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Bharti Singh Jul 2014
Commotion of waves
Filters innate dross
With a heart in rave
And soul in gloss

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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Jay M Wong Feb 2013
1:1
Stop. Who’s there? Tis clock strikes twelve,
brings thy Horatio to seek tis specter from hell,
In Denmark, something is rotting in thy state,
In Norway, unimprovèd mettle hot and full awaits,
Tis specter arrives to arouse confusion and fear,
but to treat it violence and majestic threat,
thy specter departs as the ****’s crow drew near,  
leaving the blows of malicious mockery to regret.
And for Hamlet may speak to the wandering soul,
Tis morning to Hamlet must the three a’go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5:2
Hamlet to Horatio, does his truths trust,
Of thy wretched King and his unjust,
Of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern English death they meet,
With sacrifice and thy seal was thou to spare self defeat.
Now’st Osric enters to Hamlet a’chat,
For’st not hot, nor cold, nor sultry at.
And a’wish to court, with thy Laertes of excellence,
For Hamlet’s head does thee King expense.
With six French rapiers and poniards assign,
For by fate’s determination, shall this court incline,
For a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,
Can we do not, but abide by fate a’follow.
Trumpets and drums, now’st the fence begins,
For Hamlet and Laertes hand and hand therein.
Pardon he begs, Hamlet to thy brother,
For in him is but foil Hamlet yet another,
And so they fence for honor and fence for life,
Two of two leads Hamlet the strife.
The King, to Hamlet he drinks,
Tis pearl shall he the cup he sinks,
And unwounded for two, Hamlet prevails,
But Queen, the dearest Mother, so faithfully frail,
For she drinks thy cup of heavenly pearl,
For heavenly it be not, as thy malicious plot unfurl,
The cup! The cup! A poisonous potion,
Cause yet another by venomous commotion.
A distracting cause, for Hamlet to bear,
For Laertes envenomed blade must’e beware,
Now envenomed blood shall Hamlet shed,
Shall he hold thy rapier of Laertes instead,
to shed thy venomous blood of thy venomous mind,
For now thy murderous plot shall unwind,
At the honorable death of brother Laertes,
Shall the death of Claudius be a’seized.
The King’s to blame for the death of all,
And tis day shall he see his destined fall.
With thy venomous blade held a’hand,
Let the doors be locked and the evils banned,
For Hamlet wounds thy treacherous soul,
And shall horrid Claudius pay his destined toll,
For Hamlet forces to drink thy murderous potion,
And shall he too die of venomous commotion.
The death of four and tis ****** scene,
Shall Horatio tell to those unseen.
Shall he speak of murderous truths embark,
for Fortinbras shall now throne Denmark,
For in Fortinbras does his admiration lay,
For does Hamlet trust thou’st fiery ambitious way,
And tis now concludes thy Hamlet’s life,
For death and death thou’st all alike...
A dedication and summary of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" the tragedy of the witty prince of Denmark written in 2011 for a class journal assignment.
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
Evening Ways Apr 2014
My darling swells like the rivers of a sunset
Waiting for me
Hiding behind what is seen
Though no surprises seems to escalate
I am washed with bitter poison
Seen then from behind it all
Where she was waiting for me
No excuses left to supersede

Oh she liked to move
Tranced
Arms wailing in the back
And flailing out from behind her
-
Never will anything more
Sit down my soul
For a necessary lesson
On just what it's all about  
-
She liked to move
To the commotion of fortune

My darling speaks
Blinding me from
All disconnection
In my ecstatic state
I leave a weary life to be
Behind me
As then we bleed
Color, dimension and new virtue
Into my open hands
Filling the gaps between my dreams
She staggers not

And I look past the world
again

I tremble
Stepping behind what is seen
Where she was waiting for me

I tremble
Stepping behind what is seen
Where she was waiting to free my soul

Oh I see the truth
Clear
Whole hearted in the face of it's elliptical reason
-
She liked to move
To the commotion of fortune
May I live life again
Lyrics to "The Commotion of Fortune" by one of my projects The Swindlin' Tricks. You can see this song played live at the world cafe in Philly http://youtu.be/y2BZ_-n8Pqo
Sanaysha Aug 2018
My body is an ocean.
It's all curves and wave and swirls and caves, my body is an ocean.
My body brings commotion to the motion of the air.
It splashes and flop and tips and tops.
My body is calm.
It's unbothered and not dove into.
My body is an attraction.
An ocean view from far beyond.
My body is ocean.
It's clear blue brings a sunny sky and what knows who.

Just don't fill me up with trash and thrashes of lashes and
Cold hard plastic in my body.
Don't make up lies and tell people I'll drown you with my thighs and not my heart.
Don't call me out for my body and make up unforgettable lies because I'm not all hurricanes and stucked up whirlpools and typhoons full of disaster.
I'm not the hurricanes taking away homes and children.
I'm not a ocean waiting to happening.
I'm not polluted or full of lead, making my feeling undrinkable and my tears unmeaningful.

I'm an ocean full of hope and adventure.

My body is an ocean,
An ocean free to swim in.
Amitav Radiance Nov 2014
There is too much commotion
And the mind feels violated
Consciousness is hijacked
With stark reality being fed
Every waking hour
The mental borders struck down
By the brute forces
Driving it towards insanity
Derision of the thoughts
It’s totally exposed to abuse
Now, only rely on subconscious
To draw a mental map
Of the escape route
Towards the path of silence
Away from the commotion
And find sanity again
Pax Apr 2017
In the weirdness of things I burn-out my own will
Begun to suffocate the breathless breathing.
Slowly I’m becoming dead,
the strength I held is not my own.
I still go on, like everything
didn’t seems to matter anymore.

In the commotion of emotions,
Fear is like fuel to my fire –
A spark that kept me block.
Lock on my own isolation,
prisoner of my own dominion.

I wish for the star to shine,
Yet it won’t glow for me,
Unlucky.

© Pax
this was the complete poem of this little piece:
http://hellopoetry.com/poem/959592/a-star-wont-glow/
2014 - old work of mine. But there was a commotion of emotions this week, I was sick with Typhoid Fever, I've eating something cheap and gotten me sick. It was frustrating, so alone for two days, its hard even to eat something. when you're in abroad, living alone, its hard to get sick.. even with a roommate, they would not care for you unless your dying. SO i just slept it all up, still in the end you get up and fend for yourself, pick up your pieces even your body is at the weak state. I guess this is adult life with no one to lean on to. sigh..
Now I'm a little better.
EmperorMoth Oct 2018
Sweetly loving on my lips, swooning when you grab my hips
Sweet as honey with every sip, causing my intoxication
To bite your lip, and grin at me, drowning me deeper in serenity
Your lovely tongue, oh my, a heatwave to my mind
You've awestruck me with many waves of this pleasure
Strong enough to send the innocent into whiplash
You handsome brute, taking everything else out of my sight
My legs turn to jelly when you hold me so tightly, I've lost this fight
Causing waves of commotion a force of ***** insanity forming

Let my melody drug you, Our experience won't be boring
As my seductive lips craft your every moan, calling me, echoing
Your eyes fall back and you'll fall into a rippling sensation of bliss
All along I've been your gift
Making dreams come true in just the simplicity of a kiss
Sometimes love bites
But, you like that I insist
Terry Collett Oct 2018
There was commotion
coming from the dining room;
loud voices, shouting,
banging of cutlery.

Sister Bridget paused
her recital of the rosary;
listened and frowned.

Grabbing the hand bell
she left her room
and walked
to the dining room.

The two sisters
were trying
to restore order
and silence.

Sister Bridget rang
the hand bell loudly
and the disturbance stopped.

What is going on here?
She asked.

Anne has been
most rude to the cook,
Sister Bridget,
one of the nuns said.

Eyes turned to Anne
who sat on a chair
against the wall,
Benny sat next to her
eating his rice pudding.

The cook, Mrs Rooke,
stood red-faced
behind the serving hatch.

Well, Anne?
Sister Bridget said,
standing in front of Anne.

Yes, thank you,
Anne replied.

What was said?

One of the nuns
whispered in to her ear.

Anne follow me
to my room,
Sister Bridget said.

I want the Kid
with me,
Anne said.

Just you,
the nun said,
NOW.

The room went silent;
eyes turned
from the nun to Anne.

Anne raised her eyebrows:
temper, temper, Sister.

The nun released
a deep sigh:
please Anne,
I need to talk
with you in private.

Anne grabbed
her crutches
and pulling herself up,
and followed the nun
from the dining room,
poking out her tongue
at the cook.

Benny watched
Anne go,
her one leg

swinging to and fro.
Anne cause commotion in a nursing home in 1959
I love the evenings, passionless and fair, I love the evens,
Whether old manor-fronts their ray with golden fulgence leavens,
In numerous leafage bosomed close;
Whether the mist in reefs of fire extend its reaches sheer,
Or a hundred sunbeams splinter in an azure atmosphere
On cloudy archipelagos.

Oh, gaze ye on the firmament! a hundred clouds in motion,
Up-piled in the immense sublime beneath the winds' commotion,
Their unimagined shapes accord:
Under their waves at intervals flame a pale levin through,
As if some giant of the air amid the vapors drew
A sudden elemental sword.

The sun at bay with splendid thrusts still keeps the sullen fold;
And momently at distance sets, as a cupola of gold,
The thatched roof of a cot a-glance;
Or on the blurred horizon joins his battle with the haze;
Or pools the blooming fields about with inter-isolate blaze,
Great moveless meres of radiance.

Then mark you how there hangs athwart the firmament's swept track,
Yonder a mighty crocodile with vast irradiant back,
A triple row of pointed teeth?
Under its burnished belly slips a ray of eventide,
The flickerings of a hundred glowing clouds in tenebrous side
With scales of golden mail ensheathe.

Then mounts a palace, then the air vibrates--the vision flees.
Confounded to its base, the fearful cloudy edifice
Ruins immense in mounded wrack;
Afar the fragments strew the sky, and each envermeiled cone
Hangeth, peak downward, overhead, like mountains overthrown
When the earthquake heaves its hugy back.

These vapors, with their leaden, golden, iron, bronzèd glows,
Where the hurricane, the waterspout, thunder, and hell repose,
Muttering hoarse dreams of destined harms,--
'Tis God who hangs their multitude amid the skiey deep,
As a warrior that suspendeth from the roof-tree of his keep
His dreadful and resounding arms!

All vanishes! The Sun, from topmost heaven precipitated,
Like a globe of iron which is tossed back fiery red
Into the furnace stirred to fume,
Shocking the cloudy surges, plashed from its impetuous ire,
Even to the zenith spattereth in a flecking scud of fire
The vaporous and inflamèd spaume.

