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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.
The Canberra moon festival 2018

Hi my name is Johnny brown and we had just seen a great performance on stage with a lady who does great things with a hoop and I can tell you watching it from here was absolutely amazing and I can tell you, dudes it was fantastic
And now Lucy sugerman is about to perform for us and mate, it is going to be so radical dudes, and there is going to be a great parade at 3-00 and yes it is going to be cool, and you can make lanterns as well, well that is going to be cool for everyone and now here’s Lucy with her music
Johnny’. Wasn’t Lucy fantastic
I really liked the songs she sang
And some songs that really struck our hearts, she is a fantastically talented girl and I especially liked when she sang candle in the wind, in which she sang when she was doing her live shows and it sounded really beautiful, she will be judging the talent show here at the moon festival tomorrow and rob jarrah is coming out to sing his great single called fire in me and I can guarantee he will blow everyone away with his great voice
And yes, he did blow the crowd away and now we have the ANU
K-pop club doing their dance moves for us, and boy are they the fittest individuals you have ever seen and yes, well they are displaying all the right moves
Getting into the party spirit here at the Canberra moon festival this is really cool, dudes and dudettes don’t you think and as they swing their hips and thighs
You just sit back and enjoy the music they dance to, this is really cool, hey
Yeah the ANU k pop club was really good to watch and mate
I really was tapping my foot to some of the best dance music around and they make dancing to it, so easy and well we have only 1 hour and 10 minutes from the great parade, and I think it will be cool and coming on the stage now looks like a variety of different instruments and I wonder what music they’ll play
Well, we just have to wait and see, I will try to catch the groups name, I am sure they will blow us away I just found out that the next act is the ANU Chinese classical music ensemble and I think they will be showing some great sounds for us
Yes, I thought the ANU Chinese classical music ensemble was excellent and very very cool and now as they leave the stage and the next group is the belly dancing group called bellyup
And we will see them wriggle their bellies to great Chinese music and they are cool, let’s get apart of it, well it is easy just tap your foot
Those were great belly dancers weren’t they and mate I will wanna join them on stage and yes they will blow us away and now here is a song from two students from mulwaree high school in Goulburn and mate the harmonies which are coming out of their mouths are really cool dudes
They were great and now it is the kids turn with the Australiasian school of contemplirary Chinese and these kids have a great deal of talent, they are letting their little voices become the better of all of them, and their music are radical dude and as they leave the stage, the next group are playing the beautiful sound of the flute and yes it sounds really cool, yes let’s get ready for a party dude
The flute sounded so great and the kids were very cool, even if I must say so myself and the parade starts soon starting with the dragon dance
And wasn’t that a fantastic dragon dance, they used a lot of force to shake it up, and I liked that a lot and there is a fantastic jiving dancing bunny dancing around and he surely was showing off the right dance moves, and VIP is over and we aren’t very long away the big party, the music is going to so radical dude and mate, if any of you have seen my Facebook page you will see the jiving bunny as well as the dancing dragon, it was really cool
And now we are sitting here listening to this great band rehearse and get the sound right for their performance tonight, this is going to be a great evening at epic and as the venue is the true part of the atmosphere (epic) and they have moved the VIP seating so people who feel like it could come in and party this evening and this is going to be a cool evening dudes right through to 10-00 pm tonight LET’S PARTY
As we are waiting for more performances here is a Canberra moon festival poem
We are a cheering
For the people on the stage
As well as the dragon dance
That is pretty cool
And the people on the rides
Yes they are having fun
And smooth ops rehearsing all
Their music oh yeah that is cool
Yes we are getting with it
Every single day
Party from start party from finish yeah that makes me radical dude
There are also talks on stage
From different but interesting people
Oh yeah and let’s not forget
The jiving bunny yeah he is pretty cool
And the pony and horse rides
Yes the kids love that lots
They go for a ride through the
Amusements yeah that is pretty ace
Ace ace we’re from space
And we party from the start
Till we do a ****
To prove this will be the best

And now we are watching a video on the Asian language
And yes they are telling you about how important it is to learn
Yes, this is going to be one hell of a party, don’t ya think
It was a really cool martial arts display and I thought it was pretty cool, kids and teenagers kicking each other around
And yes, it is pretty radical
The way they break the piece of wood, yeah that is really radical dude and they are going to have more belly dancing soon and yes mate I am looking forward to seeing what that is about
The belly dancing had started and some of the younger folk are coming up to try their hands on a bit of belly dancing and we are seeing everyone even the organisers or volunteers doing a bit of belly dancing it looks like people are going back to the 70s with their belly dancing skills how cool is this and some kids are learning the different styles of belly dancing and one kid made a frog lantern, pretty cool, the music is sounding great and his voice is starting to say I am a lovely lively singer
And I am cool too, yes rob jarrah
is cool and his voice is too die for and mate everyone is gathering in the area for the big party later on, mate rob has a great voice entertaining us till the main concert begins
Rob was great, his voice really expresses himself and now ANU Korean pop comes into the stage to perform some very interesting dance moves and mate they will get this party started for us tonight and they probably have been rehearsing for months to get this dance routine right, let’s get this party started
ANU k pop were ever so cool, as they move all parts of their bodies and they look ever so fit and now here is the Australian school of contempary Chinese again with some kids dancing for us and they look very fit as they are throwing their arms and how they are showing good movement yes, they are cool
And then a guitar solo and a vocalist come out to display their talents and I am sure they will be cool
I thought he sang nicely and now Micah absalum and Bryn wood and they sing for us a beautiful ballad and there is a lot of meaning in this song
And they sounded so radical as they sang it with so much meaning in it and now a ballet number which in her movement she is expressing herself as a positive and compassionate person
We have been seeing more dancers who were really cool and now there is a great young pianist named grace gee and her voice is to die for, ballads are the sound for today but dance has been coming up a close second and grace gee is good on the guitar as well, pretty awesome stuff as she sings one of her own songs which sounds great
The lights went out when Wednesday moon was juggling to lit up rings and it looked really awesome and it lasted for 2 minutes, then they had some great dance routines as well as
Some belly dancers who really shaked their bellies right and then after that they had a belly dance dance off and the winner won $30 gift voucher and she had an absolute ball it was awesome and now it is smooth ops to keep the party rolling awesome dudes
And the party is great
Smooth ops are rolling hits from John Farnham Aretha Franklin
Rip and ac/dc and abba and a bit of uptown funk you up and keeping the party rolling with a bit of the Jackson five and Tina turner’s nut bush city limits and mate this band smooth ops a fucken awesome and they are radical as well and I am well into the party spirit dancing away to these great songs, I hope the second half is just as awesome dudes and a few other oldies as well and then smooth ops came back on the stage and blew the crowd away with great music like it’s raining men and madonna’s cherish and like a prayer and a few of the hip songs that are hitting the charts now and then they played Kylie’s spinning around and thendomino and I will survive and living on a prayer which was the finish of it, it all was pretty radical dude and I can just say
With all this music and fun we had tonight, everybody was in a party mood, there were a man dancing as well as his son yeah that was so cool and now we will say party party party
Till the very end bit
Please master can I touch your cheeck
please master can I kneel at  your feet
please master can I loosen your blue pants
please master can I gaze at your golden haired belly
please master can I have your thighs bare to my eyes
please master can I take off my clothes below your chair
please master can I can I kiss your ankles and soul
please master can I touch lips to your hard muscle hairless thigh
please master can I lay my ear pressed to your stomach
please master can I wrap my arms around your white ***
please master can I lick your groin gurled with blond soft fur
please master can I touch my tongue to your rosy *******
please master may I pass my face to your *****,
please master order me down on the floor,
please master tell me to lick your thick shaft
please master put your rough hands on my bald hairy skull
please master press my mouth to your *****-heart
please master press my face into your belly, pull me slowly strong thumbed
till your dumb hardness fills my throat to the base
till I swallow and taste your delicate flesh-hot ***** barrel veined Please
Mater push my shoulders away and stare in my eyes, & make me bend over
        the table
please master grab my thighs and lift my *** to your waist
please master your hand's rough stroke on my neck your palm down to my
        backside
please master push me, my feet on chairs, till my hole feels the breath of
        your spit and your thumb stroke
please master make my say Please Master **** me now Please
Master grease my ***** and hairmouth with sweet vaselines
please master stroke your shaft with white creams
please master touch your **** head to my wrinkled self-hole
please master push it in gently, your elbows enwrapped round my breast
your arms passing down to my belly, my ***** you touch w/ your fingers
please master shove it in me a little, a little, a little,
please master sink your droor thing down my behind
& please master make me wiggle my rear to eat up the ***** trunk
till my asshalfs cuddle your thighs, my back bent over,
till I'm alone sticking out, your sword stuck throbbing in me
please master pull out and slowly roll onto the bottom
please master lunge it again, and withdraw the tip
please please master **** me again with your self, please **** me Please
Master drive down till it hurts me the softness the
Softness please master make love to my ***, give body to center, & **** me
        for good like a girl,
tenderly clasp me please master I take me to thee,
& drive in my belly your selfsame sweet heat-rood
you fingered in solitude Denver or Brooklyn or ****** in a maiden in Paris
        carlots
please master drive me thy vehicle, body of love drops, sweat ****
body of tenderness, Give me your dogh **** faster
please master make me go moan on the table
Go moan O please master do **** me like that
in your rhythm thrill-plunge & pull-back-bounce & push down
till I loosen my ******* a dog on the table yelping with terror delight to be
        loved
Please master call me a dog, an *** beast, a wet *******,
& **** me more violent, my eyes hid with your palms round my skull
& plunge down in a brutal hard lash thru soft drip-fish
& throb thru five seconds to spurt out your ***** heat
over & over, bamming it in while I cry out your name I do love you
please Master.

