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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
DJ Thomas Dec 2010

Bride of the desert
the indomitable town
Solomon’s Kingdom

            
Lost in history, I wander through a city that was fortified by King Solomon, raided by Mark Antony and ruled by Queen Zenobia who made it the capital of an empire, only to be captured herself and paraded through Rome in gold chains.

Civilisation upon civilisation are entombed within Tadmur; in a huge plain of carved stone blocks, massive columns arched in rows or standing alone, a Romanesque theatre, senate and baths, dominated by a great temple whose origin dates back four thousand years.

Due to a clever mistranslation from Arabic by the euro-centric traveller who ‘discovered’ Palmyra, the city also has a modern name.

Here for millennia, a tribe of Bedu have camped within the folds of these desert steppes and blackened Tadmur’s ruins with their camp fires, to trade camels or herd goats and sheep. Walking the divide between city, desert and the more fertile steppes, I search for their surviving descendants and find a black woven goat’s hair tent with its edges raised to capture a cooling breeze.

Hamed and his sons, huge and wary of foreigners, welcome me to sit within on  carpets and then graciously serve dates with innumerable small glasses of tea. I indicate ‘enough’ in the traditional manner by rolling my right hand and the empty glass. Hamed continues to voice his concerns about the lack of feed for their sheep and the prices achieved at market. I readily succumb to several small cups of greenish Arabic coffee, before being allowed to take my leave.

For millennia the wealth of this city was based on tariffs levied on goods flowing out of the desert aboard swaying camel caravans. Today, these once proudly fierce tribal Bedu no longer breed, train or ride camels.

The Bedu greatly prize their reputation and the respect of their peers. Their traditions are the foundation of these small tribal communities and may predate Islam;  a life now undermined by borders, nationalism, government settlement plans, conscription, war, television and tourism.
                                         *+     +     +      +      +

Black torn empty shells
swept by Mount Lebanon’s shade
Cannabis Valley

As I recall a haiku of ‘images’ of  my very first journey to Damascus, from war-torn Beirut through the lushness of the Bekaa;

in the here and now
a dark suit and Mercedes
cross the Euphrates

Defence Minister, Rifaat al-Assad is in town with his fifty thousand strong Defence Companies, complete with tanks, planes and helicopters.  A coup d’état is in progress to assure Rifaat’s succession to the Presidency of his older brother Hafiz al-Assad, now recovering from a heart attack.

Last year, Rifaat massacred some forty thousand Syrian citizens when he ordered the shelling of the city of Hama. Nobody in Damascus will be underestimating him.

All political and military power is in the hands of the al-Assads and key generals, who command the military and police. The majority of whom are of the Alawite minority Muslim faith from the rural districts near Latakia in the North. Before their revolution, governments came and went in weeks.

My friend Elias is allied to Rifaat’s cause, by simply doing business with the son. Now he and his family share the risks and dangers of this coup failing and stand to lose a fortune. Monies paid locally in Syrian pounds for goods delivered to government agencies.

Elias’s connection with Rifaat and Latakia, as well as his confident presence, humour and love of life, still allows us easy access to the Generals’ Club. Sadly, there is to be no table and floorshow, but a closed meeting with two senior Generals, where we learn that Hafiz has recovered enough to take charge and is now locked in discussions with his younger brother.

The decision is therefore made for us. We say our goodbyes and drive to Latakia.

On Sunday Elias meets his brothers, then with his family, we visit his parents small holding and enjoy a meal together. A wonderful fresh mezza that includes my favourite, courgettes stuffed with ground lamb and rice, in a yogurt sauce. Syrian food is amazingly healthy and my cuisine of choice.

It is a cloudless Monday morning, as I, Elias, his wife and children drive into the docks to board an old 46 foot motor cruiser. Huge cases are stowed as I make my inspection, then start the twin diesels and switch on the over-the-horizon radar. Our early departure is critical. We cast off and the Mate steers for the harbour entrance below the cliffs that guard it. As the Mediterranean lifts our bow in greeting, the disembodied voice of the Harbour Master tells us to return as we do not have permission to sail.

Ignoring the order, I increase our speed through the short choppy surf. We are sailing under the Greek Cypriot flag and in an hour I hope to be out of territorial waters.  At 14 knots we are a slow target.

Fifteen nautical miles from the coast of Syria, I leave the mate to follow a bearing for Larnaca. Elias has opened a bottle of Black Label. I quaff a glassful.

Later noticing a noisy vibration and diagnosing a bent prop shaft, I shut down the starboard engine. Our speed is now a steady 8 knots, so I decide on a new heading to discern more quickly the shadow of the Cypriot coastline on the radar screen.

Midway, the mate and Elias begin babbling about a small vessel ahead and four separate armoured boxes encircling it. Ugly Israeli high speed gun boats or worse, Lebanese pirates. Should they board us and find stowed riches, we will be killed.

Leaving the Mate to maintain our course, I go on deck to play the ‘European Owner’.  The vessel they have trapped is long and lean with three tall outboard motors but no crew are in sight.  Leaving them astern, our choice of vessel now fully exonerated, I and Elias throw another whisky ‘down the hatch’.

With us holding the correct bearing, I ask Elias to wake me as soon as we near Cyprus. Feeling utterly exhausted I collapse into a bunk.  

I wake unbidden, to find the Mate steering for the harbour entrance. Shouldering him aside, I spin the wheel to bring the vessel about. Shaking, I ask them why there are minarets on the ‘church’ and did they not notice our being observed from the top of the harbour's hillock, below which a fast patrol boat is anchored?  The Mate sprints to the Greek Cypriot flag and is hugging it to his chest; Elias wisely prays.

I command the wheel as we motor directly away from the port of Famagusta and Turkish held Northern Cyprus. We later change bearing and pass tourist beaches, it is night fall before we moor-up in Larnaca.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Later that same year I am called to a last urgent meeting in Cyprus with Elias. He calmly tells me that he will be arrested when he rejoins his family, who have returned to Syria. Elias asks me to take full control of his Cypriot Businesses, then returns home and ‘disappears’ with his brothers.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Since sacking the two Arab General Managers when they tried to get control of the bank accounts, it has taken more than six months to locate the prison holding all the brothers. We obtain the release of all except Elias, who has been tortured.  We then ‘purchase’ him the exclusive use of the Prison Governor's quarters and twenty four hour access for Elias’s family, nurses and doctors.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Over the last two years, I have honoured my promises and expanded trade as far as Pakistan. Elias is still imprisoned.
                                         *
+     +     +      +      +
haibun of a late twentieth century travelogue
copyright©DJThomas@inbox.com 2010
Klvshp0et Oct 2014
I've been taking a circuitous route
Only camels and Arabs
Know what I'm talking about.
Round and round and round
My mind turns about.
Now never again in my life
Will I try to doubt
Who I am
and where I will be.
When the evil within tries to get out.

Its time to reroute./
I've gotta reroute. /
I've got to get up on my feet
And shout. /
I've wasted too much time asleep.
Only ****** at myself
Because during the time I've spent
Trying to dig deep into her/
I have totally forgetten
Where I was and who they were./
Those who held me back/
gave me plenty of hugs and daps/
but made my time on earth a blur./
I love my brothers so/
And I lift them up
When they're low/
But when it's time to go/
**** its times to go./
Open up my crusted eyes
And let the Suns holy glow/
Help me grow./
I just hope that when I rise
I begin to know

I've been taking a circuitous route
Only camels and Arabs
Know what I'm talking about.
Round and round and round
My mind turns about.
But never again in my life
Will I try to doubt
Who I am
and where I will be.

