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Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
foundation bearers were removed
foundation bearers were removed
a rebuild of solid stanchions needed
a rebuild of solid stanchions needed
solid stanchions were removed
a rebuild of foundation bearers needed

upon high wall sat a man
upon high wall sat a man
owing they who put him there
owning they who put him there
they who put him upon wall high
the owing man sat a there

they'd withdrawn their buttressing
they'd withdrawn their buttressing
he crashed to the ground
he crashed to the ground
their buttressing crashed on the ground
they'd withdrawn he

upon a high wall sat a man
they'd withdrawn their buttressing
owing they who put him there
foundation bearers were removed
he crashed on the ground
a rebuild of solid stanchions needed
By
Alexander K Opicho

(Eldoret, Kenya; aopicho@yahoo.com)


Spiritual scholars of Christian Science have a concept that there is
power in the name. They at most identify the name Jesus and the name
of God, Jehovah to be the most powerful names in the spiritual realm.
But in the world of literature and intellectual movement, art,
science, politics and creativity, the name Alexander is mysteriously
powerful. Averagely, bearers of the name Alexander achieve some unique
level of literary or intellectual glory, discover something novel or
make some breakaway political victories.

Among the ancient and present-day Russians, most bearers of the name
Alexander were imbued with some uniqueness of intellect, leadership or
literary mighty. Beginning with the recent times of Russia, the first
mysterious Alexander is the 1700 political reformist and effective
leader, Tsar Alexander and his beautiful wife, tsarina Alexandrina.
The couple transformed Russian society from pathetic peasantry to a
middle class society. It is Tsar Alexander’s leadership that lain a
foundation for Russian socialist revolution. Different scholars of
Russian history remember the reign of Tsar Alexander with a strong

bliss. This is what made the Lenin family to name their son Alexander
an elder brother to Vladimir Ilyanovsk Ilyich Lenin. This was done as
parental projection through careful   choice of a mentor for their
young son. Alexander Lenin was named after this formidable ruler; Tsar
Alexander. Alexander Lenin was a might scholar. An Intellectual and
political reformist. He was a source of inspiration to his young
brother Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who became the Russian president after
his brother Alexander, had died through political assassination.
However, researches into distinctive prowess of these two brothers
reveal that Alexander Lenin was more gifted intellectually than
Vladimir Lenin.

Alexander Pushkin, another Russian personality with intellectual,
cultural, theatrical and   literary consenguences. He was a
contemporary of Alexander pope. He is the main intellectual influence
behind Nikolai Vasileyvich Gogol and very many other Russian writers.
He is to Russians what Shakespeare is to English speakers or victor
Hugo is to French speakers, Friedriech schiller and Frantz Kafka is to
Germany readers or Miguel de Cervantes to the Spaniards. Among English
readers, Shakespeare’s drama of king Lear is a beacon of English
political theatre, while Hugo’s Les miscerables is an apex of French
social and political literature, but Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, a
theatrical political satire, technically towers above the peers. For
your point of information my dear reader; there has been a
commonaplace false convention among English literature scholars that,
William Shakespeare in conjunction with Robert Greene wrote and
published highest number of books, more than anyone else. The factual
truth is otherwise. No, they only published 90 works, but Pushkin
published 700 works.
Equally glorious is Alexander Vasileyvich sholenstsyn,the, the, the
author of I will be on phone by five, Cancer Ward, Gulag Archipelago’
and the First Cycle. He is a contemporary of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor
Dostoyevsky, Alfred Nobel and Maxim Gorky. Literary and artistic
excellence of Alexander Sholenstsyn,the, the anti-communist Russian
novelist was and is still displayed through his mirroring of a corrupt
Russian communist politics, made him a debate case among the then
committee members for Nobel prize and American literature prize, but
when the Kremlin learned of this they, detained Alexander sholenenstyn
at Siberia for 18 years this is where he wrote his Gulag Archipelago.
Which he wrote as sequel five years later to the previous novel the
Cancer Ward whose main theme is despair among cancer patients in the
Russian hospitals. This was simply a satirical way of expressing agony
of despair among the then political prisoners at Siberia concentration
camps .In its reaction to this communist front to capitalist
literature through the glasnost machinery, the Washington government
ordered chalice Chaplin an American pro-communist writer to be out of
America within 45 minutes.
Alexander’s; Payne, Pato, Petrovsky, and Pires are intellectual
torchbearers of the world and Russian literary civilization. Not to
forget, Alexander Popov, a poet and Russian master brewer, whose
liquor brand ‘Popov’ is the worldwide king of bar shelves?
In 1945 the Russians had very brutish two types of guns, designed to
shoot at long range with very little chances of missing the target.
These guns are; AK 47 and the Molotov gun. They were designed to
defeat the German **** and later on to be used in international
guerrilla movement. The first gun AK 47 was designed by Alexander
klashilinikov and the second by Alexander Molotov. These are the two
Alexander’s that made milestones in history of world military
technology.
The name Alexander was one of the titles or the epithet used to be
given to the Greek goddess Hera and as such is taken to mean the one
who comes to save warriors. In Homer’s epical work; the Iliad, the
most dominant character Paris who often saved the other warriors was
also known also as Alexander. This name’s linkage to popularity was
spread throughout the Greek world by the military maneuvers and
conquests of King Alexander III. Alexander III is commonly known as
Alexander the Great .  Evidently; the biblical book of Daniel had a
prophecy. It was about fall of empires down to advent of Jesus as a
final ruler. The prophecy venerated Roman Empire above all else. As
well the, prophecy magnified military brilliance, intellect and
leadership skills of the Greek, Alexander the great, the conqueror of
Roman Empire. Alexander the great was highly inspired by the secret
talks he often held with his mother. All bible readers and historians
have reasons to believe that Alexander of Greece was powerful,
intellectually might, strong in judgment and a political mystery and
enigma that remain classic to date.
In his book Glimpses of History, jewarlal Nehru discusses the Guru
Nanak as an Indian religious sect, Business Empire, clan, caste, and
an intellectual movement of admirable standard that shares a parrell
only with the Aga Khans. Their   founder is known, as Skander Nanak
.The name skander is an Indian version for Alexander. Thus, Alexander
Nanak is the founder of Guru Nanak business empire and sub Indian
spiritual community. Alexander Nanak was an intellectual, recited
Ramayana and Mahabharata off head; he was both a secular and religious
scholar as well as a corporate strategist.
The American market and industrial civilsations has very many
wonderful Alexander’s in its history. The earliest known Alexander in
American is Hamilton, the poet, writer, politician and political
reformist. Hamilton strongly worked for establishment of American
constitution. Contemporaries of Hamilton are; Alexander graham bell
and Alexander flemming.bell is the American scientist who discovered a
modern electrical bell, while Fleming, A Nobel Prize Laureate
discovered that fungus on stale bread can make penicillin to be used
in curing malaria. Other American Alexander’s are; wan, Ludwig,
Macqueen, Calder and ovechikin.
Italian front to mysterious greatness in the name Alexander
spectacularly emanates from science of electricity which has a
measuring unit for electrical volume known as voltage. The name of
this unit is a word coined from the Italian name Volta. He was an
Italian scientist by the name Alesandro Volta. Alesandro is an Italian
version for Alexander. Therefore it is Alexander Volta an Italian
scientist who discovered volume of electrical energy as it moves along
the cable. Thus in Italian culture the name Alexander is also a
mystery.
Readers of European genre and classics agree that it is still
enjoyfull to read the Three Musketeers and the Poor Christ of
Montecristo for three or even more times. They are inspiring, with a
depth of intellectual character, and classic in lessons to all
generations. These two classics were written by Alexander Dumas, a
French literary genious.he lived the same time as Hugo and
Dostoyevsk.when Hugo was writing the Hunch-back of Notredame Dumas was
writing the Three Musketeers. These two books were the source of
inspiration for Dostoyevsky to write Brothers Karamazov. Another
notable European- *** -American Alexander is  Alexander pope, whose
adage ‘short knowledge is dangerous,’ has remained a classic and ever
quoted across a time span of two centuries. Alexander pope penned this
line in the mid of 1800 in his poem better drink from the pyrene
spring.

In the last century colleges, Universities and high schools in Kenya
and throughout Africa, taught Alexander la Guma and Alexander Haley as
set- book writers for political science, literature and drama courses.
Alexander la Guma is a South African, ant–apartheid crusader and a
writer of strange literary ability. His commonly read books are A walk
in the Night, Time of the Butcher Bird and In the Fog of the Season’s
End. While Alexander Haley is an African in the American Diaspora. An
intellectual heavy- weight, a politician, civil a rights activist and
a writer of no precedent, whose book The Roots is a literary
blockbuster to white American artists. Both la Guma and Haley are
African Alexander’s only that white bigotry in their respective
countries of America and South Africa made them to be called Alex’s.
The Kenyan only firm for actuaries is Alexander Forbes consultants.
Alexander Forbes was an English-American mathematician. The lesson
about Forbes is that mystery within the name Alexander makes it to be
the brand of corporate actuarial practice in Africa and the entire
world.
Something hypothetical and funny about this name Alexander is that its
dictionary definition is; homemade brandy in Russia, just the way the
east African names; Wamalwa, Wanjoi and Kimaiyo are used among the
Bukusu, Agikuyu and Kalenjin communities of Kenya respectively. More
hypothetical is the lesson that the short form of Alexander is Alex;
it is not as spiritually consequential in any manner as its full
version Alexander. The name Alex is just plain without any powers and
spiritual connotation on the personality and character of the bearer.
The name Alexander works intellectual miracles when used in full even
in its variants and diminutives as pronounced in other languages that
are neither English nor Greece. Presumably the - ander section of the
name (Alex)ander is the one with life consequences on the history of
the bearer. Also, it is not clear whether they are persons called
Alexander who are born bright and gifted or it is the name Alexander
that conjures power of intellect and creativity on them.
In comparative historical scenarios this name Alexander has been the
name of many rulers, including kings of Macedon, kings of Scotland,
emperors of Russia and popes, the list is infinite. Indeed, it is bare
that when you poke into facts from antiques of politics, religion and
human diversity, there is rich evidence that there is substantial
positive spirituality between human success and social nomenclature in
the name of Alexander. Some cases in archaic point are available in a
listological exposition of early rulers on Wikipedia. Some names on
Wikipedia in relation to the phenomenon of Alexanderity are: General
Alexander; more often known as Paris of Troy as recounted by Homer in
his Iliad. Then ensues a plethora; Alexander of Corinth who was the
10th king of Corinth , Alexander I of Macedon, Alexander II of
Macedon, Alexander III of Macedonia alias  Alexander the Great. There
is still in the list in relation to Macedonia, Alexander IV  and
Alexander V. More facts of the antiques have   Alexander of Pherae who
was the despotic ruler of Pherae between 369 and 358 before the Common
Era. The land of Epirus had Alexander I the king of Epirus about 342
before the Common Era and Alexander II  the king of Epirus 272 before
the Common Era. A series of other Alexander’s in the antiques is
composed of ; Alexander the  viceroy of Antigonus Gonatas and also the
ruler of a **** state based on Corinth in 250 before the common era,
then Alexander Balas, ruler of the Seleucid kingdom of Syria between
150 and 146 before the common era . Next in the list is  Alexander
Zabinas the ruler of part of the Seleucid kingdom of Syria based in
Antioch between 128 and 123  before the common era ,  then Alexander
Jannaeus king of Judea, 103 to 76  before the common era  and last but
not least  Alexander of Judaea  son of Aristobulus  II the  king of
Judaea .  The list of Alexander’s in relation to the antiquated  Roman
empire are; Alexander Severus, Julius Alexander who lived during the
second  century as the Emesene nobleman, Then next is Domitius
Alexander the Roman usurper who declared himself emperor in 308. Next
comes Alexander the emperor of Byzantine. Political antiques of
Scotland have Alexander I , Alexander II and Alexander III of Scotland
. The list cannot be exhausted but it is only a testimony that there
are a lot of Alexander’s in the antiques of the world.
Religious leadership also enjoys vastness of Alexander’s. This is so
among the Christians and non Christians, Catholics and Protestants and
even among the charismatic and non-charismatic. These historical
experiences start with Alexander kipsang Muge the Kenyan Anglican
Bishop who died in a mysterious accident during the Kenyan political
dark days of Moi. But when it comes to  The antiques  catholic
pontifical history, there is still a plethora of them as evinced on
Wikipedia ; Pope Alexander I , Alexander of Apamea also the  bishop of
Apamea, Pope Alexander II ,Pope Alexander III, Pope Alexander IV, Pope
Alexander V, Pope Alexander VI, Pope Alexander VII, Pope Alexander
VIII, Alexander of Constantinople the bishop of Constantinople , St.
Alexander of Alexandria also the  Coptic Pope and Patriarch of
Alexandria between  then Pope Alexander II of Alexandria the  Coptic
Pope  and lastly Alexander of Lincoln the bishop of Lincoln and
finally  Alexander of Jerusalem.
However, the fact of logic is inherent in the premise that there is
power in the name .An interesting experience I have had is that; when
Eugene Nelson Mandela ochieng was kidnapped in Nairobi sometimes ago,
a friend told me that there is power in the name. The name Mandela on
a Nairobi born Luo boy attracts strong fortune and history making
eventualities towards the boy, though fate of the world interferes,
the boy Eugene Mandela ochieng is bound to be great, not because he
was kidnapped but because he has an assuring name Nelson Mandela. With
extension both in Africa and without ,May God the almighty add all
young Alexander’s to the traditional list of other great and
formidable  Alexander’s that came before. Amen.

References;
Jewarlal Nehru; Glimpses of History


Alexander K Opicho is a social researcher with Sanctuary Researchers
ltd in Eldoret, Kenya he is also a lecturer in Research Methods in
governance and Leadership.
CK Baker Apr 2017
Sunday sermons are spilling on the inner city streets
through the green heaps and brown bags
through the downtown whisperers
and sage solitude souls

Army bands prepare for march
(their trench members filling packs with canister and cane)
the high command and tricked militia head pinned
quick on the look for splinter, lorry and skuttle

Traffic patterns change at the COP connect
camouflage bearers break formal stride
battle men slip between colorful floats
unsuspecting slumlords (vein pricked and weary)
grin in their second suite dying rooms

Twitching men and rubbernecks
sit discreetly on the corner wall
JJ and the chief revere a 21 gun salute
holy rollers raise cheer (in a moment of silence)
chess men hold steady
with ivory cues

Flames belt from the distant foundry
streets come alive with crackle and dust
members of the attic group glance down from their perch
an elderly man in a straight jacket (happy in the now)
sits solemnly with a cold reflective stare

It’s not far from the steely mud holes
from the flying fragments and sharp broken dreams
from the arsenal digs and madmen (who quietly turned the *****)
the ivy trellis
and flowing white gown
are a nocturne fit
for this elevated rolling highland
Lunar Luvnotes Dec 2014
Never been so attracted
to one being.
Wildly attracted
to traits of many,
always fleeting.
So many rolled
into one man
leaves me speechless,
intrigued and fiending.
He mirrors my lunacy,
and my fiery independence,
our duality.
Water bearers
pour streams
adjoined from
the heavens, unencumbered.
After years of finding
the streams gravitating
into one,
we ditch a gourd.
Our fingers intertwined
under the neck
and the base of
the remaining one.
Our eyes mingle mysteriously
each morning,
and when they find stars
they get to pouring.
"Man on the Moon" series. 9/20/14 Dominant aspects of our emotional sides of our Natal chart we share (moonchildren, cancers) and strong commonality of being weirdos (Aquarius ). The thing I love the most that my past love embodied, he keeps hold of independence with a death grip except for when it sneaks out from under him. A good example for me to not hand over my power along with my love unconditionally. Us ending has brought about everything we've needed to see.. I could never fall out of love easily, but I can take notes. It's survival of the fittest out there and I'm scurred so I lunge. Not at some one, u kno, the kind to mold my ***. Anyway, back then when I was love drunk writing this, I thought it was so silly and a result of fantasmical wishes. I see now this vision painted in my mind come alive before it ever found words is a perfect demonstration of our shared skill of clairvoyance or rather shared-vision. I see from afar this symbolism is loosely demonstrating our shared vision (ditching a gourd is working past differences and holding unbreakable perfect vision, to me at least looking back, we are holding God, pouring the wisdoms of truth. Drink tha drank its good for you. I kno now how important shares vision and good faith in a relationship is detrimental to my own romantic happinesses. This man blessed my life. God sent this one and he will send another.
Ken Pepiton Aug 2018
******. No white guy can say that, right.
People who can truly call themselves ******* can. *****-***** ****, W.O.P.,
maybe they can say ******, okeh. But they say it mean,
knowaddamean.
What'sbout Jewboy?
Can the Kaffen kid say ******?
Sand-******, but not ***** ******. Hecan say ****, too. And *** and *****.