                                        May 1968
Poetic T Feb 2015
I was playing, jumping up and
Down, I was cartwheeling
Right side up
To
Upside down,
I heard a noise, I heard a grumble
Was it thunder
The sky Is blue??
Where did that noise come from
Was it you.
I walked along, and heard it again
I looked under my jumper
There it goes again.
Are you
Shouting,
Rumbling,
Talking
To me, what do want, speak up
"Gruummmbbblle"
"Raaaaarrrrrr"
I don't speak belly?
I do feel hungry though,
"Grumbleeeeee"
Is it that what you want,
Is that which you need.
"Ok"
Home we go, moving fast,
Still talking each louder than the last.
"I need you MUMMY"
"I need you DADDY"
My belly has been talking
Its telling me its hungry,
Like thunder a rumbling rolls
Around my empty tum,
"Goodness me"
"Goodness you"
I'll make you both a sandwich
Make both you happy.
"Thanks mummy"
"Tummy said thanks too"
Grumble went my tum
As both of us were filled with
Peanut,
Jelly,
Toast
It was good tasting,
And filled my taste buds as
Well as a friend that
Grumbled,
Rumbled,
Talked
Of his need to be filled up too.
"Each chew"
"Each swallow"
"Quieter than the last"
I had eaten my sandwich
Crusts and all. My belly vibrated, I think
It was a sleep, I felt much better now I had something
To eat. Empty plate that's good to see,
How are you both?
"Mummy we are very happy"
With a grin I rubbed my tummy,
"MMmm"
My belly just spoke
My belly has a need
"What is that little man"
Grinning ear to ear,
"CHOCLATE MUMMY"
Is that you talking or tummy rumbling again,
My belly just likes to be full for me to eat.
Another of my kids stories series
Hannah Jun 2015
I am the swollen belly of a snake,
Filled up with 150 different flavours of ice cream, 100% fat, 100% diabetes. Give me more.
I am the swollen belly of a snake,
All night drive-thrus, the Golden Arches of heart disease.
Give me more.
I am the swollen belly of a snake,
Super sized, double order of fries, any kind, anytime.
Give me more.
I am the swollen belly of a snake,
Gobbling up commercials selling the same **** a million different ways.
Give me more.
I am the swollen belly of a snake,
absorbing political excrement like a big fat chocolate candy bar.
Give me more.
I am the swollen belly of a snake,
Gobbling up fear and propaganda, I slurp up lies, and wash it all down with a big ******* to a blatant reality staring me square in the face. I assume ignorance and deny responsibility. Give me more.
I am the swollen belly of a snake, bursting, spewing ***** over cities, because we knew deep down  it couldn't last.
They filled me up so full I vomited violently until there was nothing left.
I am the empty belly of a snake and I am hungry.
Mike Hauser Mar 2013
I thought about this long and hard
In fact I thought about it all the time
What would happen to belly button lint
If you set the stuff on fire

I collected more than enough
Over the years to see this through
So I went and invited a few friends along
The word it spread and the crowd it grew

All the folk from the town came out
They'd been collecting belly button lint just like I had
Not quite as impressive a pile as mine
I guess I'm the biggest belly button lint dust collecting man
That's (B.B.B.L.D.C.M.) if you want to simplify who it is I am

You might think that's something to be proud of
And believe me when I say that I am
After I got through signing autographs
We proceeded with my grand plan

The crowd stepped up one by one
To toss their lint onto the pile
Coming close to blocking out the moon
As the pile grew ever higher

(Finally the time had come to light up
the famed belly button lint dust fire)

It was Frankie who spoke up first
And said he'd be honored to flick his bic
That was the very last time we saw any of him
Frankie and the lint lit up like a rocket ship

When the shock wore off I turned around
And saw the whole town up in flames
I've had a lot of great ideas before
I'm not quite sure this was one of them

I now live in a hippie commune in the woods
Since my towns no longer there
It's kind of lonely without Frankie around
Although there's still that lingering hint of burning hair

I no longer collect belly button lint these days
I sure learned my lesson with that
Haven't worked out the details of my next grand idea
But I can tell you it involves a big ball of my ear wax
SassyJ Aug 2016
My easel, has been asleep
for a while, like a whale
on the lost deep seas
finding a prey
to victimise
to sate the belly full.

Your easel, sees in my eyes
the robbers on the blink*
of an unruly end
finding recognition
in social media
to favor ego
to sate the belly full.

Your easel, is a mellow fine lens
Hands in line holding a gun
set a trigger, to silence the crowds
the doom in the public cruise
trollers and vipers with wipers
to sate the belly full

What have we come to dear friend?
we seek fame and lose our self
to the shadows of the masses
who denude our dignity
to gain their sanity
to sate the belly full

What have we come to dear friend?
in the spaces of the contours between
dehumanised by the social media
the medium of the century voice
the armageddon of currency
*that sate to fill it's belly
The poem is an accompaniment to an art piece called "Robbers". The piece is a two composition hue, with shadowy effects of a teenager holding a gun. In the shadows and the in-betweens, the dark streak of social media dehumanisation strikes. The art piece 'robbers'  is the work of "Joshua Ingram" aka Ezra Warhol. Thanks for inspiring me artistically, I am swapping walls for the canvas. Your artistic hand is beautiful and ethereal dear poet, musician and painter friend.
http://hellopoetry.com/atlasmarker/
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
RAJ NANDY Sep 2014
(Should someone get inspired after reading this poem to compose one with a similar Title, at least she should have the decency to acknowledge the same!)

THE BELLY DANCER
   BY RAJ NANDY

The sparkling dazzle of those chandeliers,
Transformed the night into an endless day!
And underneath its ignited glow,
The belly dancer's hips gyrated to-and-fro !
With her semi-veiled face and mesmerizing eyes ,
And the rhythmic quiver of those half-clad ******* ;
Her belly button a vortex of tantalizing desire ,
Hypnotized all those assembled guests !
In the smoke filled hall as the drinks went round ,
With eyes all glued to the central stage ;
The music echoing the Arabian Nights , -
Swept them beyond all clime and age !
The Oriental music raced their blood ,
And ignited the night with the heat of desire !
Who knows, before the night comes to an end,
They all may be consumed in that eternal fire ?!
                                           -Raj Nandy, New Delhi.

Notes: I had painted in oil a belly dancing night scene
inside an Egyptian Cafe few years back. This poem was
composed by looking at that painting hanging on
my Study Room wall. If you like it, kindly recommend
this to your friends also. Thanks! -Raj
Laura Jul 2019
I'd love to eat
I don't know why
I struggle
To put food
In my belly
I don't know why
I cringe
Just writing the word:
Belly
That's a fat word
And I want
to be skinny
I shouldn't have
a belly
Full of stretch marks
that hangs
just a little bit
I shouldn't
Have to lift
it up
or lean forward
in order to see
My feet
Whoever gave me
this belly
made a mistake
a huge mistake
because I never
never ever asked
for one

I never
never ever asked
to be fat
Brent Kincaid Oct 2016
I like to play with your belly button
'Cause it makes me giggle and laugh
I'll let you play with my bellybutton
I bet it makes you giggle and laugh
Exactly as it does with me
It makes me laugh hysterically
I know it might seem rather silly
But I love to do it *****-nilly.

Sometimes I like to blow on your belly
And make that almost obscene sound
It's worth it to hear you laugh, really
Then both of us roll around on the ground.
We laugh and play like a couple of kids
And make no excuses for silly things we did.
Others make love your way and we ours.
We tickle and blubber on each other
And have our kind of fun for hours.

I really like the way you wrinkle your nose
It makes me laugh hard and not for nothing
It tickles me a lot that you wiggle your toes
When you let me play with your belly button.
I'm very happy to be able to testify
Some things in life are meant just for fun.
Belly button tomfoolery, I promise
Is one of the very best kinds of fun.
Poetic T Apr 2016
It groans at the anticipation of what
is wanted in moments it is fulfilled in
yummy goodness that is plentiful but
It lingers on echoes that talked to its
yearning "FEED ME TILL FULL.

But a belly is a misunderstood thing
for not always is it hunger, but where
thirst creeps in. It talks in code that
need too be drunk upon, till dehydrated
fades away, that means real thirsty to all of us.

It talks so much like an echo of what
it had digested but now no longer full.
"My belly is singing a sad song,
It rumbles like a lion does roar.

I'm found through cupboards, standing
on the sideboard to see what delicacy's
can be ingested to make my belly proud.
but my belly makes a gurgle a little too loud.

My mummy pops a head a foot a hand
waving at me as my tummy rubbles on.
Then she listens to it playing its sad song,
A little tummy needs yummy to fill it up.

A filling sandwich, a drink of milk to get
my thirst filled up. Then my song sings no
more as a tummy now filled up. "Burp,
that was a thank you it liked it very much.
for my kids :)
JP Oct 2015
Smoking is nothing
but a Belly Breathe.
When you do belly breathe
the energy flows.
Every morning, when you get up,
you feel full of energy coz
you do belly breathe while sleeping.
But  when we are awake
we do chest breathe,
the reason is a million yrs before
we lived in forest as
hunters and gatherers
When you go for hunting,
you have to chase the prey,
then you can't do belly breathe,
So we learned to do
chest breathe to survive and  
hunt the prey
Children's are very active
through out the day
reason they do belly breathe.
as they become old they
learned to do chest breathe

In this world, some people
has the habit of smoking,
while smoking you will find
they do belly breathe..
after smoking they experience
some kind of new energy flowing
through the body..
To stop smoking
what you have to do
Relax and do Belly Breathe.
zebra Aug 2016
on the first date
she confided in me
i have a chromosomal disorder, disorder, disorder
i need love and pain strangely mixed together
my elixirs
i suffer reality distoooorrtions
a ghastly Vatican of ****** compulsions
my soul is black matter
my **** a seething cauldron of despicable desire
my *** cries for homicidal cruelty

mold me into a *******
fold me like a two dollar beach chair
the wrong way
tear me to bits
unwind my intestine
eat me like a blood ******* ghoul
make me squirm like an anime victim

i thought oh finally a soul mate
with soul

strange as a Dionysian mad hatter on hallucinogenics
hot girl creeping
grimacing at me
meandering conjurations by ****** contortions
stunning impersonations of a Fellini impaling
shes a famous artist
keeps broodish bowels and blood tampons in stainless vitrines
spot lighted
ready for her debut at the
Museum of Modern Art

she blows torrents of snot like ****
her beautiful desperate tongue searching the upper lip
a salty runny viscoses snack
oozy
finding it finally with her frenetic tongue
feeding her gooey ****
with wet fingers
oh yummy yum goo
up her *** too

first smiling then hideous scowls
exposed teeth
posing with a knife
wana see me cut my self bad boy, she taunts
wana see my impersonation of pizza with extra tomato sauce

blood blood *** in the be in the bed
wipe it up with ginger bread

some how she miraculously bulges her eyes out
then performs, ******* lips as if a minnow in a fish jar

pointing to her ***
giving me that **** hurt me twisted look
how about a peanut butter jelly ******* sandwich
with a side of ****** feet
**** and **** on toes
its especially prized this day of the month
as her **** tears like a vampires mouth, a torrent of blood
pouting **** with white red stained thighs that break a mans heart
*** nothing at all she quips
just a little accident
do you like it?
as she glares like an invitation
to play slip and slide bare foot in her puddle of blood

oh she made me *****
my cherry red **** having a nervous breakdown
from apoplectic horror gasms
a dose of heavens hell

i want her
she is voluptuous like a dozen venomous snakes
copulating in warm soup dark water everglades
she is slither theater

curdling screams
then muggling *******
brought on by the first belly stab
falling to her knees
looking up shocked
mouth gaping
eyes wide
grinning
glance steady
holding holding holding
the belly cut
a cacophonous modern dance of agony
followed by rapturous convulsing *******
that went on and on and on

get a bat she implored

she is a real ******* movie star
the Greta Garbo of *****
a dark jewel
a must have
a hell wife
goddess of dread
a ******* *** genius
my best girl ever

fused by desire
we kissed like **** loving catholic priests
in adoration of their savior
young boy *** castrato hitting the high notes


she looked up with desperation
eyes with glittering tears
and said
are you my black knight?
do you know how to hurt a girl
are you my
Vex Mallus
Dr Satan
Marquis De Sick
Nick Nick
Dark Officer
Remus the Werewolf
Dom Sugar Daddy
Pit Bull
Tommy the Tummy Gutter
5 o'clock Shadow
London Cabby
Amputee ******
Uncle Surgery Gone Wrong
King of the Carpathian Vampires
my sweet kissy Kitten

ooohh yes i said
i am all that for loves sake
albeit twisted
i am what you crave.. your no taboo lover boy
your ******* licking foot slave with a razor in hand
a bubble of poison between my legs
your homicidal suicidal cockealiciousness

she said good,
now that we have that settled
can we go out for dinner
ill be dressed in a jiffy
if i can find my dead skirt
of soft white gauze
with that lovely motif of dread red
and my precious toe tag jewelery
My poems remain explorations of the subconscious ******
If i where a film maker or a novelist  you  would see me telling a story, not judge me, although i admit to my paraphilias  
These poems  are lunar anamorphic streams of consciousness from the deep chaotic subterranean glitz of transgressive  impulses we all share
Read them if you dare...You might find that part of yourself that you don't want you to know about and then again  you may feel more complete some how if you do....I always loved that dark thing that sleeps with in me
Kam Jul 2018
Clothes have outgrown me many times over,
but this sadness never does.
One size.
fits all.
There should have been an obituary for cancer,  not you.
Wishing these slits within my skin could have been
replaced by a reality check from you, “You chose to exist.”

