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leona chaput May 2016
We need you Jesus, we look for
Your light to shine down, shine
Down on us
Shine down brighter, brighter
Than any light on this world
You shine in your glory, you
Shine in your majesty
Shine with hope for a broken world
Shine brighter, shine everywhere
Leading the way for goodness and
We long for your vision, your
Goodness, your mercy leading our
Paths to live in heaven with you
Shine brighter, shiner higher
Shine down with your love for
A hurting and longing world
Shine to the joy and wonder
The hope we have in you, Jesus
We long for you, praise you
Rejoice at your throne of grace
You are our hope shining through us
You are the light for this world

                    BY:  Leona Chaput
Alyssa O Nov 2012
The light grows brighter
As I dream
Desolate
Alone

The light grows brighter
As I listen
Disbelieving
Hopeful

The light grows brighter
As I watch
Eager
Excited

The light grows brighter
As I think to myself
Finally
Free
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(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.
Toothache Feb 2018
Brighter than the blinding flares of the sun, shimmering outward with power of thousands of stars
yet comforting
yet soft.
Filled with oceans crashing and wild, turning over ships, rushing under a powerful storm.
yet still
yet calm.
Filled with wonder and curiosity, yearning for the unknown, desperate for enlightenment
yet wise
yet content.
Eyes so wide, so deep, filled with delicate roses, the power of mighty warriors, elegant as the flowing dress of Venus, filled with souls of thousands, with passion, with yearning, with desire.
Filled with beauty
Filled with you.
Pauline Morris Jun 2016
In this darkness ment to stand
Only seeing brighter lands

The light I did pursue
But the dark it did ensue
Though I ran with all my might
The darkness remained right by my side

It remained like a moonless night
No guiding light
To alumminate my flight
It wasn't right
The darkness I could not fight

In this darkness ment to stand
Only seeing brighter lands

The Sun glistening through the trees
I could almost feel the breeze
It brought me to my knees
To pray to a God that doesn't see

He's left me to all the fears
He's never near
He's made it clear
This God only listens with a deafened ear

In this darkness ment to stand
Only seeing brighter lands

I am the sheep lost in the dark
My soul it has no spark
Only sound, song of the lark
To my voice no one will hark

Please take my eyes, I no longer want to see
The nothingness in front of me
I beg of you, I plea
Imprisoned in the dark, left groping for a key

In this darkness left to stan
Forced to see the brighter lands
Karissa Olson Jun 2013
It is night time
has been for awhile
but boy, when you
look at me and smile
the moon shines brighter.

I was stuck in the dark
A child whose night-light
burned out, left trapped
on an island, hoping
for day to come,
and with it the sun so
maybe I could see the sea
I need to swim through
to get to better places

But it is still night time
unfortunately the sun
still does not shine
but when your
lips meet mine
the moon shines brighter

I love the stars
And I hate the stars
For they twinkle beautifully
Always barely out of reach
and I reached for the stars
just like they told me to
but with the moon
as my witness  
my arm stretched
not far enough,
never far enough.

It is still night
but rather than
hiding under
the veil of the stars
I dance in the moon light
because maybe I'm alright
When I look into your eyes
They know not of any lies
They whisper I love you  
And the moon shines brighter.
This one is a work-in-progress as I am unsure excatly what I want it to say. Feel free to give me some feedback on it.
Sophia Granada Nov 2012
Sweet-lipped Psyche's pale white skin
All the men in Greece dragged in.
And the poor girl's dark brown eyes
Led Aphrodite her to despise.
For Psyche truly was a beauty,
Reputed as brighter than Aphrodite.
If Aphrodite was a dark red rose,
Of which we've written poetry and prose,
Psyche was a pure-white Aganisia
For which they wrote a deep-sea saga.
But she knew it was sore unwise
To find herself level with a Goddess' eyes.
The only proof needed for Psyche
Was the sad fate of the maiden Arachne,
Who challenged Athena to a weaving contest,
And though her tapestry was judged the best,
It was she that ended as the melancholy loser,
For Athena punished her with the life of a spider.
And so it was that Psyche knew
Aphrodite wold claim her life too.
So Aphrodite sent her son,
The lovely, winged, holy one,
Whose golden arrows fly at night
And relieve bored lovers of their plights.
She sent Eros to shoot his arrow
And pierce it through to Psyche's marrow,
Then set before her a crocodile,
The scaly terror of the Nile,
With which she'd fall in love straightway,
And then she'd come to rue the day.
For crocodiles have no love to give,
So it would eat her, and she'd cease to live.
On the sleeping Psyche Eros descended,
Long before the night had ended,
In whose dainty breast to shove
A golden arrow poisoned with love.
He prepared to bury it to the hilt,
But a drop of love on him was spilt,
At the moment he saw her eyes, dark brown,
Look to him and stare him down.
Then Eros went back to his mother
And told her he could not wed another
Who did not shine quite so brightly
As his sweet-lipped brown-eyed Psyche.
So spiteful Aphrodite cursed
Psyche through her red lips pursed,
That the girl would find no husband
Among God, animal, or man.
And Eros this so greatly angered
He could no more with arrows linger
At the foot of lovers' beds
To foster love in their young heads.
The entire world then ceased to love
Whether it walked on foot or hoof.
Whether it swam or flew on wing
It could not love nor gain others' loving.
When love no longer circulated,
Aphrodite it aggravated
To see her temple lying bare
And to feel the gray growing in her hair.
She told Eros he'd have what he desired
If only he would kindle love's fires.
So at the mountain, Psyche's family offered her
And she was borne away on the back of Zephyr
To Eros' golden gay abode
That he and his ghostly servants called home.
In the golden rooms she wandered by daylight,
But she lay with Eros in the dark when came night.
She knew not who her darling was,
But called her ignorance a test of trust.
Never to look upon him by day,
She continued in this way,
Until she longed to visit her family,
Which her husband granted her gladly.
But he held her, and he warned her
Not to let her sisters persuade her.
"They may try to tear you away
By telling you gruesome stories." he'd say.
Then, trippingly, from Olympus she jumped down
To walk the streets of her hometown.
She told her sisters her whole story
And they turned it into something gory.
"He could be a serpent," they'd say,
"Fattening you up for the day
When he can pop you in his mouth and eat you"
Unfortunately, she took their words as true.
"So, when he comes to you at night,
Just gaze on him by candlelight!
If he's a serpent, use this knife,
And you'll no longer be his wife.
But make sure not to spill the oil,
Or his waking will cause great turmoil!
We'll find out about that young buck!
Use the candle, the knife, don't spill, and good luck!"
She walked back to the palace at their behest,
Butterflies banging within her chest.
Could the faceless man with whom she'd spent her nights
Be revealed as a serpent by candlelight?
She did not have to wait for long
To prove her treacherous sisters wrong.
As she lay in the great soft bed,
The instructions tangled inside her head,
And lighting the candle, she almost fumbled,
But when she saw his face, she truly stumbled!
Eros' beauty knocked her senseless,
Leaving mortal Psyche defenseless,
And causing her to spill the oil, which smoldered
On Eros' godly golden shoulder.
He, awaking with a start
Was disappointed to his heart
That Psyche cold be so unfaithful
And make a decision so egregiously fatal.
Then, jumping from the casing, he flew
Out of Psyche's lustful view.
And she, for her part, suddenly found
That from the palace she'd been cast down
To a field of which she had no memory,
Or very dim, if she had any.
In despair, she began to flounder,
Then resigned herself to wander
Until she came to a temple edifice,
Which was, on Earth, Aphrodite's face,
And begged the unseen Goddess hear her out,
Trying her patience with childish whining shouts.
Aphrodite, trying only to divert,
Cast a basket of grains down to the dirt,
And told the weeping lovely malcontent
That if she sorted the grains 'fore day was spent,
She just may see her sweetheart once again.
All she had to do was sort the grain.
But Psyche, though her fingers were dainty and thin,
To separate the grains could not begin,
And sobbing, lay upon the stony floor
That was as cold as the Goddess had acted before.
The ants, which had been drawn to the golden grain,
Bore her load and relieved her of her pain.
In their famously sure and straight black line,
They each picked up a piece of grain so fine
That it might with ease pass through a needle,
And into order they the sweet grain wheedled.
Then at the very setting of the sun,
Aphrodite found the task was done,
And though she praised the poor girl outwardly,
Inside she felt the bloom of hate for Psyche.
So she set her down on one side of a stream,
Where on the other was a field of green,
In which lived Helios' golden sheep
From which she was to obtain some shining fleece.
Then Aphrodite left her there to play,
And flew to Mount Olympus far away.
But Flumen, God of Rivers, raised his head
To warn sweet Psyche from his riverbed
That the sheep were so fierce, if she but pulled one hair,
They'd all turn on her and eat her then and there.
It was better if she waited 'til midday
When the sheep lay down to sleep the heat away.
Then she could cross where the river rushes,
And pick the wool that had got caught in the bushes.
So Psyche followed Flumen's good advice,
And for Aphrodite's cruelty she paid no price.
Aphrodite's blood boiled when she saw
That Psyche had survived it after all.
Again, she tried to send her to her death
And charged her to collect water from a cleft
Which mortal humans could not enter,
And in which serpents would surely spend her.
But now it was an eagle came to her aid,
Who stormed inside and flew between the snakes,
Then picked a pouch of water in its beak,
And back out of the cleft to Psyche it sneaked.
Aphrodite, at her dastardly wit's end,
Devised a horrible place for her to Psyche send.
"Psyche, caring for my ailing son
Has drained each drop of beauty, every one,
From my former glory of a face.
Therefore, I command you to that place
Where Persephone dwells. Then you must beg
For some of her beauty, just a tiny dreg.
Then you may have my son, I give my promise,
As holding him from you has marred my face."
Then Psyche, with tears streaming from her eyes,
Decided the only way there was to die.
In what she had appointed her fatal hour,
She climbed up to the top of a high tower,
But her melancholy was so disturbingly great,
All the Universe moved to it abate,
So that the very tower she climbed upon,
Awoke and spoke to her as if a person.
"Psyche, there is a way to the Underworld alive,
So that you need not from my roofing dive."
And to the Underworld the tower gave her
A route and some directions just to save her,
Then it sternly warned her that not of meat,
Nor of anything but bread in Hades could she eat.
So she followed the Tower's path back down
And disappeared into the heaving ground.
And when she found herself before Persephone's throne
She asked to take a parcel of her beauty home,
Which the emotionless Queen of the Screaming ******
Without word placed in Psyche's quivering hand.
The hardest part of the impossible task being done,
Psyche headed back up toward the sun,
And, reasoning that she was to see her beloved before nightfall,
Decided to use some beauty from the parcel.
Inside she found not beauty, but a stifling sleep,
Which forever in its clutches would she keep
If Eros had not chancely happened by,
And wiped Persephone's sleep from Psyche's eye.
Then, carrying her on his back, he barged
Into the Hall of the Olympian Gods.
He bade them let him wed himself and Psyche
And disregard the protests of Aphrodite.
Then Jupiter, indeed, allowed it obligingly,
For he was a man who greatly enjoyed a party.
Ambrosia she was given so to seal
Her immortality and place her among the surreal.
Then after many years of love and laughter,
Psyche bore Hedone, their lovely daughter.
This is how the beauty of the Human Soul,
Triumphed over the beauty of lust and gold.
All this Eros and Psyche had to take.
All this they endured for their love's sake.
They demonstrate the purity of love,
That is admired by Gods above.
In the end, it is the pure Mariposa
Who is more deserving of ambrosia.
Ammar Jun 2018
~
I burn brighter than fire
I don't whisper lies
I don't flicker with truth
I don't crackle in pain
I dance in flames

I burn brighter than fire
fueled by your lies
burning all the desires
sizzling with ferocity
blazing with hate

I burn brighter than fire
so I swear if you touch me
I'll melt your skin
I'll disintegrate your bones
turning them to ash

I burn brighter than fire
yet I long to
see you burn brighter
in pain & agony
with insanity & madness

I burn brighter than fire
yet I can't burn the hate
to smoke all the love
~
don't **** with flames you can't face
Icarus Fray Aug 2018
the icarus you know
the icarus you knew
the icarus who has fallen
the one who is an icarus anew
has loved a star that is brighter than usual
but a star that shines just like every other star
nothing new

but a star can blind you when it gets too close
when YOU get too close
but icarus didnt mind
because you wouldnt know how blind you are
until the light's suddenly off

The star had fallen
Much like icarus himself
But he has fallen gracefully and at will
Unlike icarus who was ripped of his wings and had fallen ill
But together they stayed
And together they grew
Icarus and his star had started anew

But what icarus didn't know
Or rather, what he decided to ignore
Was that the sun was a star
And a star has to prioritize light over love

It happened once when his sun chose to shine, still
Even though it knew that it would melt off icarus's wings
And it happened again with his star
As his star starts to lose his light

"I have to go home and see to it that my light doesn't go off"
The star said as he prepares himself
"You're leaving me" icarus said
Blinded by his needs and his selfishness
"It's not like that my love. I would never want to lose you but I cannot lose myself for you" the star had said through his tears
He saw icarus was not hearing him
Was not understnding him
So he did what he swore not to do
He broke his own heart and left only with half of a whole

That was the last that icarus heard of his star
Now he wears his heart in his sleeves and his stars heart around his neck
And now the icarus you know
the icarus you knew
the icarus who has fallen
the one who is an icarus anew
has loved a star that is brighter than usual
And loves him still, but on a brighter point of view
IVE HAD THIS IN MY DRAFTS FOR TOO LONG AND MY FRIEND FINALLY KNCOKED SOME GOOD SENSE IN ME AND HERE IT IS
We had wanted to leave our homes before six in the morning
but left late and lazy at ten or ten-thirty with hurried smirks
and heads turned to the road, West
driving out against the noonward horizon
and visions before us of the great up-and-over

and tired we were already of stiff-armed driving neurotics in Montreal
and monstrous foreheaded yellow bus drivers
ugly children with long middle fingers
and tired we were of breaking and being yelled at by beardless bums
but thought about the beards at home we loved
and gave a smile and a wave nonetheless

Who were sick and tired of driving by nine
but then had four more hours still
with half a tank
then a third of a tank
then a quarter of a tank
then no tank at all
except for the great artillery halt and discovery
of our tyre having only three quarters of its bolts

Saved by the local sobriety
and the mystic conscious kindness of the wise and the elderly
and the strangers: Autoshop Gale with her discount familiar kindness;
Hilda making ready supper and Ray like I’ve known you for years
that offered me tools whose functions I’ve never known
and a handshake goodbye

     and "yes we will say hello to your son in Alberta"
     and "yes we will continue safely"
     and "no you won’t see us in tomorrow’s paper"
     and tired I was of hearing about us in tomorrow’s paper

Who ended up on a road laughing deliverance
in Ralphton, a small town hunting lodge
full of flapjacks and a choir of chainsaws
with cheap tomato juice and eggs
but the four of us ended up paying for eight anyway

and these wooden alley cats were nothing but hounds
and the backwoods is where you’d find a cheap child's banjo
and cheap leather shoes and bear traps and rat traps
and the kinds of things you’d fall into face first

Who sauntered into a cafe in Massey
that just opened up two weeks previous
where the food was warm and made from home
and the owner who swore to high heaven
and piled her Sci-Fi collection to the ceiling
in forms of books and VHS

but Massey herself was drowned in a small town
where there was little history and heavy mist
and the museum was closed for renovations
and the stores were run by diplomats
or sleezebag no-cats
and there was one man who wouldn’t show us a room
because his baby sitter hadn’t come yet
but the babysitter showed up through the backdoor within seconds
though I hadn't seen another face

        and the room was a landfill
        and smelled of stale cat **** anyhow
        and the lobby stacked to the ceiling with empty beer box cans bottles
        and the taps ran cold yellow and hot black through spigots

but we would be staying down the street
at the inn of an East-Indian couple

who’s eyes were not dilated 
and the room smelled
lemon-scented

and kept on driving lovingly without a care in the world
but only one of us had his arms around a girl
and how lonely I felt driving with Jacob
in the fog of the Agawa pass;

following twin red eyes down a steep void mass
where the birch trees have no heads
and the marshes pool under the jagged foothills
that climb from the water above their necks

that form great behemoths
with great voices bellowing and faces chiselled hard looking down
and my own face turned upward toward the rain

