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Delores Wiltse Sep 2010
A balanced mind is a quiet mind
Which knows it's connected to the divine kind
A balanced mind does no mental labeling
Enjoys the is-ness each moment is bringing
A balanced mind has no judgments to share
Realizing each one has their own journey to bear
A balanced mind knows there's many levels of understanding
As our consciousness grows, we are all expanding
A balanced mind is an open mind
Not closing doors to minds of a different kind
A balanced mind is not attached to any form
Be it thoughts, emotions, or objects; you will forlorn
A balanced mind knows your inner wisdom
Is creating a world full of a peaceful kingdom

Excerpt from: http://www.fengshe.org/collaborators/WiltesDelores/Articles/balancedmind.html
~©Delores Wiltse June 2010~
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

I'm an only child born in Montana in 1983, from a divided home. Parents divorced at seven, Mom was unstable and unfaithful. Dad obtained custody of me and we moved to Oregon Coast to live with my Grandma. I had unhealthy visits and relationship with Mom thereafter. My Grandma died at 12 and at 13 my Dad remarried an alcoholic woman, I had a strained relationship with them until adulthood when she stopped drinking. I had exposure to trauma; alcoholism, mental illness, verbal abuse and juvenile troubles. I rebelled by using drugs in my late teens and early twenties, I lived on my own for a few years after high school but had little direction.

My bride is the eldest with two little brothers, parents stayed in same area of Portland during childhood with lots of family support and her parents stayed married. They had Christian values but some anger and anxiety issues at home. She was sexually assaulted at 17 and never had good closure with this. She told me her parents didn't provide her enough help with things like this growing up. Status quo was the backbone of the family dynamic, challenging emotions were discouraged. She rebelled by being reckless with herself, financially and sexually. She decided to join the Navy at 19. She lived alone briefly, but mostly with Grandparents & Parents before our marriage.

I loved how we both grew up reading Archie comics. No other girl I had ever met had that in common with me. I think we wanted a surreal life like the one in Riverdale.

2002

She and I were 19 when we first met in my home town on the coast at an arcade. We became friends and secretly liked each other. I was too nervous to ever make a move on her. We traveled together, she stayed with me, we used drugs together and drank at times. One night she drank too much and had *** with a guy I knew at a party. I was devastated by this. She was Navy bound and I didn't see a real future for us. The next morning she left and I didn't talk to her again for two years. I figured she would be gone with the Navy soon and that she must not have been interested in a relationship with me despite the time we spent together.

2003

I was depressed about this rejection. I dated an older woman who was interested in me but was no substitute. I eventually moved to the Portland area to work and live. I still had few plans and was lonely, in or out of the few brief relationships I attempted. I never found someone that I felt safe with or had a true connection, let alone true love. She ended up not following through with the Navy and continued working her way up in her job at the call center. She attended community college and dated a few guys. She dated one guy for a couple of years who was not a good match for her but stayed with him off and on despite issues. His family was wealthy and treated her well. He slept around on her as did she. At one point he gave her an STD. She also had an ongoing affair with a married man in the military that she went to high school with. He had a child and a wife with mental health issues. She was still hurting a lot at times and not always doing well.

2004

She reached out to me via email after two years of no contact. We emailed back and forth a couple times over the next few months. We talked about meeting up. We spoke on the phone and eventually met up in Portland. We had an amazing night getting to know each other again and work past the confusion of our earlier days of friendship. I realized that she did in fact like me before but since I was timid and trying to be proper and take things slowly she didn't understand my motives. She apologized for her actions at the party as well. She claimed she was in a really messed up place and was making bad choices at that time. Getting our feelings out in the open was good and she appreciated my attitude towards being slow to make moves on her when we first met. I was worried about falling for her based on our history but eventually I was determined to give it a shot. We soon after starting dating and being intimate. Our love was extremely powerful and beyond all others we had both experienced. She broke ties with other suitors and shortly after we talked about marriage and started planning a wedding for the next year.

I remember when we first held hands. We were so shakey and she was quivering on my couch as I had my arm around her. We felt so safe with each other. We could finally be ourselves and do what our hearts desired. We knew we were on to something new and so amazing. We were so patient with each other as we navigated our new love and emotional thresholds.

I remember when we saw Matisyahu in concert together. That was a once in a lifetime experience and a life-changing moment for us. I feel it set the tone for things to come in our future.

I remember how creative my proposal to her was, in the Arcade where we first met. I hid the ring in a prize container from one of those claw machines. Pretending I got the ring from inside by reaching into the machine on one knee I was so nervous and wasn't sure if I could pull it off before she caught on. She looked so shocked and surprised. I was so excited she said yes! We took pictures in the photo machine and had burgers afterwards, I'd do all of it all over again just to see her face in that moment.

2005

We found an apartment for us in Portland. I moved in while she was still living back with her parents until the wedding. She had to change her number because the married man she was previously involved with kept calling her about changing her mind about marriage and continuing their relationship. She was offered a job in Denver and we decided to move away together after our sandy wedding in Cannon Beach. I still had a very hard time and was embarrassed with my past history with her. Many of my friends knew what had happened at 19 and how much it hurt me but I was so crazy about her I think I tried to pretend it didn't happen or that it was not a big deal because we were younger. We got married and moved to Colorado soon after. We made friends at a church, I became more active as a Christian and really loved being married. We were very involved in keeping spirituality in our marriage. I began to notice her poor financial decisions and practices more. This caused conflict but we always tried to communicate and work on things.

I remember when we went down to my folks for New Year's in 2005. We sipped tea in my Datsun as we drove to the coast over the snowy mountain pass. We told them of our engagement. We were all so blissful and excited. We never knew what was to come. We didn't even know about the opportunity in Denver yet. Our story is amazing!

I remember when I wanted to go see her in Portland and the roads were iced over. I left my car at a park and ride before I caused a wreck. I took the light rail across town then rode a bus to the Eastside shopping mall. The bus to her house was not running because it wasn't safe so I walked the rest of the 4 Miles sometimes having to crawl on my hands and knees to make it up hills in the ice and then I finally made it only to just spend a couple hours with her and fall asleep on her parents couch. Her Dad drove us back the next morning to my car so I could get to work. It was all worth it just to see her for that little extra time. I would have done anything for her.

I remember when she was interviewing for the new position in Denver? I drove all over Portland trying to find little toy cars to help with her illustration about how a team is like a car having all four wheels and how they work together to accomplish a goal. I was so proud of her for giving it her all and succeeding at earning that position. Now that I think of it, that car analogy applies to our family and us. We all need each other to be better and keep on track and be a team. I am so motivated by that and our boys. I lose my way without that and I want to be her reflection and motivation as she has been that for me. I truly thought we brought out the best in each other when we were together.

I remember when we were given tickets to see Fiona Apple. That was so spontaneous and a great way to kick off our time in Denver together. We always used to watch our same movies over and over again. Like the Friends DVDs and White Christmas every winter break and The Wedding Singer. We walked everywhere and lived simply. "I wanna be the guy, who grows old with you"

I remember in our first Denver apartment when we took baths together in our claw foot tub in the big bathroom. We put a board over the top and played cards. I liked playing Uno with her in bed too. She was so funny being slightly color blind and in the dark, mixing up the greens and blues. We played Uno in Breckenridge too at that cool bed and breakfast in the fall.

2006

We had continued fun and adventure in our new home of Denver. She was doing well as a trainer for the bank and I started working in health foods. We went camping in New Mexico a couple times with friends and we both took individual trips to Oregon as well as one together for her uncle's wedding. We had marital spats on occasion but always bounced back. The issues we had seemed like part of a normal marriage and were far better than what I had grown up around. I realized that marriage was a lot of work but I was up for the task. She occasionally became aggressive throwing things at me or breaking things during conflict.  I believed I was the problem and tried to change for her in many ways. With two incomes we still had trouble making our bills at times. She had debts that I never knew about that started to catch up with us but I took care of getting them settled and we paid off her car and traded it for an older Volvo Wagon that we both loved, I even had it repainted her favorite color for a birthday gift. Overall things seemed like they were progressing in a positive way.

I remember when we saw Midnight in concert in Boulder. That was the peak of our hippy days. We were alive with pleasure in our healthy vegetarian diets and practices living in a time and place like no other. I want to be like that again. Reggae was our music. We had much in common.

2007

We really fell into our roles in our marriage and the community; church and culture, friends etc. Things seemed very balanced and appropriate for us at that time and that age (24-25). We had separate bank accounts and jobs. I had money in savings. We started the process of buying a house so we could invest in something. She became pregnant shortly after. I embraced the challenge with positive energy but we were both in for a big change. We started having more fights. I didn't have many friends and would write to old friends via social media just so I could to catch up and tell them things were going great with being married to make myself feel better than I actually did. She hated the dawn of social media and also felt isolated I'm sure. She felt I should be doing more for her and I didn't know how to do what she needed but I failed to ask a lot of the time. After one argument, she left the house. My instinct told me to look at ******* and ******* as a retaliation. I had not done this much once we were married because she always met my needs but when things were difficult between us I felt more emotionally isolated. She walked in and realized what I had been doing. She was very upset, and because she was pregnant, thought I was not attracted to her. The truth is I found her even more beautiful and in fact when I looked at ******* I tried to look at women I found less attractive than her so that I feel good about what I have. I mostly fantasized about how these women were more submissive and loving than her. That is the part I needed to feel good about and feel better about myself with because I felt very dominated and controlled. She has never forgiven me for this and I will never stop feeling sorry to her for my brokenness. During one particular argument that year she was getting close to being violent towards me again and I pushed her away on the chest with my fingertips. She got very mad and said I hurt her. I immediately felt terrible and apologized. I never let something like that happen again. I have always avoided violence towards others especially women and of course her. I was defenseless against physical and emotional abuse.

2008

Our eldest son was born at the beginning of the year, it was a traumatic birth for everyone. We wanted a natural birth with a midwife but we were transferred to a hospital and she ended up having an emergency C-section, nothing went as planned. We had a really hard time coping with the emotions of this experience. A lot of buried feelings and trauma from both of us started coming out. We moved a month later into our new home outside of town. No more walking or biking to places, we had to drive everywhere. This house was next to our friends from church. We thought this would make us feel less isolated but we didn’t really have the community with them that we had hoped for. They were upset that they didn't have a child of their own yet and being around us might have been hard for them. My wife stopped working and stayed home with our son. All these changes made for a very difficult time. I did my best to support them but this was the first time we shared a bank account and needed to follow a budget more than ever before. We had no debt at the beginning of the year with money in savings but then the hospital bills put us down about $7,000 and rising with new home and moving expenses and baby needs. My job could barely keep up. She and I had a hard time adjusting. We could not afford to travel home to Oregon and visit family as much and we felt more and more isolated. She started showing me more signs of instability, locking herself in the bathroom with kitchen knives and scraping her legs which continued off and on for years to come. Talks of divorce and suicide threats seemed to happen more than before. I felt responsible and tried to fix her ever changing issues with me.

I remember when herr ******* were full and swollen with milk. It is so beautiful the way she could feed our babies. I wanted her in every way, our bodies belonged to each other. I was there for her and our shared pleasure. I loved it when she told me that she was mine in the heat of passion. This spark could only be a bandage for so long but I didn't know that yet.

2009

I tried to promote within my company but was not selected, they were cutting budgets and employment all around me. I felt worried about our future. I had always thought the military might be a good opportunity and could move us closer to family back home. My father-in-law encouraged me to look into the Coast Guard. I felt this would be a good way to get moved closer to Oregon.  I ended up joining the Navy because we found out we were pregnant again with our second son and that was the only way I could join a military branch. She worked off and on as a nanny and later in the year at a coffee house working nights. We barely spent time together and when we did it was a lot of hard conversations or arguments about finances with making up intimately in the middle of the night between times of caring for the baby. She once scratched my neck with her fingernails during an argument. People I worked with noticed. It was a hard time and we knew change was on the horizon with jobs and moving. We did visit Oregon that summer though and had a great vacation at the beach with a borrowed 4x4 and staying at a hotel and picnicking out of a cooler as well as going to her brothers wedding. I was 26 and about to join the Navy to provide better for my family at all costs sacrificing myself for their benefit because I would have rather died than look like I didn't try my best for them.

I remember when our babies would kick and move around inside her belly. I loved laying by her and feeling her tummy. I would hum to the baby and hear them move and squirm. I loved giving our boys baths when they were babies too. We had our little bundles of our love, wrapped in a towel in our hands, so tiny and vulnerable. I miss those days and want to remember them with her, aside from this state of melancholy.

2010

The Navy recruiters would only take me if we rented out our home and had her stay with family during boot camp and training. We moved to a furnished apartment in Denver and put our things in storage. She was 5 months pregnant and our eldest was two. I shortly after was let go from my job. Our second son was born in April. I got a contract with the Navy at the last minute but didn't leave until August. We sold our beloved vehicles and lived off retirement funds for six months and moved down to Florida where her parents had just moved out of the blue for work, to stay with them until I left for boot camp. I applied for temporary work in Florida at a dozen places but had no luck in my three months there. I took care of our eldest a lot while she took care of the new baby. Being in Florida was a culture shock for us but we had our moments of romance and made the best of it. Eventually I left for boot camp in August. It was really hard and sad to be gone. She stayed in Florida and came to visit me with the baby at boot camp graduation in October. I then went to Connecticut for five months of training. It was also hard but at least I could call home every day and be in the same time zone. I visited Florida during the winter break and saw my boys and her. We went to Disney world and had a great time on her parents. We also made a romantic home movie I could enjoy while away from her. I flew back to Connecticut and tried to make the best of things. My roommate was very abusive of substances and I resisted the temptation for a long time but the threat of being submarine service bound and missing my family pushed me to drinking every weekend and getting messed up to escape before I left.

I remember when we drove to Key Largo, Florida and stopped at a crazy bird wildlife center. I remember our oldest was so amazed hearing a bird say hello back to us. It was so foreign and fun there. I am glad we all shared that experience together.

I remember our trip to the citrus grove in Florida. That was such a great day for our family. I always look back on that with really fond sentiment. I felt like I was in a beautiful family music video with them.

