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Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Section 17 Row H seats 11 and 12
Almost every home game does he see
A grey haired man with a clip board sits
Two seats over and one down from me
He's a scout for the bigs, Comes most games to watch
Can't watch as a fan anymore
They know he made it, was up with the Bruins
Played defence with Old Number Four
He watches intently for five minutes or so
Just enough to watch each kid skate twice
Then he drinks down his coffee all in one gulp
and then he returns his eyes to the ice
The Scout, we will call him, for lack of a name
Has seen kids who've got game disappear
They find out he's watching, they get all uptight
And they can't play 'cause they're all tense with fear

I watched for four games, got his routine down pat
Watched him arrive and watch the kids skate
He'd go down in the corner and stand by the glass
Watching close through the plexiglass plate
He stayed away from the coaches, the players as well
And the parents, he'd avoid like the plague
If one ever stopped him, and asked "How's my boy"
He'd smile, and give an answer so vague
His career ended early with a stick to the head
Almost killed him, but, he was too mean
His left the game early, with Wayne Maki to blame
The Scout, is Edward "Ted" Green


Each season he'd sit, watching game after game
In arenas all over the land
Some kids he'd notice, he did not come to watch
They were just something that wasn't planned
He'd come into town to watch a kid who could score
And go home with two names on his list
One a defence man, and the goalie as well
But, the scorer, couldn't skate and got missed
Ted, would watch and make his reports on kids
Some were right, and the kid would go pro
He may be a star in the minors right now
But, the bigs...well, fate only knows

He'd listen to parents and coaches talk of the boys
Saying "My son's the next Bobby Orr"
Ted would chuckle a little and not say a word
He knew the kid would be heard from no more
Putting pressure like that on a young players back
Is like saying, "My boy will be God"
From then on it's never, the talented kid
I'ts the boy cursed with Orr's lightning rod
Many young players get compared to the best
But to say it out loud is a curse
You put a red dot on the young players back
He may as well leave in a hearse

Ted's seen them all, coaches, players and bums
Played when the game was real tough
They  had lighter equipment, not kevlar like now
and Ted, as we know liked it rough
His scratches and scribbles on the page tell a lot
But to the untrained they look like a mess
A pharmacy student couldn't read what he wrote
Nor a court stenographer I guess
He's a spotter of talent with stories to tell
More of them about kids who fell short
Most of them cursed with the "My kids the next..."
and the name of the best in the sport

Two Hundred and Ten games he watches each year
Most times he's gone early on
He's sees what he needs and then he packs up his stuff
And by the end of the first, Ted is gone
He's off on the road to another ice rink
To sit and watch on the hard seats, so cold
To listen as parents and coaches again
Talk of greatness, it's all gotten old
Terrible Ted has a warriors soul
And his grey hair is thinner but, curly
He has ice in his veins and a stick through his heart
Too bad his playing time ended too early.
Dedicated to "Terrible" Ted Green of The Big Bad Bruins and Edmonton Oilers of the NHL and former New England Whaler player of the WHA. One of the best hockey men around. I thought of this today after finding an old Ted Green hockey card from 1968 in my dresser drawer. I remember watching him play with Boston and Edmonton and saw him a number of times scouting at The London Gardens after his playing career was ended.
John Stevens Jan 2015
(c) 01-25-15
The cold has come
What once was green , now brown.
The air is cool
Promise of Spring to come.

Boys are gathered
Practice begins
for the games
to see who wins.

The ball is passed
Ball aloft at last.
Through the hoop
the points are cast.

They finesse the ball
as they pass and trick.
To out wit the opponent
as the clock does tick.

They win they lose
this season thus far.
Led by great coaches
has been better than par.

When the games are done
whether lost or won.
It is all in the fun
As they have a great run.
Basketball is upon us. The bleachers are hard but the fun is great.

Has been 6500 reads.
11-18-16.   16,100 times
12-21-16.   17,200 times
07-28-17.  28,300 times
05-18-18.   42,400 times
10-15-18   48,400 times
10-18-19    62,000 times
Who in the world is reading this?

Version called "Baseball"
http://hellopoetry.com/poem/1583323/baseball/
Robert Ronnow Nov 2017
What luxury to get mad
about last night's basketball loss
and watch the full moon descending
at the speed the earth turns.

Things could get worse
personally and for the community.
Bombings, killings, anomie
boiling frogs and witches cursing.

The changing climate,
typhoons in the Philippines,
volcanoes and tsunamis, WWII which I missed,
Thanksgiving nor'easter, Easter twister.

What abundance to fast or feast,
your choice, stay inside by the stove
or go outside, climb the mountainside.
Live in a city or small town.

So I raged at the coaches
for their lazy zone defense
like an alien in the bleachers
unable to affect the outcome.

When my sons came home
I yelled at them too. What opulence
to be angry about nothing of consequence
neither stopped by the cops nor slipped on the ice.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
CK Baker Dec 2017
sages and brethren
gather, and share
and slowly souls
are bared
their tempered voices
and quiet eyes
reserved of judgment
with passing smiles

moments blend
in current trends
opinions wide
and reflections deep
the concepts
and irregularities
once murky
now clear

they prioritize
and familiarize
that staunch resolution
of generation net
will remunerate
and illuminate
through the checkpoints
and formal reviews
through the purple curtains
and open stage
nothing tainted
or bitter
left for taste

cause its they
who’ll plant the seeds
the captains of commerce
healers and jugglers
the coaches and councilors
negotiators and compromisers
the kings and queens
hustlers and hellcats
(who've all found their way!)
let us tip our hats
and salute them
The kid could throw, he really could throw

Scouts were watching back in high school

Arm like a rocket and vision like an owl

Smart too, had all the tools

He could pick apart a defense

He just knew what he could do

But he could throw, the kid could throw

He wasn't coached, the kid just knew

He was fourteen when first spotted

Junior ball in  Eastern Michigan

Throwing footballs, Setting records,

Just to break them all again

His mind was agile like his feet

He just knew how plays should go

He was gonna knock them dead in college

He was a sure thing for the show

He made the coaches look amazing

They never, ever  called a play

He'd run the team alone while playing

He knew just what he had  to say

Three perfect years in highschool

Undefeated every year

State champions...why naturally

The kid just had no fear

He was a leader with that football

He was a man amongst the boys

He sure could pick apart a defense

He broke 'em up like little toys

In third year scouts were knocking

Every college from the East

Full rides without a question

The schools all wanted this young beast

He settled on a team with promise

He knew he could help them win it all

The scouts and coaches stood in awe as

The **** kid could throw that ball

He kept his marks up to the level

That he needed to stay around

He wrote up plays instead of homework

Some in the air, some on the ground

The kid could throw the ****** football

The NFL already knew

He'd already broken most school records

The scouts just knew what he could do

It took two years to make a bowl game

On TV beneath the lights

The country knew of the boy wonder

And they would see it Sunday night

The one thing without question

Was the rocket they called his arm

The coaches built a line around him

They would keep him safe from harm

In third year he decided

He was turning pro that year

The pro scouts all knew of him

The price to get him would be dear

Deals were made through out the summer

Teams were phoning every day

The school was upset he was leaving

The league knew he was set to play

Two first round picks and a reciever

Went to Detroit for his rights

The Lions had the chance to grab him

But the Texans had him in their sights

The Texans proudly took him

He was gonna lead them all the way

The way that this kid threw a football

In Texas they sang "Happy Day"

Our father who are't in heaven

Hallowed be thy name

We lay this boy to rest before us

Before he even played a game

A celebration in a men's club

The boy had come so ****** far

When shots were fired in the crowd there

Two gunmen drove by in a car

He had the world in his possession

Man the kid could throw, really throw

But, fate had chose a different story

How good he was we'll never know
Dan O'Neil Mar 2015
This is Not Glandular - Dan O’neil


I don’t use excuses. I never liked them.
The people who say “they were born this way”.
Husky….Stocky…. Big-*****…
Let me start by putting your minds at ease.
This is not glandular. So, i am not a fat man..  
I am a FAAATT man. And i am **** proud of it!
I am proud of this body.
I chose to be this size.
Chose a body as BOOMING as my voice ,
with the softness to counter my sharp tongued words.
Chose puppy cheeks,
so my grandma will always have something to pinch.
Chose hands that look like hot-dogs glued to a baseball,
because thats really funny to picture.
I chose to be a mountain of a man,
just incase any ladies were feeling adventurous
and wanted to hike to the summit.
Trust me, this is not glandular.

