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The beautiful boats
The beautiful boats
Glorious examples
Of wood that floats

The beautiful boats
The beautiful boats
Wonderfully wrapped
In painted coats

The beautiful boats
The beautiful boats
That bob up and down
Like musical notes

Boats on the sea
Boats on the sea
The rich and famous
Are drinking their tea

Boats on the sea
Boats on the sea
Round the coast
For a minimal fee

Boats on the sea
Boats on the sea
A nice little cruise
Lucky old me
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.
Jolene D'Souza Aug 2016
Everytime I'd think of you
I'd send a memory to the sea
Riding on a paper boat
To somehow bring you back to me

Time and time again
I'd send dozens and dozens more
Till one day I found all my paper boats
Washed up on the shore

While I was sending you paper boats
A storm had settled in
Brewing and stirring the ocean depths
Taking my boats I sent within

My paper boats never reached you
My paper boats came back to me
My memories are now upon the shore
Haunting me endlessly.
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine
Hooflip Jan 2013
Seeking a reality,
bridges, boats, and canopies.
Calamity surrounds and swarms
my skin of wicked tragedy.
A cavalcade of traveling;
a taste of fleeting sanity.
Settle with the is or question off into the can it be.

Bridges, boats, and canopies,
Bridges, boats, and canopies,
Ripples in the water always fade but follow straggling.
Bridges, boats, and canopies,
Vistas, view or craft the scene,
Settle with the is or question off into the can it be.
https://soundcloud.com/thehumbleloud
Jim Davis Apr 2017
In the last
three decades,
after we became one,
I touched
amazingly beautiful things,
horribly ugly things,  
unbelievably wondrous things

I touched nature's majesty;
hued walls of the Grand Canyon,              
crusty bark of the
Redwoods and Sequoias,
live corals of the
Great Barrier Reef,
dreamlike sandstone of the Wave

I touched magical and strange;
platypus, koalas and
kangaroos Down Under,
underwater alkali flies and
lacustrine tufa at Mono Lake,
astral glowing worms
in the Kawiti caves

I touched holy places;
Christianity's oldest churches,
the Pope's home in the Vatican,
Hindu and Sikh temples and
Moslem mosques in India,
Anasazi's kivas of Chaco canyon,
Aboriginal rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

I touched glimmers of civilization;
uncovered roads of Pompeii,
fighting arenas of Rome,
terra cotta armies of Xian,
sharp stone points of the Apache,
pottery shards from the Navajo,
petroglyphs by the Jornada Mogollon

I touched fantastical things;
winds blowing on the
steppes of Patagonia,,
playas and craters of Death Valley,  
high peaks of the Continental Divide,
blazing white sands of the  
Land of Enchantment

I touched icons of liberty
and freedom;
the defended Alamo,
a fissured Liberty Bell,
an embracing Statue of Liberty,
the harbor of Checkpoints
Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie

I touched glorious things
made by man;
the monstrous Hoover Dam,
an exquisite Eiffel tower,
a soaring St Louis Arch,
an Art deco Empire State Building,
the sublime Golden Gate Bridge

I touched sparks from history;
the running path of an
Olympic flame just off Bourbon,
the last steps of Mohandas Ghandi
at Birla House before Godse,
******'s Eagle's nest and the
grounds over Der Führerbunker

I touched walls of power;
enclosed rings of the Pentagon,
steep steps of the
Great Wall of China,
untried bastions of
Peter and Paul's fortress,
fitted boulders of Machu Picchu

I touched strong hands;
of those conquering
Rommel's and ******'s hordes,
of cold warriors of
Chosin Reservoir,  
of forgotten soldiers of Vietnam,
of terrorist killers of today

I touched memories of war;
the somber Vietnam memorial,
the glorious Iwo Jima statue,
the cold slabs at Arlington,
the buried tomb of USS Arizonians,
Volgograd's Mother Russia  

I touched ugly things;
shreds of light in
Port Arthur's prison,
horrible smelly dust
in the streets from 9/11,
ash impregnated dirt
in the pits at Auschwitz

I touched oppressed freedom;
open ****** plazas
of Tiananmen Square,
smooth pipe and concrete
of the Berlin Wall,  
tall red brick walls
of the Moscow Kremlin

I touched constrained freedom;
heavy ankle and
wrist slave chains
in the South,
little windows
in Berlin's Stasi prison,
haunted cells in Alcatraz  

I touched remnants of madness;
wire and ovens of Auschwitz,
stacked chimneys and
wooden bunks of Birkenau,        
Ravensbruck, and Dachau,
the tomb of Lenin,
toppled Stalins

I touched hands of survivors;
of Leningrad's siege,
of German POWs and
of Russian fighters
of Stalingrad's battle,
of Cancer's scourges  

I touched grand things;
deep waters of the Pacific and Atlantic,
blue hills of Appalachia,
towering peaks of the Rockies,
high falls of Yosemite Valley,
bursting geysers of Yellowstone,
crashing glaciers of Antarctica and Alaska    

I touched times of adventure;
abseiling and zipping in Costa Rica,
packing Pecos wilds and Padre isles,
flying nap of earth Hueys to Meridian,
breaking arms in JRTC's box,
fighting Abu Sayyaf, and Jemaah
Islami in Zamboanga City

I touched through you;
wet sand beaches of  Mexico and Jamaica,
mysterious energy of the monoliths of Stonehenge,
rarefied air in front of the
Louvre's Mona Lisa,
ancient wonders of Giza,
Egypt's tombs and pyramids

We shared soft touches;
drifting in Bora Bora's
surreal waters,
joining hands camel trekking the
Outback's dry sands,
strolling along Tasmania's
eucalyptus forest trails

basking in swinging hammocks
under Fiji's bright sun,
scrambling in
Las Vegas' glittering and
red rock canyons,
kissing under the
Taj Mahal's symphony of arches

We shared touching deep waters;
propelled in gondolas
through the city of canals,
Drifting atop Uru cat boats on Lake Titticaca,
Swooping in jet boats
up a wild river in Talkeetna

Racing in speed boats
around Sydney's great harbour,
skimming in pangas in Puerto Ayora,
paddling the Kennebec for
East's best petroglyphs,
cruising Salzbergwerk's underwater lake

We touched scrumptious things;
Beignets and chicory coffee at DuMonde's in the Big Easy,
Hot *** with sesame sauce
in the walled city of Xian,
Peking duck, dimsum, scorpions,
snake and starfish on Wangfujing Snack Street

We touched delicious things
Crawfish heads and tails at JuJu's shack
and ten years at Jeanette's,
Langoustine at Poinciana's, Fjöruborðinus and Galapagos,
Cream cheese and loch bagels
at Ess-a' s in the Big Apple

I touched your hand riding;
hang loose waves of Waikiki,
a big green bus in Denali's awesomeness,
clip clopping carriages of Vienna, Paris,
Prague, New Orleans, Krakow,
Quebec City, and Zakopane,
the acapella sugar train of St Kitts

We shared touching on paths;
the highway 1 of Big Sur,
the Road of the Great Ocean,
the bahn to Buda and Pest,
the path to the North of Maine,
the trail of the Hoh rainforest,
and time after time, the way home

Yet,
I could spend
the next three decades,
in simple bliss,
having need for
touching nothing,
other than you!

©  2016 Jim Davis
A poem I wrote last year for my wife!  Posted now since it matches the HP' theme for today - "Places"
K Balachandran Mar 2012
A sudden flash,
lightning's cuneiform write,
on  the plack of pitch dark sky;
like a truth derived from lives

Sudden  insights,
in human nature strike unawares,
if you look around,
some times even casual look reveals.

Likes and dislikes drive human lives,
and civilizations thrives or bite dust,
on their merit,
they are like leaves sprouting on a plant
an act, result of the land it stands and nutrients
it receives,
what complex laws work behind it!
how would you capture the essence of this?
--meaning is elusive even if you peel
the onion, for long,
human nature defies all descernable patterns.

Pharova Khufu of Egypt,
wallowing in riches, all his life
(in the stories of past)
was in love with
his two boats, more than any other thing,
(one made of acecea and other from cider)
king, aimed  his longing's sharp point
at this two wooden objects,
(a guy who had no problem in focusing
bless him, he deserves credit for that one decisiveness)

And when he died,
they thought these boats were the things
he would miss more than his wives,
what else could be possible?
they carefully laid to rest with him,  these two beloveds-
Khufu with two lovely boats; his love objects,
his wish was honored
*
Imagine a man of immense wealth
which eventually reduced to  some wood,
the size of two boats,
(the symbol of futility
human life represents,)
trveling the great beyond,
with his legs, one each
on a boat.