Camels and Arabs/
I often wish I could walk
The land that they have./
Yet, I walk the land
Of trends and fads/
Expensive homes and tags/
That make me see everything
I do not have./
Only to drag me further away
From my true path./
Desensitizing me of
What I'm not suppose to have/
And throwing me on that circuitous route./
Now that I've figured all this **** out./
I'm going to backtrack on my life
And add in everything I left out. /
Reconstructing my mind
To make it my vibrant home.
So when they ask and say
"Klash, what took so long?"
I would reply

I've been taking a circuitous route
Only camels and Arabs
Know what I'm talking about.
Robin Carretti Aug 2018
Here comes the sun little darling's
We all get burned
 Is it your turn
     "U-Turn"
Oh! Where I thou
"Green light Diner"
It's telling us to Go
    *       *       *
The Earth beauty faces
I will be your direct sunlight
In plain sight to the daylight
her blossom tree
All I ask come for me
Her face could eat
The divine flower laced

French brie
Tie a yellow ribbon on me
We have so much to see
Let it be sun-face Moms
apple pies
The Sun  "Watchtower"
Someone knocks you off
Your "Bill" on the Ice Queen

The Goddess rodeo waitress
She got you roped in between
The cigarette 1940 case hostess
             "Rose"
I suppose the sunflowers every booth
her smile sets in place

The stain-glass window Notre Dame
Rock and roll hall of fame
The earth kids rainbow chalk
Sun-fun treetops like a beanstalk
Napoleon Elementary Watson
New Jersey Diner capital admission
The Peking duck *** luck

European beauty hunter's menu
Any luck this will be awhile sip "Starbucks"

1-Antipasti cute Shiba Uni
2-Consomme Chicken soup
3-Sun-face to the soul fruit loop
4-Chicken pepper Salsa
Sun-face lights up Visa
5-Hearts of Artichokes Mona Lisa
6-Soy ginger salmon
My sun worshiper man

Fish tacos hummus
St Thomas
Rome was not build
In one day
The windpipes and
the tablecloths Oh! yikes
Full of dream pipes

Sun tan stripes and zebras
Couscous salad big star dipper
Egyptian Gods camels back
Sun-face diner no time
for the sun-chip snack
Diners from 1920-1940
Sun-face air force dresses

Medieval times two swords
Holy lords Easter parades
" Ice-cream Spumoni"
Dinner in the sky
Robin red breast fly
Italian artwork Coliseum
Look up in the sky
It's a bird shaped
Paper plane bad romance
going insane

Waffle House  jukebox rock and roll
Hall of fame whats in a food name
Cowboy steaks American Flags
Cajun chicken legs fruits and figs
At the caboose Ladybird jet lag
Valentine Diner chairs
got footloose homemade goose

Purple rain Prince maple
pancakes
Bananas and strawberry fields
lake sun in shape of a snowflake
Forest Gump changes to
Presidential Trump
Vitamin C  honey bunches of Oats

Yummy floats of egg cream
Open table Sun-face dream
Eggs light she's not finished
over easy
Pristine of carrots with
artful daisies
Thanksgiving turkey

Rings of napkins holding
A time well-bred marriage
Well known landmarks of
Carats
Long ago time she saw the light
Daylight Knight like a scale to weight

Whispers of wine and grapes
Sun face courtesan love escape
Sun Faces trillion times mansion
Sun-faces never go out of fashion
Sun faces and dinner places the best in the world eat heartily Drive in and Diners all over the world have a medieval touch with the Vikings and melodies from the heart  of the surface  her smile will always be there everywhere she goes the Diners place her with Rose
Allan Mzyece Dec 2016
I am looking at pictures of Camels in Afghanistan,
and do but wonder if I can survive for three days under a raging sun
not until my fluids evaporate quicker than I Incernerate
With the cold nights solidifying the particles i lost while trying to love a Lavishing Maiden,
Again,
I daydream of her sometimes as she still gives me hope that one day I will walk on the Sun
But without her, my dream might be achieved by the Camels in Afghanistan

Her boyfriend takes really good care of her, I must be trapped in a dimension filled with demons that keep telling me to ruin their relation.
But then again, I look at the pictures of the Camels in Afghanistan
and see myself as a Camel bottling up the Sun
I may have an ugly face that nobody wants to look at! but I am sure glad I made it this far!
I survived three days in a raging Sun without ever thinking of her!
Amy Irby Jul 2012
camel  
    
C-A-M-E-L  
    
...  
    
    
... (?)  
    
    
...  
    
    
Why?  
    
I don't know, cause they're cool ! . ?  
    
    
    
his favorite animal is a camel  
and he doesn't know why  
but i do  
    
i think, as a kid, he read about it
in an encyclopedia
And decided, "that's how I want to live my life"
    
the humps on camel's backs that can store water  
and they can go days, weeks, months,
I even heard years  
without replenishing  
crossing dry, barren deserts  
carrying cargo, people  
    
i didn't know camels wore graphic t-shirts,  
crocs and cargo shorts  
but he is a camel  
tall and lanky    
takes in tons and never gains a pound  
(i hate camels)  
    
a camel exists in the Arabian world  
is in love with a Middle-Eastern girl  
and they even have a miracle of that descent  
    
He IS A Camel!  
but the humps on his back  
are hope and inspiration    
and with just a little in the tank  
he will cross a world of deserts    
and bring you back a treasure chest full of dreams  
    
but he enjoys simplicity ...  
Sometimes,
then sometimes not at all  
he takes things way overboard    
and carries far to much cargo  
but he crosses the desert anyway  
    
i didn't know camels were such good teachers  
    
didn't know they made such good friends
for my friend and former youth pastor
Babu kandula Jul 2014
Captured
Kidnapped or
Paid
For children
Camel races are held
Using this kids as Jockeys
Ages below Ten
Since they weight light
They are given a shed or a tent
In the desert
Offers just biscuits
Because they won't gain weight
What actually they want for racing
Which will speedup the camel
No bed no pillow
Sleeping on the sand
No positive dreams
They even can't cry
If they do they will be beaten
On the other side
Camels are having
Swimming pools
A pediatrician
Good food
Nice place with
Good comforts
Why this difference?
What they say is
Kid cost 500 dollars
But camel costs Million dollars
Who can stop it
It is illegal to have a kid as jockey
But who cares the ****** rule
Feeling sad for those boys
No good food
No clothing
No education
there was once a little camel he had great big ****
and  it used to wobble went he hit a bump
the camel got a pump and laid across the floor
pumped till it was hard now it dosent wobble anymore
Andrèa White Sep 2014
Her hair was long
Down to that place where *** just barely meets back
The place his fingers linger
Every time she says goodbye
The place where two tiny dimples make up for the fact she never smiles
Long like the days he spends
Wondering if she's happy at home
wondering if she's just as good at pretending to be in love
As she is at pretending not to be
Like the time he spends waiting for a sign from her... or of her
Long like her absence in his bed
He hears her laughter in his head
He'd settle for hearing her name

Her hair was thick
Like the way his tongue feels after a midnight pack of camels
She says she doesn't smoke anymore
But she does
Because she says a naked man can't smoke alone
It looks funny
Thick like her thighs
And silky smooth when they graze his stomach
Like his great grandmother's accent
He doesn't understand her but finds comfort in the texture of the syllables

Her hair was strong
Like her conviction
Her determination to stay at home where she belongs
Though she longs to be with him
Strong like the coffee she brews
Because she's too rebellious to measure anything
Coffee grounds or consequences
Like his addiction
His compulsion to reign her in
To keep her in his bed
In his heart
In his head

Her hair is dark
Like her eyes
Black pools that reflect her black heart, rotten soul
Dark like the way she makes love with the lights off
Because then she can make him into anybody
Whoever it is that she wants that day
Dark like that space between waking and dreams
Where everything is mixed up and nothing like it seems
Where he reaches out to touch her and finds only hair
A few strands on his pillowcase to remind him she was there
He finds them everywhere
Last night he found one wrapped around his big toe
He freed himself but found it hard to let it go

She says she hates to wear a ponytail
Like she doesn't want her hair to look like a horse's rear end
And he's just a ******* for letting her go again
Most certainly a work in progress. Kinda how I hope my lover thinks of me.
Pagan Paul Aug 2017
.
i.
The morning mist dissipated
as the ships keel ploughed a furrow
through the Great Green of the Aegean,
leaving far behind the magick isle.
Vigilantos stood at the prow,
marvelling at the accompanying dolphins,
curious and playful,
schooling with purpose to the ocean.
Ahead, waiting, a grand tour.
Of Sumer, Abyssinia and desert lands,
to glean hidden knowledge,
regain the mysteries of the ancients,
read the Necronomicon and old scripts
from a time when power crackled,
and the storms of the gods
belittled the existence of mankind.

ii.
The twilight Moon peeps
from behind the brazen grey cloud.
And she weaves hap-hazard
through the crushes of the crowd.
A high-born daughter of the desert,
a vision of beauty from the sand.
With silks and satin and perfume
richly obtained from foreign lands.
Through the colourful bazaar she threads
with occasional glances thrown at stalls,
priestess jewels sparkle in the night,
its her Name the sirocco calls.

iii.
Cobalt blue water, an illusion of light
where the sun slides through the meniscus,
and the harbour of Tyre was alive.
The bustling of boats around ships at anchor,
snatching glimpses of a turquoise sky
and the quay throbbing with the pulse of music.
It would be another 3 thousand years
before Rome was even a trading post on the Tiber,
let alone an empire conquering the east,
or building hippodromes and columned avenues.
Vigilantos drank in the atmosphere,
his magicians instincts bristling, noting all.
Meandering through the narrow streets,
loosely following direction, getting lost.
Seeking his retinue and camels, ready to start,
across the desert to Ninevah on the Tigris.
To speak to tribes, pray with the priests of Ur.
To find the secrets of mysteries, and treasure,
reaping the knowledge of the Old Gods awe,
amongst the shifting dunes of history.

iv.
Vivid colours of silks and dyes
adorn the tents of cloth and stick.
The summer sun beats down lazy,
heat as oppressive as mist is thick.
Her charms and delights are hidden,
with misery and pain, the last week spent.
The dark, the quiet, the inane chatter,
deep within the women's red tent.
Free from the curse, her moon-cycle complete,
she wanders with mood sombre and slow.
A powerful man from a western place
will arrive at the camp as the sun sinks low.
He had seen her in the main bazaar
and decided to stake his claim.
Whilst confined away, behind her back,
her father had bartered for riches and fame.

v.
His travels around those beautiful lands
had yielded books of law and scripts.
He had heard the oral traditions of elders
and gazed in wonder at the Moon's eclipse.
Then he had seen the greatest treasure
wending her way through crowded markets.
With tact and guile he discovered her Name,
and vowed to grace her father's carpets.

