this road with vigor. They picked up followers—a goat here, a couple of sheep there—which hurried after the wagon as best they could. The cow stomped on with resolve, mile after mile, day after day, her bell keeping steady time. That bell’s peal attracted foals, lambs, and kids into the wagon’s narrowing wake. Hares hopped between hooves and wheels, boars and blue foxes fell in and withdrew. White falcons, normally solo fliers, whirled into wedge shapes high overhead.
At night the entire train would camp on the road while the boy raided proximate farmsteads, always returning fully laden. And as soon as the fire died the colony grew, creature by creature, and the moment the sun broke the horizon the heifer came to life and moved on, but each day a bit more resolutely, as though straining to meet a deadline. The march took on a sense of real urgency. The cow pressed on with attitude, the clang of her bell more strident with each passing mile. Soon her followers numbered in the hundreds, as animals deserted their farms or crept out of the woods to tag along. Tillers and traders stood dumbfounded, amazed by the bizarre flow.
Once they’d crossed into Norway the frothing cow veered hard to the west. The pace really picked up; no longer were Hero and his boy afforded the luxury of a night’s sleep in one spot. Days blurred into a single variegated flow as the bashed and lopsided wagon continued building its entourage; the riders were surrounded dawn to dusk by a confused and confusing scurry. Word of the flow’s weirdness preceded it clear to the Norwegian coast, so that now plowmen and merchants, wearily gathering their goggling families, found themselves lined in anticipation along the king’s highway. Horsemen went pounding to and fro with news of the procession’s progress and particulars, children ran through the streets banging pots in imitation of the cow’s approaching bell. Livestock wheeled and stamped, fowl leaped and crashed.
The slobbering cow broke into a run.
Bystanders trotted behind, calling back and forth excitedly, while the wagon’s permanent following squealed and squawked between their heels. The cow made a hard turn onto a widening swath in the brush. This swath, seeming to strain against the soil, ran straight down to the crest of a low hill overlooking the Atlantic. On either side a crowd had been studying the phenomenon for some time, but now all eyes swung to the dark and disfigured man and his son, clinging to the disintegrating wagon behind the careening spotted cow.
The trailing people traded views as they ran. Most—at the very outset of the new millennium, with Christianity burgeoning throughout Europe—leaned to the miraculous. Others, just as superstitious but prone to a darker point of view, threw looks of horror at the deformed little man. Yet they ran no less eagerly.
The galloping crowd made for the seaside, where only one local event of any moment was brewing:  on the coast a Greenlander Viking was preparing his longship for the rough voyage home. Impetuous son of the great island’s first permanent European settler, he’d just been baptized in Olaf’s court, and was now eager to sail—but not as a warrior—as a missionary. While his spirit remained in a tug-o’-war between his father Erik’s will and that of gods old and new, his duty was clearly to his king. And Olaf had charged him with the Christianization of pagan Greenland.
Something on the wind now made this destined man turn his head. From behind the gentle hill to his rear came a kind of thunder. Heads popped up, followed by a confused explosion of voices, and seconds later a frantic bug-eyed heifer burst into view, dragging the wheel-less skeleton of a shattered wooden wagon. On the wagon’s splayed frame a man and teenaged boy clung for their lives as the spewing animal made a beeline for his ship.
The new missionary, still egocentric enough to assume his Maker might actually toss him a personal, surreptitiously rolled up his eyes. The sky yawned at his arrogance. At his side a smallish cowled man rose irritably, but the missionary sat him right back down. He then snorted, squared his shoulders, and signaled his men to halt their preparations.
Knowing it was expected, he gathered his hard Nordic pride and coolly made his way into the crowd.

The priest clung to port, gagging above the waves.
After a completely uneventful minute he leaned back and stared through tearing eyes at the distant backdrop of gathering mists. Weeks now…a man of his constitution had no business at sea.
Along, too, were a quirky little man and his fiercely devoted son.
Through his pantomime, the boy had been so persistent in begging their passage that refusal, under the circumstances, would have been unbecoming not only a man of God but a man of the world.
So there it was:  a priest who couldn’t hold his lunch, a witless eyesore who couldn’t sit still, and a surly teenaged protector who snarled at the first hard look. This crossing just had to be some kind of divine test—of mortal patience as well as moral values. Norsemen weren’t made for babysitting.
The mists condensed.
And the shifting shape became a hard familiar coast.
And the longship was mooring, and the crew were jostling and clambering, and the big missionary had booted off the haunted little freak and his hypersensitive son, and was condescendingly half-escorting, half-carrying, the green priest ashore.
And they were home.

Priest in tow, Leif quickly took up the Christianization of Greenland’s Western Settlement, as per Olaf’s command. The mangled little man and his son followed him around like dogs, slept outside his door and annoyed his visitors, ultimately proving far easier to adopt than to shake. Barely tolerable shadows…still, the lad was simply amazing with livestock…and though the youth’s useless father seemed time and again to be just begging for a whooping, his son’s presence bore some ineffable quality that always curbed the missionary’s hand. Several times he’d witnessed the father approached by settlers bent on abuse. Each time the boy had stepped in, and each time the troublemakers were mysteriously repelled. The missionary of course didn’t attribute any kind of celestial intervention to these episodes, and certainly the popular notion of devilry was a natural reaction to the pair’s outrageous exoticness, but…in the son’s company, and even under the sharp eyes of his fellow Norsemen, Leif more than once found himself oddly moved to protect the father. And so the deformed man and his boy day by day blent in—as village idiot and mystic guide. And when in time a ****** brought tales of an unvisited land to the west, it was only natural for the restless Greenlander to buy that ******’s boat and, before stalwart comrades, weary family, and whimsical God Almighty, reluctantly accept the eccentric father and son as sort of seagoing mascots.
Hero was from then on irrepressible. During preparations he would pipe and stammer in his half-mute way, brimming with a confounding anxiety that kept him underfoot and at odds with all. On frigid nights he perched on the westernmost rocks, moaning to the horizon in the strangest fashion while his son stood guard. He positively spooked the locals; they’d gossip, nervously and with bile, of an answering wind that came wailing off the sea like a banshee in labor. The whole island wanted rid of him. And when his champing beneficiary, still clinging to the notion of Christian charity, bundled him aboard with his son and a crew of thirty-five, not a single settler was sorry to see him go.
Almost from the moment they cast off everything went wrong, as all attempts to control the longship were met with some kind of unknowable countermanding force. Vikings were not renowned for passive resistance—they fought, squaresail and steering oar, leaning oarsman to oarsman, until the ship rocked on the waves like a bucking bronco. An erratic weather system pursued them, worsening dramatically at each minute variation in heading. The Norsemen doubled down, and when the clouds finally burst wide, the cowling sea went mad. Dervishes whirled about the hull, crisscrossing winds bedeviled the sail. Patches of kelp belonging to much warmer waters came heaving alongside, fouling the work of the oars, while far to the west a humongous fog bank formed, eradicating the navigable field. The lightning-streaked horizon was a throbbing gray slit.
The longship became locked in a slow westerly current.
Fatigued crewmen complained of headaches and hallucinations, and of a nasty, slightly metallic tang to the air. There were numerous walrus sightings; bobbing flippers and snouts amid drifting ice chunks that came prowling the North Sea like a circling pack of famished white wolves.
Worst of all was the boy’s father—instantly agitated by everything and nothing, prey to some primitive impulse that caused him to periodically incline his head, shudder to his feet, and loop his arms as though embracing the sky. Leif would watch him scrabbling at the prow like a cat at a tree, furs snapping in the wind. He’d watch the boy re-seat him for the hundredth time, and for the hundredth time be filled with an immense contempt. By now he’d acknowledged that it takes a special kind of strength to shoulder charity and tolerance. That brown little freak struck him as an enormous malformed barnacle, slowly working its way back up the prow. Trying so hard to go unnoticed, looking and listening so intently, though there was nothing to see other than the growing shelves of fog, and nothing to hear save the rising, almost hysterical voice of the wind.
Leif sniffed the air, his ******’s instincts nagging him. This was a foul current, and a fool's errand; he took a deep breath and tentatively ordered the longship brought about.
The ship kicked twice, as though an enormous submarine hand had seized and released the hull.
A whirl formed in the water, causing the keeling ship to sweep around like a clock’s second hand. All about them, those drift-ice ghosts cruised dangerously near.
But they’d been liberated from that accursed current. Leif fiercely urged on his rowers, and at last the ship broke free. They made a bead due north.
Night came and the temperature plummeted.
Small sheets of ice converged, drifting between the hunks. The Norsemen, instinctively huddling amidships, passed out one by one in a massive pile of fur and flesh. In the freezing silence the floes bumped and recoiled, bumped and gathered, bumped and bonded. The tiny ship, swallowed whole, was dragged along in a labyrinth of black sea and interlocking slabs of ice.

The Norsemen came to in a surly, foul-smelling heap, lost at sea. While they were still groggy a voice cried out that a darker patch was developing in the fog. The men all fell to port. Under the confusion of their voices could be heard a distant rumble.
At this Hero hauled himself up the high curved prow. A half-light began to penetrate the fog, barely illuminating the irregular faces of drifting ice. The missionary stormed forward and indicated by gestures that if the boy didn’t restrain his father he would have the man tied down.
The longship stopped dead in the water.
The men found themselves regarding a perpetually frozen coastline swathed in bluish veils of mist. Directly before them loomed an immense ice cliff hundreds of feet high. Rising beyond this cliff were endless snow fields, where lean violet shadows seemed to drag about of their own volition. And upon those bleak fields a thin howling wind prowled, kicking up brief white dervishes, leaving a strange zigzagging signature.
Even as they stared, a darker shadow high on the ice cliff’s glistening face began to widen, accompanied by a cracking sound that could be felt before it was heard. With the illusion of slow-motion, a stupendous chunk broke out of the cliff and came screaming toward the sea. It hit the water like a bomb. The thunder of its separation and the explosion of its impact took a moment to reach them. Then, out of a spewing crater of crests and spume, the new calf came lunging, tromping the sea so hard the longship, fully a mile to sea, was swept out and ****** back in like a cork. The floundering mountain of ice bobbed and lilted, generating huge waves which continued to rock the ship long after the monster had settled. In a while the roaring in their ears subsided and there remained only the swirling, nerve-wracking howl of the wind.
The missionary’s eyes swept left and right. Whatever this place was, it sure wasn’t the fair shoreline he’d been promised. Hero again scrambled up the prow, and Leif again yanked him down. This time he made good his threat; he had the little nuisance bound, though he was half-tempted to let him take his chances overboard.
From somewhere deep in the haze grew a soulful, otherworldly call. It went on and on, electrifying the air, bottoming out once the ship had merged with that previously fought westerly flow.
By now Leif’s nerves were shot. He ordered the oars raised.
The longship began to drift. Ship and ice were pulled due west.
The clouds fell far behind as the ship embarked upon an amazingly calm sea—so calm its entire visible surface was featureless except for the faint wakes provided by the ship and its hulking ice companions. To the east a huge fog bank appeared on the horizon, and a while later a smaller bank to the north. Then a very dense one to the south. In time these banks converged, imperceptibly becoming a single mass that closed about the ship, bit by bit creating a slowly heaving dome. Tiny beads of water appeared on beards and eyebrows; in a minute everything was soaked. The only sound was that of the dragging steering oar. The men were now sopping ghosts, speaking only with their eyes.
Directly ahead the fog began to dimple. The dimple became a hollow, the hollow a cave, and then ship and ice were being towed through a low, ever-extending tunnel in fog. The current increased its pull. Ship and drifting ice accelerated through the tunnel.
After a while the missionary quietly stepped forward. He stood with one hand on the prow’s neck, listening to the mist, so motionless he might have been a carved extension of the longship’s aggressive design. Not a man breathed. The tunnel’s dilating and contracting bore was producing an all but seamless series of oscillating, near-phonetic sounds. Leif almost tiptoed back. No god, pagan or Christian, could account for the strangeness of this situation.
They were borne on a course that grew more southerly, and the following day beheld an inhospitable shoreline glazed by dazzling white beaches. Their course held. Two days later they came upon a far pleasanter, thickly wooded coast. Here the current released its hold, and here the missionary untied Hero and personally placed him and his son in a tiny oak faering. He was just as sick of them as he was excited by this promising new land. Once the rowboat had been heaved over the side, he and another man stepped aboard and took up the oars. They began rowing with easy, powerful strokes.
When the boat kissed sand the missionary stood unsteadily.
The first European to set foot on North American soil now placed one hand on his crucifix, the other on his sword’s hilt, and awkwardly plunged his leg into the thigh-deep, ice-cold surf. Before he could take another step the boat lurched as Hero leapt headfirst into the water, followed an instant later by his son. The Greenlanders watched sourly as the two splashed their way into a mad dash for the waiting pines. Leif wished them both good riddance and turned to grin wryly at his fellow Norseman. He must have blacked out for a second, must have been blinded by a shaft of sun, for he found he was staring stupidly at a point midway between his companion and the longship. It felt like he’d been kicked between the eyes.
Everything was dissolving.
He studied the beach and pines closely, but saw nothing of the man or his boy. He turned back, disoriented. With what seemed a superhuman effort he took up his oars. He rowed out sluggishly, in a dream, and the fog rolled in to meet him.

The boy broke into the trees and embraced a trunk, fighting for breath. What happened next happened so fast and so unexpectedly he didn’t have a chance to react.
Three savages stepped from behind the pines and beat him to his knees. They twisted his arms behind his back and hauled him to his feet. He’d barely processed the impression of a wild painted face when something sharp struck him ******* the temple and tore down his cheek to the jaw. Two of the assailants manhandled him into an upright position and held him in place while the third brought his weapon down again and again and again.
All but dead, he watched a nightmare countenance shouting through a shot veil of blood, and behind that image a reeling crimson sun. He lay there gushing while the savages went through his rags. They propped him against a pine and shrieked with triumph, tore the hair and gory scalp from his skull, threw back their heads and screamed at the screaming sky. Tooth and nail, they ripped apart his face and throat and, certain he would die, split what bits of fur were left and let his carcass lie.

                                                HERO

The weeks stretched into months while he fought his way back into the light.
He progressed in stages; only half-conscious, stumbling along in a blood-red stupor punctuated by a slow strobe of frequent blackouts. Days loomed and decayed, nights pounced and were gone; the backlit, swirling gray cosmos collapsed and expanded on every missed beat of his pulse. A thousand times he broke down to die, and a thousand times he clawed to his feet, driven to pursue a tiny, ghost-like figure fluttering in his memory.
Everything conspired to check him.
A bay like an immense landlocked sea was skirted over months or years—it was all the same. Cold locked him in, Hunger drove him afield, that rude ***** Wind lashed him blind, wore him like a shoe, screamed for his skin while he worked his way west.
Somehow he ate, somehow he avoided being eaten; the instincts that had served him halfway around the planet were still vital beneath the abused exterior. His simple burrows became sturdy temporary shelters. He relearned the art of fire, and began to cook what he killed. He manufactured crude snares and weapons and, when his recuperation was complete, paid closer attention to the on-again, off-again trail he’d been following…forever.
Sometimes this trail would call to him like a lover. Other times he stood peering uncertainly, trying to recapture meanings and aims. Then the ground would turn spongy and the sky revolve, and once again he’d be lying all but dead in the woods, while from the face of the sun emerged a vile winged horror, its ugly pale head lashing side to side, its cruelly hooked beak dangling something that glistened in the wild pulsing light…then the fat moon, rising like gas against the icy black night…the feel of the wind:  the slashing of her nails, the chafing of her hem…the sound of things crunching and pausing and sniffing…then the sun, blazing anew. And again that thing, descending, its wide black wings beating slowly, metronomically—but none of that mattered any more. For his mind had quit him, had flown howling into ice and pine to roost with things surreal. In the day his madness might muddle and run, or spend the light stalking, cat-like, watching and waiting. But at night it came creeping from all sides. Sometimes it came in waves. It could gnaw like the devil, or wrap around him like a warm second skin. But none of that mattered either.
The only thing that mattered was the trail—whether it was lost for good, or for only a while. He’d been following it through his episodes, always north, wondering just who and where in the world he was, and trying to shake a ridiculous notion of being led on a wild goose chase.
The cold was unbelievable.
The deeper north he delved, the more confused he became. He grew starved for colors and scents, finding nonexistent patterns in the stark contrast of shadow and snow. He thought he could detect a kind of otherworldly design in the overwhelming number of dead ends he encountered, and, too, in the diabolically frustrating locations of natural obstacles. He seemed to be forever fighting the wind—a hulking, despondent snowman, he hiked face down and focused, while another aspect of his attention floated just behind, disembodied, watching his silent pursuers…leaving no tracks, blending perfectly with the environment in their clever winter coats…not predators, but creatures that normally should have been hightailing it away from him. By the time he could turn, they’d become nothing more menacing than snowdrifts. But they pursued him nevertheless.
And so his paranoia increased…had there ever really been a trail…and when did this miserably cold, miserably anemic crusade begin…his long-term memory was falling apart a chunk at a time. It just got colder and colder and colder until at last, one snippet of a day during one blur of a year, he found himself utterly lost, and clueless as to his history or objective. His mind was a blank, as colorless and featureless as the endless world of ice around him. He’d come this far solely to learn that the only trail he’d been following was his own—and now even that trail was succumbing to ice. On all sides there was nothing to see but an infinite field of glaring whiteness, and nothing to hear but the ululating wail of the tubular polar wind. It was the loneliest, the unholiest, the creepiest sound imaginable. But it wasn’t insanity that made him wheel. It was his self-preservation instinct.
And then he was somehow on his knees in the woods, facing a furious setting sun.
Whole seasons had passed from his memory like chalk from a board. His only recollections were those of a broken, haunted animal:  of being perilously sick, of fearing the unseen, of blindly struggling across a solid-white wilderness. That he’d survived such an ordeal meant nothing to him. And that he had in some indecipherable manner stumbled across the cold-as-stone trail did not fill him with amazement or with thankfulness—there simply wasn’t anything visual or emotional left to draw on. A significant part of his life had been whited out.
But now he could focus entirely on the trail. And before he knew it, the fuzzy area between fantasy and reality found a seam. He began to analyze and plan. He paid attention to hygiene, and kept a kind of running mental journal. Things were sorting out. Yet there were nights when the old sickness would resurface, reestablish its hold, and leave him sweating and uncertain under the stars. Then, paradoxically, his perception would become razor-keen. And so he would see, on a distant hilltop, a pair of scrawny silhouettes, one on four legs and one on two, slowly crossing the faintly pocked face of the setting moon. He would become strangely excited, and thereafter retain crystal-clear images of himself, as if seen from above, hurrying with adroitness through the silent, graveyard-like setting of black and blue night and white-frosted trees. Then the fuzzy area would broaden, and it would be the next morning, and he would be staring at the prints of man and elk in snow. And he would see how the elk’s prints doubled back, and how the man’s prints terminated where he had obviously mounted his guide. An unfathomable glow would bring tears to his eyes. But, even as he gathered himself, a fresh snowfall would wipe out the prints. And once again the world would plummet into white. And the wind would howl as the snow hammered his eyes. And he would ***** on.