Oy vey, okeh. We can take it. We can take it all. Rules is rules.

That's right. Wanna fight? Wanna be my enemy?

--- Grandpa had a play date. ***- Where's the Fun?
These kids got no guns.
And no enemies. Except imaginary ones.


Greedy little master mind sprouting odd fruits from Pokémon.
Can we make this work? Perfect it, in effect?

Marbles, maybe we can teach that old game and go from there to the funnest parts of FTA... Findtheanswer, like God and Adam played. The rules are some same, bounds, fudges and such. Keepsies, ante-ups and such, too.
Risk is right if-I-can-tation.
Losses can be baked, clayballs,
while momma bakes our daily bread.
Poor kids can make marbles in the sun, since forever, I am sure. Rolly-polly patti and johnny cakes roll marbles into spoons,
Momma knew that stuff. She could shake butter into cream, singin' along Que sera, sera, whatever will be
will be,

but it won't be the death of me,
watch and see,
babu boy oh boy
---
We can play war until we die, but don't tell the children.
They are the price we are to pay. They must believe.

We swore allegiance for security. We thought it best
for the kids to lie.

You know?
I believe, you know. It's unbelieving I need help with.

Can't you see? We swore allegiance and taught it has become the  honor-us-course-us-po-deserve-us ritual. A rite we pass for the protection of the eagles gathered around the body.

We are proud of our children who die taking
the courses called for, we never ask why,
except when we cry. Silently, inside.

It's our role to remember the glory
of our children dying for the IDEA that lives
in the statue of Freedom
under which our laws allow
might is right, if God was ever on our side.

You know what I mean.
Say so. You know the lies are being told.

Stop believing that is okeh, eh?

---
Mussleman dominance meme manifests once more to battle the flood of knowing being re-leased or bought, outright, to aid the seekers seeking the meta game.

F.T.A, remember? Find The Answer. Same rules as Hide and Watch,
"All ye, all ye, outsiders hidden in our midst, in free."

"Send me your- poor, huddled masses",
remember being proud of that idea.
Poor thing, lady libertine, so tarnished now that not even Iaccoca's glory loan could gild the actions she sanctioned in the name of the republic for which she (a proxy mate, feminine aspect of God) stands. Sig-n-if-i-cious-ly.

Seig Freud, we say, with the statue of freedom watching over the legislative body, she stands
quite similar to Diana of the Ephesians,
in her role as mob solid-if-er, if I know my mythic truths been told.
---
Trink, trink, trinkits gits the good good luck,
light m'fire witcha spark and see
a light in the night when the noises pending terrors flee.

Rite, we passed those places ages ago, now we hear echoes, only we know them, for we have been taught,
what echoes ever are.
Our own terrors screaming back at us.

Alot of lies are taught wrong
and a sleeping giant in a child may dream
of other ways to see.
New windows on new word worlds expressed in
HD Quad-processed reality
simulations. You know,
child eyes see right through those.

Exactly that happened. Slowly at first.
Good is more difficult to believe
you are expert enough to try doing than is evil.
Read it again.
This couplet or line, as time will tell.

Don't ignore known knowns,
stand up under the weight of knowing good and knowing evil.
Be good.

We know from conception,
we think,
whatever it takes means
take what ever we think right,
pursue happenstances in the favor of my father's world,
provided for me, the kid.
\
The son, a first-man son,
some several thousand generations removed.
Lucky some body stored the good stuff in the mitochon'orhea, right.
We'd be powerless. O'rhea, double stufft, blessusall.

Otherwise lies are left for kids to learn,
but not to
be left true,
as when they first was told.

Our sibyl e-gran mals tol' em true,
as they knew what they passed through, to the moment, then...

Around the fire, dancing shadows, make them play.
All ye, all ye outs, in free!

See dancing shadows, en-joy my joy, be strong,

long strong, sing along, long, long song

and laugh until you die.
---
Some con-served ideas will land a man in a prison with no keys.

Imagine that. Take your time, it is no passing fancy. Be here,
with me, a while. Pleased to meet you I am, no comma needed.
Now, we may wait, whiling away a time or two is common, in mortal pauses. Are you dead or alive?

Is it dark or light? Do you see in color here, or in gray?

Who built your prison? I built mine. You'll love it, I imagine,

whenever forever flows past those old lies striving for redemption,
recycling-clingy static hairballs and ghost turds
touch, once more,
*** potentia amber atoms in cosmic chili for the soul
of the loaf-giver, warden of the feeding forces life lives
to give dead things. There's the rub.

Spark to fire? Watts to fuel the favor, Issac, can you lead us in a song? A con-serving song for when the cons a fided or feited,
defeat my sorrows and my shame,
let me see Christ take the blame.

Confidencein ignowanceus. Worsen dignitatus evawas.

Blow on it. Soft. The spark landed in that ghost **** you thought you swept away or ****** into a vortex of hoovering witnesses,
if you whew too strong, you blow yer own little light out, and have to wait for lighten-loadin' bearers
to take care from you.

That can take time, too.

It always takes a while to get deep enough to see the bottom.

Cicero, old friend...

ne vestigium quidem ullum est reliquum nobis dignitatis 

[not even a trace is left to us of our dignity]

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dignitas(Romanconcept)>

See, from a single spark,
touching a volatile bit o' whatever,
you may see the root of the Roman canker sore
yomamma kistyawit.
And be on yo way,
satisfied minded there do seem to be a way, each day, just beyond the evil sufficiency we find soon after the morning's mercy's been renewed.

And may, if it may be,
ye see a rich man wit' a satisfied mind
and may that man be me in your mirror, as it were.

Carry on, as you were.
Or walk this way, a while,
mind the limp. I'll set the pace.
It ain't a race, y'lil'squirt.

Wait'll y'see.

Waiting is time's only chore this close to shore.

What manner of men are we, who could be our enemy?
What name makes me your enemy?

What peace can you imagine when no words carry hate?
Can you imagine evil peace?
Cromwell n'em said they could make peace wit' war.
They lied.
Their lies remain lies,
evil knowns
good to know, on the whole.

Knowing makes believing count for more than idle
oaths of loyalty to memes mad
from the first of forever to now.

now. stop. This is the bottom. I know the way from here.
Do you?
You can say so, but you never know,
if you never make the climb.

And that can take forever, I've been told.
Fun, for fun. Bees in bonnets and such archaic antics, no pun un intended.
The N word test. I chickened out, but under protest. If I say/said a word to hurt a childlike mind, or an innocent ear, I am not being kind. And the black magi said He could care less, he's moving back to Kingston.
Brandon Webb Nov 2012
1
she taps he hand, twice.
across the room,
he stares, thinking
into empty air.
others, scattered
tap pencils or fingers
on desktops, booktops
and phone keyboards

the balding man
with black hair:
combed backward
and to differing angles
so that his head is split
vertically-
stands, above the room
his back turned

his words,
meant for the crowd
reverberate only
along classes fringe
but still take precedence
over nothing
even to them-
academics, outcasts


2
back of the room
reveals everything
to the observer
trying to see

blue-eyed brunette
glares vengefully
at no one,
just to glare

he looks up once
to watch
as another
pulls up
drooping jeans.
she laughs
at conversation
unmeant for,
and inaudible
to her


3
today, she smiles
and lets her lip fall
begging, like a puppy
But when they
lose eye contact,
she glares, again

he leaves footprints
on parallel desk
from lounging
then fires himself
to his feet
using stored energy,
and sugar from gum

words bounce along
the walls in the back,
and isolated eyes peer
towards the screen
but hide the fact
that they care


4
two week vacation
has left their minds
full of everything
except math,
so they listen
to him, while he speaks

but travel backward
in time, with
those closest them
while he creeps,
silent, around the room

she concentrates hard,
on her work
glaring at the page.
he sits a desk forward
feet on floor
neighboring desk full
today, but only physically

blue hat rests
on sketchbook,
its border
barely covering
closed eyes

blond head
implants itself
jokingly, into
smooth shining
white wall
with enough force
to collapse
accidental target

a hand raises
attracting gazes,
awestruck,
at her interest
in forgotten
material
of future tests


5
only a few eyes wander
from blue lined notebooks
though the left flank
still chatters, embodying
either a secretive chipmunk
or the breeze which starts the storm

storm clouds appear slowly
in sketchbook, blue hat bobbing
rhythmically in response to active pen

perched above the flock
reminiscent, split headed
papa bird scans the masks
of his shockingly silent chicks

random lecture breaks the silence.
Her eyes aren’t the only ones
Fixed into a steel laden glare
But the chipmunk wind ceases


6
his questioning glance lands
on uninhabited space,
exhibiting a yawn
which traverses through,
and twists, the faces of
those otherwise engaged

lecture ends with a question,
the scent of nuts blows through
mentally empty classroom
turning desks to predetermined
positions and swiftly inhabiting
three-quarters of the physical class

his steel glare has replaced hers
the latter’s eyes now soft as an infants

within five minutes, his voice
undergoes  a brutal, complete cycle
pleading, congratulating, yelling
and as always, lecturing


7
pre-test:

preparations for misery-
mundane chipmunk chattering,
jokes and laughs from random
oddities appearing everywhere

blue hat rests in intervals.
Blue coat rearranges
essay for another class

The girl in the sunny plaid
Rolls an orange along her hand

He points at nothing and asks
Nobody something without answer

The left flank, as always
Is turned away, conversing

A sigh rings outward loudly
Everyone glares, nervously,
Everywhere, reward of concentration


After my test:

First paper in, he scans lightly
Sets it down with a scowl
and yawns, twice, breaking the
silent shroud of heavy fog
which is hanging overhead

wandering free eyes witness
down-turned heads concentrating
as much on tests  as on moving
their hands wildly, excitedly
trying to communicate non-vocally

others have yet to detach themselves
from their seats and stride upward,
hopefully more triumphantly
than their sole predecessor

one shuffles now, slowly toward him
his hand shaking as he releases
that  paper, he turns away as it flutters
onto the desk- he replants himself in his

twelve others walk forward
smiling, shrinking, sometimes speaking
and always he glares, triumphant
knowing his success at our failure


later:

his near-sleeping form            
finds distraction, in waking
dreams, jumping back suddenly
breaking from his plank-like state
without speaking. excitement
for approaching weekend is
communicated in the left flank

two girls break the silence
running in from outside            
he glares at them, but laughs

everyone breaks into groups
after the conversation about
mysteriously nutty discarded sock

he runs to the forefront
forehead folded, finger on mouth
no-one notices, but still he glares

8
he smiles and glares at the floor
his legs swinging back and forth            
tan slacks rustling softly

exaggerated scores bubble in ears            
as they search for their destroyer

in front of forgotten faces falls
the page of a forgotten tome

several yawn, hoping, understandably
that their stretched lips
will pull themselves far enough
to barricade ears from his droning

he kills himself, twice, bumbling
into half-thought chastisements
of the  flittingly flirtatious students
intermingling hoping behind him
causing waves of whispers, laughter
and slightly strengthened chatter

he re-aligns his thoughts quickly
and rambles on again, always

9
he speaks to her softly
from across a sea of desks
she looks up, panicking calmly
distracted from distraction

in silence, blank eyes turn
surprised at the non-withering
state of her barely living corpse

he asks a question, looking up
a single answer is given
unemotional and short, buy ending
heavy hanging awkward silence

how talented the teacher
who gives his lecture while
still addressing unrelated
student self lectures

the still silence given
in his questioning lull
hangs so loudly the whispers
traversing the classroom appear
silent as finger wiggle
and pencils trace zeros

his extrication, caused by
distractingly thunderous voice
is met with a comment
causing a wave of laughter
starting at his mouth
and extending to inhabit everything

10
half the time gives
twice the attention
as they concentrate
on keeping him on
the undying topic
of the work we
have already done

they admit defeat
as dusty tome opens
spreading a nutty cloud
causing heads to turn
and words to leap.

from opens lips,
mischievous gremlins
sprout, dancing on
tables and chuckling
away from the sigh
of his down-turned, split
shining, globular mind

he scratches pink ear
with bone pale finger
reading unrelated words

in the center of the room
both mentally and physically
he sits, momentarily quiet
as dark eyes glare past
rumpled pink nose,
concentrating

blue hat rests on open palms
above dust covered open page
he slips into sleeping state
but picks himself up
and stares though thin borderline
toward shiny rambling forehead

a shutter cord flies forward
the hand at the end pulling hard
but with no affect to the shutters
neither lowering the physical
or raising the mental

the color of non-color pencils
interrupts the class momentarily
as she strides forward to compare
and then criticizes his care

he just sits, smiles and stares

11
eleven desks lie empty
of one form more than usual
amplifying the arm movements
of the ever ticking seconds

his obscured mouth flings seeds
which sprout into words
before even meeting the worn
blood-colored carpet below

in the main room, sixteen
sit silent, sketching, sleeping
or siphoning the last minute

12
those left awake, and alive
have come to understand
the numbers on the screen
this being their specialty
in a nutty shell, of course
splitting, as we are, large
crowds of numbers, and us
being teenagers, isn’t that
how we think, in numbers
and ratings of everything
and, sitting in the central
crowd are the talented
crowd-splitters
flattery-spitters

13
the silence of half absence
is pierced, as always by vocal
anomaly, centered around
rows of shining wood
bookrests, but only one
set of hollow, dark-rimmed
vacant eyeballs watches
well-welcomed interruption

he lets us work, standing.
Someone somewhere opens
A large container of nuts
Entire class starts stuffing
Handfuls into puffy cheeks
Absorbing sensations into
Eternally ravenous minds

The apocalyptic mix of noises
Is split again by central
Nutcracker, and those in corners
Glare, smiling, rubbing shadowed
Acne scarred faces
with raw-bitten nails

14
balding papa bird speaks loudly
transforming his voice, becoming
vocally legendary cartoon duck

the wave of resulting laughter
ends in un-given nut-break
spreading, without speech
the understanding that his
comedic digression will not
meet a quick extinction

we greet the weekend
by rising early
our excuse: competition
to devour the worm

15
three heads are downturned
peering into textbooks
as the tsunami breaks

the days end starts
and beady eyes peer
in the direction of his
moving head, colored
gothic gargoyle in the
dim cloudlight streaming
through dust coated
slit windows

the room transforms
becoming triumphantly,
grumpily, repeatedly
conversational

artificial silence
spreads like a wave
from right back corner
to left front corner
leaving behind
the half of the room
hidden behind the wall
of troublemakers
who will eventually
cause the wall to topple
with the sheer force
of assorted nuts

16
blue hat is scrunched
under the of a fist
pounding on his head,
result of the decibels
consumed, and produced
by the embodiment
of the thoughts around him
which fall from stuffed
cheeks. Bounce off tables
and spread a sickening aroma
as their shells split
exposing, revealing
nothing

17
red face glances upward
as harsh words split
the widening sea of snickers
his words stop, first time today
as whispers spread wildly
of his speed in delivering answers
seconds later, room is silent
as statement ends and lecturer
turns back to him, offering
as always, another wave
of deep felt, anger hardened
quietly whispered, criticisms

thunderous-rush-voice leads
out of habit and necessity
the minutes following
his behavioral digression
each word stabbing split-headed
pointy-nosed papa bird, their
form a walnut-wood spear
crafted from drifted thoughts
of those sitting nearest him

18
on his back lies a pile of nuts
professor’s earthquake
shoulder shaking causes
eyes to open, back to rise
and with a tremendous roar
both physical and meta-physical,
it topples to worn carpet
and the laugh-track plays on

19
silence- pierced into being
by shrill, violent, mountainous
rise, and fall, of thunderous decibels-
hangs, heavier, louder than
the quick gone loudness replaced
or, in all actuality, displaced
mere seconds before being scrawled
into eternal memory
of those whose noses
sniff, daily, nutty clusters
of letters, which exclude
always, the ever-present x
the destructive π
and that y, which of course
flies as high as forgetful
nut-bearers




©Brandon Webb
2012
This is a series of observations, and. collectively, is the longest thing i've ever written, at 8847 words
Mateuš Conrad Sep 2018
i can't help what i am...
but what i am not is a spoken word
poet: with that generic exasperation
technique of speaking -
as if, on the verge of crying...

but what i can tell you...
i am a rigid person,
there are 3/4 of me that should
have enlisted in the army,
and only a 1/4 that went to
university...

so... given that i'm such a rigid ******...
i thought i'd tell you about
linear and vertical rhyming...
linear?
oh, that's neat & easy:

.................................... end
.................................... bend
..................................... send
..................................... wend....

basically suffix rhyming...
but! but... what Sylvia Plath
introduced?
   oh, my, god...
      transcendent of
the conceptualization of
"the" box...

her rhyme? alphabetical...
sort of...

        it's more than that...
she didn't pay due diligence on
suffix rhyming -end,
   -ing
    you name it...

you want to know what her rhyme
concept implies?