2011

I finished Submarine Training and got orders back to the Northwest. The plan was all coming together. I arrived first and bought a car and got our items moved from storage in Denver to our townhouse rental in Washington. She and the boys joined me a month later. I didn't report to my Sub for another month as they were at sea. She became pregnant again with our third son right after arriving. We had just bought a small car and were not planning on another child. Towards the end of the year I was working a lot and having a really hard time, being bullied and treated poorly at work plus our financial situation was still very difficult. Adjusting to the military was hard among younger men being 28. I dreaded each day in that environment but I tried to endure it for my family. I went to sea for a couple months at the end of the year stopping in Hawaii and California. During this time She reached out to her ex married affair partner after six years of no contact. She didn't tell me until later. She said she needed closure with him, we were not in counseling yet but she decided this was appropriate. I flew home early from sea and wanted to surprise her. The stress and trauma of this quick transition home after being to sea for the first time (which was also traumatic) made me want to drink and get messed up before flying. I arrived home and surprised her but I seemed off to her which I was but didn’t explain why, I have never done that since. I got to be home for two months almost work free while we celebrated the holidays and prepared for the new baby to be born. She started getting more involved with a church and building a community for us which was great. Our financial struggles almost led us to foreclosure of our home back in Colorado but by the grace of God we got it sold with a short sale just in time.

I remember when I came back from Hawaii and brought her a beaded necklace and she wore it naked with her big beautiful pregnant goddess belly and we made passionate hippy love together. I want to grow out my beard again and spend my life making hippy love and feeling free again.

2012

Our third son was born in January. It was a very positive birth experience and much less stressful than the other two. Shortly after I flew out to finish the other half of the deployment I had missed. I really focused on being positive and spiritually connected by reading my Bible at sea which was helpful. I called her when I arrived in Japan halfway through being gone. She was upset because she tested positive for an STD while trying to get on birth control. I became suspicious of her yet she was suspicious of me. We both got tested again and I was clean, she told me she had a false positive after all. This put a big strain on our trust, especially being so far away. This forced us to be honest with each other about some things such as her contact with her ex lover and my drinking to cope. We were both very upset until I returned home and we could start some counseling to work through things. Forgiveness seemed to be difficult for us. It brought up hurts of the past when we were 19. She also had severe postpartum depression that became worse after each birth. I was still having a hard time with work and the submarine environment. Our church friends tried to counsel us but it was not the most helpful. My submarine was scheduled for extended repairs and not going to sea for three years, I would be transferred before the end of that period. I used this time to bond with her and my boys. I wanted to get better involved in our community and do volunteer work and side jobs to earn extra money. Our boys were all given diagnosis's for autism which begun to fill our lives with appointments and challenges for years to come but we were a good team in dealing with all of it. It gave us something to work together on but took our focus away from working on our own personal issues and relationship with each other as much as we should have.

2013

We had new years with both sides of our family in a snowy mountain setting in Oregon. It looked like it was going to be a great year until her Grandpa passed away suddenly. It ripped our entire family apart but especially her. He kept the family grounded and she was very close to him, he really loved all of us. She and I started going on dates again because we had Navy sponsored child care. It was the beginning of a really good thing for us. Tragically one night after a date we were dancing with the boys on the patio and I tried to pick her up and I lost my balance and fell on her, breaking her collar bone severely. She needed surgery and was very mad at me for years to come. She has a scar, a metal plate and numbness in her chest. We worked through it with our community from church but she still is very mad at me. I feel more terrible about this incident than she could ever know. I would lose a finger in place of that incident if I could. I continued having a really hard time in the Navy and I didn't want to stay in but She insisted our boys needed care only the Navy could offer. She also said she would divorce me if I ever left the Navy. I took this threat seriously even though she assured me later that she would never actually do that. Against my own convictions I reenlisted because I wanted to do the best thing for my family. We moved into base housing at the end of summer and didn’t go out to do things as much anymore. The house was nice but it ****** us in, we also had less community with people around our home. I started volunteering at church more and doing work with special needs people. I felt like I was doing good things and that I had purpose all around. I think she appreciated this about me.

2014

We started seeing a professional counselor together and individually. It became a regular event. I worked on myself and she worked on herself. I had a lot of issues with my Mom and eventually broke off communication with her for my own well-being and the betterment of my family. I got past a lot of the bad feelings I had. She worked on her traumatic experiences and our relationship dynamics. Just when things were going well I got a new boss who made things hard for me and others at work and I started messing up more. I got in trouble for messing up a job at work and was given strike one on my record. She lost respect for me as a provider but I tried to stay strong showing her that I would continue to do my best.

I remember when we had an appointment in Tacoma and we had a brunch date together afterwards. She looked so beautiful that day, I took her picture and was so proud to enjoy  huevos rancheros and momosas with her. I remember going to the Tacoma Art Museum seeing the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, we have a great time together doing new things and feeding each other's interests. I loved laughing with her too, sometimes we just bust up like nobody's around. I loved the sound of her laughter. I loved watching Portlandia with her, it is so funny to remember the funny place where we became close and be able to relate together.

2015

I kept working hard and being involved with family and appointments for my boys and her. I still maintained my volunteer work and part time side jobs. I got strike two with the Navy for messing up again... I had just gained orders to leave the sub for local shore duty. I could not get out of the extended repair situation soon enough. She was very disappointed in me and not so understanding. I worked through this situation with our counselor as did she. He always told her I am a good man and that I do a lot for her and the boys. It's true, I care more than anything about them, I made mistakes and I feel bad especially when I cause my family stress. I left for shore duty in April. It was a hard time adjusting to the new routine but eventually we seemed to make it work. That summer we took a trip to visit Texas where her parents had just moved from Florida. We spent a great night together for our 10th anniversary in a hotel in Texas and went dancing. We had a lot more time together as my work schedule was less. The more people we had in our home working with our kids on issues the less useful my input seemed. I was not included as much in making family decisions because they all seemed to happen while I was at work, despite my objections. We tried to get our budget under control but she still had anxiety discussing spending. She continued to struggle with depression and was put on medication because she had still been harming herself. She was put on Prozac daily and anti anxiety medication as needed. He family members were not very supportive of medication which upset her but I always tried to be supportive in seeking help and continued care for both of us.

2016

We had a busy routine of kids in school now and home school and preschool and appointments for all of us. She wanted to go to church less and less. I started drinking a couple beers at night almost every day. I tried to mask my stress from her mood swings. She decided not to go to church at all anymore and focused teaching the boys about Jewish traditions exclusively which was hard for me to adjust to and confusing for the boys. I loved her and wanted to be supportive. As usual I was submissive and removed myself from the Christian church and some friendships. I feel like we lost our community at that point. We searched for a good place to have a new community with Jewish people but it was like starting over. I felt like I converted to Christianity for her when we got together and now I had to convert again, either way I would have done it for her because I loved her that much. The kids were confused by this change. After trying and failing at many synagogues we finally found one that seemed right for us.

2017

We finally had some money in savings because I kept it a secret and ended up planning a trip to visit her parents in Texas but it fell through due to lack of military flights. Instead we spent three nights away in a nice hotel resort as a family in February. We had three days of pure family time. Playing Battleship and other games in our room as a family, watching movies and eating at all the different restaurants and getting room service. Going swimming everyday in the foggy pool. I love our family and how we can have a great time together doing nothing but at the same time so much. That was so peaceful and relaxing. I wanted to keep doing things like that together as a family before our boys got too old. Shortly after this vacation she wanted to go back to school, then we bought a third vehicle so she could. Shortly after this she changed her mind about school and wanted to buy another house instead. I went along with it to please her and we practically killed ourselves trying to get the move accomplished with not much help or money. We had a good year over all. We got away for a romantic anniversary together in the summer. Just before the boys were going to start public school in the fall, her parents moved back to the area. She had anxiety with this and cut off contact with her parents and brothers for a while. Her Dad called me very upset and I tried to keep the peace until they reconciled. I was doing better with work and made up for lost progress as well as making arrangements to change jobs in the Navy to something more fitting. Since the boys started public school, I planned on leaving for Navy training in my new position after the beginning of the new year when they would be at a more settled place in their routine.

I remember when we went to the Olympic Club for our anniversary and we stayed there for a night away. We drove the long way through the countryside talking about new music that she wanted to share with me and she made notes of it on my phone notepad. We brought our own cooler and picnic that included Session Lagers and chocolate. We checked in to our room and made noisy bohemian love on the edge of the creaky bed in our small European room inches from the door. Then we went to the theater downstairs and watched the late showing of a really interesting Sci-fi movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets". We took showers and slept sweetly together. We made love again in the morning before we had a delicious brunch outside on the patio. We took the long way home and drove around on new roads and found our way out of cell phone reception. We figured out the road less traveled to get back to our home. We loved being alone and away together, just one night can make such a difference and mean so much.

I remember going to the Forest Theater to see Tarzan with our boys. That was such a great time. I would love to get our boys into theater and go see them someday. I wanted to keep our dreams and goals together alive and not lose opportunity and fall short by losing our partnership.

I loved going camping in Seabeck. Loading the truck with all our gear and getting away. Archer got sick from the cowboy caviar and I had to clean him and the tent up in the night. I was glad we had each other to be a team in our marriage in that situation as with all the other times. These sorts of things are what escape a person's mind when they are determined to get a divorce.

2018

We had a lot less money than the year before, again buying a house took its toll on finances as did the boys school and after school activities. I stayed very involved taking the boys to appointments and sporting practices. We stopped going to synagogue but tried to practice Judaism at home as much as possible, which I was very supportive of and involved with. She was still depressed and talking about suicide at times. I encouraged her to get help as I always had. Eventually she was diagnosed as Bipolar 2 and manic depressive by a new provider. She started taking new medicine for this and was worried I would want to leave her. I assured her I would never leave her and that I always wanted to work on things with her and help her. I left for training in Mississippi February 8th. It was going to be hard but I thought it might be good to have some time apart from each other to miss one another and reflect on things as well as prepare for times when I would be away at sea. I got in trouble in Mississippi for giving junior personnel a ride and being negligent of people who might be underage and possibly drinking, this became strike three. I never thought this could happen. I became recommend for separation from the Navy shortly after and was stuck in Mississippi for six months instead of six weeks. She was supportive through most of it but seemed to fall into hopelessness. Money was spent by her that we didn't have without discussion. She quietly leased appliances and tires and purchased a vehicle as well as having a secret bank account and email address. I discovered through our insurance company that she wanted to leave our policy for divorce. I didn't know this and she had even told the boys she wanted a divorce before I even knew. I was caught off guard and confused. I kept trying to communicate and reason with her but she didn't want to talk. I refused to give up and wrote emails and a letter but it only seemed to push her away further. By the time I left Mississippi she had filed for divorce and a restraining order against me saying I was unstable and a threat. I couldn't return to my home. My whole life fell apart in just a couple months. I found out she had been talking to other men in the Navy and keeping more secrets. I assumed this was her way of taking control during a difficult situation. I really needed her support during this hard time of transition out of the military. I became homeless, jobless and without my family in a month. I prayed to God that given time things might change between us but it was of no use. Bipolar had consumed whatever was left of my bride and there was no turning back.

I felt that our love was not one to be cast away. Other people might not understand or agree but what we had was truly special. We may have surely needed some time and space to get counseling as well as reconfigure and repair our marriage but I didn't feel like our relationship was irretrievably broken. She was so important to me and I thought she was the love of my life and would always have my heart. I wanted to be her partner in love and life, watching our boys grow up and being there to support each other. Being that she is Bipolar I knew she will need a lot of help and I was more than willing to assist her in making sure she was taking care of herself and not throwing herself into harm's way, ensuring she sticks with a plan we agree to for consistency. I cared about her deeply and had much compassion for her. I didn't believe she was thinking this through or thinking about the future. I really wanted to look at the long and short game with her, neither seemed appealing to me if we progressed but here we are. Things are not going to be easier. She will still have to face her problems and deal with me on a regular basis for the rest of our lives no matter what happens. She can believe her lawyer when they promise she'll get the moon and stars out of this in the end but they only see half of the story. Above all they want our money. It would have been good for her to face me in person and tell me she wanted to divorce and we could have started talking about it with a counselor to figure out how that could even work. Instead she chose to avoid as much responsibility for her actions as possible by doing everything in my absence as if I am not a real person. I had to find out about it from our insurance company and was last to know.

Immediately after I hear the word divorce I looked into her cell usage history and find she has a new military boyfriend that she talks to 20-30 times a day. She felt she owed me no explanation for this and it was none of my business. A mature person would have let me know about this months before and I would have seen it coming but there was no sign until it was seemingly too late. She strayed down a dark path and never turned back.

Her proposed parenting plan was cruel and had no thought put into it. Two hours a week with supervision, no holidays but father's day? She said she’s not trying to keep me from the kids but this is the exact opposite of what she’s saying with the paperwork she filed. She seems very mixed up and still you continues to make rash and sudden choices. Like a completely bogus restraining order against me that contradicts so many facts she has stated herself on record during my Navy retention process. She was so bold as to want to change her identity and even put it in ink on the divorce paperwork as well to a whole new name. That is not the actions of a stable person. She has since changed her mind again on that just as quickly as everything else in her recent life choices. I can't trust that any decisions she is making right now are for the right reasons or that she is of sound mind. I have never seen her so conflicted and confused, grasping at straws and running scared from herself.

Using the legal system so carelessly and going back and forth makes me feel like she is not ready to be making big choices and changes for her and our family. It is very unfair that she can’t consider my feelings on things and what I wish for the boys as well. Very reckless behavior. She can’t anticipate that the day would come where she has to face me and talk to me like an adult. She wants to hide behind the legal system which only leaves much to be unresolved. Ghosting me is not really an option in a marriage of 13 years with children.

Having relationship conversations is too difficult for her at this time and she would rather avoid it and skip to divorce because she thinks that will somehow be easier. I suspect she knows she is making poor choices, possibly out of fear and lust for something new and less painful than the reality of things right now. Our marriage was nowhere close to divorce when I left. She was sad to see me leave and woke with me at 3:30 am to say goodbye, making me coffee and cookies for me to take with.

Our community and accountability seems to be gone due to the continued trend of isolation that she is drawn to. The God fearing loving committed wife I thought I had is gone or trapped inside a terrified shell of herself. She cut me off from her family members and I can't discuss my concerns about her with them either. She only seems to have community with those who are not going to discourage her from these destructive choices.

I understand we have had issues and struggles but we are no worse off than other couples during challenging times. I think that because we loved each other so much it just hurt more when things got hard. I can't accept or believe this is justified or the right choice based on the positive trend we were on before I left. This was the longest break we have ever had from each other and I think she just needed someone to be there more for her, no matter who it was. Time can heal all wounds and I hope that is true for our relationship as co-parents.

She still refuses to tell me about why she wanted a divorce or talk about anything beyond caring for the kids. I have fought the restraining and I can see my boys again but I am still not allowed to my home without her permission.

I have risen from the ashes in just a couple months. I rent a room from a nice couple from our old church and obtained a good paying job while I continue paying the household bills.

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(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.
Let us support
the purple colour on march eight
For making the world
gender balanced n smart built
For the success of this theme
Let's wonder what it mean
... Gender balanced board room
Gender balanced government
Gender balanced media
Gender balanced employment
Gender balance in wealth
Gender balanced Sports
.....
Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive
And it will get the planet
really at 50- 50 to arrive.
Ete Dec 2011
We are consciousness, and only consciousness.

