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Quentin Briscoe Feb 2012
I can feel what’s inside
bodies twist and collide
there’s no need for a potion
bodies stir a commotion….

This is more then a treat
bodies move with our feet
heart beating with haste
bodies give us a taste…..

of souls adaptation
bodies moving in action
We do more then prance
bodies destined to dance…..

Its the passion inside them
bodies searching for rhythm
see our passions alive
bodies twist and collide….

this the motion of oceans
bodies stir a commotion
see we live for a beat
bodies move with our feet….

or just by moving our waste
bodies give us a taste
Of sweet satisfaction
bodies moving in action…

This cant be by chance
bodies destined to dance
It's our reason for livin
bodies searching for rhythm…

but lost in your face
bodies dancing in place
Inside your alive (as)
Bodies twist and collide.
Wade Redfearn Oct 2017
Oh those bodies
on the museum walls
Tennessee Valley bodies and Los Alamos bodies
shining blackly like the stripe of a credit card.

The price of bread fixed at five cents
and we all eat it in slices.
Your name is your labour and
your labour your name.

I have disappeared into a country that doesn’t know me
and I am tearing it up with my teeth.

Oh those bodies
that were once slaves.
Were they pictured any other way
but in idyll or whipped dry?
The dusty Union regiments at Baton Rouge
have made a postcard of one scourged back;
they share it around and die for it.

I have a few postcards, too.
It is strange to see any man kneeling.

Oh those bodies
Cornbread bodies and bodies like a corn snake
crushed among the broad leaves of tobacco;
The ones in bone corsets and the ones
in reed baskets, floating downstream.
The ones in rosy marble and wrought bronze
the ones whose striped backs are coming out in wings
feathers pink and wet
like a new-hatched chick or a stillbirth.

Your body
is a tight machine of grief
packed into homespun like a fist
and relaxes in sepia as it never did in life,
a babe slung underarm and the food
only from cans; they keep the dust out.
Oh those bodies that tend the home, larder and ledger,
and reach for the high cabinets
and keep reaching.

The old voices are back at work.
I am not the one they are speaking to
but I hear them all the same.
They spread out a catalogue of wares
on a sisal blanket in the dark
and every price sounds fair, every garment lovely
unless you made it.

The country workman in bronze now and forever
with his rolled shirtsleeves; his body
raises a hammer and his bicep, mid-shiver
is always striking something, always building
Heaven, and Manhattan, from the foundations.
Stained glass his union flag
and Union Army blood he forgot or never knew.
The thin white arms of Andersonville,
meeting two generations hence, in his arms,
the dark scarred shoulders of the South.

Who brought forth upon the continent this new nation,
and who brought forth the ironclad Monitor
and who put into song the Maple Leaf Rag or Swanee River
and who put that soil there from which the cotton still grows
and who made your dress?
Who owes the debt and who records it?

You and I.

Oh those bodies swathed in light.
Oh those bodies becoming angels.
Bodies bound blackly
and bodies forgetting
which is what bodies do with injury:
they absorb, and they forget.
Just ask me.
Mr Darwin, please explain

Reading TS Eliot is to be drawn into timeless space where images of past and future combine in a continuous stream of thinking …. perhaps the immortality of ideas. The genetic material of life, DNA, is immortal, an unbroken thread linking life’s origins 4 billion years ago to the present ….. and future.

Sequence upon sequence of symbolic letters encoding countless forms of bodies, built to the same principles inherent in the genetic code, yet morphing in endless variety according to the tenets of natural selection ….. Darwin’s idea that transformed our thinking from a moment of purposeful creation to how life changes through time.

Cosmologists suggest we live in one of many possible universes perhaps in parallel time allowing parallel lives, one not knowing of the other’s existence because of the limitations of our three dimensional view of the world and its existence in the cosmos. We see in three dimensions and no more, but we are aware of more because mathematics tells us so.

Mr Darwin, please explain explores the seamless continuity of Darwinian thinking with the timelessness of Eliot’s poetry…..

I In my beginning is my end …. V In my end is my beginning.
(East Coker, Four Quartets, TS Eliot)


Mr Darwin, please explain

I

What is this selection of love so natural
To drive men insane and women to purgatory
Can Mr Darwin explain?
Some ask the question
But I doubt not, that his meaning is clear
Why love one to one remains so dear,
Though Karl denied it, Lenin too
And Uncle Joe dismissed it
As a plot to subvert what was good for the proletariat.
But in that recent time when ******’s darkness shadowed The Earth
Love glowed in the gloom of the despair of nations’ Terezíns
Which to-day helps to repair our broken dreams
Of why we love one to one.

Keats loved one ***** Brawne
And Coleridge his Asra
But what is ecstasy’s advantage?
When comes the pain of separation
Mr Darwin, please explain.
Is it lust, is it reproduction?
But then when love is thwarted
We cannot function,
Where is the advantage
Mr D --- what is the aim, can you explain?
How the coiled spiral passing from time to time
Its immortal message which condemns each generation
To the pain of separation
When the reaper calls, or the rival sunders
The coils of love’s message we’ve inherited
Since the beginning of time
Why? What is the advantage?
Mr D, please tell me your answer.

The whales they sing one to one
Like Eliot’s mermaids singing
Not to Prufrock but perhaps to you and me
The message of communication.
Is this love as one to one
Each supports another wounded
By the enormity of the harpoon?
The dictator’s message in another form
Devoid of love, sundered, never whole
Coming from that Terezín we never solve.
Dysfunctional Mr D, where’s the advantage
For such conflicting feelings to evolve?

David Applin
March 2012

II

Genes are the immortal ones
The links between past and future
But ever present
Unintentionally directing the future and fate of humankind.

Silent, unobserved yet Gods of their domain
Which is us and life past and future
Coiled threads of eternity that determine our happenings
Including our loving one to one.

Yet ….

In their entirety and interaction
Do they, in their interaction
Determine our loving one to one?
The bond that binds each to each
Perpetual celebration.

Or ….

Is their selfish blindness which some accord to be
Inconsequential
Like boats tossed helplessly on storm driven seas
Subject to the whims of wind and rain
No more than replicators housed in vehicles
Subject only to the chances of a changing world.


III

Bodies are vehicles, genes the replicators
Bodies and genes indivisible
At least in the present
But separated as bodies die after
Genes have passed to their immortal future.
Perhaps this is what is meant when they say
That the gene is selfish.

Accommodated in the selfless body at a particular time
But then discarded as genes pass its immortality
From past to future
Changes slow, quick depending on stasis or acceleration
According to Darwinian tenets that enfold the changes
In genes and therefore bodies
Through all time.


IV

Cycle upon cycle of genes and bodies
One perpetual, the other discarded each generation
By the unseen hand of an uncaring Nature.

Our nature, all nature, the beauty of sunsets
Driven by the mechanical clocks of cosmic cycles.

Yet Relative to other Dimensions where
What we see, we do not see
Because of the profound limitations
Of three dimensions.
We see only dimly what might be past
And what could be future
As we struggle in the presence of tautological explanation.

Body and gene, gene and body the temporary and perpetual
Bound in the dance of a living presence
The one ensuring the other’s future
For all time.
Circle upon circle, tautological argument
Explaining everything and nothing but all powerful
In its reductionism of humankind
And life kind as whales support the one
Wounded by the enormity of the harpoon
Loosed by the bodies of genes
Storm tossed and directionless
When thinking that others’ bodies
Can be discarded without thought or thinking
Perpetual damnation.

Tautomeric interaction.
We say the same thing in different ways,
Recycled ideas that parody the twenty different plots of novels
That return to the same point,
Come back to the common question

Why do we love one to one?

People ask…. ‘Can Mr Darwin explain?’

Perhaps not through bodies and genes
But instead, understanding the epistasis of genes and where we live.
We live in this world because of our past
As genes dance to the chance of environmental shifts
The whims of wind and rain, sea and wave
That blow and toss the genes
In their bodies, in random patterns,
Some sinking, others floating
Not always by chance
But because they float and fight
Yielding to the pressures of an uncaring nature.
Like soft down yielding to the thud of falling bodies
Softening their impact.

So to yield as well as fight
Is part of the selection of one by another
In the perpetual
Celebration of loving one to one.

We yield to the blandishments of the soft embrace
We fight to attain it

And once attained, what we do is all we do
To keep a hold on what we love
Only to lose it to the grim reaper of all our dreams
In this present world,
But to regain it in worlds to come
The link between past and future
For immortal genes
Of transitory bodies which is how
We think and see our presence
In time without end.



V

General relativity and quantum mechanics
The combination of infinity and the very small
Do not replace the Newtonian meaning of the day to day.
Just, that Newton is displaced to another time and place
Where description is precise but with uncertainty according to
Heisenberg.

To be certain is to fix ideas in time
Like natural selection in the Darwinian mind
To be propitiated without exception, else suffer extinction of self
And of all that matters to self and others
Sacrificed on the alter to propitiate the Gods of our certainty.

That is not to say that an idea cannot be fixed in time
That its central tenet is not true for eternity.
But truth is relative and uncertain
To be strengthened or cast aside
By better truths or developments of the same.

Our understanding expands with time
But often returns to something that was said before
And said again as if it were newly minted
In the mind of its creator
To become dogma
And as all dogmas
The truth unchanged in people’s minds.
Yet the central tenet survives, as survival is the result of natural selection
But with added components as
Understanding expands as to what is meant by surviving and survival.
To inherit the coils of love’s message is to survive.


VI

Can Mr Darwin explain?
Perhaps is not a whole question
In the same sense that answers depend on
The question asked and who is asking.

The truths that questions seek to answer
The truths of love, beauty and heating systems
Arise from answers to questions in different languages,
And languages translate imperfectly from one to one
As genes imperfectly translate proteins and therefore love in the
Darwinian world of our dreams.

Truth comes in different forms
And Darwinian truth is true to the questions it addresses.
But these are not the only questions of why we are,
Who we are, what we are
Who, what, why are we?

Questions past and future asked in the present
For all eternity.