Wheels turning on a black asphalt river running uphill around great Superior
that is the ocean that isn’t the ocean but is as big as the sea
and the cloud banks dig deep and terrible walls

and the sky ends five times before night truly falls
and the sun sets slower here than anywhere
but the sky was only two miles high and ten long anyway

The empty train tracks that seldom run
and some rails have been lifted out
with a handful of spikes that now lay dormant

and the hill sides start to resemble *******
or faces or the slow curving back of some great whale

-and those, who were finally stranded at four pumps
with none but the professional Jacob reading great biblical instructions at the nozzle
nowhere at midnight in a town surrounded

by moose roads
                             moose lanes
                                                     moose rivers
and everything mooses

ending up sleeping in the maw of a great white wolf inn
run by Julf or Wolf or John but was German nonetheless

and woke up with radios armed
and arms full
and coffee up to the teeth
with teeth chattering
and I swear to God I saw snowy peaks
but those came to me in waking dream:

"Mountains dressed in white canvas
gowns and me who placed
my hands upon their *******
that filled the sky"

Passing through a buffet of inns and motels
and spending our time unpacking and repacking
and talking about drinking and cheap sandwiches
but me not having a drink in eight days

and in one professional inn we received a professional scamming
and no we would not be staying here again
and what would a trip across the country be like
if there wasn’t one final royal scamming to be had

and dreams start to return to me from years of dreamless sleep:

and I dream of hers back home
and ribbons in a raven black lattice of hair
and Cassadaic exploits with soft but honest words

and being on time with the trains across the plains  
and the moon with a shower of prairie blonde
and one of my father with kind words
and my mother on a bicycle reassuring my every decision

Passing eventually through great plains of vast nothingness
but was disappointed in seeing that I could see
and that the rumours were false
and that nothingness really had a population
and that the great flat land has bumps and curves and etchings and textures too

beautiful bright golden yellow like sprawling fingers
white knuckled ablaze reaching up toward the sun
that in this world had only one sky that lasted a thousand years

and prairie driving lasts no more than a mountain peak
and points of ember that softly sigh with the one breath
of our cars windows that rushes by with gratitude for your smile

And who was caught up with the madness in the air
with big foaming cigarettes in mouths
who dragged and stuffed down those rolling fumes endlessly
while St. Jacob sang at the way stations and billboards and the radio
which was turned off

and me myself and I running our mouth like the coughing engine
chasing a highway babe known as the Lady Valkyrie out from Winnipeg
all the way to Saskatoon driving all day without ever slowing down
and eating up all our gas like pez and finally catching her;

      Valkyrie who taught me to drive fast
      and hovering 175 in slipstreams
      and flowing behind her like a great ghost Cassady ******* in dreamland Nebraska
      only 10 highway crossings counted from home.

Lady Valkyrie who took me West.
Lady Valkyrie who burst my wings into flame as I drew a close with the sun.
Lady Valkyrie who had me howl at slender moon;

     who formed as a snowflake
     in the light on the street
     and was gone by morning
     before I asked her name

and how are we?
and how many?

Even with old Tom devil singing stereo
and riding shotgun the entire trip from day one
singing about his pony, and his own personal flophouse circus,
and what was he building in there?

There is a fair amount of us here in these cars.
Finally at light’s end finding acquiescence in all things
and meeting with her eye one last time; flashed her a wink and there I was, gone.
Down the final highway crossing blowing wind and fancy and mouth puttering off
roaring laughter into the distance like some tremendous Phoenix.

Goodnight Lady Valkyrie.

The evening descends and turns into a sandwich hysteria
as we find ourselves riding between cities of transports
and that one mad man that passed us speeding crazy
and almost hit head-on with Him flowing East

and passed more and more until he was head of the line
but me driving mad lunacy followed his tail to the bumper
passing fifteen trucks total to find our other car
and felt the great turbine pull of acceleration that was not mine

mad-stacked behind two great beasts
and everyone thought us moon-crazy; Biblical Jake
and Mad Hair Me driving a thousand
eschewing great gusts of wind speed flying

Smashing into the great ephedrine sunset haze of Saskatoon
and hungry for food stuffed with the thoughts of bedsheets
off the highway immediately into the rotting liver of dark downtown
but was greeted by an open Hertz garage
with a five-piece fanfare brass barrage
William Tell and a Debussy Reverie
and found our way to bedsheets most comfortably

Driving out of Saskatoon feeling distance behind me.
Finding nothing but the dead and hollow corpses of roadside ventures;

more carcasses than cars
and one as big as a moose
and one as big as a bear
and no hairier

and driving out of sunshine plain reading comic book strip billboards
and trees start to build up momentum
and remembering our secret fungi in the glove compartment
that we drove three thousand kilometres without remembering

and we had a "Jesus Jacob, put it away brother"
and went screaming blinded by smoke and paranoia
and three swerves got us right
and we hugged the holy white line until twilight

And driving until the night again takes me foremast
and knows my secret fear in her *****
as the road turns into a lucid *** black and makes me dizzy
and every shadow is a moose and a wildcat and a billy goat
and some other car

and I find myself driving faster up this great slanderous waterfall until I meet eye
with another at a thousand feet horizontal

then two eyes

then a thousand wide-eyed peaks stretching faces upturned to the celestial black
with clouds laid flat as if some angel were sleeping ******* on a smokestack
and the mountains make themselves clear to me after waiting a lifetime for a glimpse
then they shy away behind some old lamppost and I don’t see them until tomorrow

and even tomorrow brings a greater distance with the sunlight dividing stone like 'The Ancient of Days'
and moving forward puts all into perspective

while false cabins give way
and the gas stations give way
and the last lamppost gives way
and its only distance now that will make you true
and make your peaks come alive

Like a bullrush, great grey slopes leap forth as if branded by fire
then the first peaks take me by surprise
and I’m told that these are nothing but children to their parents
and the roads curve into a gentle valley
and we’re in the feeding zone

behind the gates of some great geological zoo
watching these lumbering beasts
finishing up some great tribal *******
because tomorrow they will be shrunk
and tomorrow ever-after smaller

Nonetheless, breathless in turn I became
it began snowing and the pines took on a different shape
and the mountains became covered white
and great glaciers could be seen creeping
and tourists seen gawking at waterfalls and waterfowls
and fowl play between two stones a thousand miles high

climbing these Jasper slopes flying against wind and stone
and every creak lets out its gentle tone and soft moans
as these tyres rub flat against your back
your ancient skin your rock-hard bones

and this peak is that peak and it’s this one too
and that’s Temple, and that’s Whistler
and that’s Glasgow and that’s Whistler again
and those are the Three Sisters with ******* ablaze

and soft glowing haze your sun sets again among your peaks
and we wonder how all these caves formed
and marvelled at what the flood brought to your feet
as roads lay wasted by the roadside

in the epiphany of 3:00am realizing
that great Alta's straights and highway crossings
are formed in torturous mess from mines of 'Mt. Bleed'
and broken ribs and liver of crushed mountain passes
and the grey stones taxidermied and peeled off
and laid flat painted black and yellow;
the highways built from the insides
of the mountain shells

Who gave a “What now. New-Brunswick?”

and a “What now, Quebec, and Ontario, and Manitoba, and Saskatchewan";
**** fools clumsily dancing in the valleys; then the rolling hills; then the sea that was a lake
then the prairies and not yet the mountains;

running naked in formation with me at the lead
and running naked giving the finger to the moon
and the contrails, and every passing blur on the highway
dodging rocks, and sandbars
and the watchful eye of Mr. and Mrs. Law
and holes dug-up by prairie dogs
and watching with no music
as the family caravans drove on by

but drove off laughing every time until two got anxious for bed and slowed behind
while the rambling Jacob and I had to wait in the half-moon spectacle
of a black-tongue asphalt side-road hacking darts and watching for grizzlies
for the other two to finish up with their birthday *** exploits
though it was nobodies birthday

and then a timezone was between us
 and they were in the distant future
and nobodies birthday was in an hour from now

then everything was good
and everyone was satiated
then everything was a different time again
and I was running on no sleep or a lot of it
leaping backward in time every so often
like gaining a new day but losing space on the surface of your eye

but I stared up through curtains of starlight to mother moon
and wondered if you also stared
and was dumbfounded by the majesty of it all

and only one Caribou was seen the entire trip
and only one live animal, and some forsaken deer
and only a snake or a lonesome caterpillar could be seen crossing such highway straights
but the water more refreshing and brighter than steel
and glittered as if it were hiding some celestial gem
and great ravines and valleys flowed between everything
and I saw in my own eye prehistoric beasts roaming catastrophe upon these plains
but the peaks grew ever higher and I left the ground behind
Josh Allen Dec 2014
dear ashley,

when looking up at the stars and the moon while laying in the grass, i cant help but imagine the warmth of your fingers intertwined with mine. the moon is bright and caught in our orbit, you're bright and caught in my orbit of love. there are over 1 trillion stars in each galaxy.. and there are millions of galaxies beyond ours. each star has a name and some are brighter than our brightest star the sun. but in my eyes you're my brightest star and your name is ashley. or baby girl, babe, etc. you shine brighter than the sun on a hot summer day. you shine brighter than a rainbow. you shine brighter than the milky way. you shine brighter than all the trillions of stars combined. you're my galaxy and observing you is my most favorite thing.
Shofi Ahmed Jun 2017
Not once upon a time but now
among most innocent ones,
an Arabian voice is buried
in the thick wall of bricks
furnished with glory,
floating in the oasis of money.

Yet, when it switches to it's origin
then maybe is a poor Arab speaking.
Still the rest of the world
                                 can forget the oil
                           it's no sad story anymore
the sand beneath his feet shines
                                 brighter than the gold!
J Drake Oct 2014
Sometimes your heart needs to be broken
So you can see what's underneath,
To the flicker and flame of your soul
That you've always been destined to meet.

Sometimes your spirit shines brighter
Through the glimmering light of your tears,
And when you arrive at the end of it all
Love will outshine the darkest of years
find me on facebook at facebook.com/jBoogieMan  OR  email me at awakenedimagination@gmail.com  to let me know what you think of my work! :)
Marco Jimenez Feb 2011
its possible that forever
a brighter day can shine
even if its no day for me
ita a day brighter than mine

a brighter day for someone
but i cannot tell you who
because i cannot tell the future
but i can show it to you
Benji James Jun 2019
Pretty girl
I want to see you smile
I'm going to use that line
like it's going out of style
You're cute, wonderful and beautiful, it's true.
There is nobody else as amazing as you.
You brighten up the day with your smile
Don't hesitate to keep on shining
Because of this little miss,
Take some time to see
There is something special deep inside yourself
Nobody is quite like you
There is nobody else that smiles
The way you do

I want the spotlight upon you
Every time you're smiling
It lights up the night
like neon signs
It's brighter than starry skies
Just like the moonbeams
It ignites the soul
Every time I see you smiling
It brings the joy I've never felt before
Just smile, like you're getting photographed
There is nothing better than that
Smile, let the whole world shine
Love can be felt all around the world
Right after you smile, so smile.

Just like the sun that shines
the dark clouds away
That grin that perfectly fits your lips
Your beautifully lit up face
Through your eyes
All the darkness in me
Fades to light
You're the image of perfection
Inside of this mind
You're the only exception
So keep burning bright
Like city lights
Keep bringing happiness to all
that surrounds you
Because you're infectious
In all the best ways
And I pray, you'll always remain the same

I want the spotlight upon you
Every time you're smiling
It lights up the night
like neon signs
It's brighter than starry skies
Just like the moonbeams
It ignites the soul
Every time I see you smiling
It brings the joy I've never felt before
Just smile, like you're getting photographed
There is nothing better than that
Smile, let the whole world shine
Love can be felt all around the world
Right after you smile, so smile.

Hey honey,
Let your energy
guide your way
Hearts on your sleeve
inspiring me each and every day
When I'm around you
Feels like there is nothing I can't do
Don't need another pick me up...
Princess, I've got you.
You're turning me around
With your outlook on life
Always remaining optimistic
through the hardest times
through grace and positivity
You always manage to smile

I want the spotlight upon you
Every time you're smiling
It lights up the night
like neon signs
It's brighter than starry skies
Just like the moonbeams
It ignites the soul
Every time I see you smiling
It brings the joy I've never felt before
Just smile, like you're getting photographed
There is nothing better than that
Smile, let the whole world shine
Love can be felt all around the world
Right after you smile, so smile.

©2019 Written By Benji James
Morgan Mercury Oct 2014
I never thought I would fall for you twice,
but here I am writing this poem.
I'm just a dandelion lost in this greenhouse
surrounded by these blooming beauties.
But hoping, hopefully
you would make a wish out of me.
You've got this look that makes me crave adventure.
You've got mountains in your eyes
and the northern wind in your soul.
I can't remember the last thing you said to me
and that's okay.
We never talked much thanks to my anxiety.
I'm not too far but my words have failed me so many moons
how am I suppose to talk to you?
You've got your future gripped tight by the wrist
and my hands are lost in all this space.
Maybe sometime in the years to come, I'll discover your footprints
and remember my high school crush all over again.
I'll stop and think if you're out in California making coffee for people,
like I overheard you say you wanted to do in math class that one time,
or strumming a guitar solo on stage somewhere in the city.
I just hope wherever you find yourself in time to come you're happy and smiling brighter than the stars.
I know not much will happen in these last eight months we have together,
but I want to thank you for the day you introduced yourself to me because you knew no one else in the class.
I know I'm just a dandelion in this great big greenhouse,
but I'm just really happy that you noticed me.
2014
Jedd Ong Sep 2013
Sing praises!

Outside your bedroom window
the caged bird sings along.

Outside your bedroom window
even the moon butchers a song

So Croak!
even when your voice cracks

Croak!
even when you're out of tune

Croak!
even when your words

Cluster
at the bottom of your throat.

Crying
is not only for the weak

Crying!
is not only for the primal.

Throw up your hands
and let your grinning,
Flailing
limbs scream

"Yes!"
Glimpses.
Nomad Nov 2017
Across the lands of what once was home,
over the seas and through spans of time
I did roam.
I searched and searched both far and wide,
with neither a hint of direction nor guess of a clue,
I was lost in the wild with out guide,
not knowing what to do.

So across the skies I flew,
and over rolling hills so plain,
I came across a little hiding place,
where my wandering thoughts did entertain.

I came upon a camp,
with creatures scattering this way and that,
to find such a hidden wonder,
on a land so plain and flat.

My friends, my family, my comrades in arms did they all,
arranged themselves into rank and file
at the mention of the call.

There they are.
There they stand
so proud and tall
I remember them now
I remember them all.

Their lives all well lived
some more than others they might say
but I remember them still
who they are to this day.

Brighter than stars
they shined in this world
brighter than stars
did their lives unfurled.

They twinkled so brightly
be it day or nightly.
Playful and carefree
that was how it used to be.

They were...
when it was.
But no longer are they.
the world isn't as it used to be.
We knew there had to come a day.

Reality took hold
and reared its ugly head.
One by one
Death came by and choked out their lives
and the stars I used to look up in wonder...
are all dead.

Now by the flicker of a candle
they all hold in mourning
in these ancient halls
and faded painted walls
are memories in want of restoring.

Brighter than stars
they used to be
brighter than stars
they shined so brightly.
jer Jul 2018
I don’t care how
or care what you do
to make it happen;
I just told you
make me shine
so slather me in turpentine.

I want the sun to shrink
and the world turn dark,
when she’ll no longer rise
after she rests her eyes
upon my fiery spark.

I want the moon to swoon
and raise the tides
when he looks for the sun,
but instead
it’s my beauty that he finds.

I want the stars to bow down
and shower me in gold
when I shine brighter
and reach higher
than the stars of old.

I want storms to make
the world stir
when I walk upon
their earth,
no matter what it’ll take.

