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Alvin Jul 2019
When the calls of life go unheard

Are they ignored or just rehearsed?

When the calls of life go unheard

Are they too loud or plainly cursed?

When the calls of life go unheard

Do they echo so they sound fake?

When the calls of life go unheard

Do people laugh at tears you make?

When the calls of life go unheard

Don't people see the pain in you?

When the calls of life go unheard

Don't you feel the knives they threw?

When the calls of life go unheard

Is the cry for help not enough?

When the calls of life go unheard

Is addiction making you feel tough?

When the calls of life go unheard

Can they see your out of breath?

When the calls of life go unheard

Can they actually be calls of death?

When the calls of life go unheard

The family you knew, Are they still there?

When the calls of life go unheard

The alcohol and drugs show the scars you wear?

When the calls go silent is when they're heard

Addictions are real and should be feared...
Grace Garms Feb 2014
Fat
When your best friend calls you fat
You don’t let her see how much it affects you.
When your best friend calls you fat
You starve yourself until you pass out.
When your best friend calls you fat
You say, “Everyone needs a fat best friend.”
When your best friend calls you fat
You run until your legs give out.
When your best friend calls you fat
You cry yourself to sleep every night.
When your best friend calls you fat
You binge eat to make yourself feel better.
When your best friend calls you fat
You start to believe her.
When your best friend calls you fat
You begin to hate yourself.
When your best friend calls you fat
You want to hate her more than you hate yourself.
When your best friend calls you fat
You wonder how she could do that to you.
When your best friend calls you fat
You can’t help but be glad she tells you the truth.
When your best friend calls you fat
You only see how disgusting you are.
When your best friend calls you fat
You limit everything you eat and count every calorie.
When your best friend calls you fat
You overcompensate for all your shortcomings.
When your best friend calls you fat
You never forgive her.
John Stevens Dec 2013
© 10-1-04 John Stevens 3/4
When God called      me one dark day.
In my despair,           He did say.
Come unto me,         Oh weary one
Take the hand,          Of my Dear Son.
-------c1-------------------------------------------
When God calls,       I have a choice.
To turn my back,      To hear His voice.
When God calls,       To touch my heart.
The door is wide,     For a brand new start.
--------c1-------------------------------------------
When­ God calls,       my name today
With some dear soul, that I might pray.
To be the one,      to play the part.
Of Jesus love,     To touch their heart.
----------c1-----------------------------------------
When­ God calls,      may I hear clear
The call to be,     to someone near.
The only Jesus,         they may see.
When God calls,       let it be me.
-----------c1----------------------------------------
—chorus­ 1 ---------
When God called my name, To set me free.
When He gently said,   Come unto me.
When God reached down,   And took my hand. (I took His hand)
The Cross became clear,   On His promise I stand.

—Last verse ------------------------------------------------
He calls my name    I clearly hear.           
Calling  me home    To be so near.           
I hear His voice    Say gentle to me            
The door’s open wide  Come home to me.  
----end-------------------------
When God calls me home   Some glorious day.
When He says well done   My faithful one.
When God calls me home   When my race is run.
I want to see Jesus
I will see my Jesus
I’m home with Jesus
  God’s only Son.
-  - - - - - - - - - - - - -
When God calls. Will you answer the call?
Have not seen this for years.
It was lost but now is found.
Rebecca Scull Sep 2014
When he calls me darling,
his hand is holding mine.
When he calls me darling,
my anger lasts a short amount of time.
When he calls me darling,
all my sadness slips away,

Except when I realize he won't be mine,
all of those things replay.

But when he calls me darling,
I desire for just his touch.
I desire for him to hold me,
he does not have to say much.
And when he calls me darling,
the world is suddenly alright.

But when he calls me darling,
I remember he isn't mine.

But it still means the whole world to me,
and he still means a whole lot.
because he was the first and only one to know me,
with all my weaknesses or not.
He recognized my strength,
but caressed me for my weakness,
He recognized my reality,
its fatality and its craziness.
He saw all the walls I had built up,
and had painted to show how I felt.
Except my side of the wall was real and the other side was not.
I showed the whole world what I was capable of,
What I was faking and breaking up.
He recognized me for my flaws,
and accepted me for all.
He recognized all my mistakes
and took me by the hand, and showed me this place.
This place he was never capable of living in,
but that he had shown to many.

He took me by the hand and said,
"Darlin' here I am. And here is this place,
you can live here if you want to,
but not within my embrace.
You must choose one or the other,
eventually but not now. I will stay
but only for a while,
until you sleep safely in the clouds."

I chose not long ago,
to give up and release them both.
But he took me by my hand,
and told me darling,
you must go home.
That place was meant to be
the one thing that kept you going.
I'm here only for the moment,
and to keep your memories floating.

So go back, he cried,
and be happy.
Because I cannot give that to you.
But I brought you here my darling,
Let your sorrows wash away and disappear.

When he calls me darling,
his hand is always in mine.
And when he calls me darling,
I am reminded of that time.

When the whole world had wanted him,
but only was he mine.
I didn't mean to upset you darlin'.
Atlas Rover Jan 2014
O liquid temptress of my dark dreams,
Your ****** expanse calls me
And I would sail ever on,
Were it not for the elven maid,
Who calls me, calls me

She binds my heart with a lily white tie,
Never to be broken, save by my torment
Ever to be torn between the treesand waves.
And I travel for ever, for ever,
To reach the elven maid's heart which lies,
Beyond the liquid temptress' grasp.

The elven maid in beauty basks,
Her eyes as auburn as hallow woods.
Her hair as lush as the foamy tide,
With ruby lips and honeyed words,
She calls me, calls me.

She breaks all enchantments on me,
And calls me to the elven land.
Her voice awakens the fallow lands,
And fills my heart with unearthly joy

O liquid temptress of my dark dreams,
Your ****** expanse calls me
And I would sail ever on,
Were it not for the elven maid,
Who calls me, calls me
My heart calls to you
every moment
every season
every dieing time

My heart calls to u
in the cold whispers of the evening winds
it calls to you when none at sight's seeing.

My heart calls to you!

My heart calls to you
when all lips're shuttened
in the dews of the morning
in the hostility of the shining sun

When all takes shades cover
my heart calls to you
when the night's dark
when my room is of no tenant

It calls to you
when the sky cries
and the bird shivers
it calls to you
when the earth softenend
And the grains of th fields are fertiled

my heart calls to you.
Every passing time.
Kelsey elizabeth May 2015
He calls me baby, he tells me that he loves my big brown eyes, he says that my lips are one of his favourite things. He spends his days reassuring me that I have nothing to worry about, that he cares for me and that he loves me, he says that he can't imagine his life without me. That, between the hours when we're not talking I am at the forefront of his mind, he doesn't understand that within each second that he is not in the forefront of my mind he is on my lips, and vice versa. He doesn't understand that the distance between us physically, is more than I can take emotionally. Sometimes he calls me selfish, he says that I only think about myself but I don't think he understands, that everything I want for me, I want because it means I will be his selflessly. He sometimes calls me impatient, but how can I be patient when every day I'm not with him feels like wasted space. He calls me baby like it's my name, when he kisses me it feels like the last time I ever want to be kissed every time. When he puts his hands on the small of my back or the nape of my neck feels like his hands are the only thing keeping my spine from collapsing. When I wake up in the morning and his eyes are the first thing I see it makes me understand why people say there is nothing more beautiful than the sunrise, because it rises in your eyes. I have never known love to be this easy, I always thought love was meant to be complicated and long and serious. He calls me baby like its my name.
nivek Aug 2014
Love calls on the wind,
"I am love"

Love calls in the rain,
"I am love"

Love calls in the Sun,
"I am love"

Love calls in the heart,
"I am love"

Love calls in silence,
"I am love"

Love calls forever,
"I am Love"
Quinton Oct 2014
i fear i’m too much of a gentleman for your tastes,
walking among the thieves and liars you’ve longed to mate,
i fear i’m too quiet to be your next love -
your next escapade.

cat calls,
she seems to only know:
walking the cement, looking to be heard,
she knows not, to respond to her name.

i know i’m too meek to get her attention,
no ma’am or miss, will go heard -
for she only knows the cat calls she’s heard.
not her beautiful name, i've always perferred

whistles and howls:
she grows from the attention of their hands,
slapped ***** and turning masses,
she knows only the attention of the crowd’s pleas -

cat calls,
she seems to only know:
walking the cement, looking to be heard,
she knows not, to respond to her name.

she knows not, to take the blame -
until time, has been all but lost:
to her seeking the attention of the men
who only know her for midnight’s sake:

i fear i’ll go on & on,
seeking the one who knows the language i try and pass,
for all the misery i’ve learned,
i’ve been taught:

cat calls,
create only as long as their brief escape -
but letters and photographs,
well, they’ll pen our future for decades’ maps

they can have their cat calls,
their attention to the mere masses -
but i’m in love with a women,
i haven’t even met, yet.
Somebody Calls
And it remains to see
If i know them, good or bad
Or if i can believe...

Somebody Calls
And i can almost know the voice
I could recognize it in my dreams
But only a subconscious choice...

Somebody Calls
And the gears can start to turn
The beautiful voice of an angel boasts
Of  tales where hero's burn

The voice turns dark
Its known to me now
As an angel of death
I can recognize the sound

An angel calls
And shows me a light
A light i would rather live without
A light as dark as night

An angel calls
And i want to run away
But the fear that swells within my heart
Cannot for certain say...

That i am not insane
i have fallen behind in my poetry, but my vision has returned, you will be hearing from me
Christina Hale Mar 2018
Senior year of high school
I was having some teenage issues
And started acting out
I wanted everyone to see my pain, feel my pain, I wanted everyone to hear me out
The school was concerned and attributed my acting out to my sexuality and demanded I seek help
They recommended I go to an LGBTQ youth center and talk to someone but I just brushed it off and thought this is crazy
So one day not expecting it I get a phone call from this lady
I guess she was from the gay and lesbian place ‘cause that’s what she said
She was a lesbian and said that she could help me get out of purgatory
That sounded nice and all but I was already there for three and a half years and gotten kind of used to the territory
I guess she was a butch
She sounded like a butch
She wanted me to come up there to talk
And I thought all man what the ****
I didn’t want to go up there, I wasn’t prepared
I didn’t know what to say, what to expect, I was scared
I was hoping I didn’t have to talk to her again
So I said if butch calls
Tell her I’m not here

Back on that day when she called
She asked a lot of questions
Questions I couldn’t answer
Being this young and confused wasn’t easy
Butch knows, she was there
I wasn’t ready to tell anyone what I was feeling inside, I didn’t think she would really care
Even though she sounded genuine I didn’t want to give her that chance to help me, I was full of abandonment issues and fear

So I said
If butch calls
Tell her I’m not here

(Then she’ll keep calling and calling and calling)

I don’t care, just tell her I’m not here

(Then she’ll keep calling and calling and calling)

If butch calls
Tell her I’m not here

(Then she’ll keep calling and calling and calling)

Butch only called back once
But no one was home
She never called back
But if she does
If butch calls
Tell her I’m not here
chainedwhore Dec 2014
Well I'm here .... It's grose and ***** ....
My job is crystal clear!!!

I need to get this place back in shape...
I can't believe they live like this...
Like they're in the jungle living like some ape !!

I can't stand dirt and clutter and yucky grose walls....
I'm a germaphobe and cleanliness calls!!
They're pigs
There it was on the calendar, Saturday May 11,2013. Big red circle around the date and written in black pen in the middle…SPELLING BEE. Plain as day, you couldn’t miss it. One of the biggest days of the school year for geeks and nerds alike.





Today was the day. In two hours, The 87th Annual Cross Cultural Twin Counties Co-Educational Public School Spelling Bee, would begin.  This was a huge event in the history of Thomas Polk Elementary School. It would be one of the biggest, if not THE BIGGEST in the history of The Twin Counties.



There would be twenty-one schools represented with their best and brightest spellers. The gymnasium would be full of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and media representatives. Yes, invitations had been sent out to both of the local papers in The Twin Counties, and both had replied in the affirmative. Real media, in Thomas Polk Elementary School, with a shared photographer….the big time had come to town.



Inside the gymnasium, work had been going on all night in preparation of the big event. The Teachers Auxiliary Group had set up bunting across the stage, purple and white of course, for the school colours. The school colours were actually purple and cream, but, there was a wedding at Our Lady of The Weeping Sisters Baptist Church later, and they had emptied the sav-mart of all of the cream coloured bunting and crepe paper. So, white it would be.



It looked spectacular. There were balloons tied to the basketball net at the south end of the gym. It wouldn’t wind up after the last game, so something had to be done to hide it. Balloons fit the bill. There was three levels of benches on the stage for the competitors, a microphone dead center stage and two 120 watt white spot lights aimed at the microphone.  Down in front, was a judges table, also covered in bunting and crepe, with a smaller microphone sitting in the middle. There was a cord connecting it to the stage speaker system, taped to the gym floor with purple duct tape, just to fit in. Big time, big time.



The piece de resistance sat at the right side of the judges table. An eight foot high pole, with an electronic stop watch and two traffic lights, donated from the local public utilities commission, in red and green. The timer had been rigged up by the uncle of one of the competitors, possibly to gain an advantage, to help keep the judges honest in their timings. Besides, it looked fancy, and it had a cool looking remote control.











The gym was filled to capacity. One hundred and Seventy Five Entrants, visitors, judges and media were crammed into plastic chairs, benches, and whatever lawn chairs the Teachers Auxiliary were able to borrow, that weren’t being used for the wedding at the Baptist Church. It was time to begin….