   **** me, it's sassy...

she was a rhyming weaver...
an interloper...
    words didn't have to necessarily
end in the same boundary
of an echo... echo rhyming
by the standard bearers is one thing...
she made tartan rhymes...

tartan rhyming...
kilt rhyming...

                  and it looked something
equivalent to, this:

  ceremony or Potent -
Still sky, obtuSe -
   one might Say love -
  Suddenly,
        black featherS,
black reSpit -
Season of fatigue,
SpaSmodic,
  deScend...
   Stolidly...
       no effigy... Seem...
pompouS...
                         coarSe copy...
      Bell tongue BirdS...
    Shrined on her SHelf...
too Tough to Finish...
  Seize my Senses...
ToTal neuTrality...
   deScent...
                Sanguine...
  bRick dusk...
Prose...
              plaCe...
            pompouS...
Ne­at kNits...
    weedS obScured...
SHe blenched,
miMic...
   deSpite...
baniSH...
    ******...
too tough for knife to finiSH...

      Head...
so profoundly muCH...
       piN legs...
               thoughtS...
So departS...
       S(h)eets...
Sanity...
      Tongue...
Printed Page...
  Twelve...
Sick man's Eye...
nEVER nEVER found
anyWHERE...

goodbye goodbye...
      eXclamation...
the First point...
            GHost...
   Signify...
cuckoo-land of color fields,
CRisp CUsp...
    
        the girl's dancing!
she's dancing barefoot...
no, i can't fall in love with her...
she's, dead!

    but can you see
rhyming vertically?
   all the lettering,
in capital letters?
  deviancy...
   it doesn't agree to your
box standard form of
rhyme, linearly...
  it's vertical rhyming,
it's juxtapositions on a scale
that might elongate
the winding tongue of a snake
in, anything but maracas
rattling...
sssssssssssssssssssssss.....
a wet snare...
   she's teasing...
she has escaped
the tradition of
the traditional guise of rhyme...
she has invoked
rhyme, but as an intermediating
attachment...
          forget the rigid
end-
                   -ing
with a "worthy"
   sympathiz-
                                        -ing...

what a gall...
she makes the housewives of America's
1950s twice as vampire-like,
and thrice as Stepford material...
   lucky blond to leave so much
"crap" behind...
   i could pick the maggots
from her head and make it
a day's worth of fishing
on the banks of Vistula...

she's dancing in the rain,
and all i have is my Cameo cinema
moment
with my cousin, Justine,
running barefoot where
i grew up on the cement...
and then cuddling together,
getting warmer
over one worth of an afternoon...

last time i heard...
her son Leo was born on
the 15th of May,
my birthday...
  but we've fallen out...
when her husband
put a **** under my father's
self-employment
enterprise...
   and undertook
a practice of stealing workers
from him...
great move... when you join
a family...

        nice memory though...
wish my cousin Justin all the luck
she can muster...
but when it comes to family
friendliness?
none....
                 went to her brother's
wedding... was interrogated by
her brother's best man...

   Polish drunk talk...
let's just say...
his date?
   was flashing her underwear
at me from under her magic carpet
ride of a skirt while we
smoke cigarettes and finished
off drinks, being accused of...
trying... to seriously...
hide her... exhibitionism...

   so i started punching myself
in the face to find target practice
should i ever come across
any more Polacks, drunk,
at a family wedding...
   you never know...

           hell... if ******* wanna tango...
we'll... ******* tango! ha ha.
now all i need is the raw
material... my knuckles
are either furry...
or they're itchy...
  can't exactly knock-out
my neighbors dog...
   i need a ******* mug of
a mouthwash advert...
with a grin that's, seriously
asking for a few missing teeth
to rekindle a smile!
The cops took my ****!
Beautiful living creatures
Extinguished by extraction

This message made possible by
The bible-thumpers passion

A simple farmer, simple life
He's caused no one pain or strife
The victim absent, non-existent?
It matters not, just throw him in prison!
nivek Jan 2019
forever uplifted by teenage poets-
who cut to the chase-
us old poets who marvel at their grace
and try to catch up
just once would be enough
to put the smile back on our face!
so lets celebrate, the Teenage poets
who know so much more of the vibe
than us oldering poets, who marvel
at the HP torch bearers of tomorrow
and the future of poetry, Hell Yes!!
and the wonder of a shared HP space.
Jean, death comes close to us all,
flapping its awful wings at us
and the gluey wings crawl up our nose.
Our children tremble in their teen-age cribs,
whirling off on a thumb or a motorcycle,
mine pushed into gnawing a stilbestrol cancer
I passed on like hemophilia,
or yours in the seventh grade, with her spleen
smacked in by the balance beam.
And we, mothers, crumpled, and flyspotted
with bringing them this far
can do nothing now but pray.

Let us put your three children
and my two children,
ages ranging from eleven to twenty-one,
and send them in a large air net up to God,
with many stamps, real air mail,
and huge signs attached:
SPECIAL HANDLING.
DO NOT STAPLE, FOLD OR MUTILATE!
And perhaps He will notice
and pass a psalm over them
for keeping safe for a whole,
for a whole ******* life-span.

And not even a muddled angel will
peek down at us in our foxhole.
And He will not have time
to send down an eyedropper of prayer for us,
the mothering thing of us,
as we drip into the soup
and drown
in the worry festering inside us,
lest our children
go so fast
they go.
NUMB, half asleep, and dazed with whirl of wheels,
And gasp of steam, and measured clank of chains,
I heard a blithe voice break a sudden pause,
Ringing familiarly through the lamp-lit night,
“Wife, here's your Venice!”
I was lifted down,
And gazed about in stupid wonderment,
Holding my little Katie by the hand—
My yellow-haired step-daughter. And again
Two strong arms led me to the water-brink,
And laid me on soft cushions in a boat,—
A queer boat, by a queerer boatman manned—
Swarthy-faced, ragged, with a scarlet cap—
Whose wild, weird note smote shrilly through the dark.
Oh yes, it was my Venice! Beautiful,
With melancholy, ghostly beauty—old,
And sorrowful, and weary—yet so fair,
So like a queen still, with her royal robes,
Full of harmonious colour, rent and worn!
I only saw her shadow in the stream,
By flickering lamplight,—only saw, as yet,
White, misty palace-portals here and there,
Pillars, and marble steps, and balconies,
Along the broad line of the Grand Canal;
And, in the smaller water-ways, a patch
Of wall, or dim bridge arching overhead.
But I could feel the rest. 'Twas Venice!—ay,
The veritable Venice of my dreams.

I saw the grey dawn shimmer down the stream,
And all the city rise, new bathed in light,
With rose-red blooms on her decaying walls,
And gold tints quivering up her domes and spires—
Sharp-drawn, with delicate pencillings, on a sky
Blue as forget-me-nots in June. I saw
The broad day staring in her palace-fronts,
Pointing to yawning gap and crumbling boss,
And colonnades, time-stained and broken, flecked
With soft, sad, dying colours—sculpture-wreathed,
And gloriously proportioned; saw the glow
Light up her bright, harmonious, fountain'd squares,
And spread out on her marble steps, and pass
Down silent courts and secret passages,
Gathering up motley treasures on its way;—

Groups of rich fruit from the Rialto mart,
Scarlet and brown and purple, with green leaves—
Fragments of exquisite carving, lichen-grown,
Found, 'mid pathetic squalor, in some niche
Where wild, half-naked urchins lived and played—
A bright robe, crowned with a pale, dark-eyed face—
A red-striped awning 'gainst an old grey wall—
A delicate opal gleam upon the tide.

I looked out from my window, and I saw
Venice, my Venice, naked in the sun—
Sad, faded, and unutterably forlorn!—
But still unutterably beautiful.

For days and days I wandered up and down—
Holding my breath in awe and ecstasy,—
Following my husband to familiar haunts,
Making acquaintance with his well-loved friends,
Whose faces I had only seen in dreams
And books and photographs and his careless talk.
For days and days—with sunny hours of rest
And musing chat, in that cool room of ours,
Paved with white marble, on the Grand Canal;
For days and days—with happy nights between,
Half-spent, while little Katie lay asleep
Out on the balcony, with the moon and stars.

O Venice, Venice!—with thy water-streets—
Thy gardens bathed in sunset, flushing red
Behind San Giorgio Maggiore's dome—
Thy glimmering lines of haughty palaces
Shadowing fair arch and column in the stream—
Thy most divine cathedral, and its square,
With vagabonds and loungers daily thronged,
Taking their ice, their coffee, and their ease—
Thy sunny campo's, with their clamorous din,
Their shrieking vendors of fresh fish and fruit—
Thy churches and thy pictures—thy sweet bits
Of colour—thy grand relics of the dead—
Thy gondoliers and water-bearers—girls
With dark, soft eyes, and creamy faces, crowned
With braided locks as bright and black as jet—
Wild ragamuffins, picturesque in rags,
And swarming beggars and old witch-like crones,
And brown-cloaked contadini, hot and tired,
Sleeping, face-downward, on the sunny steps—
Thy fairy islands floating in the sun—
Thy poppy-sprinkled, grave-strewn Lido shore—

Thy poetry and thy pathos—all so strange!—
Thou didst bring many a lump into my throat,
And many a passionate thrill into my heart,
And once a tangled dream into my head.

'Twixt afternoon and evening. I was tired;
The air was hot and golden—not a breath
Of wind until the sunset—hot and still.
Our floor was water-sprinkled; our thick walls
And open doors and windows, shadowed deep
With jalousies and awnings, made a cool
And grateful shadow for my little couch.
A subtle perfume stole about the room
From a small table, piled with purple grapes,
And water-melon slices, pink and wet,
And ripe, sweet figs, and golden apricots,
New-laid on green leaves from our garden—leaves
Wherewith an antique torso had been clothed.
My husband read his novel on the floor,
Propped up on cushions and an Indian shawl;
And little Katie slumbered at his feet,
Her yellow curls alight, and delicate tints
Of colour in the white folds of her frock.
I lay, and mused, in comfort and at ease,
Watching them both and playing with my thoughts;
And then I fell into a long, deep sleep,
And dreamed.
I saw a water-wilderness—
Islands entangled in a net of streams—
Cross-threads of rippling channels, woven through
Bare sands, and shallows glimmering blue and broad—
A line of white sea-breakers far away.
There came a smoke and crying from the land—
Ruin was there, and ashes, and the blood
Of conquered cities, trampled down to death.
But here, methought, amid these lonely gulfs,
There rose up towers and bulwarks, fair and strong,
Lapped in the silver sea-mists;—waxing aye
Fairer and stronger—till they seemed to mock
The broad-based kingdoms on the mainland shore.
I saw a great fleet sailing in the sun,
Sailing anear the sand-slip, whereon broke
The long white wave-crests of the outer sea,—
Pepin of Lombardy, with his warrior hosts—
Following the ****** steps of Attila!
I saw the smoke rise when he touched the towns
That lay, outposted, in his ravenous reach;

Then, in their island of deep waters,* saw
A gallant band defy him to his face,
And drive him out, with his fair vessels wrecked
And charred with flames, into the sea again.
“Ah, this is Venice!” I said proudly—“queen
Whose haughty spirit none shall subjugate.”

It was the night. The great stars hung, like globes
Of gold, in purple skies, and cast their light
In palpitating ripples down the flood
That washed and gurgled through the silent streets—
White-bordered now with marble palaces.
It was the night. I saw a grey-haired man,
Sitting alone in a dark convent-porch—
In beggar's garments, with a kingly face,
And eyes that watched for dawnlight anxiously—
A weary man, who could not rest nor sleep.
I heard him muttering prayers beneath his breath,
And once a malediction—while the air
Hummed with the soft, low psalm-chants from within.
And then, as grey gleams yellowed in the east,
I saw him bend his venerable head,
Creep to the door, and knock.
Again I saw
The long-drawn billows breaking on the land,
And galleys rocking in the summer noon.
The old man, richly retinued, and clad
In princely robes, stood there, and spread his arms,
And cried, to one low-kneeling at his feet,
“Take thou my blessing with thee, O my son!
And let this sword, wherewith I gird thee, smite
The impious tyrant-king, who hath defied,
Dethroned, and exiled him who is as Christ.
The Lord be good to thee, my son, my son,
For thy most righteous dealing!”
And again
'Twas that long slip of land betwixt the sea
And still lagoons of Venice—curling waves
Flinging light, foamy spray upon the sand.
The noon was past, and rose-red shadows fell
Across the waters. Lo! the galleys came
To anchorage again—and lo! the Duke
Yet once more bent his noble head to earth,
And laid a victory at the old man's feet,
Praying a blessing with exulting heart.
“This day, my well-belovèd, thou art blessed,
And Venice with thee, for St. Peter's sake.

And I will give thee, for thy bride and queen,
The sea which thou hast conquered. Take this ring,
As sign of her subjection, and thy right
To be her lord for ever.”
Once again
I saw that old man,—in the vestibule
Of St. Mark's fair cathedral,—circled round
With cardinals and priests, ambassadors
And the noblesse of Venice—richly robed
In papal vestments, with the triple crown
Gleaming upon his brows. There was a hush:—
I saw a glittering train come sweeping on,
From the blue water and across the square,
Thronged with an eager multitude,—the Duke,
And with him Barbarossa, humbled now,
And fain to pray for pardon. With bare heads,
They reached the church, and paused. The Emperor knelt,
Casting away his purple mantle—knelt,
And crept along the pavement, as to kiss
Those feet, which had been weary twenty years
With his own persecutions. And the Pope
Lifted his white haired, crowned, majestic head,
And trod upon his neck,—crying out to Christ,
“Upon the lion and adder shalt thou go—
The dragon shalt thou tread beneath thy feet!”
The vision changed. Sweet incense-clouds rose up
From the cathedral altar, mix'd with hymns
And solemn chantings, o'er ten thousand heads;
And ebbed and died away along the aisles.
I saw a train of nobles—knights of France—
Pass 'neath the glorious arches through the crowd,
And stand, with halo of soft, coloured light
On their fair brows—the while their leader's voice
Rang through the throbbing silence like a bell.
“Signiors, we come to Venice, by the will
Of the most high and puissant lords of France,
To pray you look with your compassionate eyes
Upon the Holy City of our Christ—
Wherein He lived, and suffered, and was lain
Asleep, to wake in glory, for our sakes—
By Paynim dogs dishonoured and defiled!
Signiors, we come to you, for you are strong.
The seas which lie betwixt that land and this
Obey you. O have pity! See, we kneel—
Our Masters bid us kneel—and bid us stay
Here at your feet until you grant our prayers!”
Wherewith the knights fell down upon their knees,

And lifted up their supplicating hands.
Lo! the ten thousand people rose as one,
And shouted with a shout that shook the domes
And gleaming roofs above them—echoing down,
Through marble pavements, to the shrine below,
Where lay the miraculous body of their Saint
(Shed he not heavenly radiance as he heard?—
Perfuming the damp air of his secret crypt),
And cried, with an exceeding mighty cry,
“We do consent! We will be pitiful!”
The thunder of their voices reached the sea,
And thrilled through all the netted water-veins
Of their rich city. Silence fell anon,
Slowly, with fluttering wings, upon the crowd;
And then a veil of darkness.
And again
The filtered sunlight streamed upon those walls,
Marbled and sculptured with divinest grace;
Again I saw a multitude of heads,
Soft-wreathed with cloudy incense, bent in prayer—
The heads of haughty barons, armed knights,
And pilgrims girded with their staff and scrip,
The warriors of the Holy Sepulchre.
The music died away along the roof;
The hush was broken—not by him of France—
By Enrico Dandolo, whose grey head
Venice had circled with the ducal crown.
The old man looked down, with his dim, wise eyes,
Stretching his hands abroad, and spake. “Seigneurs,
My children, see—your vessels lie in port
Freighted for battle. And you, standing here,
Wait but the first fair wind. The bravest hosts
Are with you, and the noblest enterprise
Conceived of man. Behold, I am grey-haired,
And old and feeble. Yet am I your lord.
And, if it be your pleasure, I will trust
My ducal seat in Venice to my son,
And be your guide and leader.”
When they heard,
They cried aloud, “In God's name, go with us!”
And the old man, with holy weeping, passed
Adown the tribune to the altar-steps;
And, kneeling, fixed the cross upon his cap.
A ray of sudden sunshine lit his face—
The grand, grey, furrowed face—and lit the cross,
Until it twinkled like a cross of fire.
“We shall be safe with him,” the people said,

Straining their wet, bright eyes; “and we shall reap
Harvests of glory from our battle-fields!”