                
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water,
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a bunch of flowers, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind.  The wind.
I alone can contend against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here.  Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Curl round me as though you were frightened.
Even so, a strange shadow once ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your ******* smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the grey light unwinds in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
Until I even believe that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
Mihlali Stwayi Apr 2014
Coming from unknown shores, arrived these Western boats,
with disastrous as well as deceitful tactics they took our gold,
jump to the modern era, they are the ones' promoting ***,
they bare minimum death rates due to *** and Aids,
while African's lives in bitter ruins as the notion of "safe ***" seems perplex.
*** promotion misconstrued as our kids continue ****** the old,
Such consequences were never told,
when they sold us back our own gold.
Systematical control is now the definer of societies
Africans not taught of Qamatha but tested on Socrates,
African souls enticed into materialism by paper and cheese,
while Western supremacists economically ****** African Identities.
African child, fight back please!
This poem aims to tell the untold truth about the legacy of colonialism and imperialism as well as the effects of modern day capitalism on the African child.
Celeste DiLullo Sep 2012
5 minutes.
I sit on the water. The water’s surface is calm and quiet.
While the strokes continue, I look at the person sitting in front of me.
I can only see their back, but I’ve become used to it.

4 minutes.
The coxswain is calling starts.
There’s only a few minutes left, but I cannot keep time.
Everything’s happening so fast.

3 minutes.
The judges call for the boats to line up.
Gracefully, we glide across the water.
Smooth and kept.
Our balance leans the boat port-side, but it is soon restored thorough the echoing voice of our coxswain.

2 minutes.
We’re in our lane. I now take in the presence of the other boats.
They look fierce and prepared, then I look back into our boat.
We need to stand just as strong.
We are strong, if not stronger.
I remember that, because there’s no backing down.
I will not show fear.

1 minute.
Coxswain tells us to sit at three-quarters slide.
The point is adjusted and voices become silent.
I am reminded of every day I worked at practice.
Down to the last hour.
Down to the last minute.
My concentration becomes keener.
I take my final reassuring breaths.
I am fearless.
I am strong.
I am a rower.

0 minutes.
“All boats, ready.”
I dip my oar in a bit deeper. The silence is almost frightening.
My nerves are on a thin thread.
I breathe deeply. There’s no turning back.
“Go!”
“Three-quarters, half, three-quarters, full, full.”
“Power 10! Let’s do this! That’s 10! 9!”
Only three sounds can be heard.
The placement and swing of our blades against the boat.
The coxswain’s encouragement.
My ragged breaths.

I don’t dare look away.
“Keep the pressure, girls! We can beat Oakland! They’re a boat-length ahead! Bring me up to their 8 seat!”
I disregard the alarms going off in my body.
I exert all of my energy. I’m feeling lighter.
“We’re gaining on them! Get me to their 7 seat!”
Time is nothing to me.
I cannot think, only do.
My sole thought is my technique.

“Ladies, we’re walking them! Bring me to their 3 seat!”
I don’t doubt my coxswain’s words, but I am tempted to look to the side.
Our boat leans starboard for a stroke, but jolts back in balance with the next stroke.
My body begs for a rest, even a let-up.
But that’s exactly what the other teams want.
A chance.
A single chance to dominate us.
But I won’t give in.
Not now, not ever.
“We are even with Oakland! We’re in the last 500, girls! Don’t let them catch up!”

The last 500…?
But we have gone so far.
I won’t give up!
“Ladies, power 10 in 2! That’s 1! 2! That’s 10! 9!”
This is the last chance…to show them everything.
My will.
My strength.
My resolution.
The time is now!

Suddenly, added adrenaline runs through my body.
My breaths become more ragged and I feel a bit high.
I don’t let up.
The horn goes off, signaling our finish.
I lose the will to move.
Our coxswain tells us to paddle, but relearning how to breathe seemed more important to me.
Regardless of the silent screams of pain in my body, I obey my coxswain’s order.
We wane off after a while and once all boats cross the finish, we congratulate the other clubs.
I’m becoming tired; my body is crying, but we’ve succeeded.

Everyone worked hard.
We shared everything.
Endurance.
Hardship.
Strength.
Courage.
Friendship.
C­onfidence.
And there’s only one way to show how strong we really are.

We row.
And that’s all there is to it.
Coxswain: The boss of a row boat
Starts: A warm-up exercise for rowers to begin a race correctly

I wrote this poem when I was in the Los Gatos Rowing Club. This is poem was my farewell speech as I graduated.
Dee Sep 2014
As we sat at the bus station
Looking at the incessant rain
How the raindrops hung precariously
On the wires of the electric poles
The droplets close to each other
As they slid closer, they became one
Turned into a drip and splashed on to the ground.

Seeing a rivulet forming, she made little paper boats
Set them afloat saying their destination was the sea
Her distant dream a cause of consternation for me
My fear that the tiny stream would soon turn into a torrent
Break all embankments and destroy all in a flood
Sink the hapless little boats, her dream shattered.

Concerned about the ever increasing deluge
Little realizing that along with the collapsing boats,
Helplessly, I too was being ****** in by the rush of water
Being washed away from her, adrift without oars or a rudder
My last view of her, tears running down her cheeks
Were they the tears, dreams, boats or me that were being washed away?
How I wish I could have known…before she vanished from my view*.
Love, sorrow
Indian Summers in Chicago,
People walking by Lake Michigan
to
catch a cool lake breeze,

Indian summers in Chicago
are like no others,
Sometimes it is warm and some
time it is cool like an late autumn
breeze,

Indian Summers in Chicago,
Watch the people take their dogs for
a walk in the dog parks along the
the lake and enjoy the long walks
that are comfortable and cool.

The people look out into Lake Michigan,
but they do not see what they use too.
All the boats, yachts, and sail boats,
are no longer there waiting to be used.

Everyone has taking their boats, yachts, and sail boats
back to their homes because winter is on her way,
and their boats, yachts, and  sail boats are
only allowed to remain their from Memorial Day
until Labor Day.
DAVID Jul 2015
the darkest hour, the longing
is gone, no look back, nor remorse,
only scars and internal bleeding,
the time of sorrow is past, no remorse
nor songs of regrets, futile are the sorrow
songs,

despair is good, like love or an ******,
after the secrets behind the dress, loving
wanting the female scent, can smell you,
as lion to his prey, as bees on honey,
looking at the female eyes, loving silently,
longing lascivious touch, in the heat of lust,
falling as a sinner for her ****** doors,

the hour of lust never goes, is cursing
every moment and every piece of flesh,
like the merchant of Venice, taking your skin
as mi own, devouring the placer of
making her *** and letting her go.

us  poets souls, loving without remorse
feeling and making love threw words,
in a shallow world, full of badly lust, the lust of us,
is sour but never cold, only shallow souls
can't make love, us always trying to love,

the darkest hour, the longing is on,
mesmerizing the lascivious touch,
looking at you'r ******* face,
sweet as hell feeling mellow and fool
as a little boy, in the hour's of hates,
there is no remorse after those gay boys
in shallow hall, even them knows who is not

some loving threw phones,
us ******* threw words, like the
first lover threw words, mister George
lord of us all, the poets following the trails,
of love and lust, looking the fleur du mal,
reading the maldoror, and watching
at abysmal thoughts, of greats and crazy lost,
how many of you **** with words,
as Baudelaire says,
hypocrite reader mi brother, the truth
is on our souls, she watch for us all.

a season inferne, trying to love her
and making her keep the ******* soul,
soulless girl is already lost, crazy paths to her,
lost, but never stain my soul, in the darkest hour,
loving as i let go, feeling nothing, but the stain of
children blood in her hands, lost the soul, but trying
as never, to making her feel the love and lust in a
poets souls, beast are we all, of love and lust,

in this darkest hour, lost the heart but not my soul,
she is the love i make threw words, and lust is not
a game on her phone, or sexting foolishness,
where is thou lascivious touch, your heaven reach's,
gone. and never to return, too much connection
but no touch

lust is not a game, is an act of love,
pain and placer, lust and love,
flavors of the same drug, the drug of love,
every ****** is connected too us all, poetry
is ******* and loving threw words,
old pigs and lion and wolves,
making and matting and feeling it all.

the pain is part of lovers and lust, in
the empty streets of the days gone,
y can still see her with my eyes closed.
old lover of days far gone, still see you
with my eyes closed, the darkest hours
are gone and never to return, children's
blood stain the soul, of a soulless girl,

the our of darkness is not close to home,
i'm a poet in a crazy world, with out malice
or remorse, just a lover in the shallow halls,
full's of badly lust, and empty hearts with out the soul.
at the house of hell, immortality is far gone,
at this port of love and lust, are all vessels and boats
getting to the shore, or drawing in deep waters of
blood pain and lust, by not loving it all, pain and remorse
fear and love, lust and shame, all is there to feel it all,
there's  no escape for the truth in our souls, nor
ever going to be a safe port, the deep waters are
full of drawing boats, in the sea of life and love
let her go, and never look back as she lost her soul

the salt sculpture was looking back, now she is gone,
***** was full of badly lust, now she is a salty wall,
beneath hashem eyes she lost the ******* soul,
now and then never let the stain get's the soul,
is your only escape from hem, and his burning home
away the darkest hour, know that she is gone,
new dawns and new days, for this poet to love,
some day the cold will let her heart feel the eternal
fire of a poets soul. a burning heart full of love,
pain and lust, as the vessels sail on,
away far the boats are gone, beneath hashem's eyes

did he love, some will say, in deed he love,
and that is all, beneath the shallow halls
of love and lust i'm still alone in this ******* cold,
empty thoughts and lover soul's, is full by pain and lost
behind the eyes of a poets soul, is the abysmal truth
in the poets clothes, lust is nothing with out the love,
empty and vain, as a tick drinking flames of dragons yawns.