A haggard animal sat shivering in a small grove of frozen pines, watching his campfire die. His eyes were fixed. Like the fire, he was running out of warmth, running out of fuel. There wasn’t a whole lot of tinder round his bones, and not much feeling left in his limbs. The slowly heaping downfall was burying him alive, but he was too numb to care.
It had taken him six long years to cross an entire continent, and during that time he’d known only cold and excruciating pain. The pain was leaving him now. The cold was making it right. His eyes glazed over.
Along a narrow plain to the west a herd of caribou filed dreamily through the snow, cutting across a panoramic backdrop of dazzling white mountains. The slow-motion parade was hypnotic. After a while it occurred to the drifting man, in a roundabout way, that he was dying, that he was nonchalantly freezing to death. Concurrent with this notion there rose in his chest a wonderful liquid warmth. His eyes slowly closed and, once shut, began to set fast.
He was jolted from within. It was as if he’d been kicked in the heart.
He ****** to his feet, pounded his fists on his thighs, felt nothing. The breath spurted from his mouth in small white clouds as he stumbled downhill after the slow caribou train. He swam through the snow, hallucinating, imagining that certain individuals in the herd were mocking him by slowing and accelerating, while others glanced back with expressions of contempt.
As he burst into their midst the animals stepped aside indifferently. A few galloped ahead to keep up the herd, but most simply sidestepped while he danced there, stamping his feet and smacking his hands. The herd grew thinner, until only the old and infirm were filing by. The man desperately embraced a hobbling female for warmth, but she cried out and kicked, triggering a panic reaction in the herd. Clinging for his life, the man was dragged along beside her as the herd stormed into a maze of flying ice and snow. His weight caused her to stagger sideways until they slammed against the flank of a sick male. The man instinctively threw an arm over the male and, thus draped between them, was borne across the drifted plain for upwards of a mile, his freezing feet alternately dangling above and dragging through the snow. The herd broke into a hard run, forcing him to assume a broken trot. Soon his legs were stinging. Sensation rushed through his body.
Now the herd, still picking up speed, began to contract, jamming him between his bearers. There was a quick jolt to his right and he was lifted clean off his feet, nearly straddling the bucking female. It had become an all-out stampede. Through hard-flung snow he saw the cause:  just ahead, the caribou had run head-on into a solid wall of galloping wood bison, and both frantic herds had blindly veered to the east; were in fact running side by side down a deep, ragged canyon—were pouring over the canyon’s lip like a cataract. He was approaching, at breakneck pace, that very place where the converged herds so abruptly swerved. The hanging man snarled as he was borne inevitably to the point of deflection.
There came a concussion at his left shoulder, followed by a blast of snow. In an instant the ailing male was tumbling head over heels to the east, ****** into the stampede’s plummeting mass by the fury of its descent. The man and female, rebounding from this impact, were shot to the west in a crazy jumble of flailing legs. The caribou lost her footing, flew nose-first into a snowbank, and came up running. Kicking off, the man used the last of his strength to heave himself astride. At first she fought to shake him, but the spell of the run was too strong. She and half a dozen others went pounding in the opposite direction of the stampede, quickly joined by a number of bison that had likewise splintered from their herd. The riding man could make out their huge hulking shapes thundering by in a blizzard of flying ice, could hear their heavy gasps and explosive grunts. One passed so close he felt its massive flank brush his leg. He peered to his right and saw a black, pig-like eye regarding him excitedly, moving up and down like a piston as the beast ran alongside.
The eye shifted, focusing on the gasping, completely obsessed female. The bull dropped its head and slammed into the caribou’s side, sending her and the man careening down a ***** to the west. The caribou brayed hysterically and her backside went down, but she managed, despite the weight of her rider, to return to all fours and frantically continue along the *****. Again the bull charged, crashing into her shoulder. The man and caribou were launched sideways into the white searing air.
He sat up carefully. The huffing bison was straddling him like a bully laying down the ground rules. Its big wiry beard came right up to brush his chin. The stench of its breath was stupefying.
The bull stamped and snorted, thrusting its stubby horns left and right as the man used his elbows and heels to back away. The bull followed, move for move. When the man collapsed under his own impetus the bull shoved him along with its snout, bellowing furiously. Clear down the ***** they lunged, shoving and lurching, until the man lay sprawled on his back; up to his chin in snow, completely helpless. The ton of a bull butted and kicked, but only glancingly:  those hooves could **** with a blow. At last the man, in one clean sequence, spun on his rear, dropped to his side, and went rolling down the ***** using his elbows for ******.
At the bottom ran a narrow fence of frosted saplings marking an ice cliff’s precipice. He lay face down in the snow, too done in to do anything but **** at an air pocket.
And there came a high-pitched crackling, a sound like the protracted gasp of embers in a dead fire. He turned just as those saplings began leaning to the west, their frozen skins cracking with the strain.
The bison bellowed menacingly.
The sprawled man looked back and saw it still standing with legs spread wide, silhouetted against the sky. In a moment it began huffing downhill, lurching side to side, surfing the snow between lunges.
It chased him through the genuflecting saplings straight into a frozen gully where, protected by a few feet of insurmountable verticality, he was able to slide on the ice between its stomping hooves, downhill out of reach, then downhill out of control—spinning just in time to glimpse a breathtaking vista:
Partly framed by the gully-straddling saplings was a vast crescent of jagged white mountains seemingly huddled round a small stretch of snow-draped pines. The little wood these mountains surrounded was isolated in a broad lake of solid ice. Hundreds of fissures radiated crazily throughout this packed ice field, appearing to issue from somewhere near the frozen wood’s center, which was completely obscured by a ring of rising mist. Above this thumbnail panorama the sun showered gold.
Then the gully dipped radically, and he was skidding headfirst, slamming back and forth against its slick white walls. This uncontrollable plunge had the positive effect of getting his blood flowing. Yet it tore him up. Had the gully concluded in a cul-de-sac, or had further progress required a single calorie of uphill effort, his struggle would certainly have ended here. He would have been too weak to move, and death would have been swift.
But there was a glacier—a great river of ice pouring slowly out of the clouds. The gully, terminating in a little scoop formation near the glacier’s base, spat him flailing onto its gnarly glass hide. He went head over heels, bits of skin and fur flying like chips from a band saw. Somehow he gained his footing, and then he was running against his will, tumbling and recovering and tumbling again.
He didn’t catch much of that crazy run. He half-glimpsed whirling walls of ice, felt a fickle surface underfoot, and broke through an assaultive mist that clung to his ankles and arms. He remembered having the ragged hides torn right off his body, and then being skinned alive. And he remembered reaching the glacier’s base and crawling like an animal; round its sweeping drifts, past its peaked moraines, all the way to a twisting frozen gorge.
And he followed this gorge down; ricocheting wall to wall, delirious, small plumes of thrashed snow marking his descent.
Through a freezing wood he fumbled. In a veil of mist he tumbled down a steep and verdant grade. As cold consumed his closing breath, he fell upon, near-blind, near death, a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a pool.
And in this pool a man lay purged, his broken body half-submerged.
The stumbling man stopped. He knelt to weep, but lost his thread. One hand took a bicep, the other, the head. With a twist and pull the corpse emerged.
That visage…that face—misshapen mask, contorted, bleached; of life’s deposits fully leached. Essence dispatched—a void, sodden wretch.
He let it fall and the glass was breached. All a freak, all a stretch:  upon this act his grip detached.
And the bridge collapsed…one vagabond grasp…what were these feelings; recaptured and trashed…a span elapsed…who was this puckered mass…he hauled it by the waist and thighs…slid it in, watched the pool react:  purse and recover, expand, contract. The glass reformed, now silver-backed…a sudden mirror…the man leaned nearer…saw his reflection, just smashed, remade intact.
The pool grew still.
Within its depth a shadow stirred—visions gathered, some distinct, some obscure. What they meant, and who they were, was much too much to fathom. The glass became blurred.
He closed his eyes, let his heavy head fall, fell back on his haunches, felt the sweat seep and crawl. The air was a pall—as he struggled to rise, a nib crossed his wrist.
He opened his eyes.
Between his fingers the blades poked and crept. Round his knuckles they ventured, up his forearm they stepped:  they seemed to be triggered by prompts from the ground. He shook his head slowly and dully looked round.
There were jays grouped about him, their black eyes aglow. Red hens came running, their fat chicks in tow. Gophers engaged in a weird hide-and-seek. Bluebells and buttercups craned for a peek. Sparrows hopped past and, paying no heed, burst into flight. He watched them recede.
Westward they flew.
Bewildered, he slumped.
Bumped from behind, he jumped to his feet, flabbergasted to find an ancient gray moose near-eclipsing the sky, with grit in his snarl and fire in his eye.
The old moose took aim.
The man turned to flee and stumbled, then tumbled and fell on a palm and a knee.

But there lies a world (so the lullaby goes) where rivers ever run.
Poked from behind, pushed out of his mind, he staggered into sun.







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Nick Huber Jun 2016
My verse is free
******, malleable, ever changing
From sadness, to peace
The cavernous confines expand
And my heart is lit aflame

My words are simple
Visions, prophesies, fortunes
From death, to life
The time between dilates
And my soul is lit aflame

My tone is steady
Musical, poetic, evolving
From anger, to gratitude
The space between magnifies
And my voice is lit aflame

My steps are fast
Running, wild, assured
From sedation, to waking
The road in front broadens
My body is lit aflame
Julie Grenness Mar 2016
Oh, bucolic pastorale,
Dawn brings a carnival,
Golden-pink, sunrise hues,
What a wonder for our view,
Dawn draws back her veil,
Night vanishes, sunlight's grail,
Our skies aflame,
End nocturnal games,
Oh, bucolic pastorale,
Dawn brings her carnival.
Feedback welcome.
Cyril Blythe Sep 2012
I followed him down the trail until we got to the mouth of the mines. The life and energy of the surrounding maples and birches seemed to come to a still and then die as we walked closer, closer. The air was cold and dark and damp and smelt of mold and moths. Delvos stepped into the darkness anyways.
“Well, girl, you coming or aren’t you?”
I could see his yellowed tobacco teeth form into a slimy smile as I stepped out of the sun. It was still inside. The canary chirped.
“This tunnel is just the mouth to over two hundred others exactly like it. Stay close. Last thing I need this month is National Geographic on my *** for losing one of their puppet girls.”
“Delvos, ****. I have two masters degrees.” He rolled his eyes.
“Spare me.” He trotted off around the corner to the left, whistling.
“I survived alone in the jungles of Bolivia alone for two months chasing an Azara’s Spinetail. I climbed the tallest mountain in Nepal shooting Satyr Tragopans along the cliff faces. In Peru I…” Suddenly I felt the weight of the darkness. In my blinding anger I lost track of his lantern. I stopped, my heartbeat picked up, and I tried to remind myself of what I did in Peru.
I followed a Diurnal Peruvian Pygmy-Owl across the gravel tops of the Andes Mountains, no light but the Southern Cross and waning moon above. I am not scared of darkness. I am not scared of darkness.
I stopped to listen. Somewhere in front of me the canary chirped.

When I first got the job in Vermont I couldn’t have been more frustrated. Mining canaries? Never had I ever ‘chased’ a more mundane bird. Nonetheless, when Jack Reynolds sends you on a shoot you don’t say no, so I packed up my camera bag and hoped on the next plane out of Washington.
“His name is John Delvos.” Jack said. He handed me the manila case envelope. “He’s lived in rural Vermont his entire life. Apparently his family bred the canaries for the miners of the Sheldon Quarry since the early twenties. When the accident happened the whole town basically shut down. There were no canaries in the mines the day the gas killed the miners. His mother died in a fire of some sort shortly after. The town blamed the Delvos family and ran them into the woods. His father built a cabin and once his father died, Delvos continued to breed the birds. He ships them to other mining towns across the country now. We want to run a piece about the inhumanity of breeding animals to die so humans won’t.” I stood in silence in front of his deep mahogany desk, suddenly aware of the lack of make-up on my face. He smiled, “You’re leaving on Tuesday.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don’t look so smug, Lila. This may not be the most exotic bird you’ve shot but the humanity of this piece has the potential to be a cover story. Get the shots, write the story.”

“Do you understand the darkness now, Ms. Rivers? Your prestigious masters degrees don’t mean **** down here.” Delvos reappeared behind the crack of his match in a side tunnel not twenty yards in front of me. He relit the oily lantern and turned his back without another word. I reluctantly followed deeper into the damp darkness.
“Why were there no canaries in the mine on, you know, that day?” The shadows of the lantern flickered against the iron canary cage chained on his hip and the yellow bird hopped inside.
“I was nine, Ms. Rivers. I didn’t understand much at the time.” We turned right into the next tunnel and our shoes crunched on jagged stones. All the stones were black.
“But surely you understand now?”
The canary chirped.

When I first got to Sheldon and began asking about the location of the Delvos’ cabin you would have thought I was asking where the first gate to hell was located. Mothers would smile and say, “Sorry, Miss, I can’t say,” and hurriedly flock their children in the opposite direction. After two hours of polite refusals I gave up. I spent the rest of the first day photographing the town square. It was quaint; old stone barbershops surrounded by oaks and black squirrels, a western themed whiskey bar, and a few greasy spoon restaurants interspersed in-between. I booked a room in the Walking Horse Motel for Wednesday night, determined to get a good nights sleep and defeat this towns fear of John Delvos tomorrow.
My room was a tiny one bed square with no TV. Surprise, surprise. At least I had my camera and computer to entertain myself. I reached into the side of my camera bag and pulled out my Turkish Golds and Macaw-beak yellow BIC. I stepped out onto the dirt in front of my door and lit up. I looked up and the stars stole all the oxygen surrounding me. They were dancing and smiling above me and I forgot Delvos, Jack, and all of Sheldon except it’s sky. Puffing away, I stepped farther and farther from my door and deeper into the darkness of night. The father into the darkness the more dizzying the stars dancing became.
“Ma’am? Everything okay?”
Startled, I dropped my cigarette on the ground and the ember fell off.
“I’m sorry, sir. I was just, um, the stars…” I snuffed out the orange glow in the dirt with my boot and extended my hand, “Lila Waters, and you are?”
“Ian Benet. I haven’t seen you around here before, Ms. Waters, are you new to town?”
“I’m here for work. I’m a bird photographer and journalist for National Geographic. I’m looking for John Delvos but I’m starting to think he’s going to be harder to track than a Magpie Robin.”
The stars tiptoed in their tiny circles above in the silence. Then, they disappeared with a spark as Ian lit up his wooden pipe. It was a light colored wood, stained with rich brown tobacco and ash. He passed me his matches, smiling.
“What do you want with that old *******? Don’t tell me National Geographic is interested in the Delvos canaries.”
I lit up another stick and took a drag. “Shocking, right?”
“Actually, it’s about time their story is told.” Benet walked to the wooden bench to our left and patted the seat beside him. I walked over. “The Delvos canaries saved hundreds of Sheldonian lives over the years. But the day a crew went into the mines without one, my father came out of the ground as cold as when we put him back into it in his coffin.”
I sat in silence, unsure what to say. “Mr. Benet, I’m so sorry…”
“Please, just Ian. My father was the last Mr. Benet.”
We sat on the wooden bench, heat leaving our bodies to warm the dead wood beneath our legs. I shivered; the stars dance suddenly colder and more violent.
“Delvos canaries are martyrs, Ms. Waters. This whole town indebted to those tiny yellow birds, but nobody cares to remember that anymore.”
“Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Delvos and his, erm, martyrs?” The ember of my second cigarette was close to my pinching fingertips.
“Follow me.” Ian stood up and walked to the edge of the woods in front of us. We crunched the cold dust beneath our feet, making me aware of how silent it was. Ian stopped at a large elm and pointed, “See that yellow notch?” Sure enough, there was a notch cut and dyed yellow at his finger’s end. “If you follow true north from this tree into the woods you’ll find this notch about every fifty yards or so. Follow the yellow and it’ll spit you out onto the Delvos property.”
“Thank you, Ian. I really can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am to find out where to find this elusive Mr. Delvos and his canaries.”
“You don’t have to,” he knocked the ash out of his pipe against the tree, “Just do those birds justice in your article. Remember, martyrs. Tell old Delvos Ian Benet sends his regards.” He turned and walked back to the motel and I stood and watched in silence. It was then I realized I hadn’t heard a single bird since I got to Sheldon. The stars dance was manic above me as I walked back to my room and shut the door.

The canary chirped and Delvos stopped.
“This is a good place to break out fast. Sit.”
I sat obediently, squirming around until the rocks formed a more comfortable nest around my bony hips. We left for the mines as the stars were fading in the vermillion Vermont sky this morning and had been walking for what seemed like an eternity. I was definitely ready to eat. He handed me a gallon Ziploc bag from his backpack filled with raisins, nuts, various dried fruits, and a stiff piece of bread. I attacked the food like a raven.
“I was the reason no canaries entered the mines that day, Ms. Waters.” Delvos broke a piece of his bread off and wrapped it around a dried piece of apricot, or maybe apple. I was suddenly aware of my every motion and swallowed, loudly. I crinkled into my Ziploc and crunched on the pecans I dug out, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I’m not a parrot, Mr. Delvos, I don’t answer expectedly on command. You’ll tell me if you want.” I hurriedly stuffed a fistful of dried pears into my mouth.
Delvos chuckled and my nerves eased, “You’ve got steel in you, Ms. Rivers, I’ll give you that much.”
I nodded and continued cramming pears in my mouth.
“I was only nine. The canaries were my pets, all of them. I hated when Dad would send them into the mines to die for men I couldn’t give two ***** about. It was my birthday and I asked for an afternoon of freedom with my pets and Dad obliged. I was in the aviary with pocketfuls of sunflower-seeds. Whenever I threw a handful into the air above me, the air came to life with flickering yellow brushes and songs of joy. It was the happiest I have ever been, wholly surrounded and protected by my friends. Around twelve thirty that afternoon the Sheriff pulled up, lights ablaze. The blue and red lights stilled my yellow sky to green again and that’s when I heard the shouting. He cuffed my Dad on the hood of the car and Mom was crying and pushing her fists into the sheriff’s chest. I didn’t understand at all. The Sheriff ended up putting Mom in the car too and they all left me in the aviary. I sat there until around four that afternoon before they sent anyone to come get me.”
Delvos took a small bite of his bread and chewed a moment. “No matter how many handfuls of seeds I threw in the air after that, the birds wouldn’t stir. They wouldn’t even sing. I think they knew what was happening.”
I was at a loss for words so of course I blurted, “I didn’t see an aviary at your house…”
Delvos laughed. “Someone burnt down the house I was raised in the next week while we were sleeping. Mom died that night. The whole dark was burning with screams and my yellow canaries were orange and hot against the black sky. That’s the only night I’ve seen black canaries and the only night I’ve heard them scream.”
I swallowed some mixed nuts and they rubbed against my dry throat.
“They never caught the person. A week later Dad took the remainder of the birds and we marched into the woods. We worked for months clearing the land and rebuilding our lives. We spent most of the time in silence, except for the canary cries. When the house was finally built and the birds little coops were as well, Dad finally talked. The only thing he could say was ‘Canaries are not the same as a Phoenix, John. Not the same at all.”
The canary chirped, still only visible by the lanterns flame. Not fully yellow, I realized, here in the mines, but not fully orange either.