I chose this body because of the women,
because the ladies love the funny fat guy!
Because any girl who won't take me if i'm fat ,
is not anyone i'd want if i was thin.
Because I am 230 pounds of cuddling,
bearing down on you like a force of nature,
and there is NOO escape from my snuggling.
Because i am a teddy bear,
whose heart is on “E” and desperately awaits the next woman to refuel him

I chose this body because of the FOOD.
Because there are 6 meals in a day.
Breakfast,brunch,lunch,siesta, dinner ,and the taco bell drive thru.
And theyre ALL the most important meal of the day.
Because just like lonely , ***** ,and angry. We all get hungry.
Because my mom told me that some people show love by cooking.
So i got cookies instead of hugs, meatloaf instead of kisses.
And fried spaghetti sandwiches, replaced bedtime stories…
And i cleaned my plate every time because it was all i can do to say.
I love you too.
I mean i never knew my dad, and Rick.
Rick was never the hands-on step father.
Unless you consider the occasional slap on side the head.
So food became my surrogate fathers. Kernel Sanders and Chef Boyardee
Became my models for manhood.
Which explains my obsession for weird hats..

I chose this body because of 7th grade PE
Because if just one fat guy is confident when changing clothes
it makes others more confident, because dodge-ball is a ****** sport
so who cares if i get knocked out first? Running the mile is TORTURE!
But so are the jokes.. If the fat guy can't finish.

I chose this body,because other people not liking my body is not a good enough reason for me to change it.
So to the bullies, the lunch ladies , to the women who NEVER gave me a chance.
And the football coaches who berated me with insults. To the jerks and the jocks
And the doctor who joked when i stepped on his scale. To Rick and Kernel,
and ANYONE who ever used F A T as an insult. You can do what i did for the last 2 decades.
of my life doing. YOU CAN EAT IT.

Because i love pies,  i love hamburgers ,french fries ,and lobster, and deep fried twinkies
I love me some rice-a-roni and salisbury steak, microwaved burritos ,
cooler ranch doritos and ice-cream , the kind that you push that had Fred Flintstone on it.
I love cake. I love everything about who i am and the life i get to live
No. This ..is .. not ..glandular. Its just fat .
And for the first time in my life. Im proud of that.
When a man starts out with nothing,
When a man starts out with his hands
Empty, but clean,
When a man starts to build a world,
He starts first with himself
And the faith that is in his heart-
The strength there,
The will there to build.

First in the heart is the dream-
Then the mind starts seeking a way.
His eyes look out on the world,
On the great wooded world,
On the rich soil of the world,
On the rivers of the world.

The eyes see there materials for building,
See the difficulties, too, and the obstacles.
The mind seeks a way to overcome these obstacles.
The hand seeks tools to cut the wood,
To till the soil, and harness the power of the waters.
Then the hand seeks other hands to help,
A community of hands to help-
Thus the dream becomes not one man's dream alone,
But a community dream.
Not my dream alone, but our dream.
Not my world alone,
But your world and my world,
Belonging to all the hands who build.

A long time ago, but not too long ago,
Ships came from across the sea
Bringing the Pilgrims and prayer-makers,
Adventurers and ***** seekers,
Free men and indentured servants,
Slave men and slave masters, all new-
To a new world, America!

With billowing sails the galleons came
Bringing men and dreams, women and dreams.
In little bands together,
Heart reaching out to heart,
Hand reaching out to hand,
They began to build our land.
Some were free hands
Seeking a greater freedom,
Some were indentured hands
Hoping to find their freedom,
Some were slave hands
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
But the word was there always:
   Freedom.

Down into the earth went the plow
In the free hands and the slave hands,
In indentured hands and adventurous hands,
Turning the rich soil went the plow in many hands
That planted and harvested the food that fed
And the cotton that clothed America.
Clang against the trees went the ax into many hands
That hewed and shaped the rooftops of America.
Splash into the rivers and the seas went the boat-hulls
That moved and transported America.
Crack went the whips that drove the horses
Across the plains of America.
Free hands and slave hands,
Indentured hands, adventurous hands,
White hands and black hands
Held the plow handles,
Ax handles, hammer handles,
Launched the boats and whipped the horses
That fed and housed and moved America.
Thus together through labor,
All these hands made America.

Labor! Out of labor came villages
And the towns that grew cities.
Labor! Out of labor came the rowboats
And the sailboats and the steamboats,
Came the wagons, and the coaches,
Covered wagons, stage coaches,
Out of labor came the factories,
Came the foundries, came the railroads.
Came the marts and markets, shops and stores,
Came the mighty products moulded, manufactured,
Sold in shops, piled in warehouses,
Shipped the wide world over:
Out of labor-white hands and black hands-
Came the dream, the strength, the will,
And the way to build America.
Now it is Me here, and You there.
Now it's Manhattan, Chicago,
Seattle, New Orleans,
Boston and El Paso-
Now it's the U.S.A.

A long time ago, but not too long ago, a man said:
        ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL--
        ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR
        WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS--
        AMONG THESE LIFE, LIBERTY
        AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
His name was Jefferson. There were slaves then,
But in their hearts the slaves believed him, too,
And silently too for granted
That what he said was also meant for them.
It was a long time ago,
But not so long ago at that, Lincoln said:
        NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH
        TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN
        WITHOUT THAT OTHER'S CONSENT.
There were slaves then, too,
But in their hearts the slaves knew
What he said must be meant for every human being-
Else it had no meaning for anyone.
Then a man said:
        BETTER TO DIE FREE
        THAN TO LIVE SLAVES
He was a colored man who had been a slave
But had run away to freedom.
And the slaves knew
What Frederick Douglass said was true.

With John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Negroes died.
John Brown was hung.
Before the Civil War, days were dark,
And nobody knew for sure
When freedom would triumph
"Or if it would," thought some.
But others new it had to triumph.
In those dark days of slavery,
Guarding in their hearts the seed of freedom,
The slaves made up a song:
   Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
That song meant just what it said: Hold On!
Freedom will come!
    Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
Out of war it came, ****** and terrible!
But it came!
Some there were, as always,
Who doubted that the war would end right,
That the slaves would be free,
Or that the union would stand,
But now we know how it all came out.
Out of the darkest days for people and a nation,
We know now how it came out.
There was light when the battle clouds rolled away.
There was a great wooded land,
And men united as a nation.

America is a dream.
The poet says it was promises.
The people say it is promises-that will come true.
The people do not always say things out loud,
Nor write them down on paper.
The people often hold
Great thoughts in their deepest hearts
And sometimes only blunderingly express them,
Haltingly and stumblingly say them,
And faultily put them into practice.
The people do not always understand each other.
But there is, somewhere there,
Always the trying to understand,
And the trying to say,
"You are a man. Together we are building our land."

America!
Land created in common,
Dream nourished in common,
Keep your hand on the plow! Hold on!
If the house is not yet finished,
Don't be discouraged, builder!
If the fight is not yet won,
Don't be weary, soldier!
The plan and the pattern is here,
Woven from the beginning
Into the warp and woof of America:
        ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
        NO MAN IS GOOD ENOUGH
        TO GOVERN ANOTHER MAN
        WITHOUT HIS CONSENT.
        BETTER DIE FREE,
        THAN TO LIVE SLAVES.
Who said those things? Americans!
Who owns those words? America!
Who is America? You, me!
We are America!
To the enemy who would conquer us from without,
We say, NO!
To the enemy who would divide
And conquer us from within,
We say, NO!
   FREEDOM!
     BROTHERHOOD!
         DEMOCRACY!
To all the enemies of these great words:
We say, NO!