O contemplate the heavens! Whenas the vein-drawn day dies pale,
In every season, every place, gaze through their every veil?
With love that has not speech for need!
Beneath their solemn beauty is a mystery infinite:
If winter hue them like a pall, or if the summer night
Fantasy them starre brede.
Amitav Radiance Jul 2014
Suffering stirs up the soul
In agony, there are new realizations
Right in the middle, starts a chaotic vortex
Draining up all the energy, leaving the body numb
The mind is aware, yet it can’t control the situation
Getting more and more ****** into the commotion
The uneasiness unsettles the whole constitution
Shaking the belief for some time, yet, takes a heavy toll
Suffering gives a new awakening, to life’s adversities
Sometimes, we have to silently and vehemently fight
Like a lone fighter, up against, so many enemies
The mind as a weapon, is all you have
Sharpen it and keep it agile, as it’s the only weapon
To fight the sufferings, that gets hold of you
Jaclyn Sep 2014
I've never been good at
Decisions
But I've always had
Opinions

Finally
I make a decision
To share my opinion

This one opinion
Has made so much commotion

So much fuss
From my little opinion

Now I have reason to fear
Decisions
It's absurd how much damage one decision can bring on to someone. And how much happiness that same decision can bring to another and myself.
Osiria Melody Mar 2019
I. The Neighbor
Eyes, two immaculate, circular egg-whites
Donning uncanny egg yolks,
Captures a commotion like a camera from afar

II. The Parents
Indecipherable words blurred with alcohol’s embrace
Battered, ****** knuckles striking “I hate you”
against her–helpless
She strikes him back like a match set ablaze
Bird-like screeches pierce the air from the depths of his cruelty

III. The Parents’ Child
Tomato-red ball bounces like a rabbit, gliding across the grainy pavement
Young child, innocent and carefree, bolts toward the ball with thunderous feet
Suddenly, a shock of lightning, blinding like the sun,
Obscures the child's vision (a car)
Ear-splitting burst of impact interrupts the neighborhood
Time took off from the ground, sending the child forward like an airplane, limbs airborne
Not an emergency landing, but an imminent one
Her severed head rolls down the road like a bowling ball
Body splatters across the neighbor's yard, sprinkler watery guts

IV. The Father
His mash potato knuckles, battered, raises into the air as if in protest
A visage ridden with contrition, contorts
Tears stream down his face like missiles (his daughter just died)
An explosion of resentment overcomes him (shock, pure shock)

V. The Mother
She, bloodied by his knuckles
Yelps in determination (she blames her daughter’s death on him)
She slams him with all of her will, ensuring his impending death (he’s a goner for sure)

IV. The Father
Now in supine position, mutters an inaudible “sorry” to his wife with an imploring gaze, asking forgiveness
As she watches him expire, grotesquely smiles (he deserved this)

V. The Mother
Sprinting from the scene, red and blue sirens, whirl and whistle endlessly, audible torture
She loses touch with balance, falling head-first to the selfish ground, forcefully embracing her
Crown splits open like a watermelon, its juicy contents ingratiate
itself onto the neighbor's yard (the grass looks green and red like a watermelon now)

I. The Neighbor
Processing this ghastly ghastly scene, succumbs to Death’s embrace from shock

VI. The Family
A fatal and unforeseen tragedy
Broke the silence in this town of tranquility



Melody
3/16/19
I drew my inspiration from witnessing a happy family taking a stroll in a park.
Hadiy Syakir Sep 2018
no one is subscribing
to the universal affection
draining subconscious ailment
that needs no treatment
quaking with fear
shaking with revulsion
looking to prolong
an hour, a minute
stretching one second
into ten seconds
where are we going,
past the streetlights
the crossroads
the commotion
inside the canal boat
that surrounds and accompanies
this road -
will it ends one day,
sometimes, somewhere
and brings an end
to the entire's generation
guilt and disease?
Charlie Feb 2015
The sound of your silence leaves me without words. It tells me that all you'd rather do is look at me, looking at you.
Frank Brown Aug 2012
Seven or eight people lounged about in a small back room. I had no expectations before arriving so I’m neither surprised nor disappointed by what I discover.  I find myself sat in one of those reclining gaming chairs and think “This must be the best chair in the room”.

Just playing it cool. I don’t know anyone here. There’re a few guys playing the Xbox. I eye them over, none of them look to challenge my presence, either too engrossed in the screen, or intimidated in some way. To my left sit the women in the place. I have their attention. Relief that the journey here wasn’t in vein, I give them all a nod and a smile. I casually introduce myself, and then find myself playing on the Xbox. I know I can’t play, but that’s the act. I ask what buttons to press, and laugh at my own hopelessness, eventually relinquishing the controller. It soon finds its way back into my hands. By this time, some bird is sat up on the arm next to me. She’s watching my actions, how I take command of the situation. Why don’t I take command of her? Sitting and waiting has never been a good tactic. I pass the controller over to her and say a few words in an attempt to get the conversation rolling. The drink clouds my thoughts and I forget that I’m talking to her. In the distance I hear them remark, “He’s a cool guy.”

I sit, reclined, legs outstretched, coat open revealing buttoned collar, slicked back hair, that look of pure relaxation in ones surroundings. She’s diggin’ it. I know she’s digging it. Her leg starts to press into my arm, and then her hands are down by my side. Commotion in the room. Some fat ***** needs to make her presence known. Everyone chilled. She obviously wants the attention. Not my type. She leaves for an upstairs room, and moments later, a spliff finds its way into my hands, courtesy of the girls to my left. I take a few drags, telling myself not to get too high; too late for that. I pass it on and fall back into the chair. Forgot I hadn’t smoked in a month.

Still a laid back guy, although not sure if it’s a choice anymore. I know it’s taking me over now. Slowly, I find myself entering that zone where weeds been taking me lately. Thoughts of everything; no filter; the need to verbalize things. Suddenly I’m Mr Charismatic, and you are all my audience, whether you like it or not. I stopped caring or stop noticing people’s reactions and forget about myself. I let my ego out to play, unregulated by the discipline of consciousness.

There are people in the room. Pretty sure they weren’t here earlier. One of them says something to me. “Is he been aggressive?” I think to myself. Judging from the tone of my reply, I obviously felt the need to establish my position. Taking no **** from these guys it seems; I’m still the Don in the room. Remember myself, remember the girl. Mr Cool again.

Filling up water in the kitchen, find myself chatting to random guys. Banter flying around the place. She’s watching me. Some powder is under my nose. “Kind of you to offer, but that better not be ket.” Turns out it was Mandy. Can’t say no to a bump. Pretty sure I’m the most ****** in the room right now, but I’m riding it well. Door frame seems like a necessity to keep me upright. Don’t want to brave the assault course back to the recliner, plus, I’m talking to the guys in the kitchen, don’t want to walk away.