My name causes a sigh to escape from lips,
that do not feel like they belong to me,
the girl,
whose words always had to be special.

The schematics of hospitals like a birthmark in my brain,
born into sadness, a gut feeling as a child.
Never trusting time
due to what it delivers.

Death, being the only thing I desired.
But you, 
who I love,
endlessly-
robbed by it.
Whose ebb for life glowed so feverishly.
Stopped comparing depression to lace,
restricted the belief that suicide is poetic,
seeing things as they were.
More often than not, applauded for feeling emotions deeply.
Every second that dies, the shift of my heart quakes.

This world is not tender.

II. Sad.
I have known the flowers I wanted at my own premature funeral,
knowing how many bouquets honored you that day.

split open my veins like a dimension
reminiscent of days where I anticipated deathbeds.


My family wondered,
can we make it through another day?
Death scares me for what it has taken,
yet, I’m not afraid to die-
it’s all I deserve.
So I await the day pain erupts
from my throat,
acknowledging the days a soul
lived inside of my body-
footprints that walked,
belonging to me.

But I learned so well.
How to suffer with a smile,
dreading the beating of my heart
how unfair—
I don’t want to take these deep breaths
You deserved,while I masquerade as a member of the undead
Never outgrowing the desire to rot with the phantoms residing under my bed.


III. Jokes played by the universe.
punchlines delivered,
how could anyone to stand to be in the same room as myself?
How could anyone look over skyscrapers and sunsets,
and not be infatuated with concrete consuming them?
How I shared a sigh of relief during the thought-
of knowing people would thrive without me,
or the power of a belly laugh,
resembling a laugh track audience
drowning out 3 AM suicidal thoughts.
I wrote this in pink gel pen, maybe, that’s another joke.
we like to shower afterwards
(I like the water hotter than she)
and her face is always soft and peaceful
and she'll watch me first
spread the soap over my *****
lift the *****
squeeze them,
then wash the ****:
"hey, this thing is still hard!"
then get all the hair down there,-
the belly, the back, the neck, the legs,
I grin grin grin,
and then I wash her. . .
first the ****, I
stand behind her, my **** in the cheeks of her ***
I gently soap up the **** hairs,
wash there with a soothing motion,
I linger perhaps longer than necessary,
then I get the backs of the legs, the ***,
the back, the neck, I turn her, kiss her,
soap up the *******, get them and the belly, the neck,
the fronts of the legs, the ankles, the feet,
and then the ****, once more, for luck. . .
another kiss, and she gets out first,
toweling, sometimes singing while I stay in
turn the water on hotter
feeling the good times of love's miracle
I then get out. . .
it is usually mid-afternoon and quiet,
and getting dressed we talk about what else
there might be to do,
but being together solves most of it
for as long as those things stay solved
in the history of women and
man, it's different for each-
for me, it's splendid enough to remember
past the memories of pain and defeat and unhappiness:
when you take it away
do it slowly and easily
make it as if I were dying in my sleep instead of in
my life, amen.
ignore all possible concepts and possibilities ---
ignore Beethoven, the spider, the damnation of Faust ---
just make it, babe, make it:
a house  a car   a belly full of beans
pay your taxes
****
and if you can't ****
copulate.
make money but don't work too
hard --- make somebody else pay to
make it --- and
don't smoke too much but drink enough to
relax, and
stay off the streets
wipe your *** real good
use a lot of toilet paper
it's bad manners to let people know you **** or
could smell like it
if you weren't
careful
the poem her belly marched through me as
one army.   From her nostrils to her feet

she smelled of silence.   The inspired cleat

of her glad leg pulled into a sole mass
my separate lusts
                            her hair was like a gas
evil to feel.   Unwieldy….

                                        the bloodbeat
in her fierce laziness tried to repeat
a trick of syncopation Europe has

—. One day i felt a mountain touch me where
I stood (maybe nine miles off).   It was spring

sun-stirring.   sweetly to the mangling air
muchness of buds mattered.   a valley spilled
its tickling river in my eyes,
                                              the killed

world wriggled like a twitched string.
AntRedundAnt Jan 2014
Her hair was long, brown, and wavy, like homemade brownies.
Her eyes were different shaped blues, lighter than sapphires.
Whenever she blinks, I look forward to seeing those sapphires again.
Her teeth are perfect imperfections, retainer and all.
Her bite is one of love but packs a punch.
Her nostrils flare when angry but remain miniscule.
Her mouth a light pink, like Starburst, my favorite by far.
Her smile brings me back from the darkness every. Single. Time.
Her tongue is exotic and playful, and I long for it.
I have never heard her whistle, but I know it like the back of my hand.
Her laugh is intoxicating and contagious; I find myself acting the fool just to hear it.
Then she coughed and I patted her baby back.
Whenever those pesky headaches come, we lie still, thus foreshadowing what will come.
Our arguments are stupid, but they happen nonetheless.
Her neck is thin and ripe for the taking.
Her *******, much like Goldilocks: not too big, not too small, but just right.
Her spaghetti arms flail about when I act the fool, and then that precious laugh again.
Her elbows are full of cream, and you will never find them itchy like mine.
Her wrists are disproportionately large for her size, which makes her all the more unique.
Her handshakes are delicate. Ladylike.
Her long and skinny fingers were weird to me once, but they have contracted and fit perfectly between mine.
Her palms tell the future, and she has great things in store for her.
Her thumbs have no story to tell, positive or negative.
Her shadow is smaller than hers, but no shadow can overcome her.
Her cats keep her company, but luckily we found each other.
Her heart is as big as her brain, and thankfully they mutually agree on most occasions.
Her ******* are stumpy and droopy; this is no Snow White fairytale.
Her shoulder blades are tense but minute.
Her belly button (an innie, not an outie, not an Audi) never collects ****.
Her private parts pulse like her heart above with passion.
Her backside is small and smooth. She has no hourglass figure, yet she does, too.
She has no stretchmarks in my mind, but I have enough for the both of us, anyways.
Her whole system is that of a heavyweight fighter; she’s a little spitfire.
Her legs are perfect and skinny; she has “the gap”, not that it matters.
Her knees buckle and wobble in my presence. I should know: mine do when she is near, too.
Her ligaments reinforce her, much like her willpower.
She has the calves of a dancer, but she has not trained in years.
The ***** of her feet are poised, ready to spring into action to tap tap tap away.
Her toes curl against mine, in an attempt to hold hands.
I have never seen her footprints, and I have no intention of ever seeing them. Ever.
Her promises elate me since I know she is good for her word.
Her one-liners are worse than mine, and I laugh all the harder for it.
Her grin, or rather her smirk, warms my heart like a furnace in the winter.
The last time we spoke, it was mumbled in bed, a hushed goodbye for that awful biology class.

She is my rock, ever leaning forwards
with nothing but my Dunder-Mifflin shirt to keep her warm for the foreseeable future.

I told her, Te amo,
well before she was ready to say that inane phrase back in English.
Inane since words do not do it justice.

But then she broke my heart.

My hair was tearing at the roots, unable to stay attached.
My eyes were set ablaze with passion anger, if it weren’t for my sorrow to drown it out.
Whenever I blink, I see a snapshot of what it was, what it cannot be, what it will never be again.
My teeth were her favorite: buck-toothed and all, but that was when I smiled. They hide from you.
My bite isn’t nearly as big as my bark, but do not tempt me.
My nostrils have hair creeping out; it’s hard to keep clean after something like that.
My mouth is louder than all my thoughts combined, but I still can’t find the right words to say.
And my smile would be what brought her back from the darkness every. Single. Time.
My tongue, like my private parts, is limp and dead; phallicly flaccid, there is no passion here.
I have never whistled, but why should I learn now? I keep quiet to quell the roar.
My laugh is contagious, or so they tell me. It’s high pitched. Effeminate.
I cough. I get stares. My cough makes you uncomfortable. Your infidelity makes me uncomfortable.
Whenever those pesky headaches come, I lie still, and for a minute, just a minute, I die. I’m at peace.
Our arguments were stupid, but now there’s nothing left to talk about.
My neck is fat and swollen. **** my thyroid. This vitamin D deficiency is taking its toll.
My ******* are fat, but a momma’s boy would be: too much in the trunk, not enough under the hood.
My arms are as big as her thighs. We measured. Maybe it gave her peace knowing she was small.
She tells me I have a black woman’s ***, and elbows, to boot. Not enough cream. Not enough carrots.
My wrists are the cankles of my life.
My handshake is firm, but is it firm enough?
My short and stubby fingers claw upwards, desperate for air. Her hands are nowhere to be seen.
My palms have no future, and I worry I’ll follow suit.
My thumbs tell all the best stories when joysticks are underneath them.
My shadow eclipses me. It’s not how you feel, it’s how you function.
I’ve never owned a pet. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel possessive.
My heart was full of love, but the love spilled out when you broke it on Friday, December 6th – Saturday, December 7th, 2013, 5:00 AM.
My ******* are tiny and ***** from the cold. I feel the cold indoors, too.
My shoulder blades are dull and sagging with the weight of my world on my shoulders.
My belly button (an innie, not an outie, not an Audi) collects all of the ****.
My private parts, like my tongue, are limp and dead; phallicly flaccid, there is no passion here.
My backside is large and rough. Are you getting the point?
I have all of the stretchmarks, for I am her antithesis.
My whole system is that of down and out former has been; I’m all out of gas.
My legs are thick and fat; I suffer friction with my tree tunks.
My knees buckle and wobble in her presence; I’m weak around her because I’m weak.
My ligaments are partially torn, which perfectly exemplifies me: hanging by a thread.
I have the calves of a soccer player out of shape. Hashtag truth.
The ***** of my feet sting -- unable to carry two hundred plus pounds of failure.
I have finally seen footprints; I’m just glad they were mine.
Her promises mean nothing. My trust is shattered. My faith withdrawn from this or any other world.
My one-liners make everyone laugh but me; I know I mask the pain. Do they?
My grin was effectively wiped off my face when you told me.
The last time we spoke, it was on good terms. But how good are those terms with this double size?

I was comfortable, lazy, ever dependent on her
with everything in my life, especially that which she didn’t need to deal with.

I told her, You deserve to be dumped.
She nodded slowly, crying, and whispered back, I know. My hate described by inane words.
Inane since words do not do it justice.

Then, it hit me.

