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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Seán Mac Falls Jun 2012
Lovers entered a forbidden forest bower,
And as they stalked that range, with eyes glazed,
She offered up her hind. Now, with doe eyes,
Deep as his, deep in arousal's sleep, heels fell, 
As he knocked and pulled her dark honey hair 
And whispered, surrender, into wanting ears, 
Softly he drove his hunting command, homing 
To his huntress.

Her body braced, yet bade, with heat and vibrance.
Ruthlessly, he ****** his arrow deeper and then 
Once more and then again.  She bucked fiercely 
And defiant, goading his prodding lance ever more
Ever longer, and parting the pink lines of her white
Rose, he was, and once again, Prince to the dark
Dominion of her quarters.

In the middle of this carnal match they paused.
And looking into the forest beyond they saw
A yearling fawn, a feral Goddess, grazing still, 
Bathing in a vale, virginal, wholly unmoved 
By their act of venery, lustfully playing, in the innocent 
Leaves.  It was as if they were among her kin, a gentle 
Doe and a noble stag. From that moment on 
The human hunters did not speak.

Falling, again, rolling eyes were deep in arousal's sleep.
Her back was a crescent moon pocked and wet with dew.
He could feel her heart beating in time with his piercing 
Prong, her arching back glistened in the suns spittle
As it broke through the dark and vernal ceiling wood.

In the final shot her quivering buck lowered and broke
And a sound not heard, made a scene, a sweet murmuring
Shuddered and sank onto the floor of the forest leaves 
With her tale, taken and told, her breathless breath, 
Her nostrils cold and her heated and lanced openings 
Dripping, draining; here was a New World’s beginning.

Sated, solemn and softly quaking, his woman sweetly laid,
And now, doomed with her doe eyes, two lovers, fated, made;
She glowed, divine, like the rolling brook that mellowed
Slow, in the vine-dark and golden forest stable,
In Artemis’s wood.
1
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

2
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with
perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and
vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing
of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of
the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields
and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising
from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the
earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

3
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and
increase, always ***,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of
life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well
entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not
my soul.

Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every ***** and attribute of me, and of any man hearty
and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be
less familiar than the rest.

I am satisfied - I see, dance, laugh, sing;
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the
night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy
tread,
Leaving me baskets cover’d with white towels swelling the house with
their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my
eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is
ahead?

4
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old
and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is *****, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with
linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

5
I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to
you,
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over
upon me,
And parted the shirt from my *****-bone, and plunged your tongue
to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my
feet.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and
poke-****.

6
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more
than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the
vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the ******* of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for
nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and
women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

7
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know
it.

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and
am not contain’d between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,
For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.

Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be
shaken away.

8
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
with my hand.

The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.

The suicide sprawls on the ****** floor of the bedroom,
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol
has fallen.

The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of
the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the
clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-*****,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous’d mobs,
The flap of the curtain’d litter, a sick man inside borne to the
hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his
passage to the centre of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv’d who fall sunstruck or in
fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and
give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls
restrain’d by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,
rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them-I come and I depart.

9
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are pack’d to the sagging mow.

I am there, I help, I came stretch’d atop of the load,
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,
And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

10
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-****’d game,
Falling asleep on the gather’d leaves with my dog and gun by my
side.

The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails, she cuts the sparkle
and scud,
My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from
the deck.

The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me,
I tuck’d my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time;
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.

I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west,
the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,
they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets
hanging from their shoulders,
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his
luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride
by the hand,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach’d to her
feet.

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and
weak,
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’d
feet,
And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some
coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north,
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.

11
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their
long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the
sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending
arch,
They do not think whom they ***** with spray.

12
The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife
at the stall in the market,
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.

Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in
the fire.

From the cinder-strew’d threshold I follow their movements,
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

13
The ***** holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags
underneath on its tied-over chain,
The ***** that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and
tall he stands pois’d on one leg on the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over
his hip-band,
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat
away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of
his polish’d and perfect limbs.

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop
there,
I go with the team also.

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as
forward sluing,
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,
Absorbing all to myself and for this song.

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what
is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and
day-long ramble,
They rise together, they slowly circle around.

I believe in those wing’d purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown i
AntRedundAnt Jan 2014
love   apple   like   time   know   feel   heart   bed   little   life   home   red   boy   georgie   sleep   away   left   dear   ruth   gone   just   right   long   mind   hope   hair   mi   parts   say   fear   met   laugh   makes   sailing   make   tell   hands   day   poem   different   small   words   private   wish   legs   child   man   free   te   welcome   easy   apples   meteorite   smile   flower   want   way   arms   look   eyes   better   war   lie   good   thing   truly   teeth   passion   thought   work   seen   letters   friend   talk   brought   future   fingers   knew   imagination   sure   told   space   cold  la   mask   black   big   bite   age   size   shadow   petals   inane   stretchmarks   medic   we've   wouldn't   hear   tap   really   best   goes   face   gray   maybe   things   dream   tongue   forever   hate   set   room   death   need   truth   comes   night   lost   calves   pain   end   years   brings   touch   feet   blades   memories   new   core   times   dead   favorite   finally   minute   brain   hearts   getting   belly   far   rain   blue   knees   filled   stupid   woke   cream   fit   young   brown   se   fat   tan   cough   spoke   says   unlike   footprints   ******   rough   forward   buckle   blues   task   shoulder   grace   *******   reason   nostrils   firm   juice   palms   someday   mis   thumbs   screams   arguments   wobble   *****   elbows   *******   wrists   headaches   amo   pesky   ligaments   one-liners   thoughts   later   ash   clouds   lips   dreams   breath   mouth   hold   sense   taking   world   bit   speak   dance   gave   shall   ready   skin   air   single   breathe   button   peace   choices   hill   wrong   weak   close   use   quite   sky   phrase   darkness   justice   sound   unable   brave   holding   deep   grabbed   ****   try   building   paper   lunch   think   kind   stay   days   smooth   perfect   learned   care   fair   hard   grant   sweet   high   fruit   short   terms   kept   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couldn't   isn't   they're   let's   'n   primos   primas   cantuta   fronton   redd's   mott's   innie   phallicly   tiny   fight   yo   para   walk   ****   hello   light   flash   silent   stone   does   forth   conversation   polite   green   minutes   ****   clear   flesh   couple   wake   anger   throw   torn   tangle   play   shattered   soldier   land   victim   carry   battlefield   came   darkest   blood   battle   warm   shine   reminds   lose   eye   dismay   hide   impossible   fast   earth   grab   stand   die   worse   year   people   white   story   hit   god   anxiety   realize   fall   asleep   dark   course   apart   morning   remain   beauty   ****   slowly   start   happen   remember   pray   past   easily   straight   mean   hand   driving   instant   thunder   messages   friends   old   coming   pen   seeds   shape   wasted   word   living   tore   shadows   knowing   bad   class   joy   trust   leaves   path   sun   ways   leave   meet   broken   head   weight   means   mountain   boys   true   stars   learn   sliced   naive   decided   player   actually   reality   ease   music   hood   desperate   promise   wishing   begin   miss   caressing   moan   thighs   heard   pretty   emotion   figure   floor   exotic   sand   hits   angel   awake   dreaming   probably   wins   seek   stretch   loved   tears   heartbreak   punk   walking   piece   furniture   unreachable   roots   near   deserve   simple   cats   tail   precious   lovers   loves   mother   tongues   clueless   share   taken   yesterday   faith   freedom   ripe   cursed   running   yes   unknown   feeling   going   stairs   opposite   wonder   afloat   packed   bones   acting   playing   wind   passions   dismissed   hourglass   reached   stares   mouths   singing   shaped   trapped   toll   dies   rock   trunk   discovered   especially   dull   choice   awful   patient   great   indoors   attached   thread   shoulders   warms   bright   bring   ending   drowning   sadness   winter   baby   looked   cute   beating   tight   kids   crying   ran   intoxicating   growing   saying   opposites   melancholy   gives   follow   clearly   dove   tu   soon   entwined   juicy   drown   laid   took   moved   bear   anyways   shirt   negative   clean   guide   sore   location   faux   nodded   glance   caught   chances   week   started   today   obvious   sweat   ***   quiet   laughed   worry   round   ladies   mama   smack   goodbye   rising   sides   wished   beds   infinite   positive   scared   admittedly   mistakes   meal   common   rises   toes   bullets   bound   suited   birth   clothes   belt   pounds   ground   barren   sitting   table   woe   swimming   stick   deepest   motion   cleared   sing   angry   action   sons   smiled   bedroom   wall   wiped   grins   mad   july   store   road   snow   pulse   important   adventure   exactly   foundation   trap   colors   floors   neon   outside   language   summer   north   fifty   served   wavy   kick   raw   thirty   row   changed   hanging   lied   drenched   companion   begins   strength   flies   direction   okay   stories   inky   stubborn   cloud   track   described   lover   replaced   pit   packs   circling   honest   wage   dinner   slave   paradox   faking   screamed   lightning   exterior   stopping   complete   deal   rifle   dependent   gifts   dancer   vision   students   horror   punch   anymore   pack   sagging   folk   honestly   tearing   prepared   creatures   listening   rhythm   unique   roar   card   glass   stage   desert   offered   fought   suffer   awoke   master   eating   furnace   glad   choir   graceful   *****   treasure   ships   bark   musical   strand   bee   finished   pink   slink   stronger   disclose   gravity   schedule   march   medicine   hates   weird   brush   laughs   helped   june   pitched   dumped   tense   sin   withdrawn   stem   proved   whispered   anew   amazing   louder   english   knocked   chilly   boots   false   mistake   toffee   whistle   smirk   gas   poised   buttons   bet   necks   elate  vi   bleak   decades   intention   plane   swollen   unseemly   en   sir   creeping   tells   success   doth   ***   balance   ant   fourth   fits   matters   pan   shook   tingle   dusty   reaching   thanked   careers   pile   tempt   ix   xi   xii   xiii   moms   hushed   spears   twinkling   works   fairytale   double   fighter   shocked   barriers   boot   thanks   solitary   lesson   owned   systems   groan   weekend   tomatoes   cider   calculating   drawer   partially   handy   stumpy   album   appealing   pet   unfortunately   jokingly   hotel   teacher   tag   eighteen   leg   dash   peep   betwixt   swear   attempt   inescapable   venues   worker   suit   coughed   remembers   rhyme   listed   chatter   stuff   assist   blocks   sheen   stanzas   jobs   cleaned   handshake   natural   moi   fantasy   cheers   smaller   curl   nay   leaning   frequent   eggs   cuando   el   desayuno   tus   beige   imperfections   difficult   darlings   overcome   oranges   keys   newfound   fairly   occasions   stats   ponder   pools   ablaze   rushes   fret   quell   breads   progress   comfortable   settling   desks   tile   trails   rainy   homemade   stunned   cemetery   plus   ideas   avocados   bananas   apply   latch   rocky   digress   experiences   vacation   sanctuary   earlier   rocket   precise   various   author   pie   explosions   *******   lighter   matched   plunged   isaac   jefferson   abe   measured   saturday   claw   welcoming   gear   trained   suffocation   leapt   gap   lee   disturbed   es   thrill   alarming   grill   frankly   importantly   una   fray   candied   amalgamation   nasty   american   optimism   guns   craters   contracted   rampant   unattainable   spilled   courts   carrots   shuffled   combined   blonde   forgave   artillery   sandwich   comfier   limitation   personalities   friday   strongly   crude   banana   tennis   limits   quaking   recesses   loot   andromeda   shells   playful   luckily   area   upwards   flail   largest   sappy   freckles   biology   fruition   cases   overtook   pinks   instruments   brownies   birthmark   reinforce   laptop   pirates   blinks   frontier   forwards   resonate   capacity   mumbled   marched   scraping   prompts   multiply   haiku   football   como   function   unfeeling   eighty   backsides   prompt   raced   blare   likewise   pro   chrome   gran   pears   puede   corazon   elated   indecisive   basketball   burgundy   synonyms   braced   effeminate   mutually   duties   companies   honeymoon   flailing   patted   mayo   headon   pero   misma   marveled   aforementioned   abhors   forefront   hesitating   identical   creepy   possessive   screeched   gotcha   infidelity   friction   barrage   nonetheless   disparate   itchy   apex   gettysburg   lunchtime   pickup   muchas   then   and   trading   distinguishable   pitches   bunk   ven   ladylike   encompasses   diagrams   underlying   spaghetti   soccer   trashcan   papa   disarming   finalmente   clashed   rosie   smirks   snapshot   pug   songbird   spitfire   yanks   thankfully   mesa   flexing   virginia   effectively   variations   eclipses   tambien   outrun   incident   vitamin   willpower   underdog   hardboiled   miniscule   checkerboard   entrust   siento   heavyweight   davis   thyroid   foreshadowing   frances   heresy   starburst   deficiency   sawing   peruvian   leche   antithesis   villanelle   alliteration   hora   vivir   clacking   droopy   whizzed   britney   futbol   parameters   disney   mangos   disproportionate   orbiting   tanka   stubby   intro   listo   goldilocks   teamwork   pbj   exemplifies   rey   retainer   tenia   triples   espanol   estuvo   castillo   ferrying   suficiente   racecar   dorky   garganta   veo   julio   peripherals   labios   rojos   foreseeable   frito   groggily   venn   macbook   inanely   hubo   goofball   you've   she's   weren't   wasn't   we're   others'   you'll   should've   haven't   what's   you'd   they'd   man's   boys'   god's   woman's   fruit's   orion's   newton's   lincoln's   adam's   momma's   ******   jackson's   audis   dulces   disproportionately   charon's   deseos   avocadoes   hailey   eran   beatles'   ingles   he   she   it   rackets   --   hashtag   sixty-three   duct-tape   joysticks   sherman's   15   6th   32   500   7th   2013   extraño   barenaked   tamales   6-year-old   tierras   derpy   ewell   rom-com   themit's   adan   mudpits   puddlepits   war--hell   culp's   shitpits   completaron   chocolatada   levantanse   duraznos   n'sync   huevo   cholitos   levantaron   manzanas   endurece   wozniak's   dispara   nuez   open-endedness   innies   cankles   dunder-mifflin   tunks   buck-toothed   outies   grief-blown   a-gawking
I uploaded all of my past work onto the site already, so everything from here on out will be new and original. This is sort of an experimental idea of mine: take all the words hellopoetry has tracked for me, put it down as if it were a poem, and see how it flows. It actually kind of works sometimes, but I'm not sure. I'm sure it's mostly terrible, but I wanted to try it. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

“As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm”
Prayer is better than sleep

Rising from the torment of another restless night, Bouazizi wiped the sleep from his droopy eyes as his feet touched the cold stone floor.

Throughout the frigid night, the devilish jinn did their work, eagerly jabbing away at Bouazizi with pointed sticks, tormenting his troubled conscience with the worry of his nagging indebtedness. All night the face of the man Bouazizi owed money to haunted him. Bouazizi could see the man’s greasy lips and brown teeth jawing away, inches from his face. He imagined chubby caffeine stained fingers reaching toward him to grab some dinars from Bouazizi’s money box.