I don’t care
if it kills me;
just answer my plea.
I just want, so badly,
to shine,
so slather me in turpentine.
Sympathy I feel for those who haven’t seen what I’ve seen, and for those who have felt what I’ve felt. The embodiment of my regret, shining with all the light once saved me, now engulfs me in torment of my mistake. As I orbit in harmony with the rotation of a green star, that is much more than just a green star, I ponder what my life would be if I still had my green star. I know that in time, this green star that means everything and more to me, will collapse and perish, but we will only be able to see the star frozen in time, that very instant before it collapsed, desperately clinging to one single moment. I still cling to that moment, the moment I saw my soul break free from the chains that I thought would hold me down perpetually, in her eyes. I don’t quite know how it happened, I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t on the make, it was the perfect storm, I said one thing, she said another, and the next thing I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my days in the middle of that conversation. It’s painful to admit that I ruined the most precious friendship I’ve ever had, which tends to sting more when she was the only genuine friend I’ve ever had. I prefer solidarity most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t long for a companion every now and again, but lately that desire grows stronger and stronger, holding on to the memory of the companion I once had and lost. My life on Earth, my past life, would be considered prosperous; I was one of the top aerospace engineers in the world, which is a very time consuming and painstaking practice, but exploring the unknown territories of the universe had always been my passion. I didn’t have much of a family, my mother and father passed away when I was 22 years old, and my brother and I severed ties shortly after the death of our parents, and I had not desire nor time for a significant other, let alone the willingness to dedicate my life to another person. I always believed that I embodied the definition of misplacement, I never seemed to fit in any particular group of people, nor with any other person, really, I enjoyed getting lost in the sea of my thoughts, riding the waves, pondering ideas, asking questions that can only be answered in theory, which essentially renders me incapable of interacting with others. However, being your own best friend can sometimes lead to psychotic thoughts of self-loathing, and eventually the last straw broke the backbone of my perseverance, and I convinced myself to commit suicide. Originality and pretentiousness ****** me, demanding myself to end my life a way no one else’s life has ended, and my imagination spiraled into a storm, brainstorming my own demise. My most recent endeavor at the time was to manufacture a personal bubble that would sustain in space, and condensing a spaceship into the size of a smart car was the threshold between my pathetic life of this planet, and self-destructive glory. After a year of an extremely unhealthy intensity of research, my talisman of my soul, my most cherished invention, my cosmic coffin. I traveled from my home in Anchorage to the highest point in Alaska, Mount McKinley, and inserted my body comfortably inside my space bubble and proceeded to ascend into my eternal salvation, ascending towards achievement of my life’s dream, ascending the edges of space, where no human has ever occupied in history. The butterfly feeling in my stomach, caused by the sheer joy I felt, is probably the closest feeling I had ever felt at the time to true love, the irony of my affection for death. As I slipped past our atmosphere and found myself floating closer towards the stars and planets, I sat down and enjoyed the galactic show of entropy before me, and after a while the visual melody put me in a hypnotic state, and before I knew it I was being stated down by a saucer shaped spaceship with luminous blue lights encompassing the round edge of the ship. I felt my capsule gravitating towards and entering the ship through a small hole on the underbelly of its structure, that appeared to look like a portal. As I passed through the light I was being observed by a feminine looking blue creature, with bright green eyes that sparkled like emeralds in the moonlight, and long, luscious blonde hair, straight and smooth as silk. She was tall, which I realized as I stood up out of my capsule, about an inch taller than my six foot frame, with long, skinny fingers and decently big webbed feet, and a long slender tail hanging down from her backside that wasn't quite long enough to touch the ground. She had shiny, scaly skin that had a deceptive rough appearance in texture, but felt soft and smooth when her hand reached out to embrace mine, and she said, "Hello, I am called Elora, what are you called?" Still in shock, the only awkward response I muttered was, "Eric" and she asked, "Why are you here Eric?" As I regained my quick wit I declared, "Does anyone know why they're here?" She smiled, exposing her sharp white teeth and proposed, "Well, you can help me find out." I think it had something to do with the adrenaline rush caused by the mystery and uncertainty of the situation, but I caught myself grinning, I didn't even realize I was smiling, it was an odd, unfamiliar feeling, but I was madly attracted to this blue angel from the stars. I spoke to her about my life on Earth, and my elaborate suicide plan, and she explained to me that she abandoned her home planet Eridani to conduct galactic research, and that she was from the Altair race. She elaborated on how life on Eridani did not satisfy her, and that she would spend her life roaming around nebulas, exploring galaxies, researching stars, and documenting her experiences. She showed me a star that she claims as hers, a green star called Zohra, which was her favorite star because she said she could only feel happiness when looking at it, to which I said, “It reminds of your eyes” and she looked at me and seemed flattered. She loved that star, her eyes lit up brighter than the star itself when she would stare at it, hypnotized at the sight of it, which I cared little to notice because I couldn’t look away from her. I couldn’t quite understand how someone could be so invested in something like that, something that just sits there spinning and spinning, peacefully participating in the orchestra of the universe. I think she was so fascinated by this object because she felt the same disconnect from others of our kind. The lonely, outcast feeling connected us, ironically, and we carried on intriguing conversation for what felt like an eternity, and I only wish that conversation could've lasted longer. I found in Elora what I had not found in any human being, she understood me, to the point where I was convinced she had mind reading abilities, and her understanding me didn’t diminish her interest in me, like what usually happened to me on Earth. I found happiness in her company, I found salvation in her embrace, I found unparalleled beauty inside and out, and I found myself in our friendship.  As time slowly rolled on my affection for Elora grew increasingly unbearable, and eventually the realization dawned upon me that I had to inform Elora of my feelings for her. We were accelerating towards the Crab Nebula, and I noticed the blurred blue light in the center, wrapped around by streams of red and yellow light, holding the blue heart in the center together. Elora was to me what the red and yellow streams were to the integrity of the Crab Nebula, without those streams, without Elora, my soul would fall apart and disburse, just like the blue light in the center of the Crab Nebula. When I turned, looked her square in her eyes, her gorgeous eyes that were accented by the light emitting from the Crab Nebula, those eyes that pull you in and leave you in a trance, those eyes that display the beauty of nature condensed into two little spheres that seemed to effortlessly gaze inside my soul, breaking down every single wall that I have ever built up to hide myself from other people, and uncover everything I so desperately attempted to hide deep down, and I said to her, “You are the only reason I’m still alive, the only reason I still want to live, the only other soul that accepted my lost, broken soul, you are the most amazing, most beautiful creature born from the stars we now roam around, I tried to die to see what heaven is like, but heaven can wait, because there is nothing more I want than to be with you until the day my soul slips away from my body, I am madly in love with you Elora.” I poured my heart and soul out to her, bleeding out every ounce of passion and love and sophistication to her, exposing every bit of my emotions, leaving me naked and defenseless before her. Different scenarios raced around my head about how she would respond, and she glanced down at the ground, looked back up at my blank face, and she said, “My people do not love, we do not believe in love, and we cannot love. Love, no matter how polarizing it may seem, always fades in time, everything fades in time, love fades in time, ideas fade in time, you will fade in time, I will fade in time, in the end, nothing is perpetual.” My heart sank down into my stomach, and right at that moment I grasped the idea of why they call it “falling in love” because I landed harder than I could even fathom, I did not know that such powerful emotional sorrow could physically hurt so bad. I dropped down to one knee, and the streams of tears ran from my face and splashed down on the ground, like delicate little glass beads shattering as they made contact with the surface, shattering like my heart and soul. The pure agony and embarrassment of staying with the love of my life, whom I had just made an absolute fool of myself in front of, was enough to crush any man’s esteem, so the only rational option I could think of was bail towards my space bubble, and go as far away as I possibly could from the light that saved me. With every inch of separation between her and I, my heart and soul grew sour and stone cold, and new theories to rationalize my reaction and actions that followed. As a child I went to an amusement park, and I was particularly frightened of a certain attraction that lifted you straight up, a couple hundred feet, and dropped you straight down, and now I realize that my fears of love are comparable to this ride. I was so mortified by the ascension, which precedes love, that I could never enjoy the thrill of the fall, even though this time the safety harness didn’t soften the landing. I came to the conclusion, after years of thought, that I could not blame Elora, it was who she was and there was nothing she could do to change that, and instead of accepting the fact that she did not love me, I cowardly abandoned the only thing in my life that I gave a **** about, I ran away from the only other being in the universe that could make me smile the way she made me smile. After years of solidarity and self-loathing I realized that I would much rather spend my life with Elora, even if she didn’t love me, as opposed to regressing back to my lonesome life, only surrounded by a vast, more captivating scene. The only reason I am still alive is because I have not given up hope that one day I will find Elora again, and I will beg for her forgiveness, and hopefully I will be able to cherish every precious moment I spend with her. I solemnly believe that the slim chance will occur that I will once again see that face, gaze into those eyes I once did, and curse my old self for being foolish enough to leave her. I am not certain, but I can only hope that she is at least indifferent to encountering each other once again, but if she denies me I cannot blame her, because after all it is my fault for my impulsive escape. But for now I wander as a nomad amongst the stars that form constellations that all remind me of Elora, watch the planets rotate, and reminisce on the time we shared together, the time I took for granted, time that I consider to be the most precious moments of my life’s experience. I spend most of my time roaming around Zohra, which was where she and I parted ways, in hopes that one day she will return to her favorite star, to find me right there waiting for her, however patience has not served me well, and my actions which I so deeply regret caused her to abandon the star which she claimed as hers, the star that radiated happiness upon her, the magnificent star that embodied her in beauty and essence, to avoid the thought of me leaving her, which is justifiable because she was probably very flustered by me scrambling to leave her after my episode. I rotate around Zohra, observing its physical qualities, seeing Elora’s face every single time I look upon its surface, but one day the light exiting the pores of the planet grew significantly brighter, and Zohra began rotating and shaking at a phenomenally fast speed, and I witnessed Zohra swallow itself in a supernova, creating a black hole. I interpreted this to represent the death of the hope I had to once again see Elora, or maybe time had taken her like time had taken her beloved star. I allowed myself to succumb to the irresistible force from the black hole, and the death of hope I had to once more see the angelic face of my love, swallowed my space bubble and my hollow body occupying it, to the point of no return, where I can no longer regret what I had done to her, because in time, my love for her destroyed me.
Hewn from rocks and pebbles, ***** murky beginnings.
Forgotten over time.
The harder you hit me, the brighter I shine.
The harder you rub me out, the brighter I shine.
The darkness you put me in, the brighter I shine.
The more you break me, the brighter I shine.
From all facets of light, through life and endless time,  I shine.
I am precious.
I am unbreakable.
I am strength unbound.
I can cut through you, and you will still desire me.
For is that not, what I was made to do?
I shine.
From the core.
Dig deeper and there you will find me.
A rich mans commodity.
A poor mans treasure.
I shine.
Keep me safe, and I will shine for you forever.
If I become unfocused
Because my day's been bad
You bring me back to earth with just a smile
No matter your misfortune
Or how far away I seem
You center me again with a small smile

When misfortune rears it's ugly head
Or the washer's on the blink
You bite your lip, and out comes that **** smile
No matter what your pain is
Or the fact the car won't start
You brush it all away, and then you smile

There's a light inside your eyes
That blazes hotter than a sun
It holds me here, I cannot get away
That light shines even brighter
When I walk into the room
I love you, and that's all I know to say

Your smile holds me hostage
It says it all, but not a word
That smile, shows me just exactly how you feel
It makes my day worth living
Knowing what's waiting at the end
Your smile, makes me know our love is real

It's a standard I cling on to
It's the rock that keeps me still
That smile and the love I know it shows
It's the reason I am living
My rainbow ending treasure
That smile, keeps me strong through out lifes lows

There's a light inside your eyes
That blazes hotter than a sun
It holds me here, I cannot get away
That light shines even brighter
When I walk into the room
I love you, and that's all I know to say

The tree that we both planted
When we started out this life
Makes me smile, when I think of it's tough start
How we planted a small twiglet
And how it grew strong over time
It's our tree, grown from deep inside our heart

I miss you dear so badly
I don't know how I can go on
Your smile, burns so bright inside my brain
It took you oh so quickly
Two quick months and you were gone
So, I smile, knowing you are not in pain

There's a light inside your eyes
That blazes hotter than a sun
It holds me here, I cannot get away
That light shines even brighter
I feel you in this empty room
I still love you, and that's all I know to say
Tyler Jenne' Aug 2016
This is a story I started to write about 3 or 4 years ago and still working on it.

The Great Journey
By: Tyler Jenne'

Chapter 1: New heroes

    There once was a small town known as Nightville. It was one of many small towns that had been split up from one big city. The king of nightville was the ruler of all the land. He became one of the most fear rulers of the Ancient city. As he sat upon his throne while the execution of 3 criminals was about to commence. These 3 criminals were Tyler, Paul, and Aren they were being executed for committing treason against the town of nightville. Before the execution could get under way Tyler asked to speak with the king. As the guards escorted Tyler, Paul, and aren to the king they noticed a shinny spark outside of the castle walls. The guard said to the King that 3 prisoners wish to speak to him.

    My guards tell me that you 3 wish to make  a deal with me to lesson your charge of treason said the king. Yes if there is anything that we can do to lesson our charge feel free to ask answered Tyler. Now that you mention it there is one thing the 3 of you can do for me replied the king. I have a little problem that you might be able to help me with. Sure what is it replied Paul. This kingdom was once part of a Ancient City. And something of great value was taken quite some time ago answered the king. It's called the Ancient Artifact it is what give the ancient city life. I have a friend that will help guide you to your destination.

    How far do we have to travel before we meet your friend asked aren. He is in the Majestic forest of Tieranorith replied King Goldencrown. All I can say is that you must travel through the rigorous valley of lost souls, but beware of the treacherous orcs lieing within the brush of the valley. How do we know if we'll be going the right way asked Paul. Trust in yourself to guide you through the valley. There is only one way to go and no way you can get lost answered king goldencrown. You are no longer criminals you are 3 brave warriors under the command of King Goldencrown. Now off you go and may your inner spirit serve you well and guide you to the safe haven of the ancient city.

   So as the  3 friends rode off on their horses towards the majestic forest of tieranorith. The roads were rocky and rough as the friends traveled through brush and rubble of Old Nightville. It's nothing, but a wasteland said Tyler. Just remember if we do this our debt to society will be erased from the records of the justice court of nightville said aren. We must keep moving before it gets dark said Paul. The 3 friends found a cave to rest for the night so they could have enough energy to resume their journey. Little did the 3 friends know, but orcs were slowly creeping up on the 3 warriors. As the friends woke from their slumber they smelled something foul in the air. Oh god what is that awful stench asked Paul. It smells like something died or was killed in the night. Yeah I smell it too damm that stinks answered aren. I smell it too, but it doesn't smell like something that was killed in the night it smells like a grotesque creature that is hiding from the light replied Tyler.

   Above on the mountain top far away a shadow like figure watch the brave warriors continue their travels towards the dark valley of lost souls. He sent his minions out to get rid of the brave warriors. Knowing that there was already a pack of rabid orcs and wolves on their heels. Minions seek out the leader of the orcs and bring them to me shouted the shadow figure. As the minions set out to join the rabid group of orcs in ridding their land of the brave warriors. Meanwhile the braves warriors reached the valley of lost souls. It's so dark here said Tyler. Legend has it that there was a great battle waged in this valley replied aren. It used to be a grand arena where they had brave gladiators fight to the death. They must have been brutal battles here replied Paul. You can still see the blood stains in the sand. Whoa did you guys feel that? asked Tyler. I don't feel anything replied aren. Yeah me neither said Paul. I could have sworn I felt something had gently brushed me on the cheek said Tyler. Maybe the heat of this valley is getting to me.