We’re meeting J’s bird in thirty minutes. Twenty minutes. Five minutes ago. “We’ll go in five minutes.” She’s there again. Her presence known to me. She's up against me, but time is also against me. Too ****** up to keep playing this game. We’re leaving now. Out the door, I attempt to say a few words as we leave. My eloquence abandons me and leaves me in the ****. Flag a taxi; turns out we’ve booked one. Send him on his way. Tip the driver more than I can afford.
katie Jan 2016
The willow hangs,
drapes the ground,
dances to a tune
unheard in the hum
of cars and lorries,
in the commotion of
people passing in a
hurry, barely noticing
anything more than the
phones tapped with
fingers & thumbs.
But I notice,
I see it all,
the dance on display,
the symbol of sanity
I need today.
Wack Tastic Nov 2012
It's the conspiracy to conspire,
Think of how the fist or flies feel,
The most enticing truth,
Astonishingly mouthwatering,
Turns out smoke and mirror,
You see, because behind the window paned,
skeleton of steel and wire,
Underneath there is commerce,
In the webbing of marrow, worldwide underhandedness,
Something is always being sold,
What better way to take power away,
Then having scheduled rebellions,
The greatest put on,
Our system only works under thumbs,
from the backdrop works the crippled puppeteer,
behind his blank, vagrant, expressionless lenses,
Behind the grey skin and swilled organs,
Attached to the oil drum veins,
Beats the very same heart of Moloch!
Mitchell Duran Feb 2013
Goodbye Prague, to a city I never thought I'd know.
Goodbye Prague, to a heaven that is lined with shattered beer bottles and stamped out cigarettes the junkies and the hobo's here still manage to get a  few puffs out of.
Goodbye Prague, to a hell that was once hovering with the feelings of control, manipulation, and more control, but now is twirling top speed to a land unknown.
Goodbye Prague, you seductive ***** with your cheap liquor, beer, and cigarettes, smelling of aged mahogany mixed finely with an acidic burst of fresh *****.
Goodbye Prague, I do not know when I will see you again, but I hope that I do and that I never grow so old that I forget you.
Goodbye to your abstract animals smeared black, screaming in the exploding summer sun. Goodbye to freshly cut pigs heads and cow flesh, hanging in your storefront window, tempting every passerby like the *****'s of Amsterdam.
Goodbye to every cobblestone that shines after a fresh rain or snow, slippery to the newcomer, an annoyance to the amateur, thoughtless to the old timer.
Goodbye to the potraviny's stocked with two crown marked up ***** and space vegetables shaped and colored in a one and only kind of vernacular; without you, I would have half-drunkenly stumbled home towards dreams of menial headaches and shadowy beer or perhaps to The Oak to drink alone.
I scream so long through faint puffs of carbon nicotine clouds made illuminated by the icy orange street lamps 800 years old glow!
I scream so long to late metro's and early trams!
I scream so long to the roaring rocks who reflect the faces of aging clocks!
So long to passed out bums and unforgiving metro officers. So long to dollar fifty beers and the fear of getting deported. So long with counting silver crown to make even, seeing my math prowess has lessened. So long embedded needles and bottle caps deep within the snowy cobble. So long listless wanders all their money thrown away until the month of May comes to knock on their door. So long alleyway romance 100 crown notes and old men in their rickety fishermen boats. So long sad masked faces who in their forward march sit stunned seeing fortune picks only some. So long through the grey mist stabbed with neon signs that attract the youth and the mad. So long to the feeling everything I had to say was the wrong thing. So long to feelings of foreign familiarity whose ball and chain were slowly starting to rust away. So long in song to the player's of Riegrovy hill whose voices I just couldn't stand. So long I've come to understand everyone's got a choice to live or wish they did. So long to the wide swept hills of Petrin, where angel's of lore go to rest atop dusted fresh snow, among the dotted new born vine. So long to the sound of wet metal against metal, a scream of order carried on the blue man's shoulder. So long to a city whose architecture reminds me of old men's faces and whose color reminds me of elderly women's dresses. So long to smoking in front of children without a second thought for their health. So long to racism that is wicked, but grunted genially - the executioner smiles at the accused - the gravedigger's weep for the dead - the ant makes a break for a hill not his. So long forlorn love whose only remedy for a cure is the beer sitting in front of you. So long to wondering what's going on in the world, when all I want and got is what's right in front of me.
Farewell Prague, you shadowed street walker, a cloak of stars around you, finding all that owe you  your due.
Farewell Prague, you in the morning eyes half mast, snow crunching underneath stony white.
Farewell Prague, miss-handler of crooked time pieces stating the obvious, ignoring to blame bluntly on youthful alcohol abuse.
Farewell Prague, you took me up the hill and through the woods where ravens, black as gutter ice, crackled down at me like showers of New Year's fireworks.
Farewell Prague, you gave me peace where I once thought I was unable to have.
Farewell Prague, you befriended me, then ordered me a shot that made me cough, then ordered me a beer so we could sit and truly feel what it is to sit and wallow in our time here.
Farewell Prague, you entranced me with view after view to a city to stubborn to die.
Farewell Prague, I leave you like you would leave me.
Farewell Prague, to your fat snow flakes that drop into wide eyed children mouths, tasting of iron whiskey rye, though they do not flinch at the taste.
Farewell Prague, I leave you with a hush of a whimper, bitter as the cold, and indifferent as the server's over at Cafe Lourve.
Farewell Prague, with a thousand miles of graveyards, where ghosts barely have the strength to weep.
Farewell Prague, I admit I never knew how to love until I came to visit you.
Farewell Prague, as I stare out your cracked and smoky tram windows, my thoughts not my own, shop windows and naked, screaming men, their cigarettes bouncing in between their lips like a jack of spades on smack, where at last we see that life is only a worth a **** if lived.
Farewell Prague, I see the cards there on the table and you're winking at me while I stand at the backdoor, and what's more, there's a secret you've got to give that I refuse believe.
Farewell Prague, to your open sore catastrophe of society, KFC on every block, and Starbuck's on every other, and on the other other are the lined' wino's shaking open handed and spread for a case of cardboard vino.
Farewell Prague, to the nasty smoker's in trams that just stopped caring.
Farewell Prague, to a city rhythm generated by an ignorant originality and uniqueness, where the same has no name and the the plain jabber on about their jobs in their pretty blue jeans.
Farewell Prague, because to say goodbye would mean we don't have that friendly tone.
Farewell Prague, I see to sacrifice oneself for the comfort of the elder or the opposite fills me with agitated obligation stationed in a vessel older than I've ever lived - yet I know it, for it is me.
Farewell Prague, you are a lost lullaby caught in the wind of an elastic multi-colored pin-wheel, shining riches of the rainbow into the eyes of children, who all whistle when they snore.
Farewell Prague, a button upon the Earth, like every man.
Farewell Prague, a love song sung in the depths of a damp grey hall, rivers all around, so the sounds too much to drink were outlandish in high emotion, juvenile commotion.
Farewell Prague, we were young - not caring about the future, but of course, with worry in our hearts for worry is a sign of human being human; yet, still, we asked nothing of one another and you gave and I gave and you took and I took and we walked underneath one another's blanket's until we were no longer cold and the winter showed to be just an annoying individual at the party.
Farewell Prague, to your lack of complications, making simplicities acceptable again.
Farewell Prague, to the snow that never stops falling, all while slumbering within dream until the seam is ripped so the old can die.
Farewell Prague, I've shined every marble staircase and washed every tram window; you owe me nothing because I like you.
Farewell Prague, to the long nights bleeding away at the table alone, the lady fast asleep, lit by the dim orange glow of the twisted streetlights below.
Farewell Prague, to the long nights forgetting pains of existence and accepting every solution to ward of resistance.
Farewell Prague, our long talks and hovering walks, always forcing me to balk.
Farewell Prague, at last you got the praise you have always deserved.
Farewell Prague, to hot humid nights filled with *** and butter in the summer and cold bitten cold of ***** and juice a la winter.
Farewell Prague, to bad service but good drink and food.
Farewell Prague, you curious tale the bravest man would waver to say.
Farewell Prague, to bridges galore and more dead leaves then wrinkles on my crooked face.
Farewell Prague, at night the sheen of liquor wears off only if you let it be so.
Farewell Prague, to all the those lonely mornings bent head into book on the way to work.
Farewell Prague, how long till you grow to be young again?
Farewell Prague, how long till I admit my defeat to you?
Farewell Prague, how long until I accept I'm the last fool in this world?
Goodbye Prague, the last soldier is standing, but the war is not yet won.
Goodbye Prague, to your hazy stars glimmering and shining for an indebted audience.
Goodbye Prague, the sun breaking through ink spilled colored clouds, the birds chirping, the dogs barking, and us wondering where we started.
Goodbye Prague, your churches are empty so the sins of man run rampant and at last the prayers of men go unanswered; we now abandoned to fend for ourselves.
Goodbye Prague, the puncturing purity of your ways make me giggle in delight as I listen to the cool piano man play; his eyes on the horizon shattering like toppled china.
Goodbye Prague, at last there is a time where we both get what we want.
Goodbye Prague, the verandas are chilled with the dew of winter and the snow glitters like bitter diamonds as the fool tips his hat to shy away the sunlight.
Goodbye Prague, every rain drop that fell upon me was a gift you can never take away.
Goodbye Prague, the fool adheres to agnostic rules but the cruel here see no reason to sue.
Goodbye Prague, I think therefore the dust of escape reflects the waves of the river Vlatva.
Goodbye Prague, to your lack of vowels.
Goodbye Prague, when the night wavers hear the Beherovka weep into its own glass, love leaving her forever making no note to Kissy.
Goodbye Prague, tram driver's unforgiving in their merciless need for schedule.
Goodbye Prague, the last homage to the war standing like a shining diamond neath chipped and shattered rubble.
Goodbye Prague, a listless memory mentioned only in drifting dream.
Goodbye Prague, every loving glance smelling of freshly poured beer over newly fallen snow.
Goodbye Prague, to your hardness, your beauty, and your madness.
Goodbye Prague, your days wet with rain, stricken by sunlight, reflecting white emerald into the window panes of passing trains.
Goodbye Prague, at last you got what you deserved.
Goodbye Prague, now I can weep and say I have trampled upon your cheek and slunk through your veins and trudged through your blood and skipped through your hair and saw every line - both sought after and nought - you have acquired through time.
Goodbye Prague, there is no reason to get excited, you are free.
Goodbye Prague, I see the silhouette of the trees that line your hills and I am forsaken to see the leaves turning from jovial yellow greens to disregarded and disparaged furnaces of dim fire reds and browns.
Goodbye Prague, the people within you deserved all of the credit.
Good Prague, the people outside of you deserve what ever they believe they do.
Goodbye Prague, you family to families with common sense and love rampaging through your barley stained veins.
Goodbye Prague, perhaps there is nothing under your rubble, maybe already all is lost for everyone, everywhere, but maybe, you living the simpler life, can show all that life can be so.
Goodbye Prague, you gave me letters, words, lines, commas, apostrophes, and dashes, paragraphs, pages, and eventually, a story; I leave you marked.
Goodbye Prague, an old friend whose hand I shook but knew would one day turn my back on.
Goodbye Prague, the bite of your cold generosity and your bustling love leaves man with nothing but to bike back with no chance of triumph.
Goodbye Prague, street cleaners clean up your wear and tear from the mothers and fathers that bore you, some 800 years ago; ageless, you loom longer than they would like.
Goodbye Prague, battling sleep as the ***** raps for more and more, none that the man has.
Goodbye Prague, the night is curling in as the wave crashes to the short and I am the lost sun looking for a place to rise, trying to get to the sky.
Aaron McDaniel Oct 2012
I have an army at my sides
Teenage soldiers marching along side making no commotion
Ready to shoot cartridges of heavy emotion
and landmines of loud music
Marines scream their motto ‘Semper Fi’
We reply with an attitude as if we’ll never die
Everyday, unknown soldiers
Our brothers and sisters are dying
in drama filled warfare
Someone tell me these crosses on
Highway sides are okay because
too many populate the green surface they’re held by
I can’t stand hearing how a
14 year old gets shot by a
15 year old now locked up for
16 years all for
17 oz of ****** so now a cop can tell
18 family member some ******* about how kids make ******* decisions because
“We don’t know any better?”
From swing sets and sand boxes to
Slick rides and ****** tension
We’ve been changed from overalls to overrated double standards
As a whole we’ve lost out innocence
We’ve been termed as the lost youth
So let’s get maps to find out way back
3 paces east and 4 to the north
We will end where it all began
Chances are that 90% of people won’t get
our fascination with funny pictures of
Cats on the internet, but that’s because they don’t
understand the generation the 90’s gave birth to
I’m only 16 and growing up scares the **** out of me
I don’t know what one person can do to
stop every disease and flu from passing
through and staying true to humanity
Tom Wargo was quoted as saying;
“Growing old is mandatory;
Growing up is optional”
If this is true then I want to stay
17 on the inside, I’ll be
82 on the swing sets laughing away.
Other parents will whisper and wonder
But I won’t care.
As long as I can stretch my toes
to touch the sky and grab it’s mysteries
I guess that’s why they say plant your foot firmly
in the front door because my toes can’t latch onto nebula's.
So when I fall I’m going to need a platform to land on
If we rely on one another to thrive, strive and survive
Then where will i fall to if my generation single-handedly kills one another till nobody is left?
We live in the moment but the moment has passed
So seize the next moment and live for tomorrow
So when tomorrow becomes today
You’ll be ready.
We
Will be ready
We won’t be killing
We won’t be stealing
We won’t be lying
and most importantly
We won’t
Be
Dying
Get your finery on and let the games begin,
Does it look like you'd trust him?
Blackout suit, purple shirt,
Crimson tie, dangerous eyes.
Sly, slick, sardonic and wicked
wearing a gentlemanly disguise.

The dinner was alright
now get ready to fight.
White powder on the counter,
A dusted card and a rolled-up fiver.
Finish up your line
and get out there.

Codine chills, calm is instilled,
Colorful lights, relaxed thrills.

No chats so I'll settle for that.

A while later
and we're back in black. Hometown
beatdown.
Lets get completely smashed;
Go hard or go home.

Messy nights never get old,
River of glass across a broken road.
Tonic wine is best served cold, though
the medicinal properties remain unknown.
A bottle of B from Buckfast Abby, they always
blame it on the buckie, infernal commotion lotion with its cough-syrupy sweet nectar.

Just the end of another debutante night,
Staying classy while we drink and fight.
Making hedonistic debauchery stylish
'cause we're Irish.
So much commotion
Takes over my tired brain
Can I just sit still?
LOCKER DOORS

Woke this morning, I argued with my mother
Hating the snow days, stay under the covers

Gathered up my backpack, headed to the car
Did not do my homework, schools not too far

Dreading the normal bullies, homeroom fights
Walking in a hallway, standing in the lunch line

Friends text behind your back, liars of all types
Money is stolen, cheerleaders get more hyped

Ordinary day, ******* waste of my **** time
Pencils sharpening, I'm out of my **** mind!

I watch these girls, sick of stupid *** fashion!
Wish something new or exciting would happen!

Sitting in first period, Having my first period
Feeling like Carrie, blood stains get very wet

Listening to the teacher talk about due things
While hiding the fact that my ****** is puking

Then all of a sudden, a loud bang was heard
Followed by a females scream, kinda absurd

Who is now screaming and for what reason?
Is this a joke? Is someone out there teasing?

But then this loud bang is heard again closer
Students start running toward the commotion

The metal door slams open, a figure appears
He's holding a shotgun, he looks like a queer

His eyes hold fire of intense pain and anguish
Hands grip the gun, this is some insane ****

Nobody is moving as he breathes in and out
Then he unloads the gun into a friends mouth

Then as if in slow motion, her face erupted
I had to get out of this classroom, **** this!