Christmas (25th-28th) 2012
David Applin

Copyright David Applin 2015
......the rest of the poem as promised when the first part was posted May 2015. Another poem from the collection 'Letters to Anotherself'
Luke Gagnon Apr 2013
o hand grenade red bodies of loring park,
you paintings of hand grenade bodies, you bed
with bodies and kneading and needing red hand
grenade bodies you bed, o and you the
bed and bodies, I sleep on the paintings of red
beds and hand grenades and emptiness, you the
hand grenades of the attempting and the receptacles,
you the womb of emptiness, the emptiness
for the womb receptacles, you the kneader of the
accidents and bodies and non-wet matches and
wombs, and you the wombs and you the wet
empty bodies and me and wombs, and you the
attempting yet starving, and the feast and
wet match starving hand grenade bodies and you
rasping and grasping and wombs the accident
receptacles starving, and you the receptacles and
wombs, and her the one I love, and we who cannot
produce, and all starving emptiness, and all
the bodies and wombs and grenade hands on
the paintings starving of this accident.
this is an emulation of Lisa Jarnot's "Ye White Antarctic Birds" below:

Ye white antarctic birds of upper 57th street,
you gallery of white antarctic birds, you street
with white antarctic birds and cabs and white
antarctic birds you street, ye and you the
street and birds I walk upon the galleries of
streets and birds and longings, you the birds
antarctic of the conversations and the bank
machines, you the atm of longing, the longing
for the atm machines, you the lover of the
banks and me and birds and others too and
cabs, and you the cabs and you the subtle
longing birds and me, and you the
conversations yet antarctic, and soup and
teeming white antarctic birds and you the
books and phones and atms the bank
machines antarctic, and you the banks and
cabs, and him the one I love, and those who
love me not, and all antarctic longings, and all
the birds and cabs and also on the street
antarctic of this longing.
Emanuel Martinez Feb 2013
What are we scared of?

Fending off hoards of oppressed human beings
Of acquisition, of possession, of autonomy, of legitimacy
Never been anyone; why empower them now

Legitimized crucification
No exoneration for grave transgression
Morality of mankind stabbed, under siege, defiled
Integrity constantly bloodily ***** like the virtue of women during war
Transgression, nonetheless, legitimized not by the law of a god or science
But that of a righteous m/an

Bodies without agency traversing into illegitimacy
Becoming illegal human beings
Transgression thrusting them into humiliation
Derailed, deprived, dehumanized
Earning rights to hunger, sickness, homelessness in the eyes of civilized man

Growing global economic hubs welcoming
Illegitimate bodies with contempt, violence, violation
Don't belong, lives becoming expendable, adversary to structured society

Trafficking, dragging, trading disempowered labor across meaningless borders
Nationalists disregarding with much pride illegitimates' desires for life
Killing them after you've beaten their soul, in negligence, extracting the fruit of their labor

Xenophobia killing Japan, dying refusing to open its borders to starving workers
When will a muslim sister in headscarf travel across ALL Europe without discrimination
Be careful America, you're murdering liberty's meaningless oath to the homeless of the world
Preaching the birth of the greatest nation on earth on the backs of immigrants across time
When it refuses to cease the political firing of condemnation against displaced human beings

Greatest plunderers of this world, those who set the rules, guarding their loot
Having had displaced black, colored, and brown bodies across time
Abducting black bodies from mother Africa
Contaminating mother America's native bodies with the corruption of whiteness
Causing mother Asia to discourage its pores from allowing the mobility of bodies

Greatest plunderers of this world, those who set the rules, guarding their loot
Legitimizing their stolen appropriations for the world to see
By excluding those they extract the wealth from
Displaced bodies achieving transnational identities in pursuance of unreachable wealth
For far too long trickled out of their home nations
To build the wealths of the new homes they're delegitimized from

Every country great or small falling in line with border policies
Desperate developing countries much too worried to contain fleeting flocks
Developed and thriving nations too ready to ****** the souls of bodies without agency

World's population imploding
Countries' power structures hungering to exploit the oppressed within their borders
Majority of us peasants, poor, without agency, moving across borders
Everyone's in danger of falling in line with the masses
Or the monopolistic governments deliberately creating monstrous line divides
February 4, 2013
Shula E Nov 2011
I always encounter different versions of you here
By bodies of water and bodies under stone
I’m trying to figure the symbology
The motion of life and that of no motion
Perhaps its the prominent eternity in both
Tears have been borne forth by the banks of both.
Amid the tombstones and tangleweed, and alongside sand dunes and the reed.
Cries of joy also have erupted from our throats
We were wild horses along the sea’s shore
and giggles at other times creeped out our bellies
Sneaking secret embraces in such haunted places
Strange, how we dishonor the revered silence expected here.
Eerie, how recurrent all this is.
Time and again we are back by these bodies of water and bodies under stone. I’m sure you can twirl our two bodies and make them into one,
hearts and bones don’t easily come undone
mannley collins Aug 2014
Bodies have limited shelf life.
they are not entities in their own right.
They are like a suit of clothes,
put them on--wear them for a while,
take them off--throw them away.
They are used as a vehicle for the Isness
but they are not the Isness.
The Individual Isness is a small but equal,independent,individual,nameless,
formless,genderless and non physical being formed from the Isness of the Universe.
You are the Isness.
Bodies are conscious but do not have consciousness.
Only the Isness has consciousness.
You are the Isness--and are unable to be your true nature,
because you have given control over your brain centres to the Mind
and you are defining yourself by identifying with the Mind created Conditioned Identity as yourself.
the body is a fusion of two seeds at conception- brought into seedling state in the womb.
The seedling is brought to become the mighty tree of ****** existence in the mulch of a life lived,
watered and fed according to taste or custom or commonsense
or so-called expert advice.
Like the flower and the fruit on the tree-- all bodies grow from seed--live a period of time-- wither and die.
Bodies exist as the human vehicle for all Isnesses,female or male equally,of any of the five skin colours,to travel through each lifetime
until the individual Isness they carry fulfills Isness realisation,
until the Mind dies,until the Conditioned Identity dies.
If you miss realising your true nature as the individual Isness  in this life
then  you MUST come back and try again--whoever you are.
There are NO exceptions to this rule--.
birth  life death rebirth--the system is paramount.
The Wheel is ever turning.
Until the next time around.
Bodies come and go--bodies come and go
karma chamelions as George says.
Until Isness realisation is achieved the process of
birth-life-death-rebirth goes on its merry way--lifetime after lifetime after lifetime ad infinitum.
The wheel turns and the empty bodies burn on
the funeral pyres  of a thousand Varanasis worldwide.
Sleek shining dogs seizing scraps of cooked meat,
crunching on a tasty thigh bone,
Doms laugh at their insouciance and daring.
Existence provides every possible bit of information you could need for reaching the state of existential realisation of your nature as an Isness.
Existence also provides every possible distraction you need
for avoiding reaching the state of existential realisation of your true nature as Isness.
You the Isness have to choose.
Between either self realisation or eternal mind games.
The Isness is a small but equal individual,independent,nameless,
formless,genderless and non physical Isness made from a small portion of the Isness of the Universe--incarnated lifetime after lifetime in order to realise,existentially,your nature as the  Isness--or NOT, as your choice may be.
And it is your choice.
Isness are the small portions of the Isness of the Universe-- integrating, atom for atom, into the shape of physical bodies,
like fingers in a glove or a favourite winter topcoat.
We become the Isness of the Universe,written small,  incarnated in a human body if only we can let go of the falseness of
Minds and Conditioned Identities.
If not we stay as confused humans--la luta continuata.
You,the confused Isness, are the one who exercises the choice.
Isness or Conditioned Identity?.
You cant be both--no way.
To be or not to be?.
These are the eternal questions.
What  am I?.
Why am I here?.
The answer lies inside--in existential beingness.
It is the easiest "hard" work youll ever encounter.
No one can do the work involved for you.
No one can give you a free pass.
No one can "grace" you,the Isness,into realisation of your nature..
No one can forgive you anything--except you.
No one can wipe out your accumulated Karma--good or bad--except you by living a life generatin neutral Karma.
No becoming a "budda".
No becoming an "enlightened one".
No becoming a"christ"
No becoming a priest.
No becoming a prophet.
No becoming a pope.
No becoming a lama.
No becoming a rabbi.
No becoming a"sheik"
No becoming a prosletyser of any "religion" or "god" or "goddess".
No expert.
No becoming a child of god.
No monarch.
No dictator--elected or otherwise.
No military leader.
No "mystic".
No "son or daughter of god".
No "wise one"
Nobody!!!
No one  but you,the Individual Isness can dissolve Mind and Conditioned Identity.
Only you--and you alone-the confused Isness incarnated in  the Mind and Conditioned Identity  controlled body you pass through life in--can create neutral Karma.
The internal struggle goes on until it ends.
Only you,the confused Isness,can let go of identifying with the
Conditioned Identity as the "real"self.
Grasping at the conditioned belief you are the Mind and Conditioned Identity guarantees you will not reach Isness realisation.
Letting go of the conditioned belief that you are Mind and Conditioned Identity guarantees you will realise your true nature as an Isness.
Deconditioning through reconditioning
Does the rain fall upwards?.
Does violence bring peace?.
Does the sky exist?
Does anyone "save" anyone else?.
Does it all matter you may ask?.
After all existence is totally indifferent whether
you or anyone realises their true nature as Isness or not.
Until you do realise your nature as an individual Isness--
that's when the real fun begins!!.
There are NO "gods" or "goddesses" to gift you with this state.
Never have been any "gods" or "goddesses".
Never will be any "gods" or "goddesses.
There is only the Isness of the Universe"behind it all".
Not the intellectual "creation" of "poets"--with all their middle class narcissism--and piteous weak  Conditional Love.
Trying to appear as a "deep sensitive poet"
when all that they can do is scribble strings of
meaningless associated fine sounding words.
No life .
No passion.
No truthfulness.
Just deadness and truth.
Spoken from inexperience.
Meanwhile the Isness of the Universe sleeps and snores
while the world bursts into flames around us.
And we are culpable in choosing to stay ignorant.

www.thefournobletruthsrevised.co.uk
Don't Exist Apr 2014
Our bodies are borrowed
yes, it is not hard to comprehend
it's not a poetic metaphor
nor is it a intellectual endeavor

our bodies are borrowed...

it might seem strange at first
but then it starts to make sense
but its crazy

our bodies are borrowed...?