The three judges came in from the left of the clock, and sat down. The entrants were all nervously waiting on stage on the benches. The media representatives were down front, for photo opportunities, of course.



Judge number one, in the middle of the table clicked on the microphone in front of him and turned to the crowd. In doing so, he spilled his water on his notes and pulled the duct tape loose on the floor in front.



“Greetings, and welcome to the 87th Annual Cross Cultural Twin Counties Co-Educational Public School Spelling Bee.” There was some mild clapping from the family members, along with a few muffled whistles and two duck calls from the back. The weak response was due to the fact that most of the parents either had small fans (due to the heat), donated from the local Funeral Home, or hot dogs and beer (from the tailgating outside), in their hands. Needless to say, it was still a positive response.



The judge carried on…”Today’s competition brings together the top spellers in the region of the Twin Counties to do battle on our stage. All of the words used today, have been selected from a number of sources, including Webster’s Dictionary, from our own school library, Words with Friends from the inter web, keeping up with modern culture, and finally from two books of Dr. Suess that we had lying around the office. Each competitor will get one minute to answer once his or her word has been selected. We ask that you please refrain from applause until after the judges have confirmed the spelling, and please no help to the competitors. We now ask that you all turn off any electronic media, cell phones, pagers, etc. so we can begin”.



He then turned to the stage and asked all competitors to remove their cell phones and put them in the bright orange laundry basket, usually reserved for floor hockey sticks. Each student deposited their phones, all one hundred and thirty-seven of them in the basket.  We were ready to start.





“Competitor number one…please approach the microphone and state your name and your school” said Judge number two. Judge number two would be in charge of calling the students up, it seemed. She was the librarian at Thomas Polk. She had typical librarian glasses, with the silver chain attached to the arms, flaming red hair, done up in a bee hive uplift, just for the event, and was called Miss Flume. She was married, but, being the south, she was always addressed as Miss.



The first student advanced to the front of the stage. She had bright pink hair, held in place with a gold hairband, black shoes, and a yellow jumper. She looked like a walking number 2 pencil. The two duck calls came from the back of the gymnasium along with scattered applause. All three judges turned and looked to the back, and then turned to face the young girl.



“My name is Bobbie Jo Collister, I am a senior at Jackson Williams School of Fine Arts and Music”. “Thank you Bobbie Joe” said Miss Flume. Bobbie Jo, smiled nervously and put on her glasses. “Your word is horticulture” announced Judge number one, “horticulture”.  Bobbie Jo took a breath and without asking for a definition, usage, root of the word or anything, just ripped through it without fail in three point two seconds, according to the mammoth timepiece at the end of the table. After conferring, the judges clicked on the green street light and she sat down, amidst more duck calls and clapping.



Student number two went through the entire process as did students three through eight. Each one had glasses, no surprise there, and were all dressed in monochromatic themes. Together, they looked like a life sized box of crayolas ready for a halloween party. Each child spelled their words correctly and were subsequently cheered and applauded.



Student nine then approached the microphone, stopping about a good seven feet short and three feet right of it. “My name is Oliver Parnocky” squeaked the lad. “I go to George W. Bush P.S 19 and am a senior.” Miss Flume, grabbed the small mike in front of her and said “Oliver…put on your glasses and move over to the microphone.” She leaned into the other judges, and said “He goes to my school, he doesn’t like wearing them much, and he’s always outside at recess talking to the flagpole after everyone else has come inside”.



“Oliver, please spell Dichotomy” said Judge number one. Judge two started the clock and they waited….and waited…then out burst this voice….DICHOTOMY…D I C H O T O M E E, , no, wait..D I C K O….****!” The crowd erupted in laughter, Oliver was busted. The judges conferred, and after informing poor Oliver they had never heard it spelled quite that way with an O **** at the end, they triggered the red light and Oliver left the stage to sit in the audience with his folks.



The next three kids, all with glasses, like it was part of an unwritten uniform dress code for the day, all advanced and sat down. The next entrant, number thirteen, luckily enough stood from the back and struggled down to the front of the stage. There were gasps and some snickering from the crowd. She was taller than the previous competitors,  and a little more pregnant as well. “Please state your name” said Miss Flume. “My name is Betty Jo Willin and am a senior at

Buford T. Pusser Parochial School”. At this announcement there was a cheer of “Got Wood at B.T. Pusser” from the crowd. The judges turned, asked for silence and the offending nuns returned to their seats. “Miss Willin, how old are you exactly?” asked Judge number one. “Twenty Two sir”. “And you say you are a senior?” “Yes sir” came the reply. Betty Jo was shuffling a bit as the pressure on her bladder must have been building standing there in her delicate condition. After conferring, judge number one said “That sounds about right, your word is PROPHYLACTIC”. The few people in the crowd that knew the meaning of the word laughed, while the rest continued eating their hot dogs and drinking their sodas and beers. “Please give a definition sir..I don’t believe I know that word”. The judges looked at each other with a definite “I’m not surprised” look and rattled off the definition. When she asked for usage, the judges really didn’t know what to do. Should they give a sentence using the word or explain the usage of a prophylactic, which regardless would have been too late anyway.

After a modicum of control was reached, she attempted the word, getting all tongue tied and naturally messing it up. The red light was triggered and she left the stage.



More strange outfits, bowties, hair nets, jumpers, clip on ties, followed. It looked like a fashion parade from Goodwill and The Salvation Army rolled into one. Most attempted their words and were green lighted onwards to the next round, while those who failed, were red lighted back to the crowd and the tailgate party in the parking lot. As each competitor was eliminated, the betting board that was being manned outside by one father was updated with new odds and payouts.



The first round was approaching an end with only three kids left. “Number nineteen please approach and state your name” said Miss Flume. He plume of red hair was starting to sag and was sliding slowly off of her head due to the humidity in the gymnasium.



Number nineteen came forth, glasses, tape across the bridge like half of the previous spellers. He was wearing the most colourful shirt that any of the judges had ever seen. It was not from Dickies, they surmised. “I go to J.J. Washington P.S 117 and my name is Mujibar Julinoor Parkhurloonakiir”. The judges froze. He obviously was new to the district. They had never heard a name like that before, ever. Not even in Ghandi. This was a powerful name. There had been sixteen cominations of Bobby, Bobbie, Billie, Jo, Joe, Jimmy, Jeff, Johnson and Jackson prior to Mujibar. Stunned, judge one asked “Son, can you spell that please?”

Mujibar, not sure what to do, spelled his name, unsure of why he was being asked to do so. “Thank you son” said Miss Flume. The odds on the betting board in the parking lot changed right then.



“That boy is gonna win fer sure” said Jimmy Jeff Willerkers. Jimmy Jeff ran the filling station two concessions over and had fifty bucks on his nephew Bobby Jeff, who had already flamed out on “yawl”. “How was he supposed to know  it had something to do with boats?” asked Jimmy Jeff. “That Mujibar is gonna win…jeez, he’s been spelling that name for years….anything else is gonna be easy breezy.” The odds went down on Mujibar and the money was flying around that parking lot faster than the rumour that the revenue people were out looking for stills in the woods.



“Mujibar…please spell SALICIOUS”…asked the now red pancake headed Miss Flume. Doing as he was told, Mujibar, spelled the word, gave the root, a definition and a brief history of the word usage in modern literature. Judge number one was furiously scribbling down notes, and trying to figure out how he would get a bet down on this kid before round two started.



Entrant number twenty from Jefferson Davis Temple and Hebrew school advanced which brought up the final entrant from round one. “Number Twenty-One please advance to the front of the stage”. After adjusting his glasses, after all he didn’t want a repeat of what poor Oliver did, he approached. “My name is C.J. Kay from William Clinton P.S 68” Judge one, confused by the young man’s name asked him to repeat it. “C.J. Kay” said C.J. “What is your full last name boy, you can’t just have a letter as your last name….what is the K for?” “Sir, my last name is Kay”, said C.J. “It’s not a letter”. “It most certainly is son…H I J K L…rattled off judge one. “It has to stand for something, you just can’t be CJK, that sounds like a Canadian radio station or worse yet, one of them hippy hoppy d.j fellers my granddaughter listens to. What is the K for?”. C.J said sir “My name is Christopher John Kay… not K, Kay” and then spelled it out. This only confused judge one more than he already was, and the extra time figuring out his name was doing nothing to Miss Flume’s hairdo.



“Christopher John….please spell MEPHISTOPHOLES “ said Judge one, after realizing he was never going to find out what the K was for. The crowd was getting restless and wanted to get to the truck to get re-filled and change their bets. C.J. knocked it out of the park in 2.7 seconds…”faster than Lee Harvey Oswald at a target shoot in Dallas”, one man said.



After a ten minute break, to get drinks, ***, re-tape some glasses and prop up Miss Flumes ruined plumage round two was set to begin. This went faster as the words were getting tougher, although randomly selected, judge one was inserting a few new words to keep his chance of winning with Mujibar alive. PALIMONY, ARCHEOLOGY, PARSIMONIOUS, TRIPTOTHYLAMINE , and many other words were thrown at the competitors. Each time the list of successful spellers was reduced, and the amount of clapping and the duck calls were less.

The seventh round began with just Mujibar, B.J. Collister and C. J Kay left. Before the round began the judges reminded the crowd that the words were random, and to please keep the cheering until the green light had been lit. There were more duck calls at this announcement and very little applause. Jerry Jeff was still manning the betting board, the tailgate barbeque was done, and there was only about thirty people left in the gymnasium.



The balloons on the basketball net had long since lost their get up and go, and were now hanging limply like coloured rubber scrotums and were flatter that Miss Flumes hair, which incidently, was now starting to streak the right side of her face from sweat washing out the dye. She was beginning to look like an extra in a zombie film with a brilliant orange red streak across her forehead.



“C.J.” said judge one, “please spell ARYTHMOMYACIN”. C.J. gave it a valiant effort ,but unfortunately was incorrect and the red light sent him off to the showers. This left B.J. Collister and the odds on favourite, Mujibar. The crowd was down to twenty seven now, Bobbie Jo’s folks and Mujibars immediate family.



Round after round were completed with neither one missing a word. Neither one blinked. It was a gunfight where both shooters died. These two were good, and it was never going to end. Judge one leaned over and told the other judges, “we have to finish this soon….I’m due at the wedding over to the Baptist church for nine o’clock to bless the happily marrieds and drive them both to the airport. They’re off to Cuba for their honeymoon.” The others agreed…”C.J. please spell MINISCULE said Miss Flume”. She did so, without a problem. This caused judge one to yell out “Holy Christmas” just as Mujibar got to the microphone. Thinking this was his word, he started as the judges were giving him his word. Seizing the opportunity to end it…judge one woke up judge three who red lighted poor Mujibar, ending his run at spelling immortality. “Sorry son, you tried, but, today a Mujibar lost and a B.J won.”. Before he tried to correct himself, knowing what he had just said didn’t sound quite right, Miss Flume congratulated both finalists and began the award presentations.



Thankfully, next year the eighty eighth version of The Annual Cross Cultural Twin Counties Co-Educational Public School Spelling Bee will be in the other county. Now the job of sorting out the cell phones in the orange basket begins. By the way, Betty Jo Willin had a boy …you can just guess what she named it!
not a poem, as you can see...it's a rough draft of a short story. I would love feedback on the content, not the spelling or grammar as it is in a rough stage still and needs editing.
Mikaila Jun 2014
Two missed calls.
There is a little message that blinks
On the screen of my phone.
Two missed calls.
It threw a milky glow upon the room
All night last night,
Flaring and fading.
I'd only have to touch it to make it stop.
Two missed calls
From the night my life changed
Again.
From the time I held my phone and
Stared
Down at your name as it rang
And rang
And rang
Transfixed.
Petrified.
I wonder what they saw-
My friends, who watched the color drain
From my cheeks,
Watched my gaze latch onto that little screen
As if it were the barrel of a gun.
They stopped talking.
They stopped asking if I was okay, too,
After a moment,
And there we all were
Frozen
Them in uncertainty
Me in shock and fear
And the only sound in the entire world was that phone
Buzzing.
It rang in my hands
And then stopped.
And then instantly began again,
Your picture glowing on its black surface.
And I stared at it.
I felt dizzy.
I felt...cold.
As if I was floating just a little bit
Above and behind my own body
And the air could get through me
To all the little places that air
Is never supposed to touch
And I was so
Cold.
Two missed calls
Before I finally scrambled away,
Locked myself in the bathroom and answered.
My voice
Bounced off the tiles
And made me flinch.
It was
Flat
And quiet,
But my shaking hands did not make it quiver as well.
Your voice hit me like a freight train
And spattered my soul upon the softly lit walls
And I answered you with short, monotone whispers
Staring at my own black eyes in the mirror
Trying to find a person inside them,
But I couldn't.
For that moment
I was a shell
Staring at an empty reflection.
I stared and she stared and even together
We couldn't add up to anything close to alive.
It was like being turned to stone,
Like being flash frozen.
Like already being dead and feeling your limbs cool and stiffen.
As you spoke
I got more
And more
And more
Still
Until only my eyes and lips moved
In the mirror.
My breaths were shallow
Because my lungs were paralyzed-
Stuck
At the size they'd been
When you dialed my number.
You
You
You

It echoed off the walls when I hung up.
You
You
You
You
You

And if I'd been able to
Maybe I'd have cried,
Or smiled,
Or gotten sick or collapsed.
But instead I stared at my own blank,
Smooth,
Paralyzed face in somebody else's bathroom mirror,
Tried to make my eyes blink.
Tried to make my chest rise and fall.
Tried to arrange these
Suddenly unfamiliar features
Into something that wouldn't terrify the people
Waiting for me in the living room.
Waiting to care.
Waiting to comfort.
Waiting to fail.
You
You
You