in the darkest of all hours i fell the pain of being alone,
no shame nor remorse, only the coldness, of being not,
a poets truth is on his soul, lucid thoughts in dark rooms,
and lost is not  a part of the all, the strings connect us all,
even the creepy lost, are part of us all, with o with out the soul,
but never he could stain my soul, beneath the shallow walls of
lust and love, some are lost, and alone, is a cold world, for the one with soul, evolved and ready for all, sill the soulless ones are looking for love and lust, even in shallow hall, their trying to be loved in return,

in the hour of lust and love, still the head need to be lost,
cause the pain was bigger then the love, even then i knew
one day i will going to love or try to, do,
i never be but alone, still can smell the sweetness,
of the lady's love, and make them feel adored,
and wanted, but still the head need to be lost,
the hours of pain are still near the bed,
looking as a drag remorse, or a foul lust taken by force,
or stolen in sleep, still the stains of ****** ****'s,
pollute what once  was full of love.

now is all full of lust and pain, never the soul
or the pain, take of nothing but shame,
of this poet's soul.
that even after the rapes, or  games
of creepy shames, lose the head or let the shame
direct my game, what once was stained, some will wash,
with love and lust, and honey tears, will take the stains
and love the flames in the poets heart.

nor shame nor remorse, just the truth and the flames,
never the blame will command my flames or foul my name,
connected are the strains of us all, as a mouse, as a lion
she will never pollute my name, or her shame will be minor,
the children s blood in her scent pollute the air,
and her bleeding hands are a ******* disgrace.

still the pain was washed away,
and the heart break was healed, after
all those years in pain, living in poets hell,
decadence as a way of life, despair and pain
***** my second and third name, now i'm clean
alive and well thoroughly clean is the soul of this,
project of man, sane and plain,

the darkest hours pass and where gone
alone and free, simple, smelling some
Madeleine in the sweet morning air,
the loner past, is gone with her lying eyes,
away i sail in this vessel, away the port, looking
for clean air, a woman with soul,
and this loving flame called poetry.
Don Moore Oct 2016
Winds from far foreign climes beats upon the Lizard rocks
Gulls driven towards the blackest of crags, yet pass over safely inland
In the darkest skies they wheel and spin as if torn by some giant’s hand
White horses gallop crests of waves as they rush towards tiny harbours
There to crash savagely and rend cut stones from their secured places
Men work to save their boats, fighting the storm which mothers sent
Nature conspires to take their very lives as they struggle with her might
Rocks gnash their teeth and boats not safe yet, pass near their faces
Hoping for the safety of their port, men’s white faces line their gunwales
Black, white, red, blue and yellow, boats colours lost within the spray
These same boats that forge the men they carry out upon the sea’s wrath
But now just seek to bring them safely home to their worried wives
Their women stand upon the quay or stare worried from their windows
Churchyards on the hills above seaside villages filled with headstones
Men’s deaths caused by storms in past times of fishing for their living
Leaving spouses, their children to carry on their traditions and religion
Headstones cut from the very granite of the weather worn Lizard cliffs
Menfolk deep beneath the Cornish loam, there to rest for all eternity
Whilst below in the thrashing storm, the families fight once again
Then as quickly as it came, the storm blows out, waters return to placid
Men stretch their aching backs, those hidden from storm turn out
The ******’s mission helps as it can the fractured families
And church maybe rings for those lost out to sea, never to be seen again
There will be time to mourn, and the village will then lament together
And those who are left, they return to their sacred craft of netting fish
Return to shining calm, to ply their trade, to bring food to this isles shore
Writing a Cornish Faery tale presently, and I felt parts of the book would benefit from some prose at the beginning of a chapter...
Nishu Mathur Sep 2016
I made those paper boats to sail
Folded by hands eagerly  
Then floated them in streams of rain
Now, they come to float in memories

A splash of toes in puddles of mud
As heaven's water washed the eyes
A song on lips of clouds and rain
As I raised my arms to hug the skies

So free and wild those days of yore
Such innocence in  breath of dawn
Laughter lingered through the  night
Oh, how quickly have those days all gone

And stories that grandmother told
Weaves and yarns that life unmasked
Now come back to me in dreams that drift
Like paper boats of the past
Liz Aug 2014
You are my wind
You are my sun
The blood in my veins
The bones to make me stand

I've been drowning
And i thought you were my life raft
I thought you were my island
My safe place to escape

But turning away from the water
Won't make it go away
Running from the sea
Won't make it less deep

I've grown so used to finding my boat
So used to hiding from the tide
I panicked when it wasn't there
Has my boat sailed away?
The panic gave me a cramp
Tied weights to me
And I began to sink faster

How could my boat do this?
How could it sail away?
But the more I missed my boat
The more I needed it to stay

But not as safety
Not as refuge
But a love to share
And laugh and grow

I still need my boat
But not like I did before
No more hiding
No more dry land
I need to swim

Because boats are fun
And great for days
But the sea is a beast
That no boat can match

No she doesn't care that I'm a mermaid
Who fell in love with a fisherman
She doesn't care I've spent too much time on dry land
I forgot how to use my fins

A mermaid that can't swim
What a pathetic life it is
But she's cruel
She wont keep the boats around

So don't forget how to swim
Don't forget how to use your fins
We are strong us mermaids
Making deals with sea witches
Seducing men to their death
All fine folk tales
But you have to believe the myth
Always been strong

Because regardless of what Disney said
I can't grow legs
I'll always be a mermaid
But what use is it if I can't swim

When I learn how to swim again
I hope my fisherman will come back
I hope he hasn't sailed too far away

When I'm on deck of our boat again
We will dance and sing
Maybe have dogs
And flowers to remind us of land
A piano in the dining room
And guitars lining the walls
Music will echo
They can hear us from land
The happy fisher and his happy mermaid
Living together again

But storms always come
Because that's how nature works
It rains
It snows
It storms
Than the sun returns

This time when the storm comes
And makes waves that could touch the moon
And I get thrown overboard
I won't forget how to swim

I'll play with the fish
Make friends with sharks
And await the return of my beautiful fisherman

But you will always be my wind
My sun
The air in my lungs

But soon I will have gills
So I can breath when the water comes
You can't be my fins anymore
You can't be my dry land
You can't save me from drowning
Because mermaids are free
But if you want
You can be free with me