When I first walked onto John Delvos’ property on Thursday morning he was scattering feed into the bird coops in the front of his cabin. Everything was made of wood and still wet with the morning’s dew.
“Mr. Delvos?” He spun around, startled, and walked up to me a little too fast.
“Why are you here? Who are you?”
“My name is Lila Waters, sir, I am a photographer and journalist for National Geographic Magazine and we are going to run an article on your canaries.”
“Not interested”
“Please, sir, can I ask you just a few quick questions as take a couple pictures of your, erm, martyrs?”
His eyes narrowed and he walked up to me, studying my face with an intense, glowering gaze. He spit a mouthful of dip onto the ground without breaking eye contact. I shifted my camera bag’s weight to the other shoulder.
“Who told you to call them that?”
“I met Ian Benet last night, he told me how important your birds are to this community, sir. He sends his regards.”
Delvos laughed and motioned for me to follow as he turned his back. “You can take pictures but I have to approve which ones you publish. That’s my rule.”
“Sir, it’s really not up to me, you see, my boss, Jack Reynolds, is one of the CEO’s for the magazine and he...”
“Those are my rules, Ms. Waters.” He turned and picked back up the bucket of seed and began to walk back to the birds. “You want to interview me then we do it in the mine. Be back here at four thirty in the morning.”
“Sir…?”
“Get some sleep, Ms. Waters. You’ll want to be rested for the mine.” He turned, walked up his wooden stairs, and closed the door to his cabin.
I was left alone in the woods and spent the next hour snapping pictures of the little, yellow canaries in their cages. I took a couple pictures of his house and the surrounding trees, packed up my camera and trekked back to my motel.

“You finished yet?” Delvos stood up and the memory of his green and brown wooded homestead fled from my memory as the mine again consumed my consciousness. Dark, quiet, and stagnant. I closed the Ziploc and stuffed the bag, mainly filled with the raisins I sifted through, into my pocket.
Delvos grunted and the canary flapped in its cage as he stood again and, swinging the lantern, rounded another corner. The path we were on began to take a noticeable ***** downward and the moisture on the walls and air multiplied.
The canary chirped.
The lantern flickered against the moist, black stones, sleek and piled in the corners we past. The path stopped ahead at a wall of solid black and brown Earth.
The canary chirped twice.
It smelt of clay and mildew and Delvos said, “Go on, touch it.”
I reached my hand out, camera uselessly hanging like a bat over my shoulder. The rock was cold and hard. It felt dead.
The Canary was flitting its wings in the cage now, chirping every few seconds.
“This is the last tunnel they were digging when the gas under our feet broke free from hell and killed those men.”
Delvos hoisted the lantern above our heads, illuminating the surrounding gloom. All was completely still and even my own vapor seemed to fall out of my mouth and simply die. The canary was dancing a frantic jig, now, similar to the mating dance of the Great Frigate Bird I shot in the Amazon jungle. As I watched the canary and listened to its small wings beat against the cold metal cage I begin to feel dizzy. The bird’s cries had transformed into a scream colder than fire and somehow more fierce.
The ability to fly is what always made me jealous of birds as a child, but as my temple throbbed and the canary danced I realized I was amiss. Screaming, yellow feathers whipped and the entire inside of the cage was instantaneously filled. It was beautiful until the very end. Dizzying, really.
Defeated, the canary sank to the floor, one beaten wing hanging out of the iron bars at a most unnatural angle. Its claws were opening and closing, grasping the tainted cave air, or, perhaps, trying to push it away. Delvos unclipped the cage and sat it on the floor in the space between us, lantern still held swaying above his head. The bird was aflame now, the silent red blood absorbing into the apologetic, yellow feathers. Orange, a living fire. I pulled out my camera as I sat on the ground beside the cage. I took a few shots, the camera’s clicks louder than the feeble chirps sounding out of the canary’s tattered, yellow beak. My head was spinning. Its coal-black eyes reflected the lantern’s flame above. I could see its tiny, red tongue in the bottom of its mouth.
Opening.
Closing.
Opening, wider, too wide, then,
Silence.


I felt dizzy. I remember feeling the darkness surround me; it felt warm.

“I vaguely remember Delvos helping me to my feet, but leaving the mine was a complete haze.” I told the panel back in D.C., “It wasn’t until we had crossed the stream on the way back to the cabin that I began to feel myself again. Even then, I felt like I was living a dream. When we got back to the cabin the sight of the lively yellow canaries in their coops made me cry. Delvos brought me a bottle of water and told me I needed to hit the trail because the sun set early in the winter, so I le
Alexander Klein Oct 2013
I

In eras weird with old mythology,
As if asleep the fabled country lay:
Her wave-like hills and faerie forests dense,
Her thorny brambles budding curling claws,
And ivy circling all the woodsey way --
The far swan's cry came soft and woke them not.
Forlorn, that selfsame call upon the gates
Did break; those gates of Britain's long-lost keep.
She too slept fast, the weary weathered stones
Of fairest Caerleon. O pulsing stream,
Thou vein of life in woods a-slumber, Usk!
Alone are you in knowing castle's face,
From years of timeless burbling at her feet.
What tales are told by water over stone?
What lark or wren can sing of sadness come?
Aye, answers are the beach-wet sand, yet hark!
Rejoicings spilled, proud hails, from Caerleon:
They cheered the ****-frost's melting with the Spring;
The holy Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau
Had come at last, in foliage of dawn.

Within, their goblets sailed, wassailed, and crashed
Like growling Jove, their boasts and toasts like wine --
They drank it spiced and over-strong. Indeed,
Some stretched exaggerations: 'twas Sir Bors,
That spotless sheet, who tried to contradict.
He quoted purifying texts and spurned
The wine that nature raised and crafted sweet.
Yet "Loosen up!" uproared the host to him.
"The time has come to celebrate," said Kay,
Beloved knight, step-brother to the King,
"Aloft thy wine, below thy gills! Drink! Laugh!
Your stomach is a falsehood-spewing fool,
It must be drowned for you to feel a lord.
I speak a sooth, you need wine's fleeting bliss!
Know thee that man's tomorrows bleed him dry:
A wade through death and depths as sure as pain
That shall tomorrow light your brow. Laugh! Drink!"
Bold cheering spread with Kay's advice, though yet
To no surprise Bors turned aside the drink,
Unblemished bore, so celebrates alone.
Weep not for him, for soon he'll find a cup
More suited to his strange of chaste and grace.
And none to waste: his share was drunk by all.

Engaged in feast Owain ap Urien,
Engaged in tale now Bedwyr and Kay,
And Lancelot made eyes at Gwenevere.
It was a feast of great success and joy
As fitting of the season's robust gleam,
Yet two there were with shallow-rooted smiles.
Prince Mordred one, though ever-somber he:
Accursed spawn with bone in place of heart
And dreaded incantations for his blood;
His brooding perched like crow on him. Alas:
The other joy-bled man had beard aflame,
A bear-skin drape, and crystal eyes, the Lord
He was of Caerleon and Mordred both.
'Twas not the gleam in lover's gaze that vexed
Though it was seen; he had no heart in him
To chain his Queen as if in dungeon steel,
For Arthur lived believing to be fair
Was paramount, to even paramour.
It wreaked its toll, yet caused small grief this day.
Not even serpent son gave cause to mourn
That greater was than missing nephew's spot
Among the feast. His chair was naked bare
Returned though he should be from faerie quest.
At Calan Gaeaf they expected him
When winter storms had racked their shoddy hall,
Yet since, the months had rolled to Gwyl Fair
The milder season come, but not his kin.
The image of his maiméd corpse did taunt
And haunt the agéd mind of Arthur, King,
His phantom nephew slain anon by knight
That of no flesh was made. In year that died
This green-mailed knight arrived a guest and called
Infernal challenge. Trick it seemed to them
And trick it was, for subsequent the blow,
This seaweed knight did lift his severed head
And from dead lips he cried "Well struck! Now come,
Fulfill me of my game. The year to come
Shall see thee in my home, and as agreed
My turn 'twil be to answer with my axe."

So rapt in recollecting, Arthur missed
The growing clamor that beset his hall.
His ******* cleared the grief from him with taunt,
To bring him into grief. "What say thee, Dad,"
Dripped venom from his mouth, "No love for us?
Your hail we called, but disapprove your eyes.
Methinks that far away thou seest a dream
That visits oft the elderly: a place
Thou knewst when in thy prime, with love
Now filled to burst. Yet fear us not, away!
To land of youth far more beloved than we
Whose happiness with thine own heart is twined."
"My fellow, soft!" the King began, distressed,
Yet Lancelot rose to his feet and spake
"Blackguard is he who mocks our Lord to face!
Thou palest hide, thou Mordred, sit thee down!
This sniveling craven knight should be replaced."
A sounding of the table met his speech,
Again was hailed his toast, and Arthur glad,
Though burdened to his breaking point, and sad.

"Blackguard is he who mocks our Lord to face,"
Had spake his bravest champion and friend
With no regard to Blackguard wrapped in stealth.
See how his roughspun fingers coil in hers
And how some sweetened whisper 'scapes her lips?
The beams of color-stainéd light slip down
To play upon their blissful sin almost
As if King Arthur's King approved on high.
Sovereignty is ruthless, Arthur thought,
Well-wishings of my God grow ever-faint.
I must believe in good though I am ill,
Just as I find my countrymen displeased
Though I did calculate my every breath
To see that it did stand with God's own will
To help my common people from their murk.
I fear I am not what I wished to be,
And now my only solace peaceful death.
If up to me, I'd wish it in my bed.

What horn's blare? Hark! King Arthur roused from thought.
Court gatekeeper Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr,
Dressed plain in brown, took down the horn from lips
And loud as elk called to the hall "Have cheer!
Sirs, drink another beer and wreath your brow
With springtime blooms, for lost knight fair is found!"
Old Arthur trusted not his feeble ears,
But came a hush and Lancelot confirmed:
"What **," he boomed, "our brother has returned!
'Tis grey Gawaine, aye, Gwalchmai! Drink his hail!"
The uproar was enourmous: "Gwalchmai! Cheers!"
Was like to wake the sleeping wilderness
That hung suspended in the myth and mist.

II

Astonishment had come like breaking wave
Upon the thirsty sands of monarch's face
So long consigned to reap the low-tide's grief.
When Arthur's ursine hand clenched round his cup
And hailed his nephew's presence with a roar
Long lost to hibernation's hoary spell,
The hearts that beat in armor under him
Did swell to find their lord with cheer at last;
The toast they drank so hearty as to give
Sweet Dionysus pause against excess.
Though only two there were who did not drink,
And one of these were Bors, a sadness fell
Once more as tangible as any wrong
That chose to haunt a hall. 'Twas Gwalchmai grey,
The conqueror now home from quest to rest
Who would not lift his eyes to meet the King's.

"Has cheer so fled from you? Your life remains!
What black has inked you in?" the King did ask,
And silence overtook the hall to hear.
How strongly then did Gwalchmai wish to leave,
To blend once more his form to root or branch
Or soaring river. Wind, the songbird's muse,
Had been his fast companion on the road,
For known to him were many things. He was,
They say, some god that stalked the minds of man
In young enchanted places of the world
Though all his magic helped him not at court:
His shyness was a leaf obscured by rain.
Yet even gods of silence know to speak
When words of pain encircle heavy hearts.
He let them fly, birds in the sky, he said
"I failed. My quest was long and arduous,
The seasons changed while I in heather lost,
The moon its phases shed as fen-frogs called,
I floated through the endless cloying mist
That flows, a ghostly sea wrapped round our isle.
The path had nearly drowned me when I found
The chapel green enough to spell my doom.
When entered I, methought "It cannot be!"
So kind and courteous a host met me
That would have been disgrace to call him green.
He feasted me, and warmed my wounded bones,
Yet I betrayed him in the end; I failed.
I stayed his guest, and friend, and swore to him
That for his hospitality I'd share
Each thing I won while underneath his roof.
And all was well -- I'd rest, he'd hunt -- until
His wife played hearts with me. I did refuse,
But by her final trick was tempted and --
So lost all knightly honor and renoun.
Her lusts I spurned three times, but on the third
She offered me that which my heart desired,
Instead of love she begged me take her boon:
A silken girdle sewn with charms, and green,
Deceit I should have seen. She said the spells
Would keep me safe from harm and spare my life...
When on my rugged journey all I'd feared
Was twisting face of death that loomed so near.
I could not help myself, it seemed so tame,
Yet when the time had come I could not share
That gift, or else expose the husband's wife.
Beneath my armor tied when left that place,
My secret wore me down upon the bog.
It seemed the mist grew thicker, wind grew swift,
I now know under spell was I, but then
It seemed some vengence coming to a head.
My tale grows long, and past the point am I.
The Green Knight and my host were one in fraud:
An airy insect's dream. His "wife," a witch,
Had formed him out of acrid moorland soil:
Homunculus to carry out her scheme.
The blow he owed me carried little force,
Though still this scratch is plain upon my nape.
And so you see my folly plain as oak:
For though I kept the life I feared to lose
My lie grows in me like a cancer bloom
That in the span of time shall **** me sure.
I failed; I'm gone; to revelry return."
The silence, vast again, gripped all the knights
And king too dry to cry, who drowned his heart.

III

"Is there some madness come to roost herein?
Thy folly is ridiculous," said Kay.
"I valued mine own life past honor's flame,
A sin of selfishness, and blame, and wrong.
What of the world, if all would act as such?"
A weeping noise he made, but choked it back
And turned to leave in shame, and might have done
Had not the stout Sir Kay gripped Gwalchmai's arm.
He raised it in the air and shouted thus:
"Percieve our stunning champion stands nigh!
Though of a frail ennobled heart, we know
Thou art absolved. This trinket given free
To aid in quest I wager was for thee.
And as for sacred broken vows, this man --
You said yourself -- was conjured from a bug.
You owe him no alleigance Gwalchmai, sit!
This serious you need to be for wine:
Come sit with brothers now! We drink to thee!"
"Dispel the failure all you can, it stays
As weighty on my brain. It was a sign
To signify the kind of soul I am,
To me it showed my grimy ills and plain
Did tell my shaping, shape, and shape-to-be."
King Arthur to this nephew spake: "My child,
Is there no antidote to questing's woes?
What has become of jousts and silver swords?"
The anguish in the old man's eyes so keen
To those who knew him. Gwalchmai did reply
"Your majesty, there's not a grief can ****
My bird-like love of questing through the trees,
For only questing can redeem my shape."
"Then let us have this quest!" cried Kay beside
Him at the table, deep in drink he swore.
"Come with me, brother-knight, to clear thy mood!
You do you wrong blaspheming at yourself."
The wine was quaffed by Gwalchmai, yet he said
"I first shall stay, I need to rest my ills."
"Your ills are that which keep you ill, good knight.
I bid you come and we shall quest as birds
Who savor springtime berries in the mist."
"I shall not go, I seek my quietude."
"In sunlight you and I must bask. Comply,
Or else I challenge you by burnished blade."
All eyes on Gwalchmai, under pressure cracked
Into a grin and downed his kykeon.
"In stubborness persisting, Kay, you've won,
A river such as I could not keep stead
Against a boulder. When shall we away?
When come the summer blossoms, fair and red?
Or else not til the saps have lost their leaves?
Departure yours to choose, my brother-knight."
Kay beat upon the table and their ears
When called triumphantly "This very day,
This very hour! To help those who need aid
On holy days shall surely fix your heart.
No time to wallow in the swamp that's gone,
We now away, to break our swords with day!"
"You mock me or you heard me not, Sir Kay,
I wish not to away, I wish to rest!"
The fairest Guenevere, like silver bells,
Chimed in "You must forgive your heart's despair,
Or emanations of its guilt will plague
Your mind. I have a lunar garden if
You wish to sit in soothing calm and think."
"My queen is holy," Gwalchmai spoke in grace,
But Kay had cut him off with "Hear her not!
She will ensorce your mind to not explore,
To sit and think and mold with lunacy;
Beneath the sun we'll tred. It's known on quests
I favor Bedwyr, 'tis true, yet you
My fairest Gwalchmai, keep your wits -- and arms --
Two things in need of we shall be.
I mean you no offense, dear Bedwyr,
But I and Gwalchmai share a severed soul
And shall succeed; two sides of selfsame coin.
So come my cousin grey, to right our wrongs
We must away, to break our swords and say
'My heart is glad I did not stay at home!'
Consume your drink! We go," he trumpet-called.
Thus Gwalchmai was convinced, and so was forced
To nod politely to his Queen and stand,
Declaring to the court "I shall away,
This gloomy mood is dried beneath the sun
Though dearly do I wish some lunar grace
To lose myself in mysteries anew.
To bear this flesh is weighty, yet I've found
The strain to be rewarding in its way.
Think nothing of my former woes, they've passed
Like summer storm or wisp of misty cloud."
The hall at large did drink his hail, and then
Did thrice more drink for quest to which they went.
And Mordred scowled and drank the foulest wine
For his monsoon and fog would last his life.

So summoned then Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr
To hearken unto birds, as was his gift.
He said to all, "I shall now call my friends
And see what worthy tales of quests they bring!"
"There may be naught on Gwyl Fair," said Bors,
"A holy day, all wove with peace. Nor Gods
Nor men would stir their strife this day of days."
"We all shall see," the gatekeeper replied.
Beside his King upon the dais came
And played a serenade upon his horn
That rang throughout the keep and lands beyond.
A time did pass with no response recieved --
Slain silent was the raptness of the court --
But then through open pain in stainéd glass
A thrush did bob and weave in melody,
On finger of the Queen he briefly perched
Before he flit away upon the air.
His song so sweet, but then - what fright! No more!
A hawk had entered, just the same, and swooped,
And now the thrush was silent in his claws.
The cabinet of augers all took note
And sketched their calculations into books,
Though none, in this, more wise than Gafaelfawr
To whom the hawk said "Hail, you man of rank
Who speaks the tongue of wing-in-air. Now hark!
'Twas not in hunger slew this thrush, but fear
That what I have to tell might go unheard.
My family, we roost near Cornwall's sea
And late, the noises off the coast grew strange
As if some evil kraken raged at love.
My chicks; my wife and I; we're simple hawks.
We eat and some of us are eaten, yet
Beware the thing that slouched from out the waves.
His shape is something like a boar, but huge,
He dwarfs his kin, and hill, and oak,
This hall is large, yet he'd be stuck inside.
He does not eat what he has killed, instead
He smears the bloodied flesh on stones and trees,
What man could face a fear that bears this face?
If you could hear the rutting squeals he makes!
I swear this sooth by wind and waving plumes:
You men who craft with metal, hark!
Destroy the beast!" And then he flew away
Still calling after him "Destroy the beast!"

The court at large had heard the warbling hawk
But did not know the tongue, so only watched
Glewlwyd's unease upon his face
Until with stiff and rasping voice relayed
The content of the predatory news.
Unease began to show among the knights,
For many there recalled a beast so shaped
And all the blood and guile he took to drown
The first time. Arthur, grim, forbade Sir Kay
And Gwalchmai face these perils by themselves,
But recommended regiment of steel
To bolster ranks against the fearsome boar.
"I know this foe from days of old," he said,
His years of rule etched rough across his face,
"And so do most of you, though many gone
And this monstrosity not even slain."
But Gwalchmai said "'Twas hard indeed to win
Those relics that he bore. Remember I
That Trwyth was the name he chose, and we
Shall best him fair. Though not for trinkets now,
But with the zeal of mother guarding young:
This foe, Twrch Trwyth shall not raze the land
Nor wage a war against some peaceful ilk
While rounded table can beco
Jay M Wong Feb 2013
1:1
Stop. Who’s there? Tis clock strikes twelve,
brings thy Horatio to seek tis specter from hell,
In Denmark, something is rotting in thy state,
In Norway, unimprovèd mettle hot and full awaits,
Tis specter arrives to arouse confusion and fear,
but to treat it violence and majestic threat,
thy specter departs as the ****’s crow drew near,  
leaving the blows of malicious mockery to regret.
And for Hamlet may speak to the wandering soul,
Tis morning to Hamlet must the three a’go.