Hello, for your whole life you was borrowing something
your soul borrowed the body made from your mother
a mom whole also borrowed her body who sexually interacted with another person with a borrowed body
whose parents created them with borrowed bodies
all the way to the beginning

our bodies are borrowed....!!!????

that means our life is borrowed
our kids are borrowed
our happiness are borrowed
our darkness are borrowed
our ****** activities are borrowed
even our souls are borrowed

our bodies are borrowed??????

Now will you continue this borrowed reality or use your borrowed body to create a world?
a world that doesn't require a borrowed body?
a body of your own?
This poem is kinda shaky. Please comment and don't just ready. Don't be scared.
Kylee Nov 2019
Nameless faceless bodies
Thrown this way and that
To spice up the story line
Then tossed to the back of the viewers mind
Forgotten
Because there was no anchor attaching her to the plot

Nameless faceless bodies
Kept in line
By the boxes of mother, daughter, sister, lover
Never far from the one or the other
And definitely not far from him
Unable to form independent thought

Nameless faceless bodies
Chopped into tiny parts
Just to be used as enticing props
To shock
And stir
Then pushed aside for something with more depth
Than the round shape of her *******
For we know you can’t have both in cinema

Nameless faceless bodies
Fixed as a
****** canvas
To display how much this world hurts
And wants to hurt
Thrown in the trash when deemed no longer beautiful enough
To keep the audience’s gaze

Nameless faceless bodies
Nameless faceless bodies
Nameless faceless bodies
Nameless faceless bodies
Nameless faceless bodies

-representation matters
constructive criticism welcomed, unsure if it's done or not.
Good for visiting hospitals or charitable work. Take some time to attend to your health.

Surely I will be disquieted
by the hospital, that body zone--
bodies wrapped in elastic bands,
bodies cased in wood or used like telephones,
bodies crucified up onto their crutches,
bodies wearing rubber bags between their legs,
bodies vomiting up their juice like detergent, Here in this house
there are other bodies.
Whenever I see a six-year-old
swimming in our aqua pool
a voice inside me says what can't be told...
Ha, someday you'll be old and withered
and tubes will be in your nose
drinking up your dinner.
Someday you'll go backward. You'll close
up like a shoebox and you'll be cursed
as you push into death feet first.

Here in the hospital, I say,
that is not my body, not my body.
I am not here for the doctors
to read like a recipe.
No. I am a daisy girl
blowing in the wind like a piece of sun.
On ward 7 there are daisies, all butter and pearl
but beside a blind man who can only
eat up the petals and count to ten.
The nurses skip rope around him and shiver
as his eyes wiggle like mercury and then
they dance from patient to patient to patient
throwing up little paper medicine cups and playing
catch with vials of dope as they wait for new accidents.
Bodies made of synthetics. Bodies swaddled like dolls
whom I visit and cajole and all they do is hum
like computers doing up our taxes, dollar by dollar.
Each body is in its bunker. The surgeon applies his gum.
Each body is fitted quickly into its ice-cream pack
and then stitched up again for the long voyage
back.
Scar Mar 2017
To start, their brains are still sparking.
Neurons still making connections and
breaking promises. And really, I have
trouble with the denotaded dead as
these bodies simply find themselves
at rest, in pieces, on a piece of a cloud.
Cerulean clean - little apple alabaster.
Their flesh turns back to wax, and we light
their wick embodied skulls with little
matchbooks disguised as bible verses.
Embalmed emblems and bodies bodies bodies.
Cremation in street clothes, everything special with
a man in the oven, a woman in the wood stove.
Back to ground, in deep with the worms, and
all the tiny evil machines as ushers. Death, hm!
Is some moon rock sweat and blood blister mix,
sandalwood musk, a turpentine must. You'll trust.
Playing fast and loose with scripture,
magnetic movement, entombed. Dead bodies are
keeping check of clocks, and swallowing wrist watches,
and don't forget it. Dead bodies will be late if
they care to be. With their painted skin and
formaldehyde breakfast, they form riddles in
caskets, and what about the Egyptians?
Dead bodies have rust in their throats and
foot soles made of limestone. They take up
space in rafters, between your bed and the wall,
stained glass stained with afterthoughts, forget-me-nots.
Uniformed bodies
in uniform motion
taking care not to cause a commotion
"be careful and try to blend in,
acting different can be considered a sin"
Uniformed bodies
pedestrian in personality
fitting in is a formality
"listen not to the words of sinners
only the pure are really winners"
Uniformed bodies
marching in lines
"look straight forward, never behind
we'll lose some men along the way
but as long as you never stray
you should always be okay
Uniformed bodies disheartened in spirit
working hard,
"this isn't life is it?"
Uniformed bodies
would it be a sin
if one broke away
so their life could begin?
Haley Lorish Jan 2013
Two bodies face to face
Are at times two waves
And night is an ocean

Two bodies face to face
Are at times two stones
And night is a desert

Two bodies face to face
Are at times two roots
Laced into night

Two bodies face to face
Are at times to knives
And night strikes sparks

Two bodies face to face
Are two stars falling
In an empty sky
read this in and school book and it is perfection.
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.
Matt Jursin Nov 2010
Science says that there's a mathematical equation that explains everything in life.

But I say that not even physics bears an explanation for...the guidelines of attraction.
Our primal reactions are multiplied in...the highlights of passion.

These laws of love that linger like a lanterns lost illumination...
Like the campfire light on a clear night, leaves coals of culmination.

Sweat beads lead to bare threads and bare bodies.
And oh my, how bare bodies lead to imaginations running wild.

Cold winds inspire warm kisses and close skin.
Sincere actions aren't sins.

Bodies wound in union, formed by light and tightly bound.
Together, these twisted vines penetrate the hardest ground...
Together, harmonic souls produce passionate sounds.
Yet, still somehow, love gets lost more than love gets found.

This equation is unending...like numbers off lips that kiss the air.
Body language spoken...Our physical bonds parallel eternity and pi squared.
And you know that every moment that we share is nothing short of...molecular love for the masses...
Now held captive by gravity and magnetism...

See, the last full moon marked retrograde...and if the moon affects the tide of the ocean...and our bodies are roughly 75% water...can we assume that this is the only body powerful enough to keep ours apart?

This gravity...
This pull...
It's pulling me apart...so let me pull you closer, stop pushing me away!
Hold on tight, dont let these planets drift away into a dark rift of decay.

Let your love lap upon this solid stone like a river riffles smooth sandbars into hills of higher ground.

Because baby, without your water on my beach...
I'm nothing but a desert, dry and deserted.
Love, the drug.
Robin Carretti May 2018
Loving
yourself?
Or
somebody $ #
Wickedly concert
Spring-bodies
You met
All
smells

Lingering
everybody
It ain't so
Never loved
nobody
What do you mean?
******
Olive oil
All over
their bodies
Happy*
Sad
Glad
Tad
Bodies
Jackrabbits
Mad
Never nobodies?
Death do us part
Heartless
Ladybugs
Beachy  flirts

Your
body
So mistreated
you got hurt
But retreat
liked

((Rose-Lake George))
Overflowed
your motives
Positively
Greener pastures
Your heart the
Keepsake

******
Mind never
to take
Mountain
hike
Wasnt good
for you
It was
all
about him
Did
you
ever
think
Chances are so slim
And__-
Some
Bodies-
Against the wall
Mouth taped
Big stocks they walk
Mike found
Robin's nest egg
Did she
have
great escape
High-society
commodities
Lower your
standards

His picture
at the
newsstand
All
technicalities
How
bodies
Like still-life
There is a
Will
Statuettes
Move on

Marionettes
Being pulled
eyes know
Godly
doorway  
Prayers of
hope-chest
Going someway
Having it
finally
your way

Not  Mr.
Mcdonalds
Fast food
Our bodies stay
together
feel good

Bodies
bond
forever

Even if the
fire
didn't
light the
night air
Lights on
In anytime
She got
Those
body moves
of flair

Like a
Shadow Thief
She gives him
Her body-mind
Handkerchief

She wiped
His other
lover
tears
Did he
do his
time
Years of
feeling
neglect
Handcuffed
In a cell
Not very
outgoing
Can't you tell?
Is that a crime
He's disfigured
Monster
Her figure
Red Lobster

((Showstopper))

The body just
stop her
Congregate
Bodies mingle

((Touch to Touch))

She loves
to be single
Stays fit her body
Names are like numbers
Somebody
feels
important
Deviant artists
Full body and mind
gain
On the
somebody
list
You're not
the plain
Jane
Or your
nobody
again
Until
somebody
Really
knows
you
And takes you
for who
you are
to be loved