The consciousness that is somehow bound to the body, is conscious of everything.

Thoughts are like people moving around in the market place. Thoughts are everywhere and when we give our attention to thoughts, when our consciousness looks at thoughts, which are everywhere to be seen, which are all around us, we experience thinking.

It is very important that we understand that we are consciousness and only consiousness.

This way we can free ourselves from the prison that we are in but yet don't know we are in. Humanity is enslaved thanks to the mind. Not just because the mind exists, but because of the believes that we carry in the mind, which are believes that keep us limited. We believe things that are not truly true, and this keeps us in a kind of prison.

When we are born in a body, we are free and we are just consciousness, purely conscious.

As we grow, all the information that is already here in the world is ingested into our mind. As we continue to grow, and as all this information continues to grow in our mind, we start to forget that we are just pure consciousness. By the time we are teenagers, and by the time we start to become adults, we have totally forgotten that we are just consciousness and we live our lives in a little box because we limit ourselves with the believes that are inevitably conditioned upon us. We believe that we are this body and we are not this body. When i say we, i am talking about the consciousness, the pure consciousness.

And the problem is not only that we believe we are this body, but we grow the habit to think compulsively.

Anything in this world can become a habit, and for the mayority of humanity , thinking has become a habit.

So what happens?
The pure consciousness that you are is never pure, is never silent, is never fully conscious because first of all, we are taught to believe that we are the body-mind, and second of all, we grow the habit to always think by always having to judge ourselves to see if what  we are doing is right or wrong, to see if we are to be punished or if we are to be rewarded. And this supports and strengthens the believe that we are the thinker, that we are the body.

When we don't allow spaces of no-thought, of no-thinking, we forget that we are an empty sky.  

My effort on leaving behind all these words is to wake up as many people as possible.

People are missing a great opportunity.

People stay living in a little room when they can be living in a huge palace.

All that has to do be done is to find a little distance between thoughts, between feelings, between everything and always remain a watching presence. Now, we are always this watching presence, we are always consciousness even if we are unconscious about it. Even if we are unconscious about the fact that we are consciousness , we remain consciousness. For example, all animals are consciousness, they are awareness, but they are unaware of this. Their body limits them because it lacks intelligence. They are not fully and totally free and they can not be either. But at the same time they don't have to be. By nature they  don't have to be intelligent, they are fine just how they are and they are in the process of one day becoming conscious like we are, like the humans are. Still, there are many humans who remain unconscious of the fact that they are consciousness and only consciousness. Without shape, without form. Just consciousness, awareness, everywhere. This whole universe is consciousness and when this consciousness is merged to a body, the body is simply a contact point of the consciousness.

At some point, when the body of a baby is being developed in the mothers womb, a little spec of consciousness enters and binds to the body of the baby and this happens because through the human body, through a human experience, the consciousness is capable of becoming aware of itself and this realization is possible in any one life time, in any one human experience. But, it has not been so. It has taken many many life-times and many many people have not yet realized this. People can't even believe that they had a life before this life and that they can have a life after this life as well. People can't even conceive this. But it is true. People have been going life after life, obviously and naturally not remembering the past life, but going life after life not going beyond life. Not going beyond the human or atleast not even understanding, discovering, learning , what life is, what the human is. People remain ignorant and afraid because of the conditioning that they receive.

All conditions prevent the being from trascending their lives and consciousness because in our true nature we are totally unconditioned- free-beings. Any condition that is imposed on us goes against our very nature and anything that goes against nature is bound to have problems.  

And so my reason for saying these things that i have discovered to be true in me, is to help people remember or to atleast give people a new idea that there is the possibility of something more, of something greater than life, something with no limitations, something with no death, something that can not get sick, that can not feel pain, something of pure joy and peace , of pure love.

Every single human being is searching for this something, every single human being is searching for themselves. And they are searching because they remember. They have been themselves before. They are themselves right now. They are consciousness right now, but there are so many things in the mind that they forgot and they dont know. And when they hear something that is true, when something is said that points to that consciousness, automatically something is felt inside, something is triggered.

This whole search for truth or for enlightenment is a search for our own selfs.

It is a remembering process that happens.

Go into this search as empty as possible.

The less conditions you carry , the less knowledge you carry, the more simple and humble you are, the easier it is to remember who you are, because it does not take knowledge to know that you are consciousness, that you are awareness, it simply takes consciousness and awareness.

So it is important to be aware of everything, of every single thought that comes in and out. Be aware of the believes that you believe and the believes that you don't believe.

I don't know if there are people who for some reason are not ready to awaken, even though they can, even though every single human being can awaken, but,  there are people who have put too much into their believes, too much faith, and who can not even concieve the idea of dropping these believes, these investments. Now, the funny thing is, that even all these people who are unaware, are consciousness themselves. And it makes sense that these people who are unconscious , are here in the world so that other people can wake up, so that other people can learn from them, so that other people can see their unconsciousness, can see their behaviors, and use them towards their journey, towards their enlightenment, towards their shift of consciousness.  

"We are itself the consciousness presenting itself as human nature" - Mooji.

We , the consciousness, invisible consciousness that can not be seen nor touched, which one day was before Earth was created, that consciousness that is everywhere like space, over time has manifested itself in the world of form, in the world of matter and eventually through the movement of what appears to be time, manifested itself as a human being.

It is an invisible yet conscious phenomena that has managed to make a form out of atoms and elements, managed to make a form out of itself, out of elements of itself, and managed to create the world that we can see today. And seeing the vastness of the universe, we can see the many possibilities that exist, the many possibilities of consciousness to keep growing, to keep creating, to keep expanding, to keep evolving.  

One day i am not going to be able to express myself through Esteban, yet i will be expressing myself through other bodies, with other names. And i have been expressing myself through other bodies also, like for example one of my favorite man, Osho, Bhagwan. Osho is I. Osho is the same consciousness that is in Esteban, expressing. Now, we look different in the outside, our voices are different, our accents are different, but it is the same consciousness trying to express the same thing. Once we know that we are this limitless consciousness, we can start focusing on creating things. But right now what is important is that everybody realizes that we are this consciousness, because if not everybody knows this, then we can not create, we can not work to our full potential. Once we know who we are, once we know WHAT we are, we will know exactly what we have to do, what we can do, and we would do it with a quality that has not existed before. A quality of super consciousness, a godly quality. So before we focus on the outside world we have to focus on the inside world first. Before we can create beauty outside we have to create beauty inside, because the outside world is a reflection of the inside world.

If the inside world is not pure, is not balanced, then the outside world will not be pure, will not be balanced.

If inside of us there is tension, anxiety, fear, hate, anger, violence; this is what will be expressed outside of us. If inside of us there is love, wisdom, peace, joy, beauty; then outside of us there will be all of this as-well.

The problem is not whether we are thinking negatively or positively, the problem is that we are thinking unconsciously.

That we think negative or positive thoughts does not matter as long as we know that we are thinking. And not because we are the thinker but because thoughts are passing through the mind and here the consciousness that we are , "thinks". But it does not think as in it is doing something, it simply sees the thoughts. The consciousness does not even move, does not even blink, does not have eyes like these eyes. The consciousness just is, and the consciousness sees thoughts moving, occuring.

The problem is not that the consciousness is seeing negative thoughts, the problem is that if the consciousness is seeing negative thoughts, it believes the negative thoughts.

You forget that you are the awareness that watches thoughts, totally separate from the thoughts.

You are simply giving attention to the thoughts.

Like i said before, thoughts are moving all around you. You can not see or grab them because they are so subtle in their manifestation, yet they ARE energy in movement, they exist but in different frequencies of existence. And they are everywhere.

When we experience thoughts, what ever category of thoughts, it is because we are giving our attention to those thoughts. Every single thought is available to us. The mind is not just your mind, my mind; The mind is one universal facility, available to all.

And so, the problem is not that you are thinking negativily.

The problem is that you are thinking unconsciously.

Become more conscious of your thinking. Become conscious of thoughts. If the thoughts are negative, watch them. If the thoughts are positive, watch them. But don't judge them as negative or positive, dont judge the thinking. If negative thoughts are percieved, don't start saying to yourself  "oh why am im always thinking negatively? ;( " because this IS another thought and you are not watching it. Usually THIS is the thought that is not watched.

You watch a thought, for example, you watch a negative thought. This negative thought brings out negative emotions because thoughts are the cause of emotions. Emotions are energies-in-motion. You watch your thinking, you watch the negative thought and then you say, "oh this thought is bad, why am i thinking these thoughts? I should not be thinking this way, what is wrong with me?" that right there is a thought also and you are thinking, believing, that it is you!

Any judgement is a form of thought.

Anything that consists of words or symbols and even images are thoughts. It is all mind and the problem is that there are thoughts that are not being watched, observed, and this is keeping you unconscious and troubled.

There are many thoughts that we are not aware of.

For example, we watch a negative thought , we percieve a negative thought, but then the next thought that talks about that negative thought, we don't see because we think, believe, that we are the one who talks instead of remaining the watching consciousness that we are.

We are not the one who talks because we don't even have a mouth to talk through. We are simply and only consciousness. We use the human body as an instrument to talk and express ourselves but we remain the conscious awareness.

Those thoughts that are not being watched are keeping us from going deeper into life.

These unobserved thoughts are keeping us traped in the mind.

So if you ever ask yourself the question, what is life?
What is my purpose in life?
What should i do?
What should i not do?
If you are not out of the mind, you will not get the true answer because the mind is limited to these questions.

The mind will only give you that which has already been given. It will not give you originality.

Simply try this out:

When ever you are experiencing thinking, let the thoughts be, don't judge them as negative or positive thoughts, as good or bad thoughts, just watch them. If you do judge them and you say "*** why am i thinking that?! " watch that, watch that judgement. Keep watching, just simply watching, purely aware of every single thought, keep watching and you will start to feel a distance, a silence, a space.

See how long you can go from thought to no-thought to thought.
See how long you can remain in a silent gap between thoughts.
Watch your thoughts, watch your thinking and see how the watchingness slowly expands.
See how the silent gaps become longer.
And see the peace that these silent gaps bring.
I'm tugging on a rope that's centered

Somewhere near my heart

It's been moving me away for years

Away from where I start

But, there's one thing that keeps pulling me

In This tug of war in life,

It keeps me balanced, upright, strong

The love of my dear wife

There's things out there that challenge

Every thought we make

If you choose the wrong one

You can make a big mistake

Do you choose because it's safer

Or is  the risk the one for you

Just don't do it blindly

You must think of what you do

There's two ways to do everything

sometimes even more

Sometimes you just ask yourself

What is this all for?

Is this the path that I should take

Does anybody know?

Or should I go the other route

The one that doesn't show

I'm tugging on a rope that's centered

Somewhere near my heart

It's been moving me away for years

Away from where I start

But, there's one thing that keeps pulling me

In This tug of war in life,

It keeps me balanced, upright, strong

The love of my dear wife

Life is just a tug of war

of many different things

You just pull back and then you hope

you've pulled on the right strings

Children, jobs, emotions, love

All tugging back themselves

Which ones do you pull back on

Or put back upon the shelves

To keep on board this rocking ship

You make your choice and tug

It may just be the wrong one

So, you just stand back and shrug

You work on through, evaluate

You pull the rope again

You don't just stand and lose it all

You get back up again.

I'm tugging on a rope that's centered

Somewhere near my heart

It's been moving me away for years

Away from where I start

But, there's one thing that keeps pulling me

In This tug of war in life,

It keeps me balanced, upright, strong

The love of my dear wife

You work your way to center

Where you were right at the start

You make this trip together

don't upset the apple cart

A bit one side or the other

Means life's a succcess

For too far either side can  be

One god awful mess

I'm tugging on a rope that's centered

Somewhere near my heart

It's been moving me away for years

Away from where I start

But, there's one thing that keeps pulling me

In This tug of war in life,

It keeps me balanced, upright, strong

The love of my dear wife

If you get back to the middle

And you both enjoyed the fight

Then you know you are unstoppable

And that you've got it right

A team that know the ins and outs

Two partners through and through

A team that stays on center

A team like me and you

I'm tugging on a rope that's centered

Somewhere near my heart

It's been moving me away for years

Away from where I start

But, there's one thing that keeps pulling me

In This tug of war in life,

It keeps me balanced, upright, strong

The love of my dear wife
WARNER BAXTER Dec 2013
ride my motorbike
sharing routes with semi trucks
balanced on two wheels
PERSONIFICATIONS.

Boys.            Girls.
  January.                February.
  March.                  April.
  July.                   May.
  August.                 June.
  October.                September.
  December.               November.

  Robin Redbreasts; Lambs and Sheep; Nightingale and
  Nestlings.

  Various Flowers, Fruits, etc.

  Scene: A Cottage with its Grounds.


[A room in a large comfortable cottage; a fire burning on
the hearth; a table on which the breakfast things have
been left standing. January discovered seated by the
fire.]


          January.

Cold the day and cold the drifted snow,
Dim the day until the cold dark night.

                    [Stirs the fire.

Crackle, sparkle, *****; embers glow:
Some one may be plodding through the snow
Longing for a light,
For the light that you and I can show.
If no one else should come,
Here Robin Redbreast's welcome to a crumb,
And never troublesome:
Robin, why don't you come and fetch your crumb?


  Here's butter for my hunch of bread,
    And sugar for your crumb;
  Here's room upon the hearthrug,
    If you'll only come.

  In your scarlet waistcoat,
    With your keen bright eye,
  Where are you loitering?
    Wings were made to fly!

  Make haste to breakfast,
    Come and fetch your crumb,
  For I'm as glad to see you
    As you are glad to come.


[Two Robin Redbreasts are seen tapping with their beaks at
the lattice, which January opens. The birds flutter in,
hop about the floor, and peck up the crumbs and sugar
thrown to them. They have scarcely finished their meal,
when a knock is heard at the door. January hangs a
guard in front of the fire, and opens to February, who
appears with a bunch of snowdrops in her hand.]

          January.

Good-morrow, sister.

          February.

            Brother, joy to you!
I've brought some snowdrops; only just a few,
But quite enough to prove the world awake,
Cheerful and hopeful in the frosty dew
And for the pale sun's sake.

[She hands a few of her snowdrops to January, who retires
into the background. While February stands arranging
the remaining snowdrops in a glass of water on the
window-sill, a soft butting and bleating are heard outside.
She opens the door, and sees one foremost lamb, with
other sheep and lambs bleating and crowding towards
her.]

          February.

O you, you little wonder, come--come in,
You wonderful, you woolly soft white lamb:
You panting mother ewe, come too,
And lead that tottering twin
Safe in:
Bring all your bleating kith and kin,
Except the ***** ram.