The desert folk live a simple life
but far from simple are they.
Sharp of tongue and quick of wit,
erudite in a most unusual way.
The father was the elected leader,
King of the tribe that he now led.
Vigilantos had bargained hard
to purchase the girl for his marital bed.

vi.
The sun sinks, falling from the sky in the eve.
Spectacular reds and orange colliding with the dunes.
The azure twilight sky lit and sprinkled with stars,
and the tribal camp fills with laughter and tunes.

vii
He walked with purpose toward the campfire,
his features silhouetted by flickering light.
The sudden hush of the assembled camp
echoed strange, deep into the desert night.
His eyes beheld her most beautiful form,
half in the shadow, half in the light.
For her families benefit he had traded,
agreed bargains, and come to claim his right.

“Princess of the desert, Daughter of the sand,
step forward gently and take me by the hand.
For my island home calls out loud to me,
so come, let us away across the sea”.

Head bowed in fake submission
she boldly makes her cold admission.

“I am a Woman of the free,
these sands are my home to me.
With all good grace; I could not face
life on an island in the sea”.

viii.
Black and red, darkness and rage
descend upon his fevered mind.
Humiliated, spurned by a maiden fair,
and pride will not be left behind.

“A curse. A curse. 'pon thy beautiful head,
prowl and creep as do the undead.
Evil deeds are now thy course,
henceforth our contract is now divorced”.

But something made Vigilantos start,
a pang of something from his dead heart.
With such feelings he could not contend,
so a caveat, for the curse to amend.

“Thy deeds and crimes maybe invested
'pon mortals only who invest the same such evil
'pon their fellow mortals”.

ix.
Leaving far behind the desert
he turns his face to the sky.
The ships keel ploughs a furrow
as the evening mist draws nigh.

And now she prowls the dark night,
her Name lost in the sands of time.
Seeking out the mortal sinners and
punishing their evil with her crimes.

... and thus it begins ...
Judderwitch.


© Pagan Paul (08/08/17)
.
Prequel to The Judderwitch poem (posted in April).
I fear this may create more questions than it answers.

My Judderwitch poems are now in a collection :)
https://hellopoetry.com/collection/28451/judderwitch/
PPx
.
Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,
testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,
and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn
of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!
There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;
and here are the shocked starlings pumping past
and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well.
Larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast
of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling
into that hot eye. Who cares that he fell back to the sea?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.
mt Oct 2013
Deadbeat
Smelly feet
Walking across its own callouses
Creator of worlds
Perfect inscriber of nameless wonders beyond mere
Conception and discrimination
That permeates the minds of men
Misguided across the arc of ages
Leading only to cycles of
Hollow pain repeating itself
Lacking substance but appearing
Like unmovable boulders perched
Atop greener mountains
That whisper using their voice,
The wind
Carrying its message in its form
Disappearing but never gone
The homeless,
Not content to trap two sided
Ideas of being in overflowing
Homes filled with the true
Forms of out sourcing
The spirit, torn for
Perfect packages to be sent
To faceless names to further
The collection of vessels
Unused.
The wanderer,
Unhappy with goals
Moving towards the never ending
Journey of perfection
That ends nowhere but travels
Everywhere leaving no quarter
Uninvaded and sadly ringing
In transcendental ears
The lonely,
Unwilling to spread their
Personal pain
From personal failures
To any one but themselves
Using the compressed aggregate
Sickness in scientific lobes, only
Representations, to create faucets through which representations
Of the unrepresentative
Eek out an existence
Among glaring, modern edgy
Movements in endless circles
That sear images into retinas
Working their way to ******
Thoughts, deflowering the only
Worthwhile virginity in the sad reflections of experience
Called man.
The ******,
Never fulfilled from false conceptions
Or the self materializing aspect as
The passage of time
Looking to capture the eternal moment and ****** of the Now
Lasting forever but done long
Ago
Chasing the end of self
And forgetting the body for
Higher realms untouched by lazy
Thoughts and repetitive notions
Creating the mundane
The un-mundane is furthur up than most of us can see
Even if touching it is
The experience
Not different from the life you will
Live for a million regressions
The contemporaries
Never travel the
Path of the Mountain
First camels, then lions
Finally to turn into godly offspring of
Flowering being at the peak
Standing above ubiquitous faces
But contact on level planes
The mountain of self
To create a new identity divorced from the diseased blockage
Flowing through humanity's veins
Only to tumble down
Into the pulsating
Heart filling, disintegrating
All in one undiscriminating
Destruction unborn from the
Young universe only
To lose the conception
And absorb the absorber
Forgetting that once,
A young man carried all the
Pain he had handed to himself
In shiny packages
Pretending that the others
Ever even existed.
Jumpingtower Mar 2012
One weekend I met with a camel
Who believed that he wasn't a mammal
I tried setting him right
But we got in a fight
Which resulted in chipped tooth enamel
Camel, fighting, enamel, mammal
Gita Ashok Oct 2010
Miles and miles of sand
with no horizon in view,
the caravan moves on -
in search of an oasis.

The heat is treacherous,
the sand is scorching,
the camels are tired
and so are the herdsmen.

The journey is long,
the day will almost be gone
and darkness will reign again
until another day dawns.

The desert’s dreadful distances,
the weather’s  vicious whims,
the camels’ callous restlessness
all add to the herdsmen’s hardship.

Roadless tracks
of sand and rocks
where tall, wild cactuses abound
with many sand dunes around.

The Sahara -
a natural oven -
bakes humans and camels alike
leaving scattered mortal remains.

A sandy landscape
in shades of light fawn
with deceptive mirages
inviting thirst again.

The journey is long
with no sign of an oasis.
But the caravan must move on…
Inshallah – until we meet again.

Gita Ashok
9/10/2010, 3:15 pm
A couple of years ago, I read a pictorial feature on the Sahara Desert in an old issue of the National Geographic magazine.  It is still green in my memory and I decided to capture it in poetry form.
Robin Carretti Aug 2018
Do you really think
everything you
see and touch or
love with such care
Has your name on it
   *      *      *      *      
*Divinity meet the Great

     *      *      *      *      
Lifetimes healing two freaking amazing feet


The house Mr. and Mrs.
   I suppose?
I double dare them
Great Play "Domino"
Where art thou freaking
match
Lover of all time Romeo

Prince and the Pauper her lovely
peasant dress the big catch of the day
This is the fisherman
All hooks and bait of
workmanship
The naked play Julliete
begin
So totally wherein

The spiritual home
never doubt I love

Shakespearian historian
Two Love DovesVictorain
Spiritual growth

Unconditionally
Freaking Great Earth

Defines your passion
The best creation your birth
Our defeat nothing turns
automatically sweet

This is our
"Great Expectations"

What to value anymore
Constitution versus the
Freaking Show Institution

Full bloom maturity growing
adventure unknown
On the same wavelength
He still dresses the same
In the Same town
New York Serendipity
Ice cream cookie dough mix the
freak shakes

That's great no time for breaks
The Baskin sin Robbins
Robin Bob Bobbin

People are not surviving
Their world is too weak
They cannot stretch to hold

The French connection kiss
fourteen carats of gold
Making a rise in good stock
Cattle sold
The Trump Tower fall out stars
The great year for puzzles

The worlds are full of moments
when we shouldn't be laughing
Not a great time he meets your
sadness
Round star of tears kindness

In her movement happiness walk
The worst times bring out her
   freaky nature  

Never aches either to change
Furniture looks modern cold
freaking great hot she was told

To be bonded in a marriage
Feeling older like her antique
wicker baby carriage
Eiffel tower the powerful
romance hour meeting her
happy hour

He is shopping for suits
Going back to his Brooklyn roots
smells of food feeling good