1:2
Claudius, thy Uncle, is crowned King a’last,
Gertrude, thy Mother, hastily marries a’fast.
With duties done, Laertes to France adieu,
Hamlet griefs thy Father’s death and thy Mother’s dine,
for once a Hyperion to now a satyr is Uncle to Father a’new,
is but now a little more than kin and less than kind.
Horatio brings poor Hamlet the fatherly news,
that King Hamlet’s specter is now a’loose.
The joyous Hamlet is but joyous to see,
the two month father, dead and decease,
but for he calls that foul deeds will foully arise.
He hurries to the heavenly site prior sunrise.

1:3
Laertes to Ophelia, a brother to sister, he warns,
that Hamlet is but a fiery lover and to love he sworn,
but to love now is but not the future,
for Hamlet’s fire may, thy mind unpure,
for his lovely vows are not to believe,
he is but a man of deception to conceive.
For when Laertes departs, Polonius rants,
that Hamlet’s love, Ophelia must recant
for his affections and fashions are but false wows,
for when blood burns, lends the tongue false vows.

1:4
Shrewdly the air bites, nipping and eager,
at Horatio and Hamlet thy specter nears.
To speak alone, it beckons so,
But Horatio to Hamlet speaks no,
for may it draw thy madness and strip thy reason,
but to thee specter does Hamlet go,
for thy life is but a’lacking living reason.
Aback do they hold him most,
but Hamlet, his sword he wields
Fate has brought him here, he feels
To hold him back is but to turn a’ghost

1:5
Revenge, does his heavenly father speak,
of tis horrid ****** of unnatural feat.
For the orchard’s snake, wears thy father’s crown
and ****** thy gracious Queen, whose now evil abound.
With dignity and devotion she loved me so,
but tis sinful ******, Hamlet, you must’a know!
Through my ears, a venomous potion he drew,
thy fair Uncle, Claudius that potion he brew.
Abed, my life he ended this night,
And to my crown and Queen took he a’flight.
For thy dearest father, revenge must thy draw
upon thy villainous head, Claudius must fall
And to thy sword thou dearest friends must swear,
to tell not the occasions of this night we bear,
And to madness Hamlet must falsely seek,
to discover the truth of horrid deed beneath.

2:1
Reynaldo to Laertes, Claudius a’spies,
to Paris, Reynaldo goes with a’plan devised,
to seek the situation of Laertes in foreign hoods,
with bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth.
Ophelia then enters, with her father she shares,
"Oh, father, father, I’ve just had such a scare!"
In her sewing room, it is Hamlet she sees,
with no hat, nor buttons, nor stable knees
For he stared and stared to let out a final sigh,
Love mad he may be, a’to King we must a’by.

2:2
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
Directly or indirectly will Claudius learn,
of Hamlet’s matters they are to return.
Polonius, with news of Hamlet, he waits,
for thee Ambassador, to inform that Denmark Gates,
Are to be opened for young Fortinbra’s ****** defeat,
Polonius to Claudius, reveals thy madness roots,
For Hamlet is but love crazy for the fairest fruits,
of dearest Ophelia, who a letter he wrote,
Proclaims the fairness of her upon tis note.
And to test the truth, their confrontation, must’e spy,
Behind the arras to view thy love-mad side.
Is but our hastily marriage and his father’s death,
thy Mother, aware, are but the means of his mad breath.
Polonius then to Hamlet, speaks of witty words,
A fishmonger he calls, but one of two is misheard,
For when Polonius humbly takes a’leave,
He is but to take anything, but his life, shall he not receive.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, enter to Hamlet, they chat,
but Hamlet to quickly find the two are but a King’s ****,
Only sent to spy on a dearest friend,
And to human’s name do they offend,
Only to betray a dearest friend in honor of the King.
And so Players arrived at Denmark grounds,
for they, the best in the world, Polonius sounds.
And then for Jephthah, witty Hamlet chants,
the song of a foolish man who accidently grants,
the sacrifice of his beloved daughter.
Pyrrhus, do they perform for dearest Hamlet,
His sword is a’air, but a’air it sets,
for he hesitates to swing thy sword,
And with this, Hamlet hopes to store,
the strength to **** the horrid Lord.
Though he is but ashamed, for upon false emotions can Players act,
And in himself upon truths, strength can he not extract.
So a play for the King’s conscience does Hamlet devise,
for the heavenly ghost may be false in his advice.

3:1
To be or not to be; that is the question,
For Hamlet to be nobler or to a’take action,
Shall he withdraw with ****** self slaughter,
But shall’st never may see thy fairest daughter,
To die, but to sleep for a mere dream,
But in sleep shall fair or foul be unseen?
Now Polonius and Claudius awaits,
for Hamlet’s arranged meet with a’bait.
Hamlet to Ophelia, his love recants,
For honesty and beauty are but Someone’s grants,
Once did he love her, but now a’figured,
that women are but corrupt and impured,
For one’s honestly and beauty can and shall be taint,
For if God given thou one face, dear not another by paint.
For honestly and beauty has God falsely bred,
All but one, shall women *****.
All but one, shall women be nun.
Hence this marriage is over, and to a nunnery at once,

3:2
Let this mousetrap be named and this play a’set,
Shall capture thy horrid mouse or thy Uncle of Hamlet.
Polonius to Hamlet, the theater he knows,
For a Caesar death died he at thee Capitol.
Upon the lap of fair Ophelia, does Hamlet, lie,
Only to think of country matters and nothing (he implies).
And the play begins, with a prologue so brief,
Like a woman’s love, was Hamlet’s belief.
The King and Queen, a loving bond they share,
But the King by a mystic potion envenomed beware.
Thee action to ****, a murderous scene it was,
Leaving Claudius to regret the murderous act abuzz,
He arises to say: Let there be light! Let there be light!
And to the joy of Hamlet to see tis joyous sight,
For the words of thy heavenly father was but right.
Now shall the minute parts of truth ignite.
And to his Mother he shall speak daggers wield none,
for shall his tongue speak of the cruelties undone.

3:3
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to England a’go,
Should insane Hamlet know not a hawk from a crow,
And behind the arras, Polonius will again spy,
the taxation of Hamlet and his Mother’s cry.
Polonius departs to spy upon the Mother and the Insane,
Only to leave Claudius to regret thy hideous Mark of Cain,
Shall he pray the Heavens to forgive him his actions,
For thy stripped thy Brother of life, throne, and attractions.
As Claudius is never to withdraw his stripped token,
Divine forgiveness shall never then be unspoken.
Hamlet can **** not his murderous Uncle in praying stance,
For a hideous monster shall not a’go Heaven by chance.

3:4
So behind the arras dearest Polonius stays,
to view the idle and wicked tongue arrays,
Thou’st the Queen, Thy Husband’s Brother’s wife!
But to hear a rat, shall Hamlet for a ducat its life.
Oh, but death ‘neath the arras, may it the King?
A horrid act? To **** and wear thy brother’s ring?
Oh, King it be not, but be a wretched, rash fool,
And now shall Hamlet tell thy Myth a’Ghoul.
For thy murderer has slain thy Heavenly mate,
And only now by natural law does he abate.
Upon these portraits shall ring a’clear,
That from thy Heavenly father is he nowhere near,
A murderer, a villain, a horrid fiend,
He is but a devilish murderer yield unclean,
No way can one drop from THIS to THAT,
And shall by this scene, the specterous soul attract,
Dear not be untenderly to thy Mother it speaks,
And shall this revenge soon awake its peak,
Hamlet appears a’mad to thy watching Mother,
but to his mother he warns, abed not another,
For two mouths should speak of none,
of this revenge that will soon be done.
And again, abed let not him ****** you so,
For now, apart to English must’e a’go.

4:1
Gertrude to Claudius, she continues to reveal,
Of Polonius’s ****** and his arras squeal,
"A rat! A rat!" A’mad Hamlet is,
Brandished, to rapier the life of his.
And now where’s thou Hamlet still?
To draw apart the body he hath killed.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is but yet called again,
With discord and dismay, are they to seek that thou slain.

4:2
The two seek to Hamlet, for the body’s lair,
Compounded with dust now does it wear,
And a sponge, does Hamlet call them so,
for the King to squeeze them dry and thorough,
"A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear."
The body a’by a’King, but a’King, the body unnear.
And so, Hamlet to the King premiere.

4:3
And to Claudius does Hamlet call,
That Polonius now rests at a dining hall,
‘til a conference of worms devours him all
He shall eat not, but they eat so,
‘tis our fate despite status quo.
And upon the lobby stairs a corpse may lay,
One of dearest Polonius, slain to heaven or hell
Now to English death must Hamlet pay,
To one mother does he give two farewells.

4:4
With a Captain does Hamlet now proceed,
Who tells of young Fortinbras of Norway accede,
The Norway prince through Denmark he leads,
to seize a’minute ****** patch must’e receive.
A worthless land, must many die for one,
But true greatness acts not from fair reason,
But for the sake of the mind when honor is won.
And has Someone granted the reasoning mind,
For man to hesitate so cowardly inside,
For thy deed to act, must we rid the mind bind,
And act on instinct and be not wise.
And from the reasoning state must Hamlet now leave,
for honor he shall act, and his emotions he’ll believe.

4:5
False sanity is but false no more,
For fair Ophelia’s reason be not restore.
A’now sings of thy premature stone a’foot thy father’s grave,
and the departure of Hamlet for thy wed depraved.
Claudius is but to blame for thee rotting state,
For Polonius, a proper ceremony he not awaits,
For poor Ophelia, stripped from her reasonous state,
For Laertes aback from France, by thy father’s death, irate.
And Laertes enters, with thy support for king,
For the murderer, vengeful death shall he bring,
So Claudius to Laertes, says he is not to blame,
but thy father’s murderer is but another name.
And enters Ophelia, with figurative flowers to give,
But those of Faithfulness have ceased to live.
Alive are but for Thoughts, for Remembrance,
for Adultery, for Repentance, and for False Romance.
For his sister’s sanity is but another to blame,
Laertes, a vengeance mind, is but now aflame.

4:6
Horatio, a letter from Hamlet he receives,
that upon a Pirate ship has Hamlet board,
And that shall with speed would’st fly a’breathe.
Meet to hear the story Hamlet has a’stored.

4:7
Claudius to Laertes, he speak of innocence,
for by public appearance, the truth may bent,
For the public count loves Hamlet so,
And to thy fair Mother, Claudius a’beau.
Thy noble father lost and sister insane,
The murderous filth of Hamlet is to blame.
At this, a loyal messenger approaches,
to deliver the news that but Hamlet reproached,
An English death did Hamlet face not,
For now his destined death are they to plot,
Naked and alone, will he return to Denmark a’learn,
Of the honorable fence-match, he shall earn,
Against Laertes, whose fatherly love nor illusion,
Shall the death of Hamlet draw conclusion.
Even a’church will Hamlet, Laertes slay,
Death by no bounds, must Hamlet pay.
Envenomed rapier and wine shall prepare,
the faithful death of murderous Hamlet a’near.
Gertrude then enters with Ophelia’s news a’share,
For sorrows comes not in singles but in greater pairs,
Upon muddy death has Ophelia drowned,
for now another death has but profound,

5:1
Two Gravediggers upon one grave they create,
for to the death of thy Graveowner do they relate,
To die by self slaughter or to die by not,
the attention of passing Hamlet have they caught.
With Hamlet does one of thee two chat,
for once a woman, shall this grave be buried at,
A quick digger for Hamlet to his surprise,
Revealed that to England is mad Hamlet to advise.
For a corpse to live for eight or nine,
Thy dearest Yorick’s skull is to find,
Thy a corpse to date three and twenty,
Leaves Hamlet to recall thy memories a’plenty,
And to think Alexander, o’buried alike.
Here comes the King, Laertes and the Queen,
And upon the burial grounds is Ophelia seen,
His dearest sister does Laertes mourn,
But to Hamlet, her death, his heart a’torn.
Laertes to Hamlet, must’e not compare,
the death of one is a little more foul than fair,
For forty thousand brothers can sum not his love,
For the death of the fairest maiden beloved.
Claudius to Laertes, must Hamlet pay thy debt,
the plot of night prior shall’st not forget.

5:2
Hamlet to Horatio, does his truths trust,
Of thy wretched King and his unjust,
Of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern English death they meet,
With sacrifice and thy seal was thou to spare self defeat.
Now’st Osric enters to Hamlet a’chat,
For’st not hot, nor cold, nor sultry at.
And a’wish to court, with thy Laertes of excellence,
For Hamlet’s head does thee King expense.
With six French rapiers and poniards assign,
For by fate’s determination, shall this court incline,
For a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,
Can we do not, but abide by fate a’follow.
Trumpets and drums, now’st the fence begins,
For Hamlet and Laertes hand and hand therein.
Pardon he begs, Hamlet to thy brother,
For in him is but foil Hamlet yet another,
And so they fence for honor and fence for life,
Two of two leads Hamlet the strife.
The King, to Hamlet he drinks,
Tis pearl shall he the cup he sinks,
And unwounded for two, Hamlet prevails,
But Queen, the dearest Mother, so faithfully frail,
For she drinks thy cup of heavenly pearl,
For heavenly it be not, as thy malicious plot unfurl,
The cup! The cup! A poisonous potion,
Cause yet another by venomous commotion.
A distracting cause, for Hamlet to bear,
For Laertes envenomed blade must’e beware,
Now envenomed blood shall Hamlet shed,
Shall he hold thy rapier of Laertes instead,
to shed thy venomous blood of thy venomous mind,
For now thy murderous plot shall unwind,
At the honorable death of brother Laertes,
Shall the death of Claudius be a’seized.
The King’s to blame for the death of all,
And tis day shall he see his destined fall.
With thy venomous blade held a’hand,
Let the doors be locked and the evils banned,
For Hamlet wounds thy treacherous soul,
And shall horrid Claudius pay his destined toll,
For Hamlet forces to drink thy murderous potion,
And shall he too die of venomous commotion.
The death of four and tis ****** scene,
Shall Horatio tell to those unseen.
Shall he speak of murderous truths embark,
for Fortinbras shall now throne Denmark,
For in Fortinbras does his admiration lay,
For does Hamlet trust thou’st fiery ambitious way,
And tis now concludes thy Hamlet’s life,
For death and death thou’st all alike...
A dedication and summary of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" the tragedy of the witty prince of Denmark written in 2011 for a class journal assignment.
Andrew T Hannah Jun 2013
A Surreal Epic of Existence

Prelude to the Journey…

I smiled yesterday when I beheld the morning’s brilliant colors,
Etched with gold, across the canvas of the heavens, hanging…
High above all those mountains of the world, gigantic brothers,
A wilderness of clouds, where there can be no human taming.
I did not always smile when I looked up to that noble height…
For I have seen how terrible goodness can be, when untamed.
Once I thought my sojourn in this flesh was from a divine spite,
But now I know it was a gift, and for it I need not be ashamed.
God once walked as I do now, and suffered the same stress…
Betrayal, love, and passions too, though no Church shall admit,
The true nature of divinity, lest all their secret sins they confess!
You are told you are alone in the universe, by leaders so unfit,
That they themselves are fed a diet of lies and stories invented.
But we walked amongst you since the very dawn reincarnated,
Having lost our first flesh in conflicts long past and unlamented.
We guided the steps of ancients, as monuments demonstrated!
And yet we are born as children: your own, and live our span,
The better to remain hid, in plain sight, our faces clever masks.
I am the eldest, and I remember still my kindred’s lofty plan…
And though I wear the human face, I am beset with alien tasks.
Helping they who lack the knowledge to see what lies outside,
You have seen me in the darkness, blazing upon my own pyre.
Where I am waiting to lead the way, where the angels glide…
Anyone can follow, if they are dedicated enough never to tire.
Ironic, since I myself have known helplessness and still oft do,
It is only human after all, and in your form I was so re-forged!
The image of God, whose own blood is in all of us hither unto,
From the first to the last, alpha to omega, like a sharp sword.

Prologue: (My Mask is Slipping)

As a child: I was a servant at the altars of the heart so sacred,
Singing hymns of the immaculate: without seeing the depravity.
It was only when I myself wore the crown of thons, naked…
My spirit exposed through my pain, that I realized the gravity.
What man believes is sacred, is profanity disguised as graces,
And those who lead the sheep to slaughter are mere butchers!
Forcing innocents to wear porcelain masks to hide their faces,
They rob children of their childhood, bound with crude fetters.
As a teenager: I walked in nature, disgusted with all humanity,
My exodus was from those who had defiled all I cared about.
Finding faith in an angel fallen, I discovered my own sanctity,
And in her name I found the means to cleanse my feral doubt.
Then came marriage, and betrayal by a wife I gave up all for,
The dissolution of our union then loneliness without cessation!
A mortal had pierced my flesh, leaving me to bleed on a floor,
My heart was torn from its’ moorings without any elaboration.
But the angel remained to calm my anger and ease my agony,
My only light in the blackness that has overcome my waking!
Reminding me, that I was more than this flesh and mortality…
The angel tries to keep me from harsh trembling and quaking.
And then I see: I am more than my tears and life’s traumas…
I let slip, the mask behind which the scars of my tears etched.
Then I sense the heat of the night more intense than saunas…
As I long to dance with abandon, until time itself is stretched!
Mortals may betray one another with impunity, but never I…
I do not betray; rather I pour my heart and spirit forth whole.
Creating a phylactery, of all I am, and with an innocent eye…
I demand to be loved as I am: pearl white and black as coal!

Canto 1: Sacrifice of the Doll

Part the First: (The Bleeding Shores)

Do not call me, doll, for I have departed your ancient cavern,
You are lifeless, a mere toy, and not a real child in any form!
A boy’s red ruby lips I spy drinking in the dreariest tavern…
Whilst true children singing, frolic in the fields filled with corn.
I am going home, upon the wings of the great silver griffon…
Far from the shores now bleeding red from defiled memories.
There is no return, for me, to the glories of the first ignition…
When the mind eternal, was ignited all with pleasing ecstasies.
In the stars, there are words unheard that I do want to recall,
For I came down so very long ago, among the first to so fall!
Eldritch nightmares born of the stuff of the pure chaos of old,
Are waiting for signs at the threshold to be released by magic.
The forbidden incantations return to my spirit, aflame so bold,
That my spirit nearly forgets: the origins of this time, so tragic.
When children drink, and true children hide themselves apart,
Whilst the waters bleed and the corn withers upon the stalks!
That is a sign that change must come, and so I work my mind.
The face in the moon is a grimace of tormented fear, horror…
Whilst I stand upon the precipice with my hand over my heart,
And amongst the long rows of corn, my black shadow walk!
Watching over the innocents whose souls are of my own kind.
The summer heat turns orange, the moon: in celestial corridors.
My mournful cry can be heard in the sound of the lonely wolf,
And in the wild abandon of the lion when he is on the prowl…
I feel the pain of nature, I long to bring back paradise craved.
I have seen the terror of the land, as the blood ran in the gulf,
Black blood of the earth: which causes living things to howl…
As man has the foolishness, to say what is or is not depraved!