So please return my beautiful sailor
And we can live on our happy boat
And I'll be one with the sea
Because this sea is a part of me
So this is super long and I'm actually gonna write a full explanation of it because yeah I feel like that's needed. So I have depression, and I used my boyfriend to hide from it. But that all crashed when my depression took over and I couldn't hide anymore, and I was mad. I was mad at him, at myself, at the world. So I flipped, and it pushed him away. Hopefully not forever but I feel like ****. But I needed it, I need this. Because I realized that hiding won't make the depression go away, it'll always find you. And when it does it comes on full force. And this time no matter how much he loves you, he won't be able to save you because depression is a beast. It's a monster beyond any comprehension and it will tear you apart. Now that it returned and stronger than ever, I couldn't be saved. And I was mad, why had he made it go away before but this time he can't? I was mad, didn't he love me? Than why can't he save me? Well guess what, it doesn't matter. Love is beautiful and love is strong, but nothing can cure you from a mental illness. I forgot that. And I had grown so used to being able to hide from it I forgot how to live with it. I forgot how to be my own warrior and to fight for myself. I'm not a ******* damsel in distress, I'm not a poor soul that needs saving. I'm a warrior, I've lived with it this far and forgetting how to fight will only get me killed. Depression is the sea, and I'm a mermaid that fell in love with a fisherman. I live in the sea, the sea is a part of me, like depression. And I can't run from it because it won't go away. This isn't a Disney movie where I can sell my voice for legs and run away from the sea. I can't, I have fins, it's the way I am. I have scars, that's who I am. I'm not a normal person, I can't **** it up and be fine, I'm sick. I can't grow legs and run away, I can't live on a boat. And there will always be storms, nature will never be sunny forever. Depression will come back fighting. And when you get thrown overboard and start to drown because you forgot how to swim, don't be mad at you fisherman. His boat got thrown by the storm too. I forgot how to balance my mind, how to find harmony with my mind, and live with my depression. So I flipped. And it's not his fault, he can't fight depression either, it's so much bigger than all of us. But I forgot that. And now I'm drowning in this storm of depression without my fisherman because I got mad. But now I know that I have to learn how to fight for myself, because storms will always come. And if I drown every time I'm gonna lose my fisherman. So swimming is the only option. He isn't a prince, or an angel, or a savior. He's just a fisherman, and I ******* love him. Our boat (our relationship) has sailed away for now, but I'm praying it'll return. When I see my fisherman again, I will remember how to swim. So when depression knocks me back into the ocean, I won't drown. I go with the waves until it calms, than I hop back our boat. But anyway, there's a lesson for ya. Don't rely on other people to save you from depression, because it's impossible. And don't get mad when you forget that. Anyone who read this far (props to you if you did) and suffers from depression as well, DONT FORGET HOW TO SWIM. We're not regular people, but not in a bad way! We have fins and live in the sea, we fight all her terrible waves and storms and keep swimming. Because mermaids are ******* strong as **** hell yeahhhhhhh. And if you're reading this and you're someone's fisherman (or fisher lady) meaning you're significant other suffers from depression, remember we're on this boat together and smooth sailing is not always a garuntee. So don't get mad at your mermaid when they lose it, the sea is just gettin a little crazy. Just remember, when they drown, you can't save them. Because depression (the sea) is stronger than anything, so don't feel bad. Don't feel like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend, don't feel like you're not good enough, all you have to do is wait for the storm to pass. Because you're only human and depression is a force much stronger than that. But human isn't bad, it's beautiful and perfect, hell yeah you a great fisherman. But fisherman cannot control the weather. So just wait out the storm. And Jesse, you're the best fisherman there is (I'm sorry that's so lame) and sometimes mermaids are stupid. But don't dock your boat because I'm learning how to swim again, and I won't forget when I get knocked overboard again. I love you always, and come around again, I'll be swimming just fine and ready to get back on our boat. I love you
Looking out from the launch
Swans were gliding on by
There were boats on the water
And more birds in the sky
Kids were down by the boatramp
Sailing boats  of all kinds
they were captains and pirates
At least in their minds
The small lake was covered
With vessels galore
And up past the boat ramp
You could rent out some more
Paddle boats sat *******
Waiting till late in the day
When the weather was better
And the swans were away
Further on up the shore
Sat an old french fry stand
The fries were just perfect
But, their burgers were bland
Cotton Candy as well
Made their menu  a treat
And the old carny posters
Made the building complete
When the park was first christened
seventy years or so back
The fry stand was opened
They just sold "******* Jack"
As time passed it added
More items to buy
Like their bland old hamburgers
And their fantastic fries
The posters were left
From an old carny show
They had amazing old pictures
Of the geeks, so you'd go
To attract some attention
They stuck some on the side
Like "Phillip" the lizard
And his hairy faced bride
Away just a bit,
Were some rides all closed down
There were bumper cars, zipper
and a train back to town
They were all closed and shuttered
And weren't used any more
And the train had stopped running
Not long after the war
By the boat dock, a building
Full of lockers to use
There was just enough room
For your clothes and some shoes
A quarter would rent one
If you wanted to store
Your valuable items
While you went by the shore
In the afternoon sun
When the kids came from school
You could buy some balloons
And get face painting too
Clarence, just Clarence
made balloons every day
He made whatever you wanted
And took whatever you'd pay
He'd paint up their faces
Make them scary or sweet
And he did it each day
with clown shoes on his feet
Clarence, just Clarence
was there every day
He showed up around lunchtime
In the heat of the day
No one knew Clarence
By any more than
Clarence, just Clarence
The smiling old man
For thirty odd years
He'd come down to the park
Showing up around noon-ish
And not leaving till dark
He took what you'd pay
For his air filled  creations
Making creatures galore
From his imagination
He'd buy fries for his lunch
And a coke to wash down
The bland hamburgers
That were just flavored...brown
He created more smiles
Than anyone by the lake
Painting faces for children
He never made a mistake
His wasn't a fortune
But at the end of the day
He'd made money and smiles
And they were worth more than pay
When the boats were all stored
And the fry stand was closed
All the boats were locked up
And the sidewalks were hosed
Clarence, just Clarence
took two quarters in hand
And he went to the lockers
Behind the boat rental stand
Inside, there were showers
And a bench just to sit
And he'd open two lockers
And he'd think for a bit
He'd wash off his face paint
Change his clothes of the day
Then he'd switch them for others
He had lockered away
See, Clarence..just Clarence
spent his life in the park
Making smiles in daylight
And he slept here when dark
He locked his persona
In locker nineteen
And he took a small pack out
All camoflauge green
he left the small building
And went down by a light
There he spread out the contents
Of his pack, for the night
A blanket, one pillow
Just the size for his head
Then on the hard bench
He'd lie down...go to bed
He'd be gone the next morning
Before the park saw the sun
He would gather his pack up
And he'd be off on the run
As the weather got colder
He'd find a tropical place
To find one more park
Where he could paint one more face
He'd leave here each winter
But be back in the spring
His life was a circle
You know...that has a nice ring.
So, Clarence, just Clarence
made balloons and made smiles
And he lived in two parks
Spread over miles and miles
No one knew Clarence
Or just where he came from
but Clarence, just Clarence
will be missed when he's gone.
When the lucent skies of morning flush with dawning rose once more,
And waves of golden glory break adown the sunrise shore,
And o'er the arch of heaven pied films of vapor float.
There's joyance and there's freedom when the fishing boats go out.

The wind is blowing freshly up from far, uncharted caves,
And sending sparkling kisses o'er the brows of ****** waves,
While routed dawn-mists shiver­oh, far and fast they flee,
Pierced by the shafts of sunrise athwart the merry sea!

Behind us, fair, light-smitten hills in dappled splendor lie,
Before us the wide ocean runs to meet the limpid sky­
Our hearts are full of poignant life, and care has fled afar
As sweeps the white-winged fishing fleet across the harbor bar.

[Page 35]

The sea is calling to us in a blithesome voice and free,
There's keenest rapture on its breast and boundless liberty!
Each man is master of his craft, its gleaming sails out-blown,
And far behind him on the shore a home he calls his own.

Salt is the breath of ocean slopes and fresher blows the breeze,
And swifter still each bounding keel cuts through the combing seas,
Athwart our masts the shadows of the dipping sea-gulls float,
And all the water-world's alive when the fishing boats go out.
Rafael Alfonzo Mar 2015
Let’s go to the docks where the wooden boats rest
With fine-aged grooves that wrinkle their flesh
A quiet and hollow creek to their breath
And in we’ll step

We’ll bring your fishing rods and hooks
Some bait for the fish and I’ll bring some books
Then we’ll paddle on down the river
Just you and I

Let’s row to a place where the water is fresh
In that old wooden boat with grooves in its flesh
A quiet and hollow creak to its breath
And wait for a catch

And while we wait with the water and woods
Once we’ve cast the lines, I’ll read you the books
To see your smile shine across the river
And to the sky

(c) 2015
Shreekant Dhuri Apr 2016
The paper boats sail
upon the stream.
Curious like vagabonds
questing for dreams.

On they float
through bends & turns,
Over silt mountains
& valleys of fern.

Glide with butterflies,
Caper past toads.
Not a clue where
leads the watery road.

Caressing the earth,
Savoring the rain,
Drawn into the rapids,
Broken free again.

The tempest, the calm,
All the vistas unknown.
Horizons they cross.
To beyond, they've flown!

A paper boat I hold
Only one to spare
Place it in the water
A small white corsair.

She kneels beside me,
on a bed of grass.
Points at the boat
& throws me a glance.

Smiling, she asks,
"Leaving? Where to?"
"Let's find out", I say
"My boat is for two."
www.shreekantdhuri.wordpress.com
Melanie Kate Mar 2015
Sometimes the sway feels like marching
Marching like I’m dreaming
While sleeping with the wind
Upon a sailing, swaying sea.

                                                  These dreams carried me here
                                                  Fleets of souls past
                                                  Lost in my sail boats

These dreams become my home
Because the horizon is gone
And the sun is night,
The moon and stars my life, my love.

I may not know where I’m going
But I feel this forward rise and fall
And the march in my heart
Drums with a knowing beat, beat, beat.

Success swims beneath these bodies of water
The air stirs my hair and soul
Lifting me above unknowns
To a place, I’m taking myself, really slowly.
MKD (c) 2015
Lawrence Hall Jul 2018
from an idea by Sheila Sharpe

In the foul heat and damp and rot and stench
After dusting off 1 the bodies of dead pals
The living and the dead, the living dead
Old Boats 2 lit off a cigarette and growled

“They say this stuff’ll **** ya.”



1 Dustoff – noun.  Dust off – verb with an adverb.  A dustoff is a medical evacuation via helicopter, as in “Doc, your dustoff will be here in three.”  To dust off a patient, then, is to transport a patient, not to tidy him.  I have recently read detailed arguments about the terms dustoff, dust off, and medevac, but no one quibbled about such minutiae along the Cambodian border.  