The gun goes off again with disgusting results
Another female student lies dead with a hole

Make a run for a door, while his back's turned
The gun is so loud, every one here has heard

Students running every which way in the hall
Tripping over two dead kids, first two to fall

I run over to see if I recognize the deceased
Yes! I know one well! Her nickname was Beast

She was a goth kid, known for being so silent
She kept to herself, now killed due to violence

No time for sorrow, as I go through her purse
The students are screaming as they disperse

Lip stick and the works! This ***** was a fake
Toss the **** aside, hope all her stuff breaks!

I look in the hall, a gunman's coming this way
Now running down the hall, death in his wake

I get back up trying to make sense of this ****
Two gun shots ring out, another student is hit

My eyes make contact with the killer at large
Cold stares meets mine, he remains in charge

I look away, back up the hall towards safety
The teachers board room will still open daily

Maybe I could hide under a table or chair?
It would pass but would he know I was there?

He doesn't know me! Right? I'm too scared
As ***** flows freely down my legs, now bare

Kids panicking as the blood stains the doors
Dead bodies now litter this once clean floor

I take to these stairs and I continue up flights
Should I go down to the garage for the night?

That couldn’t be right! I need to get to the top
But my name's is called, I turn back and stop

The man with the gun is standing behind me
Wants me to lay down, I don’t plan on fighting

I am humbly abiding by his every command
He simply asks me this single question then

He proceeds to ask if I believe in God or not
Most likely, no matter what, I'n gonna be shot

This is the last chance I’ve got to be someone
Go out with a bang, a literal one from his gun

I hear students cry, I watch the carnage unfold
Tears of the ungrateful, the sad rotting of souls

Flesh falls from the mold, the world has failed
Me in the moment, a stupid girl once labeled

Known for lack of faith and love of blasphemy
Now face to face, asked one more task of me

Should I deny a God I hated to acknowledge?
Or continue strong to the end? End of all this

Never going to college never felt so disgusting
I didn't know this kid! Did he know something?

Just then he turns the gun, shooting kids dead
Turns back to me, he is so serious, he says

I look to see a kids head now blown to pieces
God forgive this sad *******, help him Jesus!

I scream out so that the world can hear me!
The Lord is my savior! He is forever near me!

That's my last moment as the trigger is pulled
As my hopes and dreams are fully annulled

Just an ordinary day in a quiet Colorado town
Death won as the gunman took himself down

Just an ordinary day for the parents of teens
Just ordinary funerals and ordinary screams

Common place or out of place? Who knows
From schools to movie theaters, gun control?

Hug children, keep them happy and laughing
Never know when “ordinary days” will happen

Adam Koss/ January 5, 2014
A powerful reminder that school shootings are very real.
Farah Hizoune Apr 2014
I had hoped to find on this trip to Morocco, like countless great ones before me, the scent of my youth, to create the volumes of my own tale. To find beauty in the colors of my heritage, to reinvent all that I am and all that I am destined to be. The joy of knowing that some of the greatest writers, artists, musicians, poets, have found solace, inspiration and true peace in the country I am blessed to call my home is unmatched. I wanted to be able to hold the sunshine in my soul, the world in my mind and the fateful nonchalance of destiny in my heart.

From what little I saw of Paris from the aisle seat on the relatively small Airbus 370 was magical. It was a glimmering and sparklingly beautiful city that filled me with a nostalgia that was not my own, but of the stories I'd read set in 1941 Paris. I pictured Henry Miller and Anais Nin meeting there in secret along le Rue de Provence. The fear that I held within when I stepped through customs into le Royaume du Maroc was smothering. There has to be a word for the fear of new beginnings, the fear of your heritage.. But as soon as I was out of the airport and in the back seat of my fathers rented Dansia, driving down the scenic coastal highway, I found my relief.

The relief came from the overbearingly-beautiful smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, with slight undertones of burning *******. It hit me and I no longer felt that overpowering fear. I started gulping for air, this time not because of a panic attack, but for memories sake. I never wanted to forget that smell. It smelled like my childhood, something long dormant, suddenly released. All of the places that I had ever tried to fit into and this was the closest to perfection. The beauty of the beggars, the commotion of the families of six packed tightly into the back of a speeding fruit truck, the droves of young punks taking over the sidewalks, they all brought me instant comfort.

The drive from Sale to Harhoura was, to put it lightly, riche. They were modernizing my roots with bypasses and tunnels built underneath of centuries-old, roman-built fortresses. New sidewalks and high dollar condominiums built on the edge of a brand new, man-made medina. The water was occupied by artesian fishing boats and the frail, brown men who powered them for measly pay or a days meal. My father was uncovering all of the wonders of his country in a booming, baritone voice. Showing me old stomping grounds and schools, and teaching me the history of everything we passed.

The vernal equinox, waning crescent moon on my first night was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever been privy to. Unable to be adequately described or properly photographed with the tools I possessed. It was the color of a blood-orange toadstool, hanging dubiously on the horizon. Barely visible but for the every-other peeks between the shantytown. It was enough to move me to tears and to fill me with a childlike wonder about the lunar beast and it's meaning relative to my being. She hung there, heavy and forbearing of the adventures I was about to partake in and the layer of my soul that was yet to be discovered. When I lost her I became frantic, craning my neck every which way just for one last glimpse at her celestial magnificence. When I lost her I gained realization - that although something was not with me, it was always there, watching over and hanging in time.

My first real day in Morocco was well spent, sleeping until 3pm, buying a SIM and minutes for my cell (of which I used all almost immediately on nonsense communication), and smoking hashish in the locale café. The hashish and the rolling techniques were very intriguing, I watched astutely for future reference. They used cigarette tobacco and white Moroccan hash and rolled it into a paper with the cigarette filter on the end. I wondered about what the people I was with and around me were talking about, due to my lack of fluency in either Arabic or French and their broken English that was too much effort to decipher.

What I really craved was a nap and to know where my father was since he had disappeared early in the day with my step mother, which was less of a surprise and more of an annoyance. The Marlboro cigarette smoke was extremely dense & bothersome and it became hard to breathe. I stood out there and everywhere like a token, sore thumb of an American, despite my demure outfit of boyfriend jeans, white tee shirt and Louis Vuitton scarf tied around my head á la Lou Lou de la Falaise in 1970.

On day three, I went to visit my potential 6 month employer. His vision was impressive. Khalid ran a small, local travel agency in Centre Temara, specializing in appealing to the nouveau-riche of America & Europe. His tours were of quality rather than quantity and consisted of showcasing the small co-ops of Morocco, argan oil production being one of the biggest. American sows will eat up any exotic cosmetic product that claims anti-aging benefits. They're all trying to fight time to keep the attention of their ******, manic-depressive spouses. My position in the company, if I stayed, would be to appeal and connect with the American market, to take my honed, Yankee accent and throw pretty words at the yuppie clientele. It wasn't a bad gig but it felt like I would be ******* my heritage. Aside from that I was dying to go on the tours myself.  

My father was still battling me on the never-ending war of my outfit choices. Again, despite jeans, leather sandals & my favorite mans' t-shirt. I think it may have been the heart-shaped sunglasses he disliked, or maybe it was just too early in the AM. For him it was all about "blending in", "not attracting attention", "sameness". It almost brought me to tears to hear him say those words. It wasn't in my nature to go with the masses. Twenty-three years of uniqueness and he was trying to strip it from me under the guise of "protection from harassment of any sort".

To me, it was natural to want to adorn myself with bright colors, sheer fabrics, intricately designed scarves not traditionally worn as head pieces. He dropped the topic but I knew it wasn't the end in the twenty-three year old argument. We were in the middle of life, I wanted my dress to reflect the elation and bustle around me. Everything was full of depth and ornate decoration. From the stones we walked upon, with their repetitive, diamond patterns, to the grand architecture  of what would be considered "the slums" in America.

I was trying to convince my father that I would be a great candidate for a moped or a motorcycle. He wasn't buying it, something about heart attacks and my lack of attention span. The beauty of the travel agency was that there was a small cosmetic tie-in via the argan oil and rose water co-ops. I was given the outlines for his guided tours and asked to edit them, which I was more than happy to do. Following a small me once back home, my cousin and I headed to La Plage de Temara.

The beach, how do I put this kindly, was less than spectacular, but the view was breathtaking. Once you got passed the scattering of soiled diapers and broken glass bottles from the vagrant winos, there was mile after mile of cerulean blue Mediterranean sea outlined by a coast made of porous volcanic rock. The hazy, white, almost-Grecian inspired homes that were stacked against the bank were technically dingy but beautiful still. I was praying for the sun to burn away my psoriasis and the brand new, but entirely expected, mosquito bite on my cheekbone.

The shoreline was terrifyingly littered with human detritus that almost ruined the picturesqueness of the scene. I waded in up to my kneecaps, saw a roll of toilet paper drifting like a jellyfish and ran out as fast as I could. After about an hour of sunbathing, we walked through the run-down, once beautiful coastal beach town, Casino. Our destination? The rooftop of one of the abandoned buildings to meet with a friend of my cousins. My first impression of the domicile, with its staccato flooring and the multicolored, crumbling walls, was trepidation.

The open plan of the rooftop, line with hand-strung bamboo walls & open wrought-iron roof was very Rabat. The view, an over-whelming 360 aerial, of the bounding city and the crystalline, raging sea. The cooing doves flapped about lackadaisically from roof to roof, landing near me on the branch of a blackened, dead rose tree. The high walls of the dilapidated homes were lined with broken glass bottles to thwart trespassers and graffiti artists. Although, it didn't stop them from defacing the outside walls with proclamations of "FAMINE OR FREEDOM", "BLACK ARMY 06" & "BEAUTIFUL DEATH" .

There was one, lonely grazing sheep tied to a frayed, red rope claiming him as a family meal. I could relate. Albeit, here the slavery was less pronounced. Everywhere I looked, I found inspiration, which is the closest thing to freedom we human animals can hope for.

As I prepared my bag the night before I was to head to Marrakech, my head was filled with visions of the spectacular. I had read stories and seen pieces on the fabled city and all of the magical things there was to be seen. It was a 4 hour, beautifully scenic drive down the auto route through hilly countryside and passed the city of Casablanca, covered in a dense brown haze. The difference in the quality of the air once you go out of the city was hard to believe. The one complaint I have to write about this 'god's country' is that the inhabitants have no respect for the land.

I don't mean that they don't appreciate the food that comes to fruition or the sea that supplies the freshest fish. I'm talking about their complete and total disregard for littering. When I drove passed the outskirts of Casa and saw a beautiful village with a backdrop of the famous Atlas Mountains, surrounded by a summit of garbage, I had to ask myself, "why?". Why do the people of a gracious and humble culture, not to mention an endemically CLEAN culture, throw their disgusting waste wherever they want? I'm straying off topic, but you understand my woe.

We arrived in Marrakech in brilliant time, around 1 PM, just in time to throw on my high-waist bikini & hit the pool. After sunbathing for a few hours, I readied myself to be astonished by the wonders of Djema el-Fna, the Mosque at the End of the World. In simple jeans and a tee-shirt once again, we headed out around 6 o'clock. The square was packed full of tourists from all over the world, of all ages, races, sexes.