Part the Second: (The Crucified Souls)

The doll is laid lifeless atop the altar, prepared for a sacrifice,
In the cavern where the limestone shapes the wettest arches!
A thing un-living, but with living souls trapped still, as if in ice,
Within the cold porcelain shell that so never with feet marches.
Serpentine blade held high, it drops precise into a doll’s neck,
And it cannot call out, because a doll has not any voice to cry.
A boy walked out of a tavern then, looking like a vile wreck…
Whilst as a man I attend to higher things, my body full purified.
In the voids beneath the spaces, witnessed in the rugged rock,
Voices echo loud in the darkness, calling up names unspoken.
The ferryman brings the souls delivered to him, to a far dock,
Where each must pay the copper coin, the old desired token.
So they come to drink those waters that cure all of life’s ills…
Freed from their porcelain prison to feel death’s darker chills!
Whence came those souls into captivity, no mortal may speak,
But I freed them in an instant, removing the nails that pierce…
Every man is he that was put up on the cross of old Golgotha.
And every woman too, as all were made to feel such torture!
I was there when the primal sacrifice was implanted so weak,
And yet so strong that it endured in the psyche all these years.
That doom was sealed behind a wall of fire long ago in Terra,
So that the stigmata of it might endure, even in the vast future!
Mine was the hand that signaled that doom, mine to release…
Yet, still old illusions persist, and I cannot awaken a multitude.
I, who devised the iron web that enfolds much of what is real,
Cloaking it in unending trickery am, myself, longing for peace.
For I too was entrapped, until my liberation rough and crude!
An angel freed me, and now I strive to break each cruel seal.

Part the Third: (The Return of Light)

Risen from the slumber where colder, electric dreams reside,
The forgotten intelligence is invoked, the arcane spells cast…
The eldritch nightmares return to thence amongst man abide,
Reminding us of the things banished to Hell in some age past.
Mine the hand that raised them up, light in the dagger’s glow,
The stuff of my power left to flow, like blood run swiftly free.
Out of the abyss, rises the girl-child of a lost millennial flame,
She who is the angel reborn lets her illumination clearly show.
And all are blinded who have not the innermost eyes to see!
The unbelievers are, in a single instant put unto lasting shame.
From the star of six points, a goddess works her sacred will,
And as she crosses the scarlet threshold, she brings the light.
For a single instant, all in Heaven and all upon Earth are still,
As the long day ends, bowing before the coming eternal night.
In the darkness, radiance far fairer and so perfect descends,
Whilst those who gather in my name: have lost my true path.
The wrath of angels descend upon their minds, closed shut…
Entrapped in the iron web, they cannot flee of such a prison!
The light blinds them for they never truly saw it, and it rends,
Tearing away the churches built for naught but mortal wrath.
There, the unfaithful ******* themselves: like a wanton ****,
Inventing dogma to pass on, forgetful of logic and of reason!
Faith need not be a fearful thing, yet some have made it thus,
And look for an end to come before they seek their reward.
Whilst they should be creating the paradise they left behind…
But in an image of freedom: rather than of servitude and fuss.
Too much time had been wasted in converting by the sword!
Mankind looks to the light for salvation, their eyes long blind.

Interlude Alpha:
This age is one of barbarism cloaked as gentility to sell lies…
Did you purchase some today by design or mayhap chance?
You should know this era to be neither intelligent nor wise…
Else you would not march, when you would prefer to dance!
My nights are filled with nightmares; my days are too much…
I used to dance with one I loved, and bask in purple sunsets.
Now I am haunted, by so many memories I can never touch,
That it fills me with ****** anger, and countless cold regrets.
I recall how once in desperation, my wrist rode a razor edge,
If it were not for my family I’d not thence have lived beyond.
A man abused as I was, and used like cutters upon a hedge,
Must rise higher than it all in order to survive it all, my friend!
I survived, I transformed, I ascended and in the end became,
So much more than I was, until no more did my spirit erode.
But still I wait in loneliness for a maid to awaken my flame…
And I burn, oh gods I burn until I think that I might explode!
The skies darken more and more, and bright forks crashing,
I hear the drums of fury in the heavens, giants of old winters.
The gods grow angry and I behold trees uprooted smashing!
Angels are trampling the grapes of man; they, the vintners…
I am reminded of when the battleship that sailed all galaxies,
Descended one day amidst clouds boiling with its’ steam…
To lay waste to *****, and Gomorrah, for their indignities!
I was there, when the wicked did perish with a final scream.
And as people mock me, wishing me ill because I am good,
I ask God how long I must be forced to bear such suffering.
But I am not alone, and to many I am in fact misunderstood,
So God forgives, for now; but I have not, his understanding!

Canto 2: Sacrifice of the Spider

Part the First: (The First Smile)

Black skies boil with rage unrepentant, and in righteous fury!
A being made flesh I am, though not of mortal understanding.
In cavernous places I have walked, where demons oft scurry,
And worse places still: in search of a love not too demanding.
In the stucco halls wherein my unmoving throne was raised…
Upon a hill of sorrows where lost souls labor in mundane toil,
I wait and plan to transcend the bonds the faithful so praised.
To my right hand is the altar where fire and sulfur always boil!
I force a smile upon my face, for one will not come as willing,
As in the hours when I was a golden youth filled with ideals…
Which I have paid for dearly, beyond the price of any shilling!
Now I long to pay back those who know not how this feels…
The madness born of solitude, the anger born out of contempt,
For you who despise me without cause, provoking my wrath.
What impunity has man, to think that he might ever be exempt!
When wiser civilizations than yours did sink: in the fiery bath.
Do I speak of Hell, which the faithless do not realize is come?
Nay, for their eyes have been gouged out by their own nails…
I speak of torments, far beyond that which devils have done.
The first smile shall me mine, when every cruel wish so fails…
To save the flesh of those who spit upon me as I walked on,
Never realizing that my face was just a mask, hiding another.
Only the fool pays no any attention to the piper’s lonely song,
Thinking it only a melody passed from a sister unto a brother.
But in what celestial ****** has been born the thing alchemical?
It dwells within me, the secret sin of a bonding long forgotten.
Would that I could force the world to hear music whimsical…
Like unto that which guides my spirit in all that was begotten.

Part the Second: (Cold Revenge)

The blood roses bloom in gardens where desire plants seeds,
I, the hand that waters those hungry beasts whose thirst rises!
In my search for love, I have fed the beasts of desire’s needs,
And what would cause you to blush has, for me, no surprises.
Oh human, with what impunity did you dare to exclaim aloud,
That you believe love to be beyond my reach; and you smile!
Like a coward, you degrade me and run to hide in the crowd,
In your feigned superiority, you make yourself an animal vile.
Conjoining your words to your tongue, like a web to a ceiling,
You become a spider; then flee on eight legs to a filthy nest…
Having already become unworthy of any warm human feeling,
In thinking yourself better, you sink lower than all of the rest!
That means my life is worth, a thousand times, your very own.
I become a creature of the night, and wait for you, oh spider!
Think not that I cannot hear. the creaking of each leg bone…
Your odiousness goes before you, the horse before its’ rider.
And in your own web I catch you, my sharper claws immune,
To your toxic poisons, as cannot ever save your eight eyes…
Which I dash from their sockets, without a fear, and so soon,
That your own pain consumes you, like fire lighting the skies!
Forcing you to recant all that you say, lest pain overcome all,
The powers you thought did not exist do manifest ever visibly.
And I ascended still higher, all the more to relish of your fall…
You should never have resulted to any such childish mockery.
The clocks of your house all melted, for time is not your ally!
In abandonment of the chaos that is joy, your order is ended.
A new order rises in its’ place born of chaos none may deny,
Whilst you sink lower into perdition, for all that you offended.

Part the Third: (The Last Laugh)

An angel appears before me and so thinks herself a goddess,
But to call her an angel is to imply that she holds any beauties.
Those whose ego is larger than their grasp are oft the oddest,
For they fancy themselves perfect, ignorant of their cruelties!
You think love a prize and I a beggar for mere crusts so stale,
That lesser men than I have eaten heartier meals than yours…
But your kitchen is so bare: as your oven goes cold and pale,
Making you prize yourself beyond the worth of your chores!
Like a harlot who charges a fortune for her meager charms…
If you think love a prize, and I a beggar, you are so mistaken.
What you call love is a disease that shames one and harms…
Both mind and soul alike, making the body at last to weaken.
You saw only my mask, and would not dare look beneath…
Making me a phantom in the darkness, lurking in the shades.
Round your neck, your false esteem hangs as a dead wreath,
As I leave you to your barren world, awaiting my handmaids.
They rise from the ashes you leave in your wake, my kindred,
Their hands take me far from where your feet stumble about!
Lie in the cemetery that awaits those who live as though dead,
I cannot raise you incorruptible; you have far too much doubt.
Carried hither by the silent maidens who weep ****** tears…
To my castle, where I shall brood again upon mankind’s way!
I cannot feel regret for those who give in to their foolish fears,
Any more than I can transform a leaden night into golden day!
Such is the power of the alchemist who knows his true limit…
And in the dark arts I was schooled by beings from the abyss.
Thusly, am I set about to transform my creation as I see fit…
We are the demiurges of our realities wanton for any hot kiss!

Interlude Omega:
T
I found this one in my basement. Seems I wrote it a year or two ago but lost it.
Miabee May 2016
alone this time
Past seeping into you
Abuse painted over exposed
Stars burn my eyes
You see yourself
Breath of smoke
Lungs aflame
biting her ****** lip
she saw the world
Clasped the basketball with her left
Her pride with her right
Far away it seems
And I shout to her
but she never looked back
Kagami Nov 2013
Silent crackle, tingle,
The smell of a sticky must. Floating dust in
An abandoned attic, where the rats roam and the dead skeleton of a fish
Still lies in an empty bowl of moldy rocks and plastic plants.
Yet, despite the emptiness, a girl curls up in the corner, black
Running down her face as she weeps for the things she longs for most.
She looks out the *****, broken window at the cloudy sky and imagines it
Blue. The brightest of skies with only few hints of cirrus.
A blanket on the ground and the man she loves, nothing else in sight.
The expanse of green in her head is contrasted to the rotting floorboards she lays
On, dreaming. The steady beat of Boy in Static thrumming through her headset
As she struggles not to scream and jump, finishing the job on the window
From troubled teens years before. The sound reminds her of VHS tapes,
Press rewind, take a turn and start over. But she can't, when something has changed.
The boy she knew, looking down with his hood not up, but covering his face, shielding
Himself from her. She knew he had a ***** in his head, but she just looked away. He never answered anything she asked. He was unable.
But her heart still dropped, she smiled her best. An amazing actress, fooling everyone, makeup allergy keeping her eyes dry. She just read Huck Finn as though nothing was wrong.
Now she sits in her room, writing and shaking her head. This line is not right.
Her walls were full of color and poetry, but her mind kept wandering to that attic.

She was there again. Blankly staring at her star charm anklet. A simple blue ribbon.
And the throbbing of her heartbeat through that one spot on her thumb,
That pressure point that hurts more than anything. But one thing could be worse.
Being left. Just like the broken rocking horse in the corner and the baby's cradle
Lined with blue silk that was shoved into a box. That baby is probably dead. Just like all
Of the others who lived there, burned by the fire. Goose flesh raises, prickly
Hairs on her legs from a week of no shaving. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Bleed.
Change the song. Bleed Like Me. Perfect. She draws on the peeling walls, two hundred
Years of wallpaper and lead paint, chalk barely leaving a mark. She sketches a masterpiece.
A child that she wishes she could have. Impossibly too young, but still...
A daughter she could raise better than her mother raised her. A chance to do something right.
More than the mechanic life she has lead, empty and useless.
Confused and pathetic. Like the broken grandfather clock that ticks backwards.
Three, two, one.
Ding-****, ****-ding. Grandfather never taught me anything. He was not a wise man.
He was a fool. Knew too much and too little, no room to know what was right.
She let another raindrop escape and suddenly it began to pour. Lightning crashes as a glass
Slipper collides with the picture drawn of her dream. Thunder as she releases a
Bloodcurdling scream. "Why!?"
Why her? The pain in her back is unbearable. She slouches too much, and her eyes burn.
She is not Cinderella; her ball gown does not glitter.
Piano is her least favorite instrument, but it somehow gets to her. Small hammers
Striking her heart strings, low notes reminding her of his voice and the soft, feminine
Voices radiating, remind her of when she was young... Immortal. She has aged since then.
Too quickly. Her entire life has been a masquerade ball. Unskilled idiots dancing
Around her and stepping on her toes. Shouldering her in the stomach,
Breaking her ribs. Beats of music guide her skilled toes, swerve around falling raindrops that
Her own eyes emit. And she crashes through the floor of that dismal attic. Broken free,
But she is still trapped. The walls are charred down here.

But the walls are not painted black. They were once a mint color, green and cheerful, healthy.
Until a psychopath lit a match.
"I didn't mean to do it." It was all in her head. The house.
She set it aflame.

She sits in her room, writing and shaking her head. This line is not right.
Her walls were full of color and poetry. It isn't worth it to stare. Nothing will change.
She is still just a girl in a glass box, being stared at and judged. Trapped and ridiculed because her eyes bleed and bless the onlookers with bad luck. It's amazing the things
That people don't know. Drifting deeper into a pit of endless darkness. A candle won't
Live down here. No oxygen to let it breathe. But one lit self portrait hangs in the air.
Years ago, drawn in pencil. Symbolic, it wants to be erased. To die.
And the ******* the page is wearing a mask. The girl in the parchment is me.
Medium length hair and a tear painted, permanent. A Parasite. Capitalized for its meaning.

A demon is running through me, singeing
My tissues, blisters on the insides of my bones. Swelled up, show through
My skin. Waves on a shore. But I am not a beach. A ***** maybe...
Still, I hate it. The hate killed whatever flowers I had left planted in my mind.
Tainted me with the horrible visions of a tear streaked face of paper mâché.
She was the one in the attic. Her whole persona
Wilted and ashen, grey. A silent movie might mask it; the hurt, I mean.
The grey lines on the screen hiding the bags under her eyes and the redness of her nose,
Get rid of the twinkling shards of glass frozen on her cheek from crying in the dead of winter.
Slip up once, and everything goes to hell. Well, I must have slipped years before I was born.
Few smiles are left on this dismal timeline. And I shall use them wisely. But, for now,
I think I will just weep, sleep forever and hope that you don't give up on me and pull the plug.
I am still here somewhere, just dormant. Please wake me up. Get me out of this charred cabin,
This glass box. Pull me out of my warped sense of everything, teach me again what
Love feels like. I have forgotten amidst everything that I have felt and remembered.
There is no more room for things to be learned. Only for things to be repaired.
I will give you a hammer. Come inside and fix me; that ***** in your head couldn't have taken your knowledge away. You are the only one that knows.

Use this never ending lightning and bring your bride to life.
Your hair was full of roses in the dewfall as we danced,
The sorceress enchanting and the paladin entranced,
In the starlight as we wove us in a web of silk and steel
Immemorial as the marble in the halls of Boabdil,
In the pleasuance of the roses with the fountains and the yews
Where the snowy Sierra soothed us with the breezes and the dews!
In the starlight as we trembled from a laugh to a caress,
And the God came warm upon us in our pagan allegresse.
Was the Baile de la Bona too seductive? Did you feel
Through the silence and the softness all the tension of the steel?
For your hair was full of roses, and my flesh was full of thorns,
And the midnight came upon us worth a million crazy morns.
Ah! my Gipsy, my Gitana, my Saliya! were you fain
For the dance to turn to earnest? - O the sunny land of Spain!
My Gitana, my Saliya! more delicious than a dove!
With your hair aflame with roses and your lips alight with love!
Shall I see you, shall I kiss you once again? I wander far
From the sunny land of summer to the icy Polar Star.
I shall find you, I shall have you! I am coming back again
From the filth and fog to seek you in the sunny land of Spain.
I shall find you, my Gitana, my Saliya! as of old
With your hair aflame with roses and your body gay with gold.
I shall find you, I shall have you, in the summer and the south
With our passion in your body and our love upon your mouth -
With our wonder and our worship be the world aflame anew!
My Gitana, my Saliya! I am coming back to you!
Terry O'Leary Feb 2014
THE MEETING

Alone one night neath lantern light, I trudged a weary mile.
Forlorn, I went with shoulders bent (the storms around me howled)
until I met a Silhouette behind a sultry smile –
She gazed with eyes that mesmerize (Her body caped and cowled)
and stayed my way with question fey, ‘Why don’t you while awhile?’

Though timorous (with slow address and gestures pantomimed)
Her voice was gracing echoes chasing waves in evening’s tide.
The churchyard groaned, an ***** moaned, the bells of midnight chimed
while wanton winds awoke and dinned, and mistrals multiplied.
The Persian moon, like stray balloon, arose and blithely climbed.

The Silhouette (a pale brunette) arched eyebrows meant to please,
and down the lanes, on windowpanes, the shadows danced and sighed.
A meadowlark within the dark, somewhere behind the breeze,
ennobled Her with wisps of myrrh while deigning to confide
to nightingales veiled whispered tales of human vanities.

She doffed her cloak before She spoke with sighs of sorrow sung
(like mandolins, as night begins, when mourning day’s demise)
and spun Her tale of grim travail and tears She'd shed when young.
As jagged volts of thunderbolts lit up the dismal skies,
a velvet fog embraced a bog in coils of curling tongues.

Through summer vales and winter gales Her secret thoughts were voiced.
Midst storms so cruel (neath lightning’s jewel that glistered on the ridge)
She reminisced, She touched... we kissed... Her lips were wet and moist...
A lighthouse dimmed, while moonbeams skimmed across a distant bridge
to avenues where residues of shallow shades rejoiced.

                        HER TRAGIC TALE

“Midst sweet perfume of youthful bloom, the lonely spirit braves
and often cries and sometimes dies in quest of her amour.”

While starry-eyed, a ship I spied, a’ sail upon the waves –
the galleon docked, the gannets flocked, the Captain swept ashore
where, debonair with gypsy flair, he led his salty knaves.

In passing by, he caught my eye - I tried to hide a blush,
but ambiance of innocence left fervour’s flames revealed.
His gaze (defined by eyes that shined) beheld my cheek a’ flush.
I bowed my head while caution fled, I felt my fate was sealed
- a bird in spring with fledgling wing - he’d snared a  falling thrush.

He said ‘Hello’ - I answered ‘No’ and yet before he’d gone
said I, ‘I’ll wait at Heaven’s Gate not far beyond the Pale’.
At dusk he came neath moon aflame, and left before the dawn
just humming tunes between the dunes that lined the sandy trail
beside a pond where morning yawned, where swam an ebon swan.

We met again, and once again, and once again, again
entangled in a love called sin, in whirls of make-believe.
While in my arms, with voice that charms, said he ‘I must explain -
the tide awaits in distant straits and I must take my leave’.
Then tempests stormed as passions swarmed through ardor’s hurricane.

‘Forsake your home and we may roam’ he smiled as if to tease
and still naive, said I ‘I’ll leave, in silver buckled shoes’.
He took the helm in search of realms, and quickly quit the quays -
with tearful eyes, I bade goodbyes to fare-thee-well adieus
and sailed above a wave of love across the seven seas.

We swept one morn around Cape Thorne while bound for Bullion Bay.
With naught to reck, I strolled on deck, a baby at my breast,
while flurries blew and seagulls flew within the ocean’s spray.
Our ship soon moored, we went ashore and off to Fortune’s Quest -
with gold doubloons which shone like moons, he gambled through the day.

‘The deuce is wild’ he thinly smiled; another card was drawn -
he’d staked and raised with eyes half glazed, was dealt a dismal three.
With betting tight throughout the night, the final ace long gone,
meant all was lost, at what a cost; alas, the prize was me.
To my dismay he slunk away and left me doomed at dawn.