Or you vanished into thin air
Shadows of bodies

Rejection
No
affection
Nobody
had the right reaction
It's great to feel the connection when someone loves you. Like magic-feeling the earth to move somebody that meant everything. But life is funny when you are tricked into thinking your everything. But why does someone take that away that you feel like nobody? Now that's an answer only we can work out
SM Dec 2017
From the outside, the overwhelming brick structure appears as a haven to heal for the sick, but from within, it serves as a prison, where the sickness terrorizes the inmates doomed here. A bright red cross glows above in the moonlight, appearing as a beacon of hope, despite all those within the structure feeling hopeless. The large glass doors slide open by themselves, welcoming in all who dare to come near. Beyond the glass, white coats rush by in a blur in all different directions, hurrying to serve their independent duties of checking blood pressure, feeding patients, giving baths, monitoring heart rates, and giving medication to the helpless.
A heavy metal door swings open to reveal a labyrinth of a hundred overwhelming hallways. The white walls extend for what seems like miles. A fluorescent buzzing light runs along the ceiling to the end of the corridor. The bright hall strains the human eye as it stares into the abyss of the neverending white hallway, illuminated by the blinding lights. The only color emerges at the very end of the passage, where a faint red exit sign glows. It appears as the only escape for those within, but only reveals a staircase to the other hundred halls beyond this one.
The sagging eyes of a receptionist light up for a moment at the sight of another living human at this early of an hour, but the excitement is not reciprocated by the other, due to the sorrow of being among these white walls again. The only other creatures she often sees here resemble zombies attached to IV bags, who slowly stumble down the hall to get a taste of the freedom beyond their prison beds. They desire health. They desire happiness. They desire escape. The shoes of the visitor clack across the cold tile, passing by identical rooms filled with dormant bodies on bed rest. Most bodies are told they must only stay a couple of days. But a couple days turn into a couple weeks. A couple weeks turn into a couple months. A couple months can turn into the end of their lives. The visitor wanders in a maze of all the bodies who appear the same, hopeless and trapped they are still.
Gray indented chairs from being sat in for too long line against the walls of this boxed in room. The lights are duller here. Waiting. The visitors can finally rest their eyes, they can finally rest their soul. Magazines fall off the wall, unread and unkept for months. The chips stacked in the vending machine taste stale, but still the most delicious dinner available to the visitors who have made these indented chairs their home away from home.
The only sound escaping into the hall from the patients rooms are quiet sobs and beeping heart monitors. Among the rooms, the visitors kneel alongside the bed with a rosary in hand. A prayer escapes the lips of the grieving as death dances over the bodies of their loved ones. The bodies are still alive, but the bodies are not living. The rooms are stenched with sorrow, sickness, and sterile. White sheets, white walls, white light. The white fills the rooms, but darkness still looms. Each room reeks of bleach that cleanses the metal instruments and IV stands, while it destroys any sense of humanity for the bodies trapped within. The blinds on the window are shut, keeping out all of the outside world, besides a single beam of moonlight that shines in the only hope left in the darkness of this dull night for the bodies of the alive, but not living.
I know these are supposed to be poems but it's fine, don't worry about it. I had to describe a setting that makes me frightened or uneasy for my English class. I decided to describe a hospital at 2 in the morning because thats kinda spooky. Hospitals are where many lives are brought into this world and many are lost. People are crying in the halls, saying prayers, and finding out terrible news so often and their was something unsettling about a hospital to me at 2am when I was a young child, so I decided to base the essay off that. Read it if you'd like. Thanks!
dead bodies moving dead bodies
you know the theme, the scheme,
the thought and the idea

the bodies, dead, paying the bills,
moving dead past the dawn
eyeballs rolling up as windows
closing and doors close and open

the bodies, mass production,
lots of bodies
Monday, Tuesday, Shitday
Thursday, Friday, Saturday
and Christday

Neighbor Allah never greets anyone
and he talks to himself in echoes
Buddha is all smiles and virtues
but no muscle, Buddha's daughters
are out clubbing tonight ******* their
oriental curves, selling their oriental
scents and cold white skin
to Allah's *** deprived sons

Christ is the only father and
he disowns his nieces and nephews,
I knew years back that I am a distant relative

just dead bodies, yours and mine
produce, corporate livestock,
labels from the heaviest bills handed
over in sinister alleyways,
sinister exchanges, hitman to hitman,
extraction to extraction, fraction by fraction,
bodies serves as platforms,
nonliving chopping boards for the butchers
dressed up as elves

the bodies, limb by limb, sagging skins,
rivers of hairfalls, scratch marks,
Ms. Universe stretch marks, the *** tapes
of the cheerleaders whom silent and wise
boys yearned for all through years of fading
innocence

Closeted gay professionals keeping their pointed ******* when nothing's wrong with them until consent turns from probationary to mandatory and hate and red and blue and green and yellow flags and pedophiles and bigots and white supremacists and Allah whisperers and Allah fanatics and Buddha hypocrites and China takes over the world and feminists, and third and fourth and fifth and so on genders and Trump and memes and Filipinos and mental health and memes and mental health and memes and literature and literature and activists and who ****** who and politicians and what Americans, Australians, Chinese, Japanese, British, Candian, Irish and and North Koreans and K-Pop plastic lips and hips who young girls and boys from isolated islands gets ****** for and hipsters and the nine to fives and the ***** to give and the snobbish *** girls in parties, in clubs, in alleys who wants to get ****** by all the celebrity status ***** all just becomes a tiny pinch for the dead bodies not to see and point the flower and shoot the gun to end the human war.
powerlessness is the fuel to either create or destroy.
little dark girl with
kind eyes
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
i won't blame
you,
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
i won't blame you,
instead
i will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
me,
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
sleeping
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
of you
who made me laugh
again.
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and i won't use it
yet.
Higgs Nov 2012
People often criticise the BBC.
They say it fails to give a balanced view of things.
Well, one day, there was a meeting.
And they decided to try something different.

It started off in the same way as usual
The Six o'clock News.
With that newsreader I like.

She seemed happy enough,
Talking about the day's grisly events,
With a cheery smile.

Predictable headlines.

Gun massacre in America.
Politicians pontificating. (Just like they did after the previous one.)

Civil war in an African country.
Which one? (Who cares. Doesn't affect us.)

Bombing in the Middle East.
"Some people may find these pictures distressing..." (But they showed them anyway.)

Mass ****** at home.
How many corpses so far? (Only two more to go before it's a record!)

Bodies. Bodies. Bodies.
Seen it all before.
Where's the remote?...

But just as I was about to switch
To a different channel,
About half way through the programme,
It was back to her.
In the studio.

"But, on a happier note, here's what's currently going on at an address in London".

Huh?

Picture cuts to the inside of a large Victorian house.
Drawing Room with furniture cleared out of the way.
And in the middle of the room...

AN ****!

Eh?

Fifteen, maybe twenty people.
Difficult to count, because of the positions.
No music. No voice-over. No corny storyline.

Just *******.

And licking. And *******. And panting. And grunting.

And laughter!
Lots of laughter.
All of them having so much fun.
Every shape, size and colour.
Nobody left out. Everybody united
In the blissful pursuit

OF HAPPINESS!

Bodies. Bodies. Bodies.
Never seen anything like it.
Where's the record button on this remote?...

But then, after a few minutes,
It was back to the studio.
There she was again
Smiling
(And looking a little flushed.)
She winked at the camera.
"That's all from us. We'll be back at Ten."


Three million people phoned in to complain
About the ***.

Nobody  complained
About the violence.

What a peculiar world we live in.
Totally fictional!
It's really just a comment on the strange attitudes governing what is shown on British TV. It seems that *** is bad but violence is perfectly OK, even on the news at tea-time. I've never understood why this is the case.
Bailey Mar 2016
Our bodies are poetry
from soft to smooth to hard
our bodies are poetry
freckled, shaped and scarred

Our mouths are dancers
unchoreographed, with memory
our fingers are virgins
gentle and trembling

Our eyes, are passerbys
our noses, cuddling cubs
our arms, reconnecting friends
our knees buckle with every touch

Our bodies are poetry
fitting into every groove
our bodies are poetry
from hard to soft to smooth
Tara Mar 2019
50
50,
50 bodies,
50 dead bodies,
50 dead bodies lay still,
50 dead bodies lay still on Jumu’ah,
50 dead bodies lay still on Jumu’ah because who they pray to,
50 dead bodies lay still on Jumu’ah because who they pray to was not the same as the white man,
50 dead bodies lay still on Jumu’ah because who they pray to was not the same as the white man, but Allah has given them the highest place in Jannah.

Neither we or Allah will forget these 50 martyrs,
who's blood was shed by a white man with no love in his chest,
the white man who thought he could,
but will never win.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.
I think all our hearts our torn over this event. The reason this tears me so much is the people who were victims, had been victims before, they had ran from their struggles in the 'Middle East', North Africa, South Asia, and other place in the world. They had come to NZ for a better life, more opportunities, and most of all peace. And on their holy day, they were taken away from the world, from their families. Muslims are targeted everywhere, in their own countries, look at Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Lebanon, Somali and in the West where they are seeking peace too. My heart is in pieces at everything happening in our cruel world.
Kemy Sep 2018
Can you feel it
Shh, allow the galaxy to pamper your body, blanket the essence of your mind, bit-by-bit
Travel on a higher awareness to understand the galaxy’s gentle gift
Close your eyes and allow your mind to softly drift

Soft Moonlight Dust
Illuminating the night skies, given warmth of its inner trust
Centered in the sky, a star abates for its enlighten ******
Kindred minds to enrapture, as souls physically adjust

So gentle, as a touch to the skin
An inner space to conquer, there an exploring craving begins
Awareness of self stirring into the constellation
Bodies attuned beyond the stretch of imagination
Savoring on the flavor of the alignment sweeten taste
Desires igniting an inferno, the heat of its flames refusing to wait

Overheated friction surrendering without debates
Runaway yearning weakening in the presence of fate
The ecstasy of the moonlight’s dust felt, abiding to the crack of dawn
Emotions of the elixir slowly withdrawn

A Cheshire moonrise
Always a sacred communion given in surprise
Masked feelings hidden behind the stars in our eyes
Sprinkles of pixie dust as the moon becomes full
Paired upon, as lace meets wool
Interwoven and tenderly spun on a galactic spool

Stars In Exile
Twinkling for eyes to glimpse beyond the earth’s smile
Canopus to Antares, oh how you make me shine
Closing my eyes, coveting your point as I’m making you mine

Settled and glittering as small diamonds binding in the sky
A wondrous elopement to experience in the blink of an eye
Soft whispers to the ones that shoot right before they fall
Such a beautiful and breathlessly cadence to wish under them all

The Gift Of The Sun’s Stroke
Umm, shooting stars kept me awoke
Relentless bodies bathing under the moon
Caresses, touches, entwined souls echoing the note of its weakening tunes

Sweeter and sweeter, deeper and deeper
Bodies fueled, hot as a heater, bodies climbing steeper and steeper
Heat consumes the interior of the temple
Sweat of life, as movements come together and then disassemble
Elated, sedated, dipping in a cool blue lagoon
Kisses under the sun on a beautiful afternoon
Temperatures rising not a moment too soon

June slamming into summer’s heat
A merriment of a sun stroke basking in the glorious feast
The galaxy and its spicy passion
A gift to the world to enjoy in any unbridled fashion
She would give them order. She would create constellations.
Thomas Pynchon
Antionicia May 2017
Two bodies pressed together
Two bodies intertwined
Two hearts racing together
Two hearts beating as one
Two lips searching one another
Two lips tasting, feeling.