Anon there rose a vapour from the sea—
A dim white mist, that thickened into fog.
The campanile and columns were blurred out,
Cathedral domes and spires, and colonnades
Of marble palaces on the Grand Canal.
Joy-bells rang sadly and softly—far away;
Banners of welcome waved like wind-blown clouds;
Glad shouts were muffled into mournful wails.
A Doge was come to be enthroned and crowned,—
Not in the great Bucentaur—not in pomp;
The water-ways had wandered in the mist,
And he had tracked them, slowly, painfully,
From San Clemente to Venice, in a frail
And humble gondola. A Doge was come;
But he, alas! had missed his landing-place,
And set his foot upon the blood-stained stones
Betwixt the blood-red columns. Ah, the sea—
The bride, the queen—she was the first to turn
Against her passionate, proud, ill-fated lord!

Slowly the sea-fog melted, and I saw
Long, limp dead bodies dangling in the sun.
Two granite pillars towered on either side,
And broad blue waters glittered at their feet.
“These are the traitors,” said the people; “they
Who, with our Lord the Duke, would overthrow
The government of Venice.”
And anon,
The doors about the palace were made fast.
A great crowd gathered round them, with hushed breath
And throbbing pulses. And I knew their lord,
The Duke Faliero, knelt upon his knees,
On the broad landing of the marble stairs
Where he had sworn the oath he could not keep—
Vexed with the tyrannous oligarchic rule
That held his haughty spirit netted in,
And cut so keenly that he writhed and chafed
Until he burst the meshes—could not keep!
I watched and waited, feeling sick at heart;
And then I saw a figure, robed in black—
One of their dark, ubiquitous, supreme
And fearful tribunal of Ten—come forth,
And hold a dripping sword-blade in the air.
“Justice has fallen on the traitor! See,
His blood has paid the forfeit of his crime!”

And all the people, hearing, murmured deep,
Cursing their dead lord, and the council, too,
Whose swift, sure, heavy hand had dealt his death.

Then came the night, all grey and still and sad.
I saw a few red torches flare and flame
Over a little gondola, where lay
The headless body of the traitor Duke,
Stripped of his ducal vestments. Floating down
The quiet waters, it passed out of sight,
Bearing him to unhonoured burial.
And then came mist and darkness.
Lo! I heard
The shrill clang of alarm-bells, and the wails
Of men and women in the wakened streets.
A thousand torches flickered up and down,
Lighting their ghastly faces and bare heads;
The while they crowded to the open doors
Of all the churches—to confess their sins,
To pray for absolution, and a last
Lord's Supper—their viaticum, whose death
Seemed near at hand—ay, nearer than the dawn.
“Chioggia is fall'n!” they cried, “and we are lost!”

Anon I saw them hurrying to and fro,
With eager eyes and hearts and blither feet—
Grave priests, with warlike weapons in their hands,
And delicate women, with their ornaments
Of gold and jewels for the public fund—
Mix'd with the bearded crowd, whose lives were given,
With all they had, to Venice in her need.
No more I heard the wailing of despair,—
But great Pisani's blithe word of command,
The dip of oars, and creak of beams and chains,
And ring of hammers in the arsenal.
“Venice shall ne'er be lost!” her people cried—
Whose names were worthy of the Golden Book—
“Venice shall ne'er be conquered!”
And anon
I saw a scene of triumph—saw the Doge,
In his Bucentaur, sailing to the land—
Chioggia behind him blackened in the smoke,
Venice before, all banners, bells, and shouts
Of passionate rejoicing! Ten long months
Had Genoa waged that war of life and death;
And now—behold the remnant of her host,
Shrunken and hollow-eyed and bound with chains—
Trailing their galleys in the conqueror's wake!

Once more the tremulous waters, flaked with light;
A covered vessel, with an armèd guard—
A yelling mob on fair San Giorgio's isle,
And ominous whisperings in the city squares.
Carrara's noble head bowed down at last,
Beaten by many storms,—his golden spurs
Caught in the meshes of a hidden snare!
“O Venice!” I cried, “where is thy great heart
And honourable soul?”
And yet once more
I saw her—the gay Sybaris of the world—
The rich voluptuous city—sunk in sloth.
I heard Napoleon's cannon at her gates,
And her degenerate nobles cry for fear.
I saw at last the great Republic fall—
Conquered by her own sickness, and with scarce
A noticeable wound—I saw her fall!
And she had stood above a thousand years!
O Carlo Zeno! O Pisani! Sure
Ye turned and groaned for pity in your graves.
I saw the flames devour her Golden Book
Beneath the rootless “Tree of Liberty;”
I saw the Lion's le
Sara L Russell Sep 2009
Ch. 1.

1.

Behold, thou art dark and comely, my love;
richly hath the sun favoured thee,
delighting in thy presence.
Let me savour thy kisses of wine;
for in the gardens of the temple
the lotus furls open,
wild bees fall asleep on her face.


2.

Lilies and jasmine bloom
in the garden of my love;
falls of wisteria,
carpets of thyme.
Let us lie in the shade of the olives
to gaze on the sky.


3.

For many hours my love slept
  beneath the cedars,
couched on cool swathes of linen,
like the Lord of Midnight enthroned on a cloud.
Long tresses of willows shivered to cool his face.
I called his name but he heard me not,
being entranced in slumber,
deep in the thrall of dreams;
therefore I shall let him awaken when he please.




Ch. 2.

4.

A warm breath of nard is my master, my king,
A great golden deity haloed with stars.
Behold, the noble bearing of a king,
the finely-wrought body of a man.
In my dearest dreams he standeth before me
out of my reach, gesturing for me to follow,
calling unto me like the very embodiment of love.


5.

Night comes softly, o daughters of Jerusalem,
My king's desirous eyes have grown heavy with sleep.
His black hair ripples about his face
  like curtains of smoke,
gold bracelets entice my gaze to
the sinews of his arms.
Like roses unfurling, so open the lips of my love,
  I burn for their flavour,
yet awaken him not till he please.





Ch. 3.

6.

Out of the forest I came, with my
maidens and minions;
with carpets of hibiscus strewn at my feet.
Columns of frankincense curved into the air,
burning from lamps of copper and gold.
From the broad slopes of Edom
my soul's love stopped to observe us.
I felt his warm gaze upon me,
so soft a look as touched like caresses of hands.
I am weary with desire, my lord and king,
Bring me the looks of thine eyes, dark as midnight,
That regard me with touches of silk.


7.

Though I may stand with my legion before thee,
an army behind me,
The west wind roars to my left,
the east to my right,
a million strong with all my banners, warriors
and standard-bearers,
still my delight were only to serve thee,
see how I tremble with awe by thy side.


8.

Behold, my ladies, the noble bearing of a king,
the finely-wrought body of a man.
My king is a custodian of the sanctity of love,
see those arms with the strength to smite
yet full of the will to embrace.
Nightly cometh he to my chambers,
whispering of love,
with the stealth of a lion,
as meek as a lamb.




Ch. 4.

9.

Preparing for my beloved,
I have put on my mantle of midnight sky
garlanded with stars.
My black locks are hung with beads of gold,
my neck is anointed with sandalwood and rose.
Come, my ladies,
Bring me my white chargers,
my sedan lined with silks from Lebanon,
my heralds and cavalcades of guards;
My beloved king awaits my pleasure.






10.

When I am in the embrace of my beloved,
He is worlds of landscapes of desire,
he is all the earth, air and sky to me.
His eyes shineth as my sun and moon,
his broad chest becometh as the
cool desert dunes by night,
where I may rest my head.
Go safely in thy dreams, beloved king,
with sentinel angels, to roost with the doves.




Ch. 5.

11.

Such a turmoil of a dream
hath troubled me, my sisters,
I dreamed that my love approached my window,
Calling unto me through the
rosewood trefoils of the lattice.
Forgetful of our tryst I answered him not,
all oils and fine trappings were put away,
mine eyes were full of slumber.
When finally I rose from my bed
   he had gone.


12.

Overwrought and afraid,
I went out in the streets,
  calling unto my beloved,
receiving no answer and calling again.
  The night watchmen came and found me,
they smote me and denounced me as pagan,
calling me harlot and worshipper of false idols,
harshly they beat me with flails
and threw me into the darkest cellars
of the palace of Solomon.


13.

Awakening at last,
I felt a warm breeze,
It was my love's breath upon my face.
Let all the world suspend in time,
let hate, rage and darkness flee as a shadow,
otherwise let me die here in the arms of my king.
There is but this one hour, one place,
in one lingering moment,
When my soul's love and I are conjoined
in the petals of love.




Ch. 6.

14.

Midnight has fallen in the gardens
  of the temple of Solomon.
The moon communes with her sister in the lake,
painting the magnolias with mother-of-pearl,
turning her buds into silver doves.
Passion and beauty intertwine in my love's garden,
Like the twisted trunks of the fig trees of Judea.
Behold, my beloved,
thou art more comely even than the moon.
Come and walk with me
in the balmy air of night.


15.

Only through the love of another may
a soul come to know of itself.
My king is mine and I am his;
The sun and moon each taketh their
turn in the sky,
the shepherds go sure-footed
over their hills and valleys,
the merchants go their ways in the
spice markets of Lebanon,
while he and I are lost in one another's eyes.




Ch. 7.

16.

Love's weariness hath overcome me,
beloved lord and king.
Bring me thy pleasant fruits, thy tender words,
Lie betwixt my *******; my hair shall
be thy curtain,
these arms shall be as thy cocoon.
Let the tides cease their turning
and the winds give pause to hold their breath.
Awaken not my dearest love, until he please.


17.

Even in sleep,
such beautiful eyes hath my beloved;
his eyelashes rest upon his cheek
like the feet of a butterfly on a lily.
Come, my sisters, we shall make him
a bed of hemp and poppies,
with fruit of the lotus,
that he may languish beside me
for many days and nights.




Ch. 8.

18.

Filling my days and dreams,
here is a man with the grace of a young hart,
whose honeyed voice speaketh mantras of desire.
Arise and follow me, beloved, for my vineyards
are ripe with luscious fruits,
the doves beat their wings and fly from the cots.
Emerging from the amber of sunrise,
with a swirling of veils,
summer dances into the season of our love.


19.

Lying amid the twisting vines
My love and I are deep in each other's embrace
and his lips taste of roses heavy with dew.
I am a queen of the Red Sea,
an orchid from a sacred garden,
and my kingdom reacheth to the farthest hills.
None but my love shall pass the boundary
where my vines bear the sweetest fruit,
nor taste their heady wine.


20.

The gates of my vineyard are wrought of
iron clad with gold,
taller than cedars, decorated with
the royal insignia,
guarded by three score watchmen,
by day and night.
While other men are kept without
and the foxes are driven back by dogs,
see how swiftly they open for thee.




Ch. 9.

21.

Behold, the noble stature of a king,
the finely-wrought body of a man.
In the sanctity of love
we may walk in the realm of paradise,
undisturbed by the foibles of men.
Come beloved, awaken,
the new dawn opens as wide and fresh
as infant eyes.
Come run with me through the spice hills
  and gardens of Lebanon.
The curtain on the
CPAC convocation rolls back,

as the revolution
in Tahrir Square boils.

America’s theater
of deadly political

absurdity commences;
to witness demagogues

recite holy scripture to
evangelize a religion of war.

A heavily invested
audience marvels

at the marionettes
pirouetting on strings

jigged along by hands
of invisible puppet-masters

donning dark masks of
clever 503C llcs

disguised in self serving
hues of red, white and blue.

This grand folly of masquers
conceals a fatal pantomime,

a cast of reactionary characters,
Neo-Conmen auditioning for

the leading role in a lurid play
of a deadly nation projecting
a dying imperial preeminence.

The martinets engage zero
sum games where the victor
belongs to the despoilers,

and the merchants of death
richly confer multimillion dollar
reasons for being, underwriting
the gilded egos of candidates

and their infatuation with the
vanity of feigned power.

These master rhetoricians
skillfully lather up the crowd

by pandering to basest
xenophobic nationalist
instincts and fantasies
of laissez-faire proclivities.  

Slathering on the partisan
pretense in layers so thick

a master chef, armed
with the sharpest Ginsu Knife

couldn't slice a hock tip
of blood red meat

hurled into the crowd of
gobbling Republicons

howling and yodeling
it’s derisive acclaim.

The rankled party line,
gibberish talking points

are hammer blows of
incessant propaganda,

so cocksure that any room for
doubt is crowded out by the

phantasmagorical McMansions
of hyperbole they ***** in

the pliant minds of their
gibbering minions.

The candidates preening for
president show off their

falangist affectations
in eager duels of oratorical

one upmanship; constantly
jockeying to outflank their

other Neo-Conmen opponents,
always concluding their brutish

diatribes with a solemn
denouement of a Republicon

psalm ending with a
Holy Hosanna Hallelujah

to the Ronald Reagan
Heavenly Buddha.

Punchline of the holy Amen
“what would Reagan do?”

to remind the faithful
to remain the faithful

bearers to the fiction
of dead Reaganism.

Evoking anything
Ron and Nancy

induces sanctioned
comportment of a

slow simmering
******* eubellence

providing a welcomed
relief of repressed
libidinal energy.

The mention of Goldwater
sends GOP acolytes to

pause in reverence,
envisioning Barry and

Ronnie looking down
from heaven upon the gathered,

inciting immediate ruminations
of falling dominos and

the viability of a
tactical nuke strike

against Ayatollah’s
underground
uranium factories.

The host of Neo-Conmen,
new age Falangist pitchmen

belch from the dais,
in ever increasing alacrity,

the stirring drum beats
and slick videos,

of glorious warriors
winning the battlefield

with the rippling glory
of the Stars and Stripes

flowing in a continual
loop behind them.

Romney,
Bachmann

Gingrich
take center stage,

goose stepping
to the roll of piercing timpanis.

Words slither
out of their mouths
like poisonous snakes.

Lies, hiss through
their teeth.

Open mouths
expose Black Mamba
fangs, dripping with venom.

Eyes squint
as their reptilian brains

implore the besieged
to flee from the
light of truth.

Seeking refuge in fear;
yet on the ready

to coil and strike;
while trembling

in ignorance,
exalting loathsomeness

worshiping violence;
they remain

poised to unleash
first strike armies;

boastfully evoking moral
platitudes of Bush Doctrine
prerogatives.

Trembling in ignorance
worshiping violence

exalting fear,
these dogs of war bay

to unleash armies
against the

Godless apostates
that threaten

to expose the
stasis of their

Capitalismo-Judeo-Christian
view of the world.

They have hijacked
the great faith traditions

to serve a narrow
political aim

and relish any
opportunity to

demonize Islam
in service to their lies.

Watch as they
they crouch down

on the dais to
open the nest

of vipers welling
deep within the
bowels of their souls.

They find relief
by excreting their

spawn of deadly asps
into the veins of

cable news networks;
scoring political points

with the terrorized
children of Faux News

capturing battalions
of straw men villains

to rise atop meaningless
straw polls.