Our hair is fairly short together, not unlike our time apart since the incident.
Our eyes well up, and the only drowning I hope we get is of love.
Whenever we blink, I want to make sure that I am in front of you, and you in front of me.
Our teeth, much like our personalities, are disparate, and that’s okay.
Our bite is one of teamwork: you can’t bite with one row of teeth.
Our nostrils could use some work. Hair and flare rhyme, but neither fits in our time.
Our mouths chat chat chatter away. We have nothing to talk about. We have so much to talk about.
Our smiles are the reason why people find us cute, and they’re the reason why they were shocked. Let’s give them another reason.
Our tongues dance across language barriers. Mi español no puede vivir sin tu ingles.
We have never whistled. Finally! Some common ground (opposites attract).
We’ve been told that our laughs are nearly identical, like a choir singing in different pitches. Sing.
We cough together, because we know we can take care of each other.
Whenever those pesky headaches come, we take a deep breath, hold on tight, and move forward.
Our arguments ARE stupid. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our necks are like the Happy Meal and the Super Size Me. I love to see us smile.
Our ******* are life; I don’t know what mine do, but I know yours will come in handy someday.
Our arms have their “things”; you have that birthmark, and I have unseemly hair growing everywhere.
Our elbows could be a rom-com: one smooth, one rough, but they can’t get enough.
Our wrists make sure our hands can keep us afloat.
Our handshakes are delicate but firm.
Our fingers latch onto each other, like a bear trap.
Our palms SMACK together when you high five me. Goofball.
Our thumbs are bound to get sore if we keep caressing our hands while holding onto each other. Raw.
Our shadows slink away when they see us shine so bright.
I hope to God that Rosie the pug is as derpy as your heart can take.
Our hearts have duct-tape all over them…it’s a work in progress, but bones get stronger when broken.
Our ******* are disproportionate. There, I said it.
Our shoulder blades dance across each other when we lie back to back.
Our belly buttons (innies, not outies, not Audis) keep us close to our moms; you’ll agree someday.
Our private parts tingle as we move in motion and rhythm. It’s been too long, mi amor.
Our backsides are like Venn diagrams: yours could easily fit in mine.
I have all the stretchmarks, but I hope you get them after birth someday. We share everything else.
Our systems are the underdog rising up, straight to the top; it took its time, and its chances.
Your legs could fit in one of my own. Please refer to the stretchmarks line.
Our knees buckle and wobble. Please refer to the private parts line.
Our ligaments have taken a beating, but somehow, there’s a strand holding us together.
We have calves of different passions, but we both know what the sweet sting of success feels like.
The ***** of our feet touch down as we’re back to reality. The honeymoon stage is over. Cloud 9.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen footprints, but I think they’re circling back around to meet up again.
This promise should be the last until the most important one comes up. This is it.
Our one-liners keep us close to our dorky sides. Honestly, something is probably wrong with us.
Our grins (or smirks) show that we can’t really stay mad at each other for TOO long.
The last time we spoke, it was yesterday night (or was it earlier today?), but I’m sure you woke up.

We ******* up. Admittedly you more than me,
but I digress: one mistake is not enough to throw away two years of work.

I forgave you.
You were elated. Let’s try this once more, with feeling!
I’ll inanely tell her again, *Te amo.
JJ Hutton Jun 2010
I'd like to think that she's thinking:

"How far have I fallen?"

As she sits on the corner of her bed,

Listening to the soft buzz of his battery-powered toothbrush.

I imagine her,

Running her fingers through her clumsy, coagulated hair.

Glancing at her chipped, crimson toe nails,

Then looking to her class ring,

Made entirely of imitation ingredients,

Wondering when is the proper time to trash it.


When she was still a friend of mine,

I never saw her wear make up,

I never saw her show off in tight jeans

or low-cut tees.


But as he spews the toothpaste into the sink,

Skinny jeans lay tussled on the floor,

Next to the side door

that leads to his sister's side room.

The make up she wears

is from the night before.

It's skewed and shows evidence of running,

Like a wasted watercolor.


I'd like to think he isn't that handsome,

And that he's obsessed with Paul Walker.

I'd like to think when he re-enters the room,

He's in grey sweatpants,

He's wearing a black tank top,

With a Confederate flag backdrop,

With two barely dressed babes looking ******

in the foreground.


His hair, unwashed and greasy.

He rubs his belly,

And bears an idiot grin

on his face.

Looking like he just learned how to smile

at this pace.

"Did it feel good?"

feel good.

After he asks, he scans her body,

Beginning at those crimson toes,

And Ending at that clumsy hair.

Every second he scans,

He still wears that drawn-on

Idiot grin.


I'd like to think at this point she thinks of me.

Of my warnings and prophesy.

Her eyes start at the chipped toe nails,

Course over her tanning bed-inspired legs.

And finally reach the only thing she has on,

A t-shirt that belongs to his sister.

A t-shirt, when given by him,

It was mentioned, "thanks, mister".


Though she didn't satisfy all his redneck intentions,

During last night's expedition.

He still paid her back with a morning

one-sided session.

"It felt good" she says.

In reference to the ten minute *******,

When her body was strummed and plucked,

Underneath his sister's Terri Clark T-shirt.


As she sits in the filth and the ****** fallout,

On a bed that is six days *****,

While he is grinning,

Being everything but wordy.

I'd like to think she's thinking:

"How far have I fallen?"
Copyright 2009 by Joshua J. Hutton
Candace Jun 2014
The driveway was strewn with rotted oak leaves, and Oscar wondered if the old man was still alive. He stopped his car just short of the rusted garage door, knowing that from this vantage point no one from the house could see him. Stepping out of his car, he strode toward the front door. The outside looked much the same as before, ivy gnarling up the walls and spiders webbing around the door. He held up his hand to knock.
“It’s open, Oscar.” He was relieved to hear the old man’s voice through the open window.
“Thanks, Harry. I’ll be right in.” Oscar nudged the front door open and walked into the kitchen. The green wallpaper was faded but the little square table in the corner was clean. The old man had his back to Oscar, stooped over the sink drying the last of a small batch of dishes. Oscar stuck his hands in his sweatshirt pocket.
“The wood looks like it’s staying dry,” Oscar said. The old man gave a slight nod, wiping the counter with slow, decided movements. “I heard it’s been a wet winter.”  
“Not too bad.” The man looked at Oscar with tired eyes. “Those gutters need cleaning, though.”
“I’ll do what I can before I go.”
The old man turned his pale neck back toward the sink. “That’s fine.”
“Do you need anything from town? Or anything?”
The old man didn’t respond. Oscar took his cue to leave, walking through the laundry room and out the back door. An enclosure of thick oaks and cedars faced him, not quite a forest, but more than he could count. His feet carried him on the familiar path, up the mountain where the air was thin, and he struggled to breathe deeply. The trees grew thicker and the path narrower, but he trudged on, finally coming to a stop at a small clearing housing the remains of several tree stumps. In the middle of these stumps sat a bright yellow lawnchair currently unoccupied. Oscar took the opportunity to catch his breath, closing his eyes and lowering himself into the squeaky chair, waiting for her to come. He imagined her sneaking up behind him, covering his eyes. She’d giggle and lope back into the trees beckoning him come to follow her.
He heard a slight rustle through the trees and saw her walk toward him, her steps slower than usual. Her once long hair was cut short against her scalp and her belly protruded in an obvious way. She stopped just short of his arm’s reach, resting one hand over her belly. She cocked her head to the side, looking Oscar up and down. Her eyes settled on his face but not his eyes.
“You got old,” she said.
“You didn’t.” Oscar smiled while she stayed serious.
“I got old and died three times,” she said. “This is me,” she said pointing at her belly.
Oscar reached out to touch her arm, but she took his hand, leading him back out of the clearing down the mountain. He didn’t wonder where they were going. He set aside all the world but her. As he followed behind her, he thought that she looked much different than last time. Her eyes seemed less savage and her skin less pale. He thought she looked strange without her long hair tangled with leaves and wind, and he wondered if the same person that put this baby inside her was also trying to fix her, to make her like everyone else. He tightened his grip on her hand and rushed ahead of her. She gave a tiny laugh and started running after him.
Soon she let go of his hand and sat gracelessly on the ground, resting her head against a tree. Oscar turned around and sat across from her, watching her pick the leaves off a fallen branch.
“This is my tree,” she said, holding up the branch.
“I’ll plant it for you, so it can grow bigger.”
“It’s already dead. Won’t get any bigger.” She began pulling the twigs off the branch, smoothing it into a pole shape.  
“Are you done with college?” she asked.
“Another year.”
“I’m going to go, too.” She sounded like she meant it. Oscar wondered if he had been gone for too long this time. “Soon,” she said.  
Oscar nodded. “You don’t have hair anymore.”
She looked up at Oscar, not meeting his eyes. “It was trapping all my thoughts in my head.”
Oscar smiled. “Now all your thoughts are running around like rabbits having little thought babies of their own.” She laughed out of courtesy, and it bothered him. They sat in silence. He continued to watch her.
“Do you think it’s going to rain today?” she asked.
“Since when do we talk about the weather?”
“I want to.” Oscar said nothing. “I think it’s going to rain. I can smell the water in the air. Do you remember Frankie, that gerbil I had as a kid?”
“I’m leaving again tomorrow.”
“I know.” She started to stand up, bracing herself against the bare branch in her hands. “Frankie knew when it would rain. He did this thing with his ear. Twitch.” She brushed off her pants. “Next time you come back, I’ll be a baby. Brand new and wrinkly.” She met his eyes.
“Are you going to name it after the dad?” He asked, hoping that the dad was long gone.
“No, me.”
Oscar thought she looked very young then, and he could imagine her becoming younger and younger as he continued to age. He would grow into an old man like her father, stooped over and feeble, and she would go to college, reborn without him. Without her hair, she would run faster and he wouldn’t be able to keep up.
“Let’s watch the sunset,” she said, taking his hand. “Go get some lawnchairs and I’ll meet you there.”
He watched her trek up the mountain for a moment before making his descent. As he neared the house, he saw the old man gathering wood, one piece at a time. His bones seemed to creak as he lifted the tarp off the remaining dry wood, feeling which pieces were dry enough. The old man seemed to acutely feel each footstep, pausing on every stair and taking a deep breath, before entering the house. Watching the old man repeat this process again and again, Oscar decided that all the youth in the world did not belong to her. He would preserve her forever as she was now, and by standing in her orbit maybe she could give him everlasting life.
He waved to the old man as he hoisted two lawnchairs over his shoulder. After the old man had walked back inside, seemingly for the last time, Oscar grabbed the half-empty canister by the woodpile and began climbing toward the clearing where she was waiting. He hoped the rain would never come. He arrived out of breath and set up the chairs in their usual places between the tree stumps. She stood at the edge of the clearing, her arms wrapped around her protruding belly, watching as the sun crawled below the tree line. She smiled at him and he beckoned her to sit down. She sat and Oscar told her to close her eyes.
“I want to see,” she said.
“It’s a surprise.”
Oscar crossed the clearing, carrying the canister. He looked as the base of each tree, trying to find the right one in the fading light. “It’s the one on the left,” she shouted.
“Keep your eyes closed.” He tried to sound stern, but he couldn’t stop smiling. He saw the tree and began to pour the contents of the canister onto the trunk.
“I knew you remembered Frankie,” she said. There was a large stone underneath the tree as a monument to the gerbil. Oscar remembered that it was the biggest stone that they could carry as children.
“I know.” Oscar took the makeshift walking stick she had made earlier from her hands and wrapped a piece of his shirt around it. He again crossed the clearing pulling out his lighter. He lit the end of the pole before putting the flame to the gasoline soaked tree. He backed away from the tree as the fire struggled up the wet trunk before flaring in the leaves overhead. It crackled and hissed through pinecones, trying to keep its hold on the damp tree.
Oscar’s leg hit the edge of a stump and he sat down. He felt her walk up next to him. Tearing his gaze away from the fire, he looked up at her, and it seemed to him that her skin mimicked the red of the fire, coming alive in its light. Her eyes were once again untamed, feral. Oscar imagined that no time had passed since he left for college and that no time would ever pass again.
She took his hand, just as the fire spread to another treetop, and put it on her belly. “It won’t burn forever,” she said, letting go of his hand and turning to carry the lawnchair back down the mountain.
It rained. Oscar stayed watching the last embers flicker and die before his feet blindly carried him back to the house where he would clean the gutters and leave.
Mike Hauser Oct 2016
I'm no Pinocchio
Or Jonah don't you know
Stuck in the belly of this whale