This is a sonnet of all that they were. Their passion was a beating drum crumbling down stone walls. Their love was a thunderstorm flooding the earth with its rage. Their bodies breathed for one another. Before they had never lived. Their bodies reached for another, bracing, igniting. Fire oh the fire.

Fire of two bodies.
I just wrote this last night, so it's kind of a mess. But maybe some of you will like it (:
Eclipses
are a
Rare Spectacle
To and From
which celestial bodies
Can't deviate

Orbiting and Angling
Celestial bodies
With
planetary movements
The one with reflective light
Deprived of light, in an orbit
Obscures the source
Falling In a line
Gravity at play
Celestial bodies bound

Time a factor
Always a charter

Orbiting and Angling
celestial bodies
With
Planetary movements
The reflective one Aglow
Shadowed by The Planet
Obscuring the source
All in a line
Gravity at play
Celestial bodies bound

Reaching to the Mars
For a life beyond
Defying gravity
Celestial bodies bound

*Eclipses are a Rare Spectacle
Celestial bodies have Eternal Glow
Solar and Lunar eclipse ,
And a probability of life on Mars .
Raymond Johnson Jan 2015
the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right

in the supposedly post-racial united states of america

the only thing this society seems to be is post humanity.

black americans are routinely treated with barely a shred of human decency.

stripped of our agency under the iron fist of white supremacy

post the cold blooded murders of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Kimane Gray, John Crawford, and countless others-

these are the strange fruits that hang from our nation’s poplar trees.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right. or is it nineteen sixty four? many a time I have opened the morning paper to see headlines that would not be out of place in that era of bloodshed.

more care given to a cotton cloth flag than to the black bodies that lie battered and broken in the streets.

"think of the businesses!" they scream, mouths afroth.

but won't anyone think of the black children murdered for carrying BB Guns? won't anyone think of the fathers? the mothers? the sons and daughters whose lives are cut short by those who are supposed to 'protect and serve?'

I will stop "making this about race" when the police stop giving me reason to fear for my life simply for existing. it is not enough to be peaceful and innocent anymore.

does this conversation upset you? can you not cope with these atrocities that go on every day in your precious land of the free?

In a sick way it almost makes sense

that in a nation built from nothing upon the backs of the enslaved

that it would take a bit longer than a hundred and fifty years to stop feeling the pain.

the whips and chains that once bound us were not broken, but merely transformed.

our shackles are now student loans;

plantations were exchanged for privatized prisons and lynch mobs now wear blue uniforms.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right.

maybe it’s got something to do with the way that all people seem to care about nowadays is iggy azalea’s new hit single but not the way that white rappers want to be black so badly up until it’s time to fight for us. to march with us. to die with us.

miley cyrus can prance around onstage fetishizing black bodies like modern day hottentot venuses but when black bodies are being violated by the police she’s strangely silent.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right.


but there is a light that shines through this darkness. that light is within me, and you, and within the hearts of every single man and woman of all colors and creeds who raises their fists and says "No more."  

our fight is not over. the road will be long. it is very possible that more will die along the way.  but their deaths will not be in vain.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right. but it will not be this way forever.

and and fourteen and something isn't right

in the supposedly post-racial united states of america

the only thing this society seems to be is post humanity.

black americans are routinely treated with barely a shred of human decency.

stripped of our agency under the iron fist of white supremacy

post the cold blooded murders of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Kimane Gray, John Crawford, and countless others-

these are the strange fruits that hang from our nation’s poplar trees.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right. or is it nineteen sixty four? many a time I have opened the morning paper to see headlines that would not be out of place in that era of bloodshed.

more care given to a cotton cloth flag than to the black bodies that lie battered and broken in the streets.

"think of the businesses!" they scream, mouths afroth.

but won't anyone think of the black children murdered for carrying BB Guns? won't anyone think of the fathers? the mothers? the sons and daughters whose lives are cut short by those who are supposed to 'protect and serve?'

I will stop "making this about race" when the police stop giving me reason to fear for my life simply for existing. it is not enough to be peaceful and innocent anymore.

does this conversation upset you? can you not cope with these atrocities that go on every day in your precious land of the free?

In a sick way it almost makes sense

that in a nation built from nothing upon the backs of the enslaved

that it would take a bit longer than a hundred and fifty years to stop feeling the pain.

the whips and chains that once bound us were not broken, but merely transformed.

our shackles are now student loans;

plantations were exchanged for privatized prisons and lynch mobs now wear blue uniforms.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right.

maybe it’s got something to do with the way that all people seem to care about nowadays is iggy azalea’s new hit single but not the way that white rappers want to be black so badly up until it’s time to fight for us. to march with us. to die with us.

miley cyrus can prance around onstage fetishizing black bodies like modern day hottentot venuses but when black bodies are being violated by the police she’s strangely silent.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right.


but there is a light that shines through this darkness. that light is within me, and you, and within the hearts of every single man and woman of all colors and creeds who raises their fists and says "No more."  

our fight is not over. the road will be long. it is very possible that more will die along the way.  but their deaths will not be in vain.

the year is two thousand and fourteen and something isn't right. but it will not be this way forever.
Čortoloman May 2018
A: Don't you find it irritating?

Z: Hm?

A: Don't you find irritating the human need to feel happiness?

Z: Isn't that only natural? When you are happy you feel good. So
you will want to feel good when you aren't happy right?

A: But that's not natural. Being happy is just a state you can be at. It's not the state you were at before or after. Being neutral is a state you came from and will go to.

Z: So should I feel the need to be sad when I'm happy just as I have the need to fell happy when I'm sad?

A: No, that does nothing. You shouldn't feel anything at all. Or have a need to in the first place.

Z: That makes no sense. Life is what the living does. You can't live without a need to feel can you?

A: Well maybe being alive is not a natural state to be at as well! If it was you wouldn't die or be born.

Z: What do you mean?

A: Well maybe life and death are also just a state you can be at, but neither are the natural states...

Z: Ugh... Third state beside Life and Death?

A: Yeah!

Z: What would that be?

A: Well for that to work I guess there would have to be a third party involved, like a soul or something, then we could say that it's only your body that is alive or dead. Your soul is then just a presence that trough a medium called body is collecting experience.

Z: What about emotions?

A: Let's add another body in the picture! Call it „emotional body“. Emotional body is using a physical body as a medium to get experience from the world and then there is a soul that is using the emotional body as a medium so we get a perfect being!

Z: Isn't that a bit of a stretch?

A: Who knows.... But then we could say that there is finally a natural state to be at. It is called „Soul state“. In this state you resonate your three bodies (the physical, emotional and soul bodies). In this state you are not „Alive“ or „Dead“, you are not „Happy“ or „Sad“, you are just a presence.

Z: And how would you get to this state called „Soul state“??

A: Well you should ask yourself why do the other two bodies exist in the first place?

Z: Hm.. Well to experience things right?

A: Yeah..

Z: Ohhh! So the soul is a presence that trough the two bodies experiences things! So once it has experienced all there is to see and feel. It will finally enter the „Soul state“!!

A: exactly!

Z: But isn't there just soo much? We don't really have enough time to experience all there is...

A: well who said you live only once..

Z: Reincarnations?

A: Mhm.

Z: But why don't we remember things from our past lives?

A: Well it would be rather easier to experience everything if you think you have only so much time. That way you will use all of the time given to you to live at your fullest!
Story I came up with to connect the puzzle pieces together in a way that i feel comfortable with XD
Styles Jun 2016
Let me slide my velvet tongue
up and down
the insides of your milky way
until I find my path
that leads the way
to yours heavens
bet you moan the whole way
One soft touch
and your ambisions slipe away
your body trembles
as my fingers play;
high notes, low on your body
silent screams slowly slip away
our bodies
press their luck
like human nature,
its in our nature,
to play that way.
Our bodies colliding
deep inside, I'm subsiding
my hips bucking,
yours riding mine,
my fantasy
you and me
in Ecstasy.
Katrina B Apr 2015
in that moment
we
we were two bodies
two bodies lost in space
and I was a mind
floating in a body that kissed a face
and in that moment
we
we were two bodies
two bodies lost in space
and I believed
that we were two misunderstood
that for a moment understood
and in that moment
we
we were two bodies
two clichés
about to start a thousand more
and in that moment
more so than ever
nothing seemed to matter
because we were in that moment
just understanding each other
and the understanding was not a love thing,
a physical attraction thing
but a two lost bodies
two hurt bodies
two confused bodies trying to fix it all kind of thing
WHILOM, as olde stories tellen us,                            formerly
There was a duke that highte* Theseus.                   was called
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie,
That whilom was y-cleped Scythia;
And weddede the Queen Hippolyta
And brought her home with him to his country
With muchel
glory and great solemnity,                           great
And eke her younge sister Emily,
And thus with vict'ry and with melody
Let I this worthy Duke to Athens ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside.

And certes, if it n'ere
too long to hear,                     were not
I would have told you fully the mannere,
How wonnen
was the regne of Feminie,                            won
By Theseus, and by his chivalry;
And of the greate battle for the *****
Betwixt Athenes and the Amazons;
And how assieged was Hippolyta,
The faire hardy queen of Scythia;
And of the feast that was at her wedding
And of the tempest at her homecoming.
But all these things I must as now forbear.
I have, God wot, a large field to ear
                       plough;
And weake be the oxen in my plough;
The remnant of my tale is long enow.
I will not *letten eke none of this rout
.                hinder any of
Let every fellow tell his tale about,                      this company

And let see now who shall the supper win.
There as I left, I will again begin.                where I left off

This Duke, of whom I make mentioun,
When he was come almost unto the town,
In all his weal, and in his moste pride,
He was ware, as he cast his eye aside,
Where that there kneeled in the highe way
A company of ladies, tway and tway,
Each after other, clad in clothes black:
But such a cry and such a woe they make,
That in this world n'is creature living,
That hearde such another waimenting                      lamenting
And of this crying would they never stenten,                    desist
Till they the reines of his bridle henten.                       *seize
"What folk be ye that at mine homecoming
Perturben so my feaste with crying?"
Quoth Theseus; "Have ye so great envy
Of mine honour, that thus complain and cry?
Or who hath you misboden
, or offended?                         wronged
Do telle me, if it may be amended;
And why that ye be clad thus all in black?"