They agitate for a second
American revolution

by injecting the venom
of fear and lies

into the body
politic.

Ron Paul
stands alone,

perplexed why
American's love

war as much as
they hate civil liberties?

Cheney and
Rumsfeld brood.

The people of
Iraq and Afghanistan

fail to embrace their armies
of liberation that run up

unfortunate collateral damage
body counts required to sustain
the American way of life.

Ever the defender of
democracy and liberty,

Gingrich slams Obama's
condemnation of Suleiman

"hes an able diplomat."
Gingrich  forgot to add

that Suleiman is a
skilled torturer and

an able tyrant any self
serving democracy would
be proud to call ally and friend.

Cheney and Rumsfeld
remain flummoxed.

Their armies of liberation bogged
down in the marshy Blackwaters

of intractability;  trying to solve
the conundrum of the diminished

equity returns of asymmetrical
warfare.  Spinning the math

to justify building aircraft carriers
to **** a gnat.

The families of dead soldiers
surround them and wave dime

store flags hoping the plastic
eagle remains fixed atop the pole.

Perpetually smiling
Michele Bachmann
raises the specter
of Muslim Brotherhoods
taking over Egypt.

The persecution of Christians
and the escalating war on

Christianity have the Crusaders
up on their seats waving Excalibur
once again.

Gingrich pink cheeks
flush with the cash

of a Zionist casino
entrepreneur

doubles down, stacks
his chips high.

“The Israeli Embassy
in Cairo was overrun
by angry mobs.”  

“Is this a precursor of
cancelling the peace treaty
signed with Sadat?”

“The pullout in Iraq hands the country to
radical Shiites effectively handing our
hard won victory to Iran.”

“Israel is threatened and will not
permit Iran to acquire nuclear

weapons. A nuclear empowered Iran
will not stand!”

“We mustn't let do nothing Obama
threaten the safety of our good ally
Israel.”

CPAC willingly holds the deadly asp
to the breast of a proud nation.

Urging, coaxing it to gently sink
its teeth into the sacred heart
of our dear republic...

John Lee ******
Crawlin King Snake

CPAC 2011

Matthew 23
Brood of Vipers


jbm
Oakland
2/10/11
st64 Nov 2013
she didn't know..
until she knew
what a curve of learning!


1.
both college-students and real good-friends
he was a science-and-botany buff
            *and the mountain would get a taste of his cells

and she, student of philosophy and languages
            would hear the latent-message from a dozen sources


2.
they shared confidences to the other
things they never told a soul
            he also discussed his theories and science-experiments and projects and stuff
            she told him how slightly-uphill her lectures in Russian proved to be
they'd meet there every Monday.. under the campus-trees
with two hellish-strong espressos
        he remembered her chewy-doughnuts without any snow-sprinkles
        'cause she was given to these silly coughing-fits
        when eating peanuts and pulses
he teased her endless and ragged all her idiosyncrasies
they seemed closer than kin

yet he seemed to remain aloof when she tried to get closer
      he brushed off her advances
      and told her to get lost
then ran off with Lilian on Tuesday
then Zita next Tuesday
then Sumaya the following Wednesday
and Tarryn on Thursday after that
and so it went on for a whole while
the whole academic-year, in fact

yet still
      they studied together
      and swore in debates
      and met every Monday
oh, that was the one day he never dated


3.
on the first day of each month
he'd give her a beautiful clutch-pencil
its casing bled entirely in translucent-fuchsin
and told her to guard well context over content
she never understood this cryptic-crap
       but smilingly accepted each one
she thought them too pretty to use
       and kept them in a special-box
       yet her heart broke each time
he took out a new flavour-of-girl
and shared his tongue with
     Sally and Margaret and Lisbeth and Anne..
     some lasted days, others short-weeks
but they all fizzled out
like the pop that they swallowed
and she wondered if he would ever
              favour her with affection
              give to her what those lucky-gals got
              look into her eyes like that
              whisper sweet-nothings to her
why didn't he want her?

but he was brusque with her and abrupt as discordant-chords
he scolded her like uneven-bricks tumbling down
and yet, it was to her that he played
               his own alternate-ballads on his banjo
               i n t r i c a t e - b e a u t y like living-pearls on those strings
      he couldn't look at her, then
      too caught-up in sweet-delivery of song
and with his eyes closed, her imagination took high-flight
as she was able to stare at him, without fear
                           in wonder
                           in enchantment
and marvel at the mesmerising co-ordination of those busy-fingers..

others passed by, but he did not care.. so giving
she felt so unique
'cause she got what they did not
           unbreakable-bond of
            music and.. talk and.. those clutch-pencil gifts

and for his birthday, she gave him a two-tone pelargonium, potted in cream
left him wordless..


4.
it was near the end of November
(just like now:)
and he casually mentioned of going away
            a week-long hike in December
            with a girl in a group that he'd met, some Sarah or other
and something in her flared and she broke down..
                                                                ­went off the rails

he looked on aghast, in total silence.. half-perplexed, half-squinting
     which disquietened her far more than any outburst could have
he stood there before her, on that Monday
       in the beautiful mid-morning sun
she remembered, to the moment.. how the light caught his eyes
       seemed to be looking right t-h-r-o-u-g-h her
       and almost, she saw the tiniest-trace of something...
       struck by a touch of liquid-vulnerability in his being
but hooded-eyes quick again, typical-hider!

he reached into his backpack
****** her a clutch-pencil
which she almost rejected
but she calmed herself down
and he looked at her once
            turned on heel
and walked to his Beetle
rode off the campus
without looking back

and she kept on wondering what it was all about
       that silent intense-look


5.
news came of a group of hikers who succumbed
from high up
some slipped and
her acrid-tears were not the only to fall
upon learning......


6.
she ran back to her dorm
reached for his gifts.. in full-remorse
and clutching a pencil in each hand
she squeezed and accidentally pressed on the flick-top
and then...............
               (it came out)
i t . . . c a m e . . . o u t . . . ! !

never in her life would she be as stunned
as they repeated their message
     over and over
     in tandem audio-confusion
in all the tongues she had studied
she learns now
of the time he took to delve into her crap to relay his truth through his amazing-invention!


7.
at the interment, she couldn't speak
displacement dipped too deep
she took up one clutch-pencil
      and pressed on the top
      message loud and clear
custom-made brilliance direct from heaven's fingertips

the pall-bearers lifted him up
                 and
out of her life

now this roundabout-present lies in the velours-box
like he does in his



students of learning..
in book.. and in heart









S T - 25 nov 2013
sort of confusing day - yet, clearing tracks can be good thing, no?
yes!


the pen sure be mightier than the sword ~
but life is much like a pencil - ain't nada permanent :)




sub: beloved

father, beloved.. who will care for us?
when you depart for war tomorrow
against the people's will

mother, beloved.. we pray for you
your seven children miss you so
we seek your guidance now

children, beloved.. hark ye well
there be a place to go, when alone
to feed the soul.. go quietly - inside

it's simple-truth:
(when you fail to go within
you go without)
Prabhu Iyer Dec 2013
Of long an aspiration, secret, that rosaries
don't quench, unexpressed, wells of old,
that anguish burning the deserts, seeking
in austerities and exegeses, an assurance
in tablets and tabernacles, and mourning
the star shooting empty in the sky at night:

a love protects vast, even when what Is
is not this that we worship, and descends
grace, ordinary so to seem obscure, that
wisdom from far must fathom its depths.

Refuse we to believe so, that say who our
father is divine, that so are we too divine.

That which we seek enduring past our
graves, holding dear in our fists clenched,
through torments and tempests and
tenements and temperaments, can
smile at us too as a babe in a manger,

that the King we expect who, to deliver
us from affliction, can a simpleton be,
a Tekton among us: that the Levi and
the Cohen, are risen too amongst us:

and to love, no birth high nor needed is
the learning in law, but to feel as show
those sisters with the heart, who anoint
him in myrrh and in tears, his feet wash.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrhbearers

1. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A38-42&version;=NIV
2. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%2012:1-12:8&version;=NKJV
Gidgette Apr 2017
You know who you are
Bruised Peaches
Those hit, hidden
Shamed
Belittled and bitten
By the very people we loved most
Mocked
For staying with the bearers of our
Bruises
We warrior spouses
Some of the peaches are lucky
we rolled from the pain baskets
Others have to stay for seedlings
This particular peach
After years of bruises
Nearly got squished between the fingers
of a bruise bearer
And I'm bitter mush
But I'm still whole
And all the while
He whispered,
I love you, I love you little peach
He gave me a seedling
She grew
and with her
My knowledge grew
It took the kingsmens axe
To cut me from that dead tree
But thank God
This peach, is free
~A
It's the hardest thing in the world to leave an abusive relationship. We're often made to believe it's our own fault. Even after one leaves, the lawyers, judges, counselors even, make you feel "less than".
I rarely write of my awful marriage. Even today I'm ashamed. And I know that it wasn't anything I did but that fact escapes me sometimes. My love to you all. Especially the Peaches.
Vexren4000 Jul 2018
Boxed boxes,
Brought by buyers,
Bypassing bylaws,
Bystanders begging beggars,
To stop their boisterous begging,
Beasts berating beasts,
*******, beastly, bringers,
Bearing rings for ring bearers,
Loosing touch with world events,
Locking into self sustaining loops,
Cutting off contacts,
For the betterment of the whole.
©BAS
Elihu Barachel Dec 2014
Hey lovey-dovey christian, run and get your NIV
Read to me some verses, read them just for me
-
Show me how you live, "not by bread alone" [1]
But by every single Word, from God's Holy Throne
-
Especially if it's written, black words on paper white
Read them from the NIV, yes-sir-ee you fight the Fight!
-
Do you have a problem? Can't you find the verse?
Why oh is that? Your "bible" is accursed

[1] Matt AND Luke 4:4

++++

Matthew 12:47 -- removed in the footnotes
Matthew 17:21 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Matthew 18:11 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost."
Matthew 21:44 -- removed in the footnotes
Matthew 23:14 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."
Mark 7:16 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"If any man have ears to hear, let him hear."
Mark 9:44 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
Mark 9:46 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
Mark 11:26 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Mark 15:28 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors."
Mark 16:9-20 (all 12 verses) -- There is a line separating the last 12 verses of Mark from the main text. Right under the line it says: [The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20] (NIV, 1978 ed.) The Jehovah's Witness "Bible" also places the last 12 verses of Mark as an appendix of sorts.
Luke 17:36 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left."
Luke 22:44 -- removed in the footnotes
Luke 22:43 -- removed in the footnotes
Luke 23:17 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)"
John 5:4 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."
John 7:53-8:11 -- removed in the footnotes
Acts 8:37 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. It's deletion makes one think that people can be baptized and saved without believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Sounds Catholic. What are you NIV readers missing?
"And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
Acts 15:34 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still."
Acts 24:7 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,"
Acts 28:29 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves."
Romans 16:24 -- COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. What are you NIV readers missing?
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
I John 5:7 -- Vitally important phrase COMPLETELY removed [also deleted from the Jehovah's Witness "Bible"]. In the NIV it says,
"For there are three that testify:"
Compare the NIV reading with the following Jehovah's Witness reading--
"For there are three witness bearers,"
What are you NIV readers missing? What does the real Bible say?
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."
John F McCullagh Mar 2014
The earth eclipsed the moon tonight
and turned that orb blood red.
The Sox just swept the Cardinals
and Bambino's curse lies dead.

Old Da had rooted Eighty years
but never saw them win.
Of Buckner, back in Eighty Six,
he never spoke again.

So first I went and bought us beers,
I got Sam Adams best.
Then I crept into the graveyard
where old Da takes his rest.

I poured his drink upon the grave
and raised my bottle high.
We beat the hated Yankees,Da!
Next year our banner flies!

All around me here and there
were Red Sox fans, my peers-
All celebrating with their Dads
and wiping back the tears.
It is the night of 10/27/2004 and there is a strange scene unfolding in the graveyards around Boston
Kate Little's "Most used words" woven into a poem.  
The words:
love remember life heart soul day cinquain kiss beautiful night
sweet man angel dream silver tears spirit words pain does gentle
hard true hope

The poem:

My vanished love,
do you not remember
the life we planned together?
A vision our hearts and souls
wove together, day by day,
letters sealed with our own
cincquain kiss.

My now distant love,
how beautiful was the night
from the circle of your arms--
sweet 'tis still,
in my "man from an angel"
dream.

The lonely moon
makes a silver necklace
of my tears,
while the night winds,
once bearers of
your love's whispers,
breathe spirit words
into my shattered heart.

This careless pain you gave,
does gentle, yes,
does gentle
in time, into
a hard, true, hope.
From Kate Little's "most used words" list.
Blame for the ensuing poem is all mine.
All rights reserved by the author.
Francie Lynch Feb 2015
Where are the Eleanors
And Godivas riding
In power and insight,
With spirit and mystique.
They aren't in jewelry
Or splashed on jeans.
Vishti refused to attend
Her drunken Lord;
She is no mirror for Isabella,
So inexperienced in love.
Anne H. fought for liberty,
Bella likes to shake blonde ringlets
On her shoulders;
The nervous Anastasia,
The clumsy Swan,
So modest
And ill-spoken
With downcast eyes.
Katniss is no Palla Athena
Or Garibaldi, though there's promise.
They are bound, timid heroines.

Malala never shot an arrow,
But spoke like Rosa, like Golda.
Yet, your childish sword-bearers
Are still desired by the men
They encounter;
Not as Susan B was courted.
Do they understand
How the chase ends,
These self-depricating heroines.
Today's heroines don't seem to be the best role models.
WendyStarry Eyes Oct 2014
Mhmm...
Mhmm... yea!
Mhmm... ey-yeah-ey yeah yeah yeah mm... mhmm

Mhmm... mhmm...
Mhmm... yea! yeah
Mhmm... ey-yeah-ey yeah yeah mm mm, mhm

Hey, yea-yea, yeah-eh-yeah-eh, yeah-eh-yeah-eh
Hey hey-yea-eh yeah, mhmm

Professional or beginner doesnt matter
Every sinner is a prisoner in a body that is subject to time
Now my entwined mind tries to form a straight line
not like twised scoliosis of the spinal chord

Construct
Cross eyed carpenters are cuttin' crooked lines
Can't construct
man-made shrines when the winds and the water move sands of time

Many minds on a deadline, yet live life like a live wire
I'm not tired!
Of blood and fire
Spirit's moving higher than the green grass ever lifted me

Spirit's moving higher...
Than anything else ever lifted you
Mm, see

We got spirituality
It's living in us like one in three
Injustice is concerning me
in the non-linear eternity
I'm speaking paradoxically
but you can nod your head now when you understand me-e-e-ee...

This is for my free men
whose backs wont bend in the lions den
now with their eyes on the ending

This is for my free women!
They fight with their love
The bearers of our children

Free men whose backs wont bend in the lions den
now with their eyes on the ending

This is for my free women
They fight with their love
The bearers of our children

We shine like lights exposing
what lies underneath decomposing
Unearth those chains that are rusted
my sweet Lord, is that what i trusted in?
That sin? That tomfoolery? Ugh!
What it is is mental jewelery that I adorned myself with

The enemy's gifts, the man-made myths, the ignorant bliss
of marijuana spliffs and alchoholic fifths
I got so sick and tired of it

Delivered and redeemed
by christ i mean
It's time to start livin'
and get a reason for the rhyme

I dont wanna be dead-wrong on the deadline
Standing on the dark side and all out of time...
Like a blind pantomime's fantasize
climb up his own ladder to the sunshine

Nothin's mine
that hasn't been given
No one's alive here
that hasn't been risen
For 19 years i was trapped in a prison

Feeding my escape by means of derision
but every man-made attempt just failed
when trapped in a jail
of my own guilt, shame, and iniquity

I was looking for freedom
How'd I find freedom?

Oh! Oh, freedom...
from all of this

He said believe
He said believe

Who are you telling me to belei-e-eve... yea
'Said I'm the Christ

Oh!
...he said I'm the Christ

So I believed.

Freedom!