Getting into someone's mind
Meet Robin Hood
If I can turn back time the vessel
The Joker wild fossil

Like a freaking booker
there is no guarantee
The Suspense is killing me
don't freak out

Not paying your rent on-time
Those specks marked up your glasses
Time passes but your making a
spectacle of yourself


Imagine the world all alone
Brillantina smiling at
the Mona Lisa petite ballerina
Great Professor brother
Freaking out sister
Two-headed circus the Freakshow  
The haves or
the have-nots week went slow

The trees someone's apple poison
Gives someone such pleasure
companion what a complicated
mission

  Too deeply dwell in the possibilities

Each morning we are born again
Broke some blood capillaries
Or time will tell the Vampire Diaries

Tomorrow is another day
How you wish every day was payday

Almond eyes creaminess
The pick-up color of your dress
What is curdling freaky spooking
No time to Hail the Mary
Milk Soy what a cute
little miracle boy

Even talking on your
Light up tree ringtones
Out of your comfort
high cheekbones
Egyptian Camels sandstorm
Kiss your Mother just feel

His smile fireplace candescent
With your lover, he could
paint your body how
time just went in a heartbeat

The world is moving but
you're losing some gravity
But he lifts some parts
Sinking your teeth into the
best corn on the cob

Medieval times his
sword is taking
Anew freaking shape
Emerging and peeking out
Hair is French braided fine
knotted

He zooms out freaking great
one of a kind Corvette
Calling to you your name
He told the world
standing like a God
We are all freaking great
  
Poets* Just start to know it
This is freaking great or not we laugh sometimes when things aren't funny but that's okay we need to move on and make it the better day even if our prayers are not answered its in our hearts the best parts are you-you are the freaking great
Gary Gibbens Nov 2011
Down from Aleppo to the sea we rode
Down from Aleppo to the sea
On swaying, snow white camels we rode
Down from Aleppo to the sea


We sailed on a thin jade ship with hope
On a green jade ship with hope
Drifting upon endless seas
In a thin jade ship with hope


To the empty seas for love, we cried
To the empty sea for love
We saw Her walking the curling waves
To the empty seas for love


Visions came through that foggy night
Fantastic, never again seen
Spider lights sliding between the masts
That foggy night never again seen

The cook saw floating jewels, he said
Purple crystals in the sea
Uncovering the inner truths of foam
Purple crystals in the sea


The mate felt an eternal wind
He felt an eternal wind
Breath from the unknown sea it was
Rustling eternal winds


The stars chanted sutras of icy warmth
The stars chanted sutras of ice
Sailing below a schizoid sea
Chanting warm sutras of ice


Before tomorrow we left the glad sea
Before tomorrow we left
Blazing vacuities of nightshade explode
Before the light gathered we left


Down to Aleppo from the sea we rode
Down to Aleppo from the sea
On swaying silk white camels we rode
Down to Aleppo from the sea
Martin Narrod May 2015
Martin Narrod  just now
I started working on a comment in response to "Filling A Bottle With A Tundish"

Sadly I must admit, that even for an American with a college degree, who is a self-proclaimed non-Philistine that grew up in a suburb of Chicago, IL. Where I'm from I've been told is much like some parts of Sussex(I believe it's Sussex), my friend Lili Wilde described it to me on an occasion.

So I must say martin, that for having a voracious appetite for language, language of all sorts, from **** to sin, to cinephile to cynosure, pulchritude to tup, exsuphlocate to masticate, irate, irk, perfervid, wan ewes thwapping their tails, nearly stridulating like the cricket in the thistle. The advanced undulate troche of domesticated shadows, and the sesquipedelien dulciloquent surreptitious diction and other floccinaucinihilipilification and tomfoolery about.

martin, please do tell me what a 'Tundish" is? If you haven't yet, there is a phenomenally interesting reverse dictionary, entitled onelook.com/reversedictionary , and quite contrary as it may seem, and for all the Virginia & Leonard Woolf I enjoy reading, especially his somewhat innocuously underrated novella he wrote, I also read with extraordinary gratitude Ted Hughes's The Birthday Letters, Take of a Bride Groom, The Complete Works, Sylvia Plath's Unabridged Journals, Ariel, Johnny Panic, Ariel, and other poems by writer Richard Matthews. I am still unfamiliar with this word, Tundish. Online dictionaries don't give the best explanation.

As I was mentioning earlier. The OneLook Dictionary-Reverse, will let you for example, search: beach sand. And in response it will give you up to thousands and thousands of word which relate to those two words, together, seperately, and opposing each other. Such as: water, swell, wave, arenose, peat, dirt, seagull, Pacific Ocean, suntan, bikini, The Beach Boys, vitrify. It's very fun indeed. From one Martin to another, I hope you'll stay in touch. I'm excited about your work!

Best Regards

Martin

P.S. The text below is the original message I typed before learning that my presumptions of you being Anglican were correct. Have a great day!

Another Martin, YES! How exquisite, I've never met another one. I have so many questions I barely know where to start. I love marigolds, nose-bags with oats, and as I started feeling the essences if equus and what lurking prurient pedagogy for the didactic zoology that took me and the mind of me to wonder perhaps if though I am quite certain(though not 100%) that your native tongue is English, but using that ridiculous skill-set of immense benality I seem to someone have, am I wrong for asking dear Martin, are you from Scotland or Wales, or maybe even from a country where you learnt English as a native tongue but it's your secondary language?

As aforementioned, there are a plethora of questions that this runnel of sludge and dross that've now arisen in the turpidity of your antiquary of delightful speech. To whomever invited me to play along in the debauchery, and dance merrily with merriment, mine younger docile succubus's slendering beside me, puking up their tissue paper and vegetable soup, so that my pretty girls can fit into Size 2 TuTu's, and learnedly imprison themselves into the tatterdemalion of portentously lurid self-****** and abuse. , and the opprobrious trollop-gossip the gaggle of my skinny victim women eschewing food groups, in order to appeal to my conservative eyes, thrice the child's wild idling to absorb the rancor of their stoic and noisome sedentary lifestyle in the polluted sudatorium that I myself don't use, but that these nonparticular Philistines would serve as Surf & Turf with glazed Christmas Hams for the Hebrews to eat, and another sad storm surge on another deserted quay of sea sands, and our vessel and our deserters, worshipping the Virunga, sacrificing the ghost skeletons of the million year old ape. So I ask you. If even you're capable of expressing yourself under the maddening yet advesperating evening listening to Miles Kane and The Arctic Monkeys, followed by listening to Black Sabbath play Fairies Wear Boots while we drink our childhoods free of the rod and **** the war out of our teenage girlfriends. And in the morning when awoken by the sound of Sopwith Camels arriving on the early, frost-strewn milky, azure-banded stripes of moonlit ecstasy that make for this unquantifiable gesture of succinct believers driving in Summer get stopped for blowing a rice-white swiveling consortium of dishonest affair rivaling ****** addicts, with hummus, plastic bags, and forks in their sphincters, while they autoerotically asphyxiate themselves in a plastic knockoff Mickey Mouse hat, and a Pirates of the Carribbean bandana wrapped around the ***** eyed nightmare of having unsuccessfully sedated a 400-lb crabby, Lowland living-room Silverback Gorilla. More than a primate and a prostate exam. It's like posthumously straining to push tingling 119° Vaseline through the grey and white coffee stirrers which spilled all over the floor while I was saying goodbye to our daughter, while also explaining to you why it's so important to me you love me back enough so that everyone has enough of a grasping glint at understanding yourself, that in managing to reason the arithmetic of such a conundrum and confusing calamity, a phone call free of dial tone happens to be surrendered to an independent Christian organization of the state while myself and my wife's two sons, our sons, Thomas and James, have enough free time from complaining to hire an attorney to disclose the arraignment reiterated by both legal council, city council, and the Screenwriters Guild of counsellors struggling from methamphetamine addiction.

Peace Be With You.