Bouazizi turned all night like he was sleeping on a board of spikes. His prayers for a restful night again went unanswered. The pall of a blue fatigue would shadow Bouazizi for most of the day.

Bouazizi’s weariness was compounded by a gnawing hunger. By force of habit, he grudgingly opened the food cupboard with the foreknowledge that it was almost bare. Bouazizi’s premonition proved correct as he surveyed a meager handful of chickpeas, some eggs and a few sparse loaves. It was just enough to feed his dependant family; younger brothers and sisters, cousins and a terminally disabled uncle. That left nothing for Bouazizi but a quick jab to his empty gut. He would start this day without breakfast.

Bouazizi made a living as a street vendor. He hustles to survive. Bouazizi’s father died in a construction accident in Libya when he was three. Since the age of 10, Bouazizi had pushed a cart through the streets of Sidi Bouzid; selling fruit at the public market just a few blocks from the home that he has lived in for almost his entire life.

At 27 years of age, Bouazizi has wrestled the beast of deprivation since his birth. To date, he has bravely fought it to a standstill; but day after day the multi-headed hydra of life has snapped at him. He has squarely met the eyes of the beast with fortitude and resolve; but the sharp fangs of a hardscrabble life has sunken deep into Bouazizi’s spleen. The unjust rules of society are powerful claws that slash away at his flesh, bleeding him dry: while the spiked tendrils of poverty wrap Bouazizi’s neck, seeking to strangle him.

Bouazizi is a workingman hero; a skilled warrior in the fight for daily bread. He is accustomed to living a life of scarcity. His daily deliverance is the grace of another day of labor and the blessed wages of subsistence.

Though Allah has blessed this man with fortitude the acuteness of terminal want and the constant struggle to survive has its limits for any man; even for strong champions like Bouazizi.

This morning as Bouazizi washed he peered into a mirror, closely examining new wrinkles on his stubble strewn face. He fingered his deep black curls dashed with growing streaks of gray. He studied them through the gaze of heavy bloodshot eyes. He looked upward as if to implore Allah to salve the bruises of daily life.

Bouazizi braced himself with the splash of a cold water slap to his face. He wiped his cheeks clean with the tail of his shirt. He dipped his toothbrush into a box of baking powder and scoured an aching back molar in need of a root canal. Bouazizi should see a dentist but it is a luxury he cannot afford so he packed an aspirin on top of the infected tooth. The dissolving aspirin invaded his mouth coating his tongue with a bitter effervescence.

Bouazizi liked the taste and was grateful for the expectation of a dulled pain. He smiled into the mirror to check his chipped front tooth while pinching a cigarette **** from an ashtray. The roach had one hit left in it. He lit it with a long hard drag that consumed a good part of the filter. Bouazizi’s first smoke of the day was more filter then tobacco but it shocked his lungs into the coughing flow of another day.

Bouazizi put on his jacket, slipped into his knockoff NB sneakers and reached for a green apple on a nearby table. He took a big bite and began to chew away the pain of his toothache.

Bouazizi stepped into the street to catch the sun rising over the rooftops. He believed that seeing the sunrise was a good omen that augured well for that day’s business. A sunbeam braking over a far distant wall bathed Bouazizi in a golden light and illumined the alley where he parked his cart holding his remaining stock of week old apples. He lifted the handles and backed his cart out into the street being extra mindful of the cracks in the cobblestone road. Bouazizi sprained his ankle a week ago and it was still tender. Bouazizi had to be careful not to aggravate it with a careless step. Having successfully navigated his cart into the road, Bouazizi made a skillful U Turn and headed up the street limping toward the market.

A winter chill gripped Bouazizi prompting him to zip his jacket up to his neck. The zipper pinched his Adam’s Apple and a few droplets of blood stained his green corduroy jacket. Though it was cold, Bouazizi sensed that spring would arrive early this year triggering a replay of a recurring daydream. Bouazizi imagined himself behind the wheel of a new van on his way to the market. Fresh air and sunshine pouring through the open windows with the cargo space overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits.

It was a lifelong ambition of Bouazizi to own a van. He dreamed of buying a six cylinder Dodge Caravan. It would be painted red and he would call it The Red Flame. The Red Flame would be fast and powerful and sport chrome spinners. The Red Flame would be filled with music from a Blaupunkt sound system with kick *** speakers. Power windows, air conditioning, leather seats, a moonroof and plenty of space in the back for his produce would complete Bouazizi’s ride.

The Red Flame would be the vehicle Bouazizi required to expand his business beyond the market square. Bouazizi would sell his produce out of the back of the van, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. No longer would he have to wait for customers to come to his stand in the market. Bouazizi would go to his customers. Bouazizi and the Red Flame would be known in all the neighborhoods throughout the district. Bouazizi shook his head and smiled thinking about all the girls who would like to take rides in the Red Flame. Bouazizi and his Red Flame would be a sight to be noticed and a force to be reckoned with.

“EEEEEYOWWW” a Mercedes horn angrily honked; jarring Bouazizi from the reverie of his daydream. A guy whipping around the corner like a silver streak stuck his head out the window blasting with music yelling, “Hey Mnayek, watch where you push that *******.”

The music faded as the Mercedes roared away. “Barra nikk okhtek” Bouazizi yelled, raising his ******* in the direction of the vanished car. “The big guys in the fancy cars think the road belongs to them”, Bouazizi mumbled to himself.

The insult ****** Bouazizi off, but he was accustomed to them and as he limped along pushing his cart he distracted himself with the amusement of the ascending sun chasing the fleeting shadows of the night, sending them scurrying down narrow alleyways.

Bouazizi imaged himself a character from his favorite movie. He was a giant Transformer, chasing the black shadows of evil away from the city into the desert. After battling evil and conquering the bad guys, he would transform himself back into the regular Bouazizi; selling his produce to the people as he patrolled the highways of Tunisia in the Red Flame, the music blasting out the windows, the chrome spinners flashing in the sunlight. Bouazizi would remain vigilant, always ready to transform the Red Flame to fight the evil doers.

The bumps and potholes in the road jostled Bouazizi’s load of apples. A few fell out of the wooden baskets and were rolling around in the open spaces of the cart. Bouazizi didn’t want to risk bruising them. Damaged merchandise can’t be sold so he was careful to secure his goods and arrange his cart to appeal to women customers. He made sure to display his prized electronic scale in the corner of the cart for all to see.

Bouazizi had a reputation as a fair and generous dealer who always gave good value to his customers. Bouazizi was also known for his kindness. He would give apples to hungry children and families who could not pay. Bouazizi knew the pain of hunger and it brought him great satisfaction to be able to alleviate it in others.

As a man who valued fairness, Bouazizi was particularly proud of his electronic scale. Bouazizi was certain the new measuring device assured all customers that Bouazizi sold just and correct portions. The electronic scale was Bouazizi’s shining lamp. He trusted it. He hung it from the corner post of his cart like it was the beacon of a lighthouse guiding shoppers through the treachery of an unscrupulous market. It would attract all customers who valued fairness to the safe harbor of Bouazizi’s cart.

The electronic scale is Bouazizi’s assurance to his customers that the weights and measures of electronic calculation layed beyond any cloud of doubt. It is a fair, impartial and objective arbiter for any dispute.

Bouazizi believed that the fairness of his scale would distinguish his stand from other produce vendors. Though its purchase put Bouazizi into deep debt, the scale was a source of pride for Bouazizi who believed that it would help his profits to increase and help him to achieve his goal of buying the Red Flame.

As Bouazizi pushed his cart toward the market, he mulled his plan over in his mind for the millionth time. He wasn't great in math but he was able to calculate his financial situation with a degree of precision. His estimations triggered worries that his growing debt to money lenders may be difficult to payoff.

Indebtedness pressed down on Bouazizi’s chest like a mounting pile of stones. It was the source of an ever present fear coercing Bouazizi to live in a constant state of anxiety. His business needed to grow for Bouazizi to get a measure of relief and ultimately prosper from all his hard work. Bouazizi was driven by urgency.

The morning roil of the street was coming alive. Bouazizi quickened his step to secure a good location for his cart at the market. Car horns, the spewing diesel from clunking trucks, the flatulent roar of accelerating buses mixed with the laughs and shrieks of children heading to school composed the rising crescendo of the city square.

As he pushed through the market, Bouazizi inhaled the aromatic eddies of roasting coffee floating on the air. It was a pleasantry Bouazizi looked forward to each morning. The delicious wafts of coffee mingling with the crisp aroma of baking bread instigated a growl from Bouazizi’s empty stomach. He needed to get something to eat. After he got money from his first sale he would by a coffee and some fried dough.

Activity in the market was vigorous, punctuated by the usual arguments of petty territorial disputes between vendors. The disagreements were always amicably resolved, burned away in rising billows of roasting meats and vegetables, the exchange of cigarettes and the plumes of tobacco smoke rising as emanations of peace.

Bouazizi skillfully maneuvered his cart through the market commotion. He slid into his usual space between Aaban and Aameen. His good friend Aaban sold candles, incense, oils and sometimes his wife would make cakes to sell. Aameen was the markets most notorious jokester. He sold hardware and just about anything else he could get his hands on.

Aaban was already burning a few sticks of jasmine incense. It helped to attract customers. The aroma defined the immediate space with the pleasant bouquet of a spring garden. Bouazizi liked the smell and appreciated the increased traffic it brought to his apple cart.

“Hey Basboosa#, do you have any cigarettes?“, Aameen asked as he pulled out a lighter. Bouazizi shook the tip of a Kent from an almost empty pack. Aameen grabbed the cigarette with his lips.

“That's three cartons of Kents you owe me, you cheap *******.” Bouazizi answered half jokingly. Aameen mumbled a laugh through a grin tightly gripping the **** as he exhaled smoke from his nose like a fire breathing dragon. Bouazizi also took out a cigarette for himself.

“Aameem, give me a light”, Bouazizi asked.

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

“Keep it Basboosa. I got others.” Aameen smiled as he showed off a newly opened box of disposable lighters to sell on his stand.

“Made in China, Basboosa. They make everything cheap and colorful. I can make some money with these.”

Bouazizi lit his next to last cigarette. He inhaled deeply. The smoke chased away the cool air in Bouazizi’s lungs with a shot of a hot nicotine rush.

“Merci Aameen” Bouazizi answered. He put the lighter into the almost empty cigarette pack and put it into his hip pocket. The lighter would protect his last cigarette from being crushed.

The laughter and shouts of the bazaar, the harangue of radio voices shouting anxious verses of Imam’s exhorting the masses to submit and the piecing ramble of nondescript AM music flinging piercing unintelligible static surrounded Bouazizi and his cart as he waited for his first customers of the day.

Bouazizi sensed a nervous commotion rise along the line of vendors. A crowd of tourists and locals milling about parted as if to avoid a slithering asp making its way through their midst. The hoots of vendors and the cackle of the crowd made its way to Bouazizi’s knowing ear. He knew what was coming. It was nothing more then another shakedown by city officials acting as bagmen for petty municipal bureaucrats. They claim to be checking vendor licences but they’re just making the rounds collecting protection money from the vendors. Pocketing bribes and payoffs is the municipal authorities idea of good government. They are skilled at using the power of their office to extort tribute from the working poor.

Bouazizi made the mistake of making eye contact with Madame Hamdi. As the municipal authority in charge of vendors and taxis Madame Hamdi held sway over the lives of the street vendors. She relished the power she had over the men who make a meager living selling goods in the square; and this morning she was moving through the market like a bloodhound hot on the trail of an escaped convict. Two burly henchmen lead the way before her. Bouazizi knew Madame Hamdi’s hounds were coming for him.

Bouazizi knew he was ******. Having just made a payment to his money lender, Bouazizi had no extra dinars to grease the palm of Madame Hamdi. He grabbed the handle bars of his cart to make an escape; but Madame Hamdi cut him off and got right into into Bouazizi’s face.

“Ah little Basboosa where are you going? she asked with the tone of playful contempt.

“I suppose you still have no license to sell, ah Basboosa?” Madame Hamdi questioned with the air of a soulless inquisitor.

“You know Madame Hamdi, cart vendors do not need a license.” Bouazizi feebly protested, not daring to look into her eyes.

“Basboosa, you know we can overlook your violations with a small fine for your laxity” a dismissive Madame Hamdi offered.

Bouazizi’s sense of guilt would not permit him to lift his eyes. His head remained bowed. Bouazizi stood convicted of being one of the impoverished.

“I have no spare dinars to offer Madame Hamdi, My pockets are empty, full of holes. My money falls into everyone’s palm but my own. I’m sorry Madame Hamdi. I’ll take my cart home”. He lifted the handlebars in an attempt to escape. One of Madame Hamdi’s henchmen stepped in front of his cart while the other pushed Bouazizi away from it.

“Either you pay me a vendor tax for a license or I will confiscate your goods Basboosa”, Madame Hamdi warned as she lifted Bouazizi’s scale off its hook.

“This will be the first to go”, she said grinning as she examined the scale. “We’ll just keep this.”
Like a mother lion protecting a defenseless cub from the snapping jaws of a pack of ravenous hyenas, Bouazizi lunged to retrieve his prized scale from the clutches of Madame Hamdi. Reaching for it, he touched the scale with his fingertips just as Madame Hamdi delivered a vicious slap to Bouazizi’s cheek. It halted him like a thunderbolt from Zeus.

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.
I hate the dripping dark hollow behind the little wood;
Its tips a cursed maroon with a blood-red heath.
I think I praised and lamented it too soon;
Before seeing its scent; I saw already its stray mystical death.

My crown is torn, outraged by florid winds and scorn;
Like a tangled old roots of the windblown thorn;
I shall feel scanty by my own poetry,
And throw it about, duly, like a static little joke.

I shall let my heart grow dull and illiterate;
I shall not taste joy, no more, in any clear--flowery fate.
I shall seek everything bitter, and not sweet;
Even not pure as the honey of a bee; for it shall be plain.

I shall curve and bend any straightforward light;
I shall harass it, and blind it--as if my ghost’s dead soul is very not here.
Ah, where is but Maud, Maud, Maud, and Maud;
Perhaps she is astray in my memory still, and not by my side.

I feel relieved so soon as glanced at her beside me;
She owns still that full lips like a perniciously tasty moon;
She is adorable like the flower of heaven itself;
She strikes me again when away, and tosses me about when near.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud;
Tame me again with thy rain of laugh;
Saint me once more like a fresh young bird;
Come to me now, and return my unheeded love.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud;
And kissing her forehead takes me back to that day;
A day of myths, a day of agile swans and storms;
An ornate time of hatred; a whirl of bitter fate; a dust of sorrow.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud;
And again I was alive in this tale, with a burning heart;
On one eve of tears, a mischief, and a wan poetry;
I caught about shadows in which there was no soul of Maud.

I could only see the stones, lying ghastly about the fireplace;
Ah, Maud, are you but still haunting those whimsical moors?
Their strange murmurs but I cannot hear;
But still they consume me, ah, I am scared;
I wish they would be gone soon, I wish you were but here.