When we entered into the square I was quite disturbed by the looks on the faces of the locals. They had the dejected look of what reminded me of the Chateaux Marmont, like 100 years lived in only 25. Like love lost and lack of options. There was nothing magical about the aggressive competition of the young and old men alike, vying for a bit of coin from some idiot tourists. The Barbary apes in captivity, dressed stupidly and piteously in women's clothing, the children of 4, 5 & 6 hustling those god ****** tissues, sickened me. The beauty of the place lay in the landscape, surrounded in the West by snow-capped cordillera.

There were charming things about the center, the smells of the many cooking tents, the sunset that left me gasping, and at night the stars shone and the moon was bright, but it all felt jaded. The old city was awash with men selling the exact same things for a higher price the farther in you walked, the jewelry was cheap and there were so many mopeds in the alleyways that it was dangerous to not pay attention for a moment. All in all, I saw the reason that UNESCO saved the location as an officially protected "cultural space", but I saw no magic, no story tellers, nothing  bewitching of the spirit. Sure, there were snake charmers, but half of them were fake. It was all smoke and mirrors.

The day following, my party and I took a guided tour into the High Atlas. Now this, this is where the enchantment laid, miles of blue-brown rock, stretched the length of as far as you could see all around. We had to travel into the mountains about an hour through deep country and the Marrakech of the locals, the real Marrakech. Through the towns that the government created when the foreigners started coming in, in droves of poisonous tour busses, and inflating the native infrastructure.

I had notions of grandiose to come and realizations of just what a small part I played in a large production. I had left selfishness on the air France flight into Rabat and quickly learned that peace is a relative thing here. People were not going to stop asking you questions but you realize that if they weren't questioning you it meant that they didn't give a ****. I felt loved undivided and genuinely, nothing comparable to the falsities I had thought were love previously. I learned of real beauty and to welcome, not fear it. That there were sad things in this world, yes, but I was a lucky one. I could not afford depression because I was taking it from the ones who had the right to own it. I still held my dark passenger inside but she's was lighter and quieter, she no longer bogged me down or spit vulgarity at all that I contacted. I still felt longing for my lost, lost lover as I would always but he no longer brought pangs at the thought of his eyes. I looked virginal in all white linens against a cerulean Mediterranean back drop, I felt virginal as I had taken no man in a month. I had been scrubbed and cleansed and covered to attain my rebirth and I had never felt the emotions that unearthed me. I clamored for more life, I hungered for it.

The way I used to be weak for him, I now craved strength with a sense of urgency for everything. I had new eyes for the world and the world, for me. I felt the pull and flow of the Andalusian and Berber blood that poured through my veins and nothing, not even not even the scorn from strangers calling me a daughter of the devil for my ensemble, could deter me from owning it. I had maddening notions that I was omnipresent, akin to a demi-goddess. I was earth, sun, ocean and blood - but unlike my peers and relations I was the only one who could find contentment in the peacefulness of silence. Still I would have liked so much to kiss you, with your full mouth and straight teeth, after a year of absence. For you to grab me by my neck and pull me into you hungrily, in the way only distance can make you sick for me. I fell asleep on the way back from Spain and I was awoken by me uncontrollably calling your name in my sleep. Yet how I longed to strike out on my own and meet a man of my future. I would not, like my dream, lie chaste and whole while in gods country and wait for you. No matter the poems I've writ nor the words I've scribed indicating so. I wanted something deeper and more deserving, though I will always love you, of my fullness and my crass, broken nature. My journeys were worth writing in diamond ink on golden pages and I needed someone who lived to review them at the peak of their worth.

I had mostly humdrum days in between which bled together until the day my father left for the states, sans me. It was an emotional scene and I was reminded about just how unprotected I really was without him. I took journey to Fes the following day with my Aunt and grandparents. It was a breathtaking drive through rough terrains from which masses of vegetation magically sprung forth to feed a nation. There were fields of wildflowers, all red peonies, brilliantly yellow buttercups, butter-colored daisies, intricate and massive wedding lace. Thousands upon thousands of sacred olive trees littered the landscape, it was perfectly picturesque. We journeyed into the 2,000 year old city and you could feel it's pulse. The stench was my only complaint, a mixture of ripe sea-water and rotten meat in some areas. It was a standard medina with hundreds bustling about, the most distinguishing difference being the beauty of the architecture. You had a feeling of heaviness from the age on the buildings and the locals looked as if they had been there since the beginning. I was in a pure state of wonder and vowed to look everything up about Fes that I could during my next peaceful wifi moment. We bartered and shopped and went as far into the twisting alleyways as we felt comfortable. For lunch we traveled into a small outer lying town in the hills and had the best kefta I
this is just the beginning
If I cried.* Perhaps my tears could fill the Ocean
instead my fingers peck at this keyboard and forms a Poem
I guess they've never had someone whose love was so *****
Potent.
How did we find each other in a world full of Commotion...
Gone.
© ST 2013
Jelisa Jeffery Aug 2010
I feel all that’s inside me shake, criss-cross and tumble,
Ending up in places they shouldn’t be.
My feelings get confused and are unsure of how much
Of themselves to portray, or let go of completely.
I sit and stand and lay and think, but my thoughts do not
Know enough to figure things out.
And I know I should be using my head, but my heart is
What all this commotion’s about.
Jelisa Jeffery © 2010
The grand sensation of emotion.
It is all logic consuming, interrupting.
Fight it off, focused mind.
For a little while to the sensation am I blind.
Only to flight back into the commotion.
Outside Words Sep 2018
I was awoken from a dreamless sleep
     By a boy with short brown hair,
     Who, with an urgent stare,
Told me to head to the showers!

As my eyes creaked open to recognize,
     The orange glow of this unfamiliar room’s lighting,
     In front of me, in handwritten writing,
A page on the wall showed three in the morning.

When I glanced around a room of shared bunks,
     I saw all sorts of people and things,
     Running around with things to bring
To these showers I had yet to see.

In a winding line down a high ceiling’d hall,
     I stood with so many,
     Who like me, hadn’t any
Idea what was going on.

With a whirlwind flurry of commotion
     Steam crawled from the showers and water sprayed,
     As we were told in a big disarray,
To wash off the place from whence we came.

In a neat little stack, I was handed my clothes
     A tunic, with a sash
     And a captivating mask
To “celebrate our exciting return home.”

Down dark rustic stairways, I watched like a child
     The vibrant light and affinity,
     Radiating with enchanting divinity,
From the otherworldly people and creatures below.

Through that noisy, jolly crowd,
     We were led as a group
     And the boy said with a whoop
That we were all to stand up and dance.

His eyes glinting with excitement,
     The brown haired boy explained
     That our spirits would be ordained
Through a celebration of our inner light.

Onto the stage I was led
     As I stood with my class,
     Nervous amongst the mass
Of silent, numerous spirits before us.

As the boy hit the music
     I felt something from deep inside
     Rush out like a tide
And through tears of joy, I danced.

It was at that gleeful moment
     That my friends and I,
     Realizing we'd died,
Knew we'd returned to the forest.
© Outside Words
LDuler Dec 2012
You tell me that I am young
That life has merely licked me, not stung
That I do not understand, that I have not yet lived
Enough to grasp the substance

I have known disease
Slow tears, muted pleas
Pain that nothing could appease
I have known the smell of hospitals for summers
The beeping and slurping of machine in massive numbers

I have spoken to voiceless loved ones,
Loved ones with teethless mouths and twisted tongues
Distorted jaws and wheezing lungs.
We have spoken with little green charts
And broken hearts
From the inability to connect the mouth to the thoughts in the head
And I left without understanding,
What they had said
Because I eventually had to let it go
(I still don't know)

I have spent countless summer nights
In nature’s garb, floating silently in a river
So warm that my limbs, skimming the surface, didn't shiver
Under a clear sky, the stars like paradisiac lights
Without anyone ever finding out
About these wild and primal escapades

I've drank, I've smoked
I have burned my throat
With coarse lemon gin
Until I could no longer feel my skin.

I have been frightened
Yes I have felt fear, like a noose around my throat being tightened
Like a gruesome black crow, perched on my shoulder
I have often awoken affright at night,
Longing, praying, for the morning light
I have felt fear, wild, fierce and turbulent fear
More than anyone will everyone will ever know
By men, by life, by myself
Desolate under the sheets, like a forsaken toy
All by myself

I have seen Paris in the rain
Traveled the French countryside by train
I've woken up to New York window views
And seen New Orleans afternoons, filled with heat and blues.
I've swam the Mexican Baja waters, turquoise and clear
With snakes as sharp as spears

I have known humiliation
Causing my cheeks to turn carnation
A spoon, emptying my insides out
Like a gourd

I have loved
I have known the aching pain of a swelled heart
And the way it can tear you apart
I have gushed torrents upon my pillows and sleeves
Tears running down my chin like guilty thieves
From a lit-up house

I have known death, and grief
The meaning of "never"
Whimpering in the school bathroom
And cold, lonely nights

I have seen the works of Van Gogh, Mondrian, and Miro,
Modigliani, Cezanne, and Frida Kahlo
Of Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Magritte, and Picasso
I have wandered through hallways of masterpieces
Holding tight to my grandmother's hand
And I have wept shamelessly for joy
Before Degas's La classe de danse

I have been diagnosed
I have undergone computer programs designed to shift my brain, to better it
To get me to be normal, to submit
I have had brain-altering medicine shoved down my throat,
Like stuffing a goose,
To make my brain run a little less loose
And I have submitted and gotten use to my brain being altered.

I have had kisses that were mere trifles
Frivolous, yet fierce and acute like shots from a rifle
Lips of mere flesh, not sweet godly nectar
And gazes that meant everything
That seemed to connect with an invisible yet indestructible string
Iris like distant galaxies and pupils twinkling like black jewels
Eyes that seemed enkindled by some ethereal fuel
Speaking of emotions far too secluded, cryptic and cluttered
To be worded and uttered

I know the way in which violence resides
Not in commotion, brusqueness, nor physical harm
But in silence
In the time that covers pain and secrets
In the slow impossibility of trust
In the way that some secrets become inconceivable to tell, time has so covered them in rust
In that dull, dismal ache
In all that is doomed to remain forever opaque.