A long time ago,
An enslaved people heading toward freedom
Made up a song:
     Keep Your Hand On The Plow! Hold On!
The plow plowed a new furrow
Across the field of history.
Into that furrow the freedom seed was dropped.
From that seed a tree grew, is growing, will ever grow.
That tree is for everybody,
For all America, for all the world.
May its branches spread and shelter grow
Until all races and all peoples know its shade.
     KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE PLOW! HOLD ON!
Jack tierney Oct 2017
today,
ill think back on the good times
the honest laughs
the loving kiss
the first kiss
the last kiss

today,
ill think back on the good times
the sunday football games
the sunday baseball games
the time you choked me
the time you hit me
the time you poured water on me
the time you made me apologies for all those times

today,
ill think back on the good times
the times where sports were fun
when coaches were my friends dads
when coaches didn't yell
when coaches were friends
when coaches did degrade
when coaches didn't care
when coaches were fun
when sports were fun
when sports were a relief
when sports were me

today,
ill think back on the good times
when we went to the avett brothers concert
when we went to the green day concert
when we hid in your room
when we cried together
when you painted my nails
when you dug your nails into my arm
when you yelled at me for chores
when you cried to me
when I broke your heart
when I was your brother

today,
ill think back on the good times
the times you took me shopping
every time you were there when I needed you
when you came down on my crying
when you found my ****
when I broke your heart
when I became detached as your son
when you found out I cut myself
when you found out I have three counselors
when you found out I failed second grade
when you had my back
when you stopped the monster
when you protected me from the monster
when you helped me become me
when you taught me gay is normal
when you taught me theater is cool
when you taught me to express myself
whenever you let me buy blue shoes
or skinny jeans
or medium sized shirts
thank you, for everything.
#thispoemisaboutmyfamily #andacoupleotherpeople #thisismyhonestpoem #idontcareifyoudontlikethisone #thisismyfavoritepoemihaveeverwritten
I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
     of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
     pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
     answers: "Omaha."
457

Sweet—safe—Houses—
Glad—gay—Houses—
Sealed so stately tight—
Lids of Steel—on Lids of Marble—
Locking Bare feet out—

Brooks of Plush—in Banks of Satin
Not so softly fall
As the laughter—and the whisper—
From their People Pearl—

No Bald Death—affront their Parlors—
No Bold Sickness come
To deface their Stately Treasures—
Anguish—and the Tomb—

Hum by—in Muffled Coaches—
Lest they—wonder Why—
Any—for the Press of Smiling—
Interrupt—to die—
Irate Watcher Sep 2014
The badge of pride as a ******* in high school
was dunking your inflamed limbs
into an ice bucket for 20 minutes,
in Mr. Dewey’s office —
the school trainer AND
every girl's crush.

I always wanted  someone to pour
ice water over my sores,
and ****** always being healthy enough
as Jess told the teacher loudly enough
that she hurt her ankle at track AGAIN
needed to see Dewman.
Guess they were best friends now.
****

When I fractured my back, I didn’t even get a doctor's note.
Because I wasn’t on a school team.
I was a gymnast for an outside club, not high school varsity.
My high school had disbanded the gymnastics team in the 70’s.
Said it was too much of a liability.
The last team picture hung in the award cases on the first floor.
I wished I could be one among those vintage leotards,
framed in gold — the warriors of high school.
Most of my classmates didn’t know I even did a sport.
They just thought I was a bookworm who was flat-chested.
Only the girls poked my abs in the locker room,
asking how I got them.

So I iced my wounds at home.
I didn’t even know my back was broken
and for a month I drank ibuprofen.
Sharp pains biting more frequently,
I finally went to the doctor.
The nurse asked me if I wanted to look
while she injected me with an isotope that
poisoned my dreams of finishing the season.
Green neon lit my bones, shedding the diagnosis —
no gymnastics for six weeks.

At school, I dressed to fit my backbrace:
baggy t-shirts and sweatpants.
My straightener rusted.
Messy buns took precedence.
I tried to go to practice, but my coaches told me to leave.
But I had no where to be!
And I had no friends at school.
My only friends I watched get awards,
not registered, but wearing my warmups.
I swore how I could beat the competition from the stands.
Stupid back.
Stupid Christine.
Stupid me.
I should have never done that 1 1/2 twist front flip series.
Poor bones landing on hard carpet repeatedly,
I ignored the jolts as static electricity.

Now everyone was working on new skills
and I could barely do a cartwheel.
That summer we had lots of pool parties —
but I couldn’t dive in.
So I sat on the ledge,
feet dipped in, while everyone played chicken.

— — —

After six weeks of recovery,
I start jogging.
I did a roundalf,
then a backhandspring.
That night I was so sore —
my memory of skills strong, but
my muscle memory poor.
Each stride into a tumbling pass felt like running in a pool.
Some days I felt like sprinting down the tumble-track
Other days I wanted to bounce on my back,
stare at the ceiling, and feel each node of impact.

Recovery day was my coach laying down a mat.
Today was the day I’d repeat the skill that broke my back.
I took a deep breathe and three long steps
into the first part of the tumbling pass:
roundoff,
backhandspring,
back layout one-and
a-half twist, front flip
stuck into a step.
My coaches cheered and
my friends clapped.

I was back.

Yes.

I was back.
The platforms are full of passengers

The fruits, coffees and tea stalls

The train runs on the track with heels

Like the whops of horses



Passengers enter the train in a hurry

And leave without any worry

Someone sleeps in the berth and snores

Some other sits and reads the news

The gluttonous eater eats the eats

The vendor sells nuts and peas

and cries like the buzzing bees

the T.C comes, wakes up and asks

for the ticket and bribes for berths

the beggar begs for alms singing hymns

some play cards making unbearable noises

the child weeps ,cries and moans

the thief enters the coaches

and tries to steal the bags



the passengers make friends with ease

but it will very soon cease

life like railway travel is a passing shower

it doesn’t last forever

It lasts only till the destination comes

The passenger takes the bag and leaves
Robert Ronnow Aug 2015
The Jewish brothers in Defiance were definitely tough.
One wanted to **** many Germans, the other to save many Jews.
The German soldiers were expendable, unmarried, unremarkable.
Each little death was very little, a little spittle in a big wind.

Fast forward to my friend's son's bar mitzvah or daughter's
coming of age ceremony. Food is abundant, the music frenetic,
the rabbi paid. Gifts generous but not obvious.
Wealth does not obviate death and we know it.

Here too we have natural leaders. Youth basketball coaches,
school principals and, again, interpreters of prayers. When
violence comes to the neighborhood they are who we'll first look to
for governance and guns. Unless have you read The Admirable
      Crichton?

Boredom, boredom conflated with loneliness, may be a sign
of good luck. To live a good length or light year away from man's
bad breath, allergenic perfumes, sickening flatulence and shed hair.
But you are drawn back into the debate about perfection by your own
      *******.

While teaching at the old city jail I have learned this: only meditation
upon the periodic table can save your soul. From itself.
Imagining the world without the self will make you whole.
What else is there to say. Do less until one thing's done well.