[February opens a second door in the background, and the
little flock files through into a warm and sheltered compartment
out of sight.]

  The lambkin tottering in its walk
    With just a fleece to wear;
  The snowdrop drooping on its stalk
      So slender,--
  Snowdrop and lamb, a pretty pair,
  Braving the cold for our delight,
      Both white,
      Both tender.

[A rattling of doors and windows; branches seen without,
tossing violently to and fro.]

How the doors rattle, and the branches sway!
Here's brother March comes whirling on his way
With winds that eddy and sing.

[She turns the handle of the door, which bursts open, and
discloses March hastening up, both hands full of violets
and anemones.]

          February.

Come, show me what you bring;
For I have said my say, fulfilled my day,
And must away.

          March.

[Stopping short on the threshold.]

    I blow an arouse
    Through the world's wide house
  To quicken the torpid earth:
    Grappling I fling
    Each feeble thing,
  But bring strong life to the birth.
    I wrestle and frown,
    And topple down;
  I wrench, I rend, I uproot;
    Yet the violet
    Is born where I set
  The sole of my flying foot,

[Hands violets and anemones to February, who retires into
the background.]

    And in my wake
    Frail wind-flowers quake,
  And the catkins promise fruit.
    I drive ocean ashore
    With rush and roar,
  And he cannot say me nay:
    My harpstrings all
    Are the forests tall,
  Making music when I play.
    And as others perforce,
    So I on my course
  Run and needs must run,
    With sap on the mount
    And buds past count
  And rivers and clouds and sun,
    With seasons and breath
    And time and death
  And all that has yet begun.

[Before March has done speaking, a voice is heard approaching
accompanied by a twittering of birds. April comes
along singing, and stands outside and out of sight to finish
her song.]

          April.

[Outside.]

  Pretty little three
  Sparrows in a tree,
    Light upon the wing;
    Though you cannot sing
    You can chirp of Spring:
  Chirp of Spring to me,
  Sparrows, from your tree.

  Never mind the showers,
  Chirp about the flowers
    While you build a nest:
    Straws from east and west,
    Feathers from your breast,
  Make the snuggest bowers
  In a world of flowers.

  You must dart away
  From the chosen spray,
    You intrusive third
    Extra little bird;
    Join the unwedded herd!
  These have done with play,
  And must work to-day.

          April.

[Appearing at the open door.]

Good-morrow and good-bye: if others fly,
Of all the flying months you're the most flying.

          March.

You're hope and sweetness, April.

          April.

            Birth means dying,
As wings and wind mean flying;
So you and I and all things fly or die;
And sometimes I sit sighing to think of dying.
But meanwhile I've a rainbow in my showers,
And a lapful of flowers,
And these dear nestlings aged three hours;
And here's their mother sitting,
Their father's merely flitting
To find their breakfast somewhere in my bowers.

[As she speaks April shows March her apron full of flowers
and nest full of birds. March wanders away into the
grounds. April, without entering the cottage, hangs over
the hungry nestlings watching them.]

          April.

  What beaks you have, you funny things,
    What voices shrill and weak;
  Who'd think that anything that sings
    Could sing through such a beak?
  Yet you'll be nightingales one day,
    And charm the country-side,
  When I'm away and far away
    And May is queen and bride.

[May arrives unperceived by April, and gives her a kiss.
April starts and looks round.]

          April.

Ah May, good-morrow May, and so good-bye.

          May.

That's just your way, sweet April, smile and sigh:
Your sorrow's half in fun,
Begun and done
And turned to joy while twenty seconds run.
I've gathered flowers all as I came along,
At every step a flower
Fed by your last bright shower,--

[She divides an armful of all sorts of flowers with April, who
strolls away through the garden.]

          May.

And gathering flowers I listened to the song
Of every bird in bower.
    The world and I are far too full of bliss
    To think or plan or toil or care;
      The sun is waxing strong,
      The days are waxing long,
        And all that is,
          Is fair.

    Here are my buds of lily and of rose,
    And here's my namesake-blossom, may;
      And from a watery spot
      See here forget-me-not,
        With all that blows
          To-day.

    Hark to my linnets from the hedges green,
    Blackbird and lark and thrush and dove,
      And every nightingale
      And cuckoo tells its tale,
        And all they mean
          Is love.

[June appears at the further end of the garden, coming slowly
towards May, who, seeing her, exclaims]

          May.

Surely you're come too early, sister June.

          June.

Indeed I feel as if I came too soon
To round your young May moon
And set the world a-gasping at my noon.
Yet come I must. So here are strawberries
Sun-flushed and sweet, as many as you please;
And here are full-blown roses by the score,
More roses, and yet more.

[May, eating strawberries, withdraws among the flower beds.]

          June.

The sun does all my long day's work for me,
  Raises and ripens everything;
I need but sit beneath a leafy tree
    And watch and sing.

[Seats herself in the shadow of a laburnum.

Or if I'm lulled by note of bird and bee,
  Or lulled by noontide's silence deep,
I need but nestle down beneath my tree
    And drop asleep.

[June falls asleep; and is not awakened by the voice of July,
who behind the scenes is heard half singing, half calling.]

          July.

     [Behind the scenes.]

Blue flags, yellow flags, flags all freckled,
Which will you take? yellow, blue, speckled!
Take which you will, speckled, blue, yellow,
Each in its way has not a fellow.

[Enter July, a basket of many-colored irises slung upon his
shoulders, a bunch of ripe grass in one hand, and a plate
piled full of peaches balanced upon the other. He steals
up to June, and tickles her with the grass. She wakes.]

          June.

What, here already?

          July.

                  Nay, my tryst is kept;
The longest day slipped by you while you slept.
I've brought you one curved pyramid of bloom,

                        [Hands her the plate.

Not flowers, but peaches, gathered where the bees,
As downy, bask and boom
In sunshine and in gloom of trees.
But get you in, a storm is at my heels;
The whirlwind whistles and wheels,
Lightning flashes and thunder peals,
Flying and following hard upon my heels.

[June takes shelter in a thickly-woven arbor.]

          July.

  The roar of a storm sweeps up
    From the east to the lurid west,
  The darkening sky, like a cup,
    Is filled with rain to the brink;

  The sky is purple and fire,
    Blackness and noise and unrest;
  The earth, parched with desire,
      Opens her mouth to drink.

  Send forth thy thunder and fire,
    Turn over thy brimming cup,
  O sky, appease the desire
    Of earth in her parched unrest;
  Pour out drink to her thirst,
    Her famishing life lift up;
  Make thyself fair as at first,
      With a rainbow for thy crest.

  Have done with thunder and fire,
    O sky with the rainbow crest;
  O earth, have done with desire,
    Drink, and drink deep, and rest.

[Enter August, carrying a sheaf made up of different kinds of
grain.]

          July.

Hail, brother August, flushed and warm
And scatheless from my storm.
Your hands are full of corn, I see,
As full as hands can be:

And earth and air both smell as sweet as balm
In their recovered calm,
And that they owe to me.

[July retires into a shrubbery.]

          August.

  Wheat sways heavy, oats are airy,
    Barley bows a graceful head,
  Short and small shoots up canary,
    Each of these is some one's bread;
  Bread for man or bread for beast,
      Or at very least
      A bird's savory feast.

  Men are brethren of each other,
    One in flesh and one in food;
  And a sort of foster brother
    Is the litter, or the brood,
  Of that folk in fur or feather,
      Who, with men together,
      Breast the wind and weather.

[August descries September toiling across the lawn.]

          August.

My harvest home is ended; and I spy
September drawing nigh
With the first thought of Autumn in her eye,
And the first sigh
Of Autumn wind among her locks that fly.

[September arrives, carrying upon her head a basket heaped
high with fruit]


          September.

Unload me, brother. I have brought a few
Plums and these pears for you,
A dozen kinds of apples, one or two
Melons, some figs all bursting through
Their skins, and pearled with dew
These damsons violet-blue.

[While September is speaking, August lifts the basket to the
ground, selects various fruits, and withdraws slowly along
the gravel walk, eating a pear as he goes.]

      
Esther Esuga Apr 2015
An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga













An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga



















An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga



















A sweet , young , pretty , subtle-charm
   A girly, warm, bright sense of appeal
  A cute, Fun, attractive, soft touch of feminity
  A spark of warmth and tenderness with friends and family
  An unconditional love, friendship and care.
An elegant pink


A royal, noble, selfless form of leadership
An enlightened, balanced state of maturity
A mixture of the feminine and masculine energies
An alluring, luxury of mystic fantasy
A beautiful, calm , calculated sense of wisdom

A color of heat, love, power and hot-passion
A vibrant, provoking, brave sense of will power
A seductive, romantic list of appetite
An attention grabbing, sharp rhythm of excitement
A color of signs

A calm, loyal, productive and conservative effect on humanity
A strong connection with masculinity
A rich, hopeful, desiring-lucky-go charm
A color of intuition and the sixth sense
Mostly heavenly and soothing to the mind and body
A friendly, stable , sincere, expertise of understanding


A cheerful, creative,bright-sunshine
A warm, happy, joyful, energetic summer
A spirit of optimism and success
Shades of orange

Angelic
A meek, peaceful note of simplicity
Pure, heavenly and gentle
An innocent, good act of precision
Positive

A powerful, bold, confident elegance
Wealth
A formal, classy sense of sophistication
Sexuality
Proudly black and beautiful

A color that absorbs
A strong, honest form of endurance
A stable, warm, comfortable, sense of maturity
A friendly note of earthly attitude
A bond with earth and its nature

A mediator between black and white
A neutral, reserved and modest aura
A solid, elegant form of maturity
A reliable, formal dignified class

A shiny, wealthy glitz of glamour
A modern sense of creativity
A gentle , graceful, kind touch of femininity
Sensitive

An innovative, creative, calm serenity
A spirit of togetherness and humanism
A patient, peaceful, joyful emotion
Independence
Different shades of Turquoise

A new, fresh, hopeful place of rest
Healing
Natural
Growth and development
Success
Vitality

A joyful, happy warming effect
Energetic
Sunshine
Arousal of cheerful feelings and freshness
Great mental stimulant

A classy, luxury glitz of glamour
A confident, generous, self-work
A victorious , royal, happy-to-go-look
An abundant, shiny, excess extrovert
Sophisticated

Written By; Esther Esuga
The moon is staring me in the face
Shaded in grey, slowly fading away
Barely paving the way
               to the edge of the fray.
Whispers of intrigue control the iris
Repeated patterns within blue beauty
Triangles that sparkle like a diamond
               around a dense, black circle
That leads to the cortex of insight.
It looks like that of a galaxy
Filled with mystical images of life;
Where night is day and day is night.
Meteor showers litter the sky,
tears of joy fall to a puddle of pride
As earth collides with a great divide.
Right through the center;
               from the lithosphere to the core
Pain on the outside is ramified on the inside
And I’d be ****** if I said it isn’t a beautifully
               tragic picture
because life isn’t balanced if a good deed
               doesn’t contain a malice intent.
Temptation to touch the treasure without consent
is no where near the worth of self-control.
The dare to take a risk is self-imposed,
but the move to play it safe is the lightest of loads.
Would you rather re-paint the rainbow
               or find the *** of gold?
Walk a path through the park to feed the pigeons
and a serendipitous encounter with livid pigeons
               leaves your empathetic heart frigid.
While a deaf person speaks for the mute
               as the mute listen to laughter,
The blind guide those who are struggling
               to a gleaming green pasteur.
A mass murderer to the morality of humanity
Commonly senseless people skew
               the meaning of integrity,
The soul of the soulless has been released
to be met by the life of persistence.
Positivity’s existence is amplified by tragedy;
Sadly it takes sadness to appreciate
              what makes you happy.
CK Baker Jan 2017
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .  .
~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  

what about the gull
                          with a wayward splash
or the balanced blend
of cirrus and ash

foghorns throw
the pock wave
sewell stragglers
and bonny boats
earn their keep
I hurt
I think it's loss and disappointment from
"Hopes" that were never born,
Which leaves me so forlorn.

Oh, and I cry
almost every day now
and I sigh,
then he always asks why....

The pain in my heart,
Why does it go so deep?
the way I weep;
I grieve so hard,
they say I even call & cry in my sleep.

Pictures in my mind of children at play
a dream, a hope, never to be.
My grandfathers were veterans of war, they say.
Agent orange says "one out of four" you see.

Uncle Sam says "no compensation" for me,
No big family to be all around me.
I think I'll give up on me,
sometimes....

"Please make it go away!"  I say,
he can't,
and so he turns away.
Our future we cannot see,
afraid to dream,
afraid for me.

Going through the motions,
trying to do what's right.
Tried all the magic potions,
but  too much DNA's twisted up too tight.

Now I'm hurtin and bleedin all of the time!
Doctor says its gotta go, this womb of mine.
Adenomyosis, got into me, says I'll be fine.
But, no more babies! don't you see
I was not finished with my family!

I dont want to, but I know
I gotta go.
Now its gone,
still ***-ing
Now I'm not healin' right!
Its depressing.....

8 weeks now,  still not released
and the mourning has not eased
Anger abounds when i awake
but I can't eat,
so then I shake.

So I just cry,
and blessed be,
ask God, Jesus and the angels
to have mercy on me
Infertility is, and can be very difficult on the person, the marriage, the family and one's' faith.  A glimpse of how my reproductive diagnoses have affected my emotional life.
Big Virge Jun 2018
Ya Know … They Say When You Age …
That You Should Stay … " ACTIVE " … !!!

Now Physically …  
That Makes Sense To Me …  
  
But NOT IF ... " Mentally " …  
Your Mind State's Captive … !!!!!
Reactive And Lacking ...
In Thoughts ... Attracting …  
  
A Balanced Life ...
In … " Body And Mind " …  
  
So I KEEP Mine As In My Brain ...
Active And Inclined To ELEVATE ...  
And Therefore Maintain A STRONG Mind State … !!!!!  
  
A Thing I Exhibit In My Wordplay … !!!
Whenever I Visit An ... A4 Page … !!!!!  
And Let My Lyrics Become An Array …  
of Rhymes Exquisite When They Are Displayed …  
  
My Words Become Active Whenever They're … " Acted " ...
Or Simply Heard Via Spoken Word From Me … " Big Virge " …  
  
See ... Activation of Thought I Now Explore ...  
As A Way To KEEP Active And NOT GET Bored … !!!!!
  
As I Said Before I DO NOT Ignore … !!!
A NEED To Do MORE Than Exercise On Floors … !!!
  
I Do That TOO … !!!!!  
But Don't EVER ABUSE …   
The Tool That When USED …
  
Activates Tissues ...
NOT USED By … " Fools " … ?!?
  
Who DISMISS Thought … !!!
To IMPRESS These ****** … !?!
  