   Halfway through the desert filled valley the brave warriors look at each other in awe at the amazement of carnage left from a ****** and brutal wars. Holy crap look shouted Aren. It looks like something is up ahead. Whoa that's weird replied Tyler. As the brave warriors looked ahead and kept moving forward they could see a bloodshed of dead bodies lieing in their way. Oh my goodness what happened here asked Paul. There are bodies everywhere answered Aren. The bodies were mangled and hanging off of tree limbs. We have to keep moving said Paul. The brave warriors climbed over the dead bodies thankfully they made it to the end of the valley of lost souls. As the sun began to fall the brave warriors stop into a dark forest. This is interesting said Tyler. Let's get some sleep and in the morning we'll explore this odd forest. The sky was dark and lurking in the darkness orcs were getting closer and closer to the brave warriors. As the wind began to blow the trees back and forth the orcs jumped to and from the trees with ease. The next morning as the sun rose from behind the great mountain.

    High above the great mountain was the shaman of the north. He had kept watch over the brave warriors since they made their way through the valley of lost souls. It shouldn't be much longer until they reach the majestic forest of of Tieranorith. I only hope vaiking hasn't sent his minions out after them said Matthew. As the brave warriors woke from their slumber they looked around at the forest. Wow those are huge trees said aren. I can see a giant mountain and at the top of it is what looks like a church of some sort replied Paul. Halt who has been tresspassing through my forest asked King Anthony. I'm Tyler and these are my friends Paul and Aren. What brings you into my forest? asked King Anthony. We are in search of an ancient artifact replied aren. Oh yes I remember a long time ago when the ancient artifact was used to power the ancient city, but again that was a long time ago replied King Anthony.  So the story of the ancient city is true? asked Tyler. Yes very much so answered King Anthony.

    Your forest is amazing said Paul. Thank you I come out here from my castle when something is troubling me replied Anthony. Does anyone know who would take the ancient artifact? asked aren. Many of the rulers throughout the ancient city believe it's vaiking who took the ancient artifact replied Anthony. You may not have realized it, but as you walked through the valley of lost souls you passed through a invisible portal that only can be seen when the artifact is back where it belongs. Do know of vaikings where about? asked Paul. No replied Anthony. He was once a member of the great council within the ancient city. When there was a disagreement between two parties. We would take it to the council for final deliberation.

    Is the great counsel still active? asked Tyler. No replied Anthony. After the artifact was taken the cousin siece to exist. There was no reason to keep the cousin in effect since the city is revolves around the artifact. Who do you think might know where the artifact would located at? asked Paul. The shaman of the north might know replied Anthony. He lives at the top of the great mountain.  You must know that the artifact isn't one specific thing, it was broken into six pieces. Without all the pieces the ancient city will stay in darkness. Ok got it get artifact bring it to the ancient city to restore the life of the great counsel and the city said aren. Before you leave take these horses for they will help you get to the top of the great mountain.

    As the brave warriors left the forest heading north towards the great mountain. Still unaware of what was following them orcs were leaping from tree to tree. Who's there? asked aren. Is someone out there? What's wrong aren? asked Paul. I thought I heard something moving through the trees replied aren. I'm sure it was just the wind blowing through them said Paul. Maybe your right replied aren. Let's keep moving we are almost them to the great mountain. The brave warriors rode towards the  mountain on the horses. Riding up the first giant hill of this mountain was taking its toll on the brave warriors. Higher and higher they scaled the mountain. How much longer till we reach the top asked Tyler. Another day or so replied aren. The heat of the sun was beaming down onto the brave warriors. Water  I need water gasped Paul. Here drink from my canteen said Tyler. Thanks man I needed that said Paul. Your welcome replied Tyler.

    To their surprise as the sun was beating down on them a white flake fell from the sky. What the hell is this asked aren. It looks like snow answered Tyler. It was indeed snow falling from the sky, but not because of the gods above. The shaman of the north had cast a spell causing the snow to fall. He did this to help the brave warriors keep distance from the orcs that were behind them. The orcs still followed the brave warriors from behind, but not on the ground. they continued to swing from the trees.

Only to their surprise they were dropping like flies and hitting the ground  with much velocity. The ground shook violently to the core leaving not a trace of the orc. Let's find some cover before this blizzard topples over us said Paul. In here replied aren.  Into a cave they went not know what they would come across in the process. Lets rest in here for the night said Tyler. I'll build a fire replied aren.

The snow fell continuously throughout the night. The weather was treacherous to the point of barricading the entrance to the cave that the brave warriors were in. Morning came and the brave warriors woke to total darkness. Holy Crap what happened to the light said Paul. It looks as if the snow came completely over the cave entrance and now we're trapped in  here replied aren. I'll light a torch for us. Let's go this way there has to be another way out of this cave. The brave warriors made their way through the dark and wet cave.

     How much longer until we see another way out of this cave asked aren.  I don't know replied Paul. Let's keep moving if we stop we'll lose momentum to get back on the trail towards  the great mountain. Time went on and the braves warriors felt as if they had been in this cave for months even a year. Dude we really need to find a way out of here said Tyler. It's going to be ok man just calm down replied aren. I think I see something sparking in the corner over here. The brave warriors had stumble across a shiny piece of metal. ******* it's the first piece of the artifact said Paul. Cool let me see replied Tyler. I think I see some light up ahead. As the brave warriors kept moving forward the light became brighter and brighter the closer they moved towards it. They reached the area of where the light was shinning from. The light was coming from a wall of some sort. When the brave warriors pushed on the mysterious wall it opened to a room of what looked like was once a part of a castle from the roman era. There in the middle of the room was a mysterious hooded figure. Your travels have finally brought you to me for more guidance said the mysterious figure. Who are you and what do you want from us asked Paul. It is not what I want from you, but want can I help you with replied the mysterious figure. Not knowing that it is Matthew the shaman of the north behind the hood.

      The brave warriors scratch their heads in curiosity they think to themselves The has to be some sort of reason for us being able to survive all the obstacles we've faced in our journey for the ancient artifact said aren. Yeah, but it's not like this guy is the reason for us surviving the weather answered Paul. If he was the reason we should asked him why he has helped us make it this far and also where are we right now. You may be wondering who I am and where you are said the hooded figure. Yeah we were just thinking that answered Paul. My name is Matthew and I am known as the shaman of the north.  It's nice to meet you I'm Paul and these are my friends Tyler and aren. I know I have watched over you from the time you left nightville replied Matthew. You have many question and I have many answers for you. I know you wish to know where you are.
We are standing in a castle that used to be one of the many kingdoms within the ancient city long ago. Also you wish to know the time period you are in. When king Anthony had told you that when you made it through the valley of souls you passed through a portal into his forest, well that forest is part of the roman era. So we are in the roman empire days asked Tyler. Yes replied Matthew. The days of the roman empire are far from the glory days.

I remember when the roman empire was at their highest of having soldiers up to 300 strong. Did they have many wars during their reign asked aren. They did more so against barbarians that had came from the north replied Matthew. At that time the roman empire didn't have 300 soldiers, but enough to defend their lands. Again it was a long time ago, but the sands will forever be stained with the blood of the brave roman soldiers that defended their land. Anthony told us about vaiking and how he was once a part of the great counsel is there anything more you can tell us about vaiking and his part within the counsel? asked Paul. Ah yes vaiking he was once a part of the great counsel replied Matthew. He was second in line to be head of  the counsel and when things didn't go his way in the election for head of the great counsel. After that vaiking became obsessed with gaining the power of which that position held. He swore on the lives of everyone children and families that we would all pay for our decisions. Well does anyone know what happen to vaiking after his breakdown over power asked Paul. Last we knew he was building an army of orcs and minions to destroy the great counsel answered Matthew.

      The council decided to evacuate everyone within the ancient city take them to an unknown location to keep everyone safe from harm Matthew continued. After vaiking broke down about not getting the top seat of the council he swore that he would bring pain and suffering upon all those who conspired against him. As vaiking walked into the darkness with nothing more to lose the sand storm that ran through here destroyed almost everything and everyone. Soon thereafter no one has heard from or knows where vaiking disappeared to.  Many say he was swallowed by the sand storm and he now hide within the darkness where he stays because of the shame he brought to nightville. That must of been awful for him to feel betrayed by people he thought he could trust replied aren. Maybe a part of him did feel betrayed, but nobody felt more betrayed then the ancient city did answered Matthew.

We must leave for we aren't safe here there are orcs following you. they've been following from the very start of your journey. The four friends set forth to continue their journey of finding the remaining pieces of the ancient artifact. Still the orcs and minions were hot on their trail. Some orcs were riding on wolves where the remaining orcs scaled through the trees. The lead orc was one of the most dangerous orcs ever to ride on a wolf. His name was drake and nobody could match his strength. With one fell swoop he could lay waste to an entire group of soldiers with his mighty axe. The axe blade was made from harden steel and the base of his axe was carved from the trees of the majestic forest of Tieranorith. Someone let  lord vaiking that we have the shaman of the north and the three brave warriors in our sight ordered Drake.  As his fellow orcs sent word to lord
It is a story about me and my closest friends.
Tea Oct 2013
I remember crying during lunch my senior year of high school
My math teacher’s eyebrows colliding turning one plane into a fractal image
He had sat there every day for nearly four years
Helping me struggle through an unreal number of numbers
Literaly and figuratively
And again and again the numbers on my math test said
You are less than average
You
Are
Stupid.

But behind the eyes of a determined math teacher
Never read, what my insecurities where screaming
Refusing to believe the numbers, I sought one thing
Some unspoken meaning
I almost found it the day of my graduation
I almost found it between my teacher’s eyebrows
Wearing it like a point of pride
I was the first of my family to hold
Such a light thing as a diploma
Instead of a heavy head
Weighed down by ******
It nodding under all the pressure
The first to feel the lightness of feather
Instead of a sixpack
A lame back, from manual labor
I was flying
College was my next undefeated feat
Again I let an institution tell me what I was
Test scores tell me what I should meet
Intelligent measured by something
That couldn’t understand its diversity
Trying to tell me I was less than average
When I was just an individual
Above a point of comparison
Excelling in conceptual understanding
Debating and good energy

I could construct social interaction
Like gold, I learn to read people
The power in my phone
I learned that it wasn’t the diploma that I should be proud of
Not the thing I sought after
Not what I would show my little sisters and brothers
To show them how to live better, how to be stronger
Burn brighter. Burn longer.
So here I am
Red faced and scared
spoken word
was hiding, but always there
in between my math teachers scrunched brow
Was the answer
I could have cheated if I had known how
If I knew what question that needed answered
Had realized it was never in his book
I should have listened to what I saw
Not to the math test I took
I
Am
Not
Stupid
I haven’t failed by choosing something outside of school
That I am not defined by the score
By numbers or lines
By this institutional rules
Test scores or even rhymes
I am not less than average
I just don’t average out
That power isn’t really in a piece of paper
Power is found in your words
And chosen behavior
That silence and insecurity
Means nothing really
The answer wasn’t in his book
It was in his look
And his persistence to prove
I
Am
Not
Stupid
He just wasn’t good enough with words to prove it.
Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
Along Morea’s hills the setting Sun;
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light;
O’er the hushed deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave that trembles as it glows;
On old ægina’s rock and Hydra’s isle
The God of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O’er his own regions lingering loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine.
Descending fast, the mountain-shadows kiss
Thy glorious Gulf, unconquered Salamis!
Their azure arches through the long expanse,
More deeply purpled, meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of Heaven;
Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian rock he sinks to sleep.

  On such an eve his palest beam he cast
When, Athens! here thy Wisest looked his last.
How watched thy better sons his farewell ray,
That closed their murdered Sage’s latest day!
Not yet—not yet—Sol pauses on the hill,
The precious hour of parting lingers still;
But sad his light to agonizing eyes,
And dark the mountain’s once delightful dyes;
Gloom o’er the lovely land he seemed to pour,
The land where Phoebus never frowned before;
But ere he sunk below Cithaeron’s head,
The cup of Woe was quaffed—the Spirit fled;
The soul of Him that scorned to fear or fly,
Who lived and died as none can live or die.

  But lo! from high Hymettus to the plain
The Queen of Night asserts her silent reign;
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
Hides her fair face, or girds her glowing form;
With cornice glimmering as the moonbeams play,
There the white column greets her grateful ray,
And bright around, with quivering beams beset,
Her emblem sparkles o’er the Minaret;
The groves of olive scattered dark and wide,
Where meek Cephisus sheds his scanty tide,
The cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
The gleaming turret of the gay kiosk,
And sad and sombre ’mid the holy calm,
Near Theseus’ fane, yon solitary palm;
All, tinged with varied hues, arrest the eye;
And dull were his that passed them heedless by.
Again the ægean, heard no more afar,
Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war:
Again his waves in milder tints unfold
Their long expanse of sapphire and of gold,
Mixed with the shades of many a distant isle
That frown, where gentler Ocean deigns to smile.

  As thus, within the walls of Pallas’ fane,
I marked the beauties of the land and main,
Alone, and friendless, on the magic shore,
Whose arts and arms but live in poets’ lore;
Oft as the matchless dome I turned to scan,
Sacred to Gods, but not secure from Man,
The Past returned, the Present seemed to cease,
And Glory knew no clime beyond her Greece!

  Hour rolled along, and Dian’******on high
Had gained the centre of her softest sky;
And yet unwearied still my footsteps trod
O’er the vain shrine of many a vanished God:
But chiefly, Pallas! thine, when Hecate’s glare
Checked by thy columns, fell more sadly fair
O’er the chill marble, where the startling tread
Thrills the lone heart like echoes from the dead.
Long had I mused, and treasured every trace
The wreck of Greece recorded of her race,
When, lo! a giant-form before me strode,
And Pallas hailed me in her own Abode!

  Yes,’twas Minerva’s self; but, ah! how changed,
Since o’er the Dardan field in arms she ranged!
Not such as erst, by her divine command,
Her form appeared from Phidias’ plastic hand:
Gone were the terrors of her awful brow,
Her idle ægis bore no Gorgon now;
Her helm was dinted, and the broken lance
Seemed weak and shaftless e’en to mortal glance;
The Olive Branch, which still she deigned to clasp,
Shrunk from her touch, and withered in her grasp;
And, ah! though still the brightest of the sky,
Celestial tears bedimmed her large blue eye;
Round the rent casque her owlet circled slow,
And mourned his mistress with a shriek of woe!

  “Mortal!”—’twas thus she spake—”that blush of shame
Proclaims thee Briton, once a noble name;
First of the mighty, foremost of the free,
Now honoured ‘less’ by all, and ‘least’ by me:
Chief of thy foes shall Pallas still be found.
Seek’st thou the cause of loathing!—look around.
Lo! here, despite of war and wasting fire,
I saw successive Tyrannies expire;
‘Scaped from the ravage of the Turk and Goth,
Thy country sends a spoiler worse than both.
Survey this vacant, violated fane;
Recount the relics torn that yet remain:
‘These’ Cecrops placed, ‘this’ Pericles adorned,
‘That’ Adrian reared when drooping Science mourned.
What more I owe let Gratitude attest—
Know, Alaric and Elgin did the rest.
That all may learn from whence the plunderer came,
The insulted wall sustains his hated name:
For Elgin’s fame thus grateful Pallas pleads,
Below, his name—above, behold his deeds!
Be ever hailed with equal honour here
The Gothic monarch and the Pictish peer:
Arms gave the first his right, the last had none,
But basely stole what less barbarians won.
So when the Lion quits his fell repast,
Next prowls the Wolf, the filthy Jackal last:
Flesh, limbs, and blood the former make their own,
The last poor brute securely gnaws the bone.
Yet still the Gods are just, and crimes are crossed:
See here what Elgin won, and what he lost!
Another name with his pollutes my shrine:
Behold where Dian’s beams disdain to shine!
Some retribution still might Pallas claim,
When Venus half avenged Minerva’s shame.”