I have read, for pleasure,
The works of Balzac, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Voltaire
Of Bobin, Gaude, and Baudelaire
Of Flaubert, Hemingway
and good old Bradbury, Ray
Émile Zola,  Primo Levi
Moliere, Rousseau, and Bukowski
I have read, and loved, and understood

I have known insomnia
The way a beach knows the tides
Sleepless nights of convulsive, feverish panic, of clutching my sides,
Of silent hysteria and salty terror.
I know what happens at night, when sweet slumber seems so far away
The worries and woes seem to multiply and swell in hopeless disarray
My lips grow pale, my eye grow sunken
As a time ticks by, tomorrow darkens




I have witnessed horror
In the form of a blue body bag
Being rolled out with a squeaking drag
By two yellow-vested men
With apologetic eyes
That seemed to say "Oh god
We're so sorry you had to see that
Please, please
Go home
And try to forget
"

But you are right
I am still just a child
Naive, innocent, and pure
I have known nothing dark or obscure
I have not yet lived.
“every man wants to be a tyrant when he fornicates"— marquis de sade (philosophy in the boudoir)
in murky region of my mind flickers shanty town of wickedness and all who burn betray me are tortured murdered buried on outskirts of this moot province not entirely devoted to revenge shadows dart lascivious exchanges shadow economy back alley shenanigans soundproof rooms filled with hunger for beautiful women sole source of my arousal female lust japanese silk braided ropes bowls hoses drop-clothes vibrating toys anticipating mischievous acts town’s folk love esteem me applaud my fiercest turpitude fathers offer their daughters mothers perfume girls with wild flowers in their hair whispering accommodating instructions ultimately i decline their generous offerings opting instead for steadfast soul confidante accomplice closer in age she knows how to mommy my genitals get me off and i the same for her churning simmering caldron of desires dazzling aromas through center of town runs sacred blue river constantly replenishing innocence upon dust filth criminality also many enchanting bridges connecting dark side to bright side in elegant rundown art museum hang several of my paintings next to jackson ******* ad reinhardt anselm kiefer gerhard richter albert pinkham ryder francisco goya susan rothenberg and public library shelves brim with volumes of my writings next to james joyce william faulkner sophocles sylvia plath rainer maria rilke milan kundera franz kafka gabriel garcia marquez thomas bernhard patrick suskind  pablo neruda oriana fallaci annie proulx lydia davis during mornings everyone busies themselves making things practicing yoga swimming cooking friends gather for lunch munch comically gossip about previous night’s dramas in afternoon go back to their interests at sunset all citizenry come together look to west watch fiery orange globe sink beyond purple mountains wonder reflect sniff their fingers as night falls on little village each goes about deciding what to wear then meet for cocktails in local taverns and commotion begins
Unknown Jul 2014
Say, what drives a narcissist to feed on their soul
Their own being, their whole, a cannibalistic role
I fold, into the answers that have never been told
Because I disagree that life is less than silver or gold

When I was young I was 'old', wiser than age would suggest
I never looked from a problem I never strayed from a test
I sought to better my self, pushing others away
Rising alone but never understanding how I would pay

Now look today and see a fate that I crafted off a clean slate
Into a plate of half consumed variables that I never ate
Or even paid any attention effectively painting dissention
And not to mention my descent into a mental detention

I locked my self in a prison of a dozen complications
A box full of games, puzzles and some mindless sedation
No relation to pain, bottomless gain and no patience
I snap at every ******* body for the beast I am facing

Imagine that you have a paper with some scribbles and lines
Now try erasing the marks so the paper's perfect - just try
It's impossible because you pretend to leave the past
There's always something there to make a scar that will last

So now because of my choices I sit alone with these voices
Saying "you could do better", to me they're nothing but noises
So now I write my emotions so that the world might just hold 'em
Just ignoring commotion 'cause you can pass 'em or smoke 'em
In the heart of the Courtroom sat God with his Only Begotten Son The Christ to his right-hand side to the left-hand side was Lucifer fully armored with a Golden Celestial Horn which will be blown once the war speech commences. Directly in front of them sat 25 Golden Robed Kings dressed in a white tunic with Golden Crowns flowing above their heads. In the massive throne room, there were nearly 750,000 thousand Angels gathered to hear this important speech. Within the crowd, there was some excitement and yet commotion going into play. The Golden Armada Of ArchAngels was presently composed of only 8 Lv-1000 ArchAngels they are under God's direct command and they are the most powerful toughest meanest baddest Angels God has put aside for the most dangerous and toughest assignments ever to be imagined. What God didn't expect was about to happen he was about to get betrayed by one of his main Angels and he himself be tested with the greatest trial he would ever face. Suddenly, Lucifer blew the horn the speech was about to commence...

Meanwhile in Infernus...
Inrah is harnessing Infernus power and converting it into a massive ball of power by opening his mouth wide the energy ball that has a rainbow color to it gets bigger and bigger and has created a transparent shield covering him leaving the angels unable to attack him directly...so every attack they throw at him has failed whether it be a long ranged attack or a close-range attack. Sebastian added "If I were to attack the beast somehow in close range I could potentially aim my Holy Spirit Purple Flame Arrow Of Fate is one of the most powerful attacks I have in my repertoire of moves. Valerye tells Krillin to use stealth and cloak herself from enemy view and attack him from behind the skull of the dragon...the dragon had peaked power in its attack and aimed directly at the 4 ArchAngels floating in mid-air about 400 ft away. In a blink of an eye, Krillin shot at the Dragon with Heavenly Gun Celestial Ray Bullets to draw attention to the dragon. Leona had used her doppelganger to act and be portrayed as Krillin. That made Inrah believe all 4 was there. The bullets broke the shield behind Inrahs skull and 3 bullets penetrated his head exploiting deep within and causing huge rupture like holes on his head. Inrah lost power and was interrupted so the energy ball lost some power itself. Squad #6 realized this was their chance to take Inrah down ...so Valerye being the muscular wise the strongest she leaped then teleported to Inrahs head and descended with a colossal attack disestablishing his power ball and exploding creating a distortion of ethereal space and the blast was so powerful that the Arch Angels suffered extensive damage to their armor. This time Inrah whole head had exploded and collapsed on itself Slowly but surely the tremendous beast with ferocious power had been silenced they all thought Inrah was dead. So each of them examines their selves Valerye had a crack on her shoulder side of her armor. Krillin had her armor almost intact except the broken shattered part of the crystal armature which some shards cut her left arm below the armpit. Krillin was bleeding but recovered phenomenally. Sebastian had Burn marks all over his lightweight armor. Leona had not suffered much due to the fact that she was observing the blast farther away. She had once again used her doppelganger to trick Inrah that she was Sebastian and had moved close to the energy ball when it was still in decent condition. Those golden seconds allowed her to teleport to a nearby location to observe the blast.
It had been 7 minutes and Inrahs head had not recovered...Exhausted from the long battle the Angels began to slowly fly away from the scene. However, Inrah was not dead yet and he gathered his last bit of strength to go back to his Arch Fiend form. The Arch-Fiend flashed and grabbed Valerye then Inrah began glowing dark energy and wouldn't let go of Valerye. So then all the other 3 members threatened Inrah to let go of Valerye then Inrah shouted to the Angels that if they were to attack him or interfere on the absorption of holy power he was going to perform that he would explode leaving Valerye dead or heavily injured. She then telepathically told all the goodbyes and all. Then Valerye heard the Lord's voice to tell her teammates to attack Inrah. Sebastian telepathically asked her if she wanted him to use Celestial Arrow so then they all detected that Inrah couldn't telepathically communicate with them anymore due to his lack of power. So they communicated this among each other and they took advantage of this opportunity to communicate with each other about Jesus message to them saying it was OK for them to attack Inrah due to the fact he had allowed the Holy Spirit to descend to Infernus temporarily to shield Valerye. Taking advantage of Inrah's inability to decipher their angelic messages thru telepathy they readied their positions. In fear, Inrah shouted to him and warned him that he would explode. Sebastian just looked at him and smirked and said... "Don't you see Demon is over..." at that very moment he drew his heavenly bow and slowly drew a celestial arrow. So then Inrah responded nervously... "I may be at my last stand but Master will understand..." right when he finished those words he exploded annihilating him instantly but Valerye was left unharmed due to the Holy Spirit Godly Shield an ability able to withstand any blast with a power level below 1000. So there all four Arch Angels stood on the ground of Infernus and made a surprising discovery. Their power level had grown. Furthermore, a new ability was unlocked by each member of the group. Sebastian learned Shadow Arrow. Leona Infernal Shield. Krylinn learned Earthly Armor. Last but not least Valerye Shadow Clone the ability to use two doppelgangers. The victory came at last and they all four after being left roaming Infernus for 7 long days they arose to heaven victorious and feeling joyful to see the Lord's gentle face and to feel God's embrace and power ever so mightily.

Back in the Courtroom...
The earnest tone of voice and a most elegant poise was worn by Lucifer as he gave his speech. Spoken in Umen a diabolical dialect mixed in the crowd was Vhar disguised as a messenger Angel. He contacted Nebol the 6th DemonLord of Infernus who has 650,000 Necromancers and 1.5 million undead soldiers at his disposal. Nebol made a rift allowing the Undead and Necromancers inside Infernus to relocate to random places around the perimeter of the Throne Room. Vhar and Nebol stormed into the Throne Room just to find themselves surrounded God had given orders to dispose of the imminent threat if any that opposed him or his kingdom. However the demons knowing God's presence would be overwhelming Nebol opened a portal right in front of him which transferred him to Infernus however him and Vhar sustained damage which lowered Nebol vitality due to Occult technique Shade of Darkness which allowed them to be shielded from God's Celestial Light and Adonai Vortex the first ability allows Yahweh the to impair demons use of abilities and conjuring power. The second ability is a is a white dim and slowly becomes a transparent hole that disintegrates demons any rank if touched by it. So with 1/4 of Nebols troops disintegrated when he almost lost his life and almost lost one of his best Generals Vhar he was outraged at the fact he had lost a significant amount of his demonic fleet. Now with 450,000 Necromancers and only having a million undead soldiers left. Nebol killed and consumed the heart of 5 Lv500 General Undead Soldiers and 1 out of only 6 in all the Necromancer Platoon an Lv-800 High Diabolic Priest Necromancer regaining all his power and armor back and with a stronger more powerful stance now regaining his posture as a Demon Lord. *There are 9 DemonLords in Infernus. Each and every single Demon Lord has Immortality and a power level of 1000. However some Demon Lord's are weaker and some stronger even though their power level cannot be higher. It ultimately matters of determination and skill. Aikalar First of the Demon Lord's rules the first circle of Infernus. He is a Huge White Wolf with Black flames with a small blue hue in his eyes and tail dominating the entrance of Infernus the smallest circle of Infernus. The Second Demon Lord portrayed as a Crow in a rotten tree high in the heights of Infernus. The second biggest circle in Infernus. Croxuss the third Demon Lord of Hell portraying himself as a huge turtle looking monster with Bloodshot eyes and ugly putrefying stench emitting from his body. The 4th Demon Lord known as Flayiron a once beautiful Arch-Angel LvIII Bow-Master now that he has joined the Infernus Fleet after his rebellion in Acapella He has a light blueish/purplish armor with a gigantic bow that can be transformed to a sword or a shield with a telekinetic command given by Flayiron. The fifth Demon Lord of hell is known as Asmodeus a half-giant half grey skinned demon who killed an Arch-Angel known Killas. Nebol the 6th Demon Lord of hell who was inbound to attack the great palace of heaven retreated momentarily to collect his thoughts. Lilith the 7th Demon Lord is the Angel of Lust a pure goddess of seduction with tremendous power. Nova the eight demon lord the most powerful goddess of all demon lords extremely beautiful and extremely sensual she does as she pleases with any of the Arch-Angels God has sent her way so far...she doesn't know she is about to meet her doom ...
Squad # 6. Arch-Angel Valerye with Arch-Angel Leona Arch-Angel Kryllin and Last but not least Arch-Angel Sebastian. They came to the 8th Circle Of *Infernus
where Demon Lord Nebol from the 6th Circle Of Infernus.
Work in progress...
Nat Lipstadt Jul 2013
I mashup me, myself, and thee: Part II

Excerpts from my poems about poets, poetry and the process of composition. In chronological order, from the earliest to the most recent.
---------------------------------------------------------­-----------------------------------------------------------------­----


The three poems went about their business,
Bringing heaven to earth,
FYI, even Angels can't be everywhere, so,
God invented poems to do his ***** work,
Cleansing souls.