FLEXING Muscle And STRONG Skin Tones …  
So That They Can Couple … Activating Hormones … !!!!!
  
I'd Rather Be ... " Humble " ...
Than Activate TUSSLES That DON'T BREED Chuckles … !!!
When They OPEN Dark Tunnels Where Fellas Use KNUCKLES …
  
Activating TROUBLE Because They Got Rumbled … !!!
When Having … MORE THAN Cuddles … !!!

With Girls Whose Main Trait  …  
Is To ACTIVATE More Than Their PROSTATE … !!!!!  
  
See I Activate Levels DEEP Inside My Mental … !!!
That Takes Lead From The Pencils of ***** Lil' Devils … !!!!!!
  
Therefore I Stay STRONG And AVOID Problems … !!!
That Come From Loose Thongs And Violent Wrongs ... !!!  
  
I'd Rather Write Words And Poetic Verse …
That Act Like Prophylactics And Give Disease COLLAPSES … !!!  
  
Because My Wordplay … " Snatches " ... !!!
Whips And Gives Out Hangings  ... !!!  
  
To Cats Thinking They … MASSIVE … ?!?
When What They Are Is … TRAGIC … !!!!
  
TRAGIC … "Little Captives" …  
Using … FOOLISH Tactics …  
That Put Them On My Blacklist … !!!!!!
  
of Those Worthy of LASHES …
See Me I Prey Like … MANTIS …  
Or Like Man From … ATLANTIS … !!!!!!
  
I Pray Upon An AXIS … !!!
Symmetrical And Balanced … !!!!!!
  
UNABLE To Be ... Challenged ...  
By IGNORANCE That's Captive …  
In Minds Now LOST And SAVAGE ... !!!!!!
  
Long After I'm ... NONACTIVE …  
My Words Will Still Be ACTIVE … !!!!!!
  
That's Why I Write And Post Online … !!!
So That When I Have … Physically Died …  
  
These Words I Find Inside My Mind ….  
WILL Stay ALIVE … " IMMORTALISED " … !!!!!!

BEYOND My Life ….  
That's Where My Pride TRULY Resides ….
  
In A Place Where Thoughts …  
CREATE Wordplay Beyond The Wars We See Today … !!!!!!
  
I Hope One Day People Will Say …. ?!?

"That Big Virge Man, played an active hand,
in the betterment of, our race of humans,
and left us seeds, to activate dreams of finding peace,
and living for more than, fights on streets, and vanity !
That Man for sure, wrote poetry,
that's active now he's no longer around !"
  
But While i'm here My Mind Adheres …  
To Activating Verse That CLEARLY HURTS … !!!
  
Chickens And Jerks Whose Form of Work … ?!?
Activates NONSENSE Causing PROBLEMS ... !!!
  
I Have An Active Body And An ACTIVE Mind … !!!
So My Work's FAR FROM Shoddy Because It Feeds The Blind …  
With The Kind of Insights THAT ... DON'T Invite ... !!!!!

IGNORANCE and PRIDE To Be Aligned With A Positive Life …  
The Words I Rhyme Activate Like STARS Shine In The Night ... !!!
Because … From The Dark There MUST COME LIGHT … !!!!!
  
So As I Approach These Last Few Lines …
NO Time To Reproach or Criticise … !!!
  
Because These Words AREN'T … " Faddish " … !!!
And Won't Take ALL Your Bandwidth  … !!!!!
  
I Am A Wordsmith Whose Pen Writes Scripts …
of TRUE LYRICS … " PROACTIVE " … !!!!!
  
These Words Are NOT Just RANTINGS …  
They're DRIVEN And ... EXPANSIVE … !!!!!!!
  
And PROVE That Like My … " Writtens' "
When Big Virge Was Here … " LIVING " …  
  
My Brain, Body & Spirit ...
Were Attached To Being …  
  
….. " ACTIVE " …..
Not a bad idea to stay active, hence the poem ......
In frames as large as rooms that face all ways
And block the ends of streets with giant loaves,
Screen graves with custard, cover slums with praise
Of motor-oil and cuts of salmon, shine
Perpetually these sharply-pictured groves
Of how life should be. High above the gutter
A silver knife sinks into golden butter,
A glass of milk stands in a meadow, and
Well-balanced families, in fine
Midsummer weather, owe their smiles, their cars,
Even their youth, to that small cube each hand
Stretches towards. These, and the deep armchairs
Aligned to cups at bedtime, radiant bars
(Gas or electric), quarter-profile cats
By slippers on warm mats,
Reflect none of the rained-on streets and squares

They dominate outdoors. Rather, they rise
Serenely to proclaim pure crust, pure foam,
Pure coldness to our live imperfect eyes
That stare beyond this world, where nothing's made
As new or washed quite clean, seeking the home
All such inhabit. There, dark raftered pubs
Are filled with white-clothed ones from tennis-clubs,
And the boy puking his heart out in the Gents
Just missed them, as the pensioner paid
A halfpenny more for Granny Graveclothes' Tea
To taste old age, and dying smokers sense
Walking towards them through some dappled park
As if on water that unfocused she
No match lit up, nor drag ever brought near,
Who now stands newly clear,
Smiling, and recognising, and going dark.
-Moment of inner freedom
when the mind is opened & the
infinite universe revealed
& the soul is left to wander
dazed & confus’d searching
here & there for teachers & friends.
~~~

Moment of Freedom
as the prisoner
blinks in the sun
like a mole
from his hole

a child’s 1st trip
away from home

That moment of Freedom
~~~

LAmerica
Cold treatment of our empress
LAmerica
The Transient Universe
LAmerica
Instant communion and
communication

lamerica
emeralds in glass
lamerica
searchlights at twi-light
lamerica
****** streets in the pale dawn
lamerica
robed in exile
lamerica
swift beat of a proud heart
lamerica
eyes like twenty
lamerica
swift dream
lamerica
frozen heart
lamerica
soldiers doom
lamerica
clouds & struggles
lamerica
Nighthawk

doomed from the start
lamerica
“That’s how I met her,
lamerica
lonely & frozen
lamerica
& sullen, yes
lamerica
right from the start”

Then stop.
Go. The wilderness between.
Go round the march.
~~~

he enters stage:

Blood boots. Killer storm.
Fool’s gold. God in a heaven.
Where is she?
Have you seen her?
Has anyone seen this girl?
snap shot (projected)
She’s my sister.
Ladies & gentlemen:
please attend carefully to these words & events
It’s your last chance, our last hope.
In this womb or tomb, we’re free of the
swarming streets.
The black fever which rages is safely
out those doors
My friends & I come from
Far Arden w/ dances, &
new music
Everywhere followers accrue
to our procession.
Tales of Kings, gods, warriors
and lovers dangled like
jewels for your careless pleasure

I’m Me!
~~~

Can you dig it.
My meat is real.
My hands- how they move
balanced like lithe demons
My hair- so twined & writhing
The skin of my face- pinch the cheeks
My flaming sword tongue
spraying verbal fire-flys
I’m real.
I’m human
But I’m not an ordinary man
No No No
~~~

What are you doing here?
What do you want?
Is it music?
We can play music.
But you want more.
You want something & someone new.
Am I right?
Of course I am.
I know what you want.
You want ecstasy
Desire & dreams.
Things not exactly what they seem.
I lead you this way, he pulls that way.
I’m not singing to an imaginary girl.
I’m talking to you, my self.
Let’s recreate the world.
The palace of conception is burning.

Look. See it burn.
Bask in the warm hot coals.

You’re too young to be old.
You don’t need to be told
You want to see things as they are.
You know exactly what I do
Everything
~~~

I am a guide to the Labyrinth

Monarch of the protean towers
on this cool stone patio
above the iron mist
sunk in its own waste
breathing its own breath
he snaps his barbed jaws made of thin sticks— you know
the kind that
SNAP and CRACK ominously underfoot when the woods have grown too
quiet, too calm, for all to be well
teeth gnashing— this the sound of dead leaves skittering against pavement and river rocks at dusk (that time when you need to settle down and get a fire started, but you’re not quite sure of where you are)
              homeless
wandering the woods in search for something he will never find
hysterical, eternally lost his

eyes

are the dim, barely there glow of camp fires that go out too early
fingers the cold that creeps around the base of your sleeping bag and along your neck
cheek bones the sun-bleached sides of mountains
his voice is the unrecognizable call from some animal you cannot identify in the depths of the woods, but not so deep that you cannot imagine it coming towards you. not so deep that the sound doesn’t make your hair stand on end.

his feet are bound with the ghost skins of snakes that lurk under rocks, darting out only when you have one foot precariously balanced on its side.

he travels — howling and yowling like some hell cat out of deep
mountain lore— starved, half crazed, ravenous
fever hot and parched
his mouth a voracious, vacuous, vorpal cave
that leads down into his river stomach— that part of the river you thought was deep, but revealed its true nature with the electric sting of broken legs after jumping.
his howl is the pounding of the wind at your tent
angry hands running broken glass claws against your skin as you walk against it.

he is jealous of those who wonder the wood for he has no true home.
his ribs the skeletons of eerie, too thick mountain laurel trees and the hollow shells of long fallen oaks.
the light of the moon burns his moth-wing skin on nights when the forest is full of her radiance. so he yowls, furious and powerless
rattling and shaking his bones — the dead arms of trees that stretch out over too steep mountains, acid burnt and raw

his name could have been pestilence to the christians
but only the Natives know his name and only whisper it lowly
and on nights when the wind is calm and he cannot hear their summons—
Windigo.

his only purpose is that he has none.
his motivation is endless hunger
that is older than the mountain itself-
or maybe it was born with the mountain…
he in his rabid madness has long forgotten the origin of his emptiness.
he is hungry, and you are in his wood.
written at the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
LJ Chaplin Sep 2013
Tonight I feel as if the scales are balanced,
I'm not swimming in the ghostly tears of my sadness,
But I'm not dancing in the sunlight of happiness.
After all, what is happiness?
It is almost unnerving,
To feel one half of your mind and soul
Tip-toeing on the edge of a cliff
While the other half is trying to anchor itself
To the centre of the Earth because it doesn't want to leave,
It is an unsettling feeling.
I also feel like there are so many loose ends that need to be tied,
Unfinished business if you will.
I have the urge to pick up a book that triggers me
As if it is my destiny to savour the closing line on the last page
And feel like I have succeeded,
To send a message to every single person who has done me wrong
And has thrown me about like rag doll just to apologise
"Sorry for being such an easy target for you all."

My poetry has become an epistolary,
A series of decaying thoughts that have been woven into words,
Some to purge my dark intentions,
Others to hold on to that small sliver of happiness
Like a balloon tied to your wrist to stop it from floating away.

I hope to keep this balance long enough to pick up the pieces of my derailed being,
**Then it can tip either way and I'll be content.
Lily Nov 2018
Desire
Balanced
On the edge
Of a blade

A well dressed man
*******
An untethered label

A bottle for two
At an uncleared table.

A twist
Of the wrist
To the pouring
Of wine

To dripping lips,
and kissing
between sips.

His hands
to my hips

His tie
To my wrists.

His kiss.
Antino Art Sep 2018
Who draws strength
from watching the passage of time
after dark
blur against the windows
of a moving train bound
for ends uncertain.

Who walks most balanced
on the beams of empty tracks.

In the shuffle of strangers
at a crosswalk, who finds
direction.

Who sees
clearer through rain.

Who finds their place
in the limbo of airport terminals,
on delayed flights
between chapters,
over open roads that branch
into tales of cities unseen,
in the turn of pages unwritten.

Who can keep track of time
during the improvised chaos of jazz,
catching notes scattered
in the winds of horns.

Who understands
that wind moves
fastest through dark places like tunnels,
during storms in late August.

Who finds their center
hurled in flight,
always coming and going.
Storm flight trains movement
Genial poets, pink-faced
earnest wits—
you have given the world
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.
Goodbye, goodbye,
I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,
neutral fellows, seers of every side.
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.


And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.


It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.


Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,
your loaves grow moldy,
a gulf has split
the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving
behind you the cherished
worms of your dispassion,
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? ... then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle
for joy ...
Gary Brocks Aug 2018
He wrote of the light of the world,
a testament, a lamp to illuminate
the place from which he came —

    I saw his lighthouse coalesce
    out of the cloaking mist, its blade
    shearing the sheath of darkness.

    I inhaled the dusk bloom scent
    - Four O’Clock Flower, Poinsettia, Frangipani -
    beguiled by a road, undeterred
    by calls in the night, the rain, the unknown way.

    I sang with one thousand night-drunk tree frogs
    proclaiming an equatorial cycle to the stars,
    choristers intoning a chant of existence.

    I rode balanced between
    the cycling engine's torque and the
    reflective cast of my foreign skin.

    I felt the grip of ignominy constrict the stir
    of my drink, amongst hands toasting
    the crush of entitlement’s bearing.

    I walked where people dwell, and stop
    to greet and tell news of the market
    or of their nets, bearing the sea’s returns.

    I tasted the song in his speech,
    a seasoned stew, unshackling the tongue,
    to ring like the steel in a drum —

a tapestry unfurled: a world
paced by sirens of wind and wave,
embroidered on the earthbound side
of heaven's abiding blanket.