2 Boats – a boatswain’s mate, the brains and muscle of the Navy.  Boatswain’s mates do it all and are seldom acknowledged in history or art, not even in the recent film about Dunkirk.  A boatswain’s mate is often addressed as Boats, and always with deference, even by the C.O.
Your ‘umble scrivener’s site is:
Reactionarydrivel.blogspot.com.
It’s not at all reactionary, tho’ it might be drivel.
zebra Jul 2018
like cellophane wraps hard candy
like ink loves to dry
like hot sauce drenches noodles
like sunrise casts shadows
like band-aids sooth cut flesh
like irons crease linens
like origami folds paper
like water floats boats
like a tempest loves a teapot
like syrup and bananas drench waffles
like spoons love soup
like cats love fish
like french fries love ketchup
like wild girls dance
like a crow loves road ****
like eyes love beauty
like a circle loves a square
like buttered buns fit a bikini
like a kissed mouth hungers for wet lips
like moths love a flame
like dogs love *******
and like ******* hug butts

like howling ******* pulse hearts
like vampires love blood and castles
like dark grapes ferment in bubbling cauldrons
like madness loves a straight jacket
like a ***** loves a ****
and music gets you dancing

like suns fall through cobalt night all smashing diamonds
  
that's
how i love you
love
Amit Bajracharya Mar 2014
That paper was still me,
Today, I found i m still the same
I still hate rain
I still make paper boats.

Stupid rainfall of march
Stupid me, not carrying raincoat
But that paper was with me
I still love making paper boats

I m still the same, who don’t go restaurant alone
I m still the same, I love standing alone
But that paper was with me
I still love making paper boats

The rain stop! Finally i can go
I still love doing Ha..a: to feel the fogs and act as if i m smoking
I didnt throw the paper boat, i m still carrying it
That paper boat is still with me,

That paper,
That paper(the bill) of a coffee, I had yesterday.
I m still the same.
Mar 16, 2012
He grabs all that he has made
then takes them to the stream
let's them afloat on the water
over twenty pristine and clean

He loves to make his paper boats
most fragile as he seems
he loves them as they were children
he's the father of paper dreams

Some boats are blackened
some are the purest white
and for the love of his art
he fights all day and night

But these are his paper boats
some delicate, some spiteful
yet the voice and face of God
is very much more frightful


By Christos Andreas Kourtis aka NeonSolaris
When I was young
My parents had a painting
It hung beautifully on the chimney breast wall
The strokes captured the image
Of many sailing boats
Floating on a green Hong Kong sea
The sky was dark with a last tint of sun
And the boats were lit up
By tiny orange flamed lanterns
You could see the tiny fishermen
Casting their nets
Under pale clouds and the slow emerging moon
Like a lightbulb it illuminated the water
I would stand for hours
And gaze into its colours
Longing to be there
Catching fish on one of those boats
Then it went
Put in the loft
A treasure stored up high
But I still see it now
And I wonder if it's the same
The painting of boats on a Hong Kong sea
Swathi eruvaram Nov 2015
Two petite boats made from an old piece of paper are ready to swim
You eagerly watch as I drift them in

Its raining, its pouring
Our boats are sailing
Tiny ripples make the water a trampoline
But the boats manage not to dive in

Aye aye I am the captain
Quit drowning yourself in
For my son loves to see you sail
And I would love to see him smile
RAJ NANDY Jul 2015
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR
            BY RAJ NANDY: PART ONE

                   INTRODUCTION
  “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
         Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
        Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.”
      -by Wilfred Owen, British Army Lt. killed in
        action in France on 04th Nov 1918.

The Socialists called it the ‘Imperialist’s War’,
and it was the ‘Trench War’ for the soldiers;
But Europe hailed it as ‘The War to End All Wars’,                
Expecting it to end prior to 1914’s Christmas!
But alas, it soon became a mighty global war
fueled by national and ethnic aspirations and
territorial lust!
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir
to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, -
On the 28thof June 1914 at Sarajevo, was the
spark which triggered off this great catastrophe!
During 1876 when German Chancellor Bismarck
was asked about chances of an European War at
a future date;
He felt that Europe was like a big store house of
gunpowder keg!
While pointing to the volatile BALKANS he had said,
That European leaders were smoking in an arsenal,
where a small spark could cause a mighty explosion!
And 38 years later the world had witnessed,
Bismarck’s unfortunate prediction!
This war ended on 11th of November 1918, after a
four and half year’s long duration;
With 16.5 million military and civilian deaths, and
many more wounded and missing in action!
For the War had spread beyond the traditional
killing fields,
Killing many innocent civilians following the
bombing raids by German Zeppelins!
Now, before proceeding further some background
information here becomes necessary,
To understand the socio-political events leading
to the unfolding of this Great War Story!

         PRELUDE TO THE GREAT WAR
The Nationalistic fervor aroused by Napoleon,
And the February Revolution of 1848 in France,
Inspired Europe’s inhabitants to preserve their
ethnic and racial identities, without leaving
things to chance!
The Italian and German unification, and the
Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian polarization,
Aroused the expectations of the Slavic people,
Who remained spread all over Central and
Eastern Europe!
The various ethnic groups forming the Slavic race,
Always dreamt of an independent Balkan State!

         CAUSES FOR ‘THE GREAT WAR’
Imperialism, Nationalism, Militarization, Alliances,
and finally the assassination of the Archduke
Ferdinand,
Are the five main causes for this war, which is
generally mentioned by our Historians!
However, I shall now try to acquaint you briefly,  
With some relevant events from our recorded
History.

BRITISH IMPERIALISM:
Towards the turn of the 20th century Britain was
the dominant global imperial power;
And since the mid-19th Century it was seen that
the sun never set over the British Empire!
The British had a vast mercantile and a naval fleet,
To trade with, and administer their far flung colonies.
At the turn of the 20th Century the British Navy was
changing over from steam to oil power like other
big nations;
So the oil fields of the Middle East was important
for British militarization.
Also passage through the Suez Canal was vital for
maintaining their colonial possessions!
These facts will get linked up in Part Two of my
later composition!

GERMAN NATIONALISM:
The nationalistic fervor aroused in Germany
since Chancellor Bismarck’s days,
Made the Germans try to outstrip the British
in many ways!
This fervor was reflected in Goethe’s poetry and
through Richard Wagner’s musical notes;
Between 1898 and 1912 five Naval Laws were
passed in the German Reichstag, by majority
votes,
For building battleships, cruisers, and 96 torpedo
boats;
Which later became a scourge for Allied and
British shipping, known as the U-Boats!
The German nationalism and militarization went
hand in hand during those days,
While her industrialization also progressed at a
rapid pace.
Kaiser Wilhelm II had sought “a place in the sun”
by trying to outstrip the British in the arms race!
Statistic show more number of German scientists
had received the Noble Prize for their inventions,
Between this period and World War- II, when
compared with the combined winners of other
Western nations!

AUSTRIA-HUNGARIAN MONARCHY:
In 1867 by a comprising agreement between
Vienna and Budapest the capital cities,
The Austro-Hungarian kingdom became a Dual
Monarchy!
Many ethnic groups had composed this Monarchy
in those early days as we see;
With Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, and Slavic
people like the Czechs, Poles, Croats, Slovaks,
Serbs, and the Slovenes!
While the Austrian Officers of this Monarchy spoke
German, the majority of the soldiers were Hungarians,
Czechs, Slovaks, who never spoke German!
So the soldiers were taught 68 single-words of
German commands,
For the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army to function
collectively as one!
While Francis Joseph their sovereign and emperor,
aspired to become a strong centralized European
power.
But out of the 50 million people of this Monarchy
around 23 million were Slavs,
Who always dreamed of an independent Slavic
Kingdom in the Balkans!

THE BALKANS & THE KINGDOM OF SERBIA
After the Iberian and the Italian peninsulas of
Europe, the BALKAN peninsular is seen to be
lying in Europe’s extreme south east, -
South of the Danube and Sava River, bounded
in the west by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.
In the east is the Aegean and Black Sea,
With the Mediterranean Sea in the south, -
washing the tip formed by Greece with its many
islands around!
Now much of the Balkan areas were under the
Ottoman Empire since early 14th Century;
And here I cut across many centuries of past
European History!
Following a series of revolutions since 1804
against the Turks,
The Principality of Serbia was carved out in the
area of the Balkans!
A new constitution in 1869 defined it as an
independent State of Serbia;
Was internationally recognized at the Treaty
of Berlin in 1878, to later become the Kingdom
of Serbia!
This kingdom was located south adjoining the
Monarchy of Austro-Hungarians, much to their
annoyance those days,
Since the Kingdom of Serbia was looked upon
as a ‘beacon of liberty’ by the Southern Slavic
race!