How I ended up in here
Has never been made clear
Though it's clear I am by myself

Was I walking along the shore
Or a man overboard
No matter how I ended in the drink

The very next thing I know
I'm swallowed alive whole
Now this fish's belly is my brink

With its bones as prison bars
There's no doubt just where you are
No way out of this rib cage

How can a man find comfort here
Year after year after washed out year
All I do each day is plan my escape

I keep the plan inside my mind
With nothing here or where to write
Waiting for the opportunity

That this fish eats something wrong
Where a case of heartburn comes along
Setting this seasick sailor free

I whisper subliminal
Messages into his blowhole
Guiding him to the Mediterranean Sea

And to the tune of that tiny fish
The seas saltiest of salty dish
Pizza Pies friend the anchovy

While ******* tons of them in
Indigestion starts rolling in
Hanging Ten I surf the wave of burp

Landing on my two feet
To miles and miles of lovely beach
Of the Mediterraneans turf

And that my friend is where I still am
A life of tanning pasty skin
Paroled from my prison cell

Sure as how I now live
I'll never go back there again
That being the belly of the whale
Not a whole lot of sense to this but it sure was fun to write!
AntRedundAnt Jan 2014
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means   mountain   boys   true   stars   learn   sliced   naive   decided   player   actually   reality   ease   music   hood   desperate   promise   wishing   begin   miss   caressing   moan   thighs   heard   pretty   emotion   figure   floor   exotic   sand   hits   angel   awake   dreaming   probably   wins   seek   stretch   loved   tears   heartbreak   punk   walking   piece   furniture   unreachable   roots   near   deserve   simple   cats   tail   precious   lovers   loves   mother   tongues   clueless   share   taken   yesterday   faith   freedom   ripe   cursed   running   yes   unknown   feeling   going   stairs   opposite   wonder   afloat   packed   bones   acting   playing   wind   passions   dismissed   hourglass   reached   stares   mouths   singing   shaped   trapped   toll   dies   rock   trunk   discovered   especially   dull   choice   awful   patient   great   indoors   attached   thread   shoulders   warms   bright   bring   ending   drowning   sadness   winter   baby   looked   cute   beating   tight   kids   crying   ran   intoxicating   growing   saying   opposites   melancholy   gives   follow   clearly   dove   tu   soon   entwined   juicy   drown   laid   took   moved   bear   anyways   shirt   negative   clean   guide   sore   location   faux   nodded   glance   caught   chances   week   started   today   obvious   sweat   ***   quiet   laughed   worry   round   ladies   mama   smack   goodbye   rising   sides   wished   beds   infinite   positive   scared   admittedly   mistakes   meal   common   rises   toes   bullets   bound   suited   birth   clothes   belt   pounds   ground   barren   sitting   table   woe   swimming   stick   deepest   motion   cleared   sing   angry   action   sons   smiled   bedroom   wall   wiped   grins   mad   july   store   road   snow   pulse   important   adventure   exactly   foundation   trap   colors   floors   neon   outside   language   summer   north   fifty   served   wavy   kick   raw   thirty   row   changed   hanging   lied   drenched   companion   begins   strength   flies   direction   okay   stories   inky   stubborn   cloud   track   described   lover   replaced   pit   packs   circling   honest   wage   dinner   slave   paradox   faking   screamed   lightning   exterior   stopping   complete   deal   rifle   dependent   gifts   dancer   vision   students   horror   punch   anymore   pack   sagging   folk   honestly   tearing   prepared   creatures   listening   rhythm   unique   roar   card   glass   stage   desert   offered   fought   suffer   awoke   master   eating   furnace   glad   choir   graceful   *****   treasure   ships   bark   musical   strand   bee   finished   pink   slink   stronger   disclose   gravity   schedule   march   medicine   hates   weird   brush   laughs   helped   june   pitched   dumped   tense   sin   withdrawn   stem   proved   whispered   anew   amazing   louder   english   knocked   chilly   boots   false   mistake   toffee   whistle   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haven't   what's   you'd   they'd   man's   boys'   god's   woman's   fruit's   orion's   newton's   lincoln's   adam's   momma's   ******   jackson's   audis   dulces   disproportionately   charon's   deseos   avocadoes   hailey   eran   beatles'   ingles   he   she   it   rackets   --   hashtag   sixty-three   duct-tape   joysticks   sherman's   15   6th   32   500   7th   2013   extraño   barenaked   tamales   6-year-old   tierras   derpy   ewell   rom-com   themit's   adan   mudpits   puddlepits   war--hell   culp's   shitpits   completaron   chocolatada   levantanse   duraznos   n'sync   huevo   cholitos   levantaron   manzanas   endurece   wozniak's   dispara   nuez   open-endedness   innies   cankles   dunder-mifflin   tunks   buck-toothed   outies   grief-blown   a-gawking
I uploaded all of my past work onto the site already, so everything from here on out will be new and original. This is sort of an experimental idea of mine: take all the words hellopoetry has tracked for me, put it down as if it were a poem, and see how it flows. It actually kind of works sometimes, but I'm not sure. I'm sure it's mostly terrible, but I wanted to try it. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
All is not what it seems
Because I was an atheist
Long before I realized I was God,
But that was much, much later
Then, at that time, I succumbed
To the lurid but exciting depths
Of freedom, the joy of love and danger
Of searching and of knowledge,
Embracing every moment;
I surrendered to ungovernable impulses
That invoked within my very existence

Still to realise the true extent of this
It's perhaps best to start before the beginning
Before the earth embalmed me
A time when Cyparisse had not
Yet set root in my belly
Nor made sap of my blood
A time when it was possible to speak
To Panza's donkey when I thought of Zanzibar
A time when the vagrancy of my soul
Had not yet embarked
On its erratic itinerary
Plunging me eventually
Into the bright light
Of tainted and squalid reality

Like oscillating libraries, noise oppressed,
Contradictions of dreams
Suddenly I took flight,
With violent wrenches of imagination
In Persia being worshipped
Beneath the moon by Gods;
Caressed by those impetuous charms
A dazzling vision
I thought of death the only sister of charity
Whose dark night has no malevolence;
Black and white, silences that migrated
In sonorous symbolism took control
Shimmering like a painting of a sorrow

Streaked with unashamed colours
A single tear from a promethean candle
I would move to lick the stain of destiny
That pillar inhaling its black perfumes
Like a communicant on his knees.
Exiled in reality, I saw what I had never saw
Or only thought I saw now condemned
To see what has never been seen

Words corralled themselves in my mind
Writhing maggots on a corpse
Wriggling for position waiting to be pronounced
How they flew, taking wings
Hovering for an instant above the page
Hunting out the detritus of man
To feast upon the putrid flesh of misery
I too went searching
For my ancient feast; for Zanzibar

However hideous pages
From the note book of the ******
Imprisoned the words, stampeded the search
Scattering it in many directions
Shattering blue-white eyes
A castrated country, century, impotent, impure
Like politics, the ******* that can be purchased by coin
Like so much bread in the market,
A thousand profanities became the popular song
But silence is the real language of the fool

For he alone bears witness to what he feels
Misfortunes not understood, weeping the popular ballad
Morality and law, parades of red robed Judges
Carcasses, a circus for carrion crows
Yet like a cannibal the dead were still buried in my belly
The gloss of reason hiding madness
Like so many veneered fronts in a proud precinct

Paraded in full view, silence is demanded and got
The words wither, fake time continues,
To count the unrelieved falsehood the chimera of life;
Reason did not imprison me
My life being not heavy enough
Was allowed to take flight
To float above the reasoned realm
Revelations of the truth realised only by detachment
Devoured my mind increased my errorless purpose
The search for Zanzibar

Accepted values; valued only;
Because of this acceptance
Are accepted as value
Thus accepted in silence
The fools resign themselves
To a false reality
One that nails them to a poisoned cross

In the gardens of the dead
Like rowed tulips that
Gardeners know how to match
I found myself, among those who had gone
Remembered yet forgotten
Whose edifice unlike their lives
Reached not upwards but down.
I smelt the scent of unknown things
The perfumes of eternity that histories bind;
Intensity, a murmur; gurgle, as in a child
Yet extreme its aberrations
Like celluloid hand that
Had never known toil
Or wiped sweat from a brow
Laughed yet grimaced
Its smile a crimson smear
The sorrow that it felt
A burnished hand upon its nakedness
To see its enshrouded presence in such a garden
One well stocked and growing
Caressed my being with its glee
To turn white feel the touch
Of its venomous fingers upon my flesh;
Its purpose, to prevent any search for Zanzibar

The stench of death
Then cast its' new
Yet antediluvian gaze
Upon its purpose
Odour of grave
Faraway nonexistent
Yet it is perfume to those
Who feast upon its scent
Moistures mingling with the air
Its common purpose
Floating like un-forgiveness
Its atmosphere ozone sans holes
Its meaning ever present
Its' outcome to halt
The search for Zanzibar

And so the stencils of oriental scribes
Like black shadows overpowered my reason
Floating high above, adrift on an expanse of darkness
However, presently that azure ink
Raised its curtain before my very eyes
Revealing the stage, the illuminated stage
On which I was to set my drama
Where the phantoms of my imagination
Would enact their mysterious mysteries;
A poetic alchemy

Then a golden spark of pure
Nocturnal light blinded me
In an instant I saw, observed
The sun drown in its deathly sea
Its healing wings spread
Fear would see it rise again
Still searching for that fatal flaw, happiness
How many lives do I need?
How many existences will it take?
Incarnations a hundred times
Searching for Zanzibar.
Awakening to continue to
Live the saddest of my dreams

Furtive footsteps through Cimmerian landscapes
Ah such enchantment, do you understand?
Ah such a charm, listen to its undying echo
Feel its charge, that siren call
Cosmic summons, the vagrancy of mind
That caresses the imagination
Whose tender touch can place you
At the apex of the universe
Can lead to Zanzibar.


And so the subtle and foolish tortures
Inflicted upon me by I, my quest began
One that would ascertain, take centre stage
Make an unheard appearance of a philosophy
That, I am everyone and everyone else is me
Eventually at some point
In time and space we are all one
All linked, for we are condemned
Yes condemned to live these lives
This is why the dead have dreams
Dreams about the tyrants and demons
Of other lives of who they were;
Who they have yet to become.
Nourished on half truths,
Forever pulling at the thread
The rotted rags of reason
Those tattered twines
Unravelling the stitching of reality
Of hallucinations, empty illusions
And tarnished dreams create a constant struggle


Therefore for every conscious thing
That happens in the world
There must be a responding reverberation
Within the human soul
Let us put a halt to the calls
For the death of imagination
And demands for imagination to be silent
Such absurdities
For imagination is the true door to reality
For only in imagination
Can there be a bearable act
Of self examination
It is memory that hurts
More than the imagination
Always prefer the imaginary to the real
Imagination is neither an exit
From our nightmares nor
An escape from reality
But the place we are all trying to get to,
Zanzibar its shared images
Its story, its own life a new reality.