These storms were amusing but peculiar;
They are bizarre, but intelligent and stellar;
And calling thy name out but breathes into me strength;
Ah, but should I be here, and bear away thy image alone?

Ah, and thou wert in but nymphic and lilac dream;
And my heart was still not massaged by the tender storm;
For it meant thee, and hungered but for thee only;
And in the midst of love had it longed, and yearned for thee.

Ah, where is but Maud, Maud, Maud, and Maud;
Her with her childish eyes and rounded head of bronze,
With her rapturous steps and wild glittering aroma,
With her atrocious jokes, and a wintry secret touch?

But still she was not anywhere about;
She dissolved like one romantic bough of soda;
And within a rough joke, she would be but gone;
And now the storm returned, but I was wholly on my own.  

Ah, and now the striking storm is mounting the earth;
Should I write alone and chill myself by the green hearth?
For I hath nothing to console and lengthen my parched logs;
I shall wait outside and drift about yon wintry bog.

Ah, where is but Maud, Maud, Maud;
Maud with her heart-shaped face and bare voice aloud;
A voice that soaked my senses and craving throat;
Maud but teased me and left me to that joke.

Where is but Maud, Maud, Maud and Maud;
Maud, the goth princess within my ancient poetry;
Who but remained symmetrical and biblical in her vain torments;
Who but stayed sturdy and silent; amidst her anger, and vain fellows’ arguments.

Listen to me. I am but full of hatred.
I am neither a gentleman nor a well-bred;
I, who is just a son of an infamous parson;
A malleable son; with a bleak aura of a putrid spring.

I, one who crafted ingenious jokes;
But interminable as they always are;
I made Maud sit still as I held my woodwork;
While she perched herself on yon bench, gazing at dispersed starry stars.

Maud the shadow in my pale mirror;
At times she ceased at morns, but retreated at night;
On her brother’s sight she fled in horror;
But on mine her smile turned me bright.

Maud was idle, sparkling, vibrant, and tedious;
Her heart was free and not marred by stupor.
She was the sun on my very bright days;
She made me startled; she always left me curious.

Maud the green of the farm, the red of the moon;
Without her everything would spring not and remain odious;
Everything would be bleak and stayed tedious;
Ah, but still I could not own her, though I was her saviour.

I was a farmer and perhaps still am;
Perhaps that’s why her mother ditched me with shame.
Maud said she had not places like home;
Her house was the mere shallow--and gratuitous throne.

Maud came often down and agitated;
Her mood shadowy, she cried and cried too aggravated;
I caressed her back, and placed my palms on her white knees;
She told me stories whenever no-one else would see.

She wanted not to mount the throne;
She giggled often, at our country escapade;
She loved my cottage, she sweetened my thin grass;
Even those apple trees had then her eyes, which sprayed tough, lonely seas of green.

Maud took to hymn and dear children’s little songs;
She was popular always among the talkative throngs.
She would love to dance and wiggle and turn around;
While village pupils gathered to sing a noble sound.

Ah, but when the mirthless prince arrived;
With white horses and swords of a knight;
Maud was swallowed every morning, all through day and night;
Maud was no more seen by my side.

I thought I was not alive, for dreams were unreal;
If they had been, then they I’d have want’d to ****;
But seeing Maud not gave me fretful chills;
I often woke up tensely, within a midnight’s shrills.

Ah, where is but Maud, Maud, Maud, and Maud;
Maud my bumblebee and my delicate little honey.
I kept waiting for her behind the rustic brook;
I fetched my net and fished by my old nook.

Ah, and where is Maud, Maud, Maud, and Maud;
My eyes were still and my chest could no more speak.
I wearily fancied she had been kidnapped faraway;
She would be jailed in a sore realm, and would no more be back here.

Ah, for had she been lost, then I had lost my ultimate pearl;
For there would no more be magic, there would be no more of her;
No-one would so restore my original spring;
Perhaps there would be no spring at all, and I would suffer in summer.

And I would lose anyway--my lyrical, elusive demon;
For Maud had always been elusive herself.
She wore that evil smile and thin laugh;
As I told her tales of fairies that she loved.

As I am fond of magical poetry and dramas;
Maud too used to read them with genuine personas.
She was my epic fanatical little devil;
She liked tropical cold and a faithful Mephistopheles.

I should be Faust, as she once said;
For had I fair hair, yet a bald head;
She said like Faust, I was cleverly amusing;
But to me, like Mephistopheles--she was unusually entertaining.

She danced before me a beautiful ballet;
She was young and keen to levitate as a ballerina;
She crafted me limericks and such fair lines of sonnets;
She made earth my heaven, and my melodies a twin cantata.

Ah, and where is Maud, Maud, Maud, and Maud;
I need my butterfly amongst this wheezy curdling cold.
I need my lover to soothe my chained hysteria;
I need to get out of here, and feed my love with her charms.

Ah, but where is Maud, Maud, Maud, is not she here?
I was then screaming in my solitude, could she but not hear?
I could speak not, no more--sore and wounded by this snowstorm;
I crept sick and weak like a dumb old worm.

She was not even heard of upstairs;
While I was dying here as a roaring beetle.
I hath almost lost all my creative flair;
I felt tormented and neglected and nearly feeble.

Ah, but a story like this is not such a fable;
So at that time I did shun sadness and seek a warm ending;
But indeed, to escape fate the poor were perhaps not able;
And the farmer’s son shall never be a king.

And ‘twas the nobles’ right to be idyllic;
To be deemed far then fairly righteous.
My charms were trivial, and so was then my wit;
My prayers were too parted and despaired; no matter how rigorous.

I kept my work along the countryside;
I toiled all night and behind fierce daylight.
I hoped Maud would see me back one day;
But what I found was to my dismay!

Ah, Maud, for she was now engaged;
To that pathetic creature the cursed morn brought about;
And parties arranged, voices too raised;
The union was now what people had in thought.

Onto my shoulders my head kept sinking;
I killed myself nearly, for my irksome defeat in this rivalry;
A rivalry that failed to transgress vital destiny;
A rivalry I could not even bear to think.

But again, this love had always been everything;
And thus Maud’s union would equal my death;
One night I crept out of my bed;
I had in hand a keychain and a net.

The soldier was infused by sound sleep;
And into Maud’s grand chamber I crept;
Everything was pink and quite neatly kept;
But woke I her not--as I heard her breast breath slowly.

She was tremendous still--in beauty;
Maud in her splendour; so young and free.
Ah, she was free but not free, I fathomed;
I looked at her over and over again.

I looked at her violet bed and comfort net;
Ah, my Maud too ****** and temptingly red.
She was too abundant in her young and chaste soul;
Ah, I could not imagine how she would soon be one else’s.

Long did I stand; ‘till morning streamed back again;
Still I remained unmoved; I stared at my darling in vain.
I jumped startled as the door opened;
And showed me the horror of the Queen!

‘Come, ye’ fool’, she voicelessly instructed;
Her face emotionless as these words emanated;
‘And embrace thy very fate’, to the handcuffs me she directed;
‘For daring look into my dame’s immaculately flawless chamber’.

She pointed thereof--a black gun at my chest;
It would soon burst out and tear my vest;
And even fly me straight to death;
So drifted I, without further haste nor breath.

Those poor soldiers imprisoned me there;
A cellar room at the top of filthy stairs;
I stayed awake only for grief and tears;
And most of the time I laid about sleepless and stared.

I grew skinless as my bones squinted;
And laughed at me with their sordid might;
Flies were about me, bending onto my rotten pies;
And slices of meat left out by sniggering guards.

I hit my head on witnessing Maud’s cold marriage;
‘Twas on a Saturday on the castle’s rain-wetted field.
I heaved myself onto the windowsill and saw;
How the couples were blessed and sent thereby back.

I could not see Maud’s face and fleshy cheeks;
But didst I feel her discarded tears;
Marred and defiled her lovely fits;
Though just those innate, and not out there.

I struck the lifeless paint with my bare palms;
Now the walls were tainted; they smelled like my blood.
Time passed and desire for Maud was never killed;
I’th missed her every day, since then, and perhaps always will.

But my love for Maud was never probable;
I was decent, honest, but indeed not preferable;
I was not even preferable by fate, as thou might see;
Fate who is neither truthful; nor frankly urges us to lie.

I often laid hopeless by the moonbeam;
Until night came and eyesight grew more and more vulnerable.
I waited ‘till it was dark and left to day no more gleam;
Then took my journal of Maud’s jests and read her affable poems.

I turned around--and would disgrace my bed still;
I was plain starved but had no desire to be properly fed;
Of a dream of death I grew instantly pertinacious;
And of my future tomb I grew fonder--and yet rapidly curious.

Ah, but my sweet Maud, Maud, Maud, and Maud;
And deliriously she somehow became pregnant;
But remorse said she kept the souls of two;
And fatefully could not make them both perfect!

I indeed plain prayed for Maud’s survival;
I cared not whose sons they might be;
Ah, but the twins were still sinning babies--as I comprehended,
For they were formed not from cells of mine!

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud,
And during those last days she was cautiously ill;
And a drive of cholera had again grown widespread;
But she was not maddened; by it she was not marred.

She was sickened by temper still;
And the prince found dead, she grew more terrifyingly ill;
She had a pure heart, so she flourished not over the beast’s death;
Nonetheless, he remained the father of yon sickly offspring.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud,
I was duly growing perfectly anxious;
She was to give birth--ah, to those little ignoramuses;
And within a little chord in one or days of two--she would do so.

But without a father to care for her notorious sons;
And even I was locked away, and could not do so;
I was terrified, I was horribly undignified;
To learn this stern reality we were so sullenly faced with!

Ah, not now! I could not too believe my ears!
Maud and her children were dead--they’d been stillborn;
Before they left Maud alone to receive her fate;
Her locksmith would not come; he had another due in a nameless town.

By the time he arrived my darling had gone;
Perhaps she was now shimmering in heaven;
Enchanting her children with her enormous spells;
Narrating stories no plain human could ever tell.

Even in heaven my love would perhaps be famous;
Her tenderness would make other angels jealous;
And angered by envy, they would gather and complain to God;
How an earthly soul could be more vivacious than their heavenly were.

Ah, but where is Maud, Maud, Maud;
Maud and her chain of songs that were never to be broken;
Maud and her familiarity with gardens and blue lilies;
Maud and her immaculate pets of birds that still sweetly sing.

Ah, but where is my darling, my darling, my darling;
My eternal ocean, my hustling flowerbed, my immortal;
My poem, my enchanting lyric, my wedding ring;
My novelty, my merited charm, my eternal.

And now she was longing for her grave, as I’d been told;
For I’d been told by the dimmed torches and fuss and mirthless air outside;
By the endless wandering and the prince’s wails and wordless screams.
Ah, my Maud had now migrated from her life--but attained her freedom!

And he was thus unworthy of being in her heaven;
Her heaven where there would be me, her true love;
And thus he would be glad to greet his fires of hell;
He would marry an evil angel there--and make himself again full.

But I’d be with Maud, Maud, Maud and Maud;
I’d be again with my gem, indefatigable little darling;
Whose voice was unsure, whose poems were never known;
But ‘twas enough that they’d been known to me, her secret--ye’ dearest lover.

So took I, that spinning penchant and a circle of strings;
The edges I matched to the chains on my ceilings.
I braced myself for my very own fiery death;
But again, I’d be with Maud and death would no more, aye, be sad.

Thus the above poem was done by my spirit;
But with the same token and awe of genuineness and wit;
I feel tired--I shall close my eyes, and thus enjoy my heaven now;
For my wife and starlings are all waiting for me to-morrow.

It is now nighttime in heaven;
And there is indeed, no place on earth lovelier;
I gaze into my wife with a loving madness;
Her cheeks sweeter still, than any proudest swiftness.

I shall take my vow of marriage tomorrow;
My proud wife sitting in yon angelic chair by my side.
I shall cradle, then, those white little nuptial fairies;
They are Maud’s children’s, but lithe and gracious and bow to me in chaste mercies.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud, she is but all mine now;
I am still surprised now, as sitting by this heaven riverside.
One even grander than the one I’d had beside the lake;
Which I often farmed when I had needs to bake.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud, she is a ghost but as ever lively;
We are both dead but she boldly remaineth lovely;
I know she is worthier than serene jewels or mundane affairs;
And still she is worthier all the same, than any other terrific palace--or heir.

Ah, Maud, Maud, Maud, and this war is but all over now;
Thus let us dream dead of the exciting tomorrow.
We shall see life and our children grow;
We shall witness delight--and miracles none ever knows.
Mystkue Writings Aug 2018
Did you know that every time he searched your eyes,
While he pushed deep-
That his emotions passion and lust was equivalent to her?
For every time he traced his finger tip down your spine;
your hands grasped to cover more surface.
Cotton.
Polyester.
Satin,
as you braced for smooth impact.
He only understood the similar love language he shared with her.
With you-
craving of possessive feelings,
Proving your worth to him
asking for time via a clock whom hands couldn’t unwind
Separate.
Disintegrate.
A Minaj a trios-
unbeknownst to you existed,
Co-starring you
For every soft connection within each curve...
Your identity was a reflection of another.
For all the things you projected
Marriage.
House.
Dog.
Children.
His capability of taking you to ecstasy,
Lead you here
Had you any clue?
This little game called life,
Excluded the other woman (you).
Logan Robertson Jun 2018
She may not have been your prototype teen or hiree.
Or of the masses. Or herd.
However, she did walk into a McDonald's
approach the counter
emit an esoteric exchange for help with the cashier
and with knowing eyes
the cashier directed her to the starting gate.
Now
with application in hand
and blue ribbons in her eyes
she was off to the horse races,
nervousness riding on her shoulders.
In my eyes, she was a longshot to win,
where I could see her shoes falling off
before the race started.
And her imaginary jockey falling off her horse
from laughing so hard,
for she presented herself through the restaurant
and a job interview with a Starbucks frappe,
totally oblivious of her unwrapping.
It would be like turning up for a Yankee's job
in a Red Sox outfit.
Who would do this?
As the rubberneckers, I looked on.
Incredulous.
She took her seat at a vacant table
carrying her youth awkward.
Her looks of brown hair, eyes, and raw innocence
complimentary.
But those jeans, high risers, with holes in the knees
with a white Bebe shirt that hugged her shape
shouted trendy but not job interview.
Oh, my.
She continued the procession
extracting info from her phone
and filling out her application.
No doubt with votive candles at her side
and prayers on her lips.
And perhaps blue ribbons awaiting.
After all, this was her foot in the door.
It was at this time
I had an epiphany moment
tears welling in my eyes
as I slipped on hamburger choices
and sipped on past life on a teether,
totally oblivious, too.
It was like looking in the mirror.
Her youth and awkwardness and my growing decadence
towards the light.
When the manager came in and summoned her
to the interview table,
which was located in the dining room,
I saw a little kitten purr inside of her,
where her eyes nervously checked her surroundings.
At first introduction,
the reddening blush on her face and Adam's apple
stood pronounced
but her low voice was choked.
Almost inaudible.
As the manager put her calming hands
into hers
the light turned on
all foreboding escaping.
All misplaces and tense faces replaced with aces.
This was a defining moment for her,
as the golden arches braced her feet,
making all the rubberneckers, me, proud.