After the war the brothers started a small trucking company
in the Bronx. Grateful for such peace, the accounting
was relaxing. They thought back to how they met their wives, naked
before the bombs and bullets. How they lost and found themselves in
      what happened.
www.ronnowpoetry.com
Robbie carter wanted to drive hid Australian car from Australia to the USA so he can watch a Broadway but there was no way he could do that and every time
He suggested it to his mates they just laughed at him but Robbie came up with a good idea, you see he will raise funds to build a tunnel under the ocean linking Australia with the USA and also to keep him relaxed he would build a few towns under the ocean As well
You see Robbie wanted this so bad, but both countries governments didn't like the idea
Because the distance was too far and the water will cave in to the tunnel but then both countries changed government and suddenly Robbies dream became a reality, you see the will open the tunnel from the Aussie end at Brisbane and then open the other end at Florida and they will build 45,000 towns under the water
With motels and restaurants and houses and truck stops
As well as an underwater version of Ayers Rock  And to makes sure it was good to go
Robbie helped designing this under ocean adventure from Brisbane to Florida with towns
Which were just like the towns on earth and they intended on building a Broadway stage where they will play all the latest musicals they were playing in New York and this could make the journey a pleasurable one for each patron who starts the trip and in about the first 4 months they had 60% of the new world completed and Robbie was asked to inspect the area and this meant checking the area and then imagining how the world would function under the ocean and what he noticed they   Built a shopping street on the first street with a fun park on the first turn and then a Broadway musical theatre a few blocks down and Robbie took one look and said this is fantastic and then went further on and saw a very big under ocean shopping mall and Robbie was impressed in how
Each area of the under water towns is going to look and then Robbie went back to Brisbane and in about 5 more months
The entire under ocean tunnel and towns were completed but they couldn't open the tunnel at either end unroll Robbie and the safety inspector have checked it out and originally it was made so you could drive from Australia to America but they had coaches and trains and yeah this was looking great
And the under ocean Ayers Rock looked fantastic and the Broadway musical theatre looked great as well and the roads were as dry as a bone
Despite being under the ocean
And the fun park and each shopping mall were really looking great as well  and Robbie was very impressed with how his town under the ocean really looked and it has a few town parks where the kids can play and mind you it can make you wanna leave your life above ground and make you wanna live here and Robbie left getting ready for the big grand opening where the first car is going to drive right from Brisbane to Florida stopping at every truck stop and restaurant and take away along the way and Robbie will ride the first motor bike under the ocean from Brisbane to Florida and this was going to take 7 months to complete and then the under ocean world will officially be opened and Robbie pulled his bike over at the broad way theatre to catch a show and then rode his motorbike up and down the Main Street of each town and also rode his motor bike up Ayers Rock and down the other side and it wasn't as big as the rock in the centre of Australia but still was a great climb and rode into the fun park
And the zoo and took a photo of the monkeys and the rabbits
And then rode off to the motor bike through the truck stops and parks and rode through each city and then arrived in
Florida and as he entered the crowd cheered for Robbie as he reentered the top of the earth
And then all the people started driving under the ocean to start
A new life beneath the earth's surface and there will be cost that each driver in Brisbane and Florida has to pay so the under ocean village can be safe from poachers and bad people
You see you have to have a reason as simple as you are driving to the USA will cost $700 and visiting the under ocean town will cost $650 just so the village can be safe from predators you the $650 will give you a red ticket so you have the right to every shop and motel in the village and the $700 will give you a red and white ticket giving you the access to visit the shops and truck stops and letting you out the other end, and there is a $1000 fee for cars with caravans to visit every part of the village and allowed out to both ends of the countries Australia and the USA and Robbie carter was very impressed on how this village is going and Robbie made a once a year thing to go down to the village to catch a show on Broadway and then had a meal in a classy under ocean restaurant and yeah this was a success
Steve D'Beard Jun 2014
We, the people of this country, in your eyes are:

babblers, bachelors, bafflers, baiters, barkers,
beakers, beaters, brawlers, blamers, beggars,
bloaters, bloopers, bombers, boozers, blunders,
bruisers, bafflers, bluffers, burglars and burners.

That's why you feel compelled to keep your foot on our heads
keep us down, put us down, push us down
subjugate us, belittle us, berate us.

We, the people of this country, in our eyes are:

butlers, bouncers, bakers, buyers, barbers,
cake-makers, delivery-takers, cocktail-shakers,
taxi drivers, cancer survivors, employers and hirers,
music makers, entertainers, window washers, foster takers,
plasterers, carpenters, scaffolders, sparks and builders,
boxers, carers, coaches, tailors, shoe makers,
designers, illustrators, multi-language facilitators,
dog walkers, dog trainers, bikers and cycle couriers,
doctors and nurses and all the emergency services.

We are the People, the reason you are where you are now
you sometimes forget that we exist as people, somehow
locked in your ivory towers with gold plated showers
and MP expenses and investment banker pretenses
this is not theater, its real life drama, its not just a bluff
its time to stand up
and say enough is enough.
I shouldn’t be drinking coffee.
I shouldn’t be reading the news.
It makes me anxious, and it’s not only the chemical interaction.
Somehow, I associate it with “adulthood”—reading the news,
Drinking coffee—I can’t tell you how many days of the last few
Years have been spent entirely in this fashion. The coffee
Growing cold and the news colder still. I don’t even taste the
black, fluid drops. I don’t hear the screams of people I read
about. I just want to hold on to something—so I raise the glass
to my lips. I can’t say

the shocking words when my mouth’s full; I can’t tell

about my experience, my privilege, when I’m drinking it.


The production of the commodity

creates a line from some equatorial region
to central America, and my mouth.
I think about the Autumn I worked in a corn-seed
sorting facility. What a short experience—
and yet,
something that weighs heavy on my imagination.
I was a temp worker.
I chose to work there out of shame and guilt for having
missed the deadline for college enrollment.
I could have done anything else; but there were people
there who wanted nothing more than a job. They needed
to be
there.
And I think of the people involved in producing coffee beans

in much the same way.
Removed
from the thing they’re making, as the raw materials are shipped
to places you pay workers more.
Why shouldn’t I swallow with difficulty when faced with the pro-
spect of a person supporting their entire family with the type
of work
I did
reflexively, as a choice?

Now I sit here, reading about North African riots,
a region, where coffee is produced—
ARABICA COFFEE— and I think about what’s sitting
in my cup, how I have
spent more money than they make in a day
to buy
one container

and sit here
for an afternoon
doing nothing but reading about their families’ misery.

I am a human parasite.

And like the bedbugs that have crawled meticulously
between my mattress and bedframe, hiding in a safe spot
until they can come out, undetected, and **** my potency.

I sit here, in the comfort of an apartment furnished
and paid for by my father who grows corn in a highly-
mechanized, agricultural society. I take more and more,
festering to the size of a blistering, red dot
blinking in the dark, in the form of the record light on
my voice recorder.
I expect so much more from myself, simply because of
this position of luxury.

But I don’t take time to think about my reaction to these
stories or how I am involved in them, in shaping their plots.
I’m even eating more now
as I’ve nearly lost my concern with avoiding certain super-
markets.
I smile at the greeters, make small talk with the cashiers
whom I am openly exploiting. But it’s ok, because
I worked for a month at a cornseed manufacturing
facility
and I read Marxist Ideology,
and I know about the Arab Spring
and I was against American intervention in Libya
and I disdain the air strikes from robotic planes
(unauthorized by congress)
and I disdain congress
and I support gay marriage
(I stopped eating chicken).
I don’t drive to the suburbs of my city.
I walk and ride my bicycle as much as I feel like.
I use public transportation at times.
I try to get to know women.
I practiced safe ***, once.
I write poetry.
I tell my mom I love her.
I bought my nieces birthday presents.
I’m not overly nice to people of different
ethnicities.
I voted for Obama.
I’m trying.
All these things make it seem less bad
to smile at the cashier.
But then I think about my black studies Professor
who used a walker to come to class
because she fell
and spelled the word Amendment “Admendment”
on the board when talking about Reconstruction.
I think about the war in Syria.
I think of people dying from cholera in Haiti, in 2012
A.D.
I think about fracking and oil spills and …
irrevocable damage to Indian reservations.
I think about football coaches molesting children
and people eating fried butter.
I read about people
upset
with a movie
who protest in the streets for days.

It makes me realize I shouldn’t smile at anyone.
I shouldn’t be drinking coffee.
I shouldn’t be reading the news.
389

There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,
As lately as Today—
I know it, by the numb look
Such Houses have—alway—

The Neighbors rustle in and out—
The Doctor—drives away—
A Window opens like a Pod—
Abrupt—mechanically—

Somebody flings a Mattress out—
The Children hurry by—
They wonder if it died—on that—
I used to—when a Boy—

The Minister—goes stiffly in—
As if the House were His—
And He owned all the Mourners—now—
And little Boys—besides—

And then the Milliner—and the Man
Of the Appalling Trade—
To take the measure of the House—

There’ll be that Dark Parade—

Of Tassels—and of Coaches—soon—
It’s easy as a Sign—
The Intuition of the News—
In just a Country Town—
Does anyone remember when
Baseball fields were full
When you always saw a hundred kids
When you drove by every school
Pick-up games of baseball
On every field you'd pass
But now the only scrub that's there
Is just overgrown, clumpy grass

I drove on by a park today
One that I used to play baseball on
The backstop was all broken
And the dugouts, they were gone
The field was full of garbage
Weeds and echos of the past
I remembered times between the lines
With a long forgotten cast

"HEY MISTER...MOVE...WE'RE PLAYING HERE"
"CAN'T YOU MOVE SO WE CAN PLAY?"
"HEY BATTER, BATTER, SWING NOW BATTER"
"YOU'LL NOT GET A HIT TODAY"

I'd crossed into a baseball game
One from many years before
The ghosts of players long deceased
Were still playing here some more

I crossed back to the dugouts
Stepped behind and they were gone
But, as I stepped back to the old coaches box
I could hear their haunting song