Martin Narrod
martin.narrod@gmail.com
Response to Filling A Bottle With A Tundish by Martin
Lawrence Hall Jul 2018
A white tee shirt with a pack of Camels
Tucked up ‘way cool in the left-side sleeve
And new blue jeans, the cuffs exactly right
And in my back pocket a happenin’ Ace comb

For keeping that duck tail so hot for the chicks
To swoon about, so High School Confidential
A cheap tin switchblade hidden carefully away
More Sharks than the Sharks, more Jets than the Jets

Even Kookier than Kookie, oh, my! -
While swaggering home from junior high
Your ‘umble scrivener’s site is:
Reactionarydrivel.blogspot.com.
It’s not at all reactionary, tho’ it might be drivel.
CK Baker Jan 2017
He filled his week bag
with quick picks
from the commissary
cover blades
and skull caps
canned goods
and half stated pearls
liquor bills
and bleeders
for the flight of weary

Into the ****** bunks
of the western front
past sivana
and nurture sage
past the pomp
and ceremony
out of robe
and into jumpers
and casings
and masks of gas

Light infantry
and yelling men
muscled
and scorned
fly boys high
in 3 wing flight
mounted gunners
filling the night
in hawkers and packards
and scabbard chape

Tarrant tabers
and camels
dodge the vicker gun
skeleton hands
grease the mill trap
carnage makers
mark the rhineland
(buried in bunkers
and pile bags
and earth pack)

Trench helmets
and metal backs
under machine fire
minefields burn
in muzzle and coil
deep in the shadows
and shrapnel
and spear
the razor wire
and dead cold
despair

Slouch hats
and burning rats
kerosene lamps
and droopers
the soldier stares down
the broken line
and limb
a ****** holds steady
(shelved at a distance)
on ripped pipe
and beam

It was an all in
end game
a grapple for the ages;
*** in the
fokker pursuit
over rolling hills
and fallen comrades
into the bishop bullet
(and sporadic cheer)
which sealed the deal
in an empty field
near the brae corbie road
I sit and watch a camel train go by and as it limps across the pale blue sky,shrouded in the clouds,I wonder if I could get upon a camels back and track along,could I learn the camel drover’s song?
A ditty,not so pretty,more a humpalong than any song I’ve ever heard with words that I can’t understand,though familiar in the camels land up in the sky,
Where I watch them going by.

Hip ,hop, clop, clump being a camel gives me the ****,how I wish to be a fish deep in the sea,like a whale.
I like a scale,a doh, ray, me,as far as I can see I’ll be a camel all my days and wander through a desert haze but my gaze is fixed as I roam free, on a cool and clear deep ocean sea.

Once,
I was a little thing until I grew and learnt to sing and now I don’t know anything,except
I want to be free,a fish in the sea,won’t some kind body please untie me,slip the noose and then un-sky me,set me on the coastal road,with my ****,without my load and let me smell the ocean breeze and slip into those lovely seas.
I want to be free and this you can see,before the clouds all break apart and with them goes my breaking heart and you could at least pretend to start to set me free.
Pain in the thighs
from the endless straddles
Pin ****** in the ribs
from a poorly made white willows dress

All are things much desired by a pudgy adolescent female  
A garment of ill conceived freedom
An illusion
Of frolic in utopia

It was just a small gate way to the mud caked feet
And into the auto eclipses
Of stargazing zombies
Those still relied on vintage kaleidoscopes
All Full of cracks

See in her bleeding ignorance
the shores still remained open
Turquoise schooners unleashed

The tree tops were still aching to be claimed
Reincarnated as a paradise for attractive drifters

Not even the all mouth beasts
can contain her patented enthusiasm
The straw huts break for assembly
under a tiny hand

Too bad the cracks have been secured
The air was kept to boil
and stain the linoleum
Echoes of a puritan called to action

The streams soon hardened
to form plastic shelving
And the orange flowers collapse
to form packing materials

Onto the plastic shelving is were we placed the books
The books that know that freedom
is just copy right infringement
And life is a micromanaging instruction
Designed to make workers eat their own demise

Grid-less prosperity
cremated in the corner of a starter home
Only an anthropologic mistake
Meant to ward of a mass pandemic of sudden infant death syndrome

The pudgy filled girl,
The comedic car and the overproduced dress

They will learn the value of a hot meal and a good *******
The dreamers almost stole her away
in their patchwork parachute
But we sent her away to Universidad
And the world is her worthless cluster ****!
Micheal Wolf Sep 2013
I think the old camel is quite the beast
Carrying man and all his gear
For he can carry more than I
As he plods along with his life
As breaking point I have reached
A slow erosion of my soul
Day by day ever more
Until enough was a time now past
Then I will have long collapsed.
Daddy liked his whiskey
Momma liked her smokes
Momma cursed like crazy
Dad told ***** jokes
To all the people 'round here
They was ordinary folks
Momma puffed on camels
Dad drank whiskey cokes

I dropped out of high school
By the time I was fourteen
I had no direction
And I got mighty mean
Sis, she had two babies
But neither one was seen
And to all the people 'round here
We were just both normal teens

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
You do not want to grow and be like me
Listen to what I tell you, don't you do the things you see
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
Nope, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

When ever there is fighting
Folks 'round here go  blind
They all have got their secrets
they don't want us to find
That apples in around their house
Are not quite as designed
It's best to look at others
For the truth, it isn't kind

Momma kept on smoking
Daddy drank his rye
sis and I both left here
No one ever asked them why
Nothing changes ever
so nobody will try
and all the folks around here
live inside this little lie

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
You do not want to grow and be like me
Listen to what I tell you, don't you do the things you see
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
Nope, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree
Zachary Fore Oct 2010
burdened with the weight of it all,
the camel stops and lies
in the middle of the desert

the man driving the herd--
the herd that's laden
with tired, overworked
camels, walks toward the downtrodden
offender with his arm outstretched
and in his palm, sat a pistol--

then, he hesitates--

as he stares into the eyes of
the camel--
deeply--
intrigued--
but beyond that,
he felt a sense of calm, which
soon turned sour--
everything turns sour

he gazed into the dark abyss
of the pistol
turned it toward his temple
and pulled the trigger

all the camels scattered--
except the one lying down

he placed his head in the sand,
then slept
in memory of
the
fallen
herder
Blameless as daylight I stood looking
At a field of horses, necks bent, manes blown,
Tails streaming against the green
Backdrop of sycamores. Sun was striking
White chapel pinnacles over the roofs,
Holding the horses, the clouds, the leaves

Steadily rooted though they were all flowing
Away to the left like reeds in a sea
When the splinter flew in and stuck my eye,
Needling it dark. Then I was seeing
A melding of shapes in a hot rain:
Horses warped on the altering green,

Outlandish as double-****** camels or unicorns,
Grazing at the margins of a bad monochrome,
Beasts of oasis, a better time.
Abrading my lid, the small grain burns:
Red cinder around which I myself,
Horses, planets and spires revolve.

Neither tears nor the easing flush
Of eyebaths can unseat the speck:
It sticks, and it has stuck a week.
I wear the present itch for flesh,
Blind to what will be and what was.
I dream that I am Oedipus.

What I want back is what I was
Before the bed, before the knife,
Before the brooch-pin and the salve
Fixed me in this parenthesis;
Horses fluent in the wind,
A place, a time gone out of mind.
Lundyn Claire Dec 2014
January 19th:
The plaid sheets that used to be home to all of our memories, is now stained with my tears. I want you to know that you’re still there and that your hoodie is still sitting in the back of my closet, its scent strong enough for me to smell the memories of those winter nights. Your half-empty box of Camels is tucked away in the opening under my floorboards. I always thought that would be what would’ve killed you, not that **** car.

“Those things ‘ill **** you.” I would always say.

“If these things are the one to **** me, I guess we weren’t together long enough for you to do it.” You would always reply, with that quirky smirk of yours.

These are the conversations that I miss the most. Sitting on those sheets and pretending you’re right there is how I spend my days. They said that we were young and stupid and didn’t know anything about love. That we wouldn’t even remember each other’s names come next year. I miss you, God I miss you and I just wish you would come home to where you belong, with me.

Jess




January 22nd:
It’s 11:27 pm and I’m sitting on your grave. I have permanent tearstains on my face I can’t stop crying. Stupid you and your stupid grin that I fell in love with in the first place. Stupid you and your stupid scar above your right eyebrow that you got when you fell off of your bike as a kid. Stupid you. I love you. Can’t you see that? I’m right here, and I love you and want you here with me.

Jess
There Is Slavery in Mauritania
Alexander K Opicho
(Eldoret, Kenya; aopicho@yahoo.com)

There are black slaves in Mauritania
Indentured Patel Slaves in India
Black Slaves in Mali
Black Slaves in Nigeria
Black Slaves in Niger
White Slaves in Russia
Muslim slaves in Senegal
There are black slaves in Mauritania.

Today, December 2013
There are black slaves in Mauritania
serving the white Berbers
Toiling from morning to late evening
working under desert sun like soulless beasts
with no single pay, with no human dignity
there are black slaves in Mauritania.

Let us all go slowly and slowly to fight
In the Islamic city of Nouakchott
To demolish evil monuments of slavery
With our entire human mighty let us fight
With our blood, sweat and soul
Fight slavery the human vice in Mauritania
Free them all black slaves to freedom
Black moor, black Africans, Afro-Mauritanians
From the shackles of slavery to white Berbers,
There are black slaves in Mauritania.