Mhmm... yea
Mhmm... ey!
Mhmm... ey-yeah-ey yeah yeah yeah eh, mhmm

Mhmm... Hey! No, no no
Mhmm... yea!
Mhmm... Yea ey-yeah-ey yeah yeah mhm,

Nah na-na-nah
ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE SONGS AND ARTIST
Ashley Barrios Jun 2012
We are on the outside,
peering in
They've let the two-way glamour
of their muses let us see

The women, different faces
different names,
but all the same
She is the Hurt and Angry
She is the Left Behind

He's the one obsessed
with finding ways to let us know
that the stones they throw are not for us,
but to keep them safe,
alive

When the glass is finally shattered
He leaves Her among the pieces
and runs from skewed reflections of his past
and we all aren't shocked to see
He had already broken every mirror in his mind
Ken Pepiton Jan 2019
There was a day

Yes, we all imagine we remember that day, but

now it is as if it never

really-- every y must be just if ied or it is never
a requirement

it is a re less
quirement

not every story has been pointedly
taken as granted,
even, oddly,
once
Quire a quest is a matter of motion,
hear, and there, time and all that,

Now, next has never, as in non-realized as realizable

up to now.
told ere un. That may, is. law, an untold tale is never twisted.

between the reversible nand gates of our augmented imaginations.

once,
upon a time lonagone, which were common (or come on)
signals scrambled at this depth, but pressure proves

the point. We are past all that for now
by reason of why

curiosus curiosus our imaginary guide, once

all the imaginations in the hearts of men were only evil,
continually

Then Noah or some storyteller, or prophet
caught wind of a sweet savour

roasting on a fire tended by Tubalcain's daughter,

Naamah, last named bearer of Cainish flavored genes
never set, epigenetically beyond the woumb

Mito-mom,
she coulda been, some wombed man was,
you know, we all share mito-mom,

science of some sorts can't lie. Take that as truth.
If I could believe it,
I could swallow it,

maybe
you can, too. Oh, the myth we model on matters little,
the boys and shoemakers who sniffed the glue,

they loosed some wild ideas

got all tngled with stories from ever

where in the world
have you been?

You just got outa jail. I'm right. I can smell

well,
near as bad, but it was then, a mere made up monent
meant now to hold a point

pon which a story longer than I have ever told may stand and

be told, the king
s story teller stutters in his sleep.

haha
that.
okeh, this is not pre posed as funny,
merely odd,
one ish in a realm of twos and threes and fives

spinning into etern naughtity, empt un-null-ift possibles.

Naught me less press on, find a vortex, flow,

we are peacemakers stranded upon a time of war, scabs. we heal.
don't pick on my inflexibility in matters

of duty. Leaven has always been the means of re pair ideology.
Quarkish insistence on duality from the ***.

The augmented ones are getting better,
as a choice, they see how good
ever works,
some fix what evil broke, some make new ways around the lava
and
balance, spin, lean, wobble, no place to fall here

we gotcha. Gravity and light, those are givens.
this is life.
make something of everything you ever imagined possible.
then die to see if it works.

But wait. Don't die early. It makes grief, which is
what fills the slough of despond.

We are draining that. Birds that nested there all died,
it's frogs moved to Florida, bugs and molds say they can make it any where

so, we are watering the desert. We grow Panama Red. Who eats roses?

Critters manifested as ideas that never linger but in the miry clay,

Most of those went north.

Deserts served and deserved have I claimed as mine
from horizon to horizon, all I see is mine to see serve and
de-serve, I served and am served and
sometimes
often,
I de serve and see as free as I may imagine

bodys are not bearers of light. There is hope. Right is known,
you know right, and you know good, and you know evil

Spike Jones had the hermit wiseman say,
Do the right...

self-evidently not a clue. we thought he got on at nano nano

Hung himself. Why do they do that? Why display dis paired
re-alification.

It resonates, dead end. turn back, Sylvia Plath warned you.
Don't die without knowing

we, me and you, we are nothing with out you.
This touch of word to meaning,
this is in time, mate, we
made a ripple in
material reality past all limittions of time and space,
in a word or two packed with ancient ideas,
which always spill,

whenever we open them, dust in the wind , a ditty from
some A.M. experience, on the way to now

we sing a song of six pence worth, and settle
with a jug o'rye.
more in the give me a reason why i believe saga of myth mending and metaphor piece matching for patterns
(1)

This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
How the sun's poultice draws on my inflammation.

Electrifyingly-colored sherbets, scooped from the freeze
By pale girls, travel the air in scorched hands.

Why is it so quiet, what are they hiding?
I have two legs, and I move smilingly..

A sandy damper kills the vibrations;
It stretches for miles, the shrunk voices

Waving and crutchless, half their old size.
The lines of the eye, scalded by these bald surfaces,

Boomerang like anchored elastics, hurting the owner.
Is it any wonder he puts on dark glasses?

Is it any wonder he affects a black cassock?
Here he comes now, among the mackerel gatherers

Who wall up their backs against him.
They are handling the black and green lozenges like the parts of a body.

The sea, that crystallized these,
Creeps away, many-snaked, with a long hiss of distress.

                (2)

This black boot has no mercy for anybody.
Why should it, it is the hearse of a dad foot,

The high, dead, toeless foot of this priest
Who plumbs the well of his book,

The bent print bulging before him like scenery.
Obscene bikinis hid in the dunes,

******* and hips a confectioner's sugar
Of little crystals, titillating the light,

While a green pool opens its eye,
Sick with what it has swallowed----

Limbs, images, shrieks.  Behind the concrete bunkers
Two lovers unstick themselves.

O white sea-crockery,
What cupped sighs, what salt in the throat....

And the onlooker, trembling,
Drawn like a long material

Through a still virulence,
And a ****, hairy as privates.

                (3)

On the balconies of the hotel, things are glittering.
Things, things----

Tubular steel wheelchairs, aluminum crutches.
Such salt-sweetness.  Why should I walk

Beyond the breakwater, spotty with barnacles?
I am not a nurse, white and attendant,

I am not a smile.
These children are after something, with hooks and cries,

And my heart too small to bandage their terrible faults.
This is the side of a man:  his red ribs,

The nerves bursting like trees, and this is the surgeon:
One mirrory eye----

A facet of knowledge.
On a striped mattress in one room

An old man is vanishing.
There is no help in his weeping wife.

Where are the eye-stones, yellow and valuable,
And the tongue, sapphire of ash.

                (4)

A wedding-cake face in a paper frill.
How superior he is now.

It is like possessing a saint.
The nurses in their wing-caps are no longer so beautiful;

They are browning, like touched gardenias.
The bed is rolled from the wall.

This is what it is to be complete.  It is horrible.
Is he wearing pajamas or an evening suit

Under the glued sheet from which his powdery beak
Rises so whitely unbuffeted?

They propped his jaw with a book until it stiffened
And folded his hands, that were shaking:  goodbye, goodbye.

Now the washed sheets fly in the sun,
The pillow cases are sweetening.

It is a blessing, it is a blessing:
The long coffin of soap-colored oak,

The curious bearers and the raw date
Engraving itself in silver with marvelous calm.

                (5)

The gray sky lowers, the hills like a green sea
Run fold upon fold far off, concealing their hollows,

The hollows in which rock the thoughts of the wife----
Blunt, practical boats

Full of dresses and hats and china and married daughters.
In the parlor of the stone house

One curtain is flickering from the open window,
Flickering and pouring, a pitiful candle.

This is the tongue of the dead man:  remember, remember.
How far he is now, his actions

Around him like living room furniture, like a décor.
As the pallors gather----

The pallors of hands and neighborly faces,
The elate pallors of flying iris.

They are flying off into nothing:  remember us.
The empty benches of memory look over stones,

Marble facades with blue veins, and jelly-glassfuls of daffodils.
It is so beautiful up here:  it is a stopping place.

                (6)

The natural fatness of these lime leaves!----
Pollarded green *****, the trees march to church.

The voice of the priest, in thin air,
Meets the corpse at the gate,

Addressing it, while the hills roll the notes of the dead bell;
A glittler of wheat and crude earth.

What is the name of that color?----
Old blood of caked walls the sun heals,

Old blood of limb stumps, burnt hearts.
The widow with her black pocketbook and three daughters,

Necessary among the flowers,
Enfolds her lace like fine linen,

Not to be spread again.
While a sky, wormy with put-by smiles,

Passes cloud after cloud.
And the bride flowers expend a freshness,

And the soul is a bride
In a still place, and the groom is red and forgetful, he is featureless.

                (7)

Behind the glass of this car
The world purrs, shut-off and gentle.

And I am dark-suited and still, a member of the party,
Gliding up in low gear behind the cart.

And the priest is a vessel,
A tarred fabric, sorry and dull,

Following the coffin on its flowery cart like a beautiful woman,
A crest of *******, eyelids and lips

Storming the hilltop.
Then, from the barred yard, the children

Smell the melt of shoe-blacking,
Their faces turning, wordless and slow,

Their eyes opening
On a wonderful thing----

Six round black hats in the grass and a lozenge of wood,
And a naked mouth, red and awkward.

For a minute the sky pours into the hole like plasma.
There is no hope, it is given up.
Mateuš Conrad Jan 2017
why is pixel-white seen as a medium where you're "speaking"? i guess that's due to the immediacy, and bypassing orthodox publishing contracts... i'm not talking... i'm thinking... the difference between the age-old white of canvas used in publishing has changed... in a blink of an eye... the poorest of the poor have now attained a monopoly on the medium... which is why visual art had to become elitist, because artists could never fathom the freedom of having obtained such a freedom of the once monopolised medium of a crisp white page... and yanking the donkey further... i have no intention in treating this as me talking... the talking part is bound to the comment section... and once again, we can bypass the monopoly of literacy with the freedom of the medium also bypassed... i'm not talking... i'm thinking... the talking is done in the comment section... this isn't a care for an intellectual shoot-out... but why in the word do i have to write this, and be remindful? oh wait, now i know: i didn't have to chop a single tree down to then write on it pressed down as paper... but then i wouldn't have... because, if i had enough wine and château... i'd be writing a Dumas novel.

i feel like writing less and less the days,
3 weeks spent in Poland
exhausted me with talking and reading,
and having the rest of the world
alomost forgotten, among the pines
in a wood, with neatly fallen snow...
i can almost hear the words: you should
go back, then!
yes, and having lost investment in
22 years living in england, and perfecting
the tongue...
    had i not perfected the tongue,
i wouldn't see the maggots engaging in crowds
across the western world...
   what a sight...
      should they only be two serpents entwined...
but this is a world much different from 2007...
it's hard to pick-at an almost shared ethnicty
with the people of the Isles...
   the Romans are dead, yet we share the same
alphabetical arrangement...
     i'm not even ahead of my times,
i write less and less every day,
            because as my irish "friend" once suggested,
that i known language like i might
slurp custard, that i should be bound to my
local community of Poles in England...
   i guess like Seven Kings is basically Paddy
O'clock... drowning his sorrows: while
i spend the same hours, infuriating my passions...
and i get the only narrative available to us
these days, i get how darwinism has killed of
subjectivity, we're about to build a robot,
and how we don't like feeling that much...
i get that...
but i spent 22 yeasrs in these lands...
   why am so entrenched to give birth to
the one i had at "home", but feel no care to return
to the place?
        edging toward the third bottle of wine
on an empty stomach, and i write this...
  apparently you can feed your heart that took
to being an apple thrice-over to attract a satanic bite...
   the dalai lama is a *refugee
, what a grand
title, better than the pope could hope to be...
   i am an exile, and the worst reasons for exile
are economic...
   but no dumb-bound irishman can really
call that: i too was on the titanic, to better land sown!
i love the scots, spent three years in Edinburgh,
but the society i came to live in, the society i was
schooled in? i remember only 1 englishman
in the school... the rest were primarily irish...
terrible gnats...
               i live in england and it became to late
to meet an englishman...
   i'd sooner meet one abroad...
    i mean, if you knew someone from youth
and he says to you: you be better off with your kin...
my kin? my kin? on foreign soil?
and what? create these pocket like blisters, these
crab scabs of existence, so that i might live in
England but never learn the tongue?
this paddy hadn't even read Joyce, and i had,
and he tells me to be like him, a wasps' nest
kind of existence... the Poles have but one motto:
never congregate in exile... the 'rish evidently
didn't learn that motto... so they congregated...
and started doing the mating pigeon strutt
of a puffed up chest... like skunks they marched...
   i mean, who the **** does that?
i go to Cheltenham and everyone finds my "accent"
undecipherable...
             this coming from the same guy that couldn't
flick a lighter or cite the alphabet...
    i can go to Cheltenham and become lost
in the crowd... i'll go to a poetry reading and
stand, and clap and encore aloud when the poet
finishes...
             i wish i could go back to the native... land...
and go back to a: life, as usual...
but when you have lived 22 years in exile and
the most constructive years up to aged 8...
you dread the reality of being a child once,
and having idealised the life back where,
communism was dying... esp. given that your
grandparents have a steady pension,
and your father can't hope for one with
the state being applauding him for the efforts,
that the state and the worker are no longer
bound to an umbilical chord when pension age strikes...
  not since 2007, when it all began...
i can't be seen with the words of accusation
against my antagonist in any place nearing
a protest, i'd be scrapped-heaped and lost to the usual
comparison that men are:
  with celibacy intact: shoot anywhere other than
the ******, and you're wasting yourself...
but i wasn't circumcised, sure enough,
if you're circumcised and shoot that load into
a tissue... well... you sorta did touch
the philosophers' stone with your phallus...
    ****! ****! the deadpool movie is ****!
and i can't say that the dada art movment
is worth nothing... the girl, this blonde from Seattle
mentions nothing of cubism...
         modern art isn't useless...
        i can't be epileptic bound to faint before
a mona lisa... i can't do that... but dada wasn't
anything anti-art, of whatever movement...
      dada was anti-war... dada was an anti-war
movement.... it ensured that art be equated with
the whole futility of human endeavour...
   art will make no sense if there's no heroism
and men sit in trenches with wet socks and wet
cigarettes and rats will they ever walk the same
on the marble pavement of Florence...
             dada was anti-war... dada wasn't
anti-impressionism or anything like that...
      it's when artists started experiencing mental illness,
a psychic relapse into dough, dull, and lullaby
worth nothing...
                                  it's about the time that dada
emerged (world war i) that warfare had to turn
to guerilla warfare for some sense of Mars enduring...
   i thought people might think it stupid
during the Napoleonic wars... walking up to your
enemy and at point blank range shooting them down...
so no eastern martial arts agility...
      no wars makes the same sense as the depravity to
reproduce: eager soldiers... given there are none
to replace the numbers.
    yet, that language of darwinism, that objectivity,
that language of: no will unless the will of the species,
a species akin to comparison with ant or other
worthy comparative multiplier of insect worth...
     i get it... meaning i feel nothing for the examples
surrounding me, and i get hyper-sensitive about
the theory...
                    which is a great shame that i feel
no great feat before me when looking upon a woman....
  but then again i could merely qualify as
a ***** talking... because that's easier done...
    and you'd think that bilingualism wasn't such
a proper, well, it is, among the poor...
     it's a real... a REAL! a real threat!
           for some reason i get the feeling that Polish
has to become a bit like outdated Gaelic...
           a great story over campfire... that we once might
have spoken it...
                 i still speak the **** tongue
because i like listening to folk songs...
         but hey! that's my private life... i can still
talk English to you in that grand social-contract of
ensuring we interact... evidently that was the least
liked possibility...
                     i was expected to forget it...
and integrated with the ******* Paddies in England
and speak Polish: no more!
                  i don't want to forget Polish in the same
way that the English don't want to learn
a foreign language, and have the empire upon
which the night never sets upon:
   you're telling me it's not bound to perpetual
daylight working your way from Alaska, New Zealand,
South Africa and England?
   insomniac empire not there?
   i swear i could see it for a minute...
oh, my bad... maybe it was really all about
a drunken night in Dooblin...
            as i remember, not since 2007 has everything
been so: bonkers...
       it's just a case of trying to claim why
my native country ejected me from it...
   or why my parents thought it was necessary to
flee...
                but then i can ask any question
i want and will never get a good reply...
               now that i speak the language i don't
know how to erase 22 years of incubation...
      i can drink as many wine bottles and whiskey
bottles, but it never does it justice...
    and will continue to do so...
    when i get my answers...
                  and, as it looks like...
  i'm bound to be prone to being blamed for a tsunami
than take a blame for having friendship-binds
    when growing up,
      because the a.i. needed improvement,
and that Barabbas lived no life spectacular after
being admonished by the crowd prior
to the desecration of the tetragrammaton by
the crucifx wielder.
    well, this would appear a world salad for a paddy...
given that words for him are all merely verbs
and none address pondering them as nouns
  to reach a nuance...
                       and a delay worthy of 2000 years...
but then again...
           what do i know...
                 once i was the lost to pounce
     on the argument, now i seem to be the first
            to say anything...
                  but here's the therapy...
         people can speak such a godly narrative
  and incorporate it from ants to humans,
   bypassing the mammals the prime mammal
is making extinct... and taking no impression from
fellow mammal... bypassing the mammalian
category, for the sake of number, and argue oh so well
many intended arguments... ants...
    and then get ****** over by an avalanche...
and then wonder with the non-bewildered chemists:
dunno... physics?!
    humanism is trapped in the greatest robbery of
the human heart, if it once belonged by the crucifix,
and with due need, become humbled...
it's now under the ******* microscope and "ennobled",
pride hardened...
     it's an objectivity that doesn't encompass all
   categories... i can so much about ants having perfected
its hierarchy... and i try to imitate...
         sure, it works...
                  i have no need for subjective scientists that
poets are... i need more plumbers... but, wait...
i have to import them from Poland...
                   because i actually no actual
   pill for objective anaesthesia to be implemented
   given that i have the same automaton tendency to
feel, as i have to think, as i therefore have to reciprocate
by being existent...
                 but then again being prescribed
the shadow theories of darwinism, while turning
epileptic with paparazzis dumbing me at the catwalk,
work together... they're not mutually exlcusive...
    mutual exclusiveness is the argument usured in
by moral relativism, whereby moral relativism believes
in the non-existence of mutual inclusvieness...
     inclusivelly the standard bearers are bound to
the coordinate functions of (+, -),
       exclusivelly the standard bearers are bound to
the coordinate functions of (x, ÷)...
meaning that inclusviely: 1, 2, 3, includes 4...
                 1 + 1 = 2... 2 + 1 = 3...
        the near proximity... adding and substracting
are less abstract than multiplying and dividing...
   they do interact, the two factions...
     it's not magic, it's the limitation of my ability
to use language... philosophy really is about being
able to reach a limit of having all possible
competence with language morphed from
phonos to the rightly defined logos, as that
which encounters optics and the higher optics of
cognitive experience; deemed thought,
or the moral compass... and how rarely thought
is not bound to it being a moral compass,
how many times the moral compass
exists, pointing toward the θ / N...
    and the -ought is merely squandered to fiction,
and other such pleasures... and rarely
asked to be done to the moral principal that
overshadows mere naturalistic observations...
trans-category... we, the pinnacle of mammal,
behave like no mammal...
              once again i'll hear the retortion:
infantile argument!
                                it has always been infantile and
delusional, haven't you noticed?
     i find it strange to be living in times of
such rational, truly gifted "adults"...
   i could swear to be looking at the current civilisation
as a kind of kindergarten.
     but then... why bother argue the point further,
when you can laugh, drinking the third bottle of
your home-made wine?
RyanMJenkins Jul 2013
Flying with words from a Buddhist,
Fully understanding why I do this.