Copyright © 2017 Gary Brocks
180730F
the british way, not mentioning
yarn, too much, repeating words,
where no longer necessary. wool
in abundance here, piled on wool
lorries, neatly balanced with

premium  acrylic.

it is a fine line we walk,
gently avoiding peptides,
only just a theory, yet used
independantly, alongside
honest work, for mending.

today is hallow e’en

sbm
Denel Kessler Jan 2016
Beyond the thoughts
that keep us bound
fear
suffering
anger  
love
we will fly
though it be fleeting

we savor
the height
while craving
the ground below
knowing
it takes both
to make
a soul
tloco Jun 2015
Coming to now, the story of life not as a practical lesson in wisdom as such in a parable or teaching only casual experience for individual. Experiencing this wisdom will change your knowledge gained through the events of becoming with the kingdom of heaven. Ways on the tree of life or paths which are ordained or divined in the Lords or spheres build your learned life knowledge. Adapting as a disciple on the natural skill of the soul shows a person whom, the individual is in a pure state of self and exponential in the ***** of the tree of life.
As a child of light I lived happily joined in the union of spirit, my young soul always with the Almighty Father and Creator in the Tenth heaven. From a dream of the past awaking as a watcher of an extremely large craft inside the entire vessel I could see animals each of them were named and had most important characteristics from the Father. From high aloft in Heaven to the boat a watch was taking place omnipotent over the last life within. Many hosts and angels spoke once I was inside the boat but wasn’t as a soul like a spirit invisible I saw and heard. Angels divine in accord to works of commands were at work in heaven whole groups of choirs known as orders were not ever interrupted by my watch. Trumpet sounded heard in the spirits from heaven to the sea and rush gate of the heaven’s upon the earth. The name of angel that sounded and captured fallen in the thirteenth month; Tebae-et, into the stellar order of gates or fallen paradise.
A child of light borne in spirit always with the hosts or different characters in life such as Chanokh (Enokh-Father of Melekhi-Tsedek order), but it was either in dream or warden amongst crowds of souls touring in celestial spheres with paths of light on the tree of life. Walking outside my house the morning after my dream, I felt as if I could float in the air body and soul light as a feather. Surrounding me was Topaz, chrysophrase, jasper, chalcedony, and amber gemstones still transparency like crystalloluminescence. Above me sapphire with alabaster and my soul looked down upon me with white eyes shining light out of them in a robe covered in my names brilliantly shone in gold light in the temple of my soul. My body was in euphoria and I stared into the future and realms of heaven, seeing into the seven seals as celestial wardens. The divine experience was wholesome pure enrichment to my soul each word I had in communion with the throne of supreme majesty firm with glory, order, and unconditional loving care. Differences in the Father; whom was a body of so many names and creations perfect in commands, recordings, gates, cycles of hosts myriads, elementals, migrations of stars, and firmament upon firmament.
The way of the most holy spirits as complete body of the Father the original tree of life, which is known completely in the true names it was created as. The spirits, angels, guardians or incessantly serving hosts help the Father governing of the kingdom of heaven in the four parts of man. The structure I remember is perfection with tongues that fill the heart with everlasting laughter, hope that cheerfully overcomes in a soul victory. The heavenly abode the height of the throne gives the soul countenance of wisdom to the word unto man. Upon a single walk with the Father had taken my body and spirited my being in soul countenance of wisdom so far through the future I had saw unto trumpets of revelation.
Melekhi-Tsedek order the true religion to be proclaimed unto man the creatures such as animals, fallen accursed, the plant life in, promise, orphans, and widows were watched over on the decree or divine ordination from heaven. Ascending up to the throne; I went through the knowledge of the complete day in heaven or paradise recorded then toured the solar spheres, through the knowledge of the spirits or holy hosts that did in accordance to the orders. The process was divined in the Father’s willpower over my essence I had knowledge to what was being experienced in a connection unto every living creation. Completely, opening the mind unto Ratsiel (secret of God), through the third-eye founding of my soul into mysteries of kingdom of heaven. Voices of many named angels were annunciating with pleasant tones and choirs voices of angels by the thousands. Recording archangels kept the things that were occurring in the kingdom of man, while also serving the obligated roles of their natural being as direct personification of God. Organized, synchronized, and in spirit of prophecy patterning so perfected without error moving about in every way structurally sound through commanded orders. Systems of planets were kept sealed in the seven hallways or wards that divide heaven’s celestial nether space from the foundation of firmaments of word and universe unto the highest Lords signs of zodiac places. Above Almighty Father can sit omnipotent as ascending angels, spirits, or orders can go the entire flight focused on the Father’s throne. The orders of body were eminence Seraphim, Cherubim, Wheels (Thrones), Dominions (Authorities), Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangel, and Angels. Although the kingdom in spirit was always changing and becoming according to the cycle of the sun’s orbital sphere into the gates of each day on a 28 year cycle and 7,000 year unto 7 days in heaven the Lord a light-giver and also Lord of completion, Sabbath day.
A fresh gust of wind and a light pure feel was a regular experience while awakening my mind I learned of the Elders of heaven whom had crazy stories like when Samson had the might to slay the lions or tore down the temple of Dagon. I knew the hosts and things that had become in the kingdom of heaven to allow the might shone as a show for the heaven, but also act of the devils in his life. This knowledge was in a book the scripted the entirety of all the acts that take place as a divine act, once a celestial being was in visitation in spirit. The seraph Ratsiel (secret of God) investigated the acts of the temptation of Adam by Chavah and the acts of the archangels in response to the threat. The accord to the acts of everything that exists in the accord to knowledge of the solar is obtainable through this book, the book of knowledge.
Later in another dream I met the minister of death in spirit which as within a myriad where thousands of spirits were at works performing the acts in which is their existence and adapted behavior as a role in realms. Being in one place while still seeing into a complete different world or plane of existence doing as is need or divined in nature. Black darkened pillars came down on me as this space ship shaped like a pyramid with the patterns of natural earth red and black like lava years after a volcano. Around me each pillar stood as a being in realm invisible to my eye except for one being on a throne centered in the myriad the throne of death. Fiery torment in flames along with brimstone flowed in two pooled lakes parallel from one another with a long path going from gate to the another gate leading to Sheol or Hades. A base foundation of the throne is a horizontal shadowed hallway with many smaller pillars which give no support to the throne, while the path is vertically centered. Two stairways go up to the platform of the throne one on each side of the platform decorated with images of Baaliyal in form of a torrent. Death sat upon the throne with darkness like the appearance of black smoke blowing from his mouth a complete skeleton. Skeletal body covered in black cloak with a screeching voice like a woman’s long fingernail’s scratching a chalkboard. Terrified I walk my being over the site of my soul-mate who is on my like side and here with me she is like a dream and become in multiple places at the same time. Beautiful she was consistently becoming in hosts of cherubim changing into many different forms of the adapting natural instincts of animal’s behavior for survival, she is tan Carmel skin color and flesh uncorrupted by any mans thoughts of lusting ruin. Passionate vivid dreams of a                maiden lying in an alien jungle full of plants most like a rainforest but yet close to the planet’s beaches, wearing a purple robe. Dark and warm humid with a damp feel to the observer of the smooth cover of the claylike terrain of the solar sphere. Again I dreamed of her while she was separated from me by the prince of Tyre or the cherub covering the mercy, she ran amongst different hallways while in the tower of Babel and giant nephlim watched with other gods in gold cursed trying to look down on things in spirit. I walked up the stairs and could see myself from outside of myself, seeing my form as a human being in appearance most like Michael or Melekhidael with breastplate of gold without a helmet. Death screeched out at me and I saw an ancient giant of hell also the spirit of Tanhumeth trying to send me into the past. Awakened into a new form I walked through the gate vertical in the chamber beneath death’s ministry. Sopheriael Yahweh took me into the spirit of a seraph Hadaneriael then, into the 10 archangels of punishment over the 10 nations of Babylon the great which took me into the depth to the ninth circle of punishment for a reign in gates of the Phul seal or in Phalek. My soul was the loosened stars of Kesil through Samuil the poisoned messenger a discernment spirit involved in the surfs of the accord of the kingdom of dark princes in paradise, the divine comedy Queen of Angels enchanted songs counted into paradise. Darkness in the kingdom of heaven, with the ability to paralyze minds with seraphim hosts of terror, I walked through the brazen gates of Hades seeing everything on fire but also thousands of thousands of different forms of creations each rarity seen with delightful insight to provoke interests into any living being. The life paths of a multitude of creations would come through Hades and become baptized through spirit’s fire of pure refinement spoken as worth in the golden city, precious daughter of the loom, here in accord to John the Baptist’s   prophecy.
At a young age of 6 years old I began to refuse the world or play directly into the kingdom of heaven which was a lonely elect of self in my family also in the church my family attended. Wicked spirits attacked the gates of my inner ear where and had began to tell me of things that would happen in future then, keep me from being with the Father completely in heaven. My memory started to fade in fear that I would only to struggle if I kept learning. Gradual disillusion way from the throne began while I was only a few years old, the devils were wise in deceit most from the tree of knowledge and future mistakes from which I saw rolling with wheels of heaven. Moments of times in the future I would soul determine things into happening from the spirit of prophecy it was something I kept special between the Father and mines relationship. Constantly I would hated life and wanted to die, feed into temptation, stole, and spoke accursedly cutting my relationship from the Father.
Was not until I was seventeen years of age when I felt an overwhelming feeling like I had just explained something about the firmament of heaven which usually gives me this same feeling like a gust of wind in my person with a prestigious self worth from outside of self comforting to my soul. Looking up into the pitch black night sky, I saw a strange and odd formed constellation of stars above me I raised my arm and pointed at three stars. As if on command or through a governing of the stars each was loosed and fell immediately after pointing to them. Excited as the skin of my body was stinging as hairs stood to the point of super natural acknowledgment of the world’s great mysteries finding depth in the human soul I watched the sky then turned to the east. About to use the marijuana I torched a bowl of green bud then thought in the medium mostly of the kingdom and Father in heaven. In the zephyr region of the sky I saw a light floating, soaring, flashing, and moving faster than anything I had ever seen in life but on movies scenes. Astonished again I watch the spirit jumping around in the sky with multiple purposes and clear intent to do for the Father most high. My only other witness to this was my black minx cat shadoe, whom I looked at and said “I going to have a vision tomorrow” then finished two more hits of the cannabis before leaving to my room in the basement of a two-story house.
Awakening to the day was full of feeling of mystery I didn’t tell any of my experience from the night before. On October eighteenth in the day I smoked some marijuana went to Crook County High School and a blood drive was setup, I planned to give a pint for my first time ever so I went to auditorium where the blood was taken from my arm. Feeling faint and in hope for a high opposed to school I left and was excused from classes. Arriving at the house I stopped my Suzuki Sidekick in front then went in and downstairs to the place after the last step knowing something amazing was about to happening I uttered the name Metatron. Linear thought was tremendous while spirit balanced on a pillar and the first seal Arathron had me in celestial hallway warding the ancient spirits from the night before. Sitting down in a lazyboy recliner chair I first start the satellite television turn it on with remote, the spirits are crazy making grandeur boosts of how I can control everything like that remote but from mind. Flipping through stations I begin to change the channel in accord to how I sense and feel the spirits. Crazy things start occurring watching until I was seeing a celestial vision. Hearing my mind from above it was intriguing and making my pride compulsive like no one living I was experiencing these sights. As a mode of characters in a set ordained function were becoming visible on the tree of life but each were in a different realm not visible to the other. Beautiful alien life most exquisite to the eyes in the planes of other worldly adobes just doing into a set way of commands rare without repetition. Nine characters panther, eagle, falcon, wolf, coyote, Siberian tiger, and one man with blonde hair came into view in a dense rainforest like jungle each was adapting to the environment but they were only one soul becoming the entire time. The forest was no longer and the upper places had new hosting since I had entered and changed things with my thoughts, I became the soul of the characters. Seeing upwardly was a flight to the top of the extreme heights of the Father’s presence through the third seal of Phalek. At the arrival of my being I saw the most adorned and absolutely marvelous splendor of white shine like that of the sun’s rays hitting snow filled fields. The Father’s presence so handsome and gorgeous I have never seen another beauty like it only his eyes were so bright shining when he created my being as a star to his left-hand above a white marble pedestal of wisdom. Father had most elegant white robe shining in purity and sat upon a throne center below seven pillars known as the tabernacle of creation or tabernacle of seven days. In the presence I was pulled back down I felt spirits by the millions entering me, fusing to the dawn star in me finding a place inside me. Possessively filled with spirits till an evil pride overtook me and I felt ever sinful or dark taint of the soul. Lightening fell on the seventh pillar in the tabernacle blue bolts streaked downward as I fell from the presence back to the sphere of Adam’s where I heard two voices speaking. Red clay-like surface with rough igneous and metaphoric rock on the solar planet were a tree had burned to charred pieces. Sin from the Tree of knowledge was present as a spirit she was a young apprentice of the ancient one or Athiquelis. Introducing herself with flaming hair of red orange flames, her eyes shone as big red gemstones of ruby and a body covered with a black dress that faded into the natural darkness of her nature. Waving and floating in the air seducing temptation in her words that spoke into my mind and not from the channel. Soothsaying feminist voice would move me to her place and origin beside a large eleven foot pillar of smooth dark bla
The Noose Jan 2015
Some are born balanced
On a precipice and remain
Tethered for the rest of their days
Overlooking barely there
Mental images
Fragments of a lucid dream
Of a conjured up past life
Once etched on skin
But no longer there
They speak of
Violent reinvention
And escape
While the hollow speaks
And catapults into spaces
Better left unknown

Psyches wrapped in denial
Running the gamut of habitual sins
Perpetuating legacies of pain
With hands that carry
The burdens of forefathers
Tiptoeing
In the twilight of dreams
Willing for the heavens
To send a spring that blooms

Hearts whose pounding
Reverberates endlessly
inside of ears
Eyes that get darker as they close
Meet with ours
A look
A sigh
Ascertaining a mutual recognition
Of the familiar
Shadows that plague.
chuckae Apr 2015
(balanced)


If birds had no wings
They wouldn't
fly.

If there was no darkness
Our stars wouldn't
**shine.
a moment of thought
There is a new word describing me
type one, type two, type three
nothing is as it once seemed
brown bandages become red, ******
catheters go up my urethra
when I refuse to take your drug test
by accident.
I'm clean, now, clean and pure
I take Abilify to make sure
and remember that it's all an imbalance
and remember that everyone else is balanced
and remember that the whole ******* world is balanced
on a tether formed by gravity
gravity-- the severity of this situation-- is lost on me
and on that tether we all walk
unbridled by the weight of our bodies
we can shake all that makes us human
and pathologize every thought crime
every idea needs to be cleansed
with a catheter into the brain
we would be able to test it for drugs
and find that all I was high on was existence
and how terrible it is
that we will all die
but that shouldn't bother a doctor at all, now
should it.
MMXIII
Yenson Dec 2018
Listen you nice genteel ladies out there
We know you'll adore a charming, intelligent
smart, humourous, caring, loving and sensitive
charismatic man

We know you'll absolutely love a decent, wholesome
capable, balanced, brave, courageous Alpha male
we know you'll really like a versatile, poetic,
gentleman, able to do nearly everything and do it well
Even animals and children love him too

We know you'll just melt for this man who is an amazing lover
Wonderfully equipped, experienced, unselfish, rhythmic
hard yet gentle, graceful motion in hot ocean
Slow hands and arousingly hot touches, a great lover
who just adores women

Well forget it Ladies
We do not like this Elitist, well rounded intelligent lovely man
He is banned, banned, banned banned
How can we rogues, coarse, uncouth, insensitive semi-illiterates
compete with Mr Wonderful, who leaves ladies buckling in
rampant throes of multiple *******
Who makes love to your fine senses as well as your bodies

How can we, under endowed minutemen
with no grace, style or starmina, much less a romantic nuance
compete with our Mr Amazing with the mostest

We are flat bottomed pale skinned, weedy looking lot
we have little manners, we can hardly hold intelligent conversation
we don't do charming and all that *******
We are not keen on personal hygiene, that's for poofs
Forget looking groomed and polished, that's for poofs too
when drunk and we can just about manage to get it up
It's slam, bang, no thank you ma'am, nothing
poor gals left unsatisfied, unappreciated, any wonder most are turning to each other these days
Us loutish men, just reach for another pint, see you later, get your *** out...