  She ceased awhile, and thus I dared reply,
To soothe the vengeance kindling in her eye:
“Daughter of Jove! in Britain’s injured name,
A true-born Briton may the deed disclaim.
Frown not on England; England owns him not:
Athena, no! thy plunderer was a Scot.
Ask’st thou the difference? From fair Phyles’ towers
Survey Boeotia;—Caledonia’s ours.
And well I know within that ******* land
Hath Wisdom’s goddess never held command;
A barren soil, where Nature’s germs, confined
To stern sterility, can stint the mind;
Whose thistle well betrays the niggard earth,
Emblem of all to whom the Land gives birth;
Each genial influence nurtured to resist;
A land of meanness, sophistry, and mist.
Each breeze from foggy mount and marshy plain
Dilutes with drivel every drizzly brain,
Till, burst at length, each wat’ry head o’erflows,
Foul as their soil, and frigid as their snows:
Then thousand schemes of petulance and pride
Despatch her scheming children far and wide;
Some East, some West, some—everywhere but North!
In quest of lawless gain, they issue forth.
And thus—accursed be the day and year!
She sent a Pict to play the felon here.
Yet Caledonia claims some native worth,
As dull Boeotia gave a Pindar birth;
So may her few, the lettered and the brave,
Bound to no clime, and victors of the grave,
Shake off the sordid dust of such a land,
And shine like children of a happier strand;
As once, of yore, in some obnoxious place,
Ten names (if found) had saved a wretched race.”

  “Mortal!” the blue-eyed maid resumed, “once more
Bear back my mandate to thy native shore.
Though fallen, alas! this vengeance yet is mine,
To turn my counsels far from lands like thine.
Hear then in silence Pallas’ stern behest;
Hear and believe, for Time will tell the rest.

  “First on the head of him who did this deed
My curse shall light,—on him and all his seed:
Without one spark of intellectual fire,
Be all the sons as senseless as the sire:
If one with wit the parent brood disgrace,
Believe him ******* of a brighter race:
Still with his hireling artists let him prate,
And Folly’s praise repay for Wisdom’s hate;
Long of their Patron’s gusto let them tell,
Whose noblest, native gusto is—to sell:
To sell, and make—may shame record the day!—
The State—Receiver of his pilfered prey.
Meantime, the flattering, feeble dotard, West,
Europe’s worst dauber, and poor Britain’s best,
With palsied hand shall turn each model o’er,
And own himself an infant of fourscore.
Be all the Bruisers culled from all St. Giles’,
That Art and Nature may compare their styles;
While brawny brutes in stupid wonder stare,
And marvel at his Lordship’s ’stone shop’ there.
Round the thronged gate shall sauntering coxcombs creep
To lounge and lucubrate, to prate and peep;
While many a languid maid, with longing sigh,
On giant statues casts the curious eye;
The room with transient glance appears to skim,
Yet marks the mighty back and length of limb;
Mourns o’er the difference of now and then;
Exclaims, ‘These Greeks indeed were proper men!’
Draws slight comparisons of ‘these’ with ‘those’,
And envies Laïs all her Attic beaux.
When shall a modern maid have swains like these?
Alas! Sir Harry is no Hercules!
And last of all, amidst the gaping crew,
Some calm spectator, as he takes his view,
In silent indignation mixed with grief,
Admires the plunder, but abhors the thief.
Oh, loathed in life, nor pardoned in the dust,
May Hate pursue his sacrilegious lust!
Linked with the fool that fired the Ephesian dome,
Shall vengeance follow far beyond the tomb,
And Eratostratus and Elgin shine
In many a branding page and burning line;
Alike reserved for aye to stand accursed,
Perchance the second blacker than the first.

  “So let him stand, through ages yet unborn,
Fixed statue on the pedestal of Scorn;
Though not for him alone revenge shall wait,
But fits thy country for her coming fate:
Hers were the deeds that taught her lawless son
To do what oft Britannia’s self had done.
Look to the Baltic—blazing from afar,
Your old Ally yet mourns perfidious war.
Not to such deeds did Pallas lend her aid,
Or break the compact which herself had made;
Far from such counsels, from the faithless field
She fled—but left behind her Gorgon shield;
A fatal gift that turned your friends to stone,
And left lost Albion hated and alone.

“Look to the East, where Ganges’ swarthy race
Shall shake your tyrant empire to its base;
Lo! there Rebellion rears her ghastly head,
And glares the Nemesis of native dead;
Till Indus rolls a deep purpureal flood,
And claims his long arrear of northern blood.
So may ye perish!—Pallas, when she gave
Your free-born rights, forbade ye to enslave.

  “Look on your Spain!—she clasps the hand she hates,
But boldly clasps, and thrusts you from her gates.
Bear witness, bright Barossa! thou canst tell
Whose were the sons that bravely fought and fell.
But Lusitania, kind and dear ally,
Can spare a few to fight, and sometimes fly.
Oh glorious field! by Famine fiercely won,
The Gaul retires for once, and all is done!
But when did Pallas teach, that one retreat
Retrieved three long Olympiads of defeat?

  “Look last at home—ye love not to look there
On the grim smile of comfortless despair:
Your city saddens: loud though Revel howls,
Here Famine faints, and yonder Rapine prowls.
See all alike of more or less bereft;
No misers tremble when there’s nothing left.
‘Blest paper credit;’ who shall dare to sing?
It clogs like lead Corruption’s weary wing.
Yet Pallas pluck’d each Premier by the ear,
Who Gods and men alike disdained to hear;
But one, repentant o’er a bankrupt state,
On Pallas calls,—but calls, alas! too late:
Then raves for’——’; to that Mentor bends,
Though he and Pallas never yet were friends.
Him senates hear, whom never yet they heard,
Contemptuous once, and now no less absurd.
So, once of yore, each reasonable frog,
Swore faith and fealty to his sovereign ‘log.’
Thus hailed your rulers their patrician clod,
As Egypt chose an onion for a God.

  “Now fare ye well! enjoy your little hour;
Go, grasp the shadow of your vanished power;
Gloss o’er the failure of each fondest scheme;
Your strength a name, your bloated wealth a dream.
Gone is that Gold, the marvel of mankind.
And Pirates barter all that’s left behind.
No more the hirelings, purchased near and far,
Crowd to the ranks of mercenary war.
The idle merchant on the useless quay
Droops o’er the bales no bark may bear away;
Or, back returning, sees rejected stores
Rot piecemeal on his own encumbered shores:
The starved mechanic breaks his rusting loom,
And desperate mans him ‘gainst the coming doom.
Then in the Senates of your sinking state
Show me the man whose counsels may have weight.
Vain is each voice where tones could once command;
E’en factions cease to charm a factious land:
Yet jarring sects convulse a sister Isle,
And light with maddening hands the mutual pile.

  “’Tis done, ’tis past—since Pallas warns in vain;
The Furies seize her abdicated reign:
Wide o’er the realm they wave their kindling brands,
And wring her vitals with their fiery hands.
But one convulsive struggle still remains,
And Gaul shall weep ere Albion wear her chains,
The bannered pomp of war, the glittering files,
O’er whose gay trappings stern Bellona smiles;
The brazen trump, the spirit-stirring drum,
That bid the foe defiance ere they come;
The hero bounding at his country’s call,
The glorious death that consecrates his fall,
Swell the young heart with visionary charms.
And bid it antedate the joys of arms.
But know, a lesson you may yet be taught,
With death alone are laurels cheaply bought;
Not in the conflict Havoc seeks delight,
His day of mercy is the day of fight.
But when the field is fought, the battle won,
Though drenched with gore, his woes are but begun:
His deeper deeds as yet ye know by name;
The slaughtered peasant and the ravished dame,
The rifled mansion and the foe-reaped field,
Ill suit with souls at home, untaught to yield.
Say with what eye along the distant down
Would flying burghers mark the blazing town?
How view the column of ascending flames
Shake his red shadow o’er the startled Thames?
Nay, frown not, Albion! for the torch was thine
That lit such pyres from Tagus to the Rhine:
Now should they burst on thy devoted coast,
Go, ask thy ***** who deserves them most?
The law of Heaven and Earth is life for life,
And she who raised, in vain regrets, the strife.”
Saint Audrey Jul 2018
Casualty: my interest fading
Once waxing moon now seen waning
And I did concede your irksome warning
And watched as the rest played out

So let bygones be gone, fallen out by the side
Of this road, worn down, still restless, keeping straight
Eyes glinting off token little bits of hospitality
Mother nature being so inclined at times

The stress so unnerving, I hardly doubt it
But tension is eased once it comes to acceptance
And I accept in full, finding time to unwind
Winding stretch of lonely road, dotted here and there by
An occasional landmark
Or a lonely tractor pulling behind it
Iron bars, old and rusted
Found in their hold
Bales of hay or
A small little pond
With a bench beside it
Holding initials carved against the grain

With a heart surrounding

As mine beats slower

At last, the sun begins going down

And the moon grows brighter
Even in its state
And my feet move faster
Though my body is withering
I feel this separation growing
As my mind takes flight and leaves me

Behind, in the twisting twilight
And alone, I walk along
This morning, the sun peaked from behind the clouds
And as the day went on, it shone brighter
Heat radiating through me
Blushing
Red cheeks
Smiles
Laughter
A brighter day unlike that of yesterdays rain
I didn't see you today
Which made it easier not to think of you
Fool myself that I'm getting over you
Maybe I will
Maybe I won't
Who knows
It's only day two
KENYA
K….Kenya my beautiful country
E ….earn honors and respect
N …none is like you my country
Y …you shine brighter compared to any other
A …across the world, you light brighter that the sun

The beauty sceneries of the green vegetation
The dark color of the people of Kenya
The arable land in Kenya
The mines
The animals and tourist centers in Kenya
The presidency
The politics
The hot springs
The digitality in Kenya
The economic growth in Kenya
The agricultural sector,
The flag of Kenya
The education sector in Kenya
All make me feel proud of Kenya….
And I feel so good to be Kenyan.
I love Kenya
And
I am a proud Kenyan.
sheridan Oct 2015
We've all seen brighter days
When the sun is out and the rain goes away,
When the person we love, loves us too.
When the person that's dying, finally pulls through
But bright days can't stay bright forever,
And the person we love doesn't want us to be together anymore
And the person that's dying is at death's door.
We've all seen brighter days
When the bad days are gone,
But in order to get through them
We must carry on.
Nat Lipstadt Nov 2013
Road Trip: Thinking it's about time (find yourself within II)

This particular poem was born as a one line response to a message.  But in many other forms, half written, it exists still, un, unfinished, waiting for the next burst energy, the next holiday time, to reach a new finish line.

This is a different but similar to a poem posted on June 2nd, "Poetry Round (find your self within)"

Any error of omission is unintentional, but know that this took many hours, until fatigue won. If you never told or revealed to me your location, know that you will be called out, to and unto me, in another poem, called "your banner is my flag."


Fact about me:  You design me.
-------------------------------------------------------

th­inking it's about time for a road trip.

create an excuse
(reasons, I got a plenty)
to stop by,
to show you another side of me,
for a drink, a meal,
and some kind
of exchange, of
form and fluids,
manner to be determined.

to come to Minneapolis,
watch you create a heated sensuality,
verbally, from melted snowdrifts,
a hot time to be had
by all the poets
of the mini-apple,
I want to meet
and celebrate ann victory.

travel to Thiruvananthapuram,
tour the treasures
of gold and diamonds,
from whence come
the bejeweled poems,
that have earned visits from
thousands upon thousands,
pilgrims, devotees, followers,
to partake at that, his,
special temple.

Gomer, Gomer,  & MJJ,
I am in your Florida,
no, sorry, not in Ocala,
near to your homer,
and I feel you springer
ten times in the
November sun rays,
that have me locked
in a full Nelson,
your productivity,
endless,
a sea of orange sunburnt words,

Tennessee,
The Carolinas,
Georgia,
The South,

I rise with it,
now, again,
that I will need a slow
sunny all lazy summer long to
learn y'alls ways,
see the wolves,
in your forests,
helm the riverboats,
navigate the quaint tides
of Charleston,
the special places
where they heal, le ville,
where the ashes of
burnt children,
retuned to be whole.

learn y'alls ways,
walk in your boots,
of seeing poems
using your special
southern saber words.

missed the original
Thrilla-in-Manila,
but rest easy, assured,
that hotbed of creativity,
where I check the
PH of the mc waters
to comprehend its
wisdom and now, it's sadness,
will be an illustrious destination
on my itinerant itinerary,
stopping by Makati City,
after all,
it is writ in the good book,
this island,
the PhilippineS,
is the birthplace
of the letter S,
Samples: samson, sally,
and So many others?

in Nevada City,
which is of course in
krazy California,
wager philosophy, romance,
be available for
succinctly seeing
works in progress,
from which I
will imbibe,
so **** deeply,
may have to
stay awhile for...

while I am there,
will need to do
a search and
Hug Mission,
to find a special man,
his unkempt prose,
his mortal rhymes
disguise not his holy worth,
even to the grassy
cal-stratosphere,
to the mesosphere,
will I high fly,
to find his sweetest spot,
then and thereafter
going looking
further on to
Humboldt County.

in Leeds, in West Yorkshire,
(Hamphshirians, Northamptontonians,
patience please)
built foundries and factories
over the magical forest of Loidis,
near to the river Aire,
yet still hides a
magical sorceress of words,
casting spells over
men and beast.
no one has seen full
her half-turned away face,
but when she summons,
do I have a choix
other than obey?
even if I get lost,
my sorceress,
you know,
I am on way too.

to get there,
will fly I must,
to Heathrow hell,
will do it,
just for you,
faithful friend,
a man da gotta do, what
a man gotta do...for you,
but first a stop off at the
London School of Economics,
Hampstead as well,
for a tutorial about sonnets,
or sams in wells,
even if I come
in my bare feet.

even in New York Upstate,
a man da gotta do,
what he mulls over in his heart,
be not surprised at a knock upon
your door, to make comparative notes,
about each other's tattoos.

in the South African veld,
hid in the highland grasses,
crouches the poetesses and tigresses,
waiting to ambush you
with words that must be seen
to be heard, to be well understood.
perhaps I'll come at ester time,
under blue indigo skies over,
a golden landscape,
seizing all the gems
that can be seen
only at 3:00am

leeward,
north to Canada,
must I, transgress,
country of my momma's birth,
fly from Montreal to Toronto, Calgary
then over to Vancouver.
Canada,
a dangerous place for me,
cause there are beautiful
souls up there,
and maybe even a
warrant to
repossess mine,
they want their
poets back.

double down by ferry,
me to Seattle,
to see a man about river,
in the Pacific Northwest,
where I have happily
drowned so many times,
that The Lord is complaining,
am hogging all the baptismal waters,
but when reminded that
nothing lasts forever,
here tomorrow,
gone today, walk on,
I add my tears
to that river,
before hitting the road.

on that river,
gonna drive me a kayak,
down Daytonway,
on the Yamill River,
see a gyreene marine,
watching me do a beach landing,
in Willamette Wine Park.
he will teach me to salute,
I will teach him how to
shake hands,
and learn from him,
it's ok,
to stand down.

man o' man
there are a lots of poets,
in these here parts,
this grand
Pacific North West,
looking for one in particular,
who will be quite easy to spot,
as he is my very own
soul brother.

will be easy to find,
though we have never met,
he will be on his kayak,
I on mine,
tho when he paddles,
somehow he manages
to hold
never letting go
of, his lovely bride,
his best half's hands.

this will a problem,
for I must teach him how to
shake two handed souls,
while hugging and paddling,
even bailing,
with an old dented pail
simultaneous.
but you can teach old dogs
new tricks, even the ones,
that can't spell
rhymers.

have mercie on me Ohio,
like a mother has to her daughter,
done a three year sentence in Cleveland,
but no jail can hold an NYC boy,
but if requested, yes I will return
to set fire to the *
Cuyahoga,
again! he he he...
but do not s mock me!
(now you know why the FBI loves
my poetry, my biggest institutional fan).

souls in torment,
where you be,
where you hide,
matters not where
you physical reside,
for we have found
each other
in each other words.