They rode in~out of town on a prankster wave,
A cheering throng was not around,
But a singular poet saw, recorded the vision,
And thus, this nameless poet,
Below unmasked, unsealed,
Cleansed one more soul,
And that soul, this soul, as required,
Paid it forward.
~
Nothing produced from this place
where routine means the gorge tastes bile,
When surcease is welcome relief,
Where dancing on ice in bare feet
Is step one to ripping your chest open by your own hands,
The toxins thus released rejuvenated by salted air,
Can be finally be transcribed onto paper
And realized.

Warn them once and then begin, you,
Get serious, delve, with hurricane unambiguity,
to torrential words upon the unsuspecting,
let them taste the rawness, only the truth provides,
let them know salt tears so briney,
They will flee this place, n'er to return.

~
One day she intro'd me as her fav poet,
To which I acknowledged by addressing her as
My number one fan,
Which seems to have stuck,
so I acknowledge her as such,
And always add a polite, respectful, winking,
Yes ma'am!
~
Like this new day,
there are always
new poems

Like last night's sunset,
day's efforts reviewed,
a special light,
a yellowed marker,
highlighting a few deserving

Take them home,
kiss them goodnight,
rest them in the poetry file
that is no file,
but a large fabric box where
sewing tools once stored

How appropriate and
how happy that makes me.

~
Yo! Yo!
Remember your first real high,
That moment
No absolution, no return.
That moment
When you admitted, confessed,
to yourself:

I am
Forever forward,
A home-grown poet.
I am
Soul enslaved to words.
The alphabet - My oxygen molecules,
I am both,
Addict and dealer
A ****** poet

Yo! Yo!
So you do recall,
The exact moment,
God-spark-within, ascendancy gained
You lost control,
Wept words instead of tears!
A ****** poet ******!

Yo! Yo!

Sophie's Choice.
You chose writing over breathing,
Worshiper of the purest pleaure,
******* in deep the smoke-high of
Head-nodding discontented contentment
Stealing anything you saw
For to satisfy the need, the craven
Craving.
****** poets!

Yo! Yo!

Don't you're ever sleep?
Hear that the city, the state,
Gonna methadone your kind
In a special program
Teach you only language to sign.
**** poets!

I am a ****** poet.

The first step taken.
Admission.
Poetry is my default rest position,

My drug of choice.
~
Have you noticed here

Each poet declaims his fellow
The better one, his teacher,
From whom they shall learn and gather up
Inspiration

Gonna run for Congress,
My first bill, Poetry-care,
Will make it a requirement that
All citizens must contribute,
Exchange once a day
To this peaceful place,
Even just a syllable, a single letter,

K?

~
Literally my eyes see words awaiting coordinating,
Poems flying by, needing plucking,
How a child eats his morning cereal,
His rituals informing, of the man yet to be,
How our bodies lay, hair unbrushed,
Tying us into a conjoined knot...

No matter that plain words are my ordinary tools,
With them I shall scribe the small,
Cherish the little, grab the middle,
Simplicity my golden rule,
Write they say, about what you know best,
Surely in the diurnal motions,
The arc of daily commotion,
Do we not all excel?
~
The ice of poetry,
glassine smooth
but
charged hardness,
hits you, ****** you,
unexpected snowball in the face,

the fire of poetry,
cherished phrase, a patois,
comfort food when
whole winter skies
swallow you bleak

mutual contradictions of poetry
savaging the soothed ego,
revealing the raging id

what's in a word anyway?

~
Please Pop, pick wise,
the life and lies, the faces and disguises,
I will need employ to achieve success
in the eyes of my reading beholders,
who own the liens on my soul
because of the promises I believed,
when you sang me
glowing lullabies of my future days,
how everyone would love my stories,
my poems, someday...
~
Place your ****** hands upon thy chest.
Let them melt thru and come to rest,
Inside, the battle ongoing, under thy breast.
Watch, eyes open, knowing, fearful.
Swiftly, with no hesitation, from within,
Rip open your body, exhaling the best,
And the worst of what you got.

The cool air rushes in,
Stirring the inside stew of:
Infected grime, shameful desires,
Secrets that should not have been exposed,
The ***** stuff that you alone know exists.

Contact with the atmosphere makes
Self-pity dies, blue blood turn red,
The TNT tightness explodes,
Ashamed, you have only one escape hatch.

Now, you are ready to write.

~
My life is on the boring side,
So welcome gents to look inside,
The surfed sites, the emails, hardly slimy,
But stay the fk away from my poetry!

Tis obvious from your midnight editing,
That my wordily, working body has been discretely
Simonized,
My data,
Googlized,
My poems,
Scrutinized,
A comma, a colon, a verb, out of place, capsized,
Little threads kept in door jambs, their alteration,
Your snooping presence, a confirming revelation
~
Where I write, here, all comes so easy,
Every glance a poem formed,
Every phrase a title to a poem served,
Every conversation overheard and those wind-lifted brought,
A seed, a germ, a word~worm hooked to the pole crook of
My finger saying, see man, time to get more ink and paper,
Go and catch us a few poems for dinner

The snapper weakfish word colors are
Running past my-by the thousands,
We will need a basket to catch but a fraction
Of what you see, more than more enough to share,
Only Happy Poems for all

It is this rhyming way I view the wold,
That is my freedom, is my-present essence,
How the poems come, how thy flow,
Peaking, I cannot berate, rarely eat,
Sleep a thing of the past (as you be aware, beware)
There is poetry in simply everything.

~
But if my aura be a comfort insufficient,
Let this surprise poetic gift awaiting your arrival,
Give you rest, from crying surcease!

For when the who, the why of me interrogatory posed,
Describe me in a brevity I ne'er possessed, say:
He was just a poet, and I,
Just, his lover, number one fan.

This truth eternal, never to change.
~
But I am open to learning, the arduous task
Of raising a teenage daughter,
After I have my head examined

Though I am just a bunch of eclectic electrons,
I got powers a few, like making life's happiness
Hearted happier, encouraging your forays into
You-know-what,
And when tables turn, a hasty retreat you beat,
For imaginary cappuccinos and poems we will meet,
Comparing notes on who felt lousier when...

But what I can do 100% is assure you
There is no lone nor lonely daughter extant,
Your voice not just clear but soft-edged,
For I have poetically adopted you,
Here and now, assuming you sign on the
.............................................................­line

~
Take these words at plain face,
and look not askance
at this fair warning,
for I am but a tragic,
empty vessel for you to fill,
you are the raconteur,
me, just a  
poet poseur extraordinaire,
street urchin, word merchant,
all my verbally, wordly goods expropriated
from the wind,  where your scattered thoughts
lie about, carelessly,
unattended
~
Guiltless in life, we but survived,
Hurting no one, no thing,
Yet, here we lie, ignored, unattended,
Yet, you fail again to see our connection?
You do not recognize us?

We are the shells, the husks of you,
Your poems unread, you labors unpreserved,
All wasted, for unless they are read, they die,
As you will too.
Some fast, by water, some slower, time-eroded,
All, ended, by drowning in the Sea of Who Cares!

~
What sourced this elegiac distich,
Too many poets, fully disclosing their downbeat, aroma of defeat?

The world is in a **** mood, not one of us, got nothing
Good to say, seems that love storms ripping hearts
With no trace of mercy, the radio has elected nonstop
Taylor Swift and Jonas Bro's
Just to make the point!

It is so easy to feel ******,
When the sun is unshining, elegant distich, **** me.

Thinking back, getting a good idea,
Found some long necked Corona overlooked,
Turn on the tv, pretend I'm a real cowboy,
And for god's sake, shut down poetry,
Good Bye Poetry, for the rest of the day.
~
once upon a time,
a traffic light rainbow,
stopped n' go, was a word design,
demarcated visions of spun sugar,
bodegas sold me
magic beans by the pound,
masterminded into cups of delight,
treasury's bounty overflowed,
now, dregs drain, sink stained,
as are my writing utensils,
my ink stained, us-less, fingers

come visit me, unknown stranger,
let us exchange fluidity, barbs,
a contest of kissing, eye lashing
wit ands shared vision stashing,
and together, once more,
write with our feet,
while holding hands,
becoming once more
poets of the street.

Only, come quickly.

~

But reading thy cries, an exercise,
Teeth-gnashing frustration.
It brings no relief.

So sad girl,
Write till you are righted,
May be it will snow on July 4th,
And tho unnatural,
So is thy grief.

Nonetheless, write me write me all about it,
Right us,
For tho snow falls, its loveliness,
Makes the heart rise up in gladness!
~
She brings me coffee in bed.
I propose a violin accompaniment.
Some babka, with nice-crumbly-in-bed
Streusel topping,
A concerto we could make!

Her derision snorted so loud,
The mollusks on the beach
From their shells come out.

"Good luck with that,
Put that fantasy on
Your **** poetry site,
Cause that is the closest you will ever get!"

~
For she will be my heroine for all time,

These words to expand with rhyme and verse,
T'is a welcome task, one familiar, but anew,
Each dawn each dusk, a daily trust, a love poem diurnal-birthed,
As if god created the world, but left upon completion,
With a grievous thirst, a new notion, he did burst.

He created the Eighth Day, for celebration of his
Most cherished invention, the idea of love.
This is where, the secret writ Eleventh Commandment occurs,
Love thy Poetry Gods, Honor them with daily verbs.
~
Officer...you should see me gut a

Poem,

Slice its belly open,
Sometimes straight, sometimes Askew,
Feed the gulls them
****** insides on the dock, by-moonlight,
Can ya cut me some slack?

Mmm, I see here in your license,
You are a disabled guy,
A **** poet ******,
Who often does his best work
Legally all alone in the HOV lane,
So I'm gonna let you off this time
Just with a warning!

~
We can share words, we can grant tiny easements,
We can weep with you unseen tears,
We can etsy you little homemade gifts
Like this.

That you can take and keep, and break out in time of need knowing full well that these words will not spoil nor rancid turn, cannot be out grown,, or torn, or rent asunder in anyway for once they are shared
They are irrevocable.
~
When you write,
It as if you write upon our
One skin,
For I am your tablet,
Your sole/sol/soul composition.

So stop kissing me
and
Write upon us.

~
This will not be the hardest poem I e're wrote,
But if there is no inspiration
For you to smote,
And armpits refuse to provide perspiration,
To source juices for a new creation,
Try this trick,
I promise you
No one will lick your ice cream cone,
Nor mistake you for Leonard Cohen,
But when you are done,
You will be High Priest of
Hello Poetry for the rest of the day!
~
You think you can write?
Then employ  a word outside your comfort zone,
Go it alone,
And write four sentences that will make
The hopeful reader stand up and
you twice as much, and shout

Hallelujah
*******.