We are working-class dumbos and proud of it
we are pirates and Robin Hoods, we take from the Decent Upscales
we fight them and harass and hound them, torment their *****
we destroy their reputation, degrade them
we can't do better, why should they have an easy life
And all the fun of the ****** fair

Look at the toffee nosed Emmanuel Macron in France
Rich background, privileged, he gets into power and start
messing with the working people, we are now dealing with him
That's what they do if you give them room
They diss the ordinary people and tell us its living intelligently
while they wine and dine and make love in Champagne
Well, not anymore, they don't, we've got there numbers now

The same with our charismatic intelligent Mr Wonderful here
We are sorting him out good and proper, we are on his case
So any ladies go near him or seen befriending him
is a class traitor and would be dealt with accordingly
We have put a *** and relationship ban on Mr Amazing
Let him see what doing without means, lets see him suffer
deprivation and hunger and hopelessness, we have been for years

I dare any of you ladies go near him and see what will happen
we will shave all your hair and put you to public shame
like those collaborators ladies in France after the 2nd WW
We will ostracise you like we have Mr Wonderful
we will smear and degrade you and  your life will be made
impossible.

This is Class war and you Ladies have been WARNED
Can you imagine it, not only rich, privileged, brilliant, capable
confident, self-assured, smooth, suave, charming, articulate,
presentable, wise and balanced, He's also gifted with a big ****,
and from all accounts he really does know how to use it
Jezz...how ******* fortunate can an elitist get!

Well you ladies are sure missing a good thing going
but we don't mind cutting off our long noses to spite our faces
Granted some nice girl could found happiness and the most amazing man and both could do a lot of good in the society and bring happiness to others
but we don't think rationally, that's for the elitists

We are mindless yobbos, thugs, hooligans, no-good, immature,little dicked ruffians and malcontents
We are anarchist, tall and proud
We are crazies, sad and pathetic and we do not care

So you ladies stick with your class and make **** sure
it's a No dice to Mr Wonderful  

NO NO NO it's a RESOUNDING NO from all working people
  ESPECIALLY YOU LADIES, just better know that YES from you
and it's the guillotine and not only your hair will be for the chop!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
This is a PEOPLE'S ROYAL COMMAND
why can't I help always seeing the funny side of life. wake up laughing, go to bed laughing, life really can be so absurd, funny and interesting.
Robert Ronnow Aug 2015
           Your past, your romantic past, is a shadow. Like all towns, Port Angeles was a combination of rain and clouds, sun and mist, with a chamber of commerce, barrooms and boards of directors, the known and unknown. No one of course is completely unknown. I was known for my tragic love life. She had found another man, a backwoods man, living on the land but not above a night on the town, who according to her would wipe snot on his pants, a statement of poverty or thrift or anger against the niceties of society. All of us heated our hovels with wood but only the rich burned hardwoods, me and probably this guy were softwood gatherers.

            There were few aspects to my life. First, I can remember a nook in the kitchen of the house I shared with a beautiful faceless woman who wore a ring in her nose where I wrote and watched flocks of unidentified birds comb a tree for seeds. This particular day the sky was blue with clean pillowy cumulus clouds floating toward Puget Sound. I believe all the poems written in that nook have been forgotten by their author.

            Nights, for entertainment, I would wander the aisles of the supermarket, admiring everything and buying nothing. I had no money. The fluorescent lighting, clean straight neat shelving and floors, warmth and the fact I could identify nobody attracted me. I lived on cream cheese and honey sandwiches eating them leaning against the kitchen sink. Thinking go back to New York City which is what I ultimately did. Drove cross country nonstop three days and three nights seeing and feeling nothing.

           I populated P.A. during the Reagan recession inherited from Carter. I'm unclear how presidents affect your life but good or bad, democrat or whig, alive or dead you've got to get a job, which I did. I supervised the living arrangements of developmentally disabled adults in what I thought were humorous contexts that gave no offense. They were beautiful and incorrigible having regular *** without protection. Normally harmless they'd sometimes have altercations with their neighbors. I balanced the checkbooks, paid the bills. Supposedly teaching living skills, I had few of my own as evidenced by my sleeping on the floor, I had no bed. One mature woman colleague judged me a short-timer living a useless fantasy about big cities. Still lost in my own history, still didn't know the calculus.

            I had a dog, Shade, black lab, leftover from my near-marriage until she realized I had no economic prospects, no interest in further *** or her logger boyfriend, and a complete inability to translate or imagine nesting and gestation. My homework comes to me in daily disconnected increments. Shade lived in my gray van, a Dodge slant six, which I could never afford to fix. Once the driveshaft disconnected from the rear axle and I tied it on with rope. Drove 60 miles on a knot. Shade was hyper and sad, both. He smelled bad but was a good dog with a lonely heart. When my wife who wasn't a wife finally found a boyfriend who wouldn't wipe snot on his pant leg they took Shade to British Columbia where I believe he runs free on a vast estate by the sea. I once beat Shade like a slave because he attacked a small dog out of frustration and loneliness and until I had kids and started saying and doing things just as bad to humans it was the lowest meanest moment of my life. The farmer who saw it will never forget or forgive it.

            Having confessed all this there's just one last fact to tell. The mountains were cold, the waters clear, deep snow and shadows.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Carlos Caloca Jul 2014
I'm a conservative liberal
anti abortion pro choice
a society free from guns with the right to bear arms
don't water my lawn just to take long showers
freedom of speech with censorship for children
we are all the same in a unique way
what can i say
I'm a conservative liberal
balanced between two opposites like riding a bike
too much to the left
or
too much to the right  
fall d
         o
            w
                n
what can I say
I'm a conservative liberal
emily c marshman Oct 2018
I’m not allergic to bee stings – I never have been, I probably never will be – but I am more afraid of bees than anything else. More afraid than heights, than fire, than opening up to others, than death by drowning. I have been stung more times than I will ever be able to count. My skin has since grown thicker, but I remember when it was soft, and I was small. I used up the entire allowance of pain I was given for life in less than four minutes.
Perhaps I should specify that it’s not bees that I am afraid of, but wasps.
When I was nine years old, much younger than I am now, I stepped on a yellow jacket nest. My bare foot went into the hole and came out covered in their little striped bodies. There was this buzzing noise that at the time I’d thought was normal, but I now know that it was the sound of the wasps that were in my ears. They had been trying to crawl down my ear canals. I wonder if they had mistaken my canals for their burrows, and had been trying to get back to their queen, but were disappointed to find my ear drums, instead.
My sister – the same age – covered in wasps alongside me, screamed and screamed, but I made no noise. By the time I even thought to cry, I had been stung so many times it would have been pointless to weep for my swollen, red toes. I remember being unable to feel the wasps’ venom running through my veins because I couldn’t even feel my veins. If I would have cried for anything, it would have been for fear that, being unable to feel them, I might have lost track of my tiny feet. They could have walked away without my body and I wouldn’t have known. They could have walked to school and back without me.
Of course, my feet could barely walk. After my initial disgust, I watched my sister run away from where we had been standing and I knew that I should run, too. I could still feel the wasps crawling, clamoring, on my skin, in my clothes, in my hair. I remember the feeling of these bees crawling around among the roots of my hair, making themselves well-acquainted with the tender skin of my scalp. I remember being unable to get them all out of my hair before I walked into the house.
I knew that I should run, and so, balanced precariously on my numbed feet, clambered after her.
I followed my screaming sister down to our farmhouse, past my stepmother who was also screaming, even louder than my sister. I don’t remember where my father was that day.
We ran down the dirt road that led from the barns to our house, removing our shirts as we went and stopping to strip down to our underwear on the front porch. I remember the honks from cars as they passed by. I remember not knowing why they were honking, but knowing that I was angry with them for honking, for ogling, rather than stopping to help. I remember not knowing how they would help, just knowing that I needed help, desperately.
The irony of our stings is that my sister, a year later, was cast in our school’s operetta, and ended up playing the part of a yellow jacket, a sort of elementary-school-gangster, part of a group of them, who wore – you guessed it – yellow jackets and stole other bugs’ lunch money. I would say that, if the wasps that attacked me had been human, they would definitely have been after the money I used to buy Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies in the lunchroom.
If I had been stung even three years later, I would have been big enough to know that one doesn’t run around in untrimmed grass with no shoes on their feet for precisely this reason. If I had been stung three years earlier, I would have been too small, and dead. So I am grateful for even the smallest of coincidences, the tiny droplet of fate that had given me those stings on that day, at that age.


I would like to talk about pain transference. In your body, nerves often run between parts of yourself you never thought would be connected. If something hurts in your elbow, it wouldn’t shock you to find that your fingers hurt as well, but if your elbow hurt and so did your lower spine? You’d be a little confused.
This is pain transference.
It’s a form of generalized pain; you can locate the pain, it’s just not coming from any one place. You can feel the pain in more than one part of your body, though there’s no reason for anything other than your elbow to ache. This is also your body’s way of protecting you from pain. It’s not that this pain is more manageable, but that it is easier to understand. Your elbow might be more hurt than the ache lets on, but you can’t tell, because your lower back is throbbing.
Now imagine your body as a hive of wasps. Imagine each of these wasps as a nerve inside of said hive-body. Imagine the queen as this hive-body’s brain. What is your body’s goal? To protect the brain. What is a hive’s goal? To protect the queen. Each wasp is born with an instinctual dedication to the queen. They must protect this individual at all costs. Your body, on the other hand, does everything it possibly can to protect the part of you that makes you so unbearably you.
Yellow jackets are social creatures. Each wasp has its own purpose in the hive, and the three different ranks within this hierarchy are the queen, the drones, and the workers. The queen (who is the only member of the colony equipped by evolution to survive the winter; every other wasp is dispensable) lays eggs and fertilizes them using stored ***** from the spermatheca. Her only purpose is to reproduce. Occasionally the queen will leave an egg unfertilized, and this egg will develop into a male drone whose only purpose is also reproduction. The female workers are arguably the most important part of the hive. They build and defend the nest.
Only female yellow jackets are capable of stinging, and wasps will only sting if their colony is disturbed. This fact is new and interesting to me. I remember thinking that it would make so much sense if the only wasps in the colony who could sting were the females. Females have a motherly, nurturing nature about them, but they are protective and willing to make sacrifices as well. Lo and behold.
The females are the nerves. They transfer the pain from the queen to themselves (and then, if disturbed, to the third-party individual who has disturbed them).
Psychics view pain transference as the transferring of pain between bodies rather than the transferring of pain between separate parts of the same body, but it works in a very similar way. Different types of energy vibrate at different frequencies; loving energy vibrates at a higher frequency than dark energy, therefore they transfer between people at different rates. Pain is simply dark energy that holds a fatalistic power over us.
According to psychics, energy can be transferred through the mind, the body, and the spirit, but pain is mostly transferred through physical touch. To transfer pain to another human being, you must touch them in a way that is not beneficial to their own or your spiritual growth.


I would like to talk about smallness. I was nine when I was stung by these yellow jackets. I was nine and the first time I’d ever been stung was at a friend’s birthday party at maybe the age of seven, behind the knee, and it’d swelled up so large I couldn’t bend my knee for two days. I knew the dangers of disturbing wasp nests; I’d watched my friends all through elementary school getting stung on the wooden playground on the premises. I, myself, stuck to swing-sets and splinters.
I was always so careful. I never went near trees if I saw a nest in its branches. My teachers had told me that I should stay away from the part of our playground made up of tires, because the hornets liked to nest in the rubber. I was terrified of being stung again after that first time because all the mud in the world didn’t seem to make a difference. The wasp’s venom, even after drying up pile after pile of soft, wet dirt, made my limb stiff and sore. I was always so careful; it seems appropriate that the one time I’d been careless, I’d been stung enough times to make up for all the times I had avoided wasps as if my life had depended on it. Maybe it had.
I was small enough when I was nine. If I had been stung at six, or three, I would have been in a lot more trouble. I would have been in a lot more pain. At nine, my stings required calamine lotion and mud for the venom, and ice baths for the swelling. At six, they might have required a trip to the hospital. At three, they would have been much more alarming, considering I had never been stung by a bee by that age.
I was careless. It was summer and I was old enough to wear denim shorts and I had kicked off my flip flops so I could feel the grass under my feet and I was careless and I was punished for it. Now I watch my cousins and my niece play outside and I have to hold my tongue, remember that I am not responsible, that I cannot prevent their being stung, their stings, no matter how badly I want to.
I would like to talk about fate. I would like to talk about how, if I hadn’t been running barefoot, I wouldn’t have gotten stung so badly. I would like to talk about how if my father had been around to tell me not to run barefoot, at least my feet would have been safe. How, if I hadn’t been too stubborn to listen to my stepmom, too, I probably would have had shoes on. How, regardless of all of these things, I probably would have been stung no matter what.
In a world where people are stung by hornets every day – where people are stung by as many as I was, at once – I would like to say that I know now that this experience is not as unique as I had previously thought it to be. I know more people than I thought I did whose trauma involves insects smaller than their pinky finger but together cover their whole body, and venom. I know people who, when I tell them I was stung by hundreds of yellow jackets at the age of nine, shrug and say nonchalantly, “Hey, me too.”
I would like to talk about smallness, and fate. I would like to talk about not only physical smallness, but the smallness one feels when they are in pain.
Belittled might be the word I am looking for. My pain wasn’t belittled, per se, but my pain belittled me.
My pain made me feel small. My pain made me feel small when I was stripping my clothes off on my front porch, cars racing by on the state highway that ran past my house. When I was running my fingers through my hair under the faucet in my kitchen sink because my sister was older and always got first dibs on the shower. As these wasps that hadn’t suffocated under my hair stung my fingers, too, until they were as swollen as my toes. My pain made me feel small when it made me pity myself.


I would like to talk about standing up for yourself as an act of causing pain.
Honeybees, when they sting, are defending themselves and their queen, but they don’t know that when they sting, it will become lodged underneath the skin of whomever they sting and it will pull them apart and they will die.
I imagine the first time a wasp stings to be a sort of power trip. Female wasps can – and will – sting repeatedly to protect the colony. I also imagine they don’t know that their relative the honeybee dies after it stings, but it must be strange for them, nonetheless.
Have you ever seen a video of a woman protecting herself and those she loves? She’s vicious. She won’t stop until the perpetrator has retreated.
When a woman stands up for herself, though, it’s as if she’s tearing herself in half.
A woman standing up for herself is a dangerous thing, both dangerous for her and for those around her. It is an act of bravery and defiance and saving grace all in one.
A few weeks ago, I overheard someone equate being female with being terminally ill, as if we have no place to go but down. As if we are dying creatures, on our last leg of life, with no will to fight for what we want.
As if the pain of the world is being transferred into us all at once.
I would like to argue that it is the exact opposite. There is nothing more alive and breathing than femaleness.I am inseparable from my femaleness. I am inseparable from the that leaks from me when I think of all of the times I have been harmed But I am not inseparable from the pain that I have caused others. I cannot forget that.