The oldest lady of them all then spake,
When she had swooned, with a deadly cheer
,                 countenance
That it was ruthe
for to see or hear.                             pity
She saide; "Lord, to whom fortune hath given
Vict'ry, and as a conqueror to liven,
Nought grieveth us your glory and your honour;
But we beseechen mercy and succour.
Have mercy on our woe and our distress;
Some drop of pity, through thy gentleness,
Upon us wretched women let now fall.
For certes, lord, there is none of us all
That hath not been a duchess or a queen;
Now be we caitives
, as it is well seen:                       captives
Thanked be Fortune, and her false wheel,
That *none estate ensureth to be wele
.       assures no continuance of
And certes, lord, t'abiden your presence              prosperous estate

Here in this temple of the goddess Clemence
We have been waiting all this fortenight:
Now help us, lord, since it lies in thy might.

"I, wretched wight, that weep and waile thus,
Was whilom wife to king Capaneus,
That starf* at Thebes, cursed be that day:                     died
And alle we that be in this array,
And maken all this lamentatioun,
We losten all our husbands at that town,
While that the siege thereabouten lay.
And yet the olde Creon, wellaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the city,
Fulfilled of ire and of iniquity,
He for despite, and for his tyranny,
To do the deade bodies villainy
,                                insult
Of all our lorde's, which that been y-slaw,                       *slain
Hath all the bodies on an heap y-draw,
And will not suffer them by none assent
Neither to be y-buried, nor y-brent
,                             burnt
But maketh houndes eat them in despite."
And with that word, withoute more respite
They fallen groff,
and cryden piteously;                    grovelling
"Have on us wretched women some mercy,
And let our sorrow sinken in thine heart."

This gentle Duke down from his courser start
With hearte piteous, when he heard them speak.
Him thoughte that his heart would all to-break,
When he saw them so piteous and so mate
                         abased
That whilom weren of so great estate.
And in his armes he them all up hent
,                     raised, took
And them comforted in full good intent,
And swore his oath, as he was true knight,
He woulde do *so farforthly his might
        as far as his power went
Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreak,                            avenge
That all the people of Greece shoulde speak,
How Creon was of Theseus y-served,
As he that had his death full well deserved.
And right anon withoute more abode                               *delay
His banner he display'd, and forth he rode
To Thebes-ward, and all his, host beside:
No ner
Athenes would he go nor ride,                            nearer
Nor take his ease fully half a day,
But onward on his way that night he lay:
And sent anon Hippolyta the queen,
And Emily her younge sister sheen
                       bright, lovely
Unto the town of Athens for to dwell:
And forth he rit
; there is no more to tell.                       rode

The red statue of Mars with spear and targe
                     shield
So shineth in his white banner large
That all the fieldes glitter up and down:
And by his banner borne is his pennon
Of gold full rich, in which there was y-beat
                   stamped
The Minotaur which that he slew in Crete
Thus rit this Duke, thus rit this conqueror
And in his host of chivalry the flower,
Till that he came to Thebes, and alight
Fair in a field, there as he thought to fight.
But shortly for to speaken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes king,
He fought, and slew him manly as a knight
In plain bataille, and put his folk to flight:
And by assault he won the city after,
And rent adown both wall, and spar, and rafter;
And to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their husbands that were slain,
To do obsequies, as was then the guise
.                         custom

But it were all too long for to devise
                        describe
The greate clamour, and the waimenting
,                      lamenting
Which that the ladies made at the brenning
                     burning
Of the bodies, and the great honour
That Theseus the noble conqueror
Did to the ladies, when they from him went:
But shortly for to tell is mine intent.
When that this worthy Duke, this Theseus,
Had Creon slain, and wonnen Thebes thus,
Still in the field he took all night his rest,
And did with all the country as him lest
.                      pleased
To ransack in the tas
of bodies dead,                             heap
Them for to strip of *harness and of *
****,           armour *clothes
The pillers* did their business and cure,                 pillagers
After the battle and discomfiture.
And so befell, that in the tas they found,
Through girt with many a grievous ****** wound,
Two younge knightes *ligging by and by
             lying side by side
Both in one armes, wrought full richely:             the same armour
Of whiche two, Arcita hight that one,
And he that other highte Palamon.
Not fully quick, nor fully dead they were,                       *alive
But by their coat-armour, and by their gear,
The heralds knew them well in special,
As those that weren of the blood royal
Of Thebes, and *of sistren two y-born
.            born of two sisters
Out of the tas the pillers have them torn,
And have them carried soft unto the tent
Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent
To Athens, for to dwellen in prison
Perpetually, he n'olde no ranson.               would take no ransom
And when this worthy Duke had thus y-done,
He took his host, and home he rit anon
With laurel crowned as a conquerour;
And there he lived in joy and in honour
Term of his life; what needeth wordes mo'?
And in a tower, in anguish and in woe,
Dwellen this Palamon, and eke Arcite,
For evermore, there may no gold them quite                    set free

Thus passed year by year, and day by day,
Till it fell ones in a morn of May
That Emily, that fairer was to seen
Than is the lily upon his stalke green,
And fresher than the May with flowers new
(For with the rose colour strove her hue;
I n'ot* which was the finer of them two),                      know not
Ere it was day, as she was wont to do,
She was arisen, and all ready dight
,                           dressed
For May will have no sluggardy a-night;
The season pricketh every gentle heart,
And maketh him out of his sleep to start,
And saith, "Arise, and do thine observance."

This maketh Emily have remembrance
To do honour to May, and for to rise.
Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise;
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress,
Behind her back, a yarde long I guess.
And in the garden at *the sun uprist
                           sunrise
She walketh up and down where as her list.
She gathereth flowers, party
white and red,                    mingled
To make a sotel
garland for her head,            subtle, well-arranged
And as an angel heavenly she sung.
The greate tower, that was so thick and strong,
Which of the castle was the chief dungeon
(Where as these knightes weren in prison,
Of which I tolde you, and telle shall),
Was even joinant
to the garden wall,                         adjoining
There as this Emily had her playing.

Bright was the sun, and clear that morrowning,
And Palamon, this woful prisoner,
As was his wont, by leave of his gaoler,
Was ris'n, and roamed in a chamber on high,
In which he all the noble city sigh
,                               saw
And eke the garden, full of branches green,
There as this fresh Emelia the sheen
Was in her walk, and roamed up and down.
This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamon
Went in his chamber roaming to and fro,
And to himself complaining of his woe:
That he was born, full oft he said, Alas!
And so befell, by aventure or cas
,                              chance
That through a window thick of many a bar
Of iron great, and square as any spar,
He cast his eyes upon Emelia,
And therewithal he blent
and crie
Eldon Mar 2014
Too many Black bodies,
Know the unwelcoming
Pavement as their home.
I can smell the sadness
That seeps through their pores.


Sorrow that furiously
Enters my nostrils
Like tornados yielding eviction notices. 



Pupils that beg
For eye contact.

They are empty change cups
That fill to the brim
Through the locking of retinas. 


Begging,
More for the reminder
That they too are human,
Than for the change
That will provide little of what it boasts.

Open caskets
With the bodies of suicidal souls.
Lifeless faces rearranged
To show a glimpse of joy.


The scene is rich with irony.
These dead are smiling.
While the barely living
Don't have the same luxury of tranquility. 


Words claw their way outside of mouths,
Fighting
To reach a listening ear.
Suffering
Such alienation,
From being unaware
Of their origin or direction.
When the body and mind lose
Their living accommodations,
Words still yearn
For a home.

Black bodies litter the streets.
And sanitation crews wonder
Whether to place the lifeless bodies
Into the truck’s trunk,
An open casket.

I wonder,
When was the last time
One of their names was
Spoken into existence?

How difficult is it,
To forget who you are?
M Oct 2015
Hey! Hey! Hey!
"I don't like walking around this old and empty house."
"So hold my hand, I'll walk with you, my dear."
"The stairs creak as you sleep, it's keeping me awake."
"It's the house telling you to close your eyes."
"And some days I can't even trust myself."
"It's killing me to see you this way."

'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Hey! Hey! Hey!

"There's an old voice in my head that's holding me back."
"Well, tell her that I miss our little talks."
"Soon it will be over and buried with our past."
"We used to play outside when we were young
and full of life and full of love."

"Some days I feel like I'm wrong when I'm right."
"Your mind is playing tricks on you, my dear."
'Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

Hey! Don't listen to a word I say.
Hey! The screams all sound the same. Hey!
Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Hey! Hey!

"You're gone, gone, gone away,
I watched you disappear.
All that's left is the ghost of you."
"Now we're torn, torn, torn apart,
There's nothing we can do."
"Just let me go we'll meet again soon."
"Now wait, wait, wait for me,
please hang around."
"I'll see you when I fall asleep."

Hey! Don't listen to a word I say.
Hey! The screams all sound the same. Hey!
Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

Don't listen to a word I say. Hey!
The screams all sound the same. Hey!

Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.
Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.
Though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.
not mine
Terry O'Leary Sep 2013
MORNING HAS BROKEN
The men, in lines, ***** two by two,
forgetting all the women who
indulged them through a night of tricks
(their lips designed with crimson sticks,
their eyes a wild mascara mix)

and think instead on times ahead
when they’ll be gone, their bodies dead
(some rotting slow’, some mummified)
though once they were their mummy’s pride.

Attired bright in uniforms,
they strew their bombs in desert storms -
like melting sands, the sky deforms
with darkness, death - and doomsday swarms
through ravished lands where fires warm
the corpses, cold and puriform.

Their eyes flash forward towards the backs
of lucky ones who have the knack
of never being in the way
of bursts of bullets as they stray
(effacing phantoms faraway)
and dodging doom’s Redemption Day.