THE BOSNIAN CRISIS (1908-1909)  
This dual provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina
in the Balkans,
Were formally under the control of the
Ottoman Sultan.
With permission of the Congress of Berlin in
1878, it was administered by Austria-Hungary;
Though the legal rights remained with Turkey!
But the Slavic population present there had
Nationalistic ambitions,
Aspired to join the Slavs in nearby Kingdom of
Serbia, to form a pan-Slavic nation!
The Slavic population in Austria-Hungary, also
entertained such dreams wistfully!
Now in 1908 a ‘Young Turk Movement’ based
at Macedonia,
Had planned to replace the absolute Turkish
rule in Bosnia!
And by modernizing the Constitution hoped
to rejuvenate the sick Ottoman Empire.
These developments set alarm bells ringing
in Austrian capital Vienna!
So on the 6th of October 1908 they quickly
annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina!
After having lost a war with Japan, and following
an internal Revolution of 1905 the Russians,
Prevented an escalation by staying out of the
Bosnian Crisis!
But the annexation of Bosnia had angered the
Serbs greatly,
So they started to train secret terrorist groups to
liberate Bosnia from Austria-Hungary!
These terrorist groups operated in small cells,
Under the leadership of Col. Dimitrijevic, also
known as the ‘Apis’ those days.
Now, a secret cell called the ‘Black Hand’ operated
in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo with Gavrilo
Princep as one of its members;
Who was trained and equipped in Serbia along
with other ‘Black Hand’ members.
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had remained
distressed about these subversive activities by
the Slavic race!
So in Jan 1909 they obtained the unconditional
support from Germany, in the event of a war
with Serbia even if Austria was the aggressor!
And also secretly hoped in a war to annex
Serbian territory!
For in the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913,
Serbia had greatly extended its territory to
become a powerful adversary!
Serbia had also obtained an assurance from
its protector Russia, should a war break out with
Austria!
Now, as tension mounted upsetting the delicate
balance of power in the Balkans gradually,
Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie,
planned to visit Sarajevo from Austria-Hungary!
It was a God sent moment for the secret
organization the ‘Black Hand’,
To plan the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand!

THE ASSASSINATION: SARAJEVO 28TH JUNE 1914
Now when I look back in time I pause to wonder,
How such an amateurish assassination plot could
have ever succeeded,
Without the cruel hands of destiny and fate!
The 28th of June was a bright summer’s St. Vitus
Day and a holiday in Serbia;
And also the 14th marriage anniversary of Franz
Fernandez and his wife Sophia!
Several assassins were positioned along the route,
Which was to be taken by the Archduke!
While the motorcade proceeded to the Town Hall
a bomb was thrown,
Which bounced off the rear of Archduke’s car,
Injuring few bystanders and a passenger in the
rear car!
The Archduke however refused to cancel his trip,
Saying that it was the act of some lunatic!
After completion of the Town Hall ceremony, the
Archduke wanted a change of plan deviating from
the laid down route;
By wanting to visit the patients in the hospital,
Injured by the bomb which had struck his cars
rear hood!
But the Czech driver was not briefed and took
a wrong turn by mistake;
Reversed trying to correct himself, stalled the car
stoppling next to Gavrilo Princep!
Presenting Princep with a stationary target, a
cruel work of destiny and fate!
Prince pulled out his pistol and fired two shots  
at a point blank range, killing both Ferdinand
and  wife Sophie;
When Ferdinand cried out ‘’Sophie, Sophie,
don’t die, live for the children’’, - words which
now remain enshrined in History!

TRIAL OF PRINCEP & THE CONSPIRATORS
The trial began in a military court on 12th of
October at Sarajevo,
With three judges and no jury, when Princep
pleaded 'Not Guilty'!
Killing of Duchess Sophie was an unplanned
accident,
Since he wanted to **** the Governor instead!
He claimed to be a Serbian nationalist working
for the unification of the Slavic race,
and detested the annexation of Bosnia by the
Austo-Hungarians!
Along with 15 other accused, Princep was found
guilty of high treason;
But being underage, was sentenced to 20 years
labour in prison.
But died three year's later from tuberculosis!

           CONCLUDING PART ONE
  ''Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
   There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
   But dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold."
      -Rupert Brook, part of the British Naval Expeditionary
       Force, buried in Skyros, Greece 1914.
Now, looking back over a hundred years in
hindsight I do realize,
That this assassination was not the immediate
cause or the spark which triggered this War,
But only an excuse and a pretext for the
Austro-Hungarians to carve up Serbia,
And distribute those territories between
Allies and friends of Austria;
Also enhance the prestige of their Empire!
Since the war had commenced almost two
months after the Archduke’s assassination,
Austria had lost the high moral ground for
vengeance with righteous indignation!
It was a cynical and a predetermined plan
of Austria in connivance with Germany,
To destroy Serbia and squash the hopes of
Slavic people for a pan-Slavic State, - as we
now get to see!
This war ended with the dissolution of four old
Empires of the Austro-Hungarians, Ottomans,
Tsarist Russians, and the Germans!
While new nations of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia,
Austria, and Hungary, got created from the
dissolved Empire of Austria-Hungary.
Russia gave up lands creating Finland, Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Ottomans gave up lands in SW Asia and the
Middle East, and in Europe retained only Turkey!
Thus this Great War had creating new nation states,
And gave Europe its new revamped face!
Composed by Raj Nandy of New Delhi,
Thanks for reading patiently!
   TO BE CONTINUED LATER AS PART TWO
**ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR
Dear Readers, this is a product of three weeks of my research work, put across in simplified verse! Hope to compose Part Two at a later date, and tell you about trench warfare & the poems composed about this War! On the 28th of June 2015, 101 years of this First World War was completed! Kindly give Comments only after reading in your spare time, for this Great War  took place during our grandfather's time! Thanks! -Raj
Lyn-Purcell Aug 2018
~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
I am taken from Yunann to the
coastal Province of Fujian, where
boats sail fair as fishermen fish. I
land by a pond with waters cascading
down boulders and rocks as old as
time itself.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
But even though there are trimmed
and hale blades of green, there is a
single flora, the corona of the water
Not the chrysanthemum with its svelte,
curling petals of the gelid transition
from the crimson leaves of autumn
kissed by the rathe winters.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Instead it is a single fuchsia lotus
bud,a pristine and graceful soul
unperturbed by murked waters.
As I get a closer look, the lotus
open slowly into full bloom and
with it, the golden essence -
ethereal, a star that throbs like
a heaven's dream, and it appears -
the phoenix.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Its plumage a brilliant shade of
red-gold, and wings and long tail
beset by iridescent streaks and jewels.
Slim-legged, clawed feet of a deep azure
and eyes, such a blight blue-green.
Looking to the sky, it releases such
a melodious cry and a star falls
a throbbing silver-white. It glides
to my hands and it is revealed,
another glorious Pearl Moon.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
With a peck of its beak, the Moon
cracks once more and my nose is
besieged by leaf pellets scented o'er
and o'er with fresh jasmine blossoms.
Seaweed green with licks of marigold
and shaped after the Phoenix's hot
eye.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Unlike the Dragon's Pu'erh pearls,
this aroma is dainty in its sweet floral
with a kiss of green; I can taste the sugar!
Velveteen on my tongue! A brew worthy
of chosen Kings and Queens. I notice that
the light of the Phoenix begins to fade.
As our eyes meet, it cries once more, a
sweet and happy cry born of Elysia,
before it fades away in gust of wind.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
The lotus petals fall off and float,
becoming soft rose-kissed boats;
the leaves have yellowed, browned
and wilted. All that remains is a
dry stamens but I see that the
ovaries are beginning to
flourish...

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
'Ahh,' my eyes now open, dazed,
'The Phoenix Eye pearls. Such a
fine golden liquor you will become!'
Anihana smiles, 'Indeed, My Lady.'
'I assume the final batch is its twin
sister?'
'Yes, My Lady. Jasmine, Green and
Lily pearls.' Anihana places the
burr-oak caddy down to grab the
caddy maple-wood.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
'Each pearl, all laboured with love,' I
coo. 'Such fresh tender herbs rolled into
blessed pearls that are either fermented
or sit with it's blossoming flowers for
many days and nights. Cover the Pu'erh
and the Jasmine Lily. I wish to be cleansed
by the Phoenix Eyes.'
'Yes, Sweet Queen.'
~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Part five of my Jasmine Pearls free verse!
Enjoy! ^-^
Lyn ***
Julian Jul 2016
Hip Service
By Julian Malek

The zeal of cobblestone tolerance arrayed in fashionable hues masquerading as crimson secrecy, elevates the tide of man but some boats leak in their foundations. Therefore a cork to every exuberance and a triumphant torch for every sorrow lives onward in collective time. Larks that abound because prescience and PUGET sound, that brown has become the new orange which in turn prowls as a concealed swarthy black. To antagonize the willful and frenetic pace, a prodrome of lasting but memorialized disgrace. Should I move to a state by first or last name, or is the final appellation worthy of much more lasting fame. I scurry down the aisles, bemused by shimmering tiles and the beguiled audiences who see much in my limitation but doubt little about my debited elation. Ringmaster Barnum, how much horticulture is needed for assured superstardom, how many cloisters must we evacuate from the incendiary plumes of a metaphorical Harlem..  But know that no virtual reality can supplant the reality that does truly exist, or at least our time is too infernal and purblind to resist. Carrey the tops of mountains in the humor of wellsprings and fountains, we engage a menagerie of egos lilting of an etiolated pragmatic concern. Evicted from paradise, littered with say-cheese demise ensnaring three blind mice eaten alive by snake-eyed vice. To feel good without incorporated tyranny, we must see blue and red as alternatives to the same destiny. A world that reckons with the futilitarianism of pacified malcontent and astroturf monikers that lead the impressionable into a slaughter shed. Established or not, any enchantment under the sea must include fishes once a pastiche of me, but to them I avoid their courtesy flush and never even faintly blush as my egalitarian statements are lavish thrush.