A buccaneer with ring in ear sneered ‘now, my dear, you’re mine’.
He held my wrists to thwart my fists and then... my honor stained.
On sullied swash, the sky awash with bitter tears of brine,
I broke his clutch with nothing much of me that still remained:
a residue when he was through, left clinging to a vine.

In morning dew, the good folk knew, and spurned me in my plight.
The preacher man pronounced a ban and wouldn’t condescend,
ignored my pleas on bended knees and prayers by candlelight.
While cast aside, my baby died... my world was at an end.
Until this day, I’ve made my way beneath the shades of night.


                        AT HEAVEN’S GATES

To set Her free from destiny was far from my design,
but, though unplanned, I touched Her hand to give Her peace of mind.
She told me then, and then again, that providence Divine
had cast a curse, and even worse: despised by all mankind,
She walked alone, unseen, unknown, Her soul incarnadine.

To break this spell of living hell, of loneliness enshrined,
and end Her days within the haze, a sole redeeming deed
would give reprieve and maybe leave our destinies entwined -
Her final quest be put to rest if only I agreed,
but no surcease nor perfect peace nor hope if I declined.

The shadows, shawled in silence, crawled, the night Her fate was sealed
as vespers tolled across the wold beneath the muted fog.
The heavens cracked and sorrow slacked as chimes of children pealed
while in the hills (where midnight chills) there wailed a daemon dog -
with no delay I lead the way, the path to Potter’s Field.

Her weathered face was lined with Grace, Her eyes shone emerald green.
With me as guide She stepped inside to grieve and mourn Her loss,
and thereupon, though pale and wan, the night took on a sheen.
With weary eyes as Her disguise, She placed a wooden cross
upon a mound (unhallowed ground) and whispered ‘Sibylline...’.

A falling star flared in the far and burst, a bolide flame -
beneath the light, the Final Rite no longer hid undone.
And kneeling there in silent prayer, we seemed to share the shame
but could atone if left alone, forevermore as one.
Before we both could breathe an oath, I asked Her once Her name.

Through lips, pale red, She simply said ‘Some called me Abigail’,
and neath a birch where white doves perch, I took Her for my bride,
beheld Her smile a little while, but all to no avail...
Her cloak and cape, and shrivelled shape lie empty at my side...
for now She waits at Heaven’s Gates, not far beyond the Pale.
shayla ennis Oct 2016
(Narrator):
Upon a sunny day you see a girl leading a horse up a beach in the heated sun of the Roman Empire. She is a princess to a great roman king. This king’s name be Alexander the Great who in our history died young. The king dressed in white with red sashes covered over it is in the mist of trying to find his daughter a husband, one who will be fit to be king when he no longer can. The beach being sunny and warm princess Auria has chosen to take her horse for a ride while her father speaks to his men of the council.
Princess Auria: [riding her horse down the beach in a gentle stride] [clip clop………]

(Narrator):
Suddenly the horse rears up into the air throwing the princess from its back!

Princess Auria: [haa… … screaming [smacking into the ground] thump!]

Enters: Tibius [walking up to the horse who threw the princess tibius calls for it to calm itself and then walks up to Princess Auria asking… …]

Tibius: dear lady do you need some assistance?

Princess Auria: no but I thank you for retrieving my horse. Asking herself under her breath… What could have scared you so…?

Tibius: I believe it may have been that serpent over there near the sands edge.

Princess Auria: oh that must be the reason, Thank you again. What be your name young man.

Tibius: my name lady be Tibius and you are most welcome.
Princess Auria: Tibius you say. Would you be willing to come with me to see my father and gain his thanks as well for he would be most grateful to you for what you have done this day.

Tibius: I know not why this is needed but I will follow lead the way my lady.

Princess Auria: please call me Auria.

(Narrator):
Princess Auria leading the way takes Tibius to the king her father who sits in the throne room talking to friends and family. Walking up to her father she tells him what tibius has done. Tibius stands there after being shocked that the lady he helped was actually the princess. Not knowing what to say to the king tibius stands before him in silence.
King Alexander: you a man so young and by the looks of it having little coin save my daughter! This cannot be…

Tibius: if I may speak great king.

King Alexander: you may do so.

Tibius: I was walking along the beach when I saw a horse running in my direction but without rider. I choosing to find said owner came upon your daughter the princess Auria and thus I am now before you.

King Alexander: if this be true what my daughter says than you must in some way be rewarded. But how is the question…

(Narrator):
Enters Princess Auria’s mother Dayanara, coming from tending the gardens within the palace walls dressed in a blue dress trimmed in silver she walks towards her husband the king.

Dayanara: my husband may I say a word or two for I have heard what was said and have an idea.

King Alexander: what idea would you have dear wife.

Dayanara: I speak this let him guard Auria from this time forward both within the walls and without them so as we her parents need not fret so when she goes off alone. I know it may be much for so small a thing. Let him be her personal protector. My other words spoken, I have word of someone who wishes marriage to our daughter.

King Alexander: this is a wondrous idea about Tibius being a protector, let as my wife speaks be done. Do you agree daughter? What about this marriage you speak of Dayanara? Who?

Princess Auria: yes father it is a pleasing reward.

King Alexander: and you Tibius. What do you say to this?

Tibius: I can do nothing else but agree for not too would be a dishonor to both you and your family king Alexander. So yes I say to what has been spoken.

(Narrator):
Scene changes to a battle on the high mountains behind the palace near the ocean. Hundreds of men from Rome and far off Greece that comes by ship battle on the damp sands and grasses of roman earth to take what is not theirs the Greeks wish. Blood and life be spilled at all ends and innocent’s being slaughtered without care. The roman princess waiting in the palace by her mother’s side wondering what is to become of them because no word has yet come about how the battle fares.
[On the battle field]

King Alexander: men raise your blades, your shields, do not yield! Do not I say!
[Clashing, banging of armor and weapons]

King Alexander: men forward March, lances and horses ready. [Forward……!]

(Narrator):

Enters: solder sadeen

Sadeen: my king the battle falls not to us but our enemy we lose men to fast.

King Alexander: we must find a way to get them into the water and then hit them with fire and oil that will burn greatly.

Sadeen: we could place oil along the hills and light it aflame this may drive them back if we make it strong and high.

King Alexander: see it done sadeen; see it done fast for I fear we will lose as you spoke before if you do not.

Sadeen: [riding away from the king at full gallop towards his men to carry out the orders given]
[Gallop… gallop…]

(Narrator): Sadeen follows the Kings orders by lighting aflame ***** of hay covered in oil his soldiers pushing them down the green grass hills where battle takes place to weaken the Greeks ground and might. [Greeks screaming]
[Outcry…… Shrieking…… Men dying]

King Alexander: [praying to himself that what he has asked of his men does not fail] you boy over their go to my family and give them this letter see to it that it is only to them you give it.
[Yes my lord]

(Narrator):
The boy with the letter runs as fast as his legs can carry him back threw the roman streets to the palace and gives the letter to the queen. The queen opens it and read the news of how the battle fares and the instructions given if the king falls.

Dayanara: [calling her daughter] auria… auria…

Princess Auria: what is it mother? Why do you yell so?

Dayanara: your father has written of the battle he pleads with us to leave and go to the villa where you grew as a child for the battle does not fare well and he fears that they will lose. He speaks to us that he will send someone to find us if they win. Come we must go.

Princess Auria: I will find Tibius he can see us to safety out of Rome and to the villa.

Dayanara: go to him in silence speak to no one else only him.

Princess Auria: yes mother [off she runs with her footed sandals slapping on the marble floors as she does].

(Narrator):
Princess Auria runs to the solders corridor and finds Tibius telling him in hurried breath that they must leave fathers words for they are in danger. Tibius gathers up his things and follows the princess back to the royal halls and they silently leave threw the gardens heading to were the villa rests dressed in peasants clothing they be. The king back in the battle hopes that the letter he wrote as found them in time. [He once more prays]

Tibius: come my ladies this way but be careful and quite

Dayanara: we walk silent but you must call us by our names not by title Tibius

Auria: mother is right do as she says for doing so will make others think we are peasants and family. It be less likely they will look our way with suspicion.

(Narrator):
[Suddenly Greek soldiers come of darkened shadows intending to strike and **** the ladies Tibius raises his blade to stop them].

Tibius: [Crash…… his blade smashing into another]

Soldier: his blade striking back [Clashing……]

Tibius: striking the soldier down leaving blood pooling upon the marble path [rushing away]

(Scene):
Days later the three peasants make it to a quite villa outside of Rome and begin a new life as mere workers for those who live there. Any who ask about the owners the peasants simple tell them that they are away due to the battle. They being servants were made to stay behind to keep the place clean for when the owners returned, when that is they do not know. Weeks and more months pass with no word from the king they begin to fear that all is lost when one day a man wearing roman armor rides up asking for the lady Dayanara. Tibius stepping forward asks why? They must return this man says for the king calls them to him.

Tibius: who is the king?

Stanger:  King Alexander of course

Tibius: wait here go nowhere else

Dayanara: what is it?

Tibius: there is a roman outside he says the king calls for us

Dayanara: then we go; this is the sign, find my daughter and gather our things.

Tibius: yes lady right away

(Narrator): They return home going back the way they had left, but through the city rather than the village.

(Scene change): they are home at the royal palace before the king once more, but he was not alone.

King Alexander: you have returned safe, this makes me happy, and rushing to them he smiles [giving them fierce hugs]

Dayanara/ Auria: we are glad to be with you once more, it was worrisome and lonely without your presence being with us.

Dayanara/ Auria: who is this man that stands before us with Greek Armor?  Why is he not dead or imprisoned like the others?

King alexander: he is the prince of the Greek people and the son of King Simentos. Please be polite let me explain what has come about from the great battle on Mount Tear. [He explains]

(Narrator): alexander tells both his wife and daughter that the battle was won due to the son calling up a white flag of truce and asking that no more blood of their people be shed. (Enters Brontes).

Brontes: I am the son and prince of Greek and I wish to come up with a way to unite our lands and people. Your father mentioned that he was looking to finding you Auria a husband; I know that me being Greek may not seem a pleasant thing but I hope for a chance to prove my worth to you.

Auria: I know you be Greek but what does that have to do with the man you have become I see not. The place we are born and live helps us to grow but does not make us who we are.

Dayanara: husband I believe that Auria likes him and they seem to be getting along well [she whispers to him].

King alexander: do you think then that the idea of marriage to Brontes will suit her well, that she will love and or care for him as he will to her.

Dayanara: I do, but let them decide what their choice will be.

(Scene):  the princess and prince wonder into the garden that is covered with the roman flower called the Gladiolus which means sword lily. Speaking of many things that have happened in their lives they continue walking. She tells him that she would hope to see both her homes often if she were to say yes to this peace proposal.

Alexander/Dayanara:  we must speak with the two of you. Have you come to a decision about what this marriage may mean?

Auria/Brontes:  we have come to a final choice after our long talk. We believe that this marriage would be well placed for both of us to accept. We have chosen to wed here and stay till the spring then to travel to Brontes’s home and have a smaller wedding there to please his father. Though this set of weddings we will sign a truce treaty combining our to lands and people.

Dayanara/ Alexander: that is well thought of from both of you. Well done, I believe that this is going to be a very happy time for all of us. Let the wedding be within a months’ time.

(Narrator): the wedding takes place upon the hill where the battle was once fought this is where they will make peace and sign the treaty. The wedding is beautiful and the flowers that are thrown around them show their unity. Both are dressed in the colors of the ocean and their prospective homes. {This is the end of their tale and perhaps a new beginning for us all on earth}.

THE END
playwrite
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Autumn Angel, bring in fall,
see me, like me, text me, call.
Connection made is strong and now,
life comes quickly, she comes how?
Traveling vessels far and near,
planes and ferries bring us here.
Walking, waiting I grow eager,
business first before I meet her.
In the district lounge I perch,
finding me will end her search.
Her approach was my delight,
for now, we can begin our night.
Strong and vibrant she is ample,
allure and wares for me to sample.
Pints and chatter, Blue Ribbon prize,
my glare is locked into her eyes.
Her exchanges are so charming,
pleasant, light and not-alarming.
Time has come to find our way,
joined departure, plans to play?
Lodging and rides arranged by phone,
She knows her way, away from home.
5th floor shoe box, now our lair,
pajamas, toothbrush I’m prepared.
Netflix and chill is common trend,
Hulu and hold is our new friend.
I lay beside her, still not sure.
She watched her show, as I watched her.
I longed to kiss her neck and ears,
doubtful hindrance of my fears.
Surely right, it must be so,
She wants me here, and this means go.
I slowly start to kiss her lobes,
Her standing neck hairs brush my nose.
My mouth, it waters, for her kiss,
She turns to me and grants me this.
Her constellations are so bright,
Her moles like stars, I count tonight.
Her lips transport me to this place,
where there’s no time but only space.
I’d live here for a thousand moons.
sadly, departures come too soon.
Our time is short, not long enough,
I touched her face, she felt my scruff.
Constant contact, senses aflame,
I want her more, she feels the same.
Her essence sweet like summer flowers,
I found the center of her powers.
Far inside, my fingers reach,
while I explored her weeping peach.
Touching, tasting, and some teasing,
Her satisfaction, was my pleasing.
I want to give her more of me,
the part that daylight never sees.
I gave myself the best I could
& tried to make her feel so good.
My comfort lies in her content,
She understands, our needs were met.
Lying by her was so free,
I love the way she feels by me.
Alongside slumber was so grand,
snoozing blissful, hand in hand.
Several times I would awake,
was so pleased with my evenings fate.
When light began to fill the room,
we knew that we’d be going soon.
We didn’t want to leave this place,
I planted kisses on her face.
Once again we shared in pleasures,
in life, these are important treasures.
The final moment had arrived,
we packed our bags, prepared to drive.
The sun shone like no other day,
as we drove down towards the bay.
I sadly had to disembark,
but kissed her more while we were parked.
We said goodbye and rightly so,
our faces had a special glow.
This magic evening, all a blur,
more vessels take us where we were.
This poem is about my chance encounter with another traveler and our romantic evening together before we parted ways. "Hulu and hold" was an original idea that came to me during our night together.
Wordsmith Sep 2018
She seems pretty queer
Yes she does
Something odd
Something peculiar

Is it in her insouciance
Is it in her audacity
Is it in her pirouettes
Spun with such vivacity

Is it in her defiance
Is it in her nonrepentance
Is it in her reveling so free
A form full of glee

Sometimes impetuous
All times ingenuous
Aflame with passion
An immersive intoxication

Cracking down on this mystery
A perplexing dichotomy
Let's remove the misfitting pieces
In sync with commonplace notions

Alas what dismantling of a girl
at peace with her pieces
What uprooting of a girl
at home in her body
gleck Nov 2016
“We could be gods amongst mortals"*

“Why be a god when the earth gave me you?”

His slight whisper
Another’s warmth on my hand
Body sculpted like those of gods
Engraved into my own
He is very humane; -

He is gravity;
Retain me against ascending
Pummel my sins

He is water;
Take away my thirst
Drown me when greed takes over

And I am grounded,
I am thirsty,
Lain earthbound onto the ground at his side
Heart aflame far away from Mount Olympus
I am still only  *
human.
ryn Aug 2014
Step right up and get in line
Produce your ticket, your seat I'll assign
Down the steps, then left to your row
Best you hurry, lights are dimmed low

Take your seat, settle in, be comfortable
The show will begin at the blow of the whistle
I'm your ringmaster, behold the spectacle
Welcome to your life, your very own circus carnival!

Be awed, be mystified, be entertained
Be ready to witness the life you've gained
You'll see fate defying feats and high wire decisions,
Emotion driven acrobats and will bending magicians!

First up, we have a duo, we have a pair
A man and a woman, whom you've learnt to care
Armed with big hearts along with hardened whips
Here are your tamers, they're yours for keeps

They'll attempt and try till their very last breaths
Keep you riveted, as they toy with death
Love with their hearts and their whips do straighten
Teach you lessons with firm handed affection

Stay put, you ain't seen nothing yet
Seen it all you think, but not this I'll bet
Bespectacled, they work alone but part of a guild
Pen juggling and book flipping, one aim to build

To impart all they know across varying disciplines
They'll get it done through different ways and means
Sit tight, do well, for you'll be rewarded
After their routine, you'd have learnt, your life you'd have charted

Put your hands together for next in tow
No my friend, it's not the end of the show
Let's welcome the one you'll soon come to seek
Dons a suit, you might see him five days a week

For sustenance, it is him that you will search
Hurls tight deadline projects from his obscure little perch
Equipped with a bow and bolts in his quiver
Shoots assignment laced arrows, makes sure you deliver

This last act would be the best
It could be true, no! It's no jest
Feast your eyes on your evening's temptress
With curves that could **** and garbed like a sorceress

Tease your heart aflame with wild raw magics
Render you submissive with her sensuous feline tricks
She could be the one, for whom you would have bled
She could be the only, you might want to wed

This finally marks the end of our night of nights
Night abundant with reflective imagery and titillating sights
Hope you've the enjoyed the performances we've lined
Hope we've lit the spark in your body and mind

Before we part and go on our own separate ways
Before the sun rises for the rest of our days
Allow me to leave you with one final say
"Life will be the ultimate circus; whether or not you choose to play".
LJ Chaplin Aug 2013
The keyboard on my laptop has witnessed too many tear drops
Fall upon it's ebony skin as I type,
Each articulation of painful thoughts
And agonisingly catastrophic formation of words
Forcing another wave of grief to pour from these
empty blue eyes of mine.

I have tried to keep my head above the water,
To contain the wildfire in my head
That threatens to spread and burn under my veins,
Aflame in every single bone in this hollow body
But now it seems comforting to let myself slip
Beneath the surface,
To let the fire turn everything to ashes.

It feels better this way,
To be a chaotic mess.
**At least I know how beautiful I'll be when I open up my heart and mind to the possibility of destruction.
WS Warner Mar 2012
Secretly bending glimpses,  
When pine and survey align
In tortuous accord –
Reflections of you,
Are not enough
Drew Barrie;
To insulate my heart
From the cleft between us.
Perennials, the color of
Periwinkle,
The smell of rain
And crayons
Return you to me,
Lend presence, vestiges,
Invoke
The gift of you,
Fortify my resolve
To one day reunite.

Numbness and ache,
Lavish tears set
Against the
Unimpeachable light,
Held in the glint in your eyes
Unequivocally green,
Each blink evokes allure,
Found in
A blushing smile -
Little one,
I observe in quiet
Adoration, amid
Our segregation,
Ardor undiminished,
Prayers give permanence
Uttered in a pause
Each
Breath drawn;
Ephemeral visions, alive,
Ballads and rhyme
Memories aflame, occupy
A sacred canopy,
Internal; profoundly
Savored
Never to erase.

Searching for treasure,
Collecting prized sand
And stone,
Your pockets, heavy
With plunder.

Somber tones fill
Gaps in our history,
Find new contrast,
Certain hues
Oscillating shades of gray
Stirring cues
Dearth of winter blue.
Trees bare, secluded,
Known in the bones,
This crisp boreal air —
February.
Moisture absent,
Like a father's words
Laconic;
Your irreducible gaze,
In the
Opaque imagination.

Oddly arid season,
Aloof precipitation,
The will of the wind
Indefatigable,
Sonnets of euphony, leave me
Undone,
Permit me to grieve,
Another year - gone.
Nervous Squirrels, sedentary
And quiet,
As if to mourn with me,
I miss my daughter.