I like to imagine sometimes what my stings would have been like if I had gotten them ten years later, as well. I am much bigger. I am much stronger. I am much more capable of handling pain than my nine-year-old counterpart.
I wish I could have been the one to have to handle that pain. I wish my nine-year-old self had known better than to let her foot fall into a yellow jacket nest. I think it’s unfair that, at such an early age, I had to deal with something so terrifying and painful and traumatic. My extremities were swollen for over a week. I couldn’t write, I could close the zipper on my backpack, I couldn’t turn the pages of a book. I couldn’t go to school, and I couldn’t read in bed, so it might be enough to say that the week I was kept out of school to elevate my legs and let the swelling go down was the most boring week of my entire life.
Sometimes I look at my ankles, swollen from blood flow, from standing too long or from sitting too long or from doing anything except elevating them, and I’m reminded of this time when my ankles were much thinner and I watched them on the end of the couch, my toes pointing toward the ceiling. I remember how terrified my mom was. I imagine that phone call must have been harrowing for her – Hi, Michelle, Em’s been hurt. No, she’s fine. Just a few bee stings is all. – and for her to see me for the first time, red and splotchy and itching myself like mad must have been even more so.
I think about my father’s reaction, how I hadn’t been around to see it, but how he must have been heartbroken at knowing he wasn’t there to protect me, to prevent the bees from attacking me. I believe, however, that there was no protecting me, that there was no preventing these wasps from defending their home against me, an infiltrator. I had stepped inside of their burrow and was instantly seen as a threat. Anything I see as a threat to myself, I instantly want to rid myself of.
This is the way of the world: we see something, we determine it to be good or bad, and we either bring it into our lives or defend ourselves from it depending upon which it turns out to be. I happened to be the ultimate evil in these wasps’ lives. They were simply protecting their queen, without whom their hive would no longer exist. I was dark energy, vibrating in a way that spoke to them as threatening. I was transferring pain to them when my foot stepped into the hole, and they were transferring it back to me when they stung me. I transferred energy into the ground as my feet thumped against it. Water transferred energy into me as it helped me rinse wasps out of my hair.
From pain to protection to pity, back to pain. From bee stings to womanhood to sadness and back again. One shouldn’t be afraid to introduce the things they’ve lost to the things they’ve loved, or the things they love to the things they’re afraid of. And I am afraid of wasps. Petrified, even. The other day, driving in my car, I rolled the window down and in, immediately, flew a yellow jacket. I watched as it she flew past me and then around the back of my head. I heard her and was immediately transported back in time. I wondered what she was doing in my car, so far from her queen. I wondered what was in my car that she possibly could have wanted. But I knew that she wasn’t there to hurt me, because I hadn’t invaded her home. I hadn’t made an attack on her queen. I knew there was no sense in panicking, so I didn’t. I didn’t panic.
I am afraid of things even though they won’t **** me, but I have watched myself face these fears. I have stumbled onto a Ferris wheel and then walked confidently off. I have left candles lit without standing to check on them after every episode of The Office I watch. I have loved people I never thought I would, and I have seen the other side.
“And such bees! Bilbo had never seen anything like them. If one was to sting me, He thought, I should swell up as big again as I am!”
      -The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
So now the changed year’s turning wheel returns
And as a girl sails balanced in the wind,
And now before and now again behind
Stoops as it swoops, with cheek that laughs and burns,—
So Spring comes merry towards me now, but earns
No answering smile from me, whose life is twin’d
With the dead boughs that winter still must bind,
And whom to-day the Spring no more concerns.

Behold, this crocus is a withering flame;
This snowdrop, snow; this apple-blossom’s part
To breed the fruit that breeds the serpent’s art.
Nay, for these Spring-flowers, turn thy face from them,
Nor gaze till on the year’s last lily-stem
The white cup shrivels round the golden heart.
Rob M Jan 2014
I am at this place where sound is energy-
where color has mass and taste.
Every moment is a glorious adventure,
balanced on the fine line between joy and madness.
I may be insane.
I might have finally lost my mind.
I don't care.
I am bliss and freedom in this moment,
encapsulated by the rushing wind
of my own thoughts as they sail by
visceral, anthropomorphic.
As layer by layer all I know is taken
not by force, but gently,
I discover truth hidden beneath.
Obfuscated no longer,
I am god of this moment-
I am the All-Seeing Eye.
-for just a moment.
A moment that seems to stretch across
the history of the universe,
as I am blinded by the birth of a billion suns...

As waves of cigarette smoke waft
lazily into the form of tigers,
the fever pitch waves adieu-
like the distant memory of an ******,
it leaves me tired but fulfilled.
Time to reflect.
Time to absorb what I've found.
There are no adventures greater than those in your own mind.
Rangzeb Hussain Feb 2011
Journey to Mecca – The IMAX Experience

Imagine the scene... There are crowds of people milling about, some in queues, some chatting by the windows, others sipping a warm drink. There are children playing in corners, babies drinking milk, and wherever you look you see people of all creeds and races united under the banner of a shared humanity. And what is the reason for this diverse cross section of society to be present in one place on a quiet and sleepy Sunday afternoon at Birmingham’s ThinkTank? The answer is right there across the busy foyer. It is a poster for a new IMAX film called “Journey to Mecca”. The very air bubbles with excitement and expectation as the cinema staff cut the proverbial ribbon and usher the people into the auditorium.

Space, vast and open, is the first thing that hits the audience as they take their seats and let their eyes wander over the immense spectrum of the IMAX screen. A map unfurls across the screen and a narrator explains the time and lays down the background to the scene that is about to commence. The year is 1325, the place is Tangier and the story is about a man who is about to embark upon a journey to the holy city of Mecca on a pilgrimage. The charismatic young man is Ibn Battuta, he stares at the stars that twinkle across the canvas of the night sky and he dreams of spires, of domes, of jewelled cities that sparkle in the desert sands, and his vision swoops like a falcon over the alleys and streets of the kingdom until they rest upon the Ka’aba, the sacred building at the heart of Islam.

Ibn Battuta bids farewell to his beloved family and sets out on his journey which will see him tested, both physically and psychologically, as he travels to the fabled city of Mecca. His trials and tribulations on the road to Mecca are detailed with an emotional richness rarely seen in modern cinema. The script is nuanced in a way that allows the audience to connect with the action and the various characters. The depth of research and the care in which the tale is told is delicately balanced. This is cinema as entertainment and as education.

The film reveals the magic and wonder of the Hajj by contrasting the life of Ibn Battuta with modern day worshippers at the same holy sites as those visited by the young traveller all those years ago. The scale of the event is brought to realisation in a way that will make even the most jaded film connoisseur gasp with astonishment.

In terms of technicalities, the IMAX technology is notorious for being extremely expensive and difficult to master. The format does not allow for the creative freedom that one can utilize in 35mm, so it is to the credit of the crew that this film looks seamless and breathtaking. Every single frame of the drama is a beautifully crafted canvas that seems to glow like a painting. The cinematography is exemplary and employs a painterly palette. The deserts and mountains are dry, cracked and dusty brown like wrinkled parchment while the sun drips golden lava across the scorching landscape. The white garments of the pilgrims are like beacons floating in the creamy dust of the desert sands whilst the tapestries hanging in the bazaars are lovingly stitched in green and blue threads; and the silver and gold bangles on the arms and ankles of the village girls ****** and twinkle. The atmosphere of warmth and friendship is apparent in every scene, especially when the succulent food is shared by the soft red glow of the campfires. High above this blend of colours, languages and the swirl of human emotions are the dancing stars that ripple in the heavens. The spectacle and sounds of a bygone era are stunningly designed.

The soundtrack also serves the film quite well. The music is never intrusive or melodramatic, it is there as a soft accompaniment to the proceedings. The use of strings, Moorish mandolins, African percussion and the human voice brings an exotic and ethereal ambiance to the drama.

“Journey to Mecca” is a journey of hope, a journey of understanding and a journey that will inspire. The sheer magnitude and beauty of this film left the audience awed and instilled a desire to learn more about the past which we sometimes neglect to reflect upon in our fast moving lives. This film is an ode to peace, love and compassion, and acts as a bridge of understanding between the past and present. And, as the film fades to black at the ******, there is a final haunting image that will resonate with every member of the audience. The message is simple and poignant. It illustrates the transient and swift nature of life; it shows how we glow brightly by the light of the noon day sun and then fade into the tranquil shadows of the coming twilight. Our journey in this life should be one that respects all of humanity despite our cultural or political differences. It is not often that one leaves the cinema knowing that your soul has been moved by something rare, delicate and exquisite. This was one of those rare occasions.
1725

I took one Draught of Life—
I’ll tell you what I paid—
Precisely an existence—
The market price, they said.

They weighed me, Dust by Dust—
They balanced Film with Film,
Then handed me my Being’s worth—
A single Dram of Heaven!
The Second Daniel, thought to overcome
Four more Visions conjured out of his Wand
Without reply does he renounce his Sum,
Later added Better Digits on hand
Mindly notice how this Social Train plays
Slowly taking Commuters off the Tracks
Which this Conductor sadly he displays
And the Tickets he hoped he would get back
You were not the First. This I can assure
But Sincerity a Note only you choose
This Soul, called Will, independent from cure
Balanced on Scales gives your Career a Boost.
If Reason be Creed, then Failure is Heart
Sir, not all Jewels you can just Compart.
#tomdaleytv #tomdaley1994
Travis Barefoot Aug 2013
You have to be wanted to be cast aside.
You have to be hurt to be healed.
You have to be lost to be found.
You have to be ignorant to be taught.

You can be lonely in a crowded room.
You can cry with a smile on your face.
You can have nothing when you have it all.
You can be scared while being brave.

You must have it to lose it.
You must know it to forget it.
You must aim for it to miss it.
You must face it to defeat it.

Understanding, but yet misunderstood.
Loved, but yet unloved.
Alive, but yet dead.
Here, but yet gone.
Alexander K Opicho
(Eldoret, Kenya;aopicho@yahoo.com)

Once upon a time in the city of Omurate
In the southern part of Ethiopia
Omurate that is on Ethiopian boundary with Kenya
There were two prosperous animal families
Living side by side as good neighbours
in glory and pomp of riches
Each family was ostensibly rich
And rambunctious in social styles
They were the families of African rat family
And the Jewish cat family; the city belonged to them
They all enjoyed stocks of desert scorpions from Todanyang
From the savanna desert of Northern Kenya,
The two families also enjoyed to feed on desert locusts
On which they regularly fed without food squabbles
                               Locust themselves they flew from Lowarang to Omurate
From Lowarang a desert region in Kenya, to their city of Omurate
Sometimes the Jewish cat family enjoyed an extra dish
In form of puff adder flesh, especially the steak of the puff adder muscle
Puff adder were cheaply available in plenty at the lakeshore,
Lakeshores of Lake Turkana
At point which river Ormo enters into Lake Turkana
So the cat was happy and relaxed
Even it rarely mewed,  
Neighbours never often heard its mewing sound
The rat also enjoyed plenty of milk with no strain
Easily gotten from the rustled cattles
Cattle rustled by the Merilee; a warrior tribe in Omurate.

That day the cat had gulped milk since morning
Even its stomach was bulging
Like that of Kenyan state officer
The rat had milk all over the house
In the kitchen, milk allover
In the sitting room, milk in abundance
In the wash, room milk all through
On the bed, milk and stuffs of milk
The rat was bored with nothing to be enticed
Sometimes plenty of milk can become a bother
The rat mused to itself in foolish African empathy
That may be the cat is starving in pangs of hunger
With nothing to drink, or may be it has no milk
When the milk is rotting here in my house
It is un-African for food to rot in your house
When the neighbour’s belly is not full,
On these thoughts the rat washed its legs, and hands
Finished up with its face,
Put on its white short trouser and a green top
It stuffed its tail inside its white short trouser,
The rat poured milk into two pots,
each *** was full to the brim
It carried one in its left hand
And balanced another on its head
In its right hand was an African walking stick
For the elders known as Pakora
The rat took off to the home of the cat
In full feat of animal love and philanthropy
Whistling its favourite poem;
An Ode to a good neighbour,
Walking carefully lest it spills brimful milk,
It entered into the house of the cat without haste
Neither knocking nor waiting to be told come in
In that spectacular charisma of a good neighbour,
When the cat saw the rat it giggled two short giggles
And almost got choked by indecision
For it had been long since this happened,
Since the cat had dine on milk leave alone rat meat
The rat said to the Jewish cat that my brother
Have milk I have brought for you
Have it and sip here it is; the real milk,
In devilish calmness the cat told the rat;
Put it for me on the table, thank you,
But my friend Mr. rat don’t go away; there is more
More for you to help me in addition to milk,
Continue my brother Mr. Cat, how can I help you?
Don’t call me your brother; bursted the cat,
For it is long since I ate the rat meat
And you know rat meat is our stable food
In a frenetic feat of powerlessness the rat was confused
In attempt to save itself
it pleaded that my dear elder, I was
Only having plenty of milk in my house
And to us African rats, it is a taboo
To have a lot of food in your house
When the neighbour’s belly is not full
So I only brought you the present of Milk
Please have it and drink,
Without taciturnity the Cat retorted in persistence;
I know and I am thankful for your good manners
But remember with us Jewish cats it is heinous sin
Forget of a taboo, it is blasphemy against the living
God for one of us to leave the rat free from our house
For you rats are the only stable and kosher food God blessed for us
The Jewish rat family all over the world
So shut up your mandibles, I am to eat you first
Then I will take milk later as a relish.

With its herculean paw the cat crushed the rat
With mighty of the leopard culture
Throwing away the white trouser
And green top from the torso of the rat
The cat ate the rat with voracity of the devil
After which it punctuated its mid day appetite
With slow and relaxed sipping of milk
Slowly and slowly as it felt its internal greatness
And hence the African proverbial cry that;
Behold foolish angst kills the African rat!
oceansandforest Jul 2014
Heaven and Hell,
I taste when i'm with you.

Heart as cold as ice,
yet warm like the grassy fields of the spring meadows.

You were the hurricane, chaotic and unforgiving.
But with every storm, lies a rainbow radiating every inch of beauty within.

Your mind beautifully balanced,
a mysterious blend of dark and cheery.

Your existence, like the gleaming rays of the sunrise.
Bringing new hope after a dark and cold night.

You are the bitter sweet of life.
a poem inspired by my sunrise.

— The End —