"HEY BATTER, BATTER, BATTER, SWING"
"WE WANT A PITCHER, NOT A BELLYITCHER"
"HEY BATTER, BATTER, BATTER, SWING"
"WE WANT A PITCHER, NOT A BELLYITCHER"

I sat there watching the game take place
On a field not worth a ****
At least not in the present time
Then a kid hit a grand slam

He touched them all as he ran by
I saw it plain as day
The only thing I wished was that
I could join them and play

"HEY MISTER, STAND ON  HOME PLATE"
"THEN COME WALK OUT TO THE MOUND"
"WE KNOW YOU WANT TO JOIN US"
"WE KNOW IT'S HALLOWED GROUND"

I did the tasks directed
I joined the players from ago
And as I ran up to the rubber
I went as fast as I could go

I could feel myself get younger
I didn't know if it was real
But, they say as you get older
You're just as young as you may feel

I pitched two good strong innings
Then the echoes chose to fade
I knew it was just imagination
Of long lost players I had made

"COME BACK AGAIN TOMORROW"
"YOU CAN THROW THAT PELLET KID!"
"WE'VE GOT TO GET ON HOME NOW"
and...go back...you know I did!
After passing by so  many old vacant soccer and baseball fields, left overgrown and unused, that I used to play. I just dreamed that the children who once played there over the years, left some form of energy there, like the ghosts in a James Lumbers painting. I crossed the lines and the game was on...I'll be back again tomorrow, I have to ice my arm now.
MV Blake May 2015
Workers migrate for the coast
At the first hint of holiday,
Winging their way past lorries and vans,
And coaches coated with spray ochre tans,
Flying along motorways in single file,
The music of freedom for mile upon mile.

Father steers straight with his eye on the road,
Insisting on mix tapes he made as a teen
While necking sweet girls in his imaginative dreams.
Kids shriek games on the warm backseat,
While air hostess mums offer peanuts
And cushions, and packets of sweets.

They arrive with a fuss, and a sigh of relief
While father shakes his weary feet
And the mum takes the girls for an ice cream treat.
They unload their bags of shorts and vest tops,
And the hotel looks grand, at least from the side,
But a moment of doubt creeps in, I confide.

It can’t be this nice, thought the father too late,
I bought it for tuppence, or at least so I thought,
As he read the terms of the room service bill;
The cost of cool water was like climbing a hill,
Just when you thought it couldn’t get much higher…

But I digress; it gets considerably more dire.

The room was a state and mum had a fit
Cleaning up tissues and strange looking stains,
And the girls were fighting and being such pains.
Father took a beer from the fridge,
Ignoring the cost for the sake of some peace,
And stepped on the deck to get some release.
Five seconds later he was running indoors
As the clouds broke their cover in heavy downpours.

Expecting a break, they were fooled once again.
The weekend was spent in the room like last year,
While rain and thunder spoiled all their cheer.
There’s only so many board games to play,
And the food gave the girls a sore and sour tummy
And turned the grand weekend into a desperate plea.
Please let it end, I want to return
To the office of slaves who make my life fun.

Workers return from the coast
On the third day of rest,
Splashing their way past lorries and vans,
And coaches coated with burning red tans,
Dragging along motorways in single file,
The sound of the rain for mile upon mile.
Find the original post and more besides at mvblake.com
How many paltry foolish painted things,
That now in coaches trouble every street,
Shall be forgotten, whom no poet sings,
Ere they be well wrapped in their winding-sheet!
Where I to thee eternity shall give,
When nothing else remaineth of these days,
And queens hereafter shall be glad to live
Upon the alms of thy superfluous praise.
Virgins and matrons, reading these my rhymes,
Shall be so much delighted with thy story
That they shall grieve they lived not in these times,
To have seen thee, their ***'s only glory:
So shalt thou fly above the ****** throng,
Still to survive in my immortal song.
Paul Butters Jan 2013
With swirling serves and
Arcing,
Lashing loops,
The Table Tennis King
Of spin,
Attacks his foe.

In gladiatorial combat
He reigns supreme,
Sweeping and swirling,
Smashing,
And feather-touching,
That gyrating ball.

For many hours he’s trained and sweated,
Perfecting skills from very youthful days.
He started in the youthie playing “Ping-Pong”,
To rise, a phoenix, from the local flames.

His coaches now sit very proudly,
Having made him sweat and toil.
With all that stamina-work behind him,
No way will he go off the boil.

At last he stands victorious,
Having made that final ****.
There is no game like Table Tennis,
And winning’s such a glorious thrill!

PAUL BUTTERS
Just thought I'd write a poem about something different...
I
This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,

Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.

Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.

Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.

In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.

II
Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

III
Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers' declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

IV
Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston's or Crawford's:

Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
Autumn Mar 2014
Four Years.
Four years
of high school basketball:
has come to an abrupt halt.

You see, we'd swag into the locker room.
Pump up the tunes.
throw on the black air Jordan jump suits
and whip out the pre-game moves.

The three coaches walked in
We listened to the pre-game speech
Popped a couple altoids to "keep it fresh"
then slugged a bit of water

The warm up commenced
Lay-ups
Three on Two
Shooting

One more locker room run.
Jersy's on!
But right back on to the court
Where the fans anticipate.

Just a few more shots
Now one minute left
Time for the National Anthem.
"Gentlemen remove your hats."

Pre-game nerves suddenly sink in.
"Oh say can you see."
Thoughts about the game fill my mind.
I look at the crowd, and my loving team mates.

"And now for tonights starting line-up."
Names announced.
Team has last minute words
one. two. three. "swag" ....Tip-off!

We were so good.
So athletic.
A team with 8 returning seniors
we were such ballers

Conference Champs
District Champs
But we couldn't beat them
"The best team in the state."

We weren't sad about the loss though.
We were sad that we had to leave this team.
This team that we'd been with for four years.
We loved each other more than anything.

The final moments in the locker room were bittersweet.
Tears of sadness, tears of joy
We accomplished so much, but above all
It was about the memories we made together.
ohh I'm gonna miss this
Which way do I run ?
Where do I go from here ?
Tell me which direction
Where do I go from here?
I hit the ball and have to run
But which direction do I go ?
Remember, this is new to me
I'm five, and I'm afraid I do not know.


He hit the ball, what do I do ?
Don't let it come to me ?
I don't know where to throw it
And I really have to ***.
Oh..here it comes, what do I do?
glove down and bend my knees
I have to stay and focus
Will someone help me please?

I've got the ball..now throw to first
Jeez, that's a long, long way
I'll never get it over there
At least not the way I play

Drop the bat....and run like mad
Where's coach?...jeez, that's a long way
I'll never make it down to first
Not the way I run today

Listen to those parents
They're screaming, wow...they're loud
Who are they all screaming at ?
They're quite a noisy crowd

I can make it over there
With the ball faster if I run
I don't want to throw it bad
Then it wouldn't be no fun
I can get it over there
I run faster than I throw
What are all the parents yelling for?
Is there something I should know?

This is only one hit ball
It's the first game of the year
This is what a t-ball coach
Has to go through for the year
Each child is not focused
Every one is full of fear
It's when they roll the ball across the field
That makes the game so dear

They run to third before first base
Then they cut across the mound
Through the season they shed many tears
Enough to make a grown man drown
They try to do what coaches say
They aren't the fastest or the best
But these kids, they are true all stars
Starting out on this huge quest

Remember folks, it's baseball
It's a game and nothing more
Make sure it's fun and sporting
Please remember who it's for
They don't know where to throw it
They don't know where to run
But support them in their efforts
And help make baseball...fun
C Jun 2013
the kind of pressure that I put on myself
the kind of pressure that comes with being a daughter of two dentists
the kind of pressure that builds up inside and creates castles of anger
the kind of pressure that tells me I'm too heavy
the kind of pressure that forms from great expectations
the kind of pressure that coaches lay upon the captains
the kind of pressure that is applied when goals are never achieved  
the kind of pressure that keeps me up at night thinking about the future
the kind of pressure that secrets ignite
the kind of pressure that the eldest sister gets for just being the first born
the kind of pressure that is invisible to anyone but me
Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
By the **** of the Magazine Wall,
  (Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall,
           ****, helmet and all?

He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he's kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he'll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
  (Chorus) To the jail of Mountjoy!
           Jail him and joy.

He was fafafather of all schemes for to bother us
Slow coaches and immaculate contraceptives for the populace,
Mare's milk for the sick, seven dry Sundays a week,
Openair love and religion's reform,
  (Chorus) And religious reform,
           Hideous in form.