Mysteriously in the midst of unknown
Mazagran landscapes I feel
The full impact of fleeting visions
Without the limitations of space or time
Feel the act of experiencing their reality
This requires no explanation, no proof
Either together or separate
Because simply they are,
Judgement, condemnation
Punishments are gone
There is no cleansing a world
Without consciousness
Landscape devoid of people
'La Lune' growling in the orchard of the sea
Calypso again one or ten
Eucharis, tempest or temptress
Take both the meaning and the experience
Taste the tear drops of the sun
Telemachus searching, searching
Zanzibar

The idol, tentacles undulating
Vibrations of collective knowledge
The blank face, featureless
Touching around the domain of Atlas
Speaking in a thousand different tongues
Moving but still, blocks my path
Disturbs the line of imagination
Makes reality quiver
Dream flowers sway in its cosmic wind.
Yet Alhazers' iridescent arch allows
The steerage of my passage
Without pious pilgrimages to empty silences that
Contain an eternity of tears
Who graciously offers coverage
For the echo of footsteps
Allowing the magic moments to come


Robbed of sunlight, artificial night shines
Its deception attempting to secure knowledge
Of a future unknown, winning only it's unattainably
Offering instead knowledge of the past
Master of silence, offers only knowledge
Of invaded consciousness
Bedlam of paradise where Eros and Pan
In congress sleep, close at Zanzibar.


Lifeless beauty that lives everlasting
Time that reason cannot change, only help.
O enchanted torture you have stolen
The taste from my mouth
Masked I against the spectre of reality
Proclaimed the age of 'hasashin'
The creator of recollections, maker of memories
Possessor of impulse giver of echo
That rings in the ear
Cloud cast its surroccoian shadow
Air tinged with the aftermath of fire
Floating in an Asian wind, so subtle
Like a breath suddenly the sound of song
Of dance rents the solitude
Silence is slashed like a canvass screen
Happiness pours forth unconfined
Unfettered, both faces of Kandinsky as one
I extinguish the light, turn to the wall
Gazing upon its Janis face
My eyes behold the giver of pleasure.

Then I found myself in an extraordinary place
Whose skies where made of crystal glass
Water of the enchanted land was blue-grey
Bridges zig-zagged its shimmering domes
I stared as masts and parapets came to life
Its people, musicians sporting
Tangerine and white livery danced
The air filled with the sound of their music
Then as if from nowhere a light hit my eyes
Blinking, this apparition was gone
Can I not always believe what I see
Just because I see what I believe
The inhabitants at once became spectres
Engulfed in thick clouds of smoke and sulphur
Erinyies roamed, inflicting madness
A circus of the macabre sped past
Its symbols of death fluttering frantically
Around this false and fragile world
Suggested children, like creatures in an imagination
Were made ready for their rebirth
By the touch of the poets pen
A thousand Cheribino

In another, swirling sonorous scenes
Stormed the citadels of my mind
Marched through my imagination
Mab engulfed the long closed
Cemeteries of my thought allowing me
To see the dreams of others
Like precious pearls prised from their shells
Their visualisation so intense
Joy overcame me at once
Then a swarm of kisses descended upon me
Like a regiment of famished men
Feasting for the first time
I freely gave myself as the main course
In the most beautiful of banquets
In another, yielding to these seductions
I was enraptured by portraits of beautiful young men
Which appeared to be on the point of speaking
They were most mysterious their intrinsic
Charm so beautiful, stimulated desire
Whose assuagement was so pleasurable
That it might be called pure ecstasy
A perfect pleasure which had never before existed
Entirely individual and new

Thus upon the horizons of my mind
Had been shed a mysterious light
In which I now saw everything bathed
I was summoned by the Prince
Knowing dreams have no limits
I obeyed his call
For a long time failing to set
Foot on the shores of reality
Drinking from the wells of magic
While angels danced on grassy slopes
Disturbed by flames
The stars shot out their fragrance

Sweet smelling; blue abyss
On I went to the court, the court of the Prince of
Poets, a visitor to life
There I spat out the bit of liberty
Embraced the Prince
Courtesans mocked me, ridiculed
Laughed and taunted me
Their jibes merely part of
Their own deluded reality, not of mine
They did not serve my purpose
Dressed as they were
In meaningless words
Clothed in phrases of falsehood
They tried to make me compromise
There was fire burning in my eyes
Vivid dreams were eating up my mind
They wouldn't let me be
There were dead men lying
By the sides of the road
With daylight in their eyes
I saw villages under the sea
I stood at Galactic central point
Watched the earth burn
They did not know
The way to Zanzibar
Could the Prince show me?

However each morning I awoke
I found myself in a purgatorial fog
I roamed lost the alternative harbour
For my soul still distant
The Prince, I discovered, existed
In a twilight world of mysterious ailments
He denied his feelings
Such denial only immersed him
In maintaining the world of external restraints
It created emptiness, a vacancy
Filled by material concerns
I pleaded with him
The emerald gene came down
Soon the leaves of grass
Whispered another order of existence
Strangeness of sensation
Intoxication of vision
Unhinged for mortals
And as the sound increased one cannot
Describe what else it is that has been
I viewed a world transparent
Devoid of illumination within which
Was never a sea or land
Then the prophets were ******
For they were all liars
And I saw the most beautiful flower
Unfolding out of its own roots
For such a flower cannot
Unfold other than it does
I stood on the threshold of Orcus
I met Abbas Effendi the Gene without a name
Bab, Upanishads spilled music in my ears
Called to me in the most spectacular of colours
It was wonderful for the colours
Were like my dreams, red, black and green
I witnessed the three, sometimes as one
Other times as two, again and again
The self eternal and inseparable sons
Of Shakyamuni caressed me with their thoughts
Their music and colour moved about me
In ecstatic rhythm like the peaceful
Waves of the ocean as upon a shore
I read the sentences of silence
Breathed the perfume of never fading flowers
Walked in cherry blossom snow
Heard Hafiz reciting in the night
I saw for the first time
The unfinished likeness of others.

Then one day the Prince
With a sweeping theatrical and
So to speak, allegorical flourish bowed
Called me an exiled angel
Said the time had come to travel
To leave the images of naked heels
Imprinted in the clay
We wondered
Then as if by magic, suddenly the shadows
Of houses, halls, and a church
Emerged like enchanted islands in a fairy tale
The spiritualised forms of civilisation
I was approached by a graceful youth
Draped in cobweb lawn
He was pale, delicately beautiful
Spanish looking, but his name was Alexis Sonyeuse
Whose family it was said was
Related to the French Emperor Napoleon
It was also rumoured that he had
Had a tempestuous affair with the Bishop of Monaco
And once slept with his half brother Julian Apollinaire
When he spoke he was at once original
Delicious, moving, droll and discreetly melancholy
Listening to him was like breathing
The perfume of wondrous flowers
But the scent of datura hung about him
Paralleling his every movement
  Another youth, Edmond also greeted me
He was a young man with aristocratic features
A complexion pink, like a girls
And a bearing at once charmingly gracious
And audaciously insolent
His shirt was strange, the lining
A peculiarly orange colour
A flame coloured taffeta
Like the petticoats of a *****



They looked at me
Furtive glances emanated from their eyes
Training a profound stare upon my person
The two youths took me to 18 Avenue de Friedland
There two boy servants
Adoum and Outhman greeted us
Spinario's lay about its confines
Frezans caressing them
As they touched their feet
A hundred echansons moved
With dazzling delicacy dispensing dreams
In drops from crystalline cups
Here I witnessed the tragic faces of the population
Urnings, cleaning in the midst of anarchist trials
The room a fiery red, stained with light
The caress of forgotten thought
Like the thickness of a sorrow
Musicians playing on broken strings
Crimson ******, who defied the King of Naples
We moved past wretches
Like Virgil, but Danteian
Saw the usurers heard the rustling
Of lute strings the clinking of grey paper
Observed in this Minatare's lair
The purchase of a twelve penny dagger
Liberty of speech meeting its great reckoning
In a little room, Ingram the poltergeist
Of misfortune was there
Dead Scythian, who ever loved you
Loved you as you might, loved you at first sight.

This was a new and exciting world
Whose environs were populated
By the most mysterious and colourful of people
I was introduced by the two youths
To a suicidal young painter who
Was rebelling against his class
He was a somewhat forced intellectual
With an over quixotic passion for equality
Still he was warm, kind and impulsive
Poetry, he made it known
Had opened his mind to the invisible
Beside him was a painting
Exemplifying a new kind of observation
In a style absolutely faultless
Each structure clear, each brush stroke
Falling exactly into place
Inscribed in the top left
Corner were the words
"Quod me nutrit me destruit"
An introduction to himself of a tall youth
Whose eyes possessed a constant
Vagrancy of desire
Who seemed at once, for one so
Bo Burnham Mar 2015
I saw the morning dew betwixt thine thighs
as I removed my source of Grecian power,
as if King Midas dared to touch the skies,
upon thy body fell a *******.

Thy body's temples, two church bells had rung
upon thy chest, a row of pearls bestowed.
The sun had set, thy set with wary hung
I thought, "How black a night, and blue a lode!"

I said, "What light through yonder ****** breaks?
It is the yeast!" And now my belly's yellow.
My pole gives cause to storms and earthy quakes,
but 'tis not massive, I am no Othello.

And when that final moment came to pass,
like Christ I came a-riding on an ***.
Robin Carretti Aug 2018
Breaking up is hard to do
       let's rise take it easy
       Waking- up don't be lazy
My morning glory spiritual stretch
Soothe me like a tranquilizer
His words are my pacifier
The shooting star sprinkling shot

Stars work dot to dot
They connect get rid of all
broken heart subjects
Soothe me star even if there
is nothing to do

We need to do something
Earth wind and fire just
knock-me-out
Don't lock me and throw away
the star key is it going to Key- West
 Daylight no broken light in my
        Star stuff- sight
Light to the dark twilight

Those zillions of stars my
eyes closed I suppose
Take another look lovely rose
The same spot share the good stuff
I saw the soothing words
Star pointed toes who knows
Even
or to out-win the odds?