You, who live in
your very own
personal hell,
I think we met there,
because
yours was
mine too,
tho not found
on any map.

maybe I will meet the
Empress Josephine Maria,
rowing on the canals of
the Netherlands,
no longer will she be
alone.

but then again, some
very special things,
like
the purest of love
are on no map,
they are everywhere.

while in India,
will seek the many musings of many lips
of aged rhyme men
and complicated charmers
so I may kiss them
with spiced humors
to pour and pour,
more and more,
upon this western soul,
mysteries of the east,
to Kashmir, Bangalore,
wherever I must,
even take a praDip in the Ganges,
I will go, find you,
un-hide you,
among the
teeming millions,
millions of
jokes and rhymes,
that make the
world spin brighter.

in Germany,
all the university students
speak English,
in Wiesbaden, they know
poetic beauty is not in the format,
some in Bamberg,
with a peculiar
Missouri accent,
which is nicht gut Englisch,
so study hard the real way,
speak the language
the new yorka way,
which will require
study abroad,
which is quite funny,
now that I think about it.

but in Mo.,
the native drums roll,
long and slow,
making words
I know
better, different,
in a way never saw before,
leaves me asking for,
mo', mo', please?

to get there, to Allemagne,
land of my forefathers,
a ship I will take,
from Southampton
across the Kiel Canal,
before I depart,
will have my hair cut,
my words reworked,
by her Ladyship,
whose keen eyes and
maternal instincts,
see the joy of life in every
Livvi little thing.

Watt am I going to do if
I need to find a Tecumseh,
taker of my naked poems,
and enlarger of them,
so truth by her,
all revealed,
we are all naked
at least,
twice a day?

In Nepal I will purr at the words
gleaned from the markets and
train stations where
voyages from Lalitpur to Katmandu,
start and end,
where there is a miracle almost
sixteen years young,
where they call their schools
future stars and little angels,
so why should poetic miracles not be
as common as its subtropical clime?

though I despise the
Dallas Cowboys,
not my  America's team,
nonetheless there is a young woman,
a true rose of Texas,
who waits and writes
so lovingly of her airman,
in Afghanistan, I have placed
their names first,
in my nighttime prayers,
hoping to be there,
schedule my visit,
to witness his safe return
and their
joyous reunification.

there are no Mayans in Maine,
but poets of similar name,
kould be, mae be,
Julia's in Jersey, new,
in Auckland,
there are poets
who don't know it,
and Down Under, too,
where getting high is easy,
getting high at
and on words
well marshaled ,
but **** sure I will be
peering and prring,
all the way.

Oregon,
don't be gone,
those wide eyes shut,
when I come by,
who knows when I
will pass this way again...
on my way to Phoenix,
where sunrayes bend to the
desires of dessert breezes.

Kentucky to Korea,
one long road to travel,
but middle son,
if you can do it,
so can I, and,
I will follow.

in a beautiful city,
unsurprisingly called
Belleville,
the leader of the band,
still leads us in belle 'noise'
and when he finishes
fall leafing us in song, he still,
rises up in the mid of dark,
prayerful haikus to write.

off to Rogers, Arkansas
to meet an Italian from Mexico
who specializes in skinny poems,
something one day I will be too.

maybe I will go to
places it snows,
there are so many,
but your photo,
and tattoo trail,
clues, will follow,
no matter how hard
you make it a mystery.

you, who live in just
the world,
don't even think,
that crazy dotted lines,
unstraight,
or huge plains,
are sufficient,
to hide your
moody dust trail
from me!

somewhere in the USA,
roses grow in ground
that needs the
watering of tears,
though this place
is hard to find,
ha, turn around,
that is me,
tapping you,
on the shoulder!

will find you,
as I am searching for
a lovely pair
of stockinged ankles,
each with a heart tattoo,
but I sure could use
a clue,
before this hobbit searches
all the shire,
derby hatted,
to find your
heart real, and the real you...

my mode of time travel?
why I am just
a dude on a rocket ship.

Wisconsin,
look for my ruby message
in the snow,
in the dust,
in the sand, the skies, the sea,
but will you answer me?

Pittsburgh,
patient, you've been,
you thought I forgot
all about you,
chimera  at the intersection
of three rivers,
all you need wonder,
upon which one
will my ship arrive
and why you still disbelieve
you are not a poetess!

ME oh my,
you too, a hidey hole got,
but, we are strange, we humans,
we would gladly bleed to please,
If we could but find
a combination of
new words that
would your heart gladden,
your eyes tear,
your lips wear,
a smile of pleasure
at our offerings poetic!
but still I know not,
the where!

Lagos,
where
I shall climb the tallest skyscraper,
calling out in Yoruba,
where is my Temitope?
where is mine,
worthy of thanksgiving
so I may carry my Popoola,
my pole of her of
written wealth?


Mombasa, Singapore,
Maryland, Rhode Island, Kentucky,
Huddersfield, Connecticut Joe, Ireland,
South Dakota,

where the merry elders
well ken somethings
about a moon and tattered clouds,
something about children and dogs,
and something about letting
tomorrow's wait.

Milwaukee, Atlanta,
chuck, in *PA.,
friend to all,
to all those scattered across these
United States of America.

can we dare not mention
"The Shaq" of Malaysia,
South Sudan, Pakistan,

of course not!

Suburbia,
beautiful, black San Diego, Detroit;

The BBB's -

British Columbia, Brazil, Breendonk, and
B'kara!
the goodness of *
Boston,
flipping out in Flipadelphia,

did you think I would forget ya?

those of you hiding among 64 stars,
the groves of L.A',
on the lanes,
the special land of I-sia-Bella,
fellow citizens of Neverland,
those of you 'at home,'
in the land of nightmares,
concrete boxes,
those who post without a doubt,
and in the box,
this who think your birth year
is an identifying mark, not,
you never fooled me,
will visit each and everyone.


even and especially,
the grays of crosstown
NYC,
the red writers of my hood,
the tylers too.

I am exhausted,
forgive me well,
if thy locale,
I did not explicate,
for the hour is very late.

yet thru subtle fissures
in the clouds,
look for a tired old man
on the wings of a
chariot drawn by angels,
bringing you a dictionary
full of new words,
a present for you,
but truly,
a present to himself
for from it,
your future poems
will come.

*but the sun has come up,
so now I sleep.
1.  What makes this poem special, if anything, is the trust and confidences we share with each other, that allowed me to perhaps catch just little bit something special of each of you, where I could.

2. Can anyone explain to me why the site labels this poem explicit?
Ozioma Ogbaji Apr 2015
In the morning, old becomes new
Birds sing as black slowly turns blue
In the morning, my fears are taken
My faith is stronger, I am not shaken

My fears are taken by morning's rebirth
Fresh as the dew clinging to my feet
In the morning, there is a new me to meet
Whom the blinding night has deemed fit to birth

In the morning, my flaws are still the same
Like the yellow sun, everyday like flame
In the morning, I remember yesterday's mistakes
And I know better what is at stake

In the morning, I let go of the night
I let go of the dark, I embrace the light
In the morning, my eyes are brighter
My dance is better, my laugh is lighter

My smile is warmer, my kiss is softer
My hug is tighter, my speech has no stutter
In the morning, I am all I want to be
Awake, refreshed, hopeful, free
Who would not laugh, if Lawrence, hired to grace
His costly canvas with each flattered face,
Abused his art, till Nature, with a blush,
Saw cits grow Centaurs underneath his brush?
Or, should some limner join, for show or sale,
A Maid of Honour to a Mermaid’s tail?
Or low Dubost—as once the world has seen—
Degrade God’s creatures in his graphic spleen?
Not all that forced politeness, which defends
Fools in their faults, could gag his grinning friends.
Believe me, Moschus, like that picture seems
The book which, sillier than a sick man’s dreams,
Displays a crowd of figures incomplete,
Poetic Nightmares, without head or feet.

  Poets and painters, as all artists know,
May shoot a little with a lengthened bow;
We claim this mutual mercy for our task,
And grant in turn the pardon which we ask;
But make not monsters spring from gentle dams—
Birds breed not vipers, tigers nurse not lambs.

  A laboured, long Exordium, sometimes tends
(Like patriot speeches) but to paltry ends;
And nonsense in a lofty note goes down,
As Pertness passes with a legal gown:
Thus many a Bard describes in pompous strain
The clear brook babbling through the goodly plain:
The groves of Granta, and her Gothic halls,
King’s Coll-Cam’s stream-stained windows, and old walls:
Or, in adventurous numbers, neatly aims
To paint a rainbow, or the river Thames.

  You sketch a tree, and so perhaps may shine—
But daub a shipwreck like an alehouse sign;
You plan a vase—it dwindles to a ***;
Then glide down Grub-street—fasting and forgot:
Laughed into Lethe by some quaint Review,
Whose wit is never troublesome till—true.

In fine, to whatsoever you aspire,
Let it at least be simple and entire.

  The greater portion of the rhyming tribe
(Give ear, my friend, for thou hast been a scribe)
Are led astray by some peculiar lure.
I labour to be brief—become obscure;
One falls while following Elegance too fast;
Another soars, inflated with Bombast;
Too low a third crawls on, afraid to fly,
He spins his subject to Satiety;
Absurdly varying, he at last engraves
Fish in the woods, and boars beneath the waves!

  Unless your care’s exact, your judgment nice,
The flight from Folly leads but into Vice;
None are complete, all wanting in some part,
Like certain tailors, limited in art.
For galligaskins Slowshears is your man
But coats must claim another artisan.
Now this to me, I own, seems much the same
As Vulcan’s feet to bear Apollo’s frame;
Or, with a fair complexion, to expose
Black eyes, black ringlets, but—a bottle nose!

  Dear Authors! suit your topics to your strength,
And ponder well your subject, and its length;
Nor lift your load, before you’re quite aware
What weight your shoulders will, or will not, bear.
But lucid Order, and Wit’s siren voice,
Await the Poet, skilful in his choice;
With native Eloquence he soars along,
Grace in his thoughts, and Music in his song.

  Let Judgment teach him wisely to combine
With future parts the now omitted line:
This shall the Author choose, or that reject,
Precise in style, and cautious to select;
Nor slight applause will candid pens afford
To him who furnishes a wanting word.
Then fear not, if ’tis needful, to produce
Some term unknown, or obsolete in use,
(As Pitt has furnished us a word or two,
Which Lexicographers declined to do;)
So you indeed, with care,—(but be content
To take this license rarely)—may invent.
New words find credit in these latter days,
If neatly grafted on a Gallic phrase;
What Chaucer, Spenser did, we scarce refuse
To Dryden’s or to Pope’s maturer Muse.
If you can add a little, say why not,
As well as William Pitt, and Walter Scott?
Since they, by force of rhyme and force of lungs,
Enriched our Island’s ill-united tongues;
’Tis then—and shall be—lawful to present
Reform in writing, as in Parliament.

  As forests shed their foliage by degrees,
So fade expressions which in season please;
And we and ours, alas! are due to Fate,
And works and words but dwindle to a date.
Though as a Monarch nods, and Commerce calls,
Impetuous rivers stagnate in canals;
Though swamps subdued, and marshes drained, sustain
The heavy ploughshare and the yellow grain,
And rising ports along the busy shore
Protect the vessel from old Ocean’s roar,
All, all, must perish; but, surviving last,
The love of Letters half preserves the past.
True, some decay, yet not a few revive;
Though those shall sink, which now appear to thrive,
As Custom arbitrates, whose shifting sway
Our life and language must alike obey.

  The immortal wars which Gods and Angels wage,
Are they not shown in Milton’s sacred page?
His strain will teach what numbers best belong
To themes celestial told in Epic song.

  The slow, sad stanza will correctly paint
The Lover’s anguish, or the Friend’s complaint.
But which deserves the Laurel—Rhyme or Blank?
Which holds on Helicon the higher rank?
Let squabbling critics by themselves dispute
This point, as puzzling as a Chancery suit.

  Satiric rhyme first sprang from selfish spleen.
You doubt—see Dryden, Pope, St. Patrick’s Dean.
Blank verse is now, with one consent, allied
To Tragedy, and rarely quits her side.
Though mad Almanzor rhymed in Dryden’s days,
No sing-song Hero rants in modern plays;
Whilst modest Comedy her verse foregoes
For jest and ‘pun’ in very middling prose.
Not that our Bens or Beaumonts show the worse,
Or lose one point, because they wrote in verse.
But so Thalia pleases to appear,
Poor ******! ****** some twenty times a year!

Whate’er the scene, let this advice have weight:—
Adapt your language to your Hero’s state.
At times Melpomene forgets to groan,
And brisk Thalia takes a serious tone;
Nor unregarded will the act pass by
Where angry Townly “lifts his voice on high.”
Again, our Shakespeare limits verse to Kings,
When common prose will serve for common things;
And lively Hal resigns heroic ire,—
To “hollaing Hotspur” and his sceptred sire.

  ’Tis not enough, ye Bards, with all your art,
To polish poems; they must touch the heart:
Where’er the scene be laid, whate’er the song,
Still let it bear the hearer’s soul along;
Command your audience or to smile or weep,
Whiche’er may please you—anything but sleep.
The Poet claims our tears; but, by his leave,
Before I shed them, let me see ‘him’ grieve.

  If banished Romeo feigned nor sigh nor tear,
Lulled by his languor, I could sleep or sneer.
Sad words, no doubt, become a serious face,
And men look angry in the proper place.
At double meanings folks seem wondrous sly,
And Sentiment prescribes a pensive eye;
For Nature formed at first the inward man,
And actors copy Nature—when they can.
She bids the beating heart with rapture bound,
Raised to the Stars, or levelled with the ground;
And for Expression’s aid, ’tis said, or sung,
She gave our mind’s interpreter—the tongue,
Who, worn with use, of late would fain dispense
(At least in theatres) with common sense;
O’erwhelm with sound the Boxes, Gallery, Pit,
And raise a laugh with anything—but Wit.

  To skilful writers it will much import,
Whence spring their scenes, from common life or Court;
Whether they seek applause by smile or tear,
To draw a Lying Valet, or a Lear,
A sage, or rakish youngster wild from school,
A wandering Peregrine, or plain John Bull;
All persons please when Nature’s voice prevails,
Scottish or Irish, born in Wilts or Wales.

  Or follow common fame, or forge a plot;
Who cares if mimic heroes lived or not!
One precept serves to regulate the scene:
Make it appear as if it might have been.

  If some Drawcansir you aspire to draw,
Present him raving, and above all law:
If female furies in your scheme are planned,
Macbeth’s fierce dame is ready to your hand;
For tears and treachery, for good and evil,
Constance, King Richard, Hamlet, and the Devil!
But if a new design you dare essay,
And freely wander from the beaten way,
True to your characters, till all be past,
Preserve consistency from first to last.

  Tis hard to venture where our betters fail,
Or lend fresh interest to a twice-told tale;
And yet, perchance,’tis wiser to prefer
A hackneyed plot, than choose a new, and err;
Yet copy not too closely, but record,
More justly, thought for thought than word for word;
Nor trace your Prototype through narrow ways,
But only follow where he merits praise.

  For you, young Bard! whom luckless fate may lead
To tremble on the nod of all who read,
Ere your first score of cantos Time unrolls,
Beware—for God’s sake, don’t begin like Bowles!
“Awake a louder and a loftier strain,”—
And pray, what follows from his boiling brain?—
He sinks to Southey’s level in a trice,
Whose Epic Mountains never fail in mice!
Not so of yore awoke your mighty Sire
The tempered warblings of his master-lyre;
Soft as the gentler breathing of the lute,
“Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit”
He speaks, but, as his subject swells along,
Earth, Heaven, and Hades echo with the song.”
Still to the “midst of things” he hastens on,
As if we witnessed all already done;
Leaves on his path whatever seems too mean
To raise the subject, or adorn the scene;
Gives, as each page improves upon the sight,
Not smoke from brightness, but from darkness—light;
And truth and fiction with such art compounds,
We know not where to fix their several bounds.

  If you would please the Public, deign to hear
What soothes the many-headed monster’s ear:
If your heart triumph when the hands of all
Applaud in thunder at the curtain’s fall,
Deserve those plaudits—study Nature’s page,
And sketch the striking traits of every age;
While varying Man and varying years unfold
Life’s little tale, so oft, so vainly told;
Observe his simple childhood’s dawning days,
His pranks, his prate, his playmates, and his plays:
Till time at length the mannish tyro weans,
And prurient vice outstrips his tardy teens!