Logan Robertson

6/6/2018
Valsa George Dec 2017
When letters wait
to pounce on a blank page
when thoughts crowd the mind
like frothing **** in a pond
I keep wondering
what poetry is to me
what poetry is to many

Is it not the language of the heart
with no intervention of gray matter
the unlocking of closed vaults
stirring the embers of love, hurt or pain
or giving a free rein to fancy
and flying on magic carpets
to lands forlorn

Sometimes it is
a glide into a sea of tranquillity
an escape from
the humdrum of the world
a flash of liberation
from assaults of pain
a sedative
to numb the turmoil
a sanctuary
for a burdened heart
a window
to look at the world through
a companion
when one is inconsolably alone
a candle flame
in a darkening world
a cloth line
to hang the ***** laundry
a water lily blooming
in the pool of tears
a shelter
in homelessness

sometimes it is a ladder
to climb up to Heavens
an angel on wings
with tidings of hope
peace in a world
braced for war

Poetry, if you are all these
let us fall at your feet
bless us in our art
may we splurge in fancy
and conjure up worlds from words!

our poems may not be light houses
but could be fireflies
on a starless night!
Thanks friends for the loving encouragement you have given! I must thank two of my friends in particular.... Kim Johanna Baker for giving an extra shine to my poem and Sarita Adhitya Varma for helping me post this poem when my repeated attempt at posting failed! She patiently directed me.
Nigel Obiya Apr 2013
PLANET NAIROBI (When the sun goes down)
Nur…
They were on the verge of losing this battle… it was only a matter of time, and he knew that. Through the window, he saw them advance, with a fierce swiftness that would have put anyone opposed to them at unease. Trembling uncontrollably, he reached for his weapon and held it firmly, ready to martyr himself for his family’s honour and legacy if need be. For they were not, and never would be known as a family of cowards, they were royalty... and he would rather go down fighting than cowering, that was the bottom line. But he knew that his sword, as well forged as it was, would be no match for Rath and his five hundred man strong battalion. So, biting his lower lip he waited for the pounding footsteps to reach the top of the stairs where he stood, the one solitary guardian to the throne. Martyrdom was his destiny.
“Let he that stands between Rath and the throne fall like the city walls!” Rath’s dominant voice bellowed as it got closer, too close for comfort.
He braced himself.
Suddenly, the doors burst open. And Nur... Prince Nur, finally got to come face to face with the scourge that had terrorised the lands of the sea for so long. A man of whom he had heard about from stories as a child growing up. A man that had haunted his dreams for as long as he could remember. Nur realised that he had always been afraid of Rath, long before this moment, how was he supposed to fight this man when he was clearly at a disadvantage? For it was common knowledge that to go into battle afraid, was to go into battle prepared to lose.
Rath was a gigantic figure, and exuded the air of one who was accustomed to crushing his opponents and hadn’t experienced defeat in a while... if not ever. This man stood at almost eight feet tall, with rock hard muscles that seemed to pile on top of more muscle, threatening to tear through his dark skin. His long locks of unkempt hair fell over a face that could only be described as menacing. He had a permanent scowl that was complimented by his black, soulless eyes. And as they stared each other down, Nur couldn’t ignore the presence of sheer evil he saw in those eyes, a shiver of dread ran down his spine. He raised his blade.
“A child?” Rath barked, “A petulant child? Is that what this Kingdom’s defences have come down to? An infant?” He waved a dismissive hand at Nur.
“A prince!” Nur responded defiantly, raising his blade even higher and more confidently. This man may have been the epitome of terror, but Nur would be ****** if he was going to be talked down to in this manner, this was his palace.
“A prince huh? Prince Nur I presume? Your father was a brave man, I respected him. Even if I met his acquaintance only for a couple of minutes, before I slaughtered him. But I do respect a king that fights alongside his men, as opposed to other cowards I’ve had the pleasure of killing that had barricaded themselves in their chambers and let others fight their battles for them. King Thur was a rare breed... but a dead one all the same.” He laughed remorselessly as he said this. “And soon you will get to join your warrior father foolish one.”
Nur lost all sense of fear. Infuriated, his nostrils flared as he swung the blade with all the ferocity he could muster, slicing deep into Rath’s right forearm. Time slowed to syrup as he saw his adversary’s blood stain the sword, but realising that it wasn’t a fatal strike, he turned around swiftly, switching his stance just in time to see Rath’s massive blade come down on his head. Then there was a deathly silence.
The afterlife was nothing like he had pictured. It smelt of... he couldn’t quite place that peculiar smell. It wasn’t pleasant, but neither was it unpleasant, just unfamiliar. Then he turned around and saw her. He deduced that she was probably the source of the smell. He noticed that smoke came out of her nostrils and mouth every few seconds after lifting a sticklike object to her lips. Nur mused at how wrong the high priest in their kingdom had been when he spoke about the place in the sun... the afterlife. It wasn’t anything like he had described.
But wait a minute! He realised that the sun was still above him, in the sky. He could see it. He could feel it on his skin. So WHERE WAS HE? He felt dizzy, unable to comprehend. Only a minute ago he was in the royal palace, facing certain death. And now he was... he didn’t know where he was, or even what he was. Was he dead? Transcended? Was this just his soul? If so, then how come he still had his senses? All these questions raced through his mind at the same time. He turned toward the lady, who seemed unaware of his presence. She was tall and very light skinned compared to him and her hair was tied in ponytail at the back of her head. He couldn’t make sense of her attire though, she seemed to wear a lot of clothing, garment over garment that covered her arms and legs. She was also extremely beautiful and had a slim womanly body most warriors would **** for, he noted, and felt himself flush. He tried to see what she was squinting so intently at and concluded that she was just staring into space as she drew, he realised now, on the tiny stick and blew out more smoke. That was when he noticed how high up they were, this palace stood almost five times as high as theirs. It was overwhelming to say the least.  He got up and walked over to her, deciding to leave his blade behind so as not to come off as a threat.
“Greetings?” He said politely. She jumped as if she had just seen a ghost, dropping the stick she was holding. He had clearly startled her, so he took a step back lifting his hands in the air to signify that he meant her no harm. She breathed rapidly and began to speak just as rapidly in a foreign tongue. Nur couldn’t understand what she was saying, but the hostility in her tone and her demeanour was hard to miss. He took another step back, ready to defend himself from an attack if need be. He had heard tales of an island with warrior women who could match, and beat, even the strongest male adversary in combat. He decided to tread cautiously.


Nasim...
Nasim Naikuni was beyond peeved. Who was this ******?  He had scared her half to death and almost made her fall off the roof, not to mention burn her favourite grey, three thousand shilling trouser suite when she dropped the cigarette. And what annoyed her even more was that he didn’t seem to register how ******* she was. He just stood there with a blank expression on his face, like a schoolboy waiting for his mistake to be explained to him. Nasim couldn’t stand slow people, they got under her skin. She was yelling at the top of her lungs, which was taxing to say the least, seeing as she had been smoking just seconds ago.
“Are you slow?” She shouted, tapping at her temple repeatedly. “What makes you think you can sneak up on me like that you fool? You almost killed me. Do you realise that?” Then she stopped and studied him, out of breath. She noticed that he seemed unable to understand English and so she switched to Swahili, “Nini mbaya na wewe?” What’s wrong with you? Still there was no response.
She gave him a once over. He dressed strangely. His large, golden brown pants that fluttered in the wind seemed to have been made from an expensive material, though it was like no material she’d laid eyes on before. It bordered somewhere between silk and suede. His shirt was also made of a similar material, but leather brown in colour, matching his leather boots that were laced and reached just under the knee. He stood an inch or two shorter than she did, but she guessed that was probably because she was in heels. He had long hair that seemed to fall halfway down his back in one long braid. He looked almost exotic as he tried to communicate, but she couldn’t place the language or his ethnicity, for his skin-tone was chocolate brown but his hair looked almost like an Asian’s, dark and straight. He spoke in a tongue she had never heard before. There was also something really classy about this boy, whom she guessed to be around eighteen years of age or so. It was like looking at a darker, more pampered version of Sinbad the sailor.
Nasim relaxed a little and decided to give the fellow a chance to introduce himself, in whatever way he intended to do so. He seemed to pick up on this and started explaining something to her, making a couple of gestures, and at some point she thought she saw him mimic a fight, and then  point to the sky. Nasim still didn’t know what he was talking about, but felt a semblance of communication begin to take form. He directed her attention to another part of the roof, probably where he had approached her from. And she saw the blade! With catlike agility she swung her purse at him, the blow caught him square on the jaw with a thud! The bottle of perfume she religiously carried around in it serving a different purpose on this day. He hadn’t seen it coming and so had no chance of stopping it. He staggered backwards as she made a run for it toward the staircase but felt a hand grab her ankle causing her to tumble onto the hot cement floor. At that moment her heart sank, for she knew that she was done for.


Nur...
Nur was perplexed, he didn’t know what he’d done to deserve the assault. The lady had seemed to be calming down, but all of a sudden she had lunged at him with a weapon he had first assumed to be a bag. Though, she didn’t strike with the strength that a warrior would have, and also had made an attempt to flee. This told him two things. One, she wasn’t accustomed to combat... and two, she had attacked more out of fear than strife. Which meant that she posed no immediate threat to him. Also, she was the only person he had met so far and his only hope of figuring out where he was. He couldn’t afford to lose her, not just yet, so he decided to try something he was ashamed he hadn’t thought of sooner. Nur spoke into her head.
‘I mean you no harm.’  He said, and waited. No response. He tried again, concentrating harder this time. ‘Can you hear me? I mean you no harm’
‘LET ME GOOO!’  Her thoughts screamed.
He could understand her, they had made a connection. Progress...

One year later. Nasim...
“Good afternoon people? You’re hangin’ out with me Nasim Naikuni on your favourite show Voices, where you can throw any question you have regarding life... and living it, at me and the voices in my head will answer them for you... yeah, you heard right, the voices in my head. I’ll be takin’ your calls for the next hour. Let’s begin shall we?” Nasim spoke into the microphone just before a voice-over added...
“NASIM NAIKUNI, THE ONLY RADIO PRESENTER THAT’S LITERALLY GONE BONKERS!” And then was followed by some rock music. ‘So what?... I’m still a rock star... ’ Pink’s lyrics belted out as Nasim removed her headphones to take a breather before she talked to her first caller. A breather... and also to have a bit of a chat with the voice in her head. She walked out of the studio into a corridor where she was out of sight, and concentrated, her eyes crinkling from the effort.
‘Hey, are you there?’
‘Uh huh.’ The prince replied.
‘Okay, we’re on in roughly three minutes. Make me look good babes’
‘Don’t I always?’
‘True dat. What are you doing?’
‘Breakfast.’
‘It’s one in the afternoon... ’
‘This is not my planet, therefore I’m not obliged to follow its rules. I can have a one o’clock breakfast if I want to.’
‘Brunch.’
‘What?’
‘Brunch, what your having would be brunch. Breakfast... aaand lunch?’
‘You see? You get all high and mighty on me about this and you even have a name for it? If it is so wrong to have breakfast at this time, then why would your people give the meal a name? I’m just saying.’ Nur said mockingly.
‘I give up’ She replied with a sigh.
‘Nas... Nas?’
Silence.
She walked back into the studio.
“Caller... you’re on air. Shoot.” Nasim said softly, leaning into the microphone.
“Hey Nasim, lovely job you’re doing by the way.”
“Why thank you dear, but I don’t deserve all the credit you know?”
“Yeah I know... you and the voices in your head... ha-ha! Anyway my name is George, and I’m kinda’ in a predicament at the moment. You see, I have a wife and a family... two kids, but I kinda’ got into this relationship outta’... obligation as opposed to real love...”
“Obligation?”
“Yes. I met my wife five years ago in uni’ and we dated. But looking back, I only got into the relationship because I felt I’d led her on and she loved me soo much, I just couldn’t disappoint her. So I got stuck in a phony relationship, at least on my part. Next thing I know, we are pregnant and... It’s been we ever since.”
“So you want to what? Get out of your marriage?”
“I want to be with the person I truly love...”
“Hooo... **! Scoreboard! Now we have lift off. And how long have you known this person that you truly love George?” She said this with a tinge of amusement in her voice.
“Six years... and we’ve been going out for the past two.” He sounded ashamed.
‘He sounds ashamed.’ She heard Nur say observationally.
‘No kidding.’ She retorted.
(In the past year or so, Nasim and Nur had come to an understanding somewhat. After she had struck him with her purse and the little scuffle they’d had on the rooftop, and after convincing herself that she wasn’t going crazy... or that the cigarette she had been smoking wasn’t laced with marijuana or some other hallucinogen, she finally gave in and listened to the voice speaking to her in her thoughts.
‘Please, just give me a chance to explain. I need your help lady!’ He sounded desperate.
She felt sorry for him, but still suspected she could be going nuts.
He continued. ‘I don’t know where I am. My father is dead and I don’t know where I am or how I arrived here, and you’re the only one that can help me right now...’
Nasim, touched now, replied. “How am I supposed to do that? And how are you doing this telepathy thing? Are you really doing this?” She shook her head violently, like a wet dog trying to dry itself, “I’m very confused right now.”
He looked even more confused. ‘Talk to me in my head, I think it is the only way we can communicate with each other.’
She didn’t know how to.
‘It’s simple, concentrate.’ He said reassuringly.
She tried. Still nothing.
‘I could hear you a moment ago, I don’t understand. Let’s try this slowly, repeat after me... Nur.’ He told her.
She heard him, and was thinking what?
He repeated, ‘Nur.’
She tried thinking the word he’d asked her to repeat as hard as she could but he didn’t seem to be getting anything. She decided that the cigarette must have been laced with something. Here she was, on the roof top of her work building trying to master telepathy, with a stranger who just happened to own a sword. This had to be a dream, a nightmare.
‘I must be high.’
‘Yes! Yes! You’re high!’ She heard the excited reply.
‘What?’
‘You did it!’ Nur said happily, ‘you figured it out. And yes, I was also meaning to ask you about how high we are.’
She had done it. Nasim could hear him and answer back, she felt oddly proud of this accomplishment. Then she asked puzzled. ‘High? You get high?’
‘I am high.’ Came the naive reply.
‘Oh...’
‘Why are we so high up? The palaces on our island are half the size of yours, are you that many in your palace that you need to build it so tall?’
Then she understood. And laughed... ‘Who are you? And how did you get here?’
‘My name is Nur... Prince Nur... how I got here? That’s what I’m trying to find out.’ He was being honest.
And thus begun an adventurous relationship between the two. Nasim took him to her apartment that day, passing curious and disapproving looks all the way. The most difficult part being trying to explain to her boss why she was coming from the roof in the company of someone who dressed like a ******, as he put it. She made up something. And he gave her one of those I’ll accept your story just because... looks. Nasim found that hilarious. But she was glad she had asked Nur to leave the sword behind to be recovered later. That would have been a tad difficult to explain. They got to her apartment block and were met by more disapproving looks from a group of nosey old women, the type that love to mind everyone else’s business but their own, as they walked to the lift. And when they got into apartment F6 on the second floor, she introduced Nu
Planet Nairobi… wrote this a couple of months ago, it was turned down by one publisher and awaiting other publisher’s feedback. However, it’s been a minute so I decided to share it with my peoples… if you like my work, this one will get you going… it may have it’s flaws, but hey… I never said I’m perfect, I’m just a writer.
ryn Feb 2015
He motioned for her to take her place on the back.
He braced himself steady as she slid herself onto the rack.
Once she had settled, he handed her his gunny sack,
He told her keep it safe as he tackled the offbeaten track.