Not the starry night
Going through something
It's been a hard day night
One star light years to fight
Breathe in and soothe me
It was up to me not to blind me
My cool spirit meditation table

The New York soothing menu
Rendezvous all talk but delicious
She is tough walking
The hardest avenue
The *Positive me
even if its the
broken up me that's the only me
No one can take his place to soothe me

French fondue it suits her another clue
Red White moody blues the statue
Do you all agree? Another feel good
shopping spree are the stars true
I cannot even say soothing-word
Your home is your oasis love stuff
                Venus

Sooth me star stuff no one to minus

The hard stuff is to better yourself
The feel-good smooth flowing
Even if you missed your star
You're the no star he's is always late
Soothe me star may be my fate
Cafe warm running lattte late

The forever flight hit so hard
  Got_  Thrown brick harder
They say remorse is the
poison of life
And divorce could be the best
change in someone's life

OH! Lord The new? Hard cushion/night

"The winding rough road see the light"
*It may be tough but make it good deed
Athletic Girly curve walk
The pep talk she had the tough birth
The Preppy he's training the puppy stuff
You don't have to be a star it doesn't matter

Who you are
Never get in the middle of a dare
Show the whole world you care
Puff the magic dragon
Harder side of logic is the mission
Been Moonstruck light flick
Both mouths a volcano

Hard star stuff ham and swiss hero
Exploring new stuff
Please take it from pointed star
beware?
She walks like she is hot stuff
Those color forms of love stuff
Things and stuff
Stuff and things

Walking through the end of
the exit
It a hard position of the angle
Tough to be single even more
to deal with lotsa stuff to be married
Being the first online
I am getting a handle on my stuff

Indie Pop like Ice Queen Pop
Going mainstream
She's Brook long stream
He's under the influence
She doesn't nearly have
the up to par patience
Gifts of curiosity

Adjusting to reality
Hard life too much focus
On our happiness
He's coming home
breadwinner of money
Just one loaf of
bread she blossoms
Disavows humanity

The harder the words
How it challenges our sanity

Dark crayon hard stuff
Heavy_Rough__Tough
Wild Hawaii Say Hi to all our
blissfully but soothing hearts
She is like a hard sandpaper
He is so cool reading his
worldly carefree life

He is inside the newspaper
Big Ben London guard
How mindset like Hallmark card
Too much Holiday Turkey going
****** tunes when there is I tunes
So powerless word hard ingenious
Be thankful for what you have
But feeling too much
of the dry spell that rain fall
Going to that heavenly gifted secret
Like an Elephant, you are

the tough one the smart one magnet
No-one is perfect to be the
brilliant one
The star way of the fantasy
Nothing fancy doesn't make you jump
Presidential Trump Roger Rabbit
My lucky tower rabbit foot
Between a hard rock meets her sexuality

Having bad luck long shot solitude
Hallucinations all dark things hurt
My imagination world is sometimes
belly overstuffed Santa Claus
I love the hard candy bitter- sweet metal
Who gets the Metals and honors
The Terminators better leaders

PJ-Clarkes Princeton NJ
Superman Clark Kents
We need more therapy events
Princeton pancakes no remakes
And tons of maple syrup
***** Tonk women at the rodeo
Her horse lucky hoof sooth me

Stars real stuff
New York City roof ruff ruff
A hard rock and critters
And then you wake
back to the hard stuff

Soothe your pain the goodness of the rain
Hard life or its way too easy what is truly better I know my moods change in this hell of a gun weather. Let's keep our spirit high and heal our minds to get better don't you want a better life or something in the middle of the road make sure you don't kiss deeply inside of a hard binding book of the fairy tale. You are worth so much more than kissing a toad but we are talking about the hard stuff please go easy on me
Nat Lipstadt Jul 2013
Got A Sunburn On My Belly Button

Yup. Thought I had it covered.
The lesson learned,
When they say they got your back,
Ask 'em,
Why not the front too?
Part I
June 22

Do Not Economize on Sun Lotion!
This weary lesson well learned,
A life long notion, worth keeping.

If you think, this is insufficient
To qualify as poetry, I won't disagree,
For I think of all the words unused,
Saved for you to send to me!
Mr Bigglesworth Apr 2015
Along time ago in the land of the Elves
With the Pixies, Gnomes and Sprites
Lived Millicent Mary, a belly button fairy
Adorned in her tutu and tights

Now poor little Millicent
Super cute and innocent
Hadn't been a fluffer very long
When trusted by superiors
Which that alone's mysterious
Only got the purchase order wrong!

Whilst ordering the belly fluff
She found the maths a little tough
And set upon her path to sheer disgrace
Before she'd ordered every hue
She started with the colour blue
And accidentally missed the decimal place
Needless to say the guild of belly button fluffers hadn't enough budget to amend her error and tonnes of excess blue fluff had to be used up first.
WA West Aug 2018
Barely do my Wednesdays fill with longing,

Lost observers rendering August whims to the scrapheap of infinity,

Galvanized entities downing tools schematically,

A posse of awareness pronating towards incandescent light,

Mostly everything a prolonging of jest and belly laughs,

Dawn brings the sick belly of listlessness,

Hordes of happenchance and imaginers of silence dancing,

The chitter chatter cadence does dim for a minute stretching yonde
#listless #wednesday #shortpoem #silly
All is not what it seems
Because I was an atheist
Long before I realized I was God,
But that was much, much later
Then, at that time, I succumbed
To the lurid but exciting depths
Of freedom, the joy of love and danger
Of searching and of knowledge,
Embracing every moment;
I surrendered to ungovernable impulses
That invoked within my very existence

Still to realise the true extent of this
It's perhaps best to start before the beginning
Before the earth embalmed me
A time when Cyparisse had not
Yet set root in my belly
Nor made sap of my blood
A time when it was possible to speak
To Panza's donkey when I thought of Zanzibar
A time when the vagrancy of my soul
Had not yet embarked
On its erratic itinerary
Plunging me eventually
Into the bright light
Of tainted and squalid reality

Like oscillating libraries, noise oppressed,
Contradictions of dreams
Suddenly I took flight,
With violent wrenches of imagination
In Persia being worshipped
Beneath the moon by Gods;
Caressed by those impetuous charms
A dazzling vision
I thought of death the only sister of charity
Whose dark night has no malevolence;
Black and white, silences that migrated
In sonorous symbolism took control
Shimmering like a painting of a sorrow

Streaked with unashamed colours
A single tear from a promethean candle
I would move to lick the stain of destiny
That pillar inhaling its black perfumes
Like a communicant on his knees.
Exiled in reality, I saw what I had never saw
Or only thought I saw now condemned
To see what has never been seen

Words corralled themselves in my mind
Writhing maggots on a corpse
Wriggling for position waiting to be pronounced
How they flew, taking wings
Hovering for an instant above the page
Hunting out the detritus of man
To feast upon the putrid flesh of misery
I too went searching
For my ancient feast; for Zanzibar

However hideous pages
From the note book of the ******
Imprisoned the words, stampeded the search
Scattering it in many directions
Shattering blue-white eyes
A castrated country, century, impotent, impure
Like politics, the ******* that can be purchased by coin
Like so much bread in the market,
A thousand profanities became the popular song
But silence is the real language of the fool

For he alone bears witness to what he feels
Misfortunes not understood, weeping the popular ballad
Morality and law, parades of red robed Judges
Carcasses, a circus for carrion crows
Yet like a cannibal the dead were still buried in my belly
The gloss of reason hiding madness
Like so many veneered fronts in a proud precinct

Paraded in full view, silence is demanded and got
The words wither, fake time continues,
To count the unrelieved falsehood the chimera of life;
Reason did not imprison me
My life being not heavy enough
Was allowed to take flight
To float above the reasoned realm
Revelations of the truth realised only by detachment
Devoured my mind increased my errorless purpose
The search for Zanzibar

Accepted values; valued only;
Because of this acceptance
Are accepted as value
Thus accepted in silence
The fools resign themselves
To a false reality
One that nails them to a poisoned cross

In the gardens of the dead
Like rowed tulips that
Gardeners know how to match
I found myself, among those who had gone
Remembered yet forgotten
Whose edifice unlike their lives
Reached not upwards but down.
I smelt the scent of unknown things
The perfumes of eternity that histories bind;
Intensity, a murmur; gurgle, as in a child
Yet extreme its aberrations
Like celluloid hand that
Had never known toil
Or wiped sweat from a brow
Laughed yet grimaced
Its smile a crimson smear
The sorrow that it felt
A burnished hand upon its nakedness
To see its enshrouded presence in such a garden
One well stocked and growing
Caressed my being with its glee
To turn white feel the touch
Of its venomous fingers upon my flesh;
Its purpose, to prevent any search for Zanzibar

The stench of death
Then cast its' new
Yet antediluvian gaze
Upon its purpose
Odour of grave
Faraway nonexistent
Yet it is perfume to those
Who feast upon its scent
Moistures mingling with the air
Its common purpose
Floating like un-forgiveness
Its atmosphere ozone sans holes
Its meaning ever present
Its' outcome to halt
The search for Zanzibar

And so the stencils of oriental scribes
Like black shadows overpowered my reason
Floating high above, adrift on an expanse of darkness
However, presently that azure ink
Raised its curtain before my very eyes
Revealing the stage, the illuminated stage
On which I was to set my drama
Where the phantoms of my imagination
Would enact their mysterious mysteries;
A poetic alchemy

Then a golden spark of pure
Nocturnal light blinded me
In an instant I saw, observed
The sun drown in its deathly sea
Its healing wings spread
Fear would see it rise again
Still searching for that fatal flaw, happiness
How many lives do I need?
How many existences will it take?
Incarnations a hundred times
Searching for Zanzibar.
Awakening to continue to
Live the saddest of my dreams

Furtive footsteps through Cimmerian landscapes
Ah such enchantment, do you understand?
Ah such a charm, listen to its undying echo
Feel its charge, that siren call
Cosmic summons, the vagrancy of mind
That caresses the imagination
Whose tender touch can place you
At the apex of the universe
Can lead to Zanzibar.


And so the subtle and foolish tortures
Inflicted upon me by I, my quest began
One that would ascertain, take centre stage
Make an unheard appearance of a philosophy
That, I am everyone and everyone else is me
Eventually at some point
In time and space we are all one
All linked, for we are condemned
Yes condemned to live these lives
This is why the dead have dreams
Dreams about the tyrants and demons
Of other lives of who they were;
Who they have yet to become.
Nourished on half truths,
Forever pulling at the thread
The rotted rags of reason
Those tattered twines
Unravelling the stitching of reality
Of hallucinations, empty illusions
And tarnished dreams create a constant struggle


Therefore for every conscious thing
That happens in the world
There must be a responding reverberation
Within the human soul
Let us put a halt to the calls
For the death of imagination
And demands for imagination to be silent
Such absurdities
For imagination is the true door to reality
For only in imagination
Can there be a bearable act
Of self examination
It is memory that hurts
More than the imagination
Always prefer the imaginary to the real
Imagination is neither an exit
From our nightmares nor
An escape from reality
But the place we are all trying to get to,
Zanzibar its shared images
Its story, its own life a new reality.


Mysteriously in the midst of unknown
Mazagran landscapes I feel
The full impact of fleeting visions
Without the limitations of space or time
Feel the act of experiencing their reality
This requires no explanation, no proof
Either together or separate
Because simply they are,
Judgement, condemnation
Punishments are gone
There is no cleansing a world
Without consciousness
Landscape devoid of people
'La Lune' growling in the orchard of the sea
Calypso again one or ten
Eucharis, tempest or temptress
Take both the meaning and the experience
Taste the tear drops of the sun
Telemachus searching, searching
Zanzibar

The idol, tentacles undulating
Vibrations of collective knowledge
The blank face, featureless
Touching around the domain of Atlas
Speaking in a thousand different tongues
Moving but still, blocks my path
Disturbs the line of imagination
Makes reality quiver
Dream flowers sway in its cosmic wind.
Yet Alhazers' iridescent arch allows
The steerage of my passage
Without pious pilgrimages to empty silences that
Contain an eternity of tears
Who graciously offers coverage
For the echo of footsteps
Allowing the magic moments to come


Robbed of sunlight, artificial night shines
Its deception attempting to secure knowledge
Of a future unknown, winning only it's unattainably
Offering instead knowledge of the past
Master of silence, offers only knowledge
Of invaded consciousness
Bedlam of paradise where Eros and Pan
In congress sleep, close at Zanzibar.