There are women in slavery in Nouakchott
Herding camels and goats, donkeys and mules
Black women ***** in the field alongside animals
Enslaved women ***** in the field as children look
Black women ***** in the field as goats and sheep watch
Black women of Mauritania are in deep tribulation
All their pregnancies a protégé of white ****
No child of love, wedlock or out of romance
There are black slaves in Mauritania

There are a million black slaves in Mauritania
Some know of their fate some know not
Their doom of chattel slavery
Where man is sold away like a wooden spoon
Away to a willing buyer a slave is sold
Away to a fellow slave master man is donated
As a wedding gift or a birthday token
There are black slaves in Mauritania.

When a white Berber king dies
The journey before him is long and arduous
The journey to heaven is long indeed
He can’t go alone he needs a hand
Two live slaves are buried along with him
The slave master the white Berber
To provide hand and service to the master off to heaven
There are black slaves in Mauritania.

In the city of Nouakchott Muslim enslave Moslem
Against the holy law of Mohammed,
As long as they are black Africans and moors
Islam is neither fortress nor succor for them
Against the racist urge for enslavement
White Berbers the rich of Nouakchott
Enslave Black Muslim and half Black Muslim
There are black slaves in Mauritania.

It is true god of Christians and Allah of Moslem
Owe apology to enslaved black humanity
God and Allah should apologize to Africanity
God said, Jews can **** a non Jewish slaves is no sin
Albeit, killing a Jewish slave is sin
Jews only to be slaves for seven years
That, slaves venerate your masters
That, non-Jewish slaves are in life slavery
Their sire slaves of the master
Jewish slaves give birth to children
Non-Jewish slaves give birth to slaves
Allah said, Muslim can enslave all non Muslims
O! Africa! There are black slaves in Mauritania.

Liberated slaves of Mauritania go back
In the sand dunes and dents of slavery
Teach your folks both master and slaves
The fruit of freedom from religious utopia
Tell the slaves to ignore the Quran and the Bible
For these are none other than handmaids of slavery
Stupid bliss, blind faith, O! Archaic pusillanimity
there is black slaves in Mauritania.

Let the slaves read and teach others to read
Fanon Omar the son of Algeria
Walter Rodney son of Guyana
Aime Cesaire son of the north
Ousmane of Senegal the wood of Islam
Amilcar Cabral the verdant cape
Malcolm X and Paul Freire, pedagogy of slavery
Marcus Garvey and The black souls of W Dubois
There are black slaves in Mauritania

For me and my house I stand for freedom
For me and my house I stand for human dignity
For me and my house I stand for diversity in humanity
For me and my house I will never enslave a fellow human being
For me and my house I better serve Marxism down to my infinity
Other than flirting with christo-islamic glorification of slavery
Slaves in Mauritania have tyranny of numbers over the Berbers
Stand up and fight the few slave drivers in Mauritania
There are black slaves in Mauritania.
Third Eye Candy Jan 2013
[From Fragments,  The Following...]

... so it was that the Urth bled less. The Birch Moot was becalmed by the Anvil Cloud of Impending Deluge.
The Young Gods made sport of Their Names, and aimed to Oblique the colony of clever flesh
groping at the tender roots of an insipid devastation. The First Ones had vanished.
But Time was born and the Mortal Whirl released the Hounds of Change. Transition fused -
with the Eternal; and the offspring of unloved Spirits, roamed the Tangible. All Suffering was amplified
in the diamond lungs of a divine corpse, dreaming.


... for when the iron heart of The Cast Out was retrieved, the Legion of Heaven poured unseemly Grace upon the Fathoms
and the High King of Doubt, forced his blade ' Nimue '
into the soft palette, of the First Mouth.  The Stars were born and The Void overheard the First Naming.
A solid drizzle of enchantment cloaked the oaken Yggdrasil
and The Pattern unleashed the folly of Pattern
to mask the virtue of succinct Chaos. The Children of The Lower Sky ate their Masters and thereby swollen -
gathered in the underbrush of the Fecund.
They came to Know Regret by Answering Prayers. The Kingdoms of Wane were waning in the fearsome riot of Creation
and not a boy, a man from no woman
and no woman
a man.


... the siege lights of the petty stars, babbled in the wake of yawning eruption and nullification. the ****** theater of blood
was made Holy by way of forcing camels into eyes of needles in constant dystopian joy.


... and that's how the rain gets in.



[ From the ' Kingdoms Of Wane ', a Lost Tome from Antiquity and Dada ]


What ?
Paul Hansford Jun 2016
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages ***** and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
RAJ NANDY Jun 2015
AN EXOTIC JOURNEY TO THE
               KHYBER PASS!
              By Raj Nandy

“When spring-time flushes the desert grass,
Our caravan wind through the Khyber Pass.
Lean are the camels but fat the frails,
Lighter the purses but heavy the bales!
As the snowbound trade of the North comes down,
To the market square of Peshawar town.”
- Rudyard Kipling (Dec1865- Jan 1936).

Those immortal lines of Kipling had enticed me,
To delve into famous Khyber’s exotic History ;
And today I narrate its wondrous story!

THE KHYBER PASS:
Steeped in adventure, bloodshed and mystery,
The Khyber remains the doorway of History!
Winston Churchill, then a young newspaper
correspondent in 18 97 had said, -
‘Each rock and hill along the pass had a story
to tell! ’
Cutting across the limestone cliffs more than
thousand feet high,
This narrow winding path of 45 km’s stretch,
Cuts through the Hindu Kush mountain range!
Forming a part of the ancient Silk Route between
Central and South Asia;
Linking Kabul with Peshawar town during those
early days of Pre-Independent India!
The area is inhabited by fierce Pashtun tribesmen,
who live by their ancient Honor Code;
They value their land and liberty, and their winding
mountain roads !
They can be the greatest of friends and deadliest
of foes;
And as the saying goes, for a friend a Pashtun
can even give up his life;
But he never forgets a wrong or when rubbed on
the wrong side !
He always avenges a wrong deed done, -
Even after decades, through his sons!
The indigenous tribes living along the pass,
Regard this area as their sole preserve!
They have levied a toll on all travelers from
the earliest days,
For their safe conduct and passage through the
Khyber, - as Historians say!

HISTORIC INVASIONS THROUGH KHYBER:
At its highest point the Khyber is 3500 ft in height,
But its strategic importance can never be denied!
Around 2000 BC came the Indo-Aryan tribes
from Central Asia,
Migrating to the rich fertile plains of Ancient India!
In 326 BC, the great Alexander came through,
By bribing the local tribes to gain their favour,
To defeat King Porus on the banks of Jhelum River;
And set up his short-lived Bactrian Empire!
In 1192 AD Afghan warlord Mohammad Ghori, -
Invaded India to set up The Sultanate at Delhi!
In 1220 Genghis Khan with his Mongol hordes
came through the Khyber;
With the help of local tribesmen to plunder the
ruling Arab Empire!
In 1380 through this pass came Timur Lane,
To wreck and destroy the Delhi Sultanate!
And finally from Kabul through the Khyber path,
Came Babur to establish the Mogul Empire with
his victory at Panipath!
From 1839 till 1919, here the British had fought,
- three ****** Anglo-Afghan Wars!
And before retreating, drew the famous Durand
Line to ally fears;
But this Line is now the cause of bickering and
tribal tears!

THE BRITISH KHYBER RAILWAY:
At Jamrud Cantonment town 17 km west of
Peshawar,
Lies the doorway to the historic Khyber!
The track passes through a breath-taking rugged
mountainous terrain, -
Through 34 tunnels, over 92 bridges, a 42 kilometer’s
of winding stretch!
A five hour’s journey at Laudi Kotal gets complete;
The line stands as a tribute to British Engineering
feat!
The legendary Khyber Rifles had guarded the
western flanks of the British Empire,
With garrisoned troops guarding this route entire! @
Since 1990 this train is run by a private enterprise, #
With local tribesmen always taking a free joy ride!
Recent Taliban attacks made Pakistan to close
the Khyber Pass,
An uneasy truce prevails, only God knows how
long it will last ?!
But with that Durand Line of 1893 demarcated,
Forty million Pashtuns today stand divided, -
Between Pakistan and Afghanistan!
With hopes, aspirations and dreams of becoming
United!
- Raj Nandy
New Delhi .