The spring equinox,
Poised pavilion blended
Unfolds in bloom,
Elucidating
The approaching day
Of your birth.

Stunning you were,
Your prominent
Entry into creation,
Tiny noises,
Nestled and snug.
Reach
My effusive heart.
You are here,
Equipped with an
Absorbing mind
Wrapped,  
Perfectly  
Designed, in a petite
Fashioned frame.

Emotions, elastic -
Diffuse and Compress,
In distance friction
Attenuates,
Time and eternity
Extend to the periphery,
Agony
Absorbed into Zoe.
Grace and peace wash
Ashore, rinsing
Poetry pure;
Cleansing, with surprise
And vigor
Recall the loftiest
Of tokens.

I too
Encountered
An esteemed rock,
Smooth and orbed,
Summoning  
Long thoughts,
My citadel made
Of three,
Uniquely ensconced
Inside -
Priceless gems,  
Sustain me.

Enclaves of privilege
Gratified each vacant
Mirror,
Until notes and
Words gather to form
Your story,
Emergent,
The world shifts,
Altered anew.
Resurrection,
Simile to
Our reconciliation
Visceral and singular,
Exuberant teardrops
Flood, fall deeply
Approximating mercy,
Severe, sudden as
The April freshet.

In the lavender garden.

©2012 & 2016 W.S. Warner
Nigel Morgan Sep 2013
He had been away. Just a few days, but long enough to feel coming home was necessary. He carried with him so many thoughts and plans, and the inevitable list had already formed itself. But the list was for Monday morning. He would enjoy now what he could of Sunday.

Everything can feel so different on a Sunday. Travel by train had been a relaxed affair for once, a hundred miles cross-country from the open skies of the Fens to the conurbations of South Yorkshire. Today, there was no urgency or deliberation. Passengers were families, groups of friends, sensible singles going home after the weekend away. No suits. He seemed the only one not fixated by a smart phone, tablet or computer. So he got to see the autumn skies, the mountain ranges of clouds, the vast fields, the still-harvesting. But his thoughts were full to the brim of traveling the previous November when together they had made a similar journey (though in reverse) under similar skies. They had escaped for two days one night into a time of being wholly together, inseparably together, joined in that joy of companionship that elated him to recall it. He was overcome with weakness in his body and a jolt of passion combined: to think of her quiet beauty, the tilt of her head, the brush of her hair against his cheek. He longed for her now to be in the seat opposite and to stroke the back of her calf with his foot, hold her small hand across the table, gaze and gaze again at her profile as she, always alert to every flicker of change, took in the passing landscape.

But these thoughts gradually subsided and he found himself recalling a poem he had commissioned. It was a text for a verse anthem, that so very English form beloved by cathedral and collegiate choral directors of the 16th C (and just that weekend he had been in such a building where this music had its home). He had been reading The Five Proofs for the Existence of God from the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas, knowing this scholar to have been a cornerstone of the work of Umberto Eco, an author he admired. He had also set a poem that mentioned these Five Proofs, and had set this poem without knowing exactly what they were. He recalled its ending:

They sit by a lake where dead leaves
Float and apples lie on a table. She
ignores him and his folder of papers

but I found later the picture was called
‘In Love’, which coloured love sepia.
Later still, by the time I sat with you,

Watched your arm on the back of a chair
And your hand at rest while you told me
Of Aquinas and his proofs for the existence

Of God I realised love was not always
Sepia, that these hands held invisible
Keys, were pale because the mind was aflame.

He remembered then the challenge of reading Aquinas, this Dominican friar of the 13C. It had stretched him, and he thought of asking his wordsmith of thirty years, the mother of his daughters, to bring these arguments together in a poetic form for him to set to music. She had delivered such a poem and it took him some while to grasp it wholly. He wondered for a moment if he actually had grasped it. But there was this connection with the landscape he was passing through. She had mentioned this, and now he saw it for his own eyes. She had been to Ely for the day, to walk the length of the great Cathedral, to stare at and be amongst the visible past, the past of Aquinas. He remembered the first verse as only a composer can who has laboured over the scheme of words and rhythms:

The Argument from Motion

Everything in the world changes.
A meadow of skewbald horses grazes
Beneath a pair of flying swans
And the universe is different again.

And no sooner is potency reduced to act,
By a whisker’s twitch or a word,
A word, that potent gobbet of air
Than smiles and tears change places.

And everything has changed. Back
Go the tracks beyond seen convergence
To a great self-sufficient terminus
Which terminus we might call God.

And so it was in such a spirit of reflection that his journey passed. He had joined the Edinburgh express at Peterborough to travel north, and the landscape had subsided into a different caste, still rural, but different, the fields smaller, the horizon closer.

Alighting from the train in his home city on a Sunday afternoon the station and surrounding streets were quiet and the few people about were not walking purposefully, they strolled. He climbed the flights of stairs to his third floor studio, unlocked the door and immediately walked across the room to open the window. Seagulls were swooping and diving below him, feeding off the detritus of the previous night’s partying in the clubs and pubs that occupied the city centre, its main shopping area removed to a mall off kilter with the historic city and its public buildings. What shops there were stood empty, boarded up, permanently lease for sale.

Sitting at his desk he surveyed the paper trail of his work in progress. Once so organised, every sketch and plan properly labelled and paginated, he had regressed it seemed to filling pages of his favoured graph paper in a random fashion. Some idea for the probably distant future would find its way into the midst of present work, only (sometimes) a different ink showing this to be the case. Notes from a radio talk jostled with rhythmic abstracts. He realised this was perhaps indicative of his mental state, a state of transience, of uncertainty, a temporariness even.

He was probably too tired to work effectively now, just off the train, but the sense and the relative peacefulness that was Sunday was so seductive. He didn’t want to lose the potential this time afforded. This was why for so many years Sunday had often been such a productive day. If he went to meeting, if he cooked the tea, if he ironed the children’s school clothes for the week, there was this still space in the day. It represented a kind of ideal state in which to think and compose. Now these obligations were more flexible and different, Sunday had even more ‘still’ space, and it continued to cast its spell over him.

He put his latest sketches into a sequential form, editing on the computer then printing them out, listening acutely, wholly absorbed. Only a text message from his beloved (picking blackberries) brought him back to the time and day. There was a photo: a cluster of this dark, late summer fruit, ripe for picking framed against a tree and a white sky. Barely a week ago they had picked blackberries together with friends, children and dogs and he had watched her purposely pick this fruit without the awkwardness that so often accompanied bending over brambles. He wondered at her, constantly. How was this so? He imagined her now in her parents’ garden, a garden glowing in the late afternoon light, as she too would glow in that late-afternoon light . . . he bought himself back to the problem in hand. How to make the next move? There was a join to deal with. He was working with the seven metrics of traditional poetry as the basis for a rhythmic scheme. He was being tempted towards committing an idea to paper. He kept reminding himself of the music’s lie of the land, the effectiveness of it so far. It was still early days he thought to commit to something that would mark the piece out, produce a different quality, would declare the movement he was working on to be a certain shape.

And suddenly he was back on the train, looking at the passing landscape and the next verse of that Aquinas poem insisted itself upon him with its apt description and tantalising argument:

The Argument from Efficient Causality

We are crossing managed washlands.
Pochards so carefully coloured swim
Where cows ruminated last summer
In a landscape fruit of human agency.

And I think of the heavenly aboriginal
Agent of all our doings in this material
Playground of earth I can pick up,
Hold and crumble and cultivate

And air that is mine for the breathing
And the inhabited waters that cling
As if by magic to a sphere. What cause
Sustains the effects we live among?

For there is no smoke without fire
And as we sow, thus we reap. Nihil
Ex nihil, therefore something Is,
Some being we might call God.

So ‘nothing out of nothing, therefore something is’.  Outside in the city the Cathedral bells were ringing in Evensong. The sounds only audible on a Sunday when the traffic abated a little and the sounds in the street below were sporadic. He thought of going out into the Cathedral precinct and listening to the bells roll and rhythm their sequences, those Plain-Bob-Majors and Grand-Sire-Triples. But he knew that would further break the spell, the train of thought that lay about him.

He sketched the next section, confidently, and when he had finished felt he could do know more. There it was: a starting point for tomorrow. He could now go towards home, walk for a while in the park and enjoy the movements of the wind-tossed trees, the late roses, the geese on the lake. He would think about his various children in their various lives. He would think about the woman he loved, and would one day assuage what he knew was a loneliness he could not quench with any music, and though he tried daily with words, would not be assuaged.
The poetic quotations are from poems by Margaret Morgan. A collection titled Words for Music by Margaret and Nigel Morgan is now available as an e-book from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DY8RAGC
JAMIL HUSSAIN Nov 2017
**** Damakta, Zulf Ghaneri
Rangin Lab, Ankhein Jadu

Body aflame and curling of locks so thick
Colourful lips and eyes so charming

Sang-e-Marmar, Uda Badal
Surḳh Shafaq, Hairan Aahu

Ivory stone altering so royal-mauve
Evening twilight so red and dazzled gazelles

Raatein Mahki, Sansein Dahki
Nazrein Bahki, Rut Lahki

Fragrant nights and sighs kindling
Glances intoxicating, season so blooming

Prem Khilauna, Sapn Salona
Phul Bichhauna, Vo Pahlu

Game of love, stunning dreams
Flowers spreading, O’ that view

Tum Se Duri, Ye Majburi
Zaḳhm-e-Kari, Bedari

Away from you, so helpless
Penetrating wound and no vigilance

Tanha Raatein, Sapne Katein
Khud Se Batien, Meri Khu*

Lonely nights and biting dreams
Talking to self, my habit so new

✒ Translated by ℐamil Hussain , Sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
I feel decompressed and lethargic,
as I continue scrolling through my online soul only to see a kind-hearted person now nostalgic.

Why can't we all feel the same?

Why does the world seem to be aflame?

It's because we all try to accomplish being perfect,
and when we spot "convicts" we don't even detect we inflict neglect.

The thought of unity is fading away as is the hippie way,
a late anniversary bouquet whittling away,
a smoking cigarette left around the ashtray, dying this midsummers day.

Why is this thought so crazy anyway?

The change starts internally,
and can only be finished by an honest community,
one where we can all live with our acquired mental immunity.

Finally, peace sets within our unity.
Pagan Paul Oct 2018
.
Quiet! Shhh!
Can you hear it?
The animals are talking.
No, they are panicking.
Can you smell it?
The Forest is on fire.
My Forest is aflame!

I run, following nostrils singed with heat,
against the tide of the fleeing fauna.
Reaching the blaze I see....
eight of them.
My anger rises and erupts.
'STOP!' I bellow. They turn and draw swords.
My eyes narrow and a look of pure disdain unfolds.

I continue.
'I am Rook, Lord of the Forest Kingdom.
How dare you, enter my domain with no permission
and reek havoc on my Forest'.

A step is taken, toward me.
The eyes of a fighter glower, at me.
The point of a sword raises, threatening me.

I punish.
'For your transgressions and your destruction
you shall stand as stones, for eternity,
and as a warning to others'.

A scream pierces the air as a foot,
then another, compresses to rock.
The rest join the chorus, agony,
as each become statues,
twisted and contorted as
the Ancient Oaks they had destroyed.

My Oaks.
This is my Anger.
Would you care to see my Love?


© Pagan Paul (2018)
.
In blood, a precious cake dancing
aflame in whirlpool of
cyclopean darkness.

The triggers of sanguinary
guns are tumbling down tears,
sorrow and grief in gush on
the cliff of darkness.

The moon,  a crimson cake of
venom toasting blind sun in
gory rays as stars twinkling
blood at dawn.

The orphan profusely wailing
for peace in her own bizarre
carnage in bazaar of iniquity
and rivers of blood.

Let the world stop this blood
Lest this blood stops the world!


©2018 KAYODE STEVE ADARAMOYE
- Feb 2019
The sky is aflame.

To the west, it burns crimson.
A warm gradient that seems like a massive forest fire,
turning to a bright copper in the middle
and ending as a quiet mahogany.

To the east, a near-blinding white.
With no gradient or change as it rises,
simply dying down eventually,
propped up by unholy spotlights that pierce the atmosphere.

The north is charred a mute maroon,
a short glass of auburn carelessly splashed to the horizon.
To the south, pale bone paints away the stars,
spattered with shades of pewter and smoke.

I cannot see the stars through all the light,
and I do not know which way to follow.
The sky is aflame, lit by so many sources,
rendering it empty and dull, burning away.
Kida Price Jun 2014
First sighted love
Fills my chest
Warms the core.
Quiet conversation
Hearing words
Learning more.
Brushing hands
Touching lips
Hands gripped firmly around my hips.
Laying down
Fighting the urge
Pushing the envelope just a little more.
Feel the chill
As we exhale.
Craving touch
Inside ourselves.
Time goes by
Replay
Words to fill the time away.
Trying to think of things to say.
Help me keep the heat aflame.
What to watch?
What to do?
Of course I'm not getting bored with you?
Should we fool around some more
Or are you tired?
Cuddle on the floor?
Have you heard this joke before?
Do you feel like eating out once more?
Loving still
Without the thrill
Give it back
We're not yet filled.
We've come so far
To walk away.
Maybe we just need a day
Or two or a week.
Let me miss you
Craving to hear your voice to speak.
He's just a friend.
Who is she?
They seem so very different
From me.
I didn't mean the things I said.
You won't allow yourself
To be comforted.
Parted ways
And still it burns.
Keeping tabs
But pictures turned
Into ashes.
Where is he?
Did she leave?
Our friends just won't stop asking.
******* stop reminding me.
Finding others to fill the need.
Days, weeks and months wander astray
Since seeing your face turn and fade away.
It sparks a bit
But only just.
I pray it's doused and it must.
Random message
Just checking in
Hope you're happy
How have you been?
Feeling it being lit again.
First sighted love
Fills my chest
Warms the core.
Quiet conversation.
Stay aflame
Let's do this again.
r Jul 2014
I am wheat
I cry, I cry
Again
You leave your dead
At my feet
Oh why, oh why

At Gettysburg
We cried
Again, again
They rose and died
Below our stalks
They lie, they lie

From Stalingrad
To Leningrad
One million dead, one million dead
The Panzers came
Wheat fields aflame
They burned, they burned

And once again
You leave your dead
Ukraine, Ukraine
Oh, Putin's shame
The innocent lie
In wheat, in wheat.

r ~ 7/19/14
\¥/\
  |    Malaysia Air Flight 17
/ \
blankpoems Aug 2013
Everything is dust.
I found you on my bookshelf untouched.
I am sorry, I'll leave you there again and I'm never good at apologies.
I tried very hard to leave you alone, but you were this enigma.
I swear that the Gods put attracting magnets in both of us, because whenever I speak with you
I have this surge inside me, something that can't be explained.
It feels like we were written in the stars or some other *******.
I don't believe in that anyways.
Or I didn't, until you.
I am sorry that I wear nooses as necklaces, and I'm sorry that maybe you got tangled in them.
I'm sorry you couldn't breathe, because I wanted you to.
I want you to keep on breathing forever and when you can't anymore...
then I won't either.
I have a feeling that if you read this you'd be sick to your stomach.
I have a feeling that if I touched you again you wouldn't know why,
but you wouldn't ask.
You were just like that sometimes.
My candle flickers everytime I think of you, and I think it misses you as well.
I think that it needs you to stay aflame. I think I need you to stay aflame.

My neighbours are breaking some things out in the backyard and I kind of want to say
"hey, here's another thing you can break" and let them smash me into pieces with their hammer.
I think that would be a fun way to die.
You know, my brother asked me if I wanted to die in my sleep or of old age.
I said neither. I told him that I wanted to get in a big car wreck,
or murdered in an alley.
He asked why, and I consequently told him that I wanted to feel the life being pulled from me.
I told him you only die once. I don't think he was ready for that.
He is six.

If you were there you'd probably laugh and offer to be the one to ****** me.
In secret, I liked that about you.
I like that you clap your hands when you laugh.
I am sorry, I'll leave you there again.
I am sorry.
I'm never good with apologies.

I am sorry to her, also.
Because I never wanted her to hurt.
I was jealous that she gets you all the time.
I was jealous that she is your stars and your moon and your sun in the morning.
I only got to be a silhouette in your life. A shadowy figure clinging to dark magic and the shadows of ravens
in cemeteries where I imagined myself being buried.

I miss you so much and I've never even had you, how sad.
I think that someone like you almost always turns into a hurricane.
Everything good must come to an end and all those merry little details.
I've used up all of my metaphors on you.
I can't compare your eyes to anything else except for the most exquisite of art pieces,
and I've never been to a gallery.
I guess I'm not one to make judgement on anything.

I am so sorry for losing, but I am not sorry that you're winning.
You'll be much better now, and I think she makes you into more of a martyr.
I don't know how I feel about that.
The only poetic thing I can say to you now is "I'm sorry"
and even though I'm not good with apologies,
I really mean that.
I think now I've turned to dust.
I frantically typed this. I'm sorry for abrupt changes and scattered thoughts.
I am entirely fragments and nothing but a recollection of a ****** trial.
Xan Abyss Oct 2014
Tonight I will fall down upon my knees
To pray before the goddess of enchanted ebony
Her divine rays of dark beauty I embrace
Bathing blissfully in her enigmatic grace

I enter the sanctum
Her sacred place of healing
Ecstasy consumes me
Enraptured by the feeling

When the Moon of the Black Goddess
Shines Her light upon me
Then the Love of the Black Goddess
Drowns the world around me

Tonight I worship at the Temple of Her Light
I sacrifice my flesh to the goddess shining bright
The fire in my soul erupts and sets aflame my mind
On holy nights like these when the cosmos re-aligns

I enter the sanctum
Her sacred place of healing
Ecstasy consumes me
Enraptured by the feeling

When the Moon of the Black Goddess
Shines Her light upon me
Then the Lust of the Black Goddess
Burns the world around me

I submit myself to Her, naked and unguarded
Prepared to be consumed and then possibly discarded
For in her presence, all the evil in our pale existence
Vanishes from memory in a single instant

I enter the sanctum
Her sacred place of healing
Ecstasy consumes me
Enraptured by the feeling

When the Moon of the Black Goddess
Shines Her light upon me
Then the Mists of the Black Goddess
Shroud the world around me

The Moon of the Black Goddess
Cast thy spell upon me
The Moon of the Black Goddess
Looming right above me
The Moon of the Black Goddess
I give my flesh to worship thee!
For the Moon of the Black Goddess
Is the only place
I can find peace!

When the Moon of the Black Goddess
Shines Her light into me
Then the Tune of the Black Goddess
Becomes the song to set me free!
Wrote this for a lover.
1

Senlin sits before us, and we see him.
He smokes his pipe before us, and we hear him.
Is he small, with reddish hair,
Does he light his pipe with meditative stare,
And a pointed flame reflected in both eyes?
Is he sad and happy and foolish and wise?
Did no one see him enter the doors of the city,
Looking above him at the roofs and trees and skies?
'I stepped from a cloud', he says, 'as evening fell;
I walked on the sound of a bell;
I ran with winged heels along a gust;
Or is it true that I laughed and sprang from dust? . . .
Has no one, in a great autumnal forest,
When the wind bares the trees,
Heard the sad horn of Senlin slowly blown?
Has no one, on a mountain in the spring,
Heard Senlin sing?
Perhaps I came alone on a snow-white horse,-
Riding alone from the deep-starred night.
Perhaps I came on a ship whose sails were music,-
Sailing from moon or sun on a river of light.'