Through the thick grasses of what used to be
Vibrations grew, leading me to the new, beautifully.
Pushed passed predators policing my passionate prison,
To find the transparent temple of tranquility was always within.
The phoenix has risen, and the flakes of ash laid out the now vibrant path
Sprouting plants, and cherished moments alike.

I had a groove movin' though me
and it was so surreal that I felt I had to give out that electric feel.
Crowds of countless surrounded a gate watching performers at play.
I was where I wanted to be, and wouldn't have it any other way
The tempo picked up and amplified vibes throughout,
It rains through our souls as if we've been enduring a drought
Intensity increased and we got lifted off the herbal medication.
Took everything in with my senses, total awareness meditation.
Spotted a brown-eyed beauty in my peripheral,
Locked into contact the connection was mystical

All worries and concerns in this space and time were less than minimal

Hands grazed sparking the flame of something physical
Made a space in my magnetic field, that she knew just how to fill
Our bodies locked together, in a sea of individuals
A love was shared right there with the pair, unequivocal.

Stars align for moments in time,
And this was one of those bliss-ridden moments
Where you just wanna delicately hold it
~Like I held her~
Direct hand and body implantations of warm vibrations
Brought further realizations on how to live

I continued on,
Following breaths knowing I had nothing but love to give,
and a smile to wear.
I don't know exactly where I'm going,
but I know I'll be there
With spare energy to emit unto you, and you to infinity

Our destinies are recipes,
That manifest when we realize we were already blessed with the ingredients.
Don't let fear or worry rule, when results are not immediate,
Because everything you are, and everything you do,
is significant.

Be the bearers of love you want to stumble upon
Which may be on someone's lawn,
Sharing smiles and laughter until the light indicates dawn.
Expose your universe through openness, and equanimity, letting your divinity shine through.
Then, friends, you attract waves of radiation from the pure that want to share their world with you.

Expectations can cause complications,
So look around and ~just be~.

Instinctively interested in the intricate,
Imagination captivating me, so I'll close my eyes and sit with it.
I leave pieces of me wherever I go,
But it took me a long time to realize I was always whole.
I openly give my heart out, some would call it a steal
But none can say I don't genuinely reach out without zeal
Growing forever, watering my roots
Ecstatically entangled in a web of mystery, nomadic in this book.
Changing history, but sometimes it's satisfying to reread,
~Let's have another look~

No pictures on the pages, but each word is so evocative to me

So I must continue writing, and experimenting with experiences
Loving from the inside out, reading body language.
*One step at a time, this is going to be a story for the ages
Mateuš Conrad Jan 2017
islam is really buying into an ideological
warfare
       of creating a historiogical narrative
for former crusader nations...
           the history? it's way gone, past,
in the dust... but islam is probing
        this need to settle old qualms in a modern
narrative...
    i can't actually add to a history
           these days, but i can take up a banner
of historiology, or so i am told...
   and yes, certain words aren't exactly
the standard bearers of who easily you can
rap them...
            you really need to pause and catch
the nuance... or the naiveness in which they're use...
   when i use the word historiological
i think of the past as having necessarily happened,
and in need to happen again, on the basis
of someone else telling me: you have to
inherit this.
            it's no wonder that islam attacks former
crusader nations... france esp.,
          what with adhemar, bishop of le puy,
urban ii grand speech lauching the ***** into
a tight spot... tancred de hauteville...
                 bohemond...
        radulph of caen merely annotated the deeds done
and the words said...
      robert, duke of normandy, and his daughter
adela, quick to **** at Urban's tongue... the truth...
   Islam is really reassigning us with
a historiology, not a history we might be prone
to forget, or be ashamed by...
   it's not doing what the word histiorology is defined by,
not this unearthing of graves, and their deseceration...
you really want to wake up the Nazgûl?!
seriously?
   sure, i can be your necromancer... we can have
total obliteration... just speak enough ****** constriction
to germans, and then point them at the target,
and you'll get a crossbow shock of the event...
     Islam really is warming us up for something,
they're nibbling at us, they're trying to
  really give us the "spark", it's not a case whether i'm
correct in thinking this... it's only that i feel it...
i can taste it... i can stomach it...
     such lovely names, those old crusaders...
Tancred...
                     mind you: peter the hermit's child
crusade...
                       if they came from north of Persia
they'd be drafted as Mameluks...
       le throng! if only there were always
the french incission to state that...
   le throng! you just can't leave youth culture
settle into the urban environment,
you really seem to want that... get pockets
of culture coming from the youth...
     it can't ever be grime from east or south london...
    me? i'm trapped in a library, i actually
built of myself... apparent;y 1 in 10 people don't
own a single book in england...
         the brothers Godfrey, Eustace & Baldwin...
   oh lookie lookie... you're tickling the beast
so just, any minute now and it will awake once more...
    and be cited as having said:
   walking up to me knee in blood and
slaughtered corpse... Harod looks pale the minute
past...
               Tancred... dubbed te Panzer sulphur snout...
are there more gentlemen of my stature on
their way?
        that's me: don't know who's the possessor
of a ***** and who of a juiced up ****...
   but i can bet the niqab does wonders...
   so much anonymity, you don't even need
  internet pseudonym names, no jackx666
or rogerxtra... you just don the ninja and, ooh!
ooh! everything's so flimsy! so airy! flutters
of a butterfly!
               that ***** king in the kingdom of heaven
movie did have a name: baldwin iv...
   and he was a *****...
         you'd accidently sneeze into his face
and his nose would fall off...
   true story, or i'm drunk...
           but my: this wine i made, this homemade
wine? it does the trick!
                 baldwin iv died aged twenty four...
lucky sod, kurt cobain of the medieval ages...
    oi oi... wait wait... ZENGI!
  zengi the heavy drinker! buddy!
fully name? imad ed-din zengi. ah, zengi zengi,
zengi... what tales i have for you...
      i'd tell them, and you'd turn out to be in full
disclosure trying to fake sober...
                        ibn al-athir also wrote something,
does it deserve more a toast or mere chronicler?
the latter will know.
fatimids and sunni caliphs...
              Balak, the dream-inspiration for
Fulcher of Chartres...
Antioch, Tyre, Edessa...
  and that old feverish fox known as the lesser
Barbarossa: Reynald de Châtillon...
         don't know...
   as an ethnic bias, i am of the people that remained
bound to a home near the Baltic sea...
  we also fought crusaders...
the knights templar, die ritter von deutsche haus
beispiel sankte mariam in yerusalem...
       which makes my history a bit different
to the current history...
i have other myths... with
Jagiello... and grand-komtur Brzęczyszczykiewicz...
but you know... hmm... let's go crazy
and pop a pill or two... blues for the upper
and reds for the downer...
what a unique occasion! are you sure
we're not sailing on a gondola in the water-alleys
of Venice singing some obscure folk-song, hmm?!
by now i look like the stańczyk (grand court
jester) in one of jan matejko's paintings,
laughing my *** off as to denote: that i am,
quiet righly: the most amused. ha ha.
Sioux! sioux! pruss! pruss!
     and the crucifix really is a profanity of
the tetragrammaton, that came back,
morphed, as if touching a philosophers stone,
and turned out to be an acronym n.e.w.s.:
north, east, west... south...
   the minute the tetragrammaton touched
the ✝ it came back as n.e.w.s.
      and that really is the most dignifying
Balaam equal compliment i can give...
      but you know, just seeing how Islam is really
inviting former crusader nations to have a fight...
   and i'm spotting this, coming from a region
that also had crusades riddle it...
    but it's true... the crusades around the Baltic coast
never get any coverage these days...
  i guess you can't really make momentum
from a reigion where it's natural resource hidden
in the ground is salt... rather than oil...
    then again, lying about,
reading the book crusades by terry jones
& alan ereira... didn't really make me think much...
   when it comes to the two splinters off
res in: res cogitans,
  i can only think of re-       i.e. reflex
   and re-    i.e. reflection...
     and the tongue these days is so ******* saggy....
i'd take more pleasure eating a bagpipe of haggis
than listen to current rhetoric...
    it's a sickness though, this demand Islam
is making, that once Israel has been established
we forget our cosmopolitan cocktails and engage in
a holy war...
                  but it is the narrative, we're almost expected
to feed into a crusader culture...
      but once again, i'm using a tongue that once
did wield crusading pomp, and i have an
underlining perspective of being on the receiving end
of crusades of the baltic states...
     i really should be jumping for joy right now...
   but given the schooling system in england,
or i suppose the whole of western europe,
i'm part of the schattenvolk...
                how the Lithuanians were so and so...
how the Poles were so and so...
    how i could almost try to seek out the same
linguistic pride of modern Silesians in ancient yore
of Pruß, but come against nothing but the Kashubian
denote...
**** me! so it really was worthwhile keeping
my native tongue, and exploring my ethnicity
and history like a ****-pants 16 year old girl
on a trip in the guise of tourism?!
  oh applause! this is better than milking old ladies
like Liberache might for a fur coat
or a gold-plated toilet!
     ooh... you rascal you...
                 can i please not sound gay now?
i hate how the concept of personnae can creep into
your psyche and give you, the most obliterating
narrative techniques imaginable...
                        but if you ask me...
Islam will not wage war against nationas that did not
succumb to the rhetoric of pope Urban Deux...
        i mean... can you really imagine a terrorist
attack in Poland?
             given that Poland experienced it's own taste
of crusades?
                 well... if it does happen... that really will
wake up something... it certainly won't be multiculturalism....
perhaps this really is merely a **** into the wind...
         my, all this can come out sleep-walking by
simply lying in bed and reading a history book?
             it's a good thing i assimilated on the basis
of merely using the tongue, rather than tapping into
past history of the people, past grievances, past prides,
past symbolism... i just use the language...
    i don't expect to really revolve around being an
adamant west ham supporter...
i just know that i'm Polish in the english language...
   and Islam doesn't really attack
      those who've have the better share of grievances...
whether in the 20th century context,
of going way back, when Israel was about...
             and reading a history book...
   wriggling toward a status of fame is absurd...
     i like the idea of: gently passing by like foam on
top of a cup of cappuccino...
                      someone said froth:
i'm exfoliating with this that and the other guess work
of vocab...
               well... that's that...
        worth noting the many more easily impressionable
young men out there...
                that would rather chop a head
of a person of their assimilated culture, and subsequently
not retain their native tongue,
   and then not play: smack the ******!
    layering over what their ethnicity clearly speaks,
although with a borrowed tongue...
       which is why a slang variation of language
has to emerge...
                it's not a case of slang representing
prior footing, and current footing, but cleansing
prior footing, as current footing, with only
a melting *** to be sure of...
         on the objective basis that's the right thing
to do... you really want to eat a good curry
at the end of the day...
  but sometimes you need someone to say:
me a shallot prior a carrot in that melting *** of spice...
        the feeling is not mutual...
    would i ever eat sand to sharpen my teeth
for a cannibalistic grin?
                         i'm quiet content with merely
dabbling in poached lamb... but if another mein teil
scenario arises... it'll probably come west of the Odra
river.
A sea of what seemed like a thousand or more faces sat before me in the pews. Solemn faces dressed in black, holding back tears stared back at me as I stood behind the small podium and your body lay silently in a wooden box next to me. I swallowed hard, trying to think of what I could possibly start this speech with. No words formed in my mind or thoughts. I looked down at my black chipped finger nail polished, my mind still blank. I took a deep breath.

            “I’m sorry.” I muttered, “I can’t do this.”

            I walked off the make shift stage, leaving the podium standing by itself, much as I had felt like I’d been left by myself that day next to the hospital bed. Walking over to the first pew, taking a seat next to his parents, I buried my head in my hands and started sobbing all over again. His mom put her arms around me and rocked me slowly, resting her chin on my shoulders.

            “I thought I could do it.” I sobbed.

            “Sh, you did fine.” his mom whispered.

            Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Adam’s dad stand up slowly. Buttoning his suit jacket, he took my place behind the podium. He cleared his throat.

            “No parent,” he paused, “should be standing where I am right now.” I looked up at the tall man, resembling Adam like he was his own twin. “There’s so many things I could wish right now,” another pause,  “There’s so many things that I wish I knew.” He wiped an escaped tear from the corner of his eye. “But I can’t say that my son, didn’t die a fighter.” And I lost the battle to my sobs once more.

            Adam’s dad finished his short speech by thanking everyone for coming and reminding families to hold their loved ones close. It’s something Adam would have wanted him to say and would probably even say it himself; if he’d been around. Adam’s mom, Christine, along with my own mom, held my hands as I walked up to the open casket one last time. Looking inside, seeing Adam completely still with his eyes closed and hands folded across themselves. He looked so peaceful, and reminded me of times when he’d fallen asleep while we’d been hanging out watching movies. I took a deep breath, and rested my hand over his.

            “I love you.” I whispered. “I always will.” I’d like to think I noticed the ends of his lips flinch and turn up into a small smile, and his chest take a slight breath,  but my eyes had only fooled me. Some more tears escaped and I stepped away.

            Walking back through the church aisle in between the pews, people conjugated around glanced at me, and some patted my back or offered a smile. I continued walking to where the car was parked for the procession to the cemetery. I got in the backseat so that Mom and Dad could take their places up front once they were done offering their goodbyes. I stared out the window. The sun beat down and the slightest breeze carried pollen through the air. The beginning signs of Spring.