The night was quiet, save for the crickets chirping in unison
Hiding behind the clouds, the moon gave out a dim ominous glow.
The tapper finally felt a tiny sliver of trepidation
He wasn't sure of the outcome, that night would eventually show.

The whole time, he was thinking in his busy little head...
He tried to devise ways to thwart this playful, mischievous being.
But those thoughts of his were quickly derailed instead.
For her perfumed presence was very much intoxicating.

Soon they had arrived at the foot of the hill
He hastened his pedalling to meet the uphill *****.
He would have continued slamming on the pedals until...
He felt her hand on his shoulder clench into a tight *****.

He tilted his head back towards his beautiful passenger.
In a calm manner he mouthed the words asking, "What's the matter?"
Her voice came right after in a nervous stammer,
*"Would you mind slowing down because last night this was where I had fallen over..."
The end.
Maple Mathers Feb 2016
2011:

Here and there, you called my name
For this is what you christened me
“Maple is a hurricane.”
Here and there you called my name.
Face to face, you’ll ascertain
That this is not the truth, you’ll see
I’m not a ******* hurricane
For this is what you christened me.



2015:

Hear, and where you called my name –
Abyss is what you christened me.
Oh, “Maple is a hurricane!
Said puppeteer’s overt reframe.
Braced and faced, they’ll ascertain
That this just YOUR truth – decreed
You sought a ******* hurricane
Within YOURSELF; yet, christened ME.**



HURRICANE MEDUSA, *******.
(You IDIOTS Can't STOP Your Hurricane
Ready or not, here I come).


(All poems original Copyright of Eva Denali Will © 2015, 2016)
I

He would drink by himself
And raise a weathered thumb
Towards the high shelf,
Calling another ***
And blackcurrant, without
Having to raise his voice,
Or order a quick stout
By a lifting of the eyes
And a discreet dumb-show
Of pulling off the top;
At closing time would go
In waders and peaked cap
Into the showery dark,
A dole-kept breadwinner
But a natural for work.
I loved his whole manner,
Sure-footed but too sly,
His deadpan sidling tact,
His fisherman's quick eye
And turned observant back.

Incomprehensible
To him, my other life.
Sometimes on the high stool,
Too busy with his knife
At a tobacco plug
And not meeting my eye,
In the pause after a slug
He mentioned poetry.
We would be on our own
And, always politic
And shy of condescension,
I would manage by some trick
To switch the talk to eels
Or lore of the horse and cart
Or the Provisionals.

But my tentative art
His turned back watches too:
He was blown to bits
Out drinking in a curfew
Others obeyed, three nights
After they shot dead
The thirteen men in Derry.
PARAS THIRTEEN, the walls said,
BOGSIDE NIL. That Wednesday
Everyone held
His breath and trembled.

II

It was a day of cold
Raw silence, wind-blown
Surplice and soutane:
Rained-on, flower-laden
Coffin after coffin
Seemed to float from the door
Of the packed cathedral
Like blossoms on slow water.
The common funeral
Unrolled its swaddling band,
Lapping, tightening
Till we were braced and bound
Like brothers in a ring.

But he would not be held
At home by his own crowd
Whatever threats were phoned,
Whatever black flags waved.
I see him as he turned
In that bombed offending place,
Remorse fused with terror
In his still knowable face,
His cornered outfaced stare
Blinding in the flash.

He had gone miles away
For he drank like a fish
Nightly, naturally
Swimming towards the lure
Of warm lit-up places,
The blurred mesh and murmur
Drifting among glasses
In the gregarious smoke.
How culpable was he
That last night when he broke
Our tribe's complicity?
'Now, you're supposed to be
An educated man,'
I hear him say. 'Puzzle me
The right answer to that one.'

III

I missed his funeral,
Those quiet walkers
And sideways talkers
Shoaling out of his lane
To the respectable
Purring of the hearse...
They move in equal pace
With the habitual
Slow consolation
Of a dawdling engine,
The line lifted, hand
Over fist, cold sunshine
On the water, the land
Banked under fog: that morning
I was taken in his boat,
The ***** purling, turning
Indolent fathoms white,
I tasted freedom with him.
To get out early, haul
Steadily off the bottom,
Dispraise the catch, and smile
As you find a rhythm
Working you, slow mile by mile,
Into your proper haunt
Somewhere, well out, beyond...

Dawn-sniffing revenant,
Plodder through midnight rain,
Question me again.
weaver Dec 2013
I’ve known battles between my heart and my head before, but never like this.

Pain is familiar to me. Sadness is common company, hurt is safe. Misery follows me, aches linger. I’m used to fighting for my happiness, to finding a glimmer of it and holding on as tightly as I can. I choose to keep a smile on my face as much as possible, I choose to be cheerful and optimistic, but that doesn’t mean that choice is easy. That doesn’t mean I don’t relapse. I struggle every day of my life just to wake up, and I do it somehow, I fight the hardest battle over and over again and it’s only small victories in a big war.

I’m in a long distance relationship, and to anyone who has ever experienced this, you know what it means: pain. Constant and aching. The longing never leaves you, the need never stops. I’ve settled into this pain like a warm blanket, it surrounds my every moment. I’ve sunk into its salt like the sea. I know this pain well. So well, that when it came time to leave it, I was afraid. I was afraid to see her and have it replaced by a joy so profound it filled my whole being. I was so nervous to let it go for those few days, because when it came back, I both knew what to expect and also wondered how it would change. The first two times I left her, it slammed back into me like a hammer and sent shockwaves through my heart. I cried for days. I couldn’t stop. It’s return was so much worse than it’s familiarity. It was new again.

This time, it didn’t ram into me… it just slowly pressed against me. I remember dreading this moment, remembering it’s return before and how it freshly awful it was. I braced myself for the worst, tensing against the inevitable plunge. Instead… I sunk back into it. Slowly, comfortably. I cried a few times, when it went a little too fast. But it mostly kept a steady pace, and I remained braced even after I had already reached the bottom. The pain will come, I thought. It hasn’t happened yet. But what I hadn’t noticed, until now, is that it happened so gradually that I had returned to a state I knew so well, it didn’t alarm me. That’s why I felt like I was almost in denial. It didn’t feel like it actually happened yet. Because when you pull your favorite blanket over you, you don’t stop to think about if it feels different, you just settle underneath and get warm.

Here’s what I know: I know my school, I know it’s campus and classrooms. I know my dorm, its small space and cozy lighting and comfortable bed and much loved quiet. I know my friends, their love and presence. I know my home, my parents that come to see me and bring me back to my childhood home every now and then. I know going down the hall to cook and hooking my computer up to the TV in the lounge, I know clubs, I know the cafes and sidewalks, I know the lake and the library, I know the shuttle and stores I browse alone. I know text messages and phone calls and letters. I know laying awake in the dark and trying to breathe out the loneliness. I know plans and anticipation. I know tears and a pounding heart and “I miss you”s.

Here’s what I also know. I know an apartment with carpets and lights that flicker off. I know city streets and coffee shops on corners. I know metro stops and green parks, I know lights and signs. I know a girl with brown eyes and a beautiful smile. I know holding hands and warm kisses, I know “I love you”s and “goodnight”s. I know a happiness so immense from the simplest of things. I know mornings without pain and falling to sleep with slow breaths. I know of goodbyes that only last a few hours, I know laughter so loud I bite my lip. I know soft skin and small hands, I know closeness and feeling. I know sweet words and parted lips, I know palms and “you’re beautiful.” I know arms around waists, I know shoulders touching, I know staring eyes. I know dates and rituals, I know browsing with a hand in mine, I know ideas and brightness. I know a life with her.

Here’s what I don’t know if I go: I don’t know what will change with more than a few weeks together. I don’t know if we’ll have our first fight, I don’t know if I’ll make things as better as you want them to be. I don’t know if you’ll see me unable to wake up one day. I don’t know if you’ll see me moody or annoyed. I don’t know if I’ll get a job and how well I’ll handle it if I do. I don’t know what will change when I have to leave again.

Here’s what I don’t know if I stay: I don’t know if you’ll be okay. That’s all, because everything else is familiar.

But it’s enough. There’s a girl out there who says her life is better when I’m holding her hand, so how can I stay here knowing that? **** practicality and responsibility, and most of all, **** distance. I used to think the only thing that would make me happy were big dreams and great accomplishments, but I’ve found that a small apartment and a girl to love does more than either of those could hope to do.

I’m scared. I’m scared of leaving familiarity and safety and taking a risk. I’m scared of change. I’m scared of what I don’t know. But I think, for once, I should let my heart decide. We all want to believe we have all the time in the world, but what if we don’t? Would I regret not doing this later?

I have to let go of pain to do this. I have to let go of an ache that has become central to my being. I have to embrace happiness and let it happen to me, and stay with me. Can I do that?

I think the answer is simple, and I should have remembered this from the beginning: for her, I can do anything.
this is pretty self-explanatory. i was talking with @mollybedamned and this is the conclusion we came to. is your love worth stepping into the unknown for?

i don't know if this will even work, but i decided i should stop hesitating and start fighting for it.

twitter.com/cunningweaver
hazel Jan 2016
Had there been a time where idealizations were accepted among the walk of reality that lie before us it may all prove to be a bit more comforting.
Where the daunting banter of voices that sat atop my conscience were able to soothe the pain of grieving without true loss.
Heartache failed to be coupled with death.
A place where we could walk hand in hand with dark, empty vessels sent to sail with a destination that is but a passing fog and direction pinpointed out by wanderlust souls.
We lie with a marker of selfishness that runs so close to the bone- etching its edges into our flesh with such vigor that one could hardly ignore, yet it sits on the back burner.

Come with me, my love, dance in my graveyard of pasts.
Take in the sights of freshly filled earth that mold itself beneath our feet as we take a gander at what was.
Here lies the spring evening under the sycamore, young hearts screaming with excitement, the way the wind intertwined among-
The nearly bare branches of autumn rest peacefully with the skin coat worn as a declaration of verses that died between clenched teeth and sealed lips.
This is the laughter worms now feed on.
Here are the fingertips and silk braced locks buried alongside one another but never to touch again.
Pay mind to the faces piling up adjacent to the stone wall, laugh lines rotting by the rise and fall of moonlight.

What a spectacle of self, is it not, dear?
We can witness blue fade to black, closing the light on this scene.
Sit here and rot beneath the sycamore tree.
Clench our hearts between our teeth and swallow messenger bottles along with them.
Never to walk in unison but let one dissipate aside the other.
Let our memories of memorized bone structure fall before our very eyes- wouldn't it be grand?

Induct this into the cemetery of past and do away with the make up of oneself.
We will let this idealization fall cold,
Watch rigor mortis seep in with such mesmeric fashion.
Tuck it away before pre-thought memories taint themselves with reality.
Lower it down under into the ever so charming embrace of wood and soil, mites and fungus.
Clean our hands of touch ever so sacred.
Let it bleed out, darling. Let it decay.
Anyway- how will we remember this when its done away with today?

Let the grieving sink in, just to coddle remembrance of nothingness.
Embrace the black holes swallowing pieces of us.
Dance among the treetops and feel the wind, when our memory dies we can truly begin.
And again,
And again.
Written January 2016
JR Falk Sep 2018
My dad would always warn me to be careful when falling in love;
I fall too quickly for my own good.

So on the days leading up to the moment you arrived,
I made sure I steadied my footing,
readying myself for the moment I would.
I could tell I was going to.
I wanted to be prepared.

But as I stood in that airport, my knees were already trembling.
It seemed as though the moment I saw you coming down that escalator,
I lost my footing.
All of a sudden everything around me had disappeared.
All at once, I was falling.

I wondered if skydiving rivaled that thrill, and the fear.
My heart never stopped pounding.

When we got back to the car,
I kept staring at you as though you'd vanish.
My mouth grew dry with dread.
I worried I would wake any moment and all of this would have been nothing but a dream.
But I didn't, and you remained.

We stepped into my room and everything blurred.
I heard nothing but the air rushing by me as I fell harder each moment.
I turned to you, begging for clarity, and was met with a kiss.
For a moment, I could see again.
I warned you I was petrified.
You held me.

I saw the pieces of me I had lost when falling in the past come hurtling towards me as I fell.
When I woke up to you, your chestnut irises were still closed,
yet your breathing stabilized my rugged heart rate.
I was completely unaware of where the ground was,
or how hard I'd hit it,
but I savored the sight as though it were still all just a dream.

Each and every moment with you,
I feared the outcome.
I prepared myself with every aching hour for the impact.
My breathing was so unsteady, I felt on the verge of collapsing.
I closed my eyes. I couldn't let myself see what was coming.

As we sat on my bed, and you held me in your arms,
you begged me to open up.
You insisted I open my eyes,
and I fought tears as our breathing synchronized.
I could see the ground now.
The panic clawed its way out of my heart, up my throat,
and I felt my body shake as the words finally spilled out.

I braced myself.
I winced, expecting the pain.
I had anticipated every bit of me to shatter.
I was ready for there to be nothing left of me to break.

But I didn't break.

I could tell the world around me was still again,
but I wasn't on the ground.
I was not broken.
I was pieced back together, carefully.

You kissed me, breathing into me the life I thought I'd given up.
I finally opened my eyes, and as my vision focused,
there sat every piece of me I thought I had thrown away for each and every heartbreak before.
The parts of me that I had lost so long ago, that I assumed nobody would miss or remember,
sat upright, polished, and presented like precious gems.
The feeling in my body returned,
and I turned to those perfect orbs in disbelief--

you caught me.

You never let me go.

It was then that I realized that all the while I had readied myself to fall,
I had already spent my life preparing my heart for you.

So when my dad reminds me to be careful this time, I'll let him know:

I was, but I never needed to be.
You were right here all along,
waiting to catch me.
2:09am
9.29.2018

oh my ******* god, i love you.

a month from right now i'll be in your arms again.
Seán Mac Falls May 2015
.
1
In the corner stands
My blue guitar,
Mirrors my grimace.