Work. Poetry is work. Hard work.
Don't fret. But, think on it. Have the sweetest dreams.
In the morning, when you but awake,
A poem will be aborning in thy mind,
And dare I say it, you will find a new freedom
In free verse.
(I know you will slip in a rhyme or two,
I can't help but do it too)

~
Had myself forgot,
That a poem needs a
Frame of jungle gym sounds,
An aural aura resonance unbound.
Purposed to make the heart lift
Your ears say:

Say what!

It needs a tune,
An internal music,
It needs a lilt!
A cadence, that both
Marches and swings,
Even when'd urgent dirge
grief pours forth.
~
This Sabbath day you fog-hide
Your gift of bay and beach
So quiet implore, beseech,
Keep the sailors safe,
And your poets saved.

I ask much.
But I ask for all of us,
There are so many such
That are booster-chair needy
That I am succumbed, overwhelmed,
Enormity fearsome needs help even from a deity.

Small words, big hopes.

If you cannot grant it,
Won't wait for intervention,
Do it myself, answer prayers one and all,
Best I can, starting now with this
Po-hymn.

~
I used to sleep
With pen and paper on my nighttime table.
Nowadays, my iPad tablet rests upon my chest,
Not only does it keep me warn,
It takes my poems from within, Fresh Direct,^
Edits, credits, and delivers them to your door,
While I'm still sleeping.

Which is why they come at all hours.
It is also why they call them,
Love's Labour's Lost saving devices.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
**So I spend my cold, hard time
laying down cold hard verse,
Can't stop, cause it's my daddy's dying curse.

I am both: Addict and dealer, a ****** poet ******.
Nat Lipstadt Oct 2017
once upon a wrote


here and there, in fables and tales,
some in no guile and others
in chancier disguises,
some sine-known and some sign-unknown,
some dead in stillbirth,
some penned these words,
some a few decades old,
some of but a moment ago eyelash distant,
making me think that
someday I will scribe,
cobble some truths and
some falsehoods into one
leaping heaping melting scoop,
letting you decide,
which for better,
which for worse...


<•>

"No matter that plain words
are my ordinary tools,
With them I shall scribe the small,
Cherish the little, grab the middle,
Simplicity my golden rule,
Write they say,
about what you know best,
Surely in the diurnal motions,
The arc of daily commotion,
Do we not all excel?"

<•>

the reason we say so oft,
in whispers emboldened,

I love you

to our children
is not the utility of
its summarizing brevity

no, no.
it is because
the eloquence of simplicity
supersedes any other poem
any of us could ever write...

<•>

is this craft that chose you,
not defined by machine millimeters,
precision absolute,
curvatures, so eye-pleasing,
they demonstrate no tolerance
for tolerance of the ordinary?

the skill of words, too, cut so fine,
find the  extraordinary within,
refine, refine, refine,
shave away the trite,
the reused,
discard the instant recognition,
unusable

<•>

There are natural toxins in us all,
if you wish to understand the
whys, the reasons,
of the nearness of taking/giving away
what soully belongs to you,
do your own sums,
admit your own truths,
query not the lives of others,
approach the mirror...

<•>

The Truth Burden
is the accursed need obligatory,
the sacred sanctity requisitioned,
when the whenever,
chooses to drop in and upflag the mailbox,
an uninvited invitation,
announcing with precise bluntness,
that precisely now,
is the tool crafted moment
and you fool,
the selected tool

you must render unto Ceaser,
by your own hand,
render your own rendering,
do your own undoing,
go forth and in haste,
will thyself into the cauldron of the
Great Mystery of Creation

you cannot lie in poetry

<•>

come, sit for awhile, in poet's nook,
soft pillows for our hard Adirondack chairs,
situe hard by the bay, if too hot, we'll slow
drift to the sun room of
lace curtains and suicide poems,
still we'll observe the water, the rabbits, the cacophony low,
listening to all the noisier, nosier
creatures asking themselves,
and the trees and leaves,
where did all those poets come from?

<•>

to the interior delve,
via brush or limb,
pen or music,
the exposition, the exploration,
the reconstruction of composing
one's self, creation and destruction
of your own myths

movement of arms and legs,
sparseness of simplicity,
subsidiaries of centricity,
tributaries of complexity

<•>

how cold are the carpenter's hands,
the weather, but an added obstacle,
this heat, makes dying different difficult,
the wood bearing cross requires additional nails
and flesh, for the extra load he's bearing,
when it snows blood in Jerusalem

the whole world can transition
when one man dies and another is risen,
where oh where lies then, the juxtaposition?

there is none, for man is man,
his divine spark, embedded,
to his maker's mark, welded and wedded,
neither snow or sun,
can ever extinguish


<•>

now I ken better distance 'tween
artist and art,
I, a workingman's
daily dallying in simplistic machine craft,
my works deservedly lost in
the water-falling
of the endless also rans

non-nebulous distances.between skies of
Oregon country blue and
the worldy worn asphalt grayed words of
a graying man aging,
then let clarity speak, in plainest harmony,
know my deference’s soars to the high above,
one of us at birth, god gifted,
was not I,
it ain't me babe, but
one of us, his tongue,
like Moses-stung
with a hot coal
of language's divinity


<•>
amanda martinez Apr 2014
We are each our own moon.
Charismatic souls reflecting sunlight,
As if to illuminate a room,
We glow against black, void; an endless night.
Like a caterpillar to a butterfly, emerging from a tight knit cocoon,
Spreading each wing, confidently slicing the evening air…taking flight.
Or even a flower freshly bloomed on a midsummer’s afternoon.
The moon: a flower, silently smiling despite the plight.

Aside from what each day shuffles in; each night simmers out
No matter how often we feel we have lost ourselves…
Or leave way to fill our heads with doubt.
With recurring assumptions of a worldwide redemption:omnipotent stealth.
Needn't some take longer than others to sprout?
Staring blankly into a mirror, or a moonless night sky: hungry for answers, yet facing an empty shelf.
However, that doesn't infer we embark on a divergent route.
Simply due to lack of clarity, lack of reasoning behind each card dealt.

With that in mind,
Just as the moon,true colors may dwindle…they may fade, yet in essence are always there.
Even on a cloudy day, or when the sunshine is at its peak…and just as well for the blind.
Full moon, half moon, new moon…waxing, waning: dynamic phases the night sky shares.
Moon phases;moody faces…natures way of emphasizing personality defined.
Notwithstanding the dark side, each moon may wear.
Like a guilty pleasure manifesting in a secret shrine,
We all suppress a certain side; to pompous to face reality genuinely bare.

Fragments of our faces may always be hidden,
But there’s one thing that will never absorb into the eclipse: emotion.
Some figure each phase, each wave of vibes … simply fate already written.
Devils advocate begs to differ… let your mind emit all distraction and harmonize with the ocean.
Effervescent rays,warm barrels in which emotions, old and new, have ridden.
Chaotically contradicting thoughts, pulling and pushing, creating the paradox of serene commotion.
A world of words from each moon face: a beautiful encryption.
We are each our own moon, written in the waves, compelled by life’s devotion.
July 24, 2013
vircapio gale Jul 2012
the story went as though
she'd always known the sea
and trusted in its depth
to mellow any ill, caress her
open lovingkind as in a dream.
and dream she would upon the waves,
having settled into floating reverie.
she'd close her eyes and inhale being
there among herself caressing only
ocean, only breath, all sunlit space
to draw her earthly trials gently out.
softened beachside noise would fade
and let alone her ears to hear
the water oneness dipping clear
and deeper in the troughs, for distance
from the stranded holidays,
the beachy noise of seaside frills
and bear her boyancy to rest
in lilting motion, peaceful cresting sleep
atop an intercontinental,
earthsize water bed.
her trust profoundly spanned
the trans-atlantic rift
and any rift to set apart her undulating
ancient ocean mastery. moon
and sun were kneading vastly where
her snores were lost in starfish whispers balancing
the tidal volume set
to always fill and keep afloat,
or otherwise to wake in
sputters and a salty throat.
her body settles into swinging comfort
napping over waves so deep the shore recedes...
... what bright, kind, clarity cascaded in your dreams?
what heart you had, embracing open quiddity,
never sinking nowness breath alert in lucid sleep
and water surface mystic skyward shallow course?
to merfolk gazing up in wonderment
you limply crossed their bouncing sky,
just another flight of fancy in a world of mystery?
did you dream you were a whalesong
sphering out to carry sadness sonorously? did you
school the many impulse-thoughts to clump and flee
the jaws of time? did you bask in light
and find a shining womb of self
to nurture once again and labor out anew?
did gravity make sense to you?
i float sometimes and live that question true.
sleeping far you drifted out and out and in and out of view
and whistles drowned in gathered drama fear
'my grandma! my grandma!'
screamed my cousin at the lifeguard
sweating ******* and leaping over stroke to spash
into your side a breathless shouting mess for you to calm
and ask 'what's wrong?' and angle slowly back to shore
in fits of giggles, bubble laughter at commotion's reach.
they blink in crowds, standing herdlike on the beach.

and now you swim your last,
another summer day.
like any other i awoke
and fed you eggs, so soft
     (at first it wrinkled my nose),
but taste is strange, and slimy works
just fine sometimes,
like in the absence of teeth.
she never liked her dentures,
     (she said she couldn't taste her food)
and gummed her frozen dinner meals with a smile,
like it was the greatest thing in the world.
     (in fact she'd often say, 'that was the best meal i had ever had',
     and with a force that made me happy to suspend my doubt)
and who am i, judging
that which you select? your pills,
your diapers and your vote,
your shows, your nursery rhymes,
your crown manipulation,
your age?
i use abjection well,
as something not unlike a whetstone for denial.
performing daily rituals i abhor
i retrain and edit, revising social eyes:
dilapidated fictions, safer norms
and mores tailored to a loan
with interest from the self.

she didn't call herself a 'nudist,'
though she lived beyond the fence
living **** for decades saying
'i'll never leave, i love my home.'
we played dominoes 'til noon
'another kind of indoor game, one on a side'
her interpretation of my being there
changed soon, like my aversion
for the liquid yoke she buttered with a spoon.
our neighbors loved her and i,
and to meander down our path,
lay their towels and sit
like all there was to do was visit.
lunched,
she hobbles from her plants back to the sink,
and filling the cat dish, stands
century-old arms akimbo
in the doorway, with a sigh to wake the sun.
being of caretaking was never so fun.
holding hands i help her over roots,
around the rocky sections, through
the easy path and level now
she hobbles sure, the cane a decoration
for her pride at being old and young
at heart and quick at stories overtold
in grooves to satisfy the sense of time.
greetings shower us with beaming smiles,
inching to the sandy edge. denuding,
joining everyone, we stand engulfed
in air. modern digambar to don
a vaster cloth of letting be.
skinny dipping grandma, and me.
the water slips around
her fraglile skin, human driftwood
knotted with a smile.
a grand mother slipping through akashic cracks
to undiscover friends their seeing core.
they wonder at the shore
of hoary plight
and wonder on, once we're gone.

— The End —