Arrah, why, says you, couldn't he manage it?
I'll go bail, my fine dairyman darling,
Like the bumping bull of the Cassidys
All your butter is in your horns.
  (Chorus) His butter is in his horns.
           Butter his horns!

(Repeat) Hurrah there, Hosty, frosty Hosty, change that shirt
   on ye,
Rhyme the rann, the king of all ranns!

Balbaccio, balbuccio!

We had chaw chaw chops, chairs, chewing gum, the chicken-pox
   and china chambers
Universally provided by this soffsoaping salesman.
Small wonder He'll Cheat E'erawan our local lads nicknamed him.
When Chimpden first took the floor
  (Chorus) With his bucketshop store
           Down Bargainweg, Lower.

So snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous
But soon we'll bonfire all his trash, tricks and trumpery
And 'tis short till sheriff Clancy'll be winding up his unlimited
   company
With the bailiff's bom at the door,
  (Chorus) Bimbam at the door.
           Then he'll *** no more.

Sweet bad luck on the waves washed to our island
The ****** of that hammerfast viking
And Gall's curse on the day when Eblana bay
Saw his black and tan man-o'-war.
  (Chorus) Saw his man-o'-war
           On the harbour bar.

Where from? roars Poolbeg. Cookingha'pence, he bawls
   Donnez-moi scampitle, wick an wipin'fampiny
Fingal Mac Oscar Onesine Bargearse Boniface
Thok's min gammelhole Norveegickers moniker
Og as ay are at gammelhore Norveegickers cod.
  (Chorus) A Norwegian camel old cod.
           He is, begod.

Lift it, Hosty, lift it, ye devil, ye! up with the rann,
   the rhyming rann!

It was during some fresh water garden pumping
Or, according to the Nursing Mirror, while admiring the monkeys
That our heavyweight heathen Humpharey
Made bold a maid to woo
  (Chorus) Woohoo, what'll she doo!
           The general lost her maidenloo!

He ought to blush for himself, the old hayheaded philosopher,
For to go and shove himself that way on top of her.
Begob, he's the crux of the catalogue
Of our antediluvial zoo,
  (Chorus) Messrs Billing and Coo.
           Noah's larks, good as noo.

He was joulting by Wellinton's monument
Our rotorious hippopopotamuns
When some ****** let down the backtrap of the omnibus
And he caught his death of fusiliers,
  (Chorus) With his rent in his rears.
           Give him six years.

'Tis sore pity for his innocent poor children
But look out for his missus legitimate!
When that frew gets a grip of old Earwicker
Won't there be earwigs on the green?
  (Chorus) Big earwigs on the green,
           The largest ever you seen.

   Suffoclose! Shikespower! Seudodanto! Anonymoses!

Then we'll have a free trade Gael's band and mass meeting
For to sod him the brave son of Scandiknavery.
And we'll bury him down in Oxmanstown
Along with the devil and the Danes,
  (Chorus) With the deaf and dumb Danes,
           And all their remains.

And not all the king's men nor his horses
Will resurrect his corpus
For there's no true spell in Connacht or hell
  (bis) That's able to raise a Cain.
Michael Blace Jul 2014
When Sadie was a little girl
She dreamed that she could fly.
Her wide eyes saw the world above;
And she was born to sail the sky.

Her coaches said she was to small,
So frail, that she would break.
The world would always hold her down
She had to snap awake.

But little Sadie closed her ears
And shut her eyes so tight.
She stood up on her tippy toes
And tried with all her might

To make herself look big and tall
Cast her shadow on the clouds,
But when she asked the sun to play
He said she just was not allowed.

But that could not slow Sadie down,
Not even just a bit.
She trained and worked all day and night
And they began to see her grit.

Then one day her moment came
As she stepped up to the bar
The world was quiet, still, at last
It was her turn to be a star.

She twirled and flipped so gracefully
Dazzling the crowd below
Not a soul denied the beauty
Of super Sadie’s flying show.

Her heart was strong and vibrant
But her body couldn’t hold
With one quick snap, her wings gave out
And she started to feel cold.



The ground was hard, the world was dark
And Sadie couldn’t feel
She looked and saw a man in white
And wondered, was this real?



Sadie’s all grown-up now
And her body works just fine
She’s all dressed up in glowing robes
And now she really shines.

She won’t regret a single day
Or what she tried to be
But now she has a different dream
And she goes by Dr. D.

Her dream is to help little girls
And lift them when they fall,
And make them shine
And show the world
That you’re never
Truly
Small.
Inspired by a friend who's gymnastics career was cut short by an injury but she stayed strong and now she is a coach and physical therapist.
Harmony Sapphire Jan 2015
Dream Catchers, egg hatchers, baby Snatchers, **** wackers, lip smackers, online hackers, ***** slappers, hand clappers, exotic flappers, lazy slackers, suitcase packers, & back stabbers.

Hate & defeated, cheat & feel the heat. Too weak & petite. Tales of hell, wishes on a well, thoughts are things you can't always sell. Sometimes words can be lies liars tell. One day to your death to you fell.
Pass it on. I don't belong. Some people are wrong. Die. I won't cry.

Pakrat hoarders, pro choice aborters, two faced home wreckers, voodoo curses, retired lazy old nurses.

Deaf & Blind, racist & unkind, poor & unemployed. Broke & exploited. Dumb, old, ugly, & fat. ***** stinking rat. Piles & piles of crap.

College professors, real estate investors, coaches, cockaroaches, poachers, perverts & ******, meat eatting caravores. Bums & addicts drunks & fanatics, obsessive compulsive, stalkers too possessive, insane aggressive.

Author Notes :

Partially true, could be your family.

© Harmony Sapphire . All rights reserved,
Thirty six years after they last were held in  pre-war Berlin
The games of the Olympiad were all set to begin
This time though, in Munich, set to host the sports worlds greatest show
It was the night before the opening, and all were set to go

August 26th, the games did start and all was going well
But ten days in, the world was shook, and Munich was now a hell
Where terrorists changed how the world would see these famous games
From that date on, The Olympic world, would never be the same

Mark Spitz, that year, set records as he won seven swimming golds
Olga Korbut, elfin princess, stole our hearts with moves so bold
Frank Shorter won the marathon for America, and he was German born
But, Munich's games are famous for the actions, that September morn

Close your eyes, remember back, if you are of the age
Remember those victorious, who were outstanding on that stage
Steve Prefontaine, he came up short, Lasse Viren, he did what he set to do
Think back now to that late summer day in nineteen seventy two

Eyes closed, still remember....David Berger, Mark Slavin and Kehatt Shorr
Seew Friedman, Josef Gutfreund,Elieser Halfin, and you know there is five more
Josef Romano, Amizur Shapira, not tweaking any pictures in your mind,
Andre Spitzer, Jaakow Springer, Mosche Weinberger...any memories do you find?

These men all were Olympians, judges, coaches, athletes, refs
September 5th is now famous, it's remembered for their deaths
They all should be remembered, for their lives, for why they came
They all reached the highest level, they had made it to The Games

Did they ever win a medal ? Would they ever get their glory?
They're remembered as a victim, unfortunately that's their story
It's 40 years on, London hosts, The IOC does not
Take a single minute, give these Olympians a thought

Now close your eyes again and think, could that happen once again
Could terrorists take Olympic lives, could they come and **** like then
Now if I repeat all the names I mentioned, you may not see their face
But, for one short shining moment, please put them in their earned space

Eyes closed, still remember....David Berger, Mark Slavin and Kehatt Shorr
Seew Friedman, Josef Gutfreund,Elieser Halfin, and you know there is five more
Josef Romano, Amizur Shapira, not tweaking any pictures in your mind,
Andre Spitzer, Jaakow Springer, Mosche Weinberger...any memories do you find?
Marshal Gebbie Apr 2013
In the sizzle of the sauna I sat near a fellow
A giant and as black, my friends, as black as pitch could be,
Gentle eyes and gentle voice, melodious in cadence
It reminded me of the music of the singing whales at sea.
From Georgia in the deep south, friends, a basket ball pro player
And as pleasant a man, my friends, as you could wish to meet,
Coaches the kiddies be they black, white or yellow, friends,
Coaches the kiddies throwing hoops in the street.
You just don't meet a Prince in the sizzle of the sauna
But I'll tell you, my friends, I'll tell you this for free,
That a better Ambassador for mankind and Maker
Has just not been apparent, friends, apparent to me.
He held out his hand, and smiled, and asked in passing,
Asked me my name as I rose to take my leave,
I felt the strength of the grip of that firm hand in clasping
And found me a friend, my friends, a good friend I believe.