Five TO Won baby one in 99, everyone here aboard the titanic stays alive, you got your boat baby and I got mine, gonna make it with babies numbered in surreal primes. Halt the slots game the nines, a stitch in time is going to turn out to be Mine. Flanger goals, girded piles, liminal like an aborted Harry Styles, we climb mountains we issue tithes, and the turmoil is etched into 45-notched bludgeons and two-tucked knives. Excuse you, where have you been all day, have you been sauntering in a gentle rain or a genteel pain, have you wallowed beyond the mires of doubt and ranked above David Blaine. I hope you tell me of your magic tricks, rather than your other flicks endeared I stand to fight an ineradicable itch. But if not, you placid pond dented by so many rocks and so many ripples give your heart over to me, before I clinch the special Olympics *******, we ran, we span the homespun garments of your left and right hand, but death is a specter that ghoulishly carouses along the carousel terminal disease we call life. I beseech your deepest affection and want to console you for your deepest struggle, to be there every time wed with time rather than a throttled scuttle. Moons make you guarded but maroons leave me desiccated, don’t ever let that wilted flower die, always water it with a rich but gentle ties and widened deck for all to at once marvel and pry.  Monsters of Mars Attacks once flanked my bed, as though the **** brain scared every gooseflesh and restrained every frisson of mystery. I lampoon myself for those cold Dark Knights and the protection ended by the plight of the poor mattering nothing to the deliberately internecine rich. I struck gold in a valley somewhere, an oxymoron of paradox that now you have the privilege to dock, to stay aboard to be a vessel of peace less widely deplored. Even if we don’t sprout wings, we garner the exactitude of measured things and our glass elevator though easily shattered by the glower of enslavement is actually our vista to heaven or listening to brethren tingles for rich mans trinkets and other things. For humanity deserves a legend and a princess, a regimented desuetude and a flanged lust but in our mistakes wildly flouted in momentary moments we become purified by the temptations of an alabaster palace.

***** the left-field wisdom of a pragmatic paragon ellipsis in prison, slip between the cracks and let my suburban muse become your urban ruse. To enchant a caged world beyond a reality delicately and deliberately unfurled. Squirming toads on highways enchanted but dead, are graves for the blue becoming purple in every dignified red. Gainsay assaults me with platitude, a repeated hitter quit on the first bunted ball into foul-line territory. Those gripes are swiped right in all circumstance no matter the plight. The pronged hearing of a trident sensitive to ambient collection, and suddenly we are all in the mad house even though the house of profaned pain is much worse. Glimpses of gambits that gambol for nickels in transit as occult grenades and known dice waddle through without artifice or device, and the laughter and slaughter that trains collegiate minds, differs no more than the tropes of a glamorous violence articled in sordid rhymes. This surfing movie means so much more than Surf Wax America pristine in limited but sacrilege nirvana. Teen spirits smell muskier than 90s pop dreams, the grasp and grunge of gouged eyes becomes a mummified staid, a scarecrow to those who disobey. Childhood flashes with blinding light, and new sight illuminates darkening blight, A blight eradicated only by two magazines and including one that houses the bullets that ***** themselves between death and comatose dreams both within astral sight. Littoral harbor on a seaside town, a shanty with a brackish gown that glides the gourmand to the cosmopolitan eatery on the outskirts of lost & found. But forever lost in embonpoint and forever gained in chavish that exonerates the gaunt, the etiolated prince in heart becomes irrefutable marrow in minded souls.

If I am a spy you are an ESPY, and if I cry than you are a baby,but since neither are the case my wiseacres will cultivate lava lamp dreams for a new generation and suddenly Boston bets on Harvard, but who knows of this piped blather squirming for relevance rather than voguish but temporary chatter. My regatta knows how to swim, my life now knows how to cringe and yet still win and in stilted plays of bungled sincerity the God of peace reminds us of our transcendent personalities. That we in sincerity top the barnacles of invention a novelty but a rarity. But the guillotine quill of emboldened unscripted parvenus ruthless in their eager dues, outdate and outlive the sued swayed blues that indemnify Clinton and make the atomic dog an amazing Winston hill a church often in sheltered disuse. Imps and urchins sting the sentiment, cloy the alimony of repentant betterment, but neither touches the gilded skies of pleonasm striving for raspy disguise as to dissuade further diatribe investigation. Lurking in those scared days of youth, the gore of unalloyed horror scourged me with a limp, that compassion itself could ever become a gimp. Now years later athletics better and scoring goals making the mildew sweat and the years wetter, not a global warming that can be alarmed by global mourning. Take peace at heart if distanced spears of separation make Idiocracy as a pastiche look exceedingly smart. And spar only with the true antagonists bridging malevolence with expedience. Killjoys sure, will joy even more sure, but still boys fluttered heart stopping dead at a stop-watched alarm the worst tragedy of our sordid sort. Give an African Child a real home rather than a spatial roam, a palatial desiccation of momentary Jonas Brothers snapping back at captives with sexualized foam.

Narrative blinds shuttered in an Island among mountains hardly ever wiser to sanitize the sanitarium among the wasps of stung power. Police crumple their uniforms as they prowl down the avenues, looking for misfits and widened platitudes. Somehow that the vigilance of those corrupted by their very career choice, look even worse when megalomania of private is the limelight of public, to their defense few turrets I can muster but castles in the sky will be the apartheid judge. Those that cling to virtue to eradicate Porsche-driven faked or real deaths at the most breakneck speed, that Fast & Furious operation if disclosed completely would turn the Shire of the ring into the hatred curtailed by a song in Sing-Sing. Immunity must not Yoda implore, that livery Liverpool marooned on islands can also to deplore the R.E.D. and still whet the sharpened stead and the fly-by-night Manchester United alights like militant peer pressure for wranglers in tights. But beating the Beatles at a game of Walruses and egg-shelled eyeful towers likely impedes rinkside hockey from anything over bellicose ballyhoo…it exists as a transient fixated glower. But who knows about soccer speculation when love is the transcendent temptation, when nest-egg hens rather than neglecting rig Bens of clockwork and clocked words designed arise better for their token ken. Do I must repeat the subtext of submarines, yellowed as though ugly unused as though unseen, as though the quixotic earthquakes of tintinnabulations Avatar dreams. Wafted souls console the disheartened thoughts of a dashed dream that Berlin hates more than a Furor’s unbridled and useless scream.
Demotic clips slinging from the bedridden silence of a token moon and its token friends, swimming in a shore of ambiguity whether history mellows or whether its furor melts away momentary doubts. I want to avoid the sting rays exorcised by due providence and become the amalgamated talents gentry and of course the upstart swagger of Jack Dawson. But with the psy-op going on, the people manipulated on all sides of a gray picket fence will the relationship bloom without muttered dissent or pretended smiles. Will we take upon the shuffled shuttle and dig with shovels deep-rooted Christmas trees and toast our lives to Dos Equis. We may never go out of style, but the treacle of illuminated imagery when divorced from sentiment bristle shows a swagger that prioritizes rather than amalgamates all love. I love being brash and brazen and honest because when she finally ditches the grandstand of delayed frenemies fandoms of other tinsel decorations without any substance beyond meretricious thrill. You want a roller coaster on some days, but most often you want the nutcracker to elope to secret hiding places. Swim with adventure not just in love, not just in affection with the starlight now matter how luminous, sixpence all the richer is no centuries any poorer and we could be that gilded couple of star and screen and if we ever have to scream, let our screams unite us in passion, rather than a milquetoast deference to pedestaled beauty. but of course the end times don’t laugh at your crumpled wizened relapse. Not out of convenience wed by a discriminating genetic harvest moon but a deeper engagement that flatters when stylish and bristles when romantic but never defiled, never riled of specious pretense. Promise me that you will always remember me in my flaws and my faults, in my scause factory destructions and the penults of PEN-ULTIMATE wisdom that comes before the grace of God in the annihilation of passion for eroded omission. If your goal is to be remembered, check that out…but the most admirable goal is as the propinquities of souls dusted in the wind returning to a spring equinox of passion and if you find in yourselves reservations do not depart from sacred land, and never jilt me because of a boisterous and menacing friend. You are everything to me right now, and I Hope this persists despite the vicissitudes of star-favored afflictions mixed with utter benediction without the pontification of stilted Benedictines  or rather the hyped ludic effrontery of termagants being made of younger and younger women. Leave it at this ,32 leaves the royal secret in royal hands and the Knights Templar and us we altogether hold hands, if only a prelude for a masquerade ball. But the stilted embarrassment of crestfallen time, let that be relegated and emphatically lets embrace what is like to not ever need a real white horse to get back into your favor, because we never go out of style we can brandish the best elements and reject the sentiments of the too newfangled and the too stodgy. We in our crenellated pleonasm can eager ride the lightning to another tomorrow and another yesterday and if even not that, we virtually make an indelible impression of embroidered love not too distant in ivory towers and not to vulgary( catering to popular sentiments) to become a trash glam movement. We soar, others deplore but let their purblind doubts render them blind to our burgeoning love.