NOTES:-
Battle Of Panipath, April 1526, where Babur defeated numerically
superior forces of Ibrahim Lodhi; thereby establishing the Moghul
Empire in India!
On 04Nov1925, the British inaugurated the Khyber Railway to carry
troops up to Laudi Kotal on the other end, short of the Afghan border
to guard the western flanks of the British Empire!
@KHYBER RIFLES: - Raised in early1880s with HQs at Laudi Kotal,
& garrison troops manning the Forts at Ali Masjid near the
mid-way point of the Pass, and also at Fort Maud to the east of the
Khyber Pass.
KHYBER RAILWAYS: With 75 seats, a kitchenette, and two toilets;
pulled by two old Lancashire engines of 1920 vintage! It cuts across
Peshwar Airport under Air Traffic Control! It was stopped in 1982, as
economically not viable! Started again by a Private Enterprise
in 1990, in collaboration with the Pak Railway! After the Partition of
India in 1947, the Khyber is under the Federal Administered Tribal
Area of Pakistan! A difficult and a volatile region to govern! The
Khyber now remains closed due political reasons! Thanks for
reading.
* ALL COPYRIGHTS ARE WITH RAJ NANDY
Bailey B Dec 2009
I'm Bailey.
I sometimes forget to recycle.
I'm from singing camels and trigonometry.
From soap bubbles and yellow scarves, Irish hymns and Zucchini the ferret,
piano keys, bluebonnet seeds, and DO NOT ENTER signs.
From salt.
I'm the color of hosed off sidewalk chalk.
I'm all summer in a day.
I'm a conglomeration of artistic thoughts that make me look more profound than I actually am.
I'm your infinite playlist.
I'm from elephant necklaces and rosemary bushes
from high-heeled taps and Camelot
threadless socks, shopping carts, and impromptu salons.
I'm the fifth ninja turtle.
I live where you laugh so hard you cry.
I'm from carrots and ranch.
I'm a happy cow from California, a fortune cookie with your enchilada, a drill team skirt over marching uniforms.
I'm from unfinished crossword puzzles and forgotten dead languages
from pixie dust and snapcracklepop
from actually-it's-pronounced's, because-i-said-so's, and that's-not-my-name's.
I am Nancy Drew with a Peter Pan complex.
I come from honeysuckle candles and sunroofs of pickup trucks
broken-down fences and peach salsa
the second you step onstage.
I'm from in between.
I'm Bailey.
I don't drive the speed limit.
And I'm from you.
Mike Jewett Feb 2015
If there is a God,
my God
is a **** brunette.
Doe eyes,
stunning violet,
dark with eyeliner.

Star tattoos
twinkle on her face,
shooting across the skies

of her cheeks. A lower
lip piercing
accentuates

the **** curve
of her pouty lips.
Her lithe body,

also inked,
golden from the sun.
She smokes Camels,

sunlit smoke glowing
as it pours from her lips.
She’d ask me to join her

every time
she went outside
to have one,

grinning when she exhales.
I believe already.
My God.
Raj Arumugam Jan 2014
Camelot was really a place
where you parked camels –
yeah, the Egyptians traded everywhere;
and sure the round table was true –
King Arthur asked Sir Circumference to
fashion him a round table
because, as a matter of strategy,
it’s never good to be cornered

And what did the Egyptians do
after they parked their camels at Camelot?
Oh, they enjoyed the knight life
and the Musical
and they eyeballed Guinevere and Julie Andrews

So really, in spite of Thomas Malory
and Richard Harris and Richard Burton
in spite of all skills literary and vocal,
and Hollywood special effects -
Camelot was just a night club;
the English have always loved a good drink
the poem is based on some online Camelot jokes
William Crowe II Jun 2014
"In a row???" I ask, incredulous.

"Nah, man."

"Were you at least #37?"

"Well, yeah. But still that gets to me," he says. He starts counting change, playing with pennies on the glass counter.

"If you didn't see it, it didn't happen," I reply. I pull out a $5.00 bill.

"That's childish!" He looks at me like I'm a babbling idiot.

"That's my life!" It was my life.

"I can't believe you sometimes," he says. Nobody can, bud.

"You better start. I'm smarter than I look." I'm bluffing now; I'm a ******* idiot.

"Yeah, yeah. Do you wanna buy anything or not?" he goes back to his pennies on the glass counter.

"Yeah--Marlboro Reds," I reply hesitantly. For a moment I thought about Camels.

"$5.00 even." It's always $5.00 even when you're with friends.

"Alright."

"Shorts or 100s?"

"****, man, shorts!" It's my turn to look at him like he's a total stranger.

"Just asking." He puts the bill in the register.

"Shorts say badass. 100s say suicide mission."

"I suppose you're right."

"It makes perfect sense!"

"Either way you're going to die."

"Yeah? So are you, buddy."

"*******."

I exit the convenience store, pack my Marlboro Reds, turn two up (one for luck, one for ****, to be smoked lastly out of the pack) and light one.
SMOKE of the fields in spring is one,
Smoke of the leaves in autumn another.
Smoke of a steel-mill roof or a battleship funnel,
They all go up in a line with a smokestack,
Or they twist ... in the slow twist ... of the wind.
  
If the north wind comes they run to the south.
If the west wind comes they run to the east.
  By this sign
  all smokes
  know each other.
Smoke of the fields in spring and leaves in autumn,
Smoke of the finished steel, chilled and blue,
By the oath of work they swear: "I know you."
  
Hunted and hissed from the center
Deep down long ago when God made us over,
Deep down are the cinders we came from-
You and I and our heads of smoke.
  
Some of the smokes God dropped on the job
Cross on the sky and count our years
And sing in the secrets of our numbers;
Sing their dawns and sing their evenings,
Sing an old log-fire song:
  
You may put the damper up,
You may put the damper down,
The smoke goes up the chimney just the same.
  
Smoke of a city sunset skyline,
Smoke of a country dusk horizon-
  They cross on the sky and count our years.
  
Smoke of a brick-red dust
  Winds on a spiral
  Out of the stacks
For a hidden and glimpsing moon.
This, said the bar-iron shed to the blooming mill,
This is the slang of coal and steel.
The day-gang hands it to the night-gang,
The night-gang hands it back.
  
Stammer at the slang of this-
Let us understand half of it.
  In the rolling mills and sheet mills,
  In the harr and boom of the blast fires,
  The smoke changes its shadow
  And men change their shadow;
  A ******, a ***, a bohunk changes.
  
  A bar of steel-it is only
Smoke at the heart of it, smoke and the blood of a man.
A runner of fire ran in it, ran out, ran somewhere else,
And left-smoke and the blood of a man
And the finished steel, chilled and blue.
  
So fire runs in, runs out, runs somewhere else again,
And the bar of steel is a gun, a wheel, a nail, a shovel,
A rudder under the sea, a steering-gear in the sky;
And always dark in the heart and through it,
  Smoke and the blood of a man.
Pittsburg, Youngstown, Gary-they make their steel with men.
  
In the blood of men and the ink of chimneys
The smoke nights write their oaths:
Smoke into steel and blood into steel;
Homestead, Braddock, Birmingham, they make their steel with men.
Smoke and blood is the mix of steel.
  
  The birdmen drone
  in the blue; it is steel
  a motor sings and zooms.
  
Steel barb-wire around The Works.
Steel guns in the holsters of the guards at the gates of The Works.
Steel ore-boats bring the loads clawed from the earth by steel, lifted and lugged by arms of steel, sung on its way by the clanking clam-shells.
The runners now, the handlers now, are steel; they dig and clutch and haul; they hoist their automatic knuckles from job to job; they are steel making steel.
Fire and dust and air fight in the furnaces; the pour is timed, the billets wriggle; the clinkers are dumped:
Liners on the sea, skyscrapers on the land; diving steel in the sea, climbing steel in the sky.
  
Finders in the dark, you Steve with a dinner bucket, you Steve clumping in the dusk on the sidewalks with an evening paper for the woman and kids, you Steve with your head wondering where we all end up-
Finders in the dark, Steve: I hook my arm in cinder sleeves; we go down the street together; it is all the same to us; you Steve and the rest of us end on the same stars; we all wear a hat in hell together, in hell or heaven.
  
Smoke nights now, Steve.
Smoke, smoke, lost in the sieves of yesterday;
Dumped again to the scoops and hooks today.
Smoke like the clocks and whistles, always.
  Smoke nights now.
  To-morrow something else.
  
Luck moons come and go:
Five men swim in a *** of red steel.
Their bones are kneaded into the bread of steel:
Their bones are knocked into coils and anvils
And the ******* plungers of sea-fighting turbines.
Look for them in the woven frame of a wireless station.
So ghosts hide in steel like heavy-armed men in mirrors.
Peepers, skulkers-they shadow-dance in laughing tombs.
They are always there and they never answer.
  
One of them said: "I like my job, the company is good to me, America is a wonderful country."
One: "Jesus, my bones ache; the company is a liar; this is a free country, like hell."
One: "I got a girl, a peach; we save up and go on a farm and raise pigs and be the boss ourselves."
And the others were roughneck singers a long ways from home.
Look for them back of a steel vault door.
  