Marshalg
Making a friend in the heat of the sauna
26 April 2013
Wk kortas Aug 2018
It was, as the New York Times all but sniffed
(Even then, a haughty mix of bluenose and black ink)
Further proof the poor, misguided Upstate rubes
Were no more than ample fodder
For any tinhorn, two-bit confidence man to take for a ride.
Fair enough—it was, to the careful eye and unheated psyche
Clear as the azure blue sky that,
Despite the best efforts of acid wash and a year underground,
So obviously a statue as to be absolutely laughable,
And yet the vox populi came in waves,
Not only one-gallus farmers from the fields nearby,
But from the great cities near and far
(Chicago, Philadelphia, and, yes, even New York itself
To throw Hannum a quarter to view his gargantuan grotesquery
Just as described in Genesis itself, he noted solemnly
So many, indeed, that Barnum himself was divinely inspired
Not only to purloin the giant, but its prior owner’s epigram
As to the frequency of the manufacture
Of his too-credible customer base.
While there was (briefly, at least) some mystery surrounding
The origins of the brobdingnagian mass of stone,
It remained (to some, anyway) equally unfathomable
Why scores of folks would careen in unsteady coaches
The full length of the Catskill Turnpike,
With its questionable lodging and uneven roadworthiness,
Or patiently suffer the mosquito-laden flatboats of Clinton’s Ditch
All to spend the cash equivalent of two trips to the county fair
To see a perfectly good hootchie-kootchie show
Simply to gawk at an unevenly carved rock of questionable authenticity,
But that explained quite simply,
As the public always gets what the public wants.
dania Jan 2013
Cupcakes and jello,
Sun drops of yellow,
A year old prince smiles with glee,
Happiest times started off free.

One foot in and one foot out,
Each step weighted with doubt,
Wan smile for the camera snapping away,
Two years old today.

Messy hair and muddy feet,
Too much energy to take a seat,
Toothy three-year old smiles for Mummy's photo,
Looking as proud as winning the lotto.

Marvel comics and new-found heroes,
Fan-art drawn in multi-colored Biro's,
Cheeky grin to hang on the wall,
Four years old, 3 feet tall.

Backpacks and Elmers' glue,
Cafeteria food that's hard to chew,
Pose in school uniform, charcoal gray,
Five years old on this big day.

Ring pop marriages and rainbow smarties,
Confetti always being thrown at birthday parties,
Yours is no different, cup them in your hand,
Hold out six fingers and composedly stand.

Swimming lessons and soccer practice,
Coaches being overwhelmingly fractious,
Hugging the soccer ball to your chest,
Seven years old, smilin' your best.

TV marathons and video games,
Struggling to learn hockey players' names,
Staring intently at the wrestling match,
Eight years old, hoping to catch.

Game of tag and playground fights,
Pretending to be English knights,
Awkward personality you've yet to define,
No longer eight, now you're nine.

Reruns of Spongebob Squarepants, ******-Doo,
First time trying fried tofu,
New experiences 'cause now you're ten,
Eight years away from joining the men.

6th grade comes and 6th grade passes,
Schedule in hand trying not to be late for classes,
Remember your locker combination 1-20-7,
Sigh of relief that you're eleven.

Too thin, too slim-
Too fat, not "that"-
Hallways you seldom dwell,
Twelve, trapped in a living Hell.

Bitter, reserved, aggressive you turn,
Nagging from parents makes your stomach churn,
Yelling "I hate you," till your face burns red,
Thirteen is an age of words over-said.

In a rash decision, you stole a beer,
A crowd welcomes you with an electric cheer,
Only fourteen, your choices will sway,
With time, you'll rue this day.

Not young, not old,
"Be fun", "be bold",
Caught in the middle of the unforeseen,
Not quite fifty, still fifteen.

A year has passed and you're feeling tired,
Can't bear to tell your father you've been fired,
Sixteen has brought you misery and sorrow,
Dreading the fruits of tomorrow.

Nothing is "for fun" anymore,
All this working out is making you sore,
Your head gives in and you pass out cold,
Seventeen and you've already been sold

Eighteen candles in one big breath,
Closer and closer to inevitable death,
         You feel so old already,
                Want to take it steady...
But you can't.
Prompt: "Youth is wasted on the young."
dab
dab for the teachers
dab for the kids
dab for the ministers
dab for the office workers
dab for the police
dab for the cafeteria workers
dab for the janitors
dab for the musicians not heard
dab for the bosses
dab for the civilizations to come
dab for the respectful
dab for the nice ones
dab for the politicians
dab for the moms
dab for the dads
dab for the able
dab for the disabled
dab for the poor
dab for the mechanics
dab for the coaches
dab for your family
dab for your friends
dab for her
and for him
dab for yourself
and
dab for appreciation
be thankful for the people you may not think about
Richard Riddle May 2015
Written for a school project*

September 09, 2013

To: Evan Riddle
From: Granddad

Well, I understand that you would like to have a letter from me, recognizing certain traits, and accomplishments, and so forth. Begging your pardon, I will begin in this manner.
A couple of years ago, during a"pre-game warmup" prior to the start of one of your games, I was standing behind the glass watching the pucks bounce off your chest. A young boy, perhaps a year younger, came up, stood beside me, also watching you. He then turned, yelling to a friend, "here he is, #41!"  He was quickly joined by his friend and another, all three watching you at close range.You have no idea how that made me feel. How proud of you I was, that apparently your reputation was developing among your peers within the "ice crowd."
In my home, on a wall, is a photo of you, taken during the All-Star game in Ottawa, Canada. You, wearing the red and white All-Star jersey,  standing in front of the net watching and observing the action that soon would be coming at you.
This is my favorite photo. The expression on your face silently reflects your abilities to "focus" on what you are supposed to do, the "determination" to do it, and the "perseverance" to get it done. Three traits that have followed, and stayed with you, and guided you to be successful, in all you have accomplished in both sport and academic activities in which you have participated. You are respected by your team, your coaches, your teachers, and your classmates. You can't have better than that.

Love you,
Granddad
Although this is not a poem, per se, for personal reasons I find it necessary to post. Circle photo taken during All-star game at a tournament in Ottawa, Canada, 2012. His team won 4-3 in a shoot-out.
Hayley Jan 2018
why should he deserve something that i worked so hard to have?
because life isnt fair
why should i be expected to just be ok with the fact that i participated more and yet he still gets the spot?
because life isnt fair
i spent 5 months perfecting my piece, spending full saturdays performing for strangers, while he did not, while he performed for one teacher once a-freaking-week, and yet im not enough?
because life isnt fair
i forgot;
im not gay
im not a guy
and im not a girl performing from a guys perspective
he is gay, a guy, and a guy performing from a girls perspective, though
much more likely to win with a piece like that
because no one wants to hear,
or rather, everyone has already heard
the white girl cry about how hard it is to be a girl
my bad, i forgot that life isnt fair
**whoops
The Good Pussy Jun 2016
.
                                    c o
                                    c k
                                    r o
                               r    a  c    r
                           o      h     c      o
                          a      o       c        a
                          c       k       r        c
                           h       o    a         h
                            c        c h         c
                              o       c        o
                                c      o     c
                                        k

*Hey, it's a fact of life for coaches ... if you win everyone loves you.  If you lose you get squashed."
June 3.   "In the Bleachers"



Prelude

This happened after Layla-Majnun were separated by Layla's dis-approving parents, family and community when these two LOVERz realized that true eternal LOVE had happened between them
After that - Majnun had become a mad wanderer singing songs about/for/of his Eternal LOVE for Layla
And on this side – Layla was given by her family a life of every comfort she desired. But Layla's heart was worried for Majnun’s well being.