Forget the brisk trees dangled in the wind on winding paths through haunted forest or remember them because of ghoulish fortress but with our apotropaic lamp we can avert most evil and call the rest fun and gains and shun but fames never profaned, never inalterable a destiny to magical to be some whimpered catcall. Or we could linger beneath lambent street lights disguised as though wilted garb, attrition of circumstance waiting patiently for the matinee and the vintner to escort us beyond the garb of pretense in a city so abundant with it that it deserves castigation. But I digress, a beachside cliff overlooking tepid waters tumultuous in their power but august in their noises, the cadence of love will sing a half-moon bay on full-moon nights and we will frisk each other like grasping at straws of permanent tracks trammeled of the elite and a sidetracked basque bet. Trim those antlers and instead grow metaphorical wings, to us we all sing but few can match your elegance and everyone would be crazy not to see your ennobled age and together thrilling songs to emulate thriller in sales we will collaboratively sing.
Haughty sneers from lifeless lycanthropy straggling furtively along the pastiched sidewalks of grime, livid because they can’t share the lingering limelight, with as many guarded perks of privacy clambering like a hive of snarky sharks. Lets ditch the big town dreams in terms of posh and stature if only for a caressed moment beneath the unadulterated stars and if you find spars **** to the extent they are amiable than I say guess what my name is Lars! Or wait a second, paused in the big city spotlight our stenciled hearts will guide whatever progeny is yours or mine or ours together we will sing the most comforting lullaby, and caves no longer must we abide. Yearn and earn every inch, as I gripe with my delicate saddened pinch but I think the innuendo speaks . Ripen with our trips to Napa, long afternoon sunsets swim in our hearts as we taste the vanguard’s toast on elegant wine.I console with entreaty to disavow the omen of that San Franciscan church October 2008, the doom implied by Einstein, the raillery of a world grinding down the endless decadence of a railed future inalterable in destiny or partialy amenable to widespread coquetry.

Forget those rumbles in your past that made you feel partial to insecurity and learning the ropes you transcended all and live in all eternity. Thimble and brook, tolerant of all those tokes I took your rebellious side flattens the yeast of Exodus raspy in its begrudged clapping. But the Pharaoh of the modern world sheltered me under his prickly thorns, shielded me from the sickly things that life adorns. We have the numbers on our side, the weight of destiny on our shoulders, dedicate yourself to yourself and I will preen the most vibrant wisdom and love will leap like Apollo across all borders not for camel-****** hoarders. We are culminated destiny in the wings of the best daydream
Life, Love and No Mathematics to God and Gain
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.
Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.
An overcast sky poured upon the earth
Today. It seemed like it would never stop,
Then it did, and the city was flooded:
A shallow sea of silent standing water .

So I made three paper boats, and
Walked to the new ocean with them,
And cast them from my withered hands
To sail into oblivion.

I watched them glide down the glistening streets
Ever away from me, then I thought of you –
How we would cross the oceans together,
Where I learned how to swim, and how to love.

Then the last of the paper boats had gone –
Down wind, on some futile little journey.
I imagined you at the helm of one,
And I at the bow, looking back at you.
I wrote this during a flash flood. I actually did make some paper boats and set them loose.
AM Snyder Feb 2016
No one ever taught me not to stick my hand in a fire, I just learned by common sense;
but here I am again, grasping for you and watching my hand blacken and burn.
Because every time you say that you don’t know what to say,
I want to call you a liar because you just spoke.  
But being speechless speaks louder than words and
the absence of sounds swallows me whole  
until your fire was all I saw and like a fool, I reached for it again.  
But as I did, in the darkness I couldn’t see that my paper heart
was starting to burn.

We all grew up too fast, pushing through pull ups and graduation robes as if they could be worn twice.
We learned that excuses and “I’m sorry”s could be said again,
but that didn’t undo the damage already done.
Now the angry redness of your ears matches the redness of my future and I can’t help but wonder how I could’ve messed this up so badly.
But then I remember that I have a PhD in impulsiveness, poor decision making, and panic attacks.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions,
so down I lay cobblestone after cobblestone until I reach the gates but I never enter.

Who needs hell when I have your fiery red hair and temperament
that develops into a burning rage that scorches my skin with silence, when I’d rather be slapped with sinful words that PG movies don’t allow. All I can say is that I tried, because that’s what we all do in this world; we try.  
Try our best, but fail anyways because success is for those who get lucky and this world is nothing but a game of chance with lottery tickets costing you more money than you will ever win, but we believe that there must be some essence of luck in our lives because we keep buying tickets.
She thought she was lucky.  She thought that in an oceanic timeline, surrounded by blue, that she had found a brown boat, brimmed with buoyancy and broken dreams that you shared.
She climbed into that boat, and side by side you sailed neither of you realizing that you were sinking.

That is the thing about the boats in which we sail, even when we assure ourselves that they will never fail.
In this world, we all have our own ships, but the trick is that these boats can only hold one passenger.
She had her own boat once.  She lost it, in maritime madness, one reason or another.  
When her boat was swallowed by the sea she started swimming, trying to keep moving. Sink or swim they say.
So as she swam, she spent all her energy and instead tried to tread and keeping her head above water was no longer a game that you played in summers spent at the shallow end of the pool.
It became a constant question of survival.
She must’ve been lucky, for your ship sailed by and
picked up the poor girl who then became a passenger of someone else’s vessel.
This boat was worn, and her captain had tried to patch the holes but as the two sailed, the ship began taking on water as they went.

When training to be a lifeguard, they teach you quite a few things.
Mouth to mouth resuscitation(which sadly is no longer actually mouth to mouth),  first aid, CPR, and how to pull a drowning victim from the water.
When people drown, our instincts kick in and we grab for  anything to keep ourselves above water and breathe.  
We don’t mean to hurt anyone else in the process but we just keep fighting for air.  
Sometimes the people push their rescuer under and even though we may try to hold them up, if we don’t breathe too we’ll drown!  
So what lifeguards are taught to do is if they are being pushed under
is to shove the victim off, swim away, and save ourselves.
Now some may say that sounds selfish and how can we do that when we’re supposed to be saving them, but we can only save them if we’re alive.  If we can breathe.

You told me dating me was like a breath of fresh air,
because when you were with her, you were held under for:
1, 2, 3, 4…10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 45, 83, 104, 255, 1013… 63,072,000 seconds - TWO YEARS.
So of course, I understood why you swam away.
Away from the girl who broke your boat because being drained of energy was something I used to do to others.  
I ****** the acid out of batteries and I walked on power lines, licked light bulbs, and suckled sockets because I too was once a drowning victim and but I hit the water was shocked by the electric energy that I had drained from him and it was hell.  
The hell that I had laid cobblestones too, the hell that one day I might see you in, because we’re all sinners here.  
We aren’t human if we don’t make mistakes, and ****’t I’ve made mine.

I fell from the ship and sank until I hit rock bottom, which was  somewhere right between a razor blade reef and pill popping plankton. It’s funny how solid rock bottom can feel beneath your feet, because we’ve been on our boats or in the water for so long;
but you can’t stay down there no matter how badly you want to
because your lungs are screaming for air so you push yourself up and struggle for the surface.
The Marianas Trench is the deepest point in the ocean, and I’m pretty sure that’s about where I landed.  
And I’m sure that if it wasn’t for a difference in timing, I would’ve seen her at the bottom too.
But that’s the split between me and her, because right now I’m back in my own boat and I’m breathing in fresh air but she’s gasping for a breath. She’s struggling to breathe but her lungs keep taking on water.

This doesn’t happen to just her and me, but there are hundreds of thousands of people out at sea.
Some decide to perform a self mutiny by mutilating their minds and jumping overboard and the truth is that not everyone makes it!
Some open their mouths underwater while screaming for help
but instead their shouts are choked out by the salty ocean that surrounds us all that we continuously mistake for our own tears.  
Some people are smarter. They wear life jackets, while the rest of us
use others as life rafts until we figure out how to rebuild our boats and I’m here to say that you can.
No, it’s not going to be easy. It’s never easy.  
Learning to swim wasn’t easy. When you first learned to swim you thought you would drown then, but you survived didn’t you?  
If Jack Sparrow sailed the sea, so can we.

So here I am, breathing in and I’m floating on,
trying to teach others that mending their ships is a pain but they have nothing to lose and so much more to gain.  
And there you are and if dating me is like breath of fresh air and you're fire, do I just continue to let you consume my oxygen until I choke on bitter words and stutter on sentences that I can’t spit out?
Sure my boat has holes in it and sometimes, the patches break;
but I have found that letting water in just isn’t for me so don’t plan on using wooden scraps of my boat to light your fire anytime soon because I know that even though this ocean seems vast and never-ending, we are all sailing somewhere.
Hopefully, we’ll get their soon.

— The End —