2
I have played you
So like dream was the dear song
Where you playing me?


3
Your body makes mine
Shudder as I imagine
A woman in my arms.


4
At the top of your body
Are keys unwound at the ready,
Silver spirals of tunings.


5
My soul is near hollow
But the blue guitar
Is filling in the foundations.


6
What makes the blue guitar
So shining in the mundane,
All the world is makeshift.


7
My fingers wet with you,
What water sounds like,
As it kisses the earth.


8
Deep in the strings
I summon my being,
Always blue as sheer sky.


9
Blue guitar, silent, singing,
My fingers ***** your neck,
Never do you scream.


10
Once I heard music,
The sweetest tabulations
Of sorrows in rosewood.


11
My fingers ache on steel,
These are your moved guts,
Strings that I borrow.


12
At an open window,
All the day obtuse,
I hear birds in your vibrations,
Untouched air of blue guitar.


13
I do not know anything,
Music is lathed on an open fret,
The heart is beating to a note of bliss,
Hole set in the body braced by wood,
Time cuts as it is sectioned, a staff fires,
All the chords are listed in primes,
Is the ear a window or is the eye,
Blind in the choral songs we make,
All things are ephemeral, wonderings,
Variations we work as structure fades,
As the blue guitar is touched, turning light.
Rebecca Scull Aug 2014
She was sitting on her windowsill,

looking at the tree's.

She was sitting on the windowsill,

with her hands between her knee's.

Her mind was at the edge of nowhere,

waiting to be seen.

But nobody came to look for her,

not the clouds, nor the tree's.

Her feet were braced right at the edge,

no longer anyplace to flee.

She was sitting on her windowsill,

thinking how soft the ground looked

way up with the tree's.

Downwards she tumbled,

now she was seen.

She is sitting at her windowsill,

floating with the birds and the bee's.
They noticed her.
Seán Mac Falls Sep 2015
.
1
In the corner stands
My blue guitar,
Mirrors my grimace.


2
I have played you
So like dream was the dear song
Where you playing me?


3
Your body makes mine
Shudder as I imagine
A woman in my arms.


4
At the top of your body
Are keys unwound at the ready,
Silver spirals of tunings.


5
My soul is near hollow
But the blue guitar
Is filling in the foundations.


6
What makes the blue guitar
So shining in the mundane,
All the world is makeshift.


7
My fingers wet with you,
What water sounds like,
As it kisses the earth.


8
Deep in the strings
I summon my being,
Always blue as sheer sky.


9
Blue guitar, silent, singing,
My fingers ***** your neck,
Never do you scream.


10
Once I heard music,
The sweetest tabulations
Of sorrows in rosewood.


11
My fingers ache on steel,
These are your moved guts,
Strings that I borrow.


12
At an open window,
All the day obtuse,
I hear birds in your vibrations,
Untouched air of blue guitar.


13
I do not know anything,
Music is lathed on an open fret,
The heart is beating to a note of bliss,
Hole set in the body braced by wood,
Time cuts as it is sectioned, a staff fires,
All the chords are listed in primes,
Is the ear a window or is the eye,
Blind in the choral songs we make,
All things are ephemeral, wonderings,
Variations we work as structure fades,
As the blue guitar is touched, turning light.
Kimoy McKoy Jun 2012
She dances, hypnotizing him

Her eyes, sultry and dark and smoky, mesmerizing him

Calling him…to her

Her hands above her head,

Braced on the wall behind her as if tied there…

Naked from the waist…up

Twin peaks pointed up and out, taunting him, messing with his head

His brain supercharged with sensuous lust…

She licks her lips, slowly and his eyes darken in response.

He comes closer, her breath catches in her throat

He licks her neck, she whimpers

He kisses his way to her *******, her knees give out

As he continues his kamikaze mission to drench her underwear,

The tigress awakens within her…don’t go there, don’t go there…

But he does, pulling an already hyper-sensitive ****** into his mouth

And his tongue works magic…a soft growl escapes her throat

And she pulls him back up and proceeds to kiss him senseless

Spinning him around in a sloooooooow dance of desire.

Now he’s the one braced on the wall with hands above his head

Helpless and weak and moaning as she kisses her way

Slooooowly, druggingly, down his body, naked from the head…down…

She is on her knees, almost reverently

A warm breath comes from her body as she looks through glazed eyes

At the wondrous beauty before her…

He exhales sharply as she takes him oh so slowly into her mouth

And her tongue began working black magic, sinful, but felt so good.

He is helpless, weak, as her creativity gets the best of him.

She begins to dance, body moving like an Egyptian snake.

She dances, seducing him past rational thinking and he forgets his name

His purpose, he forgets everything but his room, her mouth, and her

Dance of Desire
Frank Ruland Jun 2014
Oh, these dark, dismal waters
calling me to their murky depths.
The upheaval of their amnestic tides
seemingly yearning to drag me
     down into its cold, unrelenting grip.

How I try to stay afloat--
it's incredible,
     the struggle
of a man endeavored
to live to see cleaner horizons.

I take a deep breath,
     before I go under.
Will it be all that I braced for?
Or will it be a Hell
I could never have begun to comprehend?

The uncertainties that cloud my vision
beg to become realizations.
Abstractions, in a world of ambiguities.
And the rip tides--oh, how they do just that--
     are ripping me to pieces.

I think I remember
calmer waters,
brighter skies,
     but the despondency I am drowning in,
has all but washed the past away.

Even now as I breathe,
     I feel myself being flooded,
ravaged;
faulted through betraying beacons--
a lighthouse itself, gone rogue.

What is a man to do?
Lost at sea, with no way to be?
How is he to remedy
what he himself has come to see
as a hapless atrocity?
Lin Cava Oct 2010
Before they fought, they had simple lives.
Remember them, their loves and their wives.
Others they served and many came home.
They parted from service but went on alone.
Heroes; the wounded, the brave or the scared
Each one fighting hard, standing tough, as he dared.
Returned to their homes, they remember alarms;
Soldiers they served with, their Brothers In Arms.

Into their minds, memories battle their war.
Now home in safety, miss them once more.

All go into battle, braced for the fight
Remember their Brothers In Arms in the night.
Memorial Day calls them, witness to bear -
Such Brothers In Arms, they will always be there.

Lin Cava©
Creative Commons
Lora Lee Mar 2018
moving past the foliage
I smack back
the tangled brush
a strange truth revealed
my emotions in a rush
Here I am
in this hell-hatched bind
braced against the winds
grasping at shards
           of the Divine
for they're inside me,
all those pieces
jagged glass and soft meringue
my innards humming
shades of the blues
in offbeat notes of pain
and I know that deep within
between my earthly
beats of heart
resides a light that's
only mine
that slices through
this drape of dark

It's a heavy nightcloak breaking
as I reach out from
                     the abyss
praying for the comfort
of my soul's
bright morning
                kiss
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_eOmvM-4zc
L Smida Jan 2012
Hello there, I’m Heidi.  I’m 17 years old but I’m no longer alive.  I was 16 years old when I died.  It’s been a year since I’ve breathed the earthly oxygen.  The air up here is so much fresher than down there.  It’s quite unbelievable.  If you listen closely, I’ll happily tell you my story even though it’s not very happy.  If you're emotional, please take a moment to make sure there's a box of tissues handy, because by the time I reach the end, you might need some.  I’m just letting you know.  It’s not a happy ending.  Anyways, have you ever fallen in love?  Not the kind of love that you confused with the real kind.  I’m talking about true, heart pumping love.  The kind where you'll do absolutely anything for, anything in the world.  Even if it kills you.  The kind that if it starts slipping away, you'll do whatever it takes to hold it together.  You’re probably asking yourself, "16 and in love?"  Yea.  Well, here is my story.  
It all started with the day Sammy’s dad got a new job out of state.  We lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for as long as I could remember and her dad's new job was all the way over in Long Beach, California.  "This can’t be happening," I thought to myself.  "How will I survive without Sammy?  She’s literally my life, the air I simply breathe every day.  She’s the only person I fully trust with my whole heart.  She’s the only person in my life worth talking to.  She’s so incredibly sweet, the sweetest girl I’ve ever met.  She doesn’t judge, she doesn’t cause any trouble, she’s real down to earth, well put together, and smart.  Everything."  It seemed too perfect, almost dream-like.  You know, the dream that you never want to wake up from.  Well, there I was living it and I didn’t ever want to wake up.  
People use to call me "The Dreamer" because I was always in a great mood.  I was always smiling and taking big risks.  I only took those risks if I absolutely thought it was worth it.  Which most of the time I thought it was.  In my opinion, I thought I was too positive but not cocky.  I was definitely not cocky at all.  I was simply positive and cheerful and constantly trying to cheer everyone else up.  Especially Sammy, I secretly thought that I had super powers.  I somehow summoned a power deep within myself that could make real smiles appear on people’s faces.  Real smiles!  The ones that create a bundle of energy instead of taking it away.  You know, fake smiles, they are forced as a result of wasted energy.  The only thing better than real smiles are real laughs.  My energy comes from laughs and smiles from other people.  When I created laughter and smiles, my energy level would rise to the top of the meter and I would be confident about everything.  I would feel indestructible, and nothing could ever hurt me.  So I thought.
When Sammy and I said our goodbyes that day, I surely didn’t want that to be the end.  I didn’t want that moment to be the last.  So I promised her that I would look for her in the future and we could get back together.  We’d keep in touch everyday with texts, calls, and the internet.  She got on the plane and that was that.  I didn’t cry.  She didn’t cry.  Until our backs were toward each other, then I couldn’t hold it.  We knew we’d see each other again and we were sure of it.  She knew I had a plan up my sleeve and that I was going to make sure everything was going to be alright.  Trust, number one thing in a relationship.
The next day I couldn’t stand it.  I couldn’t put up with the empty feeling anymore.  She wasn’t physically here.  I missed seeing her face, her smile, and her eyes.  I missed her laughter and her hugs the most.  My energy was dying.  So I thought up a scheme and I was going to follow through with it.  I called her up and told her that I was coming to see her.  Soon.  
I searched all my drawers and pockets for all my money.  I was going to have to be able to afford a one-way plane ticket and maybe a hotel if Sammy's parents wouldn't let me stay with them.  I wanted to plan for the worst just in case.  I wouldn't want to show up with no money and assume they'd let me live with them.  What if they wouldn't, then I'd be *******.  So after a while of looking around, I came up with 510 dollars.  Enough for a plane ticket and a cheap hotel for a few days.  I’ll have to find a job for sure.  But first, I'd have to go online and find the cheapest airline to use.
I picked out a few sets of clothes and fit them into a single bag.  I didn’t want anything slowing me down.  I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving or where I was going.  Besides Steve, my neighbor, I got him to drop me off at the airport.  We waited in line to buy a ticket to the first flight to California.  Fortunately, the soonest one was in a few hours and there was still a few seats left.  He walked me to the security check and then they wouldn't let him past without a ticket, so he wrapped his arms around me gave me a tight squeeze and he told me that he'd miss me an awful lot and if I ever needed any help to just call him and he would help out as best he could.  Which made me feel a ton more relaxed.  He had tears in his eyes when we separated.  I remembered saying, "I’ll text you when I get there."  I assured him that I would be just fine and he had nothing to worry about.  I also thanked him for being such a great friend.  He really was and always will be.  He stood there as I attempted to walk away, but then I turned and had to go back for another hug.  Then I was sure I was ready to go.  The second attempt to walk away was more successful than the first.  I felt him watch me the whole way till I turned the corner, out of his sight.  
I sat in the terminal for a long time, analyzing the room.  I remember that there was a cute little blonde girl with her dad, a guy with a mysterious black hat and matching trench coat, a tall thin girl with a guitar, an average looking group of 20 year old guys and a few old women.  Those were the only people that stood out, there was many more but I don’t particularly remember them.  After a while, they started calling seat numbers that were allowed to board, starting with the back.  My ticket said that I was seat number 22.  When they called 20 through 30, I got up and found my seat in the big jet.  The butterflies in my tummy are as hyper as possible.  I imagined myself with a butterfly net trying to capture all the fluttering creatures inside me so I could release them on the outside.  They were all crammed in there, fighting each other for space, and it was an unbalanced feeling.  I put my bag under my seat, sat down in seat 22 and decided to make a quick call to Sammy.  I told her I was on my way and I should be there in a few hours.  She sounded extraordinarily excited which made my heart pound.  She made the violent butterflies stop their fighting.  She also told me that her parents agreed to pick me up at the airport.  How nice of them!  Then a lady told me to get off the phone.  I thought it was rude of her to say that to me, but I don’t like making people mad, so I listened to her.  The thing I remember the most is when I told Sammy that I love her, with honesty in her voice she said it back.  Then I hung up and then I finally turn my phone off.  As soon as everyone was in and completely ready, a woman’s voice spoke on the income system.  She said something about there being flight attendants going around checking everyone’s bags and seatbelts to make sure they're secure.  There was the sound of my pulse in my ears and it was louder than anything else.  It was difficult to catch everything she was saying.  I buckled my seat belt but I left a lot of room for movement.  Before I knew it, we were up in the air.  Then I closed my eyes and that’s all I remember.  Don’t ask me how I fell asleep.  All the excitement must've made me exhausted.
The next thing I know, all of a sudden, I was thrown from my seat and I hit my head off the window and it sent sharp shooting pains through my nerves.  Everyone gasped at the same exact moment, and I had no idea what was going on.  I don’t think anyone did but I think we all knew it wasn’t good.  The feeling was like standing in an elevator, having the cables snap, and being dropped from 100 stories high.  Only it was a million times worse.  I was being thrown around everywhere.  I couldn't hold on or even fight back.  Everyone was in mad panic trying to grasp anything near to sturdy themselves.  I managed to get a glimpse out the window to see the clouds shaking.  That told me that the plane wasn’t working right.  Something absolutely horrible was going to happen, the feeling was so strong.  I heard a loud click and then a thud and I caught a glance of the little blonde girl across the aisle from me get hit in the face with a huge metal suite case.  It hit her so hard that it knocked her clear out of this world.  She fell limp and her head lay still on the floor, blood oozing out.  The puddle started streaking toward me, it told me that the plane was tilting or rolling over.  I noticed that her dad wasn’t around.  I stumbled across the aisle and held her in my arms.  I remember my vision being really blurry probably from tears or the plane shaking, or both.  I patted her cheeks to try and wake her, but she was out.  I held her tight and quickly took the time to look around for help but then realized there was no help.  Every ounce of calmness was clearly gone.  I set the girl in the seat and buckled her in.  I wasn’t sure if that would do anything but it seemed like a good idea.  The plane stayed tilted on its side then shook and it literally felt like an earth quake.  My stomach started twisting; the nose of the plane was dipping forward.  I took another look out the window.  My head was spinning, thoughts scattered everywhere.  Everything was moving way too fast and I couldn’t keep up.  I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything.  I stood up and that was it.  After that, everything went black and then a bright white light took over.  Eventually something happened and I was floating above looking down.  It was a horrid sight, everything so lifeless and dead, unmoving.  Besides for the flames, they were more alive than anything.  Smashed metal, sparks and fire, soundless noise, and in the middle of nowhere, what was going to happen to all these bodies?  
Later, I somehow channeled my sight into a different location.  It’s been hours later and I saw Sammy and her parents in the airport.  They were anxiously waiting for my plane to arrive.  Little did they know, I wasn’t coming.  Hours and hours passed only making them more and more worried and confused.  I felt horrible.  I wish I could send them a message from up here.  They went to look at the departure and arrival screen and there was no time recorded on the screen for the flight they were looking for.  It was completely wiped off the board.  Her dad led them to the main desk to ask the man behind the counter if the plane had arrived yet.  A sorrowful look fell upon the man’s face.  He blinked away tears and you could tell he was searching for the right words to say.  He started to open his mouth but then failed to force words out.  He swallowed a gulp of air and he shook his head.  Something turned all their attention to the 40 inch flat screen on the wall where there was a lady reporting “heart breaking news” about a tragic accident.  He pointed Sammy’s attention to the television behind him, although she was already deeply fascinated.  The news reporter explained and then there were live videos being shown from a chopper that was looking down at the accident.  Sammy cupped her hands over her mouth.  Tears immediately leaked down her face.  Her parents were crying too.  Sammy collapsed to her knees.  I felt like I was standing right there watching everything but I couldn’t feel my feet.  I floated over to Sammy who was sitting on the floor with her face buried in her hands.  Her mom knelt next to her with her arms braced around her.  I waved my arms and shouted, "Look I’m right here!  Please stop crying."  But no one saw me or heard me.  I went over to Sammy and tried to grab her face to make her look at me, but I couldn’t feel anything.  I looked down at my hands and they were transparent.  I panicked and I knew this couldn’t be happening.  But it was.  I was dead.  
I channeled into another location, my house.  My parents were watching the same news channel but they didn’t know I was on that plane.  They didn’t know I was missing.  They didn’t know I was dead until weeks later.  When I didn’t come home that night, they called the cops and sent out search parties.  Whelp, they found me.  They identified my body in the plane.  My parents didn’t believe it because they had no idea how I would've got on the plane in the first place.  Then when they brought my body back to bury it, it was proof to them that it was fact me.  I absolutely hated watching everyone cry.  I hated that I couldn’t do anything about it.  Everyone that I left was left in silence.  I at least got to tell Sammy that I love her.  I got a last hug out of Steve.  Those were the most important people in my life.  I couldn’t feel worse at this moment.  
I felt like I was doing the right thing, chasing my dreams.
The dreamer thought she could fly.
Martin Narrod May 2014
As the wet wind hums its way through our two tower six-cylinder apartment complex. Birds fall from their naked winter wept branches, braced by stiff bones, mapped out in Alexandria, carrying notes from El Salvador. The corner market is closed, never opened. A hair salon stands in its place, it wrings out the "R's" from a Philadelphia warshing.