  Behold him Freshman! forced no more to groan
O’er Virgil’s devilish verses and his own;
Prayers are too tedious, Lectures too abstruse,
He flies from Tavell’s frown to “Fordham’s Mews;”
(Unlucky Tavell! doomed to daily cares
By pugilistic pupils, and by bears,)
Fines, Tutors, tasks, Conventions threat in vain,
Before hounds, hunters, and Newmarket Plain.
Rough with his elders, with his equals rash,
Civil to sharpers, prodigal of cash;
Constant to nought—save hazard and a *****,
Yet cursing both—for both have made him sore:
Unread (unless since books beguile disease,
The P——x becomes his passage to Degrees);
Fooled, pillaged, dunned, he wastes his terms away,
And unexpelled, perhaps, retires M.A.;
Master of Arts! as hells and clubs proclaim,
Where scarce a blackleg bears a brighter name!

  Launched into life, extinct his early fire,
He apes the selfish prudence of his Sire;
Marries for money, chooses friends for rank,
Buys land, and shrewdly trusts not to the Bank;
Sits in the Senate; gets a son and heir;
Sends him to Harrow—for himself was there.
Mute, though he votes, unless when called to cheer,
His son’s so sharp—he’ll see the dog a Peer!

  Manhood declines—Age palsies every limb;
He quits the scene—or else the scene quits him;
Scrapes wealth, o’er each departing penny grieves,
And Avarice seizes all Ambition leaves;
Counts cent per cent, and smiles, or vainly frets,
O’er hoards diminished by young Hopeful’s debts;
Weighs well and wisely what to sell or buy,
Complete in all life’s lessons—but to die;
Peevish and spiteful, doting, hard to please,
Commending every time, save times like these;
Crazed, querulous, forsaken, half forgot,
Expires unwept—is buried—Let him rot!

  But from the Drama let me not digress,
Nor spare my precepts, though they please you less.
Though Woman weep, and hardest hearts are stirred,
When what is done is rather seen than heard,
Yet many deeds preserved in History’s page
Are better told than acted on the stage;
The ear sustains what shocks the timid eye,
And Horror thus subsides to Sympathy,
True Briton all beside, I here am French—
Bloodshed ’tis surely better to retrench:
The gladiatorial gore we teach to flow
In tragic scenes disgusts though but in show;
We hate the carnage while we see the trick,
And find small sympathy in being sick.
Not on the stage the regicide Macbeth
Appals an audience with a Monarch’s death;
To gaze when sable Hubert threats to sear
Young Arthur’s eyes, can ours or Nature bear?
A haltered heroine Johnson sought to slay—
We saved Irene, but half ****** the play,
And (Heaven be praised!) our tolerating times
Stint Metamorphoses to Pantomimes;
And Lewis’ self, with all his sprites, would quake
To change Earl Osmond’s ***** to a snake!
Because, in scenes exciting joy or grief,
We loathe the action which exceeds belief:
And yet, God knows! what may not authors do,
Whose Postscripts prate of dyeing “heroines blue”?

  Above all things, Dan Poet, if you can,
Eke out your acts, I pray, with mortal man,
Nor call a ghost, unless some cursed scrape
Must open ten trap-doors for your escape.
Of all the monstrous things I’d fain forbid,
I loathe an Opera worse than Dennis did;
Where good and evil persons, right or wrong,
Rage, love, and aught but moralise—in song.
Hail, last memorial of our foreign friends,
Which Gaul allows, and still Hesperia lends!
Napoleon’s edicts no embargo lay
On ******—spies—singers—wisely shipped away.
Our giant Capital, whose squares are spread
Where rustics earned, and now may beg, their bread,
In all iniquity is grown so nice,
It scorns amusements which are not of price.
Hence the pert shopkeeper, whose throbbing ear
Aches with orchestras which he pays to hear,
Whom shame, not sympathy, forbids to snore,
His anguish doubling by his own “encore;”
Squeezed in “Fop’s Alley,” jostled by the beaux,
Teased with his hat, and trembling for his toes;
Scarce wrestles through the night, nor tastes of ease,
Till the dropped curtain gives a glad release:
Why this, and more, he suffers—can ye guess?—
Because it costs him dear, and makes him dress!

  So prosper eunuchs from Etruscan schools;
Give us but fiddlers, and they’re sure of fools!
Ere scenes were played by many a reverend clerk,
(What harm, if David danced before the ark?)
In Christmas revels, simple country folks
Were pleased with morrice-mumm’ry and coarse jokes.
Improving years, with things no longer known,
Produced blithe Punch and merry Madame Joan,
Who still frisk on with feats so lewdly low,
’Tis strange Benvolio suffers such a show;
Suppressing peer! to whom each vice gives place,
Oaths, boxing, begging—all, save rout and race.

  Farce followed Comedy, and reached her prime,
In ever-laughing Foote’s fantastic time:
Mad wag! who pardoned none, nor spared the best,
And turned some very serious things to jest.
Nor Church nor State escaped his public sneers,
Arms nor the Gown—Priests—Lawyers—Volunteers:
“Alas, poor Yorick!” now for ever mute!
Whoever loves a laugh must sigh for Foote.

  We smile, perforce, when histrionic scenes
Ape the swoln dialogue of Kings and Queens,
When “Crononhotonthologos must die,”
And Arthur struts in mimic majesty.

  Moschus! with whom once more I hope to sit,
And smile at folly, if we can’t at wit;
Yes, Friend! for thee I’ll quit my cynic cell,
And bear Swift’s motto, “Vive la bagatelle!”
Which charmed our days in each ægean clime,
As oft at home, with revelry and rhyme.
Then may Euphrosyne, who sped the past,
Soothe thy Life’s scenes, nor leave thee in the last;
But find in thine—like pagan Plato’s bed,
Some merry Manuscript of Mimes, when dead.

  Now to the Drama let us bend our eyes,
Where fettered by whig Walpole low she lies;
Corruption foiled her, for she feared her glance;
Decorum left her for an Opera dance!
Yet Chesterfield, whose polished pen inveighs
‘Gainst laughter, fought for freedom to our Plays;
Unchecked by Megrims of patrician brains,
And damning Dulness of Lord Chamberlains.
Repeal that act! again let Humour roam
Wild o’er the stage—we’ve time for tears at home;
Let Archer plant the horns on Sullen’s brows,
And Estifania gull her “Copper” spouse;
The moral’s scant—but that may be excused,
Men go not to be lectured, but amused.
He whom our plays dispose to Good or Ill
Must wear a head in want of Willis’ skill;
Aye, but Macheath’s examp
1

I am a house, says Senlin, locked and darkened,
Sealed from the sun with wall and door and blind.
Summon me loudly, and you'll hear slow footsteps
Ring far and faint in the galleries of my mind.
You'll hear soft steps on an old and dusty stairway;
Peer darkly through some corner of a pane,
You'll see me with a faint light coming slowly,
Pausing above some gallery of the brain . . .

I am a city . . . In the blue light of evening
Wind wanders among my streets and makes them fair;
I am a room of rock . . . a maiden dances
Lifting her hands, tossing her golden hair.
She combs her hair, the room of rock is darkened,
She extends herself in me, and I am sleep.
It is my pride that starlight is above me;
I dream amid waves of air, my walls are deep.

I am a door . . . before me roils the darkness,
Behind me ring clear waves of sound and light.
Stand in the shadowy street outside, and listen-
The crying of violins assails the night . . .
My walls are deep, but the cries of music pierce them;
They shake with the sound of drums . . . yet it is strange
That I should know so little what means this music,
Hearing it always within me change and change.

Knock on the door,-and you shall have an answer.
Open the heavy walls to set me free,
And blow a horn to call me into the sunlight,-
And startled, then, what a strange thing you will see!
Nuns, murderers, and drunkards, saints and sinners,
Lover and dancing girl and sage and clown
Will laugh upon you, and you will find me nowhere.
I am a room, a house, a street, a town.

2

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!-
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea . . .
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me . . .

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones,
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.

There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains . . .

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor . . .

. . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know . . .

Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

3

I walk to my work, says Senlin, along a street
Superbly hung in space.
I lift these mortal stones, and with my trowel
I tap them into place.
But is god, perhaps, a giant who ties his tie
Grimacing before a colossal glass of sky?

These stones are heavy, these stones decay,
These stones are wet with rain,
I build them into a wall today,
Tomorrow they fall again.

Does god arise from a chaos of starless sleep,
Rise from the dark and stretch his arms and yawn;
And drowsily look from the window at his garden;
And rejoice at the dewdrop sparkeling on his lawn?

Does he remember, suddenly, with amazement,
The yesterday he left in sleep,-his name,-
Or the glittering street superbly hung in wind
Along which, in the dusk, he slowly came?

I devise new patterns for laying stones
And build a stronger wall.
One drop of rain astonishes me
And I let my trowel fall.

The flashing of leaves delights my eyes,
Blue air delights my face;
I will dedicate this stone to god
And tap it into its place.

4

That woman-did she try to attract my attention?
Is it true I saw her smile and nod?
She turned her head and smiled . . . was it for me?
It is better to think of work or god.
The clouds pile coldly above the houses
Slow wind revolves the leaves:
It begins to rain, and the first long drops
Are slantingly blown from eaves.

But it is true she tried to attract my attention!
She pressed a rose to her chin and smiled.
Her hand was white by the richness of her hair,
Her eyes were those of a child.
It is true she looked at me as if she liked me.
And turned away, afraid to look too long!
She watched me out of the corners of her eyes;
And, tapping time with fingers, hummed a song.

. . . Nevertheless, I will think of work,
With a trowel in my hands;
Or the vague god who blows like clouds
Above these dripping lands . . .

But . . . is it sure she tried to attract my attention?
She leaned her elbow in a peculiar way
There in the crowded room . . . she touched my hand . . .
She must have known, and yet,-she let it stay.
Music of flesh! Music of root and sod!
Leaf touching leaf in the rain!
Impalpable clouds of red ascend,
Red clouds blow over my brain.

Did she await from me some sign of acceptance?
I smoothed my hair with a faltering hand.
I started a feeble smile, but the smile was frozen:
Perhaps, I thought, I misunderstood.
Is it to be conceived that I could attract her-
This dull and futile flesh attract such fire?
I,-with a trowel's dullness in hand and brain!-
Take on some godlike aspect, rouse desire?
Incredible! . . . delicious! . . . I will wear
A brighter color of tie, arranged with care,
I will delight in god as I comb my hair.

And the conquests of my bolder past return
Like strains of music, some lost tune
Recalled from youth and a happier time.
I take my sweetheart's arm in the dusk once more;
One more we climb

Up the forbidden stairway,
Under the flickering light, along the railing:
I catch her hand in the dark, we laugh once more,
I hear the rustle of silk, and follow swiftly,
And softly at last we close the door.

Yes, it is true that woman tried to attract me:
It is true she came out of time for me,
Came from the swirling and savage forest of earth,
The cruel eternity of the sea.
She parted the leaves of waves and rose from silence
Shining with secrets she did not know.
Music of dust! Music of web and web!
And I, bewildered, let her go.

I light my pipe. The flame is yellow,
Edged underneath with blue.
These thoughts are truer of god, perhaps,
Than thoughts of god are true.

5

It is noontime, Senlin says, and a street piano
Strikes sharply against the sunshine a harsh chord,
And the universe is suddenly agitated,
And pain to my heart goes glittering like a sword.
Do I imagine it? The dust is shaken,
The sunlight quivers, the brittle oak-leaves tremble.
The world, disturbed, conceals its agitation;
And I, too, will dissemble.

Yet it is sorrow has found my heart,
Sorrow for beauty, sorrow for death;
And pain twirls slowly among the trees.

The street-piano revolves its glittering music,
The sharp notes flash and dazzle and turn,
Memory's knives are in this sunlit silence,
They ripple and lazily burn.
The star on which my shadow falls is frightened,-
It does not move; my trowel taps a stone,
The sweet note wavers amid derisive music;
And I, in horror of sunlight, stand alone.

Do not recall my weakness, savage music!
Let the knives rest!
Impersonal, harsh, the music revolves and glitters,
And the notes like poniards pierce my breast.
And I remember the shadows of webs on stones,
And the sound or rain on withered grass,
And a sorrowful face that looked without illusions
At its image in the glass.

Do not recall my childhood, pitiless music!
The green blades flicker and gleam,
The red bee bends the clover, deeply humming;
In the blue sea above me lazily stream
Cloud upon thin-brown cloud, revolving, scattering;
The mulberry tree rakes heaven and drops its fruit;
Amazing sunlight sings in the opened vault
On dust and bones, and I am mute.

It is noon; the bells let fall soft flowers of sound.
They turn on the air, they shrink in the flare of noon.
It is night; and I lie alone, and watch through the window
The terrible ice-white emptiness of the moon.
Small bells, far off, spill jewels of sound like rain,
A long wind hurries them whirled and far,
A cloud creeps over the moon, my bed is darkened,
I hold my breath and watch a star.

Do not disturb my memories, heartless music!
I stand once more by a vine-dark moonlit wall,
The sound of my footsteps dies in a void of moonlight,
And I watch white jasmine fall.
Is it my heart that falls? Does earth itself
Drift, a white petal, down the sky?
One bell-note goes to the stars in the blue-white silence,
Solitary and mournful, a somnolent cry.

6

Death himself in the rain . . . death himself . . .
Death in the savage sunlight . . . skeletal death . . .
I hear the clack of his feet,
Clearly on stones, softly in dust;
He hurries among the trees
Whirling the leaves, tossing he hands from waves.
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat.

Death himself in the grass, death himself,
Gyrating invisibly in the sun,
Scatters the grass-blades, whips the wind,
Tears at boughs with malignant laughter:
On the long echoing air I hear him run.

Death himself in the dusk, gathering lilacs,
Breaking a white-fleshed bough,
Strewing purple on a cobwebbed lawn,
Dancing, dancing,
The long red sun-rays glancing
On flailing arms, skipping with hideous knees
Cavorting grotesque ecstasies:
I do not see him, but I see the lilacs fall,
I hear the scrape of knuckles against the wall,
The leaves are tossed and tremble where he plunges among them,
And I hear the sound of his breath,
Sharp and whistling, the rythm of death.

It is evening: the lights on a long street balance and sway.
In the purple ether they swing and silently sing,
The street is a gossamer swung in space,
And death himself in the wind comes dancing along it,
And the lights, like raindrops, tremble and swing.
Hurry, spider, and spread your glistening web,
For death approaches!
Hurry, rose, and open your heart to the bee,
For death approaches!
Maiden, let down your hair for the hands of your lover,
Comb it with moonlight and wreathe it with leaves,
For death approaches!

Death, huge in the star; small in the sand-grain;
Death himself in the rain,
Drawing the rain about him like a garment of jewels:
I hear the sound of his feet
On the stairs of the wind, in the sun,
In the forests of the sea . . .
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat!

7

It is noontime, Senlin says. The sky is brilliant
Above a green and dreaming hill.
I lay my trowel down. The pool is cloudless,
The grass, the wall, the peach-tree, all are still.

It appears to me that I am one with these:
A hill, upon whose back are a wall and trees.
It is noontime: all seems still
Upon this green and flowering hill.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere in the sky,
A cloud comes whirling, and flings
A lazily coiled vortex of shade on the hill.
It crosses the hill, and a bird in the peach-tree sings.
Amazing! Is there a change?
The hill seems somehow strange.
It is noontime. And in the tree
The leaves are delicately disturbed
Where the bird descends invisibly.
It is noontime. And in the pool
The sky is blue and cool.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere,
Something flings itself at the hill,
Tears with claws at the earth,
Lunges and hisses and softly recoils,
Crashing against the green.
The peach-tree braces itself, the pool is frightened,
The grass-blades quiver, the bird is still;
The wall silently struggles against the sunlight;
A terror stiffens the hill.
The trees turn rigidly, to face
Something that circles with slow pace:
The blue pool seems to shrink
From something that slides above its brink.
What struggle is this, ferocious and still-
What war in sunlight on this hill?
What is it creeping to dart
Like a knife-blade at my heart?