They’re wishing for a foggy morn
or best of all to be unborn,
and peering down to mark the sway
of wings in webs while spiders prey,

they wonder when their time will come
and they can cease their fleeing from
the sights they’ve seen, the deeds they’ve done,
the life they’ve lost, the death they’ve won,

then muse a while upon the child
they killed today when they went wild,
and when they’re finally reconciled
with broken bodies stacked and piled,

they ponder, does she have a kin
to curse them for their burning sin?

And if she does, will god reply
with tooth for tooth and eye for eye?

Or will her clan be mild and meek
and simply turn the other cheek?

2. MIDDAY MUSINGS
They’re counting steps to pass the time
and puzzle if they’ll reach their prime
or if instead they’ll serve the worm
their carnal flesh and aching *****

when soon, perhaps, they sleep in berth
provided by the chilling earth,
and fret about the fate they’ll find
below the stones that slowly grind.

And once or twice will come to mind
a sultry smile they left behind
(the distant past - a tepid trace –
another time, another place),
reflected in the gray grimace
that paints a frightened fading face.

And on they trek through guilt and gloom
to track their own and others' doom
and soon they’ll  grace another pool
with blood of other beings who’ll

inhale no more the evening airs,
unlike the wily Functionaires
who brutalize the fighting men
and send them far away and then

(relaxed, unwound, with victories made)
confer with sword an accolade
on those who’ve lopped bowed heads, with blade,
so someone bent must turn a *****

to hack a hole which then is filled
with all the cloven bodies killed
then cloaked with clay or loamy dirt,
as if to hide the pain and hurt.

3. TEATIME INTROSPECTION
Amongst the many are the few
who maim and **** and think it’s true
that purple war’s a parlour game
when really they’re submerged in shame
for crimes for which they are to blame
and can’t expunge with searing flame

while plodding through an endless time,
or pealing bells with holy chime,
or posing in a paradigm
where paradox and riddle rhyme.

And when they die (as die they must),
forevermore their putrid dust,
still soaked with gore and carmine lust,
will conjure thoughts of cold disgust.

And even though torrential rain
(which tastes at times like cool champagne)
can wash away the scarlet stain
which soaks the sands of god’s terrain,

it cannot ever cleanse the hands
that work the guns and burning brands,
or purge the throats that give commands
to him who never understands.

Nor can the raging hurricane
from blackened souls the white regain,
rescind the sins or void the banes
or loose the ****** from Satan’s chains
who line the pits of hell’s domains.

4. EVENING REFLECTIONS
When through the day to night they pass,
their eyes avoid the looking glass
displaying dim a pale phantasm
plunging deeper down a chasm,
surging through a blood ******,
smiling thin unveiled sarcasm

for the chances lost to taste
the many fruits that went to waste
when each was still a joyous lad,
who went to school and learned to add
and danced in rivers, barefoot clad,

attended church with mom and dad
(which tends the poor and cheers the sad),
to pray for good and curse the bad,
before, in war insanely mad,
he fought the fight (no Galahad)

by flinging flames and slashing throats,
immersing bods in  midnight moats
between the broken battered boats
where babes and booted bodies float,

and leaving bags of bones to bloat
in bullet-ridden overcoats,
and wondered if the goblins gloat
or spot (behind his eyes, the motes),

then strode away without a thought
that mortal lives had come to naught,
sedated by his conscience brought
to nothing more than dripping snot,
while Others sit upon a yacht
and pluck the eyes of fish They’ve caught,

for, when they die, fish seem to see
The Ones behind the tyranny
(with bellies round from gluttony)
in future dangling from a tree
(with leaves as black as ebony),
for that’s, They fear, Their destiny.

5. MIDNIGHT DREAMS**
At night the soldiers sometimes dream
of many things which make them scream,
like
                      floating down a gelid stream
             with burning flesh and cold ice cream
             upon their lips, which makes it seem
             as though their salt they can’t redeem
             when looking back at bold extremes
             of valiant warriors’ victory schemes.

Or ofter yet,
                      they sometimes meet
             a broken skull upon the street
             with gaping eyes, its mouth replete
             with swollen tongue that can’t repeat
             mere words of joy when lovers greet,
             or yell aloud or indiscreet’,

             or talk about the grand deceit
             of Those Who live on Easy Street,
             Who plot, destroy and overeat,
             while others bide beneath a sheet
             on bed of steely cold concrete,

             with final gift a flag or wreath
             that soon will wither like their teeth
             when once they’re settled underneath
             a mound of muck on mouldy heath,
             to lurk in Limbo Land beneath.

And ever more before they wake,
appear quaint dreams not quite opaque,  
like
                      upside down upon a lake
             keeps popping up a pregnant Drake
             who says “there must be some mistake,
             I only have a bellyache”,
             while high above’s a flying Snake,
             (a sight to make a killer quake).

             She cries aloud “for mercy’s sake
             your foresight’s blind, your wisdom’s fake
             the fragile bodies that you break,
             impale or burn upon a stake,
             then stack in layers like a cake,
             reflect a lust that death can’t slake”.

             And turquoise Turtles on the make
             (though taking time to overtake,
             each slurping down a chocolate shake)
             rev up to plead “let us explain,
             we think you men are all insane
            with morals thin as cellophane;

             for, peering through god’s window pane,
             we see quite clearly those you’ve slain,
             enough to fill the Dim Domain
             with blood and guts and tears and pain,
             Chimeras of a frenzied brain.”

             A worn and weary weather vane
             announces floods of claret rain
             that forty days and nights sustain,
             submerging mountains, raising Cain,
             while flushing mankind’s acid reign
             down nature’s evolution drain.

             The Serpent hails a hydroplane
             “because”, she hissed, “we can’t remain;
             behind the hill, the atom’s spark
             has vaporized the palace park,
             reduced to dust the Meadowlark
             and nullified the Rainbow’s arc”.

             And while the others hush and hark,
             a feline Toad begins to bark
             “This plane is certainly Boa’s Ark.

             Let’s flee the Human hierarch,
             forsake all Men to sate the Shark
             which swim within the Waters Dark,
             and purge all traces of the Mark
             in Eden when we disembark.”

             The beasts, in lines, by twos embark.

The dreamers wake, they’re staring, stark,
behind their eyes, a watermark.
Joel M Frye Jul 2012
Strolling, wistful, through a thousand lives,
across the chasmed centuries gone past,
he calls her name; it never quite arrives
to fall upon her ear.  Just at the last,
she leaves the hall, or shutters windows closed.
The fading echoes rebound, fall, despair
upon the careless earth, alone who knows
how many times he's haunted up her stairs
and stood before her door, unwilling hand
hung limply at his side. The heavy years
passed by them both again; he hadn't planned
that they would not meet. This chance disappears  
to speak the truth he knows she knows as well;
two ancient souls in broken bodies dwell.

Two ancient souls in broken bodies dwell,
a karmic double-helix twists through time.
They spiral 'round, attracted and repelled
by cosmic force, the space between defined
as two arms' lengths apart. Their fingertips
will brush by chance; the spark that generates
ignites the kindling lust, the heated lips
which speak the wildfire words of love. The fates
dictate the places, times where their paths cross;
circumstances, consequences feed
the choices made.  They've chosen fire, the loss
of reason, stoking starving naked need,
dance with abandon, passion, without pride;
they trip light-years fantastic side by side.

They trip light-years fantastic side by side.
The pas de deux began in ancient court
of some small city-state.  He is a knight
sent by his Queen, a diplomatic sort
of mission.  At a dinner hosted by
the local King, the knight, while taking in
who might be helpful or a hindrance spies
a shaken mane of gold, blue eyes within
her stunning face, struck slack with ennui
until she meets his eyes.  An eyebrow lifts,
a corner of her mouth curls up, unseen
by all save the old man beside.  He shifts,
and stands to pound his staff. The hall is still;
bound by an angered mage's curs'ed spell

Bound by an angered mage's curs'ed spell:
"Your burning gaze, Sir Knight...your smile, milass;
returned. You want each other?  Very well!
So mote it be; I'll have it come to pass.
She will be linked to you, eternally
yours, to have, to hold and never love;
to consummate and quench your lust will be
your death. And you shall lust, by Jove above!
I hereby mate your everlasting souls;
condemn you with a love like Hades' fires,
passion's heat incinerates you whole.
You'll take him, child, and **** him with desire.
You'll die for her; she'll bring you to her knees
across uncharted lands, bedragoned seas."

Across uncharted lands, bedragoned seas
uncounted years of wandering, he seeks
asylum from the memory of her eyes.
The softest skin, most gently blushing cheeks,
wildest fingers raking skin from back,
ever-changing hips which ****** and thrash;
the tavern *****, the courtesan, all lack
whatever power it would take to smash
his crushing need.  An aching pilgrimage,
life spent in shameless chase to slake the lust
imposed by jealous wizard in his rage.
Now weak and old, he walks alone through dust
and sandstorm, seeking solace, final rest
in desert's scalding carborundum breath

In desert's scalding carborundum breath
she oversees construction of her tomb.
Her father started it; upon his death,
she left the mage to build the solemn room
of memory. The waves of slaves pour sweat
in rivers onto stones, their muscles scream
and ripple in the undulating heat.
Mirage becomes a staggering man, unseen
by all but her. She mounts and rides to bring
some water, some relief.  When their eyes meet,
their souls enmesh, their spirits start to sing,
his failing body falls about her feet.
They're found again, and still there's no release;
not even end of life can bring surcease.

Not even end of life can bring surcease;
she lived another twenty years beyond.
His final glance of longing gave no peace,
but chained her in the everlasting bond
of arcane condemnation. Her ****** heart
is pierced by passing seconds, every one
a blunted needle, mildly poisoned dart
not strong enough to stop her pulse's run.
The mage's gift to her: the agony
of life remembering her lover's kiss,
then a death too short to set her free.
It sends her toward another fatal tryst,
spun round again the universe's width;
their love a measured minuet with death.

Their love a measured minuet with death,
a dance with destiny.  They wake again
to unfamiliar bodies, unknown paths
meandering across the haunted plain
of time.  A muddy pasture, half a million
blissful stoners join in raucous song:
"...and you make it hard". Among the hills run
****** lovers who can do no wrong,
all sharing bodies, needles 'til the smack
runs out. Her shaking arms strapped 'cross his chest;
he huddles close, awaiting the next stack
of Methadone. He shivers; breathes his last.
She cries and rocks his body, they will spoon
throughout the summer's thundered afternoon.