And like every night, hot air cakes on an extra layer of indecipherable red dots up the arms and around the neck, minute pustules of hypochondria that steal my finger tips from the keyboard. I scratch and tip them, looking under their fiery scarlet caps for, I-don't-know-what disease. Paul says It's that magic school bus melanoma, typhoid drip, it comes at you from a computer screen and eats at your nervous system until you've got the wambles.

Tuesday's used to be the worst, until I OWNED THAT ****. I make a pronoun out of aluminum foil and wear it as a hat on a first date. Tinder is not bad for conceptual art projects. I carry it within me like an anodyne complex, out into the frozenness; into my mouth the air comes around my teeth, behind my uvula until winter freezes my voice and I am breathless.

I abandon my miniature house to enter the pyramidal pinetum to the North. Wild paradise shrubs gather with songless animal noises watching as I take naked photographs of my father to preserve his body from anything less than his great immortal end. He lives on black moss and water from a nearby pond,

he authors the face of Anthony Hopkins, thrown about, another casualty of fervid and blurry dreaming.
Developed from a dream I had about my own father being Anthony Hopkins, and leading an imaginary brother and I around a carnival, giving us unrealistic orders, demands, and taking us into a game of bumpercars.
Hollow Jul 2014
It was silent as Chelsea crept into the room
There I lay, nestled to sleep with a teddy bear
The moonlight on my back, soothing light
She awoke me violently, shaking me ashen
And my eyes widened in terror at her face

It didn't take long for her to find something
A tool to suit the job, my punishment
I was a bad sister, always was I wrong
So she found a pair of shoes, my shoes
And I braced for the nightly beating

But Chelsea had something else in mind
As she removed the lace from one of them
She gripped an end in each hand, staring
And she moved on top of me, saying;
"I hate you, stupid attention *****"

She placed the string over my throat
And she pressed down very hard, frowning
I felt my airway constrict, and I struggled
She put her knees on my elbows in anger
And my begging made her push harder

As I began to see gray, I remember a tear
But not the many that I released, I know
Because I felt it patter onto my dying face
And I sputtered and arched my back, hoping
And Chelsea only pressed harder, murderous

As I drifted out of consciousness, I heard
My brothers voice, sweet brother Damien
And he slapped Chelsea and pulled her off
As I curled up and breathed delicious air
And he caressed my face, and hugged me

That night acted as a catalyst for hatred
And within myself I bred a monster
But I suppose I cannot give credit for
My mistakes, to the true genesis of pain
I just haven't found anything else to blame
Myself?
_______
_______
ryn Jul 2016
We were building a boat.
A sea-worthy vessel made for two.
A cosy little nest,
a shell of the promise for me and you.

We made it sturdy...
From keel to hull.
We sang to each other
to oust the lull.

We spoke of the adventures,
together we'd avidly chase.
We braced for the storms,
we'd most likely face.

As the last drop of sweat...
Fell freely to our feet,
the boat was done.
What were once planks, was then complete.

I climbed aboard
and hoisted up the sail.
You lingered for a bit...
Seemingly cautious that the boat might fail.

The craft quickly drifted out to sea...
When the wind, the sail did willingly welcome.
I cried out to you so you could hop on...
So with me you could come.

But you simply stood there...
With a gaze incredibly deadpan.
As the currents pulled me further,
I only then realised...
That I was never your plan.
Rich Hues Aug 2018
We don't have a dog because we live in rented accommodation,
    So my wife put on a spotted onezie and became a dalmatian,
    With a diamante collar and a matching faux-leather lead,
    I walked her to the park where squatting she peed,
    And was chasing thrown sticks running on all four,
    When she was unexpectedly mounted by an elderly labrador.

I waved my arms and shouted but didn't know what to do,
As the local pack, arriving, formed a disorderly queue,
A lurcher, some spaniels and an ambitious pekingese,
Took turns as she braced herself on her hands and knees.
Then delighted by the freedom of unmuzzled fornication,
She left me for a policewoman -
Who owned a very large alsatian.
Based on real life events
Absent Minded Apr 2010
Christian0 and Juanita

A Single Act: Three scene script by Chris Chance- April/May 2010

Prologue:

There love took place over a decades  time on the island east of Manhattan and in the valleys between the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Tuscarora Ridge of the Southern Pennsylvania Appalachians.

He- no saint at all, felt in his heart a hero but ultimately hid behind svelte armor that protected him from a fickle and judgmental world.

She- a creature worthy of the lead lady in a classy novel- pure and once so very innocent. Statuesque and of absolute sense- commanding her world but building high walls around her red heart as she went.

The fields spoken of in this tale were accurately planted and lovingly nourished long ago and they still grow, multiplying their essence year to year. What great hope the author holds in his blue heart for their harvest. What great hopes he has for us all.

It is understood that the sins of the original garden have heft upon us, as a civilization a life of confusion, doubt and pain. It is with faith that one carries on believing in the goodness of a divine creator and master of all that you know.

Said in this story, it’s believed that he or she, the divine that is lives in two places simultaneously.

First; among the stars painted in the style of Rembrandt meeting Picasso, laughing the way Chaplin must daily at the absurd nonsesilogicalness of it all, crying like the poor ******* who’s let his whole future slip through his foolish little fingers.

And the Divine, the great source of energy in the universe also lives in a certain part- or nook - or cranny- of all things that breathe and/or return with the spring.

It is the voice you hear right now in your boney skull. It's the feeling you get when you forgive. It is the obligation you have to reach up and hold steady your fellow man.

As the author of this tale drops to his knees seeking guidance from that hidden, divine and breathy spiritualness he silently cries out in his pain.

A pain he never knew existed. He’ll silently ask to be prayed for now
and at the hour of his death.


Act I Scene I:

She could snare me in a trap by my ***** and hang me to the cherry tree. Yet my love for her wild flower remains – growing stronger- gathering and harboring the strength of welded tycoon steel.

This love you see- is no ordinary love.

It’s a love of passion and flame but one that culminates with no possible conclusion.

This love does not merely flow - but in actuality rages deep and wide- flowing so deep and so wide that the queen herself could traverse it in comfort.

And now alas, her love.

The love of ours- alone, no longer vast enough in its capacity: to carry on.

And it shall be furthermore, that I now- and I alone: will carry the weight of our time spent as one.

Our time spent as one such as the sand and the sea- Spent as one just as the mountain and valley.

Spent as one the way the very soul itself: on its own palate- feels and tastes true, sweet-sweet love.

This love I feel built around me like a velvet dream, a love now burning footsteps in my ears and setting fire to the nether regions of my soul has been banished and broken. But against better judgment still beats in my senseless and tortured eyes.

And in my anguish, I berate myself with guilt and deeply scour avenues of the past- for better directions we might have chosen.

Alas and in the end- amidst tears of fallen dreams: all roads lead to you and where your heart began and where- your heart ended.

So I ask you, all of you that bear witness before me. Whose heart is it- that still beats true and free? And whose heart is it that beats dark as the stormy cloud.

Whose heart I ask?

Or better yet- a different conundrum of a similar variety.

Can any heart be free?

Free to consume its desire- whether the sun shines or not? Free to love and never to be forgotten. Free to breathe without the threat of mortality?

I challenge you my friends to define this- and to thoroughly answer my questions.

To see into my future: regardless of what must be seen and help me- please make me believe again. Make me in all my shattered and tired bones and aging skin truly, truly believe again.

To teach my sons that it is safe to love in this hard and ruthless world.
To see my love as better,  more pure- unscathed by the devilish nature of the standard human ego.  

To once and for all see love and all life- as hopeful and not bereft of commonality and truth. To see her again- my fair love.  Smiling the notion of a better tomorrow.

Act I: Scene II

Our sins derail us its true. Over time and a plethora of vanishing precepts we wash along the rocks liked laundry.

Shall we neatly and quietly burro underground in the neighbor’s green space, with fleeting air- void of light and color?

Should we swing by our necks from the orange groves it would be in vain as life is so precious and out there lays undeniable hope that there is more of life’s holiness to drink in with each passing storm?

Impossible. That is not who I am. This is not who I was. That is not who I will be.

So vanquished cries muffle in the night against vicious and angry winds and the low weeping moan is constant as I look ahead while looking backwards.

Wondering how from my grasp it ever slipped so far?

It all, each and every golden ounce slipped from my tongue in sorrow in truth I must say.  Unfiltered neurosis and faltering fear are guides that  will fail to bring you home safely.

Nefarious tides of anxiety and reflection blinded me- blinded me from the sun.

But yet still she knows or understands that the bird song of redemption is an actual place where hearts once emptied , now gather to refill that same heart with love again and again.

It is the wound of her life open, crying out and bleeding through her lonely eyes and ears. It is with shame that I admit my long standing ignorance and tardiness to the cause of her heart.

Now with the backing of angels I see the landscape and all its divine nature but yet I am unable to enter. Unable to rejoin the garden and fight a snake who speaks my unholy name off split tongue and evil notions.

Where, where my love is it that I should go from here after having come from there? Where shall I drink my clean water, where shall I rest my weary head?

And oh, the head of a sleepless and love sick man. Heavy with burden brought on by his own lack of mastery regarding the most important issue and god given task of them all, but as once ailed Mercutio in his quest for and of allegiance to Romeo. Time is of the essence.

When I lay my head it is in sorrow and the pain of real passion. Passion for remaining one as a quarter  that makes up a whole- such as the corners of the cross and the earth, air, water and fire itself in a single beating heart.

For  one hundred and eighty ****** and arrogant days and their resident risings of the sun I've been reborn- sworn to never let evil destroy good in my heart.

As you must do- you will do.  

But the tides that flow in my veins do not flow from you they flow from the divine, a divine that will protect me and forgive my trespasses as he’s surely forgiven me of mine on others.

It’s only the growing fields of our past love that concern me now. How will we harvest the wheat which together we’ve sewn? How will we slaughter and eat the meat of the heard. When will any of us drink the wine from the grapes we have grown?

The entities I’ve stated are my future and will remain  my future until arc angels guide me from this earthly tomb. The blood of our fields will reign supreme.

The harvest of our youth will produce.  Standing together or behind our backs- as we run from it. The bloom of our responsibilities as care taker of these lands will be upon us in time.

So as your heart sails to foreign shores I awake from my rage and see the sun, feel the air, breathe and seek guidance for my purpose. To continue to plow the field and fish the harbor while I settle for meager tastes.

May the work I’ve done. May the work we’ve done be a strong enough foundation for both fields to nurture, endure and produce.

And as you for my fleeting love: may the beans of your coffee be rich and plentiful, may your heart find its way back to where it once was- where ever that may be.

Between here and now, let the days shine upon you like spring light. Bathing you until your soul feels safe and fresh. Keeping you where you need to be to feel free.

But alas leave knowing that the flame I still hold- as I have from day one. For the mystic and mysterious love brought upon us by the three so many, many years ago.

How long that can burn, I know not: but as the skies bolster the heaven- my heart once black, has returned to life. To love you is all that there is. I will share my heart and tormented soul and every last breath I breathe until graying and dying days. For you and only you exist.

Act I Scene III:

The sun came out after a snowy and emotional winter but the air never seemed to warm through the long days of April.

And so in the absence of all that is left , we set off.  You, in the direction that I lived in for years and me in the direction that you lived for years.

Two lovers, one point, two stories. Proverbial ships in the night is what we are- and the passing simply destiny.

Oh but for how I will remember thee. The raven hair and olive skin, deep eyes batting only in such a way as to swell my heart, that equisite eyebrow raised in point, the witty acronyms of our secret family language.

The warmth of your parent’s hearth and the surrounding family. A safe and wonderful place to even a man such as I, who took it sorely for granted along with the other neighboring fields planted and stamped with our communication, our love, our example.

Time is a tempting and vicious confidant, one that will surely lead you astray and bring mischief and havoc to your very door step.

Tread lightly if you dare to tread at all in love. Hear the heart you rest against, listen to the subtle tick tock of its rhythm. Hold a stone as it were a diamond, train the mutt as a pure bred champion, shape your mud as if it were the finest of all clays from the earth.

The whistling train only passes through the station once. Get on get off, make up your mind – change your mind – ignore your mind. Look into your heart and soul then move forth.

To where it is you should be.

Where it is you’ll be forgiven and nurtured even more revered than ever before. A place so familiar you might even call it home.  A bed so all knowing that it could only be ours. A life so new it could never be as it was.

Know this before you part my love, know that I am true: as I say- is as I pray. But your choice is your choice and yours alone: to rise or recede.

My heart pines like the losing persona in an old film. For I see the sun rising. Shining and setting in your eyes.

I see the fields as they grow under watchful eyes, I hear the wind begging us to move but I stand grounded upon all that is pure and sanctimoniously holy. Definitively tattered- but braced firmly at the center of the storm.

Waiting for the love we loved, Once. The love that we may squander if we have yet to do so already.  A love that can be repaired and grow larger and more consuming then ever imagined.

A love never to slip from my grasp again.