He lights his pipe with a pointed flame.
'Yet, there were many autumns before I came,
And many springs. And more will come, long after
There is no horn for me, or song, or laughter.

The city dissolves about us, and its walls
Become an ancient forest. There is no sound
Except where an old twig tires and falls;
Or a lizard among the dead leaves crawls;
Or a flutter is heard in darkness along the ground.

Has Senlin become a forest? Do we walk in Senlin?
Is Senlin the wood we walk in, -ourselves,-the world?
Senlin! we cry . . . Senlin! again . . . No answer,
Only soft broken echoes backward whirled . . .

Yet we would say: this is no wood at all,
But a small white room with a lamp upon the wall;
And Senlin, before us, pale, with reddish hair,
Lights his pipe with a meditative stare.

2

Senlin, walking beside us, swings his arms
And turns his head to look at walls and trees.
The wind comes whistling from shrill stars of winter,
The lights are jewels, black roots freeze.
'Did I, then, stretch from the bitter earth like these,
Reaching upward with slow and rigid pain
To seek, in another air, myself again?'

(Immense and solitary in a desert of rocks
Behold a bewildered oak
With white clouds screaming through its leafy brain.)
'Or was I the single ant, or tinier thing,
That crept from the rocks of buried time
And dedicated its holy life to climb
From atom to beetling atom, jagged grain to grain,
Patiently out of the darkness we call sleep
Into a hollow gigantic world of light
Thinking the sky to be its destined shell,
Hoping to fit it well!-'

The city dissolves about us, and its walls
Are mountains of rock cruelly carved by wind.
Sand streams down their wasting sides, sand
Mounts upward slowly about them: foot and hand
We crawl and bleed among them! Is this Senlin?

In the desert of Senlin must we live and die?
We hear the decay of rocks, the crash of boulders,
Snarling of sand on sand. 'Senlin!' we cry.
'Senlin!' again . . . Our shadows revolve in silence
Under the soulless brilliance of blue sky.

Yet we would say: there are no rocks at all,
Nor desert of sand . . . here by a city wall
White lights jewell the evening, black roots freeze,
And Senlin turns his head to look at trees.

3

It is evening, Senlin says, and in the evening,
By a silent shore, by a far distant sea,
White unicorns come gravely down to the water.
In the lilac dusk they come, they are white and stately,
Stars hang over the purple waveless sea;
A sea on which no sail was ever lifted,
Where a human voice was never heard.
The shadows of vague hills are dark on the water,
The silent stars seem silently to sing.
And gravely come white unicorns down to the water,
One by one they come and drink their fill;
And daisies burn like stars on the darkened hill.

It is evening Senlin says, and in the evening
The leaves on the trees, abandoned by the light,
Look to the earth, and whisper, and are still.
The bat with horned wings, tumbling through the darkness,
Breaks the web, and the spider falls to the ground.
The starry dewdrop gathers upon the oakleaf,
Clings to the edge, and falls without a sound.
Do maidens spread their white palms to the starlight
And walk three steps to the east and clearly sing?
Do dewdrops fall like a shower of stars from willows?
Has the small moon a ghostly ring? . . .
White skeletons dance on the moonlit grass,
Singing maidens are buried in deep graves,
The stars hang over a sea like polished glass . . .
And solemnly one by one in the darkness there
Neighing far off on the haunted air
White unicorns come gravely down to the water.

No silver bells are heard. The westering moon
Lights the pale floors of caverns by the sea.
Wet **** hangs on the rock. In shimmering pools
Left on the rocks by the receding sea
Starfish slowly turn their white and brown
Or writhe on the naked rocks and drown.
Do sea-girls haunt these caves-do we hear faint singing?
Do we hear from under the sea a faint bell ringing?
Was that a white hand lifted among the bubbles
And fallen softly back?
No, these shores and caverns are all silent,
Dead in the moonlight; only, far above,
On the smooth contours of these headlands,
White amid the eternal black,
One by one in the moonlight there
Neighing far off on the haunted air
The unicorns come down to the sea.

4

Senlin, walking before us in the sunlight,
Bending his small legs in a peculiar way,
Goes to his work with thoughts of the universe.
His hands are in his pockets, he smokes his pipe,
He is happily conscious of roofs and skies;
And, without turning his head, he turns his eyes
To regard white horses drawing a small white hearse.
The sky is brilliant between the roofs,
The windows flash in the yellow sun,
On the hard pavement ring the hoofs,
The light wheels softly run.
Bright particles of sunlight fall,
Quiver and flash, gyrate and burn,
Honey-like heat flows down the wall,
The white spokes dazzle and turn.

Senlin, walking before us in the sunlight,
Regards the hearse with an introspective eye.
'Is it my childhood there,' he asks,
'Sealed in a hearse and hurrying by?'
He taps his trowel against a stone;
The trowel sings with a silver tone.

'Nevertheless I know this well.
Bury it deep and toll a bell,
Bury it under land or sea,
You cannot bury it save in me.'

It is as if his soul had become a city,
With noisily peopled streets, and through these streets
Senlin himself comes driving a small white hearse . . .
'Senlin!' we cry. He does not turn his head.
But is that Senlin?-Or is this city Senlin,-
Quietly watching the burial of the dead?
Dumbly observing the cortege of its dead?
Yet we would say that all this is but madness:
Around a distant corner trots the hearse.
And Senlin walks before us in the sunlight
Happily conscious of his universe.

5

In the hot noon, in an old and savage garden,
The peach-tree grows. Its cruel and ugly roots
Rend and rifle the silent earth for moisture.
Above, in the blue, hang warm and golden fruits.
Look, how the cancerous roots crack mould and stone!
Earth, if she had a voice, would wail her pain.
Is she the victim, or is the tree the victim?
Delicate blossoms opened in the rain,
Black bees flew among them in the sunlight,
And sacked them ruthlessly; and no a bird
Hangs, sharp-eyed, in the leaves, and pecks the fruit;
And the peach-tree dreams, and does not say a word.
. . . Senlin, tapping his trowel against a stone,
Observes this tree he planted: it is his own.

'You will think it strange,' says Senlin, 'but this tree
Utters profound things in this garden;
And in its silence speaks to me.
I have sensations, when I stand beneath it,
As if its leaves looked at me, and could see;
And those thin leaves, even in windless air,
Seem to be whispering me a choral music,
Insubstantial but debonair.

"Regard," they seem to say,
"Our idiot root, which going its brutal way
Has cracked your garden wall!
Ugly, is it not?
A desecration of this place . . .
And yet, without it, could we exist at all?"
Thus, rustling with importance, they seem to me
To make their apology;
Yet, while they apologize,
Ask me a wary question with their eyes.
Yes, it is true their origin is low-
Brutish and dull and cruel . . . and it is true
Their roots have cracked the wall. But do we know
The leaves less cruel-the root less beautiful?
Sometimes it seems as if there grew
In the dull garden of my mind
A tree like this, which, singing with delicate leaves,
Yet cracks the wall with cruel roots and blind.
Sometimes, indeed, it appears to me
That I myself am such a tree . . .'

. . . And as we hear from Senlin these strange words
So, slowly, in the sunlight, he becomes this tree:
And among the pleasant leaves hang sharp-eyed birds
While cruel roots dig downward secretly.

6

Rustling among his odds and ends of knowledge
Suddenly, to his wonder, Senlin finds
How Cleopatra and Senebtisi
Were dug by many hands from ancient tombs.
Cloth after scented cloth the sage unwinds:
Delicious to see our futile modern sunlight
Dance like a harlot among these Dogs and Dooms!

First, the huge pyramid, with rock on rock
Bloodily piled to heaven; and under this
A gilded cavern, bat festooned;
And here in rows on rows, with gods about them,
Cloudily lustrous, dim, the sacred coffins,
Silver starred and crimson mooned.

What holy secret shall we now uncover?
Inside the outer coffin is a second;
Inside the second, smaller, lies a third.
This one is carved, and like a human body;
And painted over with fish and bull and bird.
Here are men walking stiffly in procession,
Blowing horns or lifting spears.
Where do they march to? Where do they come from?
Soft whine of horns is in our ears.

Inside, the third, a fourth . . . and this the artist,-
A priest, perhaps-did most to make resemble
The flesh of her who lies within.
The brown eyes widely stare at the bat-hung ceiling.
The hair is black, The mouth is thin.
Princess! Secret of life! We come to praise you!
The torch is lowered, this coffin too we open,
And the dark air is drunk with musk and myrrh.
Here are the thousand white and scented wrappings,
The gilded mask, and jeweled eyes, of her.

And now the body itself, brown, gaunt, and ugly,
And the hollow scull, in which the brains are withered,
Lie bare before us. Princess, is this all?
Something there was we asked that is not answered.
Soft bats, in rows, hang on the lustered wall.

And all we hear is a whisper sound of music,
Of brass horns dustily raised and briefly blown,
And a cry of grief; and men in a stiff procession
Marching away and softly gone.

7

'And am I then a pyramid?' says Senlin,
'In which are caves and coffins, where lies hidden
Some old and mocking hieroglyph of flesh?
Or am I rather the moonlight, spreading subtly
Above those stones and times?
Or the green blade of grass that bravely grows
Between to massive boulders of black basalt
Year after year, and fades and blows?

Senlin, sitting before us in the lamplight,
Laughs, and lights his pipe. The yellow flame
Minutely flares in his eyes, minutely dwindles.
Does a blade of grass have Senlin for a name?
Yet we would say that we have seen him somewhere,
A tiny spear of green beneath the blue,
Playing his destiny in a sun-warmed crevice
With the gigantic fates of frost and dew.

Does a spider come and spin his gossamer ladder
Rung by silver rung,
Chaining it fast to Senlin? Its faint shadow
Flung, waveringly, where his is flung?
Does a raindrop dazzle starlike down his length
Trying his futile strength?
A snowflake startle him? The stars defeat him?
Through aeons of dusk have birds above him sung?
Time is a wind, says Senlin; time, like music,
Blows over us its mournful beauty, passes,
And leaves behind a shadowy reflection,-
A helpless gesture of mist above the grasses.

8

In cold blue lucid dusk before the sunrise,
One yellow star sings over a peak of snow,
And melts and vanishes in a light like roses.
Through slanting mist, black rocks appear and glow.

The clouds flow downward, slowly as grey glaciers,
Or up to a pale rose-azure pass.
Blue streams ****** down from snow to boulders,
From boulders to white grass.

Icicles on the pine tree melt
And softly flash in the sun:
In long straight lines the star-drops fall
One by one.

Is a voice heard while the shadows still are long,
Borne slowly down on the sparkling air?
Is a thin bell heard from the peak of silence?
Is someone among the high snows there?

Where the blue stream flows coldly among the meadows
And mist still clings to rock and tree
Senlin walks alone; and from that twilight
Looks darkly up, to see

The calm unmoving peak of snow-white silence,
The rocks aflame with ice, the rose-blue sky . . .
Ghost-like, a cloud descends from twinkling ledges,
To nod before the dwindling sun and die.

'Something there is,' says Senlin, 'in that mountain,
Something forgotten now, that once I knew . . .'
We walk before a sun-tipped peak in silence,
Our shadows descend before us, long and blue.
We stood on the shores of forever.
The transient waves
lapping at the Cliffside
Grinding granite
to bare sand and
granting mysticism to
           Perception.

Grand piano typebars snicking
to the roar of bonfires
burning the taste buds off our fingers
            Our tongues busy in rituals
          gifting freedom from base function
              to commune with Passion.

Newfound Oldschoolism
        stuttering confidence
                and alcohol imbibed clarity
screaming Ginsberg at Apathy so that sand might best stone

                  Spinning dizzily
in Rockland in Moloch in Purgatory
Dying vicariously under the table
while illiterate Jazz read
our right accusatory
                                 for falsifying veracity

Sitting in jail cells in
San Francisco for setting
         the sky aflame.
        And it is aflame.

Inmates burning with
unspoken tomes spoken
Who in madness spun truth
        in whipped tongues, begging
        for something worthy of Censure.
Who Rapture took under wing
        and proclaimed “Child!”
Who ripped open the sky
        to play with father time
        while mother earth ran green
                   in envy.
Who were acquitted on appeal
        to dance in the moonlight on the
        shore once more together,

        Who found lust skipping stones alone
and welcomed her to join us
Hedonists wearing it like a
badge on bare underbellies
rubbing orgied in reverence
       Running fingers through coarse
hair windblown and sparking
with electric sensation.
       Exploring, pioneering
quivering legs and chests
beneath and atop us.
       Inventing love while sinking
quickly in slow sands
while smooth hands grasped
for the fleeting finite
      Whispering sweet everythings
without words for they
would be wasted here.
      Pulling needy lips away
to idealize Communism
as Bourgeois swine wallowing
in prosperity and sweat
of our nightly deeds.
      Complaining of lost chances
and brevity of copulation
when we’ve defeated the bedsprings
      and Fantasizing of the bed, car,
floor, park, studio, and once
on the hood for good measure
      Forsaking sleep to defy
the mandate of the setting moon
      Praising the glinting ******
of Adonis and Aphrodite
in mutual longing
as the sun blinked into
existence through the window
until in merry acquiescence we
     dozed, dreaming
we had set San Francisco aflame
and lit our cigarettes on its
                embers,
While we slipped little squares
under our tongues and GoldenGatePark
turned alive and welcoming;
Gleeful mourning at the loss of self
        at the University
Rambling on about enlightenment
        full of pretentious humility
Establishing Anarchy in our veins
        so we might be closer to god

               And god lives right there
               in the shack atop that
               hill, handing out nature
               to the masses
sitting on benches, fried to comprehension.
       Proclaiming that the world
was bleeding glory to bewildered
               passers-by.
       Breathing in fog and smoke
to join oblivion quickly
       Bumping Kerouac’s ashes in
the selfsame alley
       Piling intoxicants to run sleepless
through the streets
                                       wild-eyed

Dragged out of gutters
        covered in nothing
               the morning after
                     finding our clothes
                          draping streetlamps
                     and leaving them
               in testament.

Yearning for that heavenly connection
         and finding it
             together.
Scaling the walls of
        the mind to
find mountains at
        the summit and
        climbed those too
and clamored past
        the clouds
and the stars until
       We found worth at the edge
of the universe.

                                             20 September 2010
Copyright 2010 @ Tyler Ryan Rodriguez
Sally A Bayan Jun 2018
No one else, but a poet...can bring colors
to scenes...with verses, in crass or subtle
tones......gather words together in lines,
uncertain in their ebbing and flowing...
the results create surprise in many
hues that could make one cry,
grimace......frown......or smile

readers are led to far, or near
destinations...to the cool, sweet air
and peaceful atmosphere of paradise,  
or, to unlit corners...uncharted waters,
or deep into an abyss...or, a black hole,
an unknown corner, where moribund souls
are biding their time, maybe, they could
now define by themselves, purgatory and hell,
understand those sunken souls who have lost
all...except their arms, and begging eyes...
then, through appropriate words,
a poet paints a laborious path, or
a stairway...so an enlightened reader
may climb back to safe, calm waters...

a poet makes the mind see a human heart,
beating in many rhythms...throbbing,
.......aflame with longing and desire,
bursting from ecstatic, sublime moments,
then, later on,  shift to grayish thoughts
that cut deep....tormenting...crashing,
............gnashing the heart...
a poet paints a soul walking on cloud nine,
later, to dip feet in celebrative pools.

sometimes, a poet would rather not, yet,
an inner force prevails, thereby paints a
drooping soul...dying, in total surrender,
ready to fall..............but, again, with a
barrel of lively-colored words,  a poet
takes this despondent soul to berth,
with soothing verses, bring it to a rebirth...
every human being is worth an effort
..............even those that have fallen
.........................are worth savin' .....

a poet's palette is uniquely
enriched with colorful experiences,
a poet paints life in its truest colors,
..........could be dark...or bright
.....nothing more......nothing less...





Sally

© Rosalia Rosario A. Bayan
    January 29, 2017
Nothing Much May 2015
Purple is often misunderstood 

People confuse it with pink or blue 

They cannot comprehend change

The synthesis of something new

Purple has been picked to pieces

Analyzed with Pantone paint chip cards

The public is vexed, this defiance of ***

Twirled around by color guards

They say that violet delights have violent ends
That from this “choice,” there’s no return

But they’re the ones who set us aflame

And we, in their triumph, burn
This is so childish ****
mja Feb 2015
i fell in love with you
like fire

it was a flame at first
small and barely visible
but the warmth of its glow
replaced the crevices
where the darkness in my heart
resides

then suddenly-
it was wildfire.
it was passionate
and obsessive
the flames were getting out of control
not only the crevices burned
but my heart in its entirety.

i was blinded
by the blaze of the inferno
and the pungent smell of smoke
and when my vision cleared
i was nothing more
than futile ashes
scattering in the grim wind


-m.j.a
My mother always told me
not to play with fire
and to avoid evil friends
who want to conspire
listen to my conscience
set my heart aflame
be obedient,
kind like Jesus
Him I acclaim,

for reflecting
the Lord's Image,
satan does flee
where God resides
in hell's where the demons
should be because where
Jesus' Kingdom is,
we are there ...
it's also at hand when
we lift hearts in prayer.


© Carmela M. Patterson, All rights reserved
For Contest:  "Start your poem with the words "My Mother always told me not to play with fire."
Aladdin Aures H Oct 2018
Oh God!, How She Can Be That Good
For One Look, You Should Ask Time To Hold
To Find Yourself Traveling Along, I Stood
I Looked At Her So Long As Far As I Could
How Mad I Was, And She Changed My Mood
Just One Of The Kind, Stands On The Ladyhood
Then Took Another Look, As Just As Fair As It Would
To Fall In Such Amazing Chill, And Froze My Blood
Something I Can't Deny But I Really Understood
Such Perfection Is A Creation Of The Hands Of God

A Beautiful Rose More Sweetly Than Our Rhyme:
Words Won't Be Fair, They're Just That Lame
Even The Words Got Jealous, What A Shame
That Rose Is A Diffirent Level , Just A Sublime
She Leaves Her Footprints On The Field Of Time
As Great Goes The Heaven, She Does The Same
The One Second Of Staring Goes On Overtime
Goes Wild On The Clock, And Hard To Tame
She's That Much Of Love And Fire aflame

Such Green Blows Hope On The Eyes
A Beauty Perfume Cuddle The Skies
As Symmetry World, Keeps You Free
To Keep You Around And Never Flee
Hold It So Soft, If You Really Dare?
In Such Open World, Hearts aspire
Such Soft Skin, Is Not To Share
She Threw Her Thorns If You Care

Looking At Different Shooting Stars
I Think The World Will Keep It Live
Her Pollen Falling On The Town
One Blink To Fall On It Now
I Should Hold On My Beats
Breaking Down Over My Knees
In Our World Submit The Mind
To Move Smoothly With The Wind
She Said She Will Tear Us Apart
To Change World And All The Fate
Just Go Straight With The Light
Through The Shadow And The Night
Is That A Dream Or Something Clear
It Feels Like Something Heavens Wear
On Our Shallow Fulminatory Souls
Swallow Us In Red Romantic Cords
To Drop Some Tiny Drops On The Sea
Something We Had To Pay As A Fee
Another Drop From The Blood
For Another Chance We Can't Hold
To Breath The Lungs As We Could
She Is That Pretty And That Good
She Spread Her Joy And So Much Of Love
WIth One Message Of Peace With A Dove

Author : Aladdin Aures Hamdi

Please click on + below and  add the poem in your collections
Life , beauty , Creation , love, amazingn ,  dream , reality

— The End —