It is noontime, Senlin says, and all is tranquil:
The brilliant sky burns over a greenbright earth.
The peach-tree dreams in the sun, the wall is contented.
A bird in the peach-leaves, moving from sun to shadow,
Phrases again his unremembering mirth,
His lazily beautiful, foolish, mechanical mirth.

8

The pale blue gloom of evening comes
Among the phantom forests and walls
With a mournful and rythmic sound of drums.
My heart is disturbed with a sound of myriad throbbing,
Persuasive and sinister, near and far:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the thrum of the evening star.

My work is uncompleted; and yet I hurry,-
Hearing the whispered pulsing of those drums,-
To enter the luminous walls and woods of night.
It is the eternal mistress of the world
Who shakes these drums for my delight.
Listen! the drums of the leaves, the drums of the dust,
The delicious quivering of this air!

I will leave my work unfinished, and I will go
With ringing and certain step through the laughter of chaos
To the one small room in the void I know.
Yesterday it was there,-
Will I find it tonight once more when I climb the stair?
The drums of the street beat swift and soft:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the throb of the bridal star.
It weaves deliciously in my brain
A tyrannous melody of her:
Hands in sunlight, threads of rain
Against a weeping face that fades,
Snow on a blackened window-pane;
Fire, in a dusk of hair entangled;
Flesh, more delicate than fruit;
And a voice that searches quivering nerves
For a string to mute.

My life is uncompleted: and yet I hurry
Among the tinkling forests and walls of evening
To a certain fragrant room.
Who is it that dances there, to a beating of drums,
While stars on a grey sea bud and bloom?
She stands at the top of the stair,
With the lamplight on her hair.
I will walk through the snarling of streams of space
And climb the long steps carved from wind
And rise once more towards her face.
Listen! the drums of the drowsy trees
Beating our nuptial ecstasies!

Music spins from the heart of silence
And twirls me softly upon the air:
It takes my hand and whispers to me:
It draws the web of the moonlight down.
There are hands, it says, as cool as snow,
The hands of the Venus of the sea;
There are waves of sound in a mermaid-cave;-
Come-then-come with me!
The flesh of the sea-rose new and cool,
The wavering image of her who comes
At dusk by a blue sea-pool.

Whispers upon the haunted air-
Whisper of foam-white arm and thigh;
And a shower of delicate lights blown down
Fro the laughing sky! . . .
Music spins from a far-off room.
Do you remember,-it seems to say,-
The mouth that smiled, beneath your mouth,
And kissed you . . . yesterday?
It is your own flesh waits for you.
Come! you are incomplete! . . .
The drums of the universe once more
Morosely beat.
It is the harlot of the world
Who clashes the leaves like ghostly drums
And disturbs the solitude of my heart
As evening comes!

I leave my work once more and walk
Along a street that sways in the wind.
I leave these st
Rylie Lucas Dec 2017
Middle School
Full of friends and love
Hate and lust
Being thrown under the bus

Doing the right thing
Is harder than it sounds
Harder than it looks, too
Always wanting to be found

Rescued from the abyss
That feeds off of your sadness
That doesn’t know when to stop
That will make you collapse

Needing support
Wherever you can find it
Taking it from others
If it means peace

Life upside-down
Never know how
To turn your life over
That frown upside-down

So when you find peace
Wherever you find it
You never want to leave it
But sometimes you must

Coming back to resurface
After all the sadness
You see the world differently
Then you saw it before.

People can help
But sometimes they don’t
Sometimes they think their helping
But really they’re not

Don’t fall for the lies
The deceptions they place
To try and make you come with them
And do the wrong things

Because in the end, you’ll find
You never wanted to be with them
You just want to be you
And not just some hologram

Embrace who you are
And what you’ve gone through
No matter what it is
Walk up with open arms

Take what you have
And don’t worry about what you don’t
Because in the end, you’ll find
There’s nothing wrong with you

You’ve been through high times
And low ones, too
But no matter what had happened
You found your way through

Through the darkness, you emerged
Opening your eyes
To a new world of color
Without wearing a disguise

Learning who you are
Can change how you act
Change how you feel
Even change how you react

Because now you know
How to see in color
No longer in the darkness
World seeming brighter

Every day can be a good one
If you know how to live it
All you have to do
Is change how you see it
Writing a poem for my Passage Personal Statement. What do y'all think?
x Jul 2018
he called me
his sunflower
when he said that
my petals never shined brighter
If the clouds seem darker today
And the sun is hard to find
Try to look on the brighter side
And keep your purpose in mind

Though the storms and trials come
The darkness will one day end
Keep your eye on the brighter side
So your wounds will quickly mend

The brighter side will yet reveal
When you open yourself to see
A view and message full of hope
Shed the darkness - And be free
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We all have trials and challenges, yet we can choose our thoughts.

2020 has brought more challenges (for most of us) than several years put together.

Look on the bright side, both when things are good and when conditions in your life are darker than usual.

And thanks so much to my newest Patrons on Patreon!
it didn’t take a lot a look a few words a few more looks bam not that any girl stuck around and so it was on to the next nothing is precious everything is possible forget what you know leave the road behind invent dance new dance cough spit breathe dance verbs multiplying gazillions of verbs stars what is it about art in my mind i hear all these things i was going to express all these itches scratch pick scabs get drunk write poetry dance ******* in your mouth ******* in my mouth salty sea surfing waves Caravaggio Courbet Turner Goya Ad Reinhardt Rothko Rimbaud Johnny Unitas Walter Payton Annie Proulx Patty Berglund Hannah Wilke Kim Gordon dark clouds rainbows meteor showers lantern licorice amethyst bone

in the end it’s you and your maker ashes to ashes dust to dust Mom questions it’s 4:30 PM December in Chicago and pitch black i don’t understand it’s not supposed to be this dark this cold she imagines a past that never existed events never occurred

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

it will be daylight soon and i am unprepared so terribly unfit for a new dawn suddenly realize tomorrow is today

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

when people die in masses is it any less lonely more comforting than when you die individually or is dying solitary for everyone

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

redemption is a powerful force but what if existence actually does not present second chances and we must live with the consequence of our mistakes

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

if there is an afterlife do i have any say in it or are we all merely lost baggage tossed from airport to airport

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

what if travelers at airports were met with welcoming arms shared stories food instead of suspicion body scanners separation boarding seating procedures

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

i built a magnificent sandcastle with wide open rooms interesting views spacious bathrooms huge kitchen secret places winding stairways auspicious towers swinging rope bridges welcoming gates but the tide washed it all away

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

i cry yet know not why am i a ***** i must take the goose by the neck whatever that means

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

speaking personally i’m never interested in the last bite only the first bite the middle tastes rather bland all chewing gulping automatic consumption talking swallowing stifling gases

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

horses mate with donkeys then out comes mules yet mules cannot propagate nature is so strange mysterious what is it about the attraction between donkeys and horses

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

2 gorgeous petite charming sweet young girls are subletting my place in Tucson i imagine ménage à trios or relationship with either one of them then realized how improper my thoughts will i ever learn

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

Reiko likes hanging out naked if the door is locked and they’re in for the evening she strips Reiko is one of those women who look better without clothes the curls under her arms are growing in dark thick her bush is filling out even her **** is hidden by silky brown hairs he cannot stop checking her out she pretends not to be aware as she trims her toenails he leers **** your cooch looks tasty Odys i like that you can speak crude to me he murmurs you really like that she answers yes i really like that he sees himself in her he is deep in sleep wakes by her hand pulling his hand down to her ***** bone he stirs confused in half sleep as she continues tugging his hand Odysseus realizes what Reiko wants it is 3 AM he touches her there warm distended begins to massage wetness gushes moves down bed puts face there she presses pumping grinding whispering repeatedly i want to *** so bad his mouth tongue breath work her hands grip his head push unyielding muscles stiffen arch shudder continues licking until her body lies still crawls up kisses her forehead hair bodies spoon fall to sleep in the morning he comments you were a naughty little girl last night Reiko grins answers i had an orangutan attack he questions an orangutan attack she confesses yeah they both laugh he has never known a woman so fierce urgent to ****** Reiko has a man’s libido she reminds him of himself they mimic each other hearing Reiko speak Odysseus’s own words back at him and visa versa convey how demanding insecure insensitive each can be to other they do not simply speak but mimic each other Reiko ‘s voice drops to low pitch as she grabs his buns kids hey Reiko Lee what do you think about us wiping each other’s butts we could become more intimate with our bodies Odysseus raises his voice sounding feminine replies Schwartzpilgrim you’re gross take a hike it is hilarious yet intuitive therapy that maintains level playing field neither allows other to be too weak or dominant

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

it is Sunday snowing blizzard freezing cold outside Odysseus sits on floor watching Bear’s football game at Reiko’s she sits naked paging through Art Forum magazine across sofa from him he hears her crunching on bag of barbecue potato chips during half time he reaches touches her bush runs fingers through her ***** hairs twirling them in his fingers she spreads her legs wide open he smells her hair breath perspiration ****** *** feet feels both repelled and attracted he is lost in fascination gently tugs on her lips slides finger inside massages probes her opening she directs him to kneel stands above him her arms at waist her pelvic bone in his face she orders **** it **** it good he follows her instruction **** my ***** she commands as she holds his head in hands her long skinny body thrusts hips forward Reiko presses gently pumping then more furious rough into Odysseus’s face ooohhh i’m going to shoot a load baby swallow my *** she shoves ***** bone into his face bangs his nose hard yet he remains ******* her legs thighs stomach muscles tremble oh oooohhhhh ohh Odys did you see that i came just like a guy oh Odys i loved that he wipes mouth laughs

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

a person’s sexuality is always in question how one interprets his or her own ****** persona relative to another person’s personality response ratio how one’s power measures reacts to another’s vulnerabilities strengths Odysseus and Reiko fit well together switching roles in impulsive volley he loves her masculinity the unpredictable equation of their love he teases Reiko Lee i’m so attracted to the tomboy in you i want to **** you off and let you **** me come over here and stick that fat hard **** in my pink little **** hole all the frustration rage pain pent up inside you i want you to harness that hurt and slam it into me and shoot your load all over me **** me good Reiko Lee she looks at him strange says you’re a weird bird Schwartzpilgrim how weird do you think he asks her voice takes on a creepy overruling tone Odys, you want me to fist-******* he snaps shut up Reiko Lee get out of here she runs fingers through hair breathes out through nose taunts Odys let me ******* a ***** and ******* in the *** Odysseus’s voice grows loud Reiko Lee you’re crossing the line just because i mention some crazy thought doesn’t mean i’m actually into such weirdness don’t try to take what i say to some sound conclusion i enjoy experimenting but i’m one hundred percent male i like to test limits because i’m secure in my manhood spicing our *** life with ***** fantasies is one thing but don’t overstep i got the **** and you got the ***** let’s keep it that way don’t mess with me she replies ok ok Odys i didn’t mean to offend you

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

often he personifies the lead and she interprets the willing or amendable he requests many ****** urges she for the most part eagerly fulfills yet knowing his desires run over the top he considerately concedes to her sensibility he asserts rule number 1 Reiko Lee please let me have my way with you ok please try to not refuse me she smiles consents ok Odys and i want the same from you he insists rule number 2 repeat after me i’m addicted to your ***** i’m codependent on your **** she repeats i’m addicted to your ***** Odys i’m codependent on your **** he challenges rule number 3 at least one ******* a day agreed? She answers yes Odys agreed later he thinks about their conversation approaches her Reiko Lee sometimes i need more than one ******* a day maybe one in the morning and one after you get home from work i need your adoring attention down there will you do that for me please she shoots sarcastic look at him what are you a cow that needs milking everyday all right Odys whatever you desire he gratefully acknowledges Reiko Lee you’re so good to me thank you next morning he says Reiko Lee when i think about you the first image that comes to mind is your eyes i love your eyes more than any other part of you she comments oh yeah more than my **** hole? he flinches surprised oh god i can’t believe you said that you are so outrageous Reiko Lee you have got the sexiest **** hole i’ve ever seen i love adore revere your hairy **** hole when are you going to let me get some of that she remarks we’ll see Schwartzpilgrim in due time the following morning he notices bathroom door is wide open peering inside he sees her sitting on toilet she looks up smiling as he nears he questions which are you doing peeing or ******* she answers why do you need to know he requests lift up and let me watch she raises her thighs knees legs curling toes on toilet seat her **** muscles pucker then a brown extent begins appearing from her hole her vaginal lips flare urethra presses as short spurt of ***** accompanies discharge the ***** length drops into bowl followed by smaller piece Odysseus perceives the action produced by her body as intimate natural expression occurring without contrivance manipulation he studies the form as if it were a sculptural object descended into water to bottom of bowl Reiko reaches for roll of toilet tissue he interrupts **** she answers let me wipe myself first it reeks in here you mean watching me taking a **** turns you on you are one sick monkey he says shut up and **** she follows his instruction after several minutes he pulls out of her mouth jerks off while she watches he shoots wildly on her chin neck chest she rubs his ***** on her ******* they both break out in laughter she says come on let’s take a shower together she begins speaking sentence he finishes it she says Odys i’m not comfortable with more than he breaks in one ******* a day i understand Reiko Lee she expresses thank you Odys one is enough agreed he replies ok ok

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

a week passes Saturday evening she comes from work to his place with stressed look on her face she falls back into wall on floor with her legs stretched out she asks got anything to eat he answers a couple of beers in the fridge her brow furrows as she speaks in low tone Odys i’m guessing there’s something seriously wrong with you he questions wrong with me huh what she comments your physique is weird your shoulder blades and rib cage stick out you’ve got a sunken sternum he answers yeah i know it’s not really a problem more like natural peculiarities she says yeah well you’ve got other peculiarities he asks oh yeah like what she remarks i’ve never known or heard of a man who gets hard as often as you it’s deviant you’ve got some kind of disorder you need to go see a doctor he admits i know i got a problem my libido is out of control it’ll calm down it’s been a long time since i felt so hot for someone do you really think it’s serious enough to go see a doctor she answers serious enough to insist you bone me once a day he laughs Reiko Lee you had me going she grins get over here you ***** ******* and **** me good Reiko’s favorite way to ****** is with her legs closed tight she lies beneath while his ******* presses in pumping her thighs buttocks squeeze stomach muscles tense whole body jerks spasms as she reaches ****** Odysseus’s favorite position is with Reiko on top he likes her rhythms and control

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

when Michael Vick was found guilty for dog fighting mauling cruel killing i wanted him dead dead dead but he is a brilliant quarterback and i was wrong who am i to understand another person’s background judge them maybe there is redemption

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

if another war comes it’s China we must fight to hate fear them run hide

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

it’s a long twisted road down a dark cold hole many are too damaged others work toward salvation yet some unscathed by all this filth

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

on the brighter side death gets a bad rap by mortals think positive perhaps death is graduation to whatever at worst death is release from life’s disappointments expectations responsibilities burdens betrayals pain horrors

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

i remember when Dad was dying all these new people who i still remember entered my life for a brief time it seems like the same thing is happening now

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache

Mom i’m right here behind you don’t be scared i’m watching out for you

these old bones rattle and shake tremble and quake quiver and ache
Alex B Jun 2018
Someone stole my color
And threw it to the wind
Scattered like ashes
I don’t know if I’ll ever find it

Someone stole my color
From the face I know so well
I saw it in the cotton candy clouds
And the teal ocean swell

Someone stole my color
I guess that’s where it went
The world looks so much brighter
Like something heaven-sent

Someone stole my color
And that’s what no one knows
Depression isn’t black
It’s the color of a rose

It’s the light orange in a sunset
And the yellow of a peach
Light blue, my favorite color
So simply out of reach

Purple like my favorite eyeshadow
No, lavender, I’d guess you’d say
And my favorite music artist
Although he has passed away

Someone stole my color
Now everything’s too bright
I suppose sometimes darkness
Isn’t the opposite of light

Someone stole my color
So I’ll wear grey and black
As if in mourning
Until I get it back

— The End —