Narrative Ending:

So the fella in this case is condemned to be a shepherd without his flock. Sending signals by smoke along the telephone wire to complete the rendering of the fields. With mercy on his side- may he succeed in the light of the world relentlessly embittered in the dark?

Or will all in life just as after a close death, quietly move on?

Completing revolutions of the sun: that fiery ball of light, wider than the distance from here to Mars and back, with us random like ebbing and flowing on the tides lengthy pull of the moon?

Or is the strength to muster what one wants, really possible?

Can he climb the highest mountain? Could his faith be tested in lava like pits of hell? Can his heart be branded clean after so much life?

And what of her beating heart?

What of her search to dissolve the fears of her own making? How has her beauty helped or failed her. How will she look herself in the eye?
How long must I day dream of meandering through a sweet and enjoyable song with her one last time.

Unknown answers-

More unknown then I, as the player in this drama, would care or dare to admit, but hopeful ever more like the humming bird buzzing summer honeysuckle in rainy times- I shall remain.

I shall see the sparkle of her soul rent the eyes- if only for a time.
Taking both yonder to another space and time, where she’d admit she lied in vain fear and exasperation when she said:  surely she could find no love true and could simply offer no more.

When my flesh gives way to bone cover me in roses. Walk me out in the morning of your mind as a man who loved without knowing how to love.

A male clearly guilty to the highest degree, in any court, of any land: of being careless with a precious gift.

And sadly for the ones who have loved and lost- in the end  life offers only so many windows into the soul of a lover.
Christiano and Juanita a one act: three scene script by Chris Chance- April/May 2010
Yenson Jul 2018
Please remember to remember not to forget to remember
We braced the chill and last shared voices in November
When with reasons unknown you suddenly lost your temper
And in faceless avenue unseen you put it all in a damper


Please remember to remember not to forget to remember
Two minds steep in years hoping to revive a dying ember
Angling wisely for the solace of light in a peaceful chamber
Rising for noble ideals each a worthy conscientious member


Please remember to remember not to forget to remember
I stoke flames and called out doves in days before September
Not for glory or gain but in delight to fly a friend wishes tender
Homage to a smile Lisa, like that made by da Vinci the painter


Please remember to remember not to forget to remember
Now its time to seek the Sun afar in the land of greens and timber
soothing words that shows the grace and give of a friend keeper
Remains aloof to a joyless onerous mind that will only get sadder

Please remember to remember not to forget to remember
Empty pride rousing clouded mind makes it fittingly simpler
Strength and clarity to atone chimes only wit now't sinister
A truer pilgrim seeks pardon and deftly shames attitudes insular
To the wise what cost affinity in the garland of true harmony



Copyright. LaurenceA31stJuly2018.Allrightsreserved.
Mitchell Duran Sep 2013
Around the time
I entered the place I was
Already sweating like a *******.

Fiends poured from crooked parking meters - all unpaid and blinking red.
Angular threats were shooting from the eyes of dead gangsters - wives all mad.
Laughters entrails spilled out onto the rotten wooden blanks
Like Jimi Hendrix's gun-shots of Vietnam lore.

At noon the church doors will open and
There, the wind will freeze like water to ice;
Memories menace psychedelic post-war like;
Upstairs toward the 4th floor, the blast-furnace blasts away.

My eyes were pink. The music was loud.
When I heard my name, I said, "no, I don't believe it."
There was a knife floating from the ceiling and
I swore
God whispered "Run" into my ear.

A squeal
From the corner of the bathroom.
There, I witnessed a kitten reading a piece of newspaper.
Times like these I imagine an imagination indifferent,
Only to shudder as I enter the freezing winter of space.

Blame is there for all who wish to take it.

Back at the table,
I tried to reform the face of my date.
She smiled and frowned and sighed and grimaced
All the same time.
I wondered what love felt like, then
Entered a new space of hazing music, malnourished.

Hubert came through the window,
With a 8 inch bowie knife and a grin.
I chuckled and he did too.
I asked, "Where you headed?"

"To the kitchen. There are beasts in there that need killing and I'm the man to do it."

Nodding, I went back to my
Dusty periodical, silently hoping he would
Execute one of the hares or bison I
Kept near the garbage disposal and dish soap.

A vibration.
A musical note.
Echoes through eternity.
In there faces float still, poised, perfect.
A baby is born,
An old man dies,
Lovers intertwine.

The end.

Instead of sleeping, I stayed awake.
Sleep frightens me.
Dreams are sometimes to good to wake up from.
When will be the day I can stay in one?

When there was glory,
There was man.

When there was faith,
There was God.

When there was death,
There was life.

Eating up the trough, far past the fill-up,
Cooking up any excuse the twisted mind can come up with.

Eavesdropping love songs to tormented poetry readings.

A foggy night in San Francisco
Leaves a clue so slight to the hand that pens.

The raps burn against the metal, rusted window panes twanging with cheap celebrity.
Here, the brown line runs, as the Mississippi purrs chasing atonement.

New York City is still burning.

There was the sense that something was wrong when I entered the other room.
I'd heard of it. Someone had told me about it, but I couldn't recall who.
On the street, the wind was like cold milk and the smell of candles was stinking up the street.
It was somebody's birthday and it was morning and there was no escaping the day.

At noon, I was still in bed, trying to fend off the sun. Impossible
To do, I got up and braced myself for the sinking put-put of my feet against wood floors.
There in the hell that was upon me, the warden sunk his teeth into a miniature grapefruit.
Surprised by his choice and subtle nerve of health,
I saw then he was a large volkswagen sized man with teeth the size of sharks.

I was away for too long. This was here. Here was this place. I was here now, for good.
To leave would be to go to the same place, all over again.
Instead of throwing away the future, I ****** the present into oblivion.
Eyes bug-out backing up the bartender in a noon-day brawl and instead of calling the cops,
We called the bald gimp Jerry K. because his father used to be in the military and
Taught him a couple things when he was seven and half.
The man died that night in the alley by a knife and few hearty laughs.

Waking to sleep the day away.
Burning money to see what color it'll make.
Fending of friends with solitude and *****.
Shoot pool to drool and stay cool.
A ladies a lady until proven otherwise.
Candid scenes pass, though the flames engulf the lazy, littered
Streets with sleeping hobo's sick for the one's who don't
Have time to be; hard work must be done for our good country.

I stained my mind the other day. Saw
Seven virgins all spinning like circus china in a window
Too hard to see through. Their silhouettes were something to be
Haunted by and because past loves always seem to haunt me,
I bought one and took it home quickly.

She stands in the corner spinning, as I type away, grinning.  

After I rearranged her face
She started to cry. I watched her eyes as they turned from blue, to violet,
To sunken ships of hurt not let go.
I tried to show her where the desert was not dried up,
But she would not take my hand. It hung there like a bobbing kite and
Because the ocean can never run out, the bout we thought
Would break us, only made us cackle like the downtown girls we know.

After some convincing, I took her to a french breakfast spot rather than the desert.
A few spotted chinese women sat next to us with an abnormally large golden retriever.
"I've never seen such a beast before, " I giggled, "They must ride that ******* home."
"Don't be gross," she scowled, "It's an animal with feelings."
I told her I got a triple bacon egg-sandwich and she started to weep lightly into the
Broken hem of her beige linen vest. Something told me I should nip this in the ****, but
Just then, my sandwich came. I handed her a napkin then began to eat. She finished her
Coffee in one gulp and picked up her leather and left. Eating alone, I watched the golden
Giant eat bits of hot dog the smaller of the two chinese women had hid in her shoe.

Why think of the ending when the beginning was where it started?

Smart they are. **** she can be. Aye, here I am again.

Aye.

Here we all are again.
A yellow jacket
Pulsed while scaling candied ham
Then braced, sawed a piece
Away it swayed amongst oaks
Cicadas shrilled loud and hot
Tanka  ...needed a little reminder of warmer days and bluer skies
Seán Mac Falls May 2018
.
Lovers entered a forbidden forest bower,
And as they stalked that range, with eyes glazed,
She offered up her hind. Now, with doe eyes,
Deep as his, deep in arousal's sleep, heels fell,
As he knocked and pulled her dark honey hair
And whispered, surrender, into wanting ears,
Softly he drove his hunting command, homing
To his huntress.

Her body braced, yet bade, with heat and vibrance.
Ruthlessly, he ****** his arrow deeper and then
Once more and then again.  She bucked fiercely
And defiant, goading his prodding lance ever more
Ever longer, and parting the pink lines of her white
Rose, he was, and once again, Prince to the dark
Dominion of her quarters.

In the middle of this carnal match they paused.
And looking into the forest beyond they saw
A yearling fawn, a feral Goddess, grazing still,
Bathing in a vale, virginal, wholly unmoved
By their act of venery, lustfully playing, in the innocent
Leaves.  It was as if they were among her kin, a gentle
Doe and a noble stag. From that moment on
The human hunters did not speak.

Falling, again, rolling eyes were deep in arousal's sleep.
Her back was a crescent moon pocked and wet with dew.
He could feel her heart beating in time with his piercing
Prong, her arching back glistened in the suns spittle
As it broke through the dark and vernal ceiling wood.

In the final shot her quivering buck lowered and broke
And a sound not heard, made a scene, a sweet murmuring
Shuddered and sank onto the floor of the forest leaves
With her tale, taken and told, her breathless breath,
Her nostrils cold and her heated and lanced openings
Dripping, draining; here was a New World’s beginning.

Sated, solemn and softly quaking, his woman sweetly laid,
And now, doomed with her doe eyes, two lovers, fated, made;
She glowed, divine, like the rolling brook that mellowed
Slow, in the vine-dark and golden forest stable,
In Artemis’s wood.
.
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her.
.
Ella Gwen Mar 2015
ever since my childhood broke and the safety net disintegrated
I've been running and holding it high above, arms aching
in a futile attempt to stop things falling through
woven seams. Sometimes it works and I stare up,
neck burning, to the things I cannot touch.

I do not look down to the debris scattered around me,
to the failures of my braced shoulders, slipping through like water;
impacting like stones.

once I caught a fisherman; he threaded silver secrets
through twine using smiles and sympathy and I lowered my arms, to keep him alongside. There were some places he couldn't reach but
that was ok, because we ran for an eternity ensnared in each second.

it was a particularly beautiful day when I noticed him slowing,
staring out to sea, steps faltering and new smiles forming that
were not faced to me. He left me and dived headfirst, forgetting that
fisherman cannot swim. He drowned as I ran on, arms outstretched
above me as the net danced in the wind and everything fell through.

I have never stopped, never ceased these thundering steps;
my eyes are still turned to the sky, the holes in my net cast
beautiful shadows and through them I see the stars and wait impatient
for the night when they too fall.
Regan Troop Nov 2012
Seven on my neck, six on my chest, five on my hands, one on a thigh, and one on each knee.

Scar one; Our voices were cut mid-sentence when you swerved onto our side of the road.
Scar two; For the first time, Time was in slow-motion. You made it possible to count the silent seconds.
Scar three; Seven seconds in, my mum cried a religious code, "Oh my God!"
Scar four; You made me believe that's the last thing I'd hear before I'd leave.
Scar five; ... Will we survive?
Scar six; My heart kicks in gear, blood flows to areas that suspect a mother's worst fear.
Scar seven; We're far from Heaven.

Scar eight; August 29, 2007. You made me remember this date.
Scar nine; The words I manage from my ****** throat that night, "Is everyone alright?"
Scar ten; You showed me magic tricks were real. The bowl in my hands vanished with the help of the air bag, sending pieces to the back for another life to steal.
Scar eleven; Can you possibly imagine feeling, but not seeing your cold, stinging, cut throat singing? Singing red, just pouring your heart into it?
Scar twelve; You set two fires to feed. One in my heart and one on my knees.
Scar thirteen; My brother hadn't seen anything but smoke when he woke from his dreams.

Scar fourteen; I know you're a father, have you met mine? No, you were gone before you could tell him his family wasn't fine, and that you may have had a little too much wine.
Scar fifteen; Like a mother duck rushing her ducklings across the road, you put mine in full-mother-mode.
Scar sixteen; When the paramedics came, they mistaken the taco salad for my brain.
Scar seventeen; The way you leaned on our totalled car, smoking a cigarette, not a scratch on you, not a sign of regret.
Scar eighteen; After the hospital, you made it almost impossible for Nan to get me into her car.

Scar nineteen; My friends waited 'till late, crying, thinking I was dead, and my mother and brother, dead. Have you ever had someone mess with your head?

Scar twenty; July 23, 2012. I got my driver licence. And by now, they've probably given your's back to you. This isn't your first time, this isn't my first rhyme.
Scar twenty-one; Driving at night, every night, I still see your headlights right in front of me. My body is still braced so don't you think you left no trace.

Scars. I had more but they've healed. I have 21 scars that you meant because at that number, that's no 'accident'.
Dae Staebell Sep 2016
Dear Stranger,

I remember the day I first saw you. An ordinary autumn day spent doing menial tasks and then I saw you. It felt like time stood still in that moment. Through my eyes you moved in slow motion. You were probably doing menial tasks too but you look so beautiful doing it. In the moment it took you to walk 10 yards I already imagined what life would be like with you. I wondered what you look like smiling. I wondered what you sounded like laughing. I wondered what it might be like to hear you say,"I love you," or what kind of things I would have to do to hear you say it and then you looked straight ahead and our eyes met for a split second, it felt like an eternity. I never looked anyone straight in their eyes before and held their gaze. I remember everything. How could I forget your raven black hair? The way it fluttered in the breeze almost as if to torment my obsidian soul. The blush on your cheeks, the way they glimmered. The way your high cheeks complimented your nose. The way your cheeks curve into your jawline and the way it shot devilishly to your slender chin and those lips, God those lips. I remembered every curve, every inch of you as if you were place here in front of me to torture my wayward soul. It was like I was gazing at a baroque sculpture perfectly preserved and in exquisite detail. Something to marvel at from a far and never in close proximity for the fear that even my breathing should erode the beauty I see but yet I wondered what your touch was like. Would it be one of Midas or the state of the Gorgon Medusa? Even just the mention of your touch should have its own story, to be written down and read as a work of modern literature. You even walked towards me with such purpose. Shoulders back and held head high, like a warrior, a shield maiden. And for a moment, a moment no longer than what it took the wind to blow a leaf, I shook the petrified kid in me and worked the courage to smile. A small smile, no more than what would seem like a grin to others. I still held your gaze but when I say it was like being mesmerized by a shewolf it wouldn't do it justice, it was almost a tame ferocity but still feral in its nature. I smiled at you, god did I smile and god was I ever ****** for it. It was like sailing straight into a maelstrom and I braced. I braced myself the hardest I could in that single second. And that was when I broke. Oh did I break ever so beautifully. You smiled back and it ended this war of attrition I was having with myself. That smile was the crescendo of the day, so silent but so visceral and so deafening. By all accounts it was probably just a normal day for you but for me that was a moment I'll relive over and over. How serene and peaceful I became after. I became solemn, I became happy, and I was driven mad. I wish I could explain it. Star struck, yes that is the word. I was star struck.

— The End —