Lifeless beauty that lives everlasting
Time that reason cannot change, only help.
O enchanted torture you have stolen
The taste from my mouth
Masked I against the spectre of reality
Proclaimed the age of 'hasashin'
The creator of recollections, maker of memories
Possessor of impulse giver of echo
That rings in the ear
Cloud cast its surroccoian shadow
Air tinged with the aftermath of fire
Floating in an Asian wind, so subtle
Like a breath suddenly the sound of song
Of dance rents the solitude
Silence is slashed like a canvass screen
Happiness pours forth unconfined
Unfettered, both faces of Kandinsky as one
I extinguish the light, turn to the wall
Gazing upon its Janis face
My eyes behold the giver of pleasure.

Then I found myself in an extraordinary place
Whose skies where made of crystal glass
Water of the enchanted land was blue-grey
Bridges zig-zagged its shimmering domes
I stared as masts and parapets came to life
Its people, musicians sporting
Tangerine and white livery danced
The air filled with the sound of their music
Then as if from nowhere a light hit my eyes
Blinking, this apparition was gone
Can I not always believe what I see
Just because I see what I believe
The inhabitants at once became spectres
Engulfed in thick clouds of smoke and sulphur
Erinyies roamed, inflicting madness
A circus of the macabre sped past
Its symbols of death fluttering frantically
Around this false and fragile world
Suggested children, like creatures in an imagination
Were made ready for their rebirth
By the touch of the poets pen
A thousand Cheribino

In another, swirling sonorous scenes
Stormed the citadels of my mind
Marched through my imagination
Mab engulfed the long closed
Cemeteries of my thought allowing me
To see the dreams of others
Like precious pearls prised from their shells
Their visualisation so intense
Joy overcame me at once
Then a swarm of kisses descended upon me
Like a regiment of famished men
Feasting for the first time
I freely gave myself as the main course
In the most beautiful of banquets
In another, yielding to these seductions
I was enraptured by portraits of beautiful young men
Which appeared to be on the point of speaking
They were most mysterious their intrinsic
Charm so beautiful, stimulated desire
Whose assuagement was so pleasurable
That it might be called pure ecstasy
A perfect pleasure which had never before existed
Entirely individual and new

Thus upon the horizons of my mind
Had been shed a mysterious light
In which I now saw everything bathed
I was summoned by the Prince
Knowing dreams have no limits
I obeyed his call
For a long time failing to set
Foot on the shores of reality
Drinking from the wells of magic
While angels danced on grassy slopes
Disturbed by flames
The stars shot out their fragrance

Sweet smelling; blue abyss
On I went to the court, the court of the Prince of
Poets, a visitor to life
There I spat out the bit of liberty
Embraced the Prince
Courtesans mocked me, ridiculed
Laughed and taunted me
Their jibes merely part of
Their own deluded reality, not of mine
They did not serve my purpose
Dressed as they were
In meaningless words
Clothed in phrases of falsehood
They tried to make me compromise
There was fire burning in my eyes
Vivid dreams were eating up my mind
They wouldn't let me be
There were dead men lying
By the sides of the road
With daylight in their eyes
I saw villages under the sea
I stood at Galactic central point
Watched the earth burn
They did not know
The way to Zanzibar
Could the Prince show me?

However each morning I awoke
I found myself in a purgatorial fog
I roamed lost the alternative harbour
For my soul still distant
The Prince, I discovered, existed
In a twilight world of mysterious ailments
He denied his feelings
Such denial only immersed him
In maintaining the world of external restraints
It created emptiness, a vacancy
Filled by material concerns
I pleaded with him
The emerald gene came down
Soon the leaves of grass
Whispered another order of existence
Strangeness of sensation
Intoxication of vision
Unhinged for mortals
And as the sound increased one cannot
Describe what else it is that has been
I viewed a world transparent
Devoid of illumination within which
Was never a sea or land
Then the prophets were ******
For they were all liars
And I saw the most beautiful flower
Unfolding out of its own roots
For such a flower cannot
Unfold other than it does
I stood on the threshold of Orcus
I met Abbas Effendi the Gene without a name
Bab, Upanishads spilled music in my ears
Called to me in the most spectacular of colours
It was wonderful for the colours
Were like my dreams, red, black and green
I witnessed the three, sometimes as one
Other times as two, again and again
The self eternal and inseparable sons
Of Shakyamuni caressed me with their thoughts
Their music and colour moved about me
In ecstatic rhythm like the peaceful
Waves of the ocean as upon a shore
I read the sentences of silence
Breathed the perfume of never fading flowers
Walked in cherry blossom snow
Heard Hafiz reciting in the night
I saw for the first time
The unfinished likeness of others.

Then one day the Prince
With a sweeping theatrical and
So to speak, allegorical flourish bowed
Called me an exiled angel
Said the time had come to travel
To leave the images of naked heels
Imprinted in the clay
We wondered
Then as if by magic, suddenly the shadows
Of houses, halls, and a church
Emerged like enchanted islands in a fairy tale
The spiritualised forms of civilisation
I was approached by a graceful youth
Draped in cobweb lawn
He was pale, delicately beautiful
Spanish looking, but his name was Alexis Sonyeuse
Whose family it was said was
Related to the French Emperor Napoleon
It was also rumoured that he had
Had a tempestuous affair with the Bishop of Monaco
And once slept with his half brother Julian Apollinaire
When he spoke he was at once original
Delicious, moving, droll and discreetly melancholy
Listening to him was like breathing
The perfume of wondrous flowers
But the scent of datura hung about him
Paralleling his every movement
  Another youth, Edmond also greeted me
He was a young man with aristocratic features
A complexion pink, like a girls
And a bearing at once charmingly gracious
And audaciously insolent
His shirt was strange, the lining
A peculiarly orange colour
A flame coloured taffeta
Like the petticoats of a *****



They looked at me
Furtive glances emanated from their eyes
Training a profound stare upon my person
The two youths took me to 18 Avenue de Friedland
There two boy servants
Adoum and Outhman greeted us
Spinario's lay about its confines
Frezans caressing them
As they touched their feet
A hundred echansons moved
With dazzling delicacy dispensing dreams
In drops from crystalline cups
Here I witnessed the tragic faces of the population
Urnings, cleaning in the midst of anarchist trials
The room a fiery red, stained with light
The caress of forgotten thought
Like the thickness of a sorrow
Musicians playing on broken strings
Crimson ******, who defied the King of Naples
We moved past wretches
Like Virgil, but Danteian
Saw the usurers heard the rustling
Of lute strings the clinking of grey paper
Observed in this Minatare's lair
The purchase of a twelve penny dagger
Liberty of speech meeting its great reckoning
In a little room, Ingram the poltergeist
Of misfortune was there
Dead Scythian, who ever loved you
Loved you as you might, loved you at first sight.

This was a new and exciting world
Whose environs were populated
By the most mysterious and colourful of people
I was introduced by the two youths
To a suicidal young painter who
Was rebelling against his class
He was a somewhat forced intellectual
With an over quixotic passion for equality
Still he was warm, kind and impulsive
Poetry, he made it known
Had opened his mind to the invisible
Beside him was a painting
Exemplifying a new kind of observation
In a style absolutely faultless
Each structure clear, each brush stroke
Falling exactly into place
Inscribed in the top left
Corner were the words
"Quod me nutrit me destruit"
An introduction to himself of a tall youth
Whose eyes possessed a constant
Vagrancy of desire
Who seemed at once, for one so
Andrei Aug 2010
The shouting face of the sea
Ravages rocks on the toes of the beach
Seashells glued to glass
laminate the reflecting rays of the baking sun  
A pebble preaches to a mountain
Underneath an electric dream
Galvanize my heart,
It needs a jump-start
Stuck in a frozen tundra of fallacy
Chasing broken tragedies
I told her
I tried
Nothing seems to change the mind
So I guess I’ll have to lie
Praying a lion’s smile
captures her immaculate eyes
But my summer’s luck lacks the ability to clear cloudy skies
Now I am alone in a misty meadow
With taciturn trees
Yet you were like the warm belly of a manatee
And I was a calloused heart  hoping for a remedy
Dusting off the rabbity
that squirrely tempo anxiety,
closing in with night.

The irresistible pattern
the irrational illogical fight
a battle with one’s discipline,
mirroring our might.

I make it home a fluttering
belly twirled and muttering,
I tell myself tis alright!

The damage done, and everyone,
I’m just like them and millions more
succumbing at the Devil’s door.

And the taste, the burn,
the healing calm,
the shaking and the thinking gone.

Knock one back, slam out another
night is early, rock it brother,
Tying on a swilly swirling
buzzed-out brain and mind a twirling. . .

“Ahhhh…”

I feel better now, exhilarated,
exasperation falls to stout resound;
I pour again and knock it down!

“Ahhhh…”

Spinning now, not to say I’m spun
but choosey choosing several a pun
I see myself an accomplished one!
Yes, that’s it, that is me,
look upon with thoughts of glory
yank open the freezer for glass that’s hoary. . .

How cool am I? certainly not boring
all night I’m here, pouring, pouring. . .

Buzz subsides, thoughts slow too,
lurid leering, slobbering swearing,
stupid actions and nothing new?

I lose the bottle,
I lose my shirt,
***** on myself,
pass out in dirt.

Another night of drunken hero,
time that’s wasted for kingly Nero.
But who am I to judge myself?

I’m hardly worse than anyone else?
PrttyBrd Aug 2010
Gramma always had cookies in her cookie jar
No one ever ate them but me
The jar was her self-portrait
The silvery bun was it's lid
The slight clanging of it as it opened or closed
The smell of it
Even the thought of it,
filled me with joyous anticipation
of its internal goodness
When I was sad, or did a good job
When I worked hard, or was a good helper
When I was sick, or had a rough day
But particularly when I was in trouble
That is when it was most special
She would sneak me off to the kitchen
With a steady hand, like that of a surgeon
She would lift that lid slow and steady without a sound
A feat I have yet to accomplish
Then, in silent winks and sideways glances
When the coast was clear
I got to choose a decidedly undeserved treat
It was in the belly of that cookie jar
That I learned that she would always love me
No matter what

That cookie jar, abandoned and dusty upon a shelf
Recently found and cleaned
Laid in wait upon the table
It had been weeks sitting silent before my visit
I noticed it the moment Ma opened the door
Before the hugs, "hello"
We reminisced about that old empty jar
The jar that never matched her kitchen
The one that was poorly painted by hand
To her its beauty was hideous
She obviously did not know the secrets it held
Our secrets, mine and Gramma's
Happy to be rid of it,
The torch has been passed
As it takes its place of honor in the center of the counter
I notice that its yellow dress and red apron
Match my yellow walls and the red flecks in my curtains
It is at home in my kitchen
Even if my kitchen was purple
Now, its lessons of unconditional, eternal love
Are to be bestowed, unknowingly to my children
They will learn just how much a cookie can fix
And the secrets that are kept deep within
The belly of the cookie jar
copyright©PrttyBrd 18/08/2010

— The End —