Are the only thing that can reach inside of me.
You
You
You
You
You

I heard it, tinny and layered. It filled that little room
With its smartly matched sink and tiles
And its soothing light gold walls.
It painted everything
A corroded white,
Powdery and metallic tasting,
And the ceiling
Bent.
And I
Stared at my black eyes in the mirror,
Too numb to reach the fear
Or the hope
That I knew was coursing through my veins.
Since that night,
Those two missed calls
Have remained missed.
Remained a little reminder
To throw patterns on my walls in the middle of the night.
I can't
Delete them.
I can't
Resolve them...
They changed my life.
They stay.
mark john junor Dec 2015
winter calls me
ease into the walking away
maybe it'll all have meaning someday
maybe it will all be clear to me
when iv found the home iv searched for all these years

i can watch the snowflakes fall
spiral round and down
intermittent feelings bring me back
winter calls me so quietly
that its sound is no more than a soft kiss in my ear
it says to leave a trail behind me
move forward and know that there is no knowing tomorrow
till it comes
there is no knowing how much holding hands means
till its gone

winter calls me
and i reply
ever so softly i tell quick stories in poem form
ever so quietly i speak to the heart
winter calls me
and i loose myself in its dreaming
look back and see the trail i took
to get here to find
winter calls me
a soft kiss in my ear
Terry Collett Jun 2015
Yiska wants to take Benny home with her after school and whisk him past her mother and up to her room but she knows her mother would watch her like a hawk especially if she had Benny in tow and would ask her all sorts of questions and where do you think you are going with him? but she can dream about it dream she has brought him home and as she passes her mother in the kitchen her mother in one of her dark moods preparing dinner she climbs the stairs slowly imagining Benny is behind her walking up the stairs probably watching her legs or her *** his eyes glued but she doesn't know so she imagines he is and when she gets to the top of the stairs she pauses on the landing and looks down the stairs and waits listening to the radio her mother has just turned on some classical stuff she pauses there pretending Benny has stopped her and has put his arms around her waist and has laid his hands on her *** and she believes she can feel it his hands his fingers moving but it's in the head in her imagination but no harm in pretending so she lingers there for a short duration looking along the landing wrapping her own arms about herself kissing her shoulder don't forget to change out of your school uniform her mother calls out from below stairs I won't she calls back hugging herself extra tight patting her own *** with a hand as she hoped he would do if he were there and they were standing where she is now and put your ***** blouse in the linen basket her mother calls up ok she calls back unhugging herself walking along the landing walking past her parent's room tempted to peek in wondering if she should just a quick glimpse she stops outside her parent's room and opens the door quietly and peers inside imagining she has Benny beside her and she's showing him inside at the big double bed the tallboy the dressing table where her mother has all her make up and perfumes and drugs for her depression and hairbrushes and the mirror facing her and she says to herself-and the imagined Benny- nice bed what you reckon? make a good bed to do it in? the room smells of perfume of all kinds and a scent of bodies and staleness she is tempted to go lay on the bed and feel it beneath her and makes out they are doing things him beside her touching her and she kisses him and he putting his hand along her thigh and make sure you fold up your school skirt and jumper I don't want it just thrown anywhere her mother calls up to her from downstairs she closes the door to her parent's room and says loudly down the stairs I will fold them up and walks to her own room taking Benny’s imagined hand in hers and enters her own room and closes the door behind her and looks around the room as if through his eyes her mother has been in here and tidied up put things away picked up stuff from the floor taken away the tea plate she'd left there the night before and the soiled linen she'd let drop by the bed she stands there and sighs a window is open to let in air-breath of fresh air her mother calls it-the curtains flap in the breeze sounds from neighbours in their gardens kids from down the street she goes to the window and closes it and looks out at the surrounding area making out Benny’s still behind her his arms around her waist his lips kissing her neck she closes the curtains and stares around the room focusing on her single bed with its pink flowery cover her mother bought her Teddy Bear  now ageing by her pillow not that big she says over her shoulder to the pretend Benny but we could still do it if we're careful she whispers to herself she sits on the bed and stares at her Teddy some nights he is Benny and she hugs him and kisses him and has him next to her as she settles down but Teddy's a lousy lover he does nothing and says nothing she sits the make believe Benny next to her on the bed imagines his hand is tapping the bed be ok Benny says using her voice she stands up and begins to take off her school jumper unbuttoning the green buttons and pulling off and dropping it on the bed then unties the green patterned tie and takes it off and tosses it over her shoulder she sighs closes her eyes you unbutton the blouse she tells the make believe Benny and her fingers unbutton the blouse one by one slowly and once it is unbuttoned she lets his fingers-hers really- take it off of her body and drop it onto the floor what do you think? she asks him shall l take off the skirt or you? her fingers unzip the zip and pulls it down and once loose the skirt falls to the floor and she kicks it across the room and stands there eyes closed pretending he is studying her in her small bra and ******* she waits for his words his comments what are you doing there? and why are the clothes scattered all over the place her mother says from the open door Yiska opens her eyes and stares at her mother standing sullen faced by her bedroom door day dreaming Yiska says about what? her mother asks picking up the school skirt from the floor and folding it neatly and gazing at her daughter stern eyed just day dreaming Yiska says watching her mother putting the clothes in a pile and picking the ***** blouse from the floor and holding the soiled linen in her hands this room was tidy why untidy it? her mother says sorry wasn't thinking Yiska says glad her mother couldn't read her thoughts or see the imagined Benny kissing her neck and whose right hand was fondling her right *** because if she could she'd have a fit.
A GIRL DAYDREAMS OF A BOY AT SCHOOL AND TAKING HIM HOME IN 1962.
Charlie Miles Mar 2011
When I was eighteen I worked for a company called GLENCOM. You probably haven't heard of them, you're not supposed to.
They're the invisible middleman.
What happens is, when a company wants to set up a call centre but doesn't have the space or the manpower to do it themselves, they call Glencom.
Glencom then puts together a team of people in Swindon,
teaches them the bare minimum about the product they need to sell and sticks them around a table with headphones on,
completely cut off from the people around them being force-fed phone numbers for eight straight hours a day.

They do this for dozens of companies. And there are dozens of companies just like it.
Producing nothing, just doing other peoples ***** work.
The jobs they don't want to do themselves.
Like Telemarketing. Cold-Calling.
You know when you've just got into the bath,
or you're sitting down to dinner and the phone rings and you think
'I don't want to answer that but it might be important'
and when you answer it it's someone you've never met desperately trying to sell you something you don't want?
And no matter what you say they don't seem to listen, or care,
they just keep reading standard procedure from a script until you can't take it any more and you just hang up?
Chances are, that person is a Glencom specialist telephone agent.

I loved that job, I really did.
You probably think I'm crazy for it, it's the kind of job that middle class kids do for a little extra cash while they're at university,
until they get sick of the soul-crushing routine of getting yelled at and hung up on, yelled at and hung up on and they stop showing up after six weeks.
Year after year, cold-calling is rated in the top ten things people hate about the modern world.
I was part of the problem.
And I loved it.

You see, when you get one of these phone calls, you don't realise that it's a real person on the other end of the phone.
Of course, you do know that it must be a person, that's common sense.
It's just not in your nature to think of that disembodied voice as having a face and a mind
and a favourite food .
and a family
and a history
and a home that they go to every night at seven thirty.
They're a spirit.
One-dimensional.
So you don't treat them like a real person,
and that's OK, really it is, we're used to it.
As far as you're concerned, whoever you're talking to is just a faceless corporation,
so you yell, and you swear,
way more than you would if you were face to face with someone, say, at your bank or in a shop.
Every little thing that has ****** you off that day gets unloaded onto that person because,
for those five minutes,
with your bath getting cold,
or your dinner getting overcooked and blackened,
they are everything that's wrong with society.

So by the time you finally slam the receiver down, and return to whatever it was you were doing,
you're face red, out of breath, can't remember the last time you were that angry
they've ruined your evening.
You swear you're going to complain,
but you know that if you do that you'll just get caught up in their red tape and rhetoric all over again.
There's nothing to do but let it go.
So you do, and with it, something strange happens.
All that anger and tension that you've been carrying around all day just leaves your body slowly.

The traffic that morning;
your workload at the office;
that cold you just cant shake;
the barista who got your coffee order wrong, but your were running late so didn't have time to complain and get a new one;

All those little things that you can't control,
it doesn't seem worth worrying about them now.
You think of how angry you were at that little voice coming out of the telephone speaker and you feel sort of proud,
like it makes up for bending over and taking **** from your Boss all those years.
from your bank all those years
from the gas and electric companies
and your phone company and internet service provider all those years
from your politicians all those years
all that doesn't sting so much any more.

Because you just stuck it to the man.
You stood up to the big corporations and you got the upper hand.
You start to see the funny side,
you'll tell everyone at work about this.

That's the thing about telemarketers: They're one of those little annoyances that people love so much,
like the weather or queue-jumpers.
Something we all hate, but can all relate to,
a lynch-pin of small-talk,
that inoffensive comedian you like so much was talking about it on tv the other night.

But this time you get a chance to stri ke back.
It's not like getting a parking ticket,
or stubbing your toe,
you get to yell at this inconvenience, tell it exactly how you feel without any fear of repercussions.

Without you realising it, that telemarketer has just done you a valuable service.
You've just saved yourself an hour in front of a punch-bag,
or a session with your therapist or *****.
Without knowing it you are in a better mood than you've been all week,
so you don't smack your kids when they spill paint on the carpet.
And you don't yell at your wife when she forgot to pay the electric bill.
You float on a cloud of air until bed time, and probably make love to your partner for the first time in weeks.
You sleep a healthy eight hours and wake up to breakfast  and coffee and drive to work feeling like you did when you first started there,
when you could still see a bright future ahead of you.
All thanks to that soulless,
faceless,
nameless
disembodied voice on the other end of the phone.
All thanks to me.

I worked out that in any given day,
I got yelled at or told to ******* or otherwise unnecessarily lashed out at maybe thirty out of every hundred calls.
That was thirty families who were going to have a nice dinner,
without the usual arguments for once.
Maybe a few times a week I could prevent an abusive husband from having that one whiskey too many and bashing his wife from room to room.
If you believe in a butterfly flapping it's wings in Tokyo, and all that,
then maybe I, without ever leaving my desk, could stop a ****** from happening, perhaps once a year.
I was making a difference and all I had to do was let my computer dial a random phone number and to introduce myself as
'whoever calling from wherever to let you know about a valuable promotion...'

When I realised all this I decided I would work harder to up my productivity.
A hundred and fifty calls a day,
two hundred.

And I had to provoke more anger.
Subtly of course, I would try to be more obnoxious and inept.
I got peoples names wrong;
I talked over people.
Soon I was getting fifty hang-ups a day.
So I, like a good employee, constantly tried to better myself.
I sniggered at peoples names;
I requested needlessly extensive and intrusive personal information;
asked to speak to 'the man of the house'.
I was getting balled out with every other call.
Seventy, eighty, ninety times a day.
Every time I was called a nuisance I gave myself a pat on the back.
Every time someone said they wanted to speak with my supervisor, I just said they weren't in and then rewarded myself with a cookie at break time.
I got more competitive with myself.
I considered it a personal gift when I got someone with an Indian name,
or a speech impediment.
Gay couples were a Godsend.
I corrected peoples grammar;
I cursed;
I slurred;
I made thinly veiled ****** references.

I was thorn in the side of everyone just trying to enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon.
I was the itch that no-one could reach.
I invited venom, longed for hatred.
Because if it was aimed at me, it may as well have been aimed at the moon.
I was a necessary evil.
I was the common enemy of the whole country.  
I can't say how many relationships I must have saved,
how many lives I touched.
Suicides prevented? You never know.
I was making the world a better place, one botched customer service attempt at a time.
I was saving people without them even knowing my name.
The anonymous benefactor,
the masked hero.
I was Zorro, I was Batman.
And I loved it.
I thrived on it.
I had found something I was good at.
I could have stayed there, soaking up insults, absorbing peoples troubles, lightening their burdens, forever.

Until three months ago when my manager saw my sales reports.
He, of course, didn't understand why we were really there.
He thought it was about money, about generating figures for whatever company we were hired by that month.
He threw buzz-words and management speak at me.
Improving Revenue.
Optimising Productivity.
Promoting Synergy.
Utilising Opportunity.
Sentence fragments that wouldn't make sense if he meant them.
Nonsensical ramblings littered with capital letters.
By Glencom's standards, rather than my own, I was the worst specialist telephone agent that he had ever seen.
I didn't bother trying to explain.
He wouldn't have understood,
I wanted something real.
Glencom could have been the first call centre to truly,
what's the phrase he would have used? Attain it's Potential.
We could have been pioneers in the business world, providing a service that the public really needs.
But there was no point, he had listened to recordings of my calls and had no choice but to fire me on the spot.

That job was the only thing I had loved for a long, long time. T
he only thing that gave me purpose,
my reason for getting out of bed,
for putting on trousers and shoes.
It was all I had and I lost it,
blacklisted by the employment agency that placed me there.
For a while I tried calling people at random from the phone book but it didn't work out.
You have no idea how much it costs to make a hundred phone calls a day on a pay as you go mobile.
Ten pence a minute
times by sixty minutes an hour
times by eight hours a day  
minus a half hour for lunch equals more than jobseeker's allowance is willing to provide.
I switched to contract but these days everyone has phone number recognition,
so everyone can see that you're calling from a personal phone rather than a business one.

Eventually I started getting phone calls from the phone company explaining that I'd be cut off
and fined if I was using a personal phone for random telemarketing without a license.

The operator was clear, polite and ultimately very helpful.

******' Amateur.
FIRST DAY

1.
Who wanted me
to go to Chicago
on January 6th?
I did!

The night before,
20 below zero
Fahrenheit
with the wind chill;
as the blizzard of 99
lay in mountains
of blackening snow.

I packed two coats,
two suits,
three sweaters,
multiple sets of long johns
and heavy white socks
for a two-day stay.

I left from Newark.
**** the denseness,
it confounds!

The 2nd City to whom?
2nd ain’t bad.
It’s pretty good.
If you consider
Peking and Prague,
Tokyo and Togo,
Manchester and Moscow,
Port Au Prince and Paris,
Athens and Amsterdam,
Buenos Aries and Johannesburg;
that’s pretty good.

What’s going on here today?
It’s friggin frozen.
To the bone!

But Chi Town is still cool.
Buddy Guy’s is open.
Bartenders mixing drinks,
cabbies jamming on their breaks,
honey dew waitresses serving sugar,
buildings swerving,
fire tongued preachers are preaching
and the farmers are measuring the moon.

The lake,
unlike Ontario
is in the midst of freezing.
Bones of ice
threaten to gel
into a solid mass
over the expanse
of the Michigan Lake.
If this keeps up,
you can walk
clear to Toronto
on a silver carpet.

Along the shore
the ice is permanent.
It’s the first big frost
of winter
after a long
Indian Summer.

Thank God
I caught a cab.
Outside I hear
The Hawk
nippin hard.
It’ll get your ear,
finger or toe.
Bite you on the nose too
if you ain’t careful.

Thank God,
I’m not walking
the Wabash tonight;
but if you do cover up,
wear layers.

Chicago,
could this be
Sandburg’s City?

I’m overwhelmed
and this is my tenth time here.

It’s almost better,
sometimes it is better,
a lot of times it is better
and denser then New York.

Ask any Bull’s fan.
I’m a Knickerbocker.
Yes Nueva York,
a city that has placed last
in the standings
for many years.
Except the last two.
Yanks are # 1!

But Chicago
is a dynasty,
as big as
Sammy Sosa’s heart,
rich and wide
as Michael Jordan’s grin.

Middle of a country,
center of a continent,
smack dab in the mean
of a hemisphere,
vortex to a world,
Chicago!

Kansas City,
Nashville,
St. Louis,
Detroit,
Cleveland,
Pittsburgh,
Denver,
New Orleans,
Dallas,
Cairo,
Singapore,
Auckland,
Baghdad,
Mexico City
and Montreal
salute her.



2.
Cities,
A collection of vanities?
Engineered complex utilitarianism?
The need for community a social necessity?
Ego one with the mass?
Civilization’s latest *******?
Chicago is more then that.

Jefferson’s yeoman farmer
is long gone
but this capitol
of the Great Plains
is still democratic.

The citizen’s of this city
would vote daily,
if they could.

Chicago,
Sandburg’s Chicago,
Could it be?

The namesake river
segments the city,
canals of commerce,
all perpendicular,
is rife throughout,
still guiding barges
to the Mississippi
and St. Laurence.

Now also
tourist attractions
for a cafe society.

Chicago is really jazzy,
swanky clubs,
big steaks,
juices and drinks.

You get the best
coffee from Seattle
and the finest teas
from China.

Great restaurants
serve liquid jazz
al la carte.

Jazz Jazz Jazz
All they serve is Jazz
Rock me steady
Keep the beat
Keep it flowin
Feel the heat!

Jazz Jazz Jazz
All they is, is Jazz
Fast cars will take ya
To the show
Round bout midnight
Where’d the time go?

Flows into the Mississippi,
the mother of America’s rivers,
an empires aorta.

Great Lakes wonder of water.
Niagara Falls
still her heart gushes forth.

Buffalo connected to this holy heart.
Finger Lakes and Adirondacks
are part of this watershed,
all the way down to the
Delaware and Chesapeake.

Sandburg’s Chicago?
Oh my my,
the wonder of him.
Who captured the imagination
of the wonders of rivers.

Down stream other holy cities
from the Mississippi delta
all mapped by him.

Its mouth our Dixie Trumpet
guarded by righteous Cajun brethren.

Midwest?
Midwest from where?
It’s north of Caracas and Los Angeles,
east of Fairbanks,
west of Dublin
and south of not much.

Him,
who spoke of honest men
and loving women.
Working men and mothers
bearing citizens to build a nation.
The New World’s
precocious adolescent
caught in a stream
of endless and exciting change,
much pain and sacrifice,
dedication and loss,
pride and tribulations.

From him we know
all the people’s faces.
All their stories are told.
Never defeating the
idea of Chicago.

Sandburg had the courage to say
what was in the heart of the people, who:

Defeated the Indians,
Mapped the terrain,
Aided slavers,
Fought a terrible civil war,
Hoisted the barges,
Grew the food,
Whacked the wheat,
Sang the songs,
Fought many wars of conquest,
Cleared the land,
Erected the bridges,
Trapped the game,
Netted the fish,
Mined the coal,
Forged the steel,
Laid the tracks,
Fired the tenders,
Cut the stone,
Mixed the mortar,
Plumbed the line,
And laid the bricks
Of this nation of cities!

Pardon the Marlboro Man shtick.
It’s a poor expostulation of
crass commercial symbolism.

Like I said, I’m a
Devil Fan from Jersey
and Madison Avenue
has done its work on me.

It’s a strange alchemy
that changes
a proud Nation of Blackhawks
into a merchandising bonanza
of hometown hockey shirts,
making the native seem alien,
and the interloper at home chillin out,
warming his feet atop a block of ice,
guzzling Old Style
with clicker in hand.

Give him his beer
and other diversions.
If he bowls with his buddy’s
on Tuesday night
I hope he bowls
a perfect game.

He’s earned it.
He works hard.
Hard work and faith
built this city.

And it’s not just the faith
that fills the cities
thousand churches,
temples and
mosques on the Sabbath.

3.
There is faith in everything in Chicago!

An alcoholic broker named Bill
lives the Twelve Steps
to banish fear and loathing
for one more day.
Bill believes in sobriety.

A tug captain named Moe
waits for the spring thaw
so he can get the barges up to Duluth.
Moe believes in the seasons.

A farmer named Tom
hopes he has reaped the last
of many bitter harvests.
Tom believes in a new start.

A homeless man named Earl
wills himself a cot and a hot
at the local shelter.
Earl believes in deliverance.

A Pullman porter
named George
works overtime
to get his first born
through medical school.
George believes in opportunity.

A folk singer named Woody
sings about his
countrymen inheritance
and implores them to take it.
Woody believes in people.

A Wobbly named Joe
organizes fellow steelworkers
to fight for a workers paradise
here on earth.
Joe believes in ideals.

A bookkeeper named Edith
is certain she’ll see the Cubs
win the World Series
in her lifetime.
Edith believes in miracles.

An electrician named ****
saves money
to bring his family over from Gdansk.
**** believes in America.

A banker named Leah
knows Ditka will return
and lead the Bears
to another Super Bowl.
Leah believes in nostalgia.

A cantor named Samuel
prays for another 20 years
so he can properly train
his Temple’s replacement.

Samuel believes in tradition.
A high school girl named Sally
refuses to get an abortion.
She knows she carries
something special within her.
Sally believes in life.

A city worker named Mazie
ceaselessly prays
for her incarcerated son
doing 10 years at Cook.
Mazie believes in redemption.

A jazzer named Bix
helps to invent a new art form
out of the mist.
Bix believes in creativity.

An architect named Frank
restores the Rookery.
Frank believes in space.

A soldier named Ike
fights wars for democracy.
Ike believes in peace.

A Rabbi named Jesse
sermonizes on Moses.
Jesse believes in liberation.

Somewhere in Chicago
a kid still believes in Shoeless Joe.
The kid believes in
the integrity of the game.

An Imam named Louis
is busy building a nation
within a nation.
Louis believes in
self-determination.

A teacher named Heidi
gives all she has to her students.
She has great expectations for them all.
Heidi believes in the future.

4.
Does Chicago have a future?

This city,
full of cowboys
and wildcatters
is predicated
on a future!

Bang, bang
Shoot em up
Stake the claim
It’s your terrain
Drill the hole
Strike it rich
Top it off
You’re the boss
Take a chance
Watch it wane
Try again
Heavenly gains

Chicago
city of futures
is a Holy Mecca
to all day traders.

Their skin is gray,
hair disheveled,
loud ties and
funny coats,
thumb through
slips of paper
held by nail
chewed hands.
Selling promises
with no derivative value
for out of the money calls
and in the money puts.
Strike is not a labor action
in this city of unionists,
but a speculators mark,
a capitalist wish,
a hedgers bet,
a public debt
and a farmers
fair return.

Indexes for everything.
Quantitative models
that could burst a kazoo.

You know the measure
of everything in Chicago.
But is it truly objective?
Have mathematics banished
subjective intentions,
routing it in fair practice
of market efficiencies,
a kind of scientific absolution?

I heard that there
is a dispute brewing
over the amount of snowfall
that fell on the 1st.

The mayor’s office,
using the official city ruler
measured 22”
of snow on the ground.

The National Weather Service
says it cannot detect more
then 17” of snow.

The mayor thinks
he’ll catch less heat
for the trains that don’t run
the buses that don’t arrive
and the schools that stand empty
with the addition of 5”.

The analysts say
it’s all about capturing liquidity.

Liquidity,
can you place a great lake
into an eyedropper?

Its 20 below
and all liquid things
are solid masses
or a gooey viscosity at best.

Water is frozen everywhere.
But Chi town is still liquid,
flowing faster
then the digital blips
flashing on the walls
of the CBOT.

Dreams
are never frozen in Chicago.
The exchanges trade
without missing a beat.

Trading wet dreams,
the crystallized vapor
of an IPO
pledging a billion points
of Internet access
or raiding the public treasuries
of a central bank’s
huge stores of gold
with currency swaps.

Using the tools
of butterfly spreads
and candlesticks
to achieve the goal.

Short the Russell
or buy the Dow,
go long the
CAC and DAX.
Are you trading in euro’s?
You better be
or soon will.
I know
you’re Chicago,
you’ll trade anything.
WEBS,
Spiders,
and Leaps
are traded here,
along with sweet crude,
North Sea Brent,
plywood and T-Bill futures;
and most importantly
the commodities,
the loam
that formed this city
of broad shoulders.

What about our wheat?
Still whacking and
breadbasket to the world.

Oil,
an important fossil fuel
denominated in
good ole greenbacks.

Porkbellies,
not just hogwash
on the Wabash,
but bacon, eggs
and flapjacks
are on the menu
of every diner in Jersey
as the “All American.”

Cotton,
our contribution
to the Golden Triangle,
once the global currency
used to enrich a
gentlemen class
of cultured
southern slavers,
now Tommy Hilfiger’s
preferred fabric.

I think he sends it
to Bangkok where
child slaves
spin it into
gold lame'.

Sorghum,
I think its hardy.

Soybeans,
the new age substitute
for hamburger
goes great with tofu lasagna.

Corn,
ADM creates ethanol,
they want us to drive cleaner cars.

Cattle,
once driven into this city’s
bloodhouses for slaughter,
now ground into
a billion Big Macs
every year.

When does a seed
become a commodity?
When does a commodity
become a future?
When does a future expire?

You can find the answers
to these questions in Chicago
and find a fortune in a hole in the floor.

Look down into the pits.
Hear the screams of anguish
and profitable delights.

Frenzied men
swarming like a mass
of epileptic ants
atop the worlds largest sugar cube
auger the worlds free markets.

The scene is
more chaotic then
100 Haymarket Square Riots
multiplied by 100
1968 Democratic Conventions.

Amidst inverted anthills,
they scurry forth and to
in distinguished
black and red coats.

Fighting each other
as counterparties
to a life and death transaction.

This is an efficient market
that crosses the globe.

Oil from the Sultan of Brunei,
Yen from the land of Hitachi,
Long Bonds from the Fed,
nickel from Quebec,
platinum and palladium
from Siberia,
FTSE’s from London
and crewel cane from Havana
circle these pits.

Tijuana,
Shanghai
and Istanbul's
best traders
are only half as good
as the average trader in Chicago.

Chicago,
this hog butcher to the world,
specializes in packaging and distribution.

Men in blood soaked smocks,
still count the heads
entering the gates of the city.

Their handiwork
is sent out on barges
and rail lines as frozen packages
of futures
waiting for delivery
to an anonymous counterparty
half a world away.

This nation’s hub
has grown into the
premier purveyor
to the world;
along all the rivers,
highways,
railways
and estuaries
it’s tentacles reach.

5.
Sandburg’s Chicago,
is a city of the world’s people.

Many striver rows compose
its many neighborhoods.

Nordic stoicism,
Eastern European orthodoxy
and Afro-American
calypso vibrations
are three of many cords
strumming the strings
of Chicago.

Sandburg’s Chicago,
if you wrote forever
you would only scratch its surface.

People wait for trains
to enter the city from O’Hare.
Frozen tears
lock their eyes
onto distant skyscrapers,
solid chunks
of snot blocks their nose
and green icicles of slime
crust mustaches.
They fight to breathe.

Sandburg’s Chicago
is The Land of Lincoln,
Savior of the Union,
protector of the Republic.
Sent armies
of sons and daughters,
barges, boxcars,
gunboats, foodstuffs,
cannon and shot
to raze the south
and stamp out succession.

Old Abe’s biography
are still unknown volumes to me.
I must see and read the great words.
You can never learn enough;
but I’ve been to Washington
and seen the man’s memorial.
The Free World’s 8th wonder,
guarded by General Grant,
who still keeps an eye on Richmond
and a hand on his sword.

Through this American winter
Abe ponders.
The vista he surveys is dire and tragic.

Our sitting President
impeached
for lying about a *******.

Party partisans
in the senate are sworn and seated.
Our Chief Justice,
adorned with golden bars
will adjudicate the proceedings.
It is the perfect counterpoint
to an ageless Abe thinking
with malice toward none
and charity towards all,
will heal the wounds
of the nation.

Abe our granite angel,
Chicago goes on,
The Union is strong!


SECOND DAY

1.
Out my window
the sun has risen.

According to
the local forecast
its minus 9
going up to
6 today.

The lake,
a golden pillow of clouds
is frozen in time.

I marvel
at the ancients ones
resourcefulness
and how
they mastered
these extreme elements.

Past, present and future
has no meaning
in the Citadel
of the Prairie today.

I set my watch
to Central Standard Time.

Stepping into
the hotel lobby
the concierge
with oil smooth hair,
perfect tie
and English lilt
impeccably asks,
“Do you know where you are going Sir?
Can I give you a map?”

He hands me one of Chicago.
I see he recently had his nails done.
He paints a green line
along Whacker Drive and says,
“turn on Jackson, LaSalle, Wabash or Madison
and you’ll get to where you want to go.”
A walk of 14 or 15 blocks from Streeterville-
(I start at The Chicago White House.
They call it that because Hillary Rodham
stays here when she’s in town.
Its’ also alleged that Stedman
eats his breakfast here
but Opra
has never been seen
on the premises.
I wonder how I gained entry
into this place of elite’s?)
-down into the center of The Loop.

Stepping out of the hotel,
The Doorman
sporting the epaulets of a colonel
on his corporate winter coat
and furry Cossack hat
swaddling his round black face
accosts me.

The skin of his face
is flaking from
the subzero windburn.

He asks me
with a gapped toothy grin,
“Can I get you a cab?”
“No I think I’ll walk,” I answer.
“Good woolen hat,
thick gloves you should be alright.”
He winks and lets me pass.

I step outside.
The Windy City
flings stabbing cold spears
flying on wings of 30-mph gusts.
My outside hardens.
I can feel the freeze
deepen
into my internalness.
I can’t be sure
but inside
my heart still feels warm.
For how long
I cannot say.

I commence
my walk
among the spires
of this great city,
the vertical leaps
that anchor the great lake,
holding its place
against the historic
frigid assault.

The buildings’ sway,
modulating to the blows
of natures wicked blasts.

It’s a hard imposition
on a city and its people.

The gloves,
skullcap,
long underwear,
sweater,
jacket
and overcoat
not enough
to keep the cold
from penetrating
the person.

Like discerning
the layers of this city,
even many layers,
still not enough
to understand
the depth of meaning
of the heart
of this heartland city.

Sandburg knew the city well.
Set amidst groves of suburbs
that extend outward in every direction.
Concentric circles
surround the city.
After the burbs come farms,
Great Plains, and mountains.
Appalachians and Rockies
are but mere molehills
in the city’s back yard.
It’s terra firma
stops only at the sea.
Pt. Barrow to the Horn,
many capes extended.

On the periphery
its appendages,
its extremities,
its outward extremes.
All connected by the idea,
blown by the incessant wind
of this great nation.
The Windy City’s message
is sent to the world’s four corners.
It is a message of power.
English the worlds
common language
is spoken here,
along with Ebonics,
Espanol,
Mandarin,
Czech,
Russian,
Korean,
Arabic,
Hindi­,
German,
French,
electronics,
steel,
cars,
cartoons,
rap,
sports­,
movies,
capital,
wheat
and more.

Always more.
Much much more
in Chicago.

2.
Sandburg
spoke all the dialects.

He heard them all,
he understood
with great precision
to the finest tolerances
of a lathe workers micrometer.

Sandburg understood
what it meant to laugh
and be happy.

He understood
the working mans day,
the learned treatises
of university chairs,
the endless tomes
of the city’s
great libraries,
the lost languages
of the ancient ones,
the secret codes
of abstract art,
the impact of architecture,
the street dialects and idioms
of everymans expression of life.

All fighting for life,
trying to build a life,
a new life
in this modern world.

Walking across
the Michigan Avenue Bridge
I see the Wrigley Building
is neatly carved,
catty cornered on the plaza.

I wonder if Old Man Wrigley
watched his barges
loaded with spearmint
and double-mint
move out onto the lake
from one of those Gothic windows
perched high above the street.

Would he open a window
and shout to the men below
to quit slaking and work harder
or would he
between the snapping sound
he made with his mouth
full of his chewing gum
offer them tickets
to a ballgame at Wrigley Field
that afternoon?

Would the men below
be able to understand
the man communing
from such a great height?

I listen to a man
and woman conversing.
They are one step behind me
as we meander along Wacker Drive.

"You are in Chicago now.”
The man states with profundity.
“If I let you go
you will soon find your level
in this city.
Do you know what I mean?”

No I don’t.
I think to myself.
What level are you I wonder?
Are you perched atop
the transmission spire
of the Hancock Tower?

I wouldn’t think so
or your ears would melt
from the windburn.

I’m thinking.
Is she a kept woman?
She is majestically clothed
in fur hat and coat.
In animal pelts
not trapped like her,
but slaughtered
from farms
I’m sure.

What level
is he speaking of?

Many levels
are evident in this city;
many layers of cobbled stone,
Pennsylvania iron,
Hoosier Granite
and vertical drops.

I wonder
if I detect
condensation
in his voice?

What is
his intention?
Is it a warning
of a broken affair?
A pending pink slip?
Advise to an addict
refusing to adhere
to a recovery regimen?

What is his level anyway?
Is he so high and mighty,
Higher and mightier
then this great city
which we are all a part of,
which we all helped to build,
which we all need
in order to keep this nation
the thriving democratic
empire it is?

This seditious talk!

3.
The Loop’s El
still courses through
the main thoroughfares of the city.

People are transported
above the din of the street,
looking down
on the common pedestrians
like me.

Super CEO’s
populating the upper floors
of Romanesque,
Greek Revivalist,
New Bauhaus,
Art Deco
and Post Nouveau
Neo-Modern
Avant-Garde towers
are too far up
to see me
shivering on the street.

The cars, busses,
trains and trucks
are all covered
with the film
of rock salt.

Salt covers
my bootless feet
and smudges
my cloths as well.

The salt,
the primal element
of the earth
covers everything
in Chicago.

It is the true level
of this city.

The layer
beneath
all layers,
on which
everything
rests,
is built,
grows,
thrives
then dies.
To be
returned again
to the lower
layers
where it can
take root
again
and grow
out onto
the great plains.

Splashing
the nation,
anointing
its people
with its
blessing.

A blessing,
Chicago?

All rivers
come here.

All things
found its way here
through the canals
and back bays
of the world’s
greatest lakes.

All roads,
rails and
air routes
begin and
end here.

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow
got a *** rap.
It did not start the fire,
we did.

We lit the torch
that flamed
the city to cinders.
From a pile of ash
Chicago rose again.

Forever Chicago!
Forever the lamp
that burns bright
on a Great Lake’s
western shore!

Chicago
the beacon
sends the
message to the world
with its windy blasts,
on chugging barges,
clapping trains,
flying tandems,
T1 circuits
and roaring jets.

Sandburg knew
a Chicago
I will never know.

He knew
the rhythm of life
the people walked to.
The tools they used,
the dreams they dreamed
the songs they sang,
the things they built,
the things they loved,
the pains that hurt,
the motives that grew,
the actions that destroyed
the prayers they prayed,
the food they ate
their moments of death.

Sandburg knew
the layers of the city
to the depths
and windy heights
I cannot fathom.

The Blues
came to this city,
on the wing
of a chirping bird,
on the taps
of a rickety train,
on the blast
of an angry sax
rushing on the wind,
on the Westend blitz
of Pop's brash coronet,
on the tink of
a twinkling piano
on a paddle-wheel boat
and on the strings
of a lonely man’s guitar.

Walk into the clubs,
tenements,
row houses,
speakeasies
and you’ll hear the Blues
whispered like
a quiet prayer.

Tidewater Blues
from Virginia,
Delta Blues
from the lower
Mississippi,
Boogie Woogie
from Appalachia,
Texas Blues
from some Lone Star,
Big Band Blues
from Kansas City,
Blues from
Beal Street,
Jelly Roll’s Blues
from the Latin Quarter.

Hell even Chicago
got its own brand
of Blues.

Its all here.
It ended up here
and was sent away
on the winds of westerly blows
to the ear of an eager world
on strong jet streams
of simple melodies
and hard truths.

A broad
shouldered woman,
a single mother stands
on the street
with three crying babes.
Their cloths
are covered
in salt.
She pleads
for a break,
praying
for a new start.
Poor and
under-clothed
against the torrent
of frigid weather
she begs for help.
Her blond hair
and ****** features
suggests her
Scandinavian heritage.
I wonder if
she is related to Sandburg
as I walk past
her on the street.
Her feet
are bleeding
through her
canvass sneakers.
Her babes mouths
are zipped shut
with frozen drivel
and mucous.

The Blues live
on in Chicago.

The Blues
will forever live in her.
As I turn the corner
to walk the Miracle Mile
I see her engulfed
in a funnel cloud of salt,
snow and bits
of white paper,
swirling around her
and her children
in an angry
unforgiving
maelstrom.

The family
begins to
dissolve
like a snail
sprinkled with salt;
and a mother
and her children
just disappear
into the pavement
at the corner
of Dearborn,
in Chicago.

Music:

Robert Johnson
Sweet Home Chicago


jbm
Chicago
1/7/99
Added today to commemorate the birthday of Carl Sandburg
M Salinger Jul 2018
A moment.

A line between
empowered
& defiant

holding within in it
the tenderness of our gaze

The night calls me
sometimes
tauntingly,
while sleep escapes,
sometimes
earnestly
to show me the truth
that day
hides

it calls deep within
my being,
like you

it resonates with
my darkness,
like you

Will you stay with me,
for a moment

of real honesty
& if you want,
silence

The valley of space there,
& between us
pulling me in,
like you

a moment of freefall
& endless endings
ours,
there to be
chosen

where we find
a way
to be suspended
in the
warmth between
you & I

I stand
on the sharpest edge,
below, the water surges
over the rock face
deep teal and chilling
a reminder that
beautiful
can also be
destructive

like you.

In awe and wonder
I'm trapped
in these
moments.
Inspired by the great beauty of British Columbia and how it's grandeur and imposing nature can be reminiscent of imperfect love
When death calls, it's time for you to go.  Death is your enemy, as well as your foe.
When death calls, you cannot run and hide.  You may as well get ready, to peacefully close your eyes.  
When death calls, you have no Legal Case.  It's time to say good-bye, to the human race.
When death calls, you walk this road alone.  So accept this invitation, to your heavenly home.
When death calls, this is something you cannot escape.  Make sure your life is right with God, so you don't end up in the Lake.
By, Sandra Juanita Nailing
Izzy Jul 2017
First Minutes
The discovery sinks in as we spring into action
Adrenaline kicks in, heart pounding, blood rushing.
My mind confusedly putting pieces together.
First Few Hours
Calls are made to paramedics and cops and investigators swarm our house.
Our car goes faster than what is safe as we follow the ambulance as it carried what we would later learn was only her body and a few dedicated paramedics.
A time of death is announced and more tearful calls are made, this time to family and later to friends.
We leave hours later surrounded by a mournful silence.
First Day
We sat on the on the couch in a shocked silence, which was only broken by my calls to her friends, the ringing of the house phone and doorbell.
First Week
The silence was deafening and I had to escape.
So I returned to school after making arrangements with my family for the cremation and shedding my own tears for the first time. I caught the last two classes of the day and began burying myself in my classwork after telling those who needed to know.
First Month
Our own questions were behind every turn as we handled finances, possessions, settling things and celebrating her short life.  
I began to tell more and more of my friends.
Second Month
The pain was still fresh and stinging,
My mother returned to work for the first time.
Third Month
I held back my tears in English.
The play we read reminding me of her and running lines with her the previous year.
Fourth Month
I let it get to me while locked in my room, wishing it was my boyfriend's arms around me instead of my paint-stained jacket as I painted the canvas as black as I was feeling.
Recording my tears for him and watching how he hid his own watery eyes the next day in class as I honored our promise.
Her birthday passed and my mother planted flowers.
Fifth Month
After an uneventful spring break, my dad began staying home from work, unable to handle the weight of his thoughts.
Sixth Month
School ended and summer began and for the first time in what was now fourteen years, I didn't have a sister. I was alone.
Seventh Month
Slowly but surely the pain faded, with the help of scattered therapists, counselors, and mountains of support from family and friends. Summer traditions continued but were never the same.
Eighth Month
The weight of her absence doesn’t rest on my shoulders as heavy anymore.
Ink stains me with her memory. The pain I felt, saw and personified over many pages as we still face it.
My father has returned to work as we each learn to deal with the missing piece of our family in our own ways.
Ninth Month
School begins.
It's my junior year and school is starting for the first time since 3rd grade without my sister. My mother would always take a "first-day" picture, the tradition faded when we attended different schools. Maybe it wasn't so annoying after all.
Tenth Month
It's October, my, our, favorite month. Lost memories run through my head along with missed opportunities. Did we even carve pumpkins last year? Last year we argued about passing out candy but both ended up falling asleep. When was the last time we went to the County Fair? The Mullet Festival? Missed opportunities for silly reasons.
Eleventh Month
The Holiday season is kicking off. Soon it will be Thanksgiving. Her absence is noticeable as I stand amongst my family and celebrate. The only ones who don't ignore it are the little ones, repeatedly asking where she is as the grownups look uncomfortable. I don't know what to tell them.
Twelveth Month
The Holidays are in full swing and I can't help but think of the last one we all spent together. She passed before Christmas. They aren't the same anymore.

One Year
Its hard to believe that a year has passed without her. Her room is the same as if shes just at school. We spent the anniversary doing things she enjoyed, like taking the family dog to the beach and sharing cotton candy.
We haven't moved on, not in the slightest. My mother still cries, I don't think she'll ever stop. But as the days pass I can see how it gets easier and easier for my family to be happy again.
Bryce Jun 2018
Gliding deftly along the city street
rolling quick and constantly
onward to some unknown scene,
some backward park in the nighttime
smoke curling from these
parted lips, moist and inviting
calling me somewhere I've never seen.

New day, new night
new feelings, rage in delight
fill me with your hilarious entropy,
knock my quarks into the next century,
will you please?

Now you're smoking the pipe and all at once you are free
between you and me, this smoke is thicker and sticks
like glue,
wispy and dreamy and the world spins and calls Toltec
telephone company can't pay me for all those calls collected
and rendered obsolete
Sun god dead as that silly calendar meme

Amaterasu,
and Imma tell you
these ladies in the picnic table
buried alive for boxed lunch and god's brunch
Jesus ******* Christ
and a indelible roster of good guys,
to which we all must strive to live and die
behind,
never moving forward
chasing our tails like a sick dog
under the jasmine runner between the decades-old tanbark
imported from overseas
dead trees
dead canine
and oh isn't it just divine?

You see it, pretty lady.
I can see it hiding behind your eyes
the things you don't tell the others because you're afraid
if they found out,
you'd be crucified.

Well honey I hate to inform,
With KGB efficiency that these love-a-dumbs
aint Methuselah,
they'll be dead!
long before your flood of tears tears me from the land
ballistas me across the great expanse to some strange Ararat
of the eastern seaboard,
or maybe wash me deep along the 80
into the desert sands and tiles
on a leaky cell phone screen
desperately trying to dial home on low battery,
realizing all this was one big deferred dream,
baking in the sun and shriveling
oh well, back to the grindstone-- all those lies plucked your nose,
gotta cut it back to size,
'else your soul it'll outgrow

Don't worry honey bee
It hasn't happened to me,
and We know with calcuable mathematical truth
that it'll never happen to you.
Mohit mishra Jul 2016
The devotion that you had in your heart for me
the tune that you had on your lips for me
the surrender of your heart was a lie!
all your tears were a lie!
however, please return to me, beloved,
my heart calls out to you


Silvery, sweet, streams of talk
those dreamlike nights of sweet slumber
the way your eyes hypnotized was a lie!
all those dreams were a lie!
however, please return to me, beloved,
my heart calls out to you


The kiss that our lips shared
your love filled embraces
the innocence of your fair face was a lie!
all those promises were a lie!
however, please return to me, beloved,
my heart calls out to you


You were the budding flower of spring
that bloomed in intoxicating laughter
but your smiles were a lie!
all those scenes were a lie!
however, please return to me, beloved,
my heart calls out to you


Those promises in the Ganges of love
how you adorned yourself with my name
your bedecking was a lie!
all your those small signs, were a lie!
however, please return to me, beloved,
my heart calls out to you


When all your mischiefs were a lie
when your innocence was a lie
when your laughter, your smiles, were lies
why were all our quarrels - truth?
however, please return to me, beloved,
my heart calls out to you


तुम्हारे मन मे जो अनुराग था मेरा,
तुम्हारे अधरों पे जो राग था मेरा,
वो समर्पण तेरे अंतर का झुठा,
थे झुठे अश्रु तुम्हारे ।
पर लौट के आजा प्रिये
तुमको मेरा उर पुकारे-2

सुमधुर सरस सलील वो बातें,
मीठे निदों की स्वपनिल वो रातें,
सम्मोहन तेरे नौनों का झुठा,
थे झुठे वो ख्वाब सारे।
पर लौट के आजा प्रिये
तुमको मेरा उर पुकारे-2

अधरों से अधरों का चुंबन,
प्रेमवस तेरा अालींगन,
धवल चेहरे की मासुमीयत झुठी,
थे झुठे वो वादे प्यारे।
पर लौट के आजा प्रिये
तुमको मेरा उर पुकारे-2

तुम बसंत की कुशुम कली थीं,
हो मदमस्त हँस के खिली थीं,
पर तेरी वो मुस्कान झुठी,
थे झुठे तेरे नजारे ।
पर लौट के आजा प्रिये
तुमको मेरा उर पुकारे-2

कशम जो प्रेम गंगा में लिया था,
मेरे नाम का जो श्रृंगार किया था,
तेरा वो संवरना था झुठा,
थे झुठे तेरे इशारे ।
पर लौट के आजा प्रिये
तुमको मेरा उर पुकारे-2

जब थी झुठी शैतानीयाँ तेरी,
जब झुठी थी नादानीयाँ तेरी,
जब झुठा हुआ हँसना मुस्कुराना,
तो सच्चे क्यों हुए झगडे सारे ।
पर लौट के आजा प्रिये
तुमको मेरा उर पुकारे-2

The translation is given by karisma ji
Thanks sis for it
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Composed on 00:53, 21/09/2016 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We don't assume this means something.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
From 3 p.m. Monday to 3 p.m. Tuesday
<h2>Police calls
<h3>LA CROSSE
3:39 p.m., Hit-and-run, 4400 block of Hwy. 16
4:11 p.m., Theft, 3700 block of Hwy. 16
4:41 p.m., Hit-and-run, 1100 block of State St.
5:37 p.m., Domestic disturbance, 1000 block of Charles St.
5:42 p.m., Theft, 2100 block of Liberty St.
5:59 p.m., Fight, Fourth and King sts.
8:08 p.m., Theft, 2400 block of Rose St.
8:08 p.m., Domestic disturbance, 400 block of Sixth St.
8:37 p.m., Domestic disturbance, 1000 block of Fifth Ave. S.
10:14 p.m., Domestic disturbance, 1600 block of Adams St.
11:32 p.m., Domestic disturbance, 1400 block of Avon St.
2:38 a.m., Domestic disturbance, 900 block of 16th St.
8:25 a.m., Theft, 3300 block of Rosehill Place
8:25 a.m., Theft, 1000 block of Ninth St.
8:26 a.m., Theft, 500 block of Main St.
8:26 a.m., Theft, 1400 block of Johnson St.
8:34 a.m., Theft, 400 block of Seventh St.
9:24 a.m., Entry to dwelling, 1600 block of Caledonia St.
9:51 a.m., Theft, 400 block of Liberty St.
11:01 a.m., Fraud, first block of Copeland Ave.
12:16 p.m., Entry to dwelling, 1000 block of State St.          
<h3>ONALASKA
6:06 p.m., Animal bite, 2600 block of Midwest Drive
<h3>WEST SALEM
7:40 a.m., Vandalism, 3400 block of Hwy. 16
12:13 p.m., Theft, 900 block of Hwy. 16
<h3>BANGOR
9:24 a.m., Theft, 1800 block of Commercial St.
<h2>Fire Calls
<h3>LA CROSSE
3:01 p.m., Accident with injury, Fourth and Mississippi sts.
4:11 p.m., Accident with injury, 4500 block of Hwy. 33
4:26 p.m., Accident with injury, Hwy. 16 and 157
5:45 p.m., First responders, 700 block of Oakland St.
6:18 p.m., First responders, 1800 block of Pine St.
6:40 p.m., Accident with injury, Main and Fourth sts.
9:27 p.m., Natural gas odor, 700 block of Ninth St. N.
10:16 p.m., First responders, 1600 block of Adams St.
10:20 p.m., First responders, 900 block of Vine St.
1:54 a.m., First responders, 4100 block of Velmar Court
8:34 a.m., First responders, 400 block of Seventh St.
9:01 a.m., First responders, 400 block of Seventh St.
10:41 a.m., Accident with injury, Ninth and Vine sts.
10:45 a.m., Carbon monoxide report, 1500 block of Main St.
10:46 a.m., First responders, 400 block of Gillette St.
11:04 a.m., Accident with injury, 1300 block of Rose St.
11:10 a.m., First responders, 1500 block of Rose St.
11:14 a.m., First responders, Fourth and King sts.
11:31 a.m., Accident with injury, 16th and Main sts.
12:05 p.m., Accident with injury, 200 block of Pearl St.
1:12 p.m., Accident with injury, Hood and Miller sts.
2:26 p.m., Accident with injury, 21st St. and Park Ave.
<h3>ONALASKA
3:30 p.m., First responders, 1000 block of Westview Circle
5:09 p.m., Accident with injury, 1200 block of Hwy PH
8:02 p.m., First responders, 300 block of 12th Ave.
8:43 p.m., First responders, 300 block of 12th Ave.
8:50 p.m., First responders, 200 block of Oak Forest Drive
9:47 p.m., First responders, 200 block of Carol Lane
6:12 a.m., First responders, 1000 block of Frances Court
10:41 a.m., First responders, 7200 Northshore Lane
11:27 a.m., Accident with injury, Grant St. and Hwy. SN
11:35 a.m., Accident with injury, Commerce and Abbey roads
11:53 a.m., Accident with injury, 300 block of 11th Ave.
12:14 p.m., First responders, 5500 block of Commerce Road
1:08 p.m., First responders, 400 block of Kimberly St.
1:42 p.m., Accident with injury, 600 block of Second Ave.
<h3>HOLMEN
9:59 p.m., First responders, 1500 block of Viking Ave.
10:50 a.m., Accident with injury, Sand Lake Road and Laurel Place
1:32 p.m., Accident with injury, 1400 block of Main St.
<h3>WEST SALEM
8:53 a.m., First responders, 500 block of Elm St.
11:09 a.m., First responders, 300 block of Franklin St.
<h3>MELROSE
1:21 p.m., First responders, 9700 block of Hwy. 108
MelaninInked Dec 2017
I love the 3am phone calls when you pour out your heart to me
Tell me how thing are and how you want them to be
Tell me things about you that many people can't see

I love the 3am phone calls when we run out of words and sit in silence
When you lean on me for guidance
Even though silent, your emotions louder than sirens

Even though I love our 3am phone calls I know you are high
I know you popped some and downed some and when I say goodbye
You won't remember anything the next day

Even though I love our 3am phone calls I wish you'd see this is not who you are not by a long shot
What do you think would happened if you got caught?
Why do you want to throw away all the battles you've fought?

One day during our 3am phone calls you won't be on cloud twenty two
Then I can tell you what I've always wanted to
All the things I've kept inside for the sober you
I love our 3am phone calls and I love you too
JC Lucas Oct 2013
Nocturne,
whence she calls me
Nocturne,
whither I call back

After hours, when all
the lights turn out
but mine
I hear birdsongs
as the sun turns on
the sky

Nocturne
whence she calls me
Nocturne
whither I call back
Nocturne,
whence she calls me
Nocturne
Best never to look back

After lights out, and all
the streetlight seeps
through sidewalks
I see her there
she turns the sun
back on

Nocturne,
whence she calls me
Nocturne
I reply
Nocturne
I turn guiltily
Sometimes dreams remind

Sometimes dreams remind
Some dreams rewind time
Sometimes dreams rewind
Some dreams rewind time

Nocturne,
as she calls me
slowly I reply
Nocturne,
shill she calls me
Guiltfully I close my eyes
rhema subedi Oct 2016
I see a solitary source of light far, far away.
But I’m not sure I’ll live to see it another day.
I travel on, on a windy desert night,
Trying to find the one source of light.

The closer I come, the farther it goes.
Is it really light? Or will it add to my woes?
Water is scarce to come across, and so is food,
The solitary source of light gets my hopes renewed.

Maybe when I get to the light, I can get a drink,
And maybe a hearty meal, and I can sleep a wink.
Hoping the carriers of the light are what I wish for,
That they’ll take care of me, and then I’ll worry no more.

But dreams are dreams: and the light’s afar,
Shining out to me like a distant star.
A star that glows ever so bright,
But from the ground, comes my source of light.

The hopes of catching the “star” propel me forward,
The solitary source of light, calls me onward.
But will I ever reach it now?
I need to get there, and I’m learning how.

But even as I learn, I’m losing my will,
For I’m not getting closer, and my heart won’t still.
The light still calls out to me,
In a language I can only see.

And a compelling need pushes me on,
But, in an instant, the light is gone.
Now I’m lost, I don’t know where to go,
But then I realize, I’ve reached a mountain full of snow.

The light has gotten me out of that lonely land,
And now I focus on the only task at hand.
Taking fistfuls of snow, I shove it down my throat,
And a little farther away, I see a mountain goat.

The goat then calls out to me,
In a  language I can only see,
So, I follow the goat again,
Like a puppy tied to a chain.

It leads me to a meadow green,
This is someplace I’ve never been.
The goat is lost and now I eat,
The flowers and the berries sweet.

I feel content and happy here,
But then I see a mighty hare.
And now the hare calls out to me,
In the language that I can only see.

The hare leads me into a forest dense,
Now I don’t know where I am, and hence,
I look around for someone to take the lead,
And soon enough, I see some geese.

I follow the geese that call out to me,
In the language that I can only see.
But they fly far above the ground,
And lead me to where I can’t be found.

Now, in the night as dark as cold,
I see the light from times of old.
The light again calls out to me,
In a language I can only see.

Following the light, that shows me a way,
I live on to see another day.
But in the morning that light is gone,
And prancing before me, is a fawn.

The faun now calls out to me,
In that language that I can see.
But this creature only wants me to play,
With him, I dance my day away.

When night falls, I’m tired and sore,
So I sleep: and in a dream I’ve seen before,
A path for me again I see,
Where nothing ever calls out to me.

When I wake to a bright blue sky,
I look around, and see a fly,
But the fly doesn’t speak to me;
In that language I can only see.

Now that the fly left me alone;
I’ve no guidance, I can’t get home.
Now I’m well and truly lost, I know,
With no one to guide me, I’ve nowhere to go.
hazem al jaber Apr 2017
love's calls ...

go wherever you want ...
hide yourself anywhere ...
keep in your thoughts ...
no matter for me ...
how long you keep ...
because ...
i'm always there ...
with you ...
living inside you ..
wherever you are ...
you are with me ...
because you are the love ...
the that i need ...

love is ...
happiness ...
to feel ...
and to give ...
to be loved ...
and to feel loved ...
and to give love back ...
then you feel happiness ..
this what i feel about whom i love ...
and this is love that i need ...

love is a calling ...
when it comes..
you can hear ...
you can feel ...
as your heart ...
always beats ...
feels it's beats ...
beats of love ...
that you can ignore ...
it's another beats ...
it's love ...
that you need ...
and always seeks for ..
as you hearts also needs...

it's love ...
this love we both seek ..
it's our hearts needs ...
calling us both ...
to be in this love ...
to live our love ...
to enjoy our feelings ...
because we really need ...
so sweetheart ...
let's be as love calls us ...
let's heart it's calls ...
and feel it happiness ...
by my and you ...
lets' be ..
as love called us to be ...
as it needs us to be ...
in this wonderful love ...

so babe angle mine ...
please heart this calls ...
and it's love's beats ...

hazem al ...
JoJo Nguyen Feb 2013
There was the time I waited for a phone call,
and it came and rang.
There was the time I talked on the phone for hours,
and was happy.
There was the time I got annoyed at all the phone calls.
I just wanted to work.
There was the time I looked into the future,
and made appointments for other phone calls.
There was the time when the phone calls hesitantly stopped,
and I left it off, not hooked.
There was the time I waited for a phone call.
like know just time mind feel life world say people things lost we're does love think there's away long way thought night got words want better day human left right remember man dark end reality memory experience going make really eyes place 'cause good death tell great feeling soul home high consciousness live pain thoughts fear understand fall thing city sky believe god meaning thinking lose change oh felt hard ask heart times years shall need past light living existence choice use dreams power days cause poetry talking state we'll alive knowledge **** true moment little hope old wrong mental stars wave ago gone broken look brain dream far given truth feels head you'll best sensation baby try leave forget young sleep face stop escape blue dare drug lives wish doesn't drugs work earth new acid game nature bad sublime gods break beautiful ah writing hold born trying coming friends hold writing ah space daze burn body reason rain real moments wonder music memories exist psyche control waiting dawn future act philosophy word choose emotion lies deep one's difference self score truly perception actually finally what's story sure spent play happy greatest help start used lie took listen touch run belief fool glass hurt we've gaze goes cold set seek they're yes information anymore longing lonely qualia social land water afraid kind getting came dead hit present keeps gotta pleasure reflection free rave line held pray path sense art black half-light wake question quiet remain longer pill stay course open ego matter places worth lack horizon saw dusk beauty hand makes energy looking gonna data told seeking die **** seen subtle bit caught venturous means freedom yeah divine eternity empathy later rise perfect minds edge comprehend spiritual write couldn't evil care ashes summer knew turn content context accept existential white red sound chance who's consider hide judgement friend 'til realize dimension cast gave tripping praise health la enjoy search universe winter broke empyrean gain family personal spirit flowing wanted point poem lying wander loved wind knowing sleeping rest stuff doubt flow began embrace months knows discovery society hate aeon darkness chemical surely searching meant oneself infinite share forgotten fell late person religious conscious *** you've teenage blame eye instead different clear bring follow known decide forth strange cool stand we'd miss psychedelic passion today wasn't language catch purpose patterns tonight subject madness temporal ready simple sanity asked entheon absurdia entactus psychedelics metaphysics humans particle unto skies inside arms drink smoke bass youth breath listening close depths intangible expression mortal nostalgia practice return loose maybe dancing shadows king war answers morning silent dust ****** party generation near judge define asleep quite machine lines moving learn hath fate ate crowd standing haze guess brought certain fair read ways hours irish scared fine reckon possible ain't year psychedelion ******* apotheon substance isn't study bliss selfish ends warm dopamine explain fix addiction culture respect wisdom calm hurricane problem contradiction heaven forlorn vain gold sweet hidden effort fast she's breaking changed engine faith dance maze alas girl sigma watch grand heavy justice wait tried doors appear phenomena definitions somebody ignore feelings process sonder cybran soft depression chasing taken throw answer action relief having wandering compounds quantum necessary effects empathion ethos begin everybody rising clouds emotions indigo falls ecstasy fresh american walking glow outside speak force grow physical says view voice happiness shame sought age understanding lay individual billion explore crave pretty lights comprehension tears big sands crime waves taught forever venture adolescence welcome humanity comes zero storm wise claim swear sounds pass **** met he's internet mr table company repetition heard playing ***** mirror lets awake sorry doing 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******'s here's express cover green witness anger treat sacred pure cure ethics code objects level happen room addict smell fun climb pupils mere ok quest roam park meaningless form hour reasoning cyclone laugh nostalgic inspiration takes attention drop written sigh hole statement sand keeping thunderous sight despite grasp lived called drinking west heads spoke daylight staring song calls hell shivering kept recognize granted weekend problems decided aware happened hacker forgive sea key single moral sway definition caused connection channel difficult media strife dangerous ones cleanse imagine running utter ground spend vibrancy trees changes rhythm everyday group deal foolish hurts anxiety painting proud brother crazy amazed value temporality decision journey spinning making ha acknowledge learned scars apotheosis sort serotonin poet safe experienced potential lucky sunyata condition poor witnessed history doth barely pretend taking hero superposition plus suffering prefer offer 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Composed on 01:33, 27/02/2017 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We still don't assume this means something.
Jay M Wong Feb 2013
1:1
Stop. Who’s there? Tis clock strikes twelve,
brings thy Horatio to seek tis specter from hell,
In Denmark, something is rotting in thy state,
In Norway, unimprovèd mettle hot and full awaits,
Tis specter arrives to arouse confusion and fear,
but to treat it violence and majestic threat,
thy specter departs as the ****’s crow drew near,  
leaving the blows of malicious mockery to regret.
And for Hamlet may speak to the wandering soul,
Tis morning to Hamlet must the three a’go.

1:2
Claudius, thy Uncle, is crowned King a’last,
Gertrude, thy Mother, hastily marries a’fast.
With duties done, Laertes to France adieu,
Hamlet griefs thy Father’s death and thy Mother’s dine,
for once a Hyperion to now a satyr is Uncle to Father a’new,
is but now a little more than kin and less than kind.
Horatio brings poor Hamlet the fatherly news,
that King Hamlet’s specter is now a’loose.
The joyous Hamlet is but joyous to see,
the two month father, dead and decease,
but for he calls that foul deeds will foully arise.
He hurries to the heavenly site prior sunrise.

1:3
Laertes to Ophelia, a brother to sister, he warns,
that Hamlet is but a fiery lover and to love he sworn,
but to love now is but not the future,
for Hamlet’s fire may, thy mind unpure,
for his lovely vows are not to believe,
he is but a man of deception to conceive.
For when Laertes departs, Polonius rants,
that Hamlet’s love, Ophelia must recant
for his affections and fashions are but false wows,
for when blood burns, lends the tongue false vows.

1:4
Shrewdly the air bites, nipping and eager,
at Horatio and Hamlet thy specter nears.
To speak alone, it beckons so,
But Horatio to Hamlet speaks no,
for may it draw thy madness and strip thy reason,
but to thee specter does Hamlet go,
for thy life is but a’lacking living reason.
Aback do they hold him most,
but Hamlet, his sword he wields
Fate has brought him here, he feels
To hold him back is but to turn a’ghost

1:5
Revenge, does his heavenly father speak,
of tis horrid ****** of unnatural feat.
For the orchard’s snake, wears thy father’s crown
and ****** thy gracious Queen, whose now evil abound.
With dignity and devotion she loved me so,
but tis sinful ******, Hamlet, you must’a know!
Through my ears, a venomous potion he drew,
thy fair Uncle, Claudius that potion he brew.
Abed, my life he ended this night,
And to my crown and Queen took he a’flight.
For thy dearest father, revenge must thy draw
upon thy villainous head, Claudius must fall
And to thy sword thou dearest friends must swear,
to tell not the occasions of this night we bear,
And to madness Hamlet must falsely seek,
to discover the truth of horrid deed beneath.

2:1
Reynaldo to Laertes, Claudius a’spies,
to Paris, Reynaldo goes with a’plan devised,
to seek the situation of Laertes in foreign hoods,
with bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth.
Ophelia then enters, with her father she shares,
"Oh, father, father, I’ve just had such a scare!"
In her sewing room, it is Hamlet she sees,
with no hat, nor buttons, nor stable knees
For he stared and stared to let out a final sigh,
Love mad he may be, a’to King we must a’by.

2:2
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
Directly or indirectly will Claudius learn,
of Hamlet’s matters they are to return.
Polonius, with news of Hamlet, he waits,
for thee Ambassador, to inform that Denmark Gates,
Are to be opened for young Fortinbra’s ****** defeat,
Polonius to Claudius, reveals thy madness roots,
For Hamlet is but love crazy for the fairest fruits,
of dearest Ophelia, who a letter he wrote,
Proclaims the fairness of her upon tis note.
And to test the truth, their confrontation, must’e spy,
Behind the arras to view thy love-mad side.
Is but our hastily marriage and his father’s death,
thy Mother, aware, are but the means of his mad breath.
Polonius then to Hamlet, speaks of witty words,
A fishmonger he calls, but one of two is misheard,
For when Polonius humbly takes a’leave,
He is but to take anything, but his life, shall he not receive.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, enter to Hamlet, they chat,
but Hamlet to quickly find the two are but a King’s ****,
Only sent to spy on a dearest friend,
And to human’s name do they offend,
Only to betray a dearest friend in honor of the King.
And so Players arrived at Denmark grounds,
for they, the best in the world, Polonius sounds.
And then for Jephthah, witty Hamlet chants,
the song of a foolish man who accidently grants,
the sacrifice of his beloved daughter.
Pyrrhus, do they perform for dearest Hamlet,
His sword is a’air, but a’air it sets,
for he hesitates to swing thy sword,
And with this, Hamlet hopes to store,
the strength to **** the horrid Lord.
Though he is but ashamed, for upon false emotions can Players act,
And in himself upon truths, strength can he not extract.
So a play for the King’s conscience does Hamlet devise,
for the heavenly ghost may be false in his advice.

3:1
To be or not to be; that is the question,
For Hamlet to be nobler or to a’take action,
Shall he withdraw with ****** self slaughter,
But shall’st never may see thy fairest daughter,
To die, but to sleep for a mere dream,
But in sleep shall fair or foul be unseen?
Now Polonius and Claudius awaits,
for Hamlet’s arranged meet with a’bait.
Hamlet to Ophelia, his love recants,
For honesty and beauty are but Someone’s grants,
Once did he love her, but now a’figured,
that women are but corrupt and impured,
For one’s honestly and beauty can and shall be taint,
For if God given thou one face, dear not another by paint.
For honestly and beauty has God falsely bred,
All but one, shall women *****.
All but one, shall women be nun.
Hence this marriage is over, and to a nunnery at once,

3:2
Let this mousetrap be named and this play a’set,
Shall capture thy horrid mouse or thy Uncle of Hamlet.
Polonius to Hamlet, the theater he knows,
For a Caesar death died he at thee Capitol.
Upon the lap of fair Ophelia, does Hamlet, lie,
Only to think of country matters and nothing (he implies).
And the play begins, with a prologue so brief,
Like a woman’s love, was Hamlet’s belief.
The King and Queen, a loving bond they share,
But the King by a mystic potion envenomed beware.
Thee action to ****, a murderous scene it was,
Leaving Claudius to regret the murderous act abuzz,
He arises to say: Let there be light! Let there be light!
And to the joy of Hamlet to see tis joyous sight,
For the words of thy heavenly father was but right.
Now shall the minute parts of truth ignite.
And to his Mother he shall speak daggers wield none,
for shall his tongue speak of the cruelties undone.

3:3
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to England a’go,
Should insane Hamlet know not a hawk from a crow,
And behind the arras, Polonius will again spy,
the taxation of Hamlet and his Mother’s cry.
Polonius departs to spy upon the Mother and the Insane,
Only to leave Claudius to regret thy hideous Mark of Cain,
Shall he pray the Heavens to forgive him his actions,
For thy stripped thy Brother of life, throne, and attractions.
As Claudius is never to withdraw his stripped token,
Divine forgiveness shall never then be unspoken.
Hamlet can **** not his murderous Uncle in praying stance,
For a hideous monster shall not a’go Heaven by chance.