            Arriving at the cemetery, the procession of cars all parked in an organized fashion in a marked spot in the grass. I opened my door slowly and got out. I pulled the cardigan that I wore over my dress tighter around myself, reminding me of your arms, holding me close. I stood in the sun, feeling the rays hit my face as I watched the pal bearers carry your brown casket to where the graveside service would be held.

            I walked slowly across the grass, sidestepping headstones of strangers I’d never meet. The same familiar breeze that had blew at the church blew again, blowing my blonde hair out of my face. Mom walked beside me, holding my hand, giving me strength.

            I stepped up in front of everyone, ready to give my speech that I’d overly prepared for. Drops of tears spotted the paper I’d written on the night after watching you take your last breath. I cleared my throat and wiped a tear that was escaping down my cheek. The same faces gathered before me. Some looked down and some watched me. Mom gave me a half smile. I took a deep breath.

            “I remember the first time Adam told me that he had leukemia.” I started. I took another deep breath. “he thought for sure that I’d never talk to him again or hang out with him.”

            I smiled at the crowd, remembering the moment like it was yesterday. A third breath of air, and the wind blew my hair once again.

            “Adam was supposed to live less than six months.” I stated. “he lived for almost a whole year after the estimated time frame.” I smiled again. “Last week, as he was laying in the hospital bed, he told me that it was almost time.” I explained. “and I told him to just keep fighting. He told me that he was tired and didn’t want to fight anymore.”

            Some tears fell from my eyes, creating fresh marks on the paper that I was barely reading off of. Instead, I had resorted to just telling the story from memory.

            “He told me that even though he was losing the battle, he’d already won.” I continued explaining. “I had no idea what he meant. When I asked, he told me that even after learning about his terminal cancer, he’d won my love.”

            The wind blew again, a little stronger this time, kissing the tears away from my cheeks. I returned Adam’s kiss by blowing one up into the air, towards the sky.
Chris Voss Feb 2011
Call me by another name.
Call me waspish,
or boyish,
or fountain-mouthed.
Prate about the crooked,
curved curls of my red-ribbon tongue.
Whisper myths down spidered-ice hallways
about the melted wax love games
fixed between dust-dressed candlesticks,
and the unfaithful rumors
of wine-stained table cloths.

Call me by another name.
Call me button-eyed,
and hollow,
and brittle-garden crucified;
Bind my face with burlap
and replace my spine with
a wood-splintering post;
dry my veins gold
so that my flannel fetters in
the tornado-dry breath
of fraying hay.
I'll fight off autumn winds and
the gossip of crows.

Don't fuse my footsteps to the echos
of Lightning Bearers and Stilt-legged Shadows;
Fasten my shoelaces to the
anchor dreams of drowning cannonballs
where I will only spell stories
with the sharp skin of coral reefs.
Call me by another name.
Call me typewriter-toothed,
or backwash,
or eight-legged.
Just prescribe me a name
that I can live up to.
C. Voss ©2011
Juhlhaus Jan 2019
Wellspring of blood and gold
In flame and glory ever
Doest thou faithful rise
Cast off thy vapor shrouds
Radiance of ancient godhood undimmed

Magnified by singing ice
As prophesied in the late darkness thy
Hoped triumph heralded while
Bearers chained on metalled rails
Muttered protest under
Hoary breath of polar air

But lo! The brazen promise of thine
Image graven in beholder's eye
Rings hollow in the bitten ears
And the stung flesh
Feels thy boasted fire
Not at all

Above thee stands the city's goddess proud
So virile once thou smilest
Upon her white clad shoulder now
Ceres scorns thine impotence turns not
But fixes her steeled gaze
On the frozen north
Mythos of a -15˚F Chicago sunrise.
eileen mcgreevy Jan 2010
There's a stop off point we are brought when we die,
And we're taken there by noble men,
After our loved ones get so say their goodbyes,
We begin our last journey with them.

In a dignified manner, they wheel us away,
And with quiet respect, they prepare,
Gently into a room with our bodies they lay,
Make us look like our lives are still there.

Such a hush will descend on this room for a while,
As those bearers of clothes dress us up,
With respect in their hearts and professional grace,
The rose cottage becomes our final stop.


                               (c) eileen mcgreevy  2010
Mark Lecuona Jan 2012
Do you want to read it from him, a name you barely recognize
The one who passed long ago with whom you can cannot empathize
In a language you do not comprehend, even if it’s the one you speak
The one that trips your tongue, with words caught in your beak
Do you want to read it from me, the one you do not know
For how can it be relevant when it’s a charlatan who says so?
I will not stand on the shoulders of giants to make you cower
Instead we are eye to eye so you will feel the myths I devour
You won’t utter a word I say from memory because it was important
As you have done so many times with the words that you really want
Not so much because of what they say but rather because of whom
Whose memory is preserved with your approval, his book in your room
Are there no new lessons for you, even if you do not know the mistakes
That loom in your sterile mind which pride knows but foolishly makes
Can your desire for anything but thought be overcome by imploring words?
How does it feel to be trampled when you invited the lost thundering herds?
What error is so grave yet so shallow that you pretend it was as intended?
What day frivolously discarded is so unfulfilling that your worth was rescinded?

Which smile is it today my friend that drifts across your life not knowing when
Yes not knowing when it is appropriate to remain and when it is time to end
Have you received your mark, the one you may well deny some day?
Can you erase it as surely as it was placed, so carefully as you lay?
And yet you do not even know of what I speak yet see so clearly in you
All your beliefs and fears hardening to protect the heart you never knew
You gave it no chance, because what you heard was not what they meant
It grew so fast you had no choice but to endure as your life was spent
Can you imagine yourself doing what it is that I could possibly describe
Even before you know anything except everything you’ve ever felt inside?
Can you make the decision to venture away from everything you’ve believed
If I could prove that it was wrong from the moment it was ever conceived?
Could you believe that the seed was planted with you in mind all the time
And that your anonymity could not conceal you from the idea of their crime?
The one against humanity brought to bear on you alone to suffer endlessly
Because you could only think to follow in the comfort of living callously?

Where is it that you stand, does it provide you the comfort of your worth?
You want what you are not and you deny the truth of your birth
Are you in discomfort because there is nothing here that I have stolen?
Because there is no list of obscure legends in the web I have woven?
The is no reference to the things I say, they are all mine to offer
In time maybe after I am gone you will know that I care how you suffer
But in the instance of these things that I bring to your labored attention
I tell you now that all you can be and all that you are not is my intention
And to think that life is a game to a bitter end of useless knowledge
You can live now, larger than before if you would only acknowledge
That you are the discovery worth pursuing and not what you know of others
For they have their culture and it is time not to join but to leave pretended brothers
For they know you are not about them but about wanting to be like them
In time you will know that you will never be like them because you are not of them
The truth for you to discover are the questions if you can bear to read
For you to discover that what you believe is another man’s creed

And so what national interest is worth the life of a child in forgotten wars?
And so what profit motive is worth the cause of conflict within our shores?
And so what going concern is worth a precious mind that cannot find relief?
And so what flag is worth the pain of a mother's unending grief?
And so what God sets in motion the cause of savage genocide?
And so what mandate sanctions the destruction of an indigenous tribe?
And so who is insane, he who cries before or after the innocent are dead?
And so who is more worthy, he who rules the world or who is misled?
And so what moral code justifies the survival of technical superiority?
And so what certainty sends men to their deaths in the name of destiny?
And so what courage will it take to say, “Never again?”
And so what life will be sacrificed to end the devil’s reign?
And so when will two men with passionate minds come together?
And so why must we hate and cause heartache instead of loving one another?
And so what fail safe point exists to save humanity from our terrors?
And so what decision is rooted in a mistake carried by pall-bearers?
And so what history of life is to be sacrificed to rip a chapter from a book?
And so what memory of the past is unable to see because no one will look?
And so what pride of self is worth the disillusion in the idea of a nation?
And so what lost hope is worth the end of our soul’s salvation?
And so what fear is worth ignoring common decency?
And so what victory is worth torture for expediency?
And so what singular cause is worth the eclipse of those who bring light?
And so what man can decide to shred the Bill of Rights?

Where have all the flowers gone my friend, a nation weeps for you
All we have are words, promises that were never true
A spoken myth passed on, change, a faraway place
Each person longing with nothing but a blank face
The petals wander alone, searching for a stem
Unable to join together, always asking when?
The plow destroyed the garden, war, the hand on the till
We, with our faded memories, take refuge in a pill
The vultures glide above us, silently seeking their prey
We, unknowing, flounder, grasping at honor as we play
Our hearts confront the horror, inviting the bullet home
Take us from this place, it is better to allow our mind to roam
The shores of your mother’s intentions for you are under your feet
Return to your ship or allow the transformation to be complete
In the Diaspora of every emotion you’ve ever felt and denied
The answer lies waiting, but do you know who told the truth and who lied?




COPYRIGHT 2012. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MARK LECUONA
Ken Pepiton Oct 2018
---october, same year, after the bomb,

How should we train the surplus of boys?
We can't use them to sweep chimneys any more.
Nor work in Nike's winged victory factory,
child labor's not a means to an end
any more.
A seller must sell such as toys in Thailand today.

There are too many to waste efficiently in war.
A global conundrum beating time in our global brain.

A conundrum beating cadence for the dancers on parade.
Proud dancers with a vision...

Utopian distanty visiony,
since nought left ought as our only
understood shelter,
from the storm. Cower under ought, my child,
every thing is under control.

You are welcome in our safe place,
was once the reply to thanks, in essence, that was meant.

Now, it's no problem, serves and means nothing, in return.

Why should any boy grow into man? Let them play.
Entertainment's all that needed,
that'n' bread, with sugar,
that'll fixit, do the trick, keep the boy in hero role, virtually
forever, never growing
wiser.

Virtual virtue. Tech them that.
Virtually anyone can see the connection,
virtue, virtually means

What? Exactly. The act is outed.
Virtue went forth from Jesus, there's the bomb.

What does virtue being drawn through thy very e-sense
feel like?
Would we know, you or I, the feeling of virtue going out,
escaping?

A shocking short circuit? or a buzzer triggered by alarming
outflow of essential immaterial
stuff. Unnamed, unspeakable stuff?

Immaterial. The judge declares. The clar-if-ication
means look
elsewhere.

Virtue is too dangerous for little boys at play.
'Tis a cept, signified, perhaps
that
is what a sceptre does, officially it de-sig-nates who got it,
when virtue first
appeared needing shelter in the storm.
lightning lightening,
immaterial. Nonsense, can you sense immaterial matter.
You can't touch it. The judges believe.
Nor can mortals
even imagine immaterial matters reserved for Kings and king builders.

So why seek whys, when nothing matters more than...
why? what? who? when? where?
altogether on the six o'clock news.
All-in-one, all the knowing needed. Be joyfully entertained.
Sing along, meaningless songs,
doo-dah day.
Hallelujah (wait, did you say that? Out loud, ever? In a song?

What if... never mind.. could be a trap. Don't think it means anything. An old fashion past, that's all, now.
No magi utterance that changes
matters, in real time.
Not words and ideas, but
Clocks rule this domain, it's minions are the yoke bearers pulling
loads declared worthy of laboring incessantly happy.
The yoke is on you. (Take mine, it's light.) Carry on.

Take Sisyphus, for ensample. He's as happy as a clam, they say.
Those who live near the see declare the wee bivalves happy as pi.
We don't know why.
That's all.
At this particular point in time, as the ped-ants say.
Let patience perfect that which concerns you.
Let simple morph to sublime.

See, Jesus winked.
Epic poems are a burden to the reader, this is part of something much longer This poem's been keeping time with the one life I had to live, this time, guiding me to what I am, not what I have become. Tell me if i said it right.
Mimisa Dickens Jun 2014
A LIFE TORN APART

When I first peeped into the world, I deemed it fit for the growth of my
miniature. When I peeped again, I trembled with disbelieving eyes at the
emergent live labyrinth that stood staring; but then, can an opinion change
an existence? Maybe, just maybe

As our mother packed and left, our father drove away. We remained hidden in
desolate souls. We were striked with a giant of a being called sustenance,
which dwelt in providence. Sincerely our begetters ought to have thought of
our brilliant futures. We deserved a life, to run the race towards academic
heights

Just the other day I overheard, my hemophilic father tying the famous knot
with a fellow MAN. Then I thought, what would become of my ego? Would I
walk with MY head held high facing other heterosexually raised colleagues?
Would I even get the strength to chase after the big price? I think not

As I grew up, I hoped for an illuminated course. Now I walk in converging
paths. After my fore-bearers kicked their ***** apart, I sobbed after my
dressed mother, they say. But who could have thought that I would turn into
a walking stone?

Walking through streets in search of well-wishers, I wished my parents had
held onto their existence. She blamed it on lewdness while he held it all
upon the mistake of an early pregnancy. Was I born unwanted? Was I smuggled
into this existence? I cease to think about it.

As a student, I thought my father’s charm the way to go. As a child, my
mother’s “generosity” to male neighbors elated me. Now as a parent to be I
think, what would my apprehended seed think of my responsibilities? Will I
be faced by delinquency?  I thought the rod could do a lot to effect
change. It never did on me. Maybe I ought to mind the examples that I was
given not.

With my Progenitor bidden by the feared misfortune, I still sink in the
memories of my father, taken away by the same old grabber, ***/AIDS. How I
hate you ***….I beseech thee to move away from me. I promise my dear life;
that I will always run against the traffic. I will ensure I entangle myself
not, in a creased heart and walk with head held high. With the hope of
giving my bairm, the kind of life that I always wanted
River Jun 2017
The writer's life
Consists of looming strife
For a writer's eyes are keen
To the suffering that usually goes unseen

All writers are bearers of truth
Wielding their pens like a scalpel that cuts through
All the **** we tell ourselves
That keeps us in denial

A writer seeks truth incessantly
And eventually comes upon the somewhat ambiguous answer
That all truth originates from Love
How does the writer's analytical mind
Grapple with such a fluid concept?

The writer sees beauty in the invisible
Writes poetry on bathroom stalls
Lives life solely for stories
The writer feels things deeply but doesn't speak them,
But rather scribbles her thoughts fervently in a notebook
The words dancing on the page
As they are released from the tip of the pen
The writer knows, sadly, that even though she writes stories to make people feel less alone
That these people will never truly ever understand her and neither will
She ever be able to fully embody the experience of another human

The writer has wounds that go deeper than you could fathom
When no one was there to turn to,
She picked up a notebook instead and released the toxic emotional build-up in her head
Made art out of her sadness on the page
Through poetic words,
Elusive and enigmatic,
She could tell her story, indirectly
And still set herself free from the ******* of unspoken miseries

The writer's life is a privileged one indeed
For we see things, but don't speak them
But rather transcribe them forever in our memories
Until we find a clean sheet of paper,
And write
Write everything we've seen, heard, tasted, felt, known and intuited
Every struggle and every victory
Meticulously crafted upon the bare canvas
Like a war zone with an abundance of pent up zest
Finally unleashing itself upon the page
So, write, my fellow Writers
Write fearlessly
And our stories will prevail
They will impact even just one person
Who thought they were all alone,
Perhaps like we once felt.
A blasphemous ******* as the dwelling beast salivates in its hollow. The glaring screen in the darkness is its only light. Years upon years it has followed the same sick fantasies. Self loathing and sickening it has reached the paramount of the low. Trawling the deep dark corners of the web to find his fix. Like a ****** addict it has delusions of needing his fraudulent fetish. A tiny drop of drewl collides with the derelict ground. It flows onto the pile of stale hardened tissues used to dispose of the beasts ****** off spray. A trundle to the local park to put a spring in its step. Watching the adolescents thinking corrupt thoughts. Child bearers stab the beast with scared stares of disgust. Attention is being drawn towards the hairy obese miscreant. Ripped shorts to expose the genitalia of the malevolent monster. A father approaches, intentions of confrontation are obvious. The monstrous **** runs to the road, unaware of the approaching speeding bus. It is drawn under the wheel crushed with the weight. Blood spurts in every direction, like a hot needle to a balloon full of acid. Slowly he dies in agony and suffering. The evil **** got his penance. ***** for eternity in the dark depths of hell.

The devil reserves the darkest places for the darkest men. His penance came, as will yours.

By Joseph Burns

— The End —