They laugh at the cost.
They lift the birdmen into the blue.
It is steel a motor sings and zooms.
  
In the subway plugs and drums,
In the slow hydraulic drills, in gumbo or gravel,
Under dynamo shafts in the webs of armature spiders,
They shadow-dance and laugh at the cost.
  
The ovens light a red dome.
Spools of fire wind and wind.
Quadrangles of crimson sputter.
The lashes of dying maroon let down.
Fire and wind wash out the ****.
Forever the **** gets washed in fire and wind.
The anthem learned by the steel is:
  Do this or go hungry.
Look for our rust on a plow.
Listen to us in a threshing-engine razz.
Look at our job in the running wagon wheat.
  
Fire and wind wash at the ****.
Box-cars, clocks, steam-shovels, churns, pistons, boilers, scissors-
Oh, the sleeping **** from the mountains, the ****-heavy pig-iron will go down many roads.
Men will stab and shoot with it, and make butter and tunnel rivers, and mow hay in swaths, and slit hogs and skin beeves, and steer airplanes across North America, Europe, Asia, round the world.
  
Hacked from a hard rock country, broken and baked in mills and smelters, the rusty dust waits
Till the clean hard weave of its atoms cripples and blunts the drills chewing a hole in it.
The steel of its plinths and flanges is reckoned, O God, in one-millionth of an inch.
  
Once when I saw the curves of fire, the rough scarf women dancing,
Dancing out of the flues and smoke-stacks-flying hair of fire, flying feet upside down;
Buckets and baskets of fire exploding and chortling, fire running wild out of the steady and fastened ovens;
Sparks cracking a harr-harr-huff from a solar-plexus of rock-ribs of the earth taking a laugh for themselves;
Ears and noses of fire, gibbering gorilla arms of fire, gold mud-pies, gold bird-wings, red jackets riding purple mules, scarlet autocrats tumbling from the humps of camels, assassinated czars straddling vermillion balloons;
I saw then the fires flash one by one: good-by: then smoke, smoke;
And in the screens the great sisters of night and cool stars, sitting women arranging their hair,
Waiting in the sky, waiting with slow easy eyes, waiting and half-murmuring:
  "Since you know all
  and I know nothing,
  tell me what I dreamed last night."
  
Pearl cobwebs in the windy rain,
in only a flicker of wind,
are caught and lost and never known again.
  
A pool of moonshine comes and waits,
but never waits long: the wind picks up
loose gold like this and is gone.
  
A bar of steel sleeps and looks slant-eyed
on the pearl cobwebs, the pools of moonshine;
sleeps slant-eyed a million years,
sleeps with a coat of rust, a vest of moths,
a shirt of gathering sod and loam.
  
The wind never bothers ... a bar of steel.
The wind picks only .. pearl cobwebs .. pools of moonshine.
Derek Yohn Nov 2013
On the porch roof, in the pitch of it,
the scuttling claws of autumn leaves

               fa
                                              ll
             ­                     g
                  in
          d
                                         o
                         wn.

(the sky is falling)

Battling cigarette smoke prayers for passage
       to the great beyond,

i feel them both tingling my spine,
unfiltered.
Acuriousnature Aug 2014
Meal is still lame like an injured camel. For lame are  the camels name Amel and Elma and Emal and Lema.
For all these are blind to their danger, their gamble
But truly I tell but one camel is lame
Now I beg ye fair maiden please tell me it's name?
It started as a poem that became a riddle :3. If you'd like, please comment which camel you think isn't lame ^_^
Gabriel Gadfly Dec 2011
December, 1870*

After the beef was gone,
after the pork and the lamb,
and the fowl and the fish
and the dogs, and the cats,
and the rats in the gutter,
the butchers turned to the zoo.

We ate the wolves.
We ate the wolves
broiled in sauce of deer,
the antelope truffled and terrined.
We ate the camels
with breadcrumbs and butter,
and when they were all gone,
we sharpened our knives
and primed our guns
and came back for the elephants.

The gunsmith Devisme did the deed,
hurled an explosive ball
through each of their docile heads.
They fell like mountains,
like the pillars of Dagon
pulled down by mighty Samson,
and then we hacked them up
and carted them away to the kitchens,
to feed the wealthy and the rich
in the clubs of bright Paris.
This poem and others can be found at the author's website, http://gabrielgadfly.com
Mateuš Conrad Sep 2018
.so... just because he's copper skinned, and doesn't speak the English language with a continental accent but some brash, canopy of urban slang, he's the superior authority of the dialectical drag of opinion? oh! really?! so we're talking to diacritical aesthetic snobs?! wow! i thought i was bad at that, which i am... but i'm first generation, and i know the courtesy of remaining the voice tracking, a minority... that somehow has enough oil in the cogs of cognition, to leave these isles... i'll stay... blend in... only the more obnoxious english people are bothered by my "accent"... like that one comic in Edinburgh said... you might wonder about my accent... it's educated... my one flaw... i live in Essex but don't fit the Essex boy stereotype... some i'm primarily foreign... not educated.

that's nice, no really...
  back in 1997
   i was an illegal immigrant -
deported from England
with my parents...
aged...
  1986... aged... 11...
about to start
secondary school...
Canon Palmer,
7 kings...
i remember the whole encounter,
happened on Sunday -
the Home Office officers came
plain clothes... knocked
on the door...
my father started running...
jumped a few garden fences...
was caught...
my grandfather was visiting,
kept blaming himself
for the incident....
the day before?
   we were out doing the usual
family stuff -
won a massive red dog doll
for my mother rolling
***** into holes with
camels racing across the
canvas...
   what was that place...
can't remember...
   but sure as hell i remember
the ride...
   started off circular horizontal,
ended up circular vertical...
    but turns out i remember
that Sunday better...
         one of the home office officers
walked into my bedroom with
me sobbing...
   and only said:
you have a nice computer...
i gave him the death stare...
   well... second time round
my parents figured out all the legal
issues of applying for citizenry -
  and managed to get it...
did i sing the national anthem
at the integration ceremony?
like **** it did...
           i speak an english
that transcends national anthem *******,
plus i'm waiting for Charlie...
   who probably going to
become George VIII or something...
    but i know the backbone of
illegal migration,
i was one, aged 11...
seeing my parents get arrested
i started a fist-fight with a wall
that i knew i was going to lose...
      point being...
  whenever some, ******* Somali migrant...
some African migrant in his teens
gets away with illegal migration?
look...
i know what illegal migration
looks like...
   don't tell me no person is illegal
because you're copper-skinned
and bronze when tanned...
and that's your sole excuse!
        ****** me off...
****... didn't you hear that
Bukowski already said?
  the poor are not good unto their fellows
and the rich are likewise...
so why expect economic migrants
to not think less of refugees?
economic migrants at least do
not smuggle in tears and homeland
literary worth regrets...
no-nonsense migration...
  competent roofers -
   competent plumbers...
   but i... kinda love how the middle class
english "lass" will prefer Afro-****
over an unblocked toilet...
            and their children,
Bahamas beauties, all of them...
pretty mongrels outliving pedigrees...
  there is a concept of illegal
immigration,
i was an illegal immigrant...
    but, hey... a white among whites
means i don't have the copper skin
argument to call it: "racism"...
   can people actually file for
a de- citizenship?
               there are still parts of Europe,
that do not have a post-colonial
  present...
  where the Somali, Nigerian argument...
will not, work...
it, will, not, work...
             it's days like these where
i'm like: whatever the U.S.S.R. was,
and what it became...
   i'm about to snuggle up to the current
shadow...
          no... illegal immigration
exists...
             unless you're *******
color blind...
                   hell...
at least i spent 1998 being home schooled -
and watching the World Cup with
my great-grandmother...
   and discovering Metallica...
but no... when some ******* sub-Saharan
tells me about the citizenry of
the world...
          look... head over to Kiev...
  see how happy the Ukrainians will be...
head over to the Warsaw...
   where the signs are in both Polish
and Ukrainian...
                please! please! i implore you!
try assuming that everyone
over those parts is bilingual speaking
English...
i'm waiting to see the Islamic takeover...
on the local and primordial level
of a "peasantry" -
                      but like shaggy said -
wazzin' me...
    i didn't castrate the English...
      to me their testicles are still dangling...
or at least i like to think they are...
    but as an economic migrant...
i abhor what others somehow find
emotional cupcakes of sugary ooze for
in terms of sympathy...
             guess the first line of chess -
collateral - pawns -
       is necessary beside the bishop -
   like what the Palestinians do with their
civilians, according to the Israeli
army...
                     so why bother making
psychedelics legal...
  when you trip on moral relativism?!

— The End —