3:4
So behind the arras dearest Polonius stays,
to view the idle and wicked tongue arrays,
Thou’st the Queen, Thy Husband’s Brother’s wife!
But to hear a rat, shall Hamlet for a ducat its life.
Oh, but death ‘neath the arras, may it the King?
A horrid act? To **** and wear thy brother’s ring?
Oh, King it be not, but be a wretched, rash fool,
And now shall Hamlet tell thy Myth a’Ghoul.
For thy murderer has slain thy Heavenly mate,
And only now by natural law does he abate.
Upon these portraits shall ring a’clear,
That from thy Heavenly father is he nowhere near,
A murderer, a villain, a horrid fiend,
He is but a devilish murderer yield unclean,
No way can one drop from THIS to THAT,
And shall by this scene, the specterous soul attract,
Dear not be untenderly to thy Mother it speaks,
And shall this revenge soon awake its peak,
Hamlet appears a’mad to thy watching Mother,
but to his mother he warns, abed not another,
For two mouths should speak of none,
of this revenge that will soon be done.
And again, abed let not him ****** you so,
For now, apart to English must’e a’go.

4:1
Gertrude to Claudius, she continues to reveal,
Of Polonius’s ****** and his arras squeal,
"A rat! A rat!" A’mad Hamlet is,
Brandished, to rapier the life of his.
And now where’s thou Hamlet still?
To draw apart the body he hath killed.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is but yet called again,
With discord and dismay, are they to seek that thou slain.

4:2
The two seek to Hamlet, for the body’s lair,
Compounded with dust now does it wear,
And a sponge, does Hamlet call them so,
for the King to squeeze them dry and thorough,
"A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear."
The body a’by a’King, but a’King, the body unnear.
And so, Hamlet to the King premiere.

4:3
And to Claudius does Hamlet call,
That Polonius now rests at a dining hall,
‘til a conference of worms devours him all
He shall eat not, but they eat so,
‘tis our fate despite status quo.
And upon the lobby stairs a corpse may lay,
One of dearest Polonius, slain to heaven or hell
Now to English death must Hamlet pay,
To one mother does he give two farewells.

4:4
With a Captain does Hamlet now proceed,
Who tells of young Fortinbras of Norway accede,
The Norway prince through Denmark he leads,
to seize a’minute ****** patch must’e receive.
A worthless land, must many die for one,
But true greatness acts not from fair reason,
But for the sake of the mind when honor is won.
And has Someone granted the reasoning mind,
For man to hesitate so cowardly inside,
For thy deed to act, must we rid the mind bind,
And act on instinct and be not wise.
And from the reasoning state must Hamlet now leave,
for honor he shall act, and his emotions he’ll believe.

4:5
False sanity is but false no more,
For fair Ophelia’s reason be not restore.
A’now sings of thy premature stone a’foot thy father’s grave,
and the departure of Hamlet for thy wed depraved.
Claudius is but to blame for thee rotting state,
For Polonius, a proper ceremony he not awaits,
For poor Ophelia, stripped from her reasonous state,
For Laertes aback from France, by thy father’s death, irate.
And Laertes enters, with thy support for king,
For the murderer, vengeful death shall he bring,
So Claudius to Laertes, says he is not to blame,
but thy father’s murderer is but another name.
And enters Ophelia, with figurative flowers to give,
But those of Faithfulness have ceased to live.
Alive are but for Thoughts, for Remembrance,
for Adultery, for Repentance, and for False Romance.
For his sister’s sanity is but another to blame,
Laertes, a vengeance mind, is but now aflame.

4:6
Horatio, a letter from Hamlet he receives,
that upon a Pirate ship has Hamlet board,
And that shall with speed would’st fly a’breathe.
Meet to hear the story Hamlet has a’stored.

4:7
Claudius to Laertes, he speak of innocence,
for by public appearance, the truth may bent,
For the public count loves Hamlet so,
And to thy fair Mother, Claudius a’beau.
Thy noble father lost and sister insane,
The murderous filth of Hamlet is to blame.
At this, a loyal messenger approaches,
to deliver the news that but Hamlet reproached,
An English death did Hamlet face not,
For now his destined death are they to plot,
Naked and alone, will he return to Denmark a’learn,
Of the honorable fence-match, he shall earn,
Against Laertes, whose fatherly love nor illusion,
Shall the death of Hamlet draw conclusion.
Even a’church will Hamlet, Laertes slay,
Death by no bounds, must Hamlet pay.
Envenomed rapier and wine shall prepare,
the faithful death of murderous Hamlet a’near.
Gertrude then enters with Ophelia’s news a’share,
For sorrows comes not in singles but in greater pairs,
Upon muddy death has Ophelia drowned,
for now another death has but profound,

5:1
Two Gravediggers upon one grave they create,
for to the death of thy Graveowner do they relate,
To die by self slaughter or to die by not,
the attention of passing Hamlet have they caught.
With Hamlet does one of thee two chat,
for once a woman, shall this grave be buried at,
A quick digger for Hamlet to his surprise,
Revealed that to England is mad Hamlet to advise.
For a corpse to live for eight or nine,
Thy dearest Yorick’s skull is to find,
Thy a corpse to date three and twenty,
Leaves Hamlet to recall thy memories a’plenty,
And to think Alexander, o’buried alike.
Here comes the King, Laertes and the Queen,
And upon the burial grounds is Ophelia seen,
His dearest sister does Laertes mourn,
But to Hamlet, her death, his heart a’torn.
Laertes to Hamlet, must’e not compare,
the death of one is a little more foul than fair,
For forty thousand brothers can sum not his love,
For the death of the fairest maiden beloved.
Claudius to Laertes, must Hamlet pay thy debt,
the plot of night prior shall’st not forget.

5:2
Hamlet to Horatio, does his truths trust,
Of thy wretched King and his unjust,
Of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern English death they meet,
With sacrifice and thy seal was thou to spare self defeat.
Now’st Osric enters to Hamlet a’chat,
For’st not hot, nor cold, nor sultry at.
And a’wish to court, with thy Laertes of excellence,
For Hamlet’s head does thee King expense.
With six French rapiers and poniards assign,
For by fate’s determination, shall this court incline,
For a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,
Can we do not, but abide by fate a’follow.
Trumpets and drums, now’st the fence begins,
For Hamlet and Laertes hand and hand therein.
Pardon he begs, Hamlet to thy brother,
For in him is but foil Hamlet yet another,
And so they fence for honor and fence for life,
Two of two leads Hamlet the strife.
The King, to Hamlet he drinks,
Tis pearl shall he the cup he sinks,
And unwounded for two, Hamlet prevails,
But Queen, the dearest Mother, so faithfully frail,
For she drinks thy cup of heavenly pearl,
For heavenly it be not, as thy malicious plot unfurl,
The cup! The cup! A poisonous potion,
Cause yet another by venomous commotion.
A distracting cause, for Hamlet to bear,
For Laertes envenomed blade must’e beware,
Now envenomed blood shall Hamlet shed,
Shall he hold thy rapier of Laertes instead,
to shed thy venomous blood of thy venomous mind,
For now thy murderous plot shall unwind,
At the honorable death of brother Laertes,
Shall the death of Claudius be a’seized.
The King’s to blame for the death of all,
And tis day shall he see his destined fall.
With thy venomous blade held a’hand,
Let the doors be locked and the evils banned,
For Hamlet wounds thy treacherous soul,
And shall horrid Claudius pay his destined toll,
For Hamlet forces to drink thy murderous potion,
And shall he too die of venomous commotion.
The death of four and tis ****** scene,
Shall Horatio tell to those unseen.
Shall he speak of murderous truths embark,
for Fortinbras shall now throne Denmark,
For in Fortinbras does his admiration lay,
For does Hamlet trust thou’st fiery ambitious way,
And tis now concludes thy Hamlet’s life,
For death and death thou’st all alike...
A dedication and summary of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" the tragedy of the witty prince of Denmark written in 2011 for a class journal assignment.
CK Baker Jan 2017
Thank you ~
for a life not to trade
blessings, in spades
tight spaces
behind laundry doors
packed closets
and open drawers
gator tails, tarnished brass
cracks in kitchen sliding glass
wet towels, withering plants
foundation filled
with carpenter ants
buckets piled with
shoes and tags
village clothes
and saddlebags
peeling paint
and broken walls
****** seats
in bathroom stalls
clogged pantry
frigid rooms
table scribe
and carbon fumes
comfort capsules
empty tanks
broken limbs
from children’s pranks
**** finger
double tongue
long goodbyes
and sidewalk dung
cluster flies
chavie’ clique
accompanying
the hypocrite
cracked back
and hidden smiles
chalk on board
with mr miles
atomic wedgies
closing doors
wrotten eggs
and open sores
jaw jack
nasty folk
dinner calls
for pig in poke
penny pinchers
double dip
yellow mouth
and silver tip
brown nosers
thick red tape
paper cuts
and pimple nape
gallivants
so out of norm
the joy of life
in basic form
Justin Aptaker Aug 2019
death calls
every heartbeat by name
making each one the same

this is your life
this is your life
this is your life
this is your life

the metronome, calling me home, ticking away, fading the day
life can be so melodramatic
like watching static
with the volume on mute
and your mind on mute, numbed by the gentle static hiss of your own personal hell
and the waves that swell
the remains of life-forms onto endless beaches of time

all time is mine
all time is mind

i look out by night
at the vast ocean of Being
and the sand, as it slips in my hands
is not made for my counting
infinity is not comforting

i smell salt
sitting on the naked earth, i draw from a vast reservoir
a deep well
hoping that maybe if i bury my head
under the beachy sand
i will escape the tide by becoming one with the earth and the stars

i try to write perfect words
with the absurd feeling that if i get them right
they will work like a spell
that shatters reality itself
and places me somewhere else
where things were right the first time

after all, we cast reality with words
and all of our pictures come to life
and all of life is our pictures
and words are our entire reality
so we must not be saying the right words, thinking the right words
no one taught us the right words, we don’t have the faculty for those kinds of words

silence and sleep
thoughts of the deep
give no rest for me
they reek of the sleep i dread to sleep
i make noise so that the universe must keep listening
i banish sleep because a white gangrene is glistening
where the worm never dies
and the smokes always rise, blotting the skies

are we the children of Cain? cursed from the face of the earth
is it because of ****** in my heart
that i am marked to die?

we stand shivering outside, in chains and shackles, all in a line
with brothers and sisters in front and behind
and every so often (we never know when)
our captors pluck one of us out of the line
and none of us can stop it
and we are forced to watch it
while they stand our mothers and fathers against the wall
and open fire, but not at heart or head
on stomachs and bowels instead
so our loved ones expire slowly, writhing on the cold dirt
pleading eyes upturned
begging our love to save them
but we can only wait our own turn

it seems that no Mind would dream up such a dream
and give it as Life
to its very offspring

i tremble to blaspheme
but i am questioning
doubting

whether Love has ever tread these tangled paths at all
whether Life ever begot life
whether we are not in fact just the spectacular fireworks
of passion and sorrow
that the universe has cooked up with
its chemical sorceries

which paint once the sky
for an instant in time

Father! Father!
do you even remember the name that you gave me?
do you remember the night you pulled me violently from my resting place
where it was dark and warm and secure?
and you cast me into a cold, hollow womb that continually miscarries
and i was born in a tomb
too soon?

it was winter
do you remember?

the dying of embers
O, wanton December!
Who pierced me with sorrows
and gave me tommorows
but stole all my todays


i inquire into the science
of infinite gaps
of gaping synapse

i investigate the substance of Being
poking at it from every angle
demanding that it yeild fruits fit for our consumption
that it justify itself

must i remind you
that i never asked to be here
and i never consented
to this form or this figure
riddled with cancers

i am the eternal thought
thinking itself
watching with terrified attatchment
these bodies which i inhabit

my haunts, my accostomed places
my ethos, my habits
my character, a socially constructed facade
my self, ever putting itself
into the eyes of others, looking on itself
imagining itself playing the roles
of each of the other children in the schoolyard


but at last, the primitive state of nature overtakes me
i’m going to sleep now, do not awaken me
and when i awake, Love will wake again with me
and all the smoldering, dying wreckage of this day will forsake me

ah, i remember now, the sound of Love, walking in the cool of the garden
when each day seemed to stretch on forever
and the night was full of magic
the infinite gaps can only be scaled
in the space of one instant, no more and no less

working its way back through every other instant
time, since it is a function of mind, is also subject to language
i stand back from the bodies of the dead i inhabit
i am the universal singularity, the one thought
throbbing and pulsing in the ****** heights before explosive creation
i
howl
the body electric
and rise, ******* over Moloch
whose mind is pure machinery
and whose children drown in their insanity

with a cold and broken hallelujah
i hymn the blessed race immortal
and rend the fabric of reality from top to bottom
entering in the place most holy
and die, writhing on the warm, welcoming earth
the place of my birth
the place of my hearth, where the embers glow and spark

December has now heard a lark
Hades, required to return to her mother
the goddess he has stolen for a season
and the Bird rises wreathed
in flame from the ashes
baptizing the Forms of our collective unconscious
with the blessed and holy power of life

and coming to life, all of our pictures bring us to life with them!

*

one can not blaspheme what is not
for one can not think of it
look again at what Love gave us
in the space of an instant, which extends on forever
since time and space alike are a construct of our symbolic processes

i pull out my tabula rasa
i am written on the tabula rasa
all is white on the tabula rasa
all is white
all is white

the waves now are dragging me in
to the ocean without beginning or end
and the depths are alive with the wind
of warm currents and of births and of sand
and death would appear now a friend
leading me in by the hand
calling me into the land

Love is life
Love’s alive
Love is death

Death calls
Written ca. 2011

— The End —