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Nat Lipstadt May 2014
~ ~ ~
Adieu!
My Crew, My Crew!


this, our first trip,
our longest voyage,
nears completion

eighteenth of May,
a terminal date,
date of destination,
upon it commenced,
upon it,
our commencement

a terminus nearing,
a degree of latitude given,
a degree of longitude observed,
by you
mes méridiens,
witnesses to my zenith,
a degree of gratitude granted
and lovingly recv'd

adieu, adieu!
this sole~full rhyme
beats upon my lips
repeats and repeats,
endlessly looped,
Adieu, my crew!

sailor, voyageur,
scribe and travel guide
for four seasons,
a composition of one long
anno sabbatico,
muy simpatico

in the spring of '13
I sprung up here,
a Mayflower,,
a May flower,
a floral ship,
annual for a single year,
annual for a single circumnavigation

hearing now once again,
refreshing sounds,
hinting noises,
here comes his paul simonizing summery spring again,
rhyming timing reminding dylan style,
it's all over now, my babies blue

t'is season to move forward,
back to old acquaintances renewed,
sand, water and salty sun,
three lifelong friends who,
Auld Lang Syne,
never ever forget me

we get drunk on their eternity,
their celestial beauty,
and they,
upon my tarnished earthly being,
unreservedly and never judgingly,
give inspiration unstintingly,
we share,
never measuring a captain's humanity
by mystical formulae of reads or hearts

for
grains of sand, water wave droplets and sun rays,
all
only know one measure,
immeasurable

respect the
never-ending new combinations
of an old nature,
even the impoverished words he speaks,
words as they exit the
brain's grand birth canal,
whimsically announcing their poetic arrival with a:

"been here, done that,
but happy to do it,
one more time,
just ever so differently"


the only counting
that satisfies them and me,
the clicking sound be,
the sound of a
a pointer-finger tablet-clicking,
heartbeats a metering,
individual letters being stork-delivered,
and

yellow lightening
when it comes,
signifying family completion,
a poem,
a family,
comes
crackling real!

here comes spring again!
happily to shackle me,
shuckling me back to and fro,
to whence I came,
and from
whence I once
and always belonged

memorial weekend,
memorializing me,
orchestrating a prodigal son's
two edged tune,
a contrapuntal contrapposto,
a "fare-thee-well, man"
and a
"hello son, welcome home!"

that empty Adirondack chair,
by my name,
with your names
in tears inscribed upon it,
awaits

the breezes take note,
singing a duopoly:

this ole chair
needs refilling,
Rest & Recreation for your Rhythm & Blues,
your busted body boy
healing with our natural scents,
calming with common sense

with it,
will and refill,
the cracked breaches,
by phonetic letters frenetic,
drinking, then purge-spilling,
a speckled spackling paste of comfort food words
given of and given by,
given back to,
the bay's tide
and beaches
and

you, crew,

let this soul captain briefly lead,
spilling too oft his new seed,
he,
selected but unelected by a
raucous silent voice-vote...
of an unknown,
impressed-into-service crew

some of you
impressed upon
the skin of this captain man's sou!,
a cherishment so complete,
yet has he to fully comprehend,
its miracality,
the golden epaulettes upon his shoulder,
worn ever proudly

the nearest ending,
one of many.
a course of waterfall and rapids survived,
yet invisible shoals fast approaching,
a single bell tolling, warning,
here was, here comes,
yet another,
close calling

sirens shriek
forewarning,
can't abide a moment longer thus,
desperate longing
for a refuge of language loved,
not lost in lands and a sea of
ranted bittersweet journaled cant
and hashtags of sad despair

can't lengthen this sway,
grant a governor's stay,
cannot

heaven schedules our lives,
completed a time out
in a day,
twenty four hours of fabulous, fabled
and of late,
a shopworn, forlorn existence,
three hundred and sixty five times,
circularized on these pages

now
no forevermore, no forestalling,
only the truth,
a grizzled, unprimped,
mirror'd recognition

flutes,
sad low whistle,
trumpets,
wild maimed moan,
violins,
jenny jilted wailing tears, groan,
and harps and guitars,
each pluck single notes plaintive,
long and slow their disappearing reverberation,
but end it must

none can deny or fail to ascertain,
port of our joint destination,
pinpointed on maps as
"the last curtain call,"
just over the nearby horizon line,
demarcating the finality
of the days of glorious,
and the quietude of
a storied ending

my crew, my crew,
forever besided,
forever insided,
bussed, bedded, and bathed,
with me,

wherever I write most,
wherever I write eyes moist,
my crew
of all captains,
whose fealty I adore
and to whom,
my loyalty unquestioned sworn,
upon righteous English oak
an oath unstained,
an American bible, an American chest,
blood sworn here forever to
my
brothers, sisters and children
many who by title me addressed
this man as,
grandfather,
yet friends
from foreign-no-more-lands

this is only a poem,
this is only the best I have

This to me given,
and now to you returned,
encrusted with trust

for
we together,
were
a new combination
all our own

my crew, my crew,
for you:
my seasonal Yule log-life burns
every day,
all years of my life shiny shiny
copper-burnished teapot whistling
you, your names
a tune of the past,
and the yet to come

I care,
burdened more
than than you ere known,
dare I bear
to bare-confess

for and by you was I,
my restlessness lessened
my unrest less,
so comforted by an out-louded,
deep-welcome-throated reception
let it end thus,
no whimpers or cries,
no misunderstanding

in a Wilderness of Words,
sought you out,
your name and lands,
yours, purposely hidden,
disguised and unknown,

while I placed before you,
my name
my birthplace,
the poetry of my truths,
the jagged laughing,
the cryptic crying,
at myself,
foibles, pimples and the
the insights inside,
mine own book of revelations
all clear in the
drippings of my clarifying
cloudy tears

stranger to friends to chance,
all by chance,
sharing nodules, capsules,
even tumors and ill humors

your affection and simple heroism,
left me both gasping,
and leaves me now,
grasping

your hearts sustain
and are sustainable,
in ways the word,
organic,
not even remotely
adequate, sufficient

in ways
that can be secreted here,
in sharing,
private messages,
snippet exchanges,
that are valored above the rubies of
public hearts that
claim attention
but are gold bonded hand cuffs,
nonetheless!

my left, what is left,
to your strong right,
by rings married we are,
you and I,
a secretion on our kissing lips,
a perfumed essence called
No.365
"secrets of us..."

Wit I were a man
who could advance
his essay further,
but this voyage,
closed and done,
but a steamer approaches
where they need a third mate,
no questions asked,
no names exchanged,
no counting the change in his heart and the,
holes in his heart pocket

asking not,
are you friend long term true,
or just a fly by night,
short-winded trend

so onto
ports that are nameless,
needy for discovery,
perhaps,
they will have a fruitfulness
unripened,
awaiting verbal germination
so yet again,
when he wipes away
with back of a hand,
his fresh fears,
moistening those dried,
those crack'd lips

underneath will be yet found
a perhaps,
a
fully formed, yet to be shared,
new poem,
that gives value
standing on its own,
and perhaps, rewarming, reawakening,
his gone cold and pale,
yet quivering moving,
his almost stilled silenced spring,
but not quite,
lips...


--------------------------------

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.


                    
Walt Whitman
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean

A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in

Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’

bob dylan

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We'll meet beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailing

I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon
We'll meet (I know we'll meet) beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailing

No more sailing
So long sailing
Bye, bye sailing...