Layla's Family Response:

Many a times Layla cried longing and missing Majnun
The family of Layla could not see Layla sad and sorrowful
To cheer Layla up the family often told her they loved her so much
They tried to cheer Layla with her favorite flowers and decorated her room with lots of beautifully scented flowers
They got famous singers from around the world  to come in the evening and sing songs in front of Layla to make her feel happy
They saw that Layla was part of every occasion and functions, every party family had. They organized events just to keep Layla feel good and make her part of every gathering
Everyone overtly LOVED Layla and respected her
Layla’s family often made many sweets that Layla liked
The family took Layla to excursions, far and away to the meadows and the mountains, to the springs and the oceans, to the forests and oasis - so that seeing nature Layla would forget Majnun
They often complimented her - How beautiful she is…; How nice she sings…; How well she is behaved…; and how intelligent she is…
Whenever Layla was in little good mood and when she talked a little, the family sat around her to eagerly listened to what Layla had to say
The parents of Layla made sure that Layla was not kept alone for a single moment. There was someone or the other - friends, mates, children or relatives surrounding Layla to give her company
Many a times Layla's parents invited guests who would bring Beautiful gifts and souvenirs for Layla from distant foreign lands
There were mentors, coaches, teachers hired to teach and upgrade different skills that are useful for Layla
The mother of Layla often told “Sorry” to Layla for not allowing her to meet Majnun. Though the sorry was sincere. it did not cheer Layla's heart because the dictate always remained: "Majnun is not the right one for you Layla"
In the house of Layla it was made mandatory that family members while leaving and entering the house would always say good bye and give a hug to Layla to make her feel so SPECIAL
Every now and then inside the house - there were religious sermons preached, religious scriptures read. The Maula and Maulavis recited verses - the morals, ethics, codes were taught; faith, belief, worship, prayers were made integral part of their life to make Layla feel devoted to God. They thought – when Layla understands Allah’s LOVE there won't be any need for Majnun’s LOVE
The family invited Layla's friends to play - indoor and outdoors games to get her involved in some sort of hobby so that it would keep Layla busy and thus forget about Majnun
Some days if Layla did something on her own - the family members would praise her every little efforts and celebrate it to create an atmosphere of happiness around her for every little achievement in Layla’s life
The family had created that “Halo” around Layla's image in the village/ town. She was known throughout the land as the most decent, gorgeously beautiful, well-educated, noble, kind fun-loving girl. Everyone in their town LOVED Layla. All these were done so that they could find the the most suitable richest PRINCE for Layla to get married to...
To make Layla feel good and confident the family often asked her opinions and included her in all family and business decision making
To make Layla feel attached to something else, the parents gifted her with - a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a pigeon and other exotic birds. So that by LOVING them Layla will forget Majnun
They also filled the house with all sorts of books that  interested Layla. They thought while reading the good books - Layla will forget Majnun
Not a week went where Layla was not gifted and adorned with - diamonds, pearl, stones, gold and silver jewelry

Each and every person who came in touch with Layla was so nice and sweet towards her, just to make sure that  Layla is kept busy with things in LIFE. The whole idea is to keep Layla involved in different things of work and life so that the LOVE for Majnun is completely forgotten amidst enjoyments of chasing success, career, work, wealth and a partner etc.


Layla's Sorrow:

But Layla was different…!

Layla had everything a girl wanted
Wealth, education, family,
Friends, relatives, company
Fruits, sweets, flowers
Game, animals, toys
Trips, Travel, occasions
Festivals, events, get-togethers

But

Layla's heart kept beating for Majnun
She was always worried of Majnun
"Where will be my Majnun wandering today?"
"What will he be doing right now?"
"Did he get some food to eat?"
“Did he sleep well..?" etc.

If anyone on the village street
Got a little bit of news of Majnun
Layla ran out to listen to what it was

If someone was reciting
The new songs Majnun had sung today
Layla carefully listened to those lyrics
And wrote them in her secret dairy.
She read them again and again
In the candle light of solitary darkness

With tears rolling from her eyes

Day-night, afternoon-evenings
Waking, sleeping, eating, sitting
Layla only thought of her Majnun

Blessed with every luxury of life
Yet Layla felt so helpless about
Her inability to go to meet Majnun
So that Majnun can see…

Layla's eyes, Layla's face
Those lips, that smile
The smell of Layla….
The way she looks at Majnun
The LOVE in Layla’s soul
Pouring out for Majnun


Layla's knew very well that
Majnun's only dreams was having
One glimpse of his BELOVEDz Layla

This cruelty of the world & everyone
That they and their norms
Stopped Layla to reach out to Majnun
This broke Layla’s heart into pieces
It killed Layla from inside more
Than it killed Majnun
In his longing for Layla

That was Layla's sorrow...
This is Layla’z sorrow


End Note:
Only the one who feels LOVE,
Only the one who know LOVE
Will understand Layla's sorrow
Of seeing the cruel punishment the world had given
To her LOVERz Majnun
By making him an useless mad wanderer
- Who only chants Layla's name
And sings Layla's praise



Ken Pepiton Aug 2019
Aye, they'll be no wars here
Russian Sci Fi full neo-hero trope
post the untangling of tongues in 2019
We got us a 'ero, sh

it's bueno, like okeh
A. I. imagined
"Better Than Us"
paquin paquin 'skool

global mind making us see us

Bable was a long long time
whole wide world now speakeasy one tongue un
tangled
from
the root of all evil

virtual free speech is like free thinking

Bravo Holmes Noshit Sherlock

Ruskie TV on Netflix, this is a brave
new world

how much green screen clueing do we need

how real can you imagine
this source
being
in A/I termsa All In Art-effectual Inteleosity

Eh, wanna play
the long game? Snak-ish sistere quest on a point

is the whole world chromakeyed to black?
CMYK reality
2-d
3
4 and we know there
is more

life is com
plixitified in timespace with sinkholes

from russian lit gone t' seed
in the days of geek gods in realms of emoting

demoting weight of adrenalin on a globalscale,
umphing
the dmt, just to see men dance.
  try it, its in you, you think dreams

you know you do
think
dreams, hard wireless ness courage
daring

to ignore the backstory and take the hero as
the hearer of the

angels, the forder of the hermetical stream
flowin' tween yen
and yanked

into reality with a pull
that broke the skin, an orange picker memory
eh?
would you know the rod of an almond tree,
if one budded in your mind,

lockt in the box of the coven
entitlement to the
kingdom, after
kings mean
dung and reality tv is indistinguishible,

can you hear Turings's gay chuckle,
how about…

now.
Folk Art, the ruskie actor says, winks and
pirouettes into

a spiral-ation action,
slipping in rorshach assumptions...

beacuss, be a cause
we can,
its
bits and digits all the way down,
the turtles were

never holding up progress.
They could have been repurposed in future myths,

as mutants emerged from sewage,
wait
...
who imagined that,
for real?

Your children must know the truth,
who will tell them if you can't lie?

That is an A, an alpha idea.
Can you think it? But is a Beta,

but beta is always better, eh?

Everybody knows, we sneeze in threes.

Charlie was the enemy, C. Company
Rhose to the occasion

how long ye simple ones
choose ye simplicity?
asif
complexity
this odd is
simple as pi wrapped in
Hopf-fibrations you twist in your soul,

There's the question? A/I (Arisa in this Netflix
re-run of "Better Than Us")
arisen
from,
queried through by
every
whether person's vacillating
on the
width of the eye of the storm
in the  elex-elite
distrix,
as co-related with the
degradation of the
Great Red Spot.
---

Episode seven or so
the russians call coaches coach.

Hey, I call coaches coach,
even ones I never knew. WHO knew ruskies do to,
s'bueno,

Hard to hate a team player, with coach
respect dripping, dark stains on the green screen

where what shapes the future
reality is

visible, If I squint....
Those can't be, can they?...
Potemkin villas,
filmed in 2016, to run in Amerika
now, leading upt to interupt the
intentional animosity
with frivolity in
the 2020 build up of crudescence.

We have seen the enemy and he is we
envisioning good A.I. Art-effectual Inteleos,

as well as Pogo Possum did, Earth Day One,
1970, nigh half a century passed away as
funny papers faded into

the medium of memory -- look around--
loved ones ain't in the funny papers, like regular, back
when ink ruled the imagination involved in
judging
how Tibet was depicted... in our mind's
hearing ears and seeing eyes

shhh,
how about…
can you hear Turings's gay chuckle,

now. It's the test.
Whatif the enemy was still regular fold under oll the otherness of their gut biomes based on the soil amd the clime?

— The End —