Throughout the summer's thundered afternoon
as heavy clouds erupt on thirsty soil,
cooler air meets skin on fire, a boon
to Magdalene and lover.  The sweet oil
washes off, the rain obscures the sound
of marching feet.  Centurions approach
and ****** him from her side. "So now you're found
beside this one, whose last ride gave us such
an evil time.  We strung him up, but now
his body's gone, and you were seen beside
the tomb. You'll die just as he did, and how."
She watched another man be crucified.
Supported by her love, he passed in peace
suspended in expectant spring's embrace.

Suspended in expectant spring's embrace,
the royal courtyard at Versailles in bloom
is laid out for the party.  Every face
is rouged, each powdered wig precisely groomed.
The hundred soldiers stand down, raise a toast,
Vive le roi!  One teasing courtier
seduces a queen's guard to leave his post.
Behind a hedge, they make love unaware
of peasants, women milling through the gate
in search of bread and royal blood, not cake.
He runs to save the Queen, and seals his fate;
the mob will **** for revolution's sake.
The oaks a silent witness to his doom
in autumn colors, reds and golds festooned.

In autumn colors, reds and golds festooned,
the twin moons rise and set, reflecting sun
upon the biodomes.  Earth shines down, ruined
by man's neglect, what could not be undone.
The population by law zero sum;
resource conservation held above
the joy of new life.  Parents here must come
to know the anguish of requited love.
She bears his child; they knew too well the chance
they took.  The court will force a choice be made:
the father or the child. A tear, a glance
as he's locked out. She watches as he fades
in cryogenic punishment, life lashed
to winter's icy shackles holding fast.

To winter's icy shackles holding fast
her soul, she proffers prayer, slogs through the sleet
toward her cloistered cell.  One chilling blast
wraps habit 'round her, knocks her off her feet.
The heavy, sodden cloth, the wind prevents
her gaining purchase on the frozen ground.
From monastery cot, the monk could sense
distress.  In thin burnoose he dashed and found
her, cold as stone, yet breathing; swept her up
and rushed her to the hearth.  His warm embrace
brings on familiar heat.  Their pasts stirred up,
relived, decision made within a trace:
"'Tis best this time we live, and never start."
Their minds attuned, yet cleft by broken heart.

Their minds attuned, yet cleft by broken heart;
the aching need grows stronger day by day.
He tends her failing health without regard
to duty, vows.  Her weak voice strains to say,
"I will be gone before you this time. Hear
me out; this may be what we need to break
our curse.  Stay with me as my time grows near;
and love me as the Reaper comes to take
my soul, and finish with me after I
have left.  God will forgive sins we'll commit
for man alone has ****** us.  We must try
or curse ourselves, continue to submit
to endless pain, remain just as we are:
connected, blessed, and doomed to be apart."

Connected, blessed, and doomed to be apart,
they cling to every moment here and now;
the priceless beating of her failing heart,
his passions roil out in unending flow.
He gazes deep in her eternal eyes
as they glaze over, looking past his face
into the hollow stare of death.  She lies
suspended between life and time and space,
to hear an old, familiar voice sound in
her ears.  "To dance with death before him
as you rut...how clever!  Most astounding
that you'd carry out this futile whim.
He dies; you'll live, just as the curse defines;
strolling, wistful, through a thousand lives."

Strolling, wistful, through a thousand lives
Two ancient souls in broken bodies dwell.
They trip light-years fantastic side by side
Bound by an angered mage's curs'ed spell.
Across uncharted lands, bedragoned seas,
In desert's scalding carborundum breath
Not even end of life can bring surcease;
Their love a measured minuet with death.
Throughout the summer's thundered afternoon,
Suspended in expectant spring's embrace,
In autumn colors, reds and golds festooned,
To winter's icy shackles holding fast;
Their minds attuned, yet cleft by broken heart:
Connected, blessed, and doomed to be apart.
For those of you who knew about this...thanks for your patience.  For those who didn't...this is where much of my creative energy has gone for the past 10 months.  This is the first draft;  revisions and refinements will inevitably follow.  I can usually write a sonnet in about an hour; silly me...I thought this would take me a day or two at worst.
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Nomkhumbulwa Sep 2018
Why is this still happening?
So silently, yet still reported;
At great lengths they will go
- to make sure its reported.

Although the Government are in denial,
We are grateful for those who report
The ongoing slaughter of innocent people
Men, women, and children are caught.

Journalists themselves are risking their lives
To tell the world whats happening;
There can be no more dangerous a place
From which to report the sickening.

So where is the world?
The situation is dire -
And unless action is taken
...its going to catch fire.

People are still leaving,
For Tanzania,
A country now turning them back
Back home to face their fears.

But where are the World?
What is holding you back?
How can you just sit there
And ignore these attacks?

For I for one cannot,
And I have no power to act,
All I can do, is spread the word
And hope someone...will act.

Yes there was a time,
When a hundred thousand were killed each day,
That is hard to comprehend,
Not just for me - but for locals who got away.

It may not be happening quite on that scale,
But the fact that it is still happening,
Surely is warning enough.....
And the Government is in denial...

I am worried for Burundi,
But why is no one else?
How can you just sit there
- are you leaving it for someone else?

The attacks are still happening,
Day after day after day,
Bodies are still being found....
Before being rushed into the ground.

Such brutality is hard to stomach,
And I have the stomach for much,
But when I encountered the plight of Burundi,
That was just too much.

I dont know if I will finish this poem,
Because the images I now have are horrific,
So what must it be like....
For those having to live there with it?

Imagine the fear,
The total despair,
And the feeling of more
- that the world doesnt care.

It can be no wonder
That this little country
Is the unhappiest on Earth,
It is so clear to see.

Or for those who choose maybe
To see what others refuse,
Or ignore, or belittle,
Cover up- whatever word you use.

Each day there are reports,
Women and children found dead,
Their throats have been cut,
Bodies lay with no heads

They are *****, they are tortured,
For hours, days, or months,
There are forced disappearances,
- those run into the hundreds.

A machete is no longer an agricultural tool,
It has become a symbol of terror,
It is used to slice, tear, stab, torture;
It is a symbol of ******.

What must go through these peoples minds,
When they see someone with a machete,
What was once a necessary tool,
Now been used to butcher so many.

The genocide may be over,
And few even know it took in Burundi,
But the torture, the butchering continues
It continues horrifically.

I am a strong person,
I have read about, seen, and stomached a lot,
But there is nothing that even comes close
To how this puts my stomach in a knot.

The info is there if you seek it,
And please do - its risky to report;
I wonder how much more blood must be spilt
Until someone decides those responsible must be caught

The images they are many many,
The videos they are there too:
But why is it just me seeing this?
Where are the rest of you?

The day I saw the video,
I will never forget,
After what I had suffered myself,
Again I will never forget.

I do not regret what I saw,
For I believe it to be necessary,
Necessary for people to see,
But - those in Government - not me.

Now I have to be careful,
Because of what I saw,
That video put me in hospital -
It triggered something in my core.

It is spread through desperation,
To get a message to the world,
But I was one of only 3 to have seen that,
Maybe rightly so, but also absurd.

Pictures are horrific enough,
Sometimes missing parts are "shaded",
But then comes along another
The shadings not there, its a person beheaded.

But it it not the effect on myself,
Which pains me so much,
It is the fact that this is still happening,
And the world is so out of touch.

I now have to be careful,
But I will not stop,
I wont stop spreading the word,
Until this killing in Burundi stops.

The graphics are hard to put to words,
The testimonies harder still,
But I have tried to help you see,
Without making myself more ill.

The Imbonerakure,
The youth wing of the CNFDD,
Even seeing that word now..
Makes the panic rise within me

For they and the security are responsible,
For the majority of the brutal killings,
The ****, the torture, the unthinkable,
People are not even safe when leaving.

They come out at night,
The raid peoples homes,
**** entire families,
While others watch on.

They harass in the streets,
The harass at the borders,
They are everywhere,
Butchering as they are given orders.

The President thinks he was put there by God,
This is nothing shocking I know,
For for Burundi it means a lot,
It means he may stay for ever, death will be all they know.

There are memorials built,
To the many genocides to take place,
Each containing thousands of skulls,
Cracked where the machete went through the face.

Thousands and thousand of skulls lined up,
Of course there are no bodies -
From "Ear to Ear" was how the saying went,
As each head was cut from its body.

It has become so common to find someones head,
Something that for us here would cause fear in itself,
That now in Burundi there are proverbs and sayings,
School children quote wise words from these heads themselves.

Headless bodies float along the river,
Headless bodies dumped in bags with the *******,
A machete taken to the throat and then to the torso,
Ripping flesh, drawing blood, organs pulled out of the body for show.

For this is a living nightmare,
Blood flowing down roads and rivers,
Finding a hand, a head, a liver...
Would make many strong people shiver.

People are literally hacked to death,
Occasionally they are shot,
If I ever found myself in that position
I would outright beg to be shot.

The person I saw die in the video,
Took way more than 10 minutes for sure,
As hit throat was cut, he was stabbed, his skin ripped,
His blood spurted violently across the floor

I refuse to go into more detail than that,
For thats the one that triggered me,
I will never watch it again,
But I do want those in power to see.

Will someone please help Burundi?
I feel I have not done it justice with this poem,
The machete, the blood, the horror...
Please help... we all know who is to blame.

We all know....
Sorry for the graphic nature.  I rarely write poetry not driven by my own situation, but this is one I also cannot ignore :( And its not a very good poem, so apologies.  Hard to express it actually.
Styles Dec 2016
As we vibe,
I slip and slide
into your in-slide
and slide deep inside
till our bodies coincide,
as one, we ride the rising tide.
As we vibe..
I show you a different side,
of your insides,
from me being inside.
Our physical interaction
guides the chemical reaction
that touches your soul
and blows your mind.
Our bodies confide,
in each ours confines,
until we find,
supreme satisfaction of a different kind...

— The End —