Jack Lawerence
looking for me in other names, other places
an explanation someday writ, not yet complete....but my poetry no longer gives
no satisfaction...
Hibernating in the summer, not merely resting my voice, but more than that, much more...will repost older stuff only...
take care of the newbies
~~~~~
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.
I think HER crew knew THE crew
we use to sit and hang together
lonely as fkcu
lonely as ever

house full of people
journal full of notes
stuck writing lyrics
to a poem / ill forever rehearse

I use to laugh at the non-sense
that I heard through my room floors
I had the only room up stairs
to get to me you had to go through 2 doors

house full of people
no one knew
when I was in or out

I use to draw on my walls
till I realized
I was keeping company with my own shadows
(self-doubt)
smashed my keyboard into pieces
just to get some attention

but I swear HER crew knew THE crew
they hung together
hid together
for awhile denied there TRUE self
to please others

matter a fact
I know HER crew knew THE crew

they got bullied
by a parent
laughed at- by so called friends
judged and called abnormal
because she believed STR8 wasn't in
to them she was weird
something like invert

but I didn't mind - letting
HER crew know THE crew
because she started to show and accept
her true self
beyond that stereotypical rainbow.
in thoughts of a new friend =, be you ,, that's all you can be
Dedication

Inscribed to a dear Child:
in memory of golden summer hours
and whispers of a summer sea.

Girt with a boyish garb for boyish task,
   Eager she wields her *****; yet loves as well
Rest on a friendly knee, intent to ask
   The tale he loves to tell.

Rude spirits of the seething outer strife,
   Unmeet to read her pure and simple spright,
Deem, if you list, such hours a waste of life,
   Empty of all delight!

Chat on, sweet Maid, and rescue from annoy
   Hearts that by wiser talk are unbeguiled.
Ah, happy he who owns that tenderest joy,
   The heart-love of a child!

Away, fond thoughts, and vex my soul no more!
   Work claims my wakeful nights, my busy days--
Albeit bright memories of that sunlit shore
   Yet haunt my dreaming gaze!

PREFACE

If--and the thing is wildly possible--the charge of writing nonsense were ever brought against the author of this brief but instructive poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line (in p.18)

"Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes."

In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of such a deed: I will not (as I might) point to the strong moral purpose of this poem itself, to the arithmetical principles so cautiously inculcated in it, or to its noble teachings in Natural History--I will take the more prosaic course of simply explaining how it happened.

The Bellman, who was almost morbidly sensitive about appearances, used to have the bowsprit unshipped once or twice a week to be revarnished, and it more than once happened, when the time came for replacing it, that no one on board could remember which end of the ship it belonged to. They knew it was not of the slightest use to appeal to the Bellman about it--he would only refer to his Naval Code, and read out in pathetic tones Admiralty Instructions which none of them had ever been able to understand--so it generally ended in its being fastened on, anyhow, across the rudder. The helmsman* used to stand by with tears in his eyes; he knew it was all wrong, but alas! Rule 42 of the Code, "No one shall speak to the Man at the Helm," had been completed by the Bellman himself with the words "and the Man at the Helm shall speak to no one." So remon{-} strance was impossible, and no steering could be done till the next varnishing day. During these bewildering intervals the ship usually sailed backwards.

As this poem is to some extent connected with the lay of the Jabberwock, let me take this opportunity of answering a question that has often been asked me, how to pronounce "slithy toves." The "i" in "slithy" is long, as in "writhe"; and "toves" is pronounced so as to rhyme with "groves." Again, the first "o" in "borogoves" is pronounced like the "o" in "borrow." I have heard people try to give it the sound of the"o" in "worry." Such is Human Perversity. This also seems a fitting occasion to notice the other hard works in that poem. Humpty-Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a port{-} manteau, seems to me the right explanation for all.

For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards "fuming," you will say "fuming-furious;" if they turn, by even a hair's breadth, towards "furious," you will say "furious-fuming;" but if you have that rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious."

Supposing that, when Pistol uttered the well-known
words--

     "Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die!"

Justice Shallow had felt certain that it was either William or Richard, but had not been able to settle which, so that he could not possibly say either name before the other, can it be doubted that, rather than die, he would have gasped out "Rilchiam!"

CONTENTS

Fit the First. The Landing
Fit the Second. The Bellman's Speech
Fit the Third. The Baker's Tale
Fit the Fourth. The Hunting
Fit the Fifth. The ******'s Lesson
Fit the Sixth. The Barrister's Dream
Fit the Seventh. The Banker's Fate
Fit the Eighth. The Vanishing

Fit the First.

THE LANDING

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
    As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
    By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
    That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
    What I tell you three times is true."

  The crew was complete: it included a Boots--
  A maker of Bonnets and Hoods--
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes--
  And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
  Might perhaps have won more than his share--
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
  Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a ******, that paced on the deck,
  Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
  Though none of the sailors knew how.

There was one who was famed for the number of things
  He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
  And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
  With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
  They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
  He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots--but the worst of it was,
  He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to "Hi!" or to any loud cry,
  Such as "Fry me!" or "Fritter my wig!"
To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!"
  But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"

While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
  He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him "Candle-ends,"
  And his enemies "Toasted-cheese."

"His form in ungainly--his intellect small--"
  (So the Bellman would often remark)
"But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
  Is the thing that one needs with a Snark."

He would joke with hy{ae}nas, returning their stare
  With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
  "Just to keep up its spirits," he said.

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late--
  And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad--
He could only bake Bridecake--for which, I may state,
  No materials were to be had.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
  Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea--but, that one being "Snark,"
  The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
  When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only **** Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
  And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
  There was only one ****** on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
  Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The ******, who happened to hear the remark,
  Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
  Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
  Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
  With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,
  Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
  Undertaking another as well.

The ******'s best course was, no doubt, to procure
  A second-hand dagger-proof coat--
So the Baker advised it-- and next, to insure
  Its life in some Office of note:

This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
  (On moderate terms), or for sale,
Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
  And one Against Damage From Hail.

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
  Whenever the Butcher was by,
The ****** kept looking the opposite way,
  And appeared unaccountably shy.

II.--THE BELLMAN'S SPEECH.

Fit the Second.

THE BELLMAN'S SPEECH.

The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies--
  Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
  The moment one looked in his face!

He had bought a large map representing the sea,
  Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
  A map they could all understand.

"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
  Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?"
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
   "They are merely conventional signs!

"Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
  But we've got our brave Captain to thank
(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best--
  A perfect and absolute blank!"

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
  That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
  And that was to tingle his bell.

He was thoughtful and grave--but the orders he gave
  Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
  What on earth was the helmsman to do?

Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
  A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
  When a vessel is, so to speak, "snarked."

But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
   And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
  That the ship would not travel due West!

But the danger was past--they had landed at last,
  With their boxes, portmanteaus, and bags:
Yet at first sight the crew were not pleased with the view,
  Which consisted to chasms and crags.

The Bellman perceived that their spirits were low,
  And repeated in musical tone
Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe--
  But the crew would do nothing but groan.

He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
  And bade them sit down on the beach:
And they could not but own that their Captain looked grand,
  As he stood and delivered his speech.

"Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!"
  (They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
  While he served out additional rations).

"We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
   (Four weeks to the month you may mark),
But never as yet ('tis your Captain who speaks)
  Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!

"We have sailed many weeks, we have sailed many days,
  (Seven days to the week I allow),
But a Snark, on the which we might lovingly gaze,
  We have never beheld till now!

"Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
  The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
  The warranted genuine Snarks.

"Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
  Which is meagre and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
  With a flavour of Will-o-the-wisp.

"Its habit of getting up late you'll agree
  That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o'clock tea,
  And dines on the following day.

"The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
  Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
  And it always looks grave at a pun.

"The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
  Which is constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes--
  A sentiment open to doubt.

"The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
  To describe each particular batch:
Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
  From those that have whiskers, and scratch.

"For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
  Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
Some are Boojums--" The Bellman broke off in alarm,
  For the Baker had fainted away.

FIT III.--THE BAKER'S TALE.

Fit the Third.

THE BAKER'S TALE.

They roused him with muffins--they roused him with ice--
  They roused him with mustard and cress--
They roused him with jam and judicious advice--
  They set him conundrums to guess.

When at length he sat up and was able to speak,
  His sad story he offered to tell;
And the Bellman cried "Silence! Not even a shriek!"
  And excitedly tingled his bell.

There was silence supreme! Not a shriek, not a scream,
  Scarcely even a howl or a groan,
As the man they called "**!" told his story of woe
  In an antediluvian tone.

"My father and mother were honest, though poor--"
  "Skip all that!" cried the Bellman in haste.
"If it once becomes dark, there's no chance of a Snark--
  We have hardly a minute to waste!"

"I skip forty years," said the Baker, in tears,
  "And proceed without further remark
To the day when you took me aboard of your ship
  To help you in hunting the Snark.

"A dear uncle of mine (after whom I was named)
  Remarked, when I bade him farewell--"
"Oh, skip your dear uncle!" the Bellman exclaimed,
  As he angrily tingled his bell.

"He remarked to me then," said that mildest of men,
  " 'If your Snark be a Snark, that is right:
Fetch it home by all means--you may serve it with greens,
  And it's handy for striking a light.

" 'You may seek it with thimbles--and seek it with care;
  You may hunt it with forks and hope;
You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
  You may charm it with smiles and soap--' "

("That's exactly the method," the Bellman bold
  In a hasty parenthesis cried,
"That's exactly the way I have always been told
  That the capture of Snarks should be tried!")

" 'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
  If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
  And never be met with again!'

"It is this, it is this that oppresses my soul,
  When I think of my uncle's last words:
And my heart is like nothing so much as a bowl
  Brimming over with quivering curds!

"It is this, it is this--" "We have had that before!"
  The Bellman indignantly said.
And the Baker replied "Let me say it once more.
  It is this, it is this that I dread!

"I engage with the Snark--every night after dark--
  In a dreamy delirious fight:
I serve it with greens in those shadowy scenes,
  And I use it for striking a light:

"But if ever I meet with a Boojum, that day,
  In a moment (of this I am sure),
I shall softly and suddenly vanish away--
  And the notion I cannot endure!"

FIT IV.--THE HUNTING.

Fit the fourth.

THE HUNTING.

The Bellman looked uffish, and wrinkled his brow.
  "If only you'd spoken before!
It's excessively awkward to mention it now,
  With the Snark, so to speak, at the door!

"We should all of us grieve, as you well may believe,
  If you never were met with again--
But surely, my man, when the voyage began,
  You might have suggested it then?

"It's excessively awkward to mention it now--
  As I think I've already remarked."
And the man they called "Hi!" replied, with a sigh,
  "I informed you the day we embar
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
SJPugsley Apr 2020
In the land of Coleridge and his Ancient Mariner,
    In a time of coal fires, wooden boats and horsepower,
There is a story of the Lynmouth Lifeboat Louisa
    And the night horse and man over 13 miles pulled her.

Two of the afternoon clock struck a chime,
    On January 12th, 1899.
The wind howled and the sea it roared,
    Flooding ports and railways, taking off windows and doors.
The ship, Forest Hall, with masts a three
    Was being towed up Bristol Channel with a crew of 15.
Bound for Liverpool, at St. David’s Head she cast off,
    But the wind, it blew stronger and the waters grew rough.
Suddenly the cable grew taught and then snapped,
    The tugboat immediately came about to get back.
For over an hour they tried to re-fix the line
    But the storm was upon them, they had run out of time.
Captain Uliss made haste to anchor at bay
    But another obstacle was thrown in their way.
The rudder of the Forest Hall was broken by a squall,
    To the mercy of Poseidon and ****** they were all.
The ships’ anchor dragged, no purchase it found
    The ship was headed for Exmoor’s rough ground
At 6:33pm a telegraph was sent
    From Porlock to Lynmouth the Postmaster went
“Large vessel. Distress. Offshore Porlock”
    Five minutes later the first signal rocket went off
Out into the pounding rain they ran
    Those lifeboatmen and locals to lend them a hand
The waves loomed over the watch tower on the pier,
    Then crashed down in fury which deafened the ear
“Tis hopeless” the Coxswain, Jack Crocombe, said he
    “ain’t a crew in the service who could launch safely”
“From a more sheltered station we’ll call a new boat”
    And to the post-office they went, to send a telegraph out
Tap, tap, tap on the Morse key he pressed
    But nothing was happening, there was no line left
Blown down by the storm, and all hope with it,
    “The duty is ours, but we cannot fulfil it”.


Part 2:
“The duty is ours, it’s us or nobody” he shouts
    “it can’t never be nobody, go we must”
The protests did start, and questions did fall,
    But the Coxswain had an answer to silence them all
“Now, I know that we can’t launch her from ‘ere”
    “but it’s thirteen miles to Porlock Weir”
The voices were shouting, no one knew what to do
    But the Second Coxswain’s voice carried on through
“Jack, we’ll need ‘osses, every ‘oss can be spared”
    “if we got enough power, we’ll get her there”
The choice had been made, the die had been cast,
    The crew had a plan, a solution at last
Around came the Lifeboat Louisa, so grand
    Standing 34ft long and 7ft wide on land
3.5 tonnes was her unladen mass
    The add thirteen crew, oars, rigging and two masts
The shafts had been fitted to the carriage with ease,
    Rarely used but kept in the boathouse for needs
The horses were hitched, the carriage coupled on.
    In total, the train was one hundred and thirty foot long
“Right then” said the Coxswain “let’s be off”
    “up Countisbury Hill!” but as soon as they started, they stopped.
The horses did not pull together as a team,
    The wheels were stuck in the parapet, of the bridge over the stream
In minutes it was fixed, and it started again
    This time all horses were pulling the same.
Up Countisbury hill, they walked on and on,
    Until they reached open ground, then the protection was gone
The rain thundered down; the wind raged again
    Still the team kept on going, the pace slow and same.
All of a sudden, the carriage plunged to the right,
    A four-foot wheel came off, then rolled out of sight
“There’s a wheel off!” the cry rang “get them scotches under!”
    It was the front offside wheel that was causing this blunder
Nearly forty minutes it took to replace the wheel
    Still the great storm refused to heel
But then they were off, nearly conquered the hill
    But many more challenges faced them still.
The Blue Ball Inn marks Countisbury Hill peak
    And hot cocoa and brandy helped restore the weak.
Now they pressed on, ten miles to go.
    They were making good progress but painfully slow.


Part 3:
The rain had stopped, the lamps shone bright,
    This brave crew continued through the night.
The party had by now reached Ashton Lane
    Where their troubles soon were to begin again
On this narrow road, the walls were strong and thick
    Impassable for the carriage, but Coxswain Jack had a trick
“We’ll pull the boat through the lane on the skids”
    “The carriage can go o’er the moors with the kids”
So once again horse and train were detached
    A new plan at work, only recently hatched
Eight horses pulled the carriage away,
    Leaving ten to continue to Porlock Bay.
The boat was pulled down Ashton Lane
    Later, all men agreed this was the worst part of the way.
Mud underneath, and walls closing in
    Barely inches to move and soaked to the skin
Boast, horses and carriage finally together again
    Made their way onwards, leaving the lane
Half past one, on that stormy black morn
    County Gate was passed, conversation was born
The crew started talking, spirits, they grew
    But a challenge was coming and this they all knew
Porlock Hill was coming their way,
    Navigating this death path was tricky even in the day.


Part 4:
Porlock Hill, as the locals say
    Is the devil incarnate come night or day
But the brave men from Lynmouth at the top they stopped
    Safety chains, drag ropes and skid pans were fitted against the clock
Four horses at the front to control the bends
    Ten at the back plus men to see this through to the end
Down the twists and turns the crawled
    On the drag ropes and harnesses, man and horse hauled
Round the last corner “We’ve done it!” “We’re down!”
    Sighs let out, smiles put on, it was an inspiring sound
Then all at once, morale took a plunge down,
    As they stared at the entrance to Porlock Town.
Old Widow Washford had a cottage this end,
    It would be impossible for the carriage to round the bend
The wall of the garden would have to come down
    So, the crew started trying to widen the ground
“What are ye thinking at this time o’ night?”
    “How dare ye start bangin! Gave me a fright”
Old Widow Washford’s head poked through the door
    Was there no end to the troubles faced on this moor?
Once again, the Coxswain had the answer and said
    “Don’t worry, we’re just widening the road dear. Go back to bed”
The old woman was dressed and out in a flash
    Shouting encouragement, soon the wall was hashed.
Six inches more, they needed to pass
    The corner of the cottage came off at last.
Five of the clock struck the morning chime,
    For most people here, that was rising time.
Out of the town, and past the Ship Inn
    The last part of their journey was soon to begin.


Part 5:
Half past five when they reached Porlock Weir
    They were soon stopped by people when drew near.
“You can’t go no further” the Anchor Hotel Landlord said
    “the road’s gone, Jack, to the beach, nothing’s left”
Only half a mile stood ‘tween the crew and their goal
    They would not let this stop them, oh no.
The top road they took, almost as narrow as Ashton Lane
    An exercise none of them wanted to repeat again.
The train drew on, till they reached a tree
    An old Laburnum standing between them and the sea.
Down it came and then back on their way
    The light was beginning to turn night to day.
The boat reached the beach, the flares had been lit,
    The ****** poised with their oars, ready to hit.
Holding the stop, Second Coxswain yelled “HAUL”
    And down shot the Louisa, into the squall
The oars struck together, through the roaring sea
    Sails hoisted, oars beating, wind blowing hatefully.

It was on the morning Friday 13th January,
    That Lifeboat Louisa of Lynmouth launched at Porlock from Countisbury.
Ten and a half hours, over thirteen miles
    This crew and their boat had endured many trails
The Forest Hall was reach, her crew all safe
    Back to the mainland they made at pace.


Jack Crocombe, George Richards, Charles Crick, Richard Burgess,
    Richard Ridler, David Crocombe, Bertram Pennicott, William Jarvis.
George Rawle, William Richards and John Ward
    John Riddler, E.J. Peddar and Richard Moore.

All of them crew members on that historic day
    And for this they are remembered in every way.


But I give my thanks to the crew mate who gave this story to me,
    My Great Great Grandfather, Lynmouth Lifeboatman
        William Sellick Pugsley.


Sophie J Pugsley
Great Great Granddaughter of crewmate William Pugsley of the Lynmouth Lifeboat Service.
They ‘pressed me on His Majesty’s frigate
The H.M.S. Carew,
It only took me a day to find
I was lodged with the Devils’s crew,
The Captain, ‘Black Jack’ Hawkins
Was a gentleman by name,
But on the ship he used the whip
To his undying shame.

I slipped and fell from the foremast arm
When I caught my foot in a stay,
And though a net kept me safe from harm
That wasn’t the Captain’s way,
He said I’d swim for my mortal sin
Told the crew to rope me through,
Then dragged me over the side and said,
‘We’re going to keel-haul you.’

The barnacles on the Carew’s hull
Nearly tore my back to shreds,
My lungs were so close to bursting that
I thought that I was dead.
They hauled me over the side again
The deck was red from my back,
At least I knew I was safe again
From a sudden shark attack.

They rubbed raw salt in my many wounds
Till I thought I was in hell,
While some of the crew had mocked and jeered
The Devil’s own cartel,
They wore tattoos of the skull and bones
It was strange for a Royal crew,
But they themselves had been Impressed
So they hated Hawkins too.

He used to stand on the quarter-deck
Quite close to the starboard rail,
Where he could see any slacking off
While we were under sail,
He’d tie the men to the nearest mast
And would whip, before the crew,
Till every man was inflamed and raw
And would plot what they would do.

It fell to me to devise a plan
That everyone agreed,
We had to get rid of this Devil man
It became our only creed,
So I took a rope when I climbed the mast
That was fixed above his head,
Then swung and booted him over the rail
So we thought that he was dead.

The crew then dashed to the starboard side
And they all looked down and cursed,
For Hawkins floated upon the tide,'
It couldn’t be much worse,
He shouted up, ‘This is mutiny!
I’ll flay that man to the bone.’
But all he got were the jeers of the crew
As the Captain sank like a stone.

David Lewis Paget
Rip Lazybones Oct 2014
The wind always ****** me off. Tossing my hair from side to side, and usually on the opposite side the ship is swaying. Always so nauseating. Leaned against the railing I watch my ship mates joke, rough house, and drink. I would describe them as quaint, but Neptune forbid they hear me and I have to explain what another word means. Illiterate ******* . I gave one of them a dictionary one time in hopes they would be inspired. They returned it to me two days later with all the words about *** and female organs underlined and circled. Why do I have to be stuck with these people? Brain cells keep committing suicide every time one of these chumps rabble something to me.

**** it all, here comes one. Just go away, ****. ****, what could he possibly want. Maybe if I lean back now I can just fall into the water and drown. The wind gives me another fist up my nostril by blowing his stench my way. "We be landin' soon! Ye comin' wit us dis time or are ye gunna stay behind and work on your fancy doctor voodoo or trace your ***** in one of your books to **** it to lata?" They all start laughing and whoopin. "Well I need some things, and I can't trust you idiots to bring me anything back besides rotted meat and disgusting women! So I guess I have to get off the boat this time." He made some typical fairy joke toward me and went back to drinking with the others.

The spotter cried his typical thing about seeing land, as if we didn't have eyes to see that massive hunk of blot that isn't water coming toward us. Maybe this time I can get "lost" and never board this ship again. I don't care where I go or do. After she left, it doesn't matter. If I could find some decently witted science wiser, I'd give them my journals and let my soul free from this cursed rock. Until then, my studies are far too important to be lost to these mongrels.

On a brighter note, the island looked to be a dense tropical stage type of island. Perfect! My greatest chance to find some herbs in quite some time. Maybe they will even have a wild large cat these guys can fight. With any luck, it would eat them all then die choking one of their pieces of jewelry or **** it from their various ****** diseases. That would just be heaven. Rid me of these animals and I could get some ingredients from the majestic beast's corpse. Their eyes and blood are good for various mixes. My thought is disrupted by the sweet smell of the isle on the breeze. Sweet sweet hibiscus, we came just at the right time of year. My leg ticks on the ground with excitement. Moments like these make me forget all my misery, the rush of progress. The high of walking back with sacks full of goodies. Rushing to my mortar and pestle. Thank you, Neptune for surfacing such a wonderful place.

The captain's door kicks open as we pull up to shore. "Alright me hearties! Time to do what we do best. Let's go find some meat to eat and some meat to poke!" A cheer from crew erupted. I caught the last boat going to shore. I brought every empty sack and a few various journals to record. Each stroke of the paddle fills me with a little more glee. We all land on shore, but there is a bit of wildness in the air. None of the crew seems to notice. No birds in the area flying by or perched. A pathway of large trees are knocked down. I point out to the captain what I have observed. He gets the wild look in his eye and points over to the path. "This way, boys! We got something big to ****!"

Walking behind the group as I scribble doodles and notes in my journal. A lot of the trees that are downed have large slashes in them. Every now and then we come across and splat of blood or some feathers. The feathers are quite large and colourful. Ahead we can see a clearing to what looks like a cliff range. The lush green ground is now leading into red clay. Large talon prints are starting to appear. The captain leads us in the direction of the prints. As we go further, decomposing carcasses and skeletons litter the path.

Never in a hundred life times would I be prepared for what we were about to see. At the edge of the cliff lies a giant nest, and in it was a pure terror. It's back had more colours then I even fathomed were in existence. It's tail feather alone was larger than our ship. The crew seemed genuinely disturbed. "What the ******* is that?!" yelled one of the crew members. The behemoth was instantly awoken. It stretched it wings and stood up in its nest. The bird turned around and faced us. Holy ******* ****, this thing was some sort of massive giant macaw. Being the size it is, I doubt it eats the kind of pleasant things its cousins consume.

To compensate for being woke up, it looked as if it was going to make a quick meal out of us. This is perfect! Maybe all these idiots will get butchered and I can just slide away. I looked over to the captain, and his eyes were over flowing with wildness. With a saber and flintlock ready, he ordered the charge. With mighty yells they all rush the bird. The giant ***** its wings and uses the gust to blow down the crew. It hops into the air and comes down crushing several members under its blood stained talons. Even with dried, caked clay I could feel the vibrations from his force. The captain takes aim with his flintlock and nails the bird in the left eye. The bird let out a large screech before pecking down and reducing more crew members to a pile of protein and bone.

At this point in the battle, there are only thirteen of us left. ****, that is an unlucky number. Are they going to fluke this and **** that thing? ******* it, I don't want to eat bird for the next few months. I continue to doodle the beast as the battle rages. A quick swipe from his talons eviscerates a few more members. The crew has done nothing more than leave a few cuts on the beast's legs and a few bullets lodged in his plumage. The bird surges into the air in a rage. He quickly snatches up 3 members in each talon and tosses them off the cliffs. Five of us remain including the captain. Swooping down and gobbling up two more members, the captain doesn't even begin to bat an eye. There are only two fighters left. The captain is climbing up the leg of the bird as the last crew member gets pulled apart by the bird. The bird not noticing the captain scaling his back hops toward me. It turns its head so its unwounded eye can see me. The head snaps back to forward face and hops toward me.

The captain is now on top of the beast's head, perfect. I reach my satchel and pull out two full glass bottles. A loud squawk comes from the bird as it prepares to eat to me. I quickly pitch one of the bottles at the head of the bird. The glass cracks on its head and liquid goes all over the bird and the captain. Smoke begins to roll off of them as their flesh drips off their bone. Realizing I won't need the second bottle, I put it away and sit down as the bird's nerves twitch out its last moments of life. What is left of the captain is dripping down the bird. The corpse of my saviour collapses to the side.

Finally, as I deserve to be, I am alone. Alone on a giant island of who knows what else, but for the first time since she left me; I'm smiling. I can work and research in peace, and with any luck someone of worth will discover my remains years later and find my journals. I am left with what I was born with. Nothing, but what lies between ears. I both thank and apologize to you mighty fowl. My all the souls scattered on this island be comforted by my joy.
PoserPersona Jul 2018
He pulled and parked the supply red wagon,
then climbed the mast to the captain's cabin.
Captain Red is ready for adventure.
A quest to collect the world's best treasure.

His pirate crew is renowned far and wide.
They're rough and tough and they don't ever cry.
But none of them boys has the captain's stuff.
So don't mess with him, man, cause he don't bluff.

This motley crew has achieved many feats,
has never suffered a single defeat,
and has seen the most incredible things:
whales, whirlpools, storms, mermaids, krakens and kings.

"Set sail," squaws the boss as he munches lunch
and the Ocean Destroyer leaves port Wunche.
These rolling green hills are now ocean waves.
That blue sky, however, remains the same.
...
"Hey Benjamin!" beams the first mate Susanne.
Impeding the journey that just began.
"We already played this game. It's my turn!"
The first mate trumps the captain, Ben will learn.
...
Her spacesuit crew is renowned far and wide.
They're smart and nice and they don't ever lie.
But none of these girls has commander's stuff.
So don't mess with her, girl, cause she don't bluff.

This brainy crew has achieved many feats,
has never suffered a single defeat,
and has seen the most incredible things:
aliens, black holes, stars, and martian springs.

"Lift off!" beams the boss as she munches lunch
and the Star Chasing Rocket leaves base Wunche.
These rural backyards are now rocky space.
That blue sky, however, remains the same.
...
"Hey Susanne!" beams the pilot Benjamin.
Impeding the flight before it begins.
"We already played this game. It's my turn!"
The pilot trumps commander, Sue will learn.
...
Boys and girls grow up and out the front door.
Those children’s games evolve to adult chores;
those kiddy lawns to grandparent’s domain.
That blue sky, however, remains the same.
Matty D Feb 2013
Welcome to the land of golden trout

Where black bears roam and hawks still shout

In the eastern Sierras, hills of the west

Tales of the Adventurers and their first test.

Forming an alliance in Santa Cruz

They left together, unwilling to lose.

Packing up and heading down the trail

They knew as a team they would never fail.

Without a moment’s hesitation nor shred of doubt

The crew took their Tools of Tenacity out

And in less than three months flat

The Adventurers finished, exclaiming “that’s that!”


But who composes this mysterious crew?

Wait just one moment, I promise I’ll tell you.

First, there’s Nico the Noble, the leader so fearless

Who also frightens many when he’s not beardless;

Followed by Ben the Benevolent with his hearty laugh

And never without his Capitals hat;

Kahn the Courageous has his wild antics

Telling stories with Buckeye semantics;

Jamie the Just and her vegan ways

Had to eat lentils for most of her days;

See Jen the Jubilant with camera-in-hand

Shaving logs for as long as she can;

The team’s newest member, Maggie the Merciful,

Has now experienced the wilderness in full;

Tim the Wise lacks alliteration, unlike the others

But has chased many cows, some scraping their udders;

And at last there’s me, the Notable Narrator,

So our crew’s legacy can live forever.


In our quest the crew has changed slightly.

Those unable to handle the tasks lightly

Had left- like Mary, Bobby, and Stary the Skeptical

All well-admired, and mostly respectable.


Now let’s shift our story to the work completed

In the struggling meadow, its health near-depleted.

Using fallen trees that have long-since passed

We found a clearing with their numbers quite vast.

Cutting the deceased into sixteen-foot longs

And lugging them over thickets and bogs

Our team stacked them perpendicular

To the stream, or creek, in particular

And in a magician’s “ta-da!” moment

Water rose up to our new component,

Flowing over the freshly-made dam

Then briefly meeting with dirt and sand

At the bottom. Multiplied by thirty

And that was work: rigorous and *****.

But why were the Adventurers sent there,

To build check-dams and do repairs?

It was, in part, human consumption

That led to the meadow’s near-destruction:

America’s insatiable need for beef

Will not, for a long time, see any relief,

So Industry has pushed forward, sending cows to the fields

Grazing and growing to become our future meals.

But little did Industry know how devastating

Hundreds of cattle leave an ecosystem suffocating.

Trampling grass and dispersing banks underhoof

The bovine are easily guilty, there’s so much proof.

Stupid, noxious, and obnoxious creatures

Recognized by these, easily their best features.

Incessantly screaming day and night

They are more like demons by every right.

Yet the Forest Service lets ranchers send

Hundreds of cattle, seemingly without end.

And while the Golden Trout crew fixed things,

It’s not enough to ease the strain the cows will bring.


So what can we do, if anything at all

If we go veggie will Industry stall?

Can the end of beef save the earth

Is society only worried when we gain in girth?

That’s not for me to say right now

It’s up to you to answer the “how?”


But I digress, I must end the story

Of the Adventurers and their summer glories.

In the end they saved the meadow, saved the day

Held the bovine rampage at bay,

Raised water levels, erosion erased,

Then was the time to leave that place.

So the Adventurers hopped in their van,

Eight warriors mean, lean, and tan,

And took off down the mountainside

To Santa Cruz and the oceanside.

Each followed one’s own path

But only after taking many baths.

The Golden Trout legacy will live forever,

Only made possible by the best crew ever.
9/3/2012
(c) MDC
Kendall Mallon Jul 2013
Book One


Prelude:

As Romans before them, they built the city upward—
layer ‘pon layer as the polar caps receded
layer by layer—preserving what they could, if someday
the waters may recede back into the former polar
ice caps; restoring the long inundated coastlines.


Home:

A man sat upon a tall pub stool stroking
his ginger beard while grasping a pint loosely
in his other hand. An elderly gent stood
next to him. The older gentleman noticed
that the ginger bearded man’s pint sat almost
quite near the bottom of its tulip glass.

A woman with eyes of amber and hair
as chestnut strolled through a vineyard amongst
the ripening grapes full of juice to soon
become wine. She clutched a notebook—behind (10)
thick black covers lay ideas and sketches
to bring the world to a more natural
state—balancing the wonders and the merits
of technology apace with the allure ‘n’
sanctity borne to the natural world.

When the ginger bearded man finished the
final drops of his stout, another appeared
heretofore him—courtesy owed to the elder
gentleman. “Notice dat ye got d’ mark
o’ a man accustom amid the seas,” (20)
he inferred; gesturing the black and blue
compass rose inscribed inside a ship’s wheel,
imbedded into the back of the ginger
bearded man’s weathered right hand.
                 “I have crewed
and skippered a many fine vessel, but I
am renouncing my life at sea—one final
voyage I have left inside of me:
one single terminal Irish-Atlantic
voyage t’ward home.” (30)
“Aye d’ sea can beh cold
‘nd harsh, but she enchants me heart. Ta where
are ye headed fer d’ place ye call home,
d’ere sonny boy?”
     “’tis not simply a where,
‘tis a who. Certain events have led me
to be separate from my wife. For five
eternal years I have been traveling—
waiting to be in her embrace. The force
of the Sea, she, is a cruel one. For (40)
it seams: at every tack or gybe the farther
off I am thrown from my homeward direction
to stranger and stranger lands… I have gone
to the graveyard of hell and the pearly gates
of (the so called) heaven; I have engaged
in foolhardy deals—made bets only a
gambling addict would place. All to just be
with Zara. I am homesick—Zara is my
home—it doesn’t matter where (physically)
we are located, my home is with Zara. I (50)
was advised to draw nigh the clove of Cork
and wait; wait for a man, but I was barely
given a clue as to who this man is,
only I must return him this:” the ginger
bearded man held out a dull silver pocket watch
with a frigate cut into the front cover
and two roses sharing a single stem
swirling upon themselves cut into
the back.
   “Can it be? ‘Tis meh watch dat meh (60)
fat’er gave t’ meh right before he died…
I lost it at sea many a year ago.
It left meh heartbroken—fer it was meh only
lasting mem’ry of him… Come to t’ink I
was told by a beggar in the street—I
do not remember how long ago—dat
I would happen across a man wit’ somet’ing
dear t’ meh, and I’d accomp’ny dis man
on a journey, and dis man would have upon
‘im d’ mark of a true sailor…” (70)
    “Dear elder man,
my name is Abraham; the mark you see
represents the control that I have on my
direction—thought it appears the Sea retains
some ascendancy… Yet now, it appears,
the Sea is upholding her bargain—though
a bit late... Do you, by chance, own a vessel
that can fair to Colorado?—all across
this mist’d island no skipper ‘ll uptake
my plea; they fear the sharp wrath of the Sea (80)
or (if they have no fear) simply claim my home
‘is not on their routes…’ i’tis a line I’ve
heard too often. I would’ve purchased a vessel,
but the Sea, she, has deprived me completely
of my identity and equity.”

Zara, with her rich chestnut hair sat upon
a fountain in a piazza—her half empty
heart longing to savor the hallow presence
of Abraham, and stroke his ginger beard…
Everyday she would look out at the sea (90)
whence he left…
     All encouraged her to: “forgo
further pursuit”; “he is likely deceased
by now”—his vessel (what left) scuttled amidst
the rocks of Cape Horn, yet Zara could feel
deep-seated inside her soul he is alive;
Alive (somewhere) fighting to return home.
Never would Zara leave; never would she
abandon post; she made that promise five
years ago as Abraham, ‘n’ his crew,
set out on their final voyage; and she (100)
would be ****** ere she broke her promise—a promise
of the heart—a promise of love. Abraham
said: “You are my lighthouse; your love, it, will guide
me home—keep me from danger—as long as you
remain my lighthouse, I’ll forever be
set to return home—return home to you.”

Out from Crosshaven did the old man take
steadfast Abraham en route to his home.
Grey Irish skies turned blue as they made their
way out on the Irish Sea, southwest, toward (110)
the southern end of the Appalachian Island.
The gentle biting spray of the waves breaking
over the bow and beam moistened the ginger
bearded face of Abraham; his tattooed
hands grasped the helm—his resolute stare kept him
and the old man acutely on course.
A shame,
it struck the old man, this would be the final
voyage of Abraham… he: the best crew
that the old man had ever came across; (120)
uncertain if simply the character
of Abraham or his pers’nal desire
to return home in the wake of five long
salty-cold years—a vassal to the Sea
and her changing whim. Never had the old
man seen his ship sail as fast as he did when
Abraham accorded its deck—each sail
set without flaw: easing and trimming sheets
fractions of an inch—purely to obtain
the slightest gain in speed; the display warmed (130)
the heart of the old man.
        And thus the elder
gent mused as he lightly puffed on his pipe
while sitting on the stern pulpit regarding
at Abraham’s passion to return home
(as he calls her):—maybe dis is d’ reason
d’ Sea has fought so hard, and lied, t’ keep
Abraham from returning home… Could not
bear t’ lose such fine a sailor from her
expanses—she is known t’ be quite a jealous (140)
mistress…
      But for all Abraham’s will and passion,
the old man insisted for the fellow
to rest; otherwise lack of sleep would cause
the REM fiddler to reap his debt—replace
clarity of mind with opacity.
Reluctantly stalwart Abraham gave
in and retire below deck—yet the old
man doubted the amount of rest that he
acquired in those moments out of his sight. (150)

For the days, then weeks, in the wake of their
departure from the port-island Crosshaven,
the seas were calm as open water can:
gentle azure rolling swells oscillated
and helped impel the vessel forward. The southern
craggy cape of the Appalachian
Island pierced the horizon. Like a threshold
it stood for Abraham—a major landmark;
the closest to home he had been in five
salty long years—his limbo was beginning                               (160)
to fade, his heart slowly—for the first time since
he left port in eastern Colorado—
started to feel replete again. The Great
Plains Sea—his final sea—he would not miss
the gleam of his lighthouse stalwart on shore.




Book Two

Oracle:**

Upon a beach, Abraham found himself alone—gasping
in gulps of moist air like that of a new born baby first (10)
experiencing the breathe of life; he felt as if he
would never become dry again… the salt burning his skin
as it crusted over when the water evap’rated
into the air; Abraham took the first night to rest, the
next day he set to make shelter and wait for a rescue
crew; out he stared at the crashing waves hoping for a plane
or faint form of a ship upon the horizon…days and
nights spun into an alternating display of day then
night: light then dark—light, dark, light, dark, grey, grey, grey…

Abraham (20)
gave up marking the days—realized the searches are done—
given up after looking in the wrong places (even
he did not know where he was…) the cold waves and currents took
him to a safe shore away from his ship and crew, in a
limp unconscious float…
From the trees, and what he could find on
the small  island, Abraham occupied himself with the
task of building a catamaran to rid himself of
the grey-waiting.
Out he cast his meager vessel into (30)
the battering surf; waves broke over his bows and centre
platform—each foot forward, the waves threatened to push him back
twofold… Abraham struck-beat the water with the oars he
fashioned; rising and falling with the energy of the
waves; Abraham stole brief looks back with hopes of a van’shing
shoreline—coast refused to vanish… his drenched arms grew tired;
yet he pushed on knowing he would soon be out passed the
breaking waves; then could relax and hoist sail; yet the waves grew
taller—broke with greater power… Abraham struck-beat the
water with his oars—anger welled—leading to splashes of (40)
ivory sea-froth instead of the desired progress
forward; eventually, his arms fell limp beyond the
force of will… waves tumbled him back to shore as he did the
first night upon the island…
Dejected Abraham lay
in the surf that night—the gentle ebb of the sea added
to insult, but hid the tears formed in the corner of his eyes—
salt water to salt water… the next day Abraham took
inventory of damage: the mast snapped in multiple
places, the rudders askew—the hulls and centre structure (50)
remained intact; the oars lost (or at least Abraham cared
not to search); over the next weeks he set to improve
the design and efficiency of his vessel—the first
had been hurried and that of a man desperate to leave;
the bare minimum that would suffice—he set to create
a vessel to ensure his departure from the des’late
accrue of sand and vegetation; Abraham laboured
to strengthen his body—pushing his arms further passed the
point his mind believed they could go—consuming the hearty,
protein-rich, mollusks, and small shellfish he could find inside (60)
tide pools or shallows—if lucky, larger fish that dared the
nearby reefs.
Patiently, Abraham observed the tides and
breaking water; he wanted to determine the correct
time to set off to ensure success—when the waves would not
toss him back to the beach; the day: a calm clear day—only
within few metres of soft beach did there exist any
breaking waves, and those that broke were barely a metre high;
loading provisions upon the vessel, Abraham bid
farewell to the island (out of wont for the sustenance (70)
it gave not for nostalgia) grasping his oars, he set forth
to find open sea—where the waves do not break and set you
gingerly on foreign shore(s); Abraham paddled passed the
first few breaking waves, his heart pounding with hope—he stifled
the thoughts (celebrate when the island is but a subtle
blue curve upon the horizon); as the island began
to shrink in his vision, the sky to his back grew darker…
the waves started to swell—moguls grew to hills—Abraham
stroked up and rode down; the cursèd Island refused to shrink…
if not begin to grow wider… stroke by stroke Abraham (80)
grew frustrated—stroke by stroke frustration advanced into
anger—stroke by stroke anger augmented into fiery
beating of the water!—Abraham struck and struck at the
Sea—eyes closed—white knuckles—trashing!—unsure which direction
he paddled…sky pitch-black, wind blowing on-shore Abraham
bellowed out to the Sea in inarticulate roars of:
hatefrustrationpitydesperationheartache!
Towards
Abraham’s in-linguistic roar, the sky let out a crack
of authority! a wave swept the flailing Abraham (90)
into the ocean—cool water only heated the rage
in Abraham’s mind—his half empty heart only wanted:
to sail home, become whole  again—sit under and olive
tree and stroke the chestnut hair of Zara as she drifted
off to sleep on his chest while he would whisper sweet verses
into her ear… Abraham’s rage, beyond reason, forgot
the boat and all clarity, he tried to swim away from
the cursèd island—scrambling up waves only to tumble
back with their breaking peaks—salt, the only taste in his mouth;
churning his stomach to *****; his kidney’s praying he (100)
would  not swallow anymore… his gasps stifled any curse
Abraham’s head wished to expel onto the Sea—yet she
swore she heard one final curse escape his lips! at that the
Sea tossed Abraham (head first) into his ghost-helmed vessel—
all went dark for hostile Abraham…

Contemplating back
at his rage—knowing the barbarian it makes of him,
Abraham peered into the band inscribed into his
ring-finger and saw the knot tying him to Zara—shame
at his arrogant-uncontrolled-fury sent Abraham (110)
into a meditative exile inside of his mind
(within the exile of the island…) in his mental
exile Abraham spun into deeper despair at his
two failures—even more at the prospect of failing the
vow he professed onto Zara: return home—home from this
final voyage, grow old with her on solid ground, never
to die apart and cause the pain of losing a loved one
without the closure of truly knowing the death is real,
to die by her side white, white with the purity of age…
Abraham’s destitution turned inward—his fury, the (120)
lack of control, the demon he becomes when rage surges
through his muscles; equiping him with untamed strength without
direction or self-possession—so much potential, yet
no productive way to use it… Abraham’s half-full-heart
burned, ached with passion and anguish—all desire
focused on home, his return, but the mind’s despondency
and insistent ‘what-ifs’ kept poor Abraham prostrate in
his mental cave—all his wishing for anger and vi’lence
to force his will, it did more to retain him upon the
cursèd island than bring his heart closer to fulfillment: (130)
his long awaited home…
Out of his mental exile did
Abraham’s irises dilate and contract with blinding
illumination—self-pity is not what make things happen—
it would only serve to anger Zara—nothing other
than I can be to blame for my continued absence; I
am stronger than that!—looking at the tattoo in his hand,
he remembered the reasons for the perennial brand—
the eight-spoke ship’s helm: the eight-fold-path—I must cut off my
desire for anger to be the solution and focus (140)
on the one path to Zara—the mind can push the body
further than the body believes is possible—the star:
the compass to guide me via celestial bodies
to where my heart can see the guiding beam of my lighthouse!
This is the Final Voyage epic thus far. I am converting Home into blank verse and it is taking longer than I thought to do; which is why that part is incomplete here. I also added line numbers. I changed The names as well.
Pierson Pflieger Jul 2013
There once was a lad from the Lone Star State,
who dreamed of exploration and realized that just over the horizon, adventure await.

He was commissioned by the internal desire for adventure,
which burns deep inside us all, and within him grew,
so he assembled a ragtag crew to explore a land seen by few.

He set off for the ancient land- more north than he’d ever been-
whose beauty and wonder only true voyageurs and men of the wilds knew.

By air and by land, the voyageur lad traveled to his Uncle’s cabin,
nestled deep within the Harshaw Hill country.
  
This legendary cabin, was built solely by the hands of the one they call Uncle Buck-
the most amazing cabin one could ever see.

Uncle Buck is renowned and recognized throughout the land
for his merit, adventurous spirit, long grizzled beard, and skillful hand.

It was here, in the cabin’s comfort, the brave Sugar Beans (as he was fondly named)
greeted his courageous crew with a hearty, “Boozhoo!”
They were some of the finest canoeists around-
paddlers tested, tried and true.

Together they pondered, planned, and plotted the course of their adventure
for which they’d set forth;
packed their belongings, and dreamed of North.

Sugar Beans’ crew consisted of five, rugged braves-
paddlers he knew had grit and could battle the wind, rain, and waves.

Uncle Buck, a wise and grizz old guide, had seen many moons in the Northland sky.              
Respect of all living things and the song of the wild are the codes to which he ascribes.

Jonesy, a well-traveled voyageur himself and Sugar Beans’ proud dad,
had been to this land and wanted to share its magic with his brave little lad.

Joeseppi , a young blood at heart, was the lad’s loyal cousin and friend,
a trustworthy bowman, on whom all paddlers could depend.

Makwa, the newcomer- fierce as a bear and as tough as the rest-
and after day one, she gave it her best.

And last there was Pierrὲson; the lad’s other cousin and fellow adventure zealot,
who once learned his lesson and stayed away from anything that resembled an apricot.

They loaded the van, strapped on the canoes, and greeted the early morning with a boisterous “Bonjour!” and embarked North to begin The Magical Northwoods Mystery Tour.

Traversing blue highways the voyageurs meandered north, through the wilds of Wisconsin and the Land of 10,000 lakes, hoping to make the Canadian border before it was too late.

Eventually they arrived at the Magical Northwoods’ doorway- delicate and ornate.
The crew unloaded their gear and launched their canoes- confident and sure.
Each eager paddle stroke brought them closer to all the memories they would create.

And Sugar Bean and his crew created memories- some of the best.
Memories that seep into dreams and make one feel blessed.  

Memories of:

discovering a pictograph and plodding through a ****** river- just to get back on path;

stumbling upon wolf tracks and forgetting the fishing poles- but never the packs;

exploring  craggy caves and battling and paddling against the wind and waves;

hunting for ice under rock clefts out of the sun, they searched and searched but came up with none;

swimming in the warm water nearly every day and asking painted turtles if they wanted to play;

practicing the art of stalking seagulls, and on every lake, they gave greeting the glorious eagles;

dropkicking each and every single portage and of food and laughter there was no shortage.

The crew came back with fantastic tales and experienced everything a voyageur could wish.
And although his dad will try to tell you it was only by an eighth of an inch, there are pictures to prove that Sugar Beans caught the biggest fish!

So here’s a paddle rattle for you- young voyageur lad- the greatest voyageur old Quetico’s ever seen!  May your adventurous spirit continue to grow and may the waters you paddle always be serene.
Tommy W Jan 2014
The Wandering Rocks

Ulysses was a hero
With his very own crew
They blew through the ocean
On a boat full of supplies

They sailed out of darkness
Into the light
Back to the world they knew
As they sailed home
They heard a sound, the crew couldn't describe
Not a man or a seagull
But a sound all the same
Whistled through and around

The crew glanced back
Behind the aft of the boat
To the unnoticed sight
There were a group of rocks
All jagged and small
Far into the distance all right

But as the crew watched the rocks
They seemed to grow over time
It was a peculiar sight
To see

The crew moved on by Ulysses order to row
Then Ulysses set sights for land
A land called Thrinacia,
Isle of the Sun Titan
In hopes the rocks stop the chase
Nat Lipstadt Mar 2016
~~~
"I would look at them in the audience:
the frail old lady with thin white hair;
the big, rough biker-looking guy;
the pleasant middle-aged teacher;
the silver-haired accountant with two young kids;
the beat-up middle-aged woman with rheumy alcoholic eyes who is sweetly gracious, modest, as she moves to give you a seat;
the obese, wild-haired man bursting out of his torn, cracked leather jacket;
the giggly, chatty middle-aged redhead in the NoLabels.org sweatshirt;
the Patti Smith-looking woman, tall, pale and austere; the hunky football player;
the skinny hipster girl in architect eyeglasses and torn jeans. Everybody listening so closely to the candidates.
Beret guy, too, with a white bandage on his eye and a beard that went down to the third button of his shirt.
What a crew we are."

Peggy Noonan, political columnist, writing about a New Hampshire meet-the-candidates Town Hall 2016

~~~

confess here an avowed legally, registered voter,
who fails to vote with almost
perfectly regular regularity

for his solitary voice almost always
swallowed whole,
living in the futility utility of a self-selected body politic,
geographical location where
dissent is a now pathetic revolutionary concept lost
in the new intolerance of a place,
where there is none of the
demanding New England hampshired state
that brooks, adheres to
only the standard highest,

"live free or die"

in the sweeping crush of nationalized,
commoditized would be Commodores,
whose sounds bite,
elephantine donkeys and donkeyed elephants,
leading us to the same slaughterhouse,
by different paths

but I am a crew member here...

proud and free,
proud to be,
amidst this mess of characters,
homogenous in their pursuit
of independent assaying
of the character of men
to whom we would
our liberty, entrust

God, it gives me breathing space,
these unusual common folk, who with the
unpracticed eye of a periodic literary critic,
in their first-in-the-nation primary,
selected the would be revolutionaries extremists,
polar opposites

God bless their orneriness,
though both of their final aisles choices to me,
anathema,
message received,
we are tired of the ordinary hacks,
who think their longevity means success,
want a sea core change,
a fresh revolution
as principled as the original...

but they suit up, on uncomfortable
folding chairs,
willing to listen,
all the while acknowledging
their presence physical,
evidentiary proofs each,
that you can fool some of the people
some of the time,
but you cannot fool
all the people
all the time

a man proud to be a crew member,
of this cantankerous irascible population
who will vote this time
but not on any machine that offers up
more of the same ole insane,
will exercise my vote,
in the most old fashioned now waining way

*the same way
I write poetry,
upon a ballot where I will
write in, write on with
ink and paper,
tag a name of person
good enough for representing the
interests best
of this rag tag crew o'mine,
who I love so....
July 4th - There are no tribes in America
There are no tribes in America.  This is my annual reposting of my July 4th poem, written years ago.  After reading about some tribal warfare in a far away land, I wrote this true story down....
~~~~~~~~~
one July 4th,
many years ago
walking the streets,
of the city of Nice, situe
on the Cote D'azur of France,
on the Mediterranean Sea,
where ships of navies
may safely park,
sailors ashore
leavened to
disembark^

how I came to be there is a
poem for another time

walking the streets,
of the palm tree resort
along Le Promenade Des Anglais,
coming at me,
Three Sailors,
unmistakably
American

One white,
One black,
One from California,
which I believe,
is still part of the USA

how we fell upon each other
in warm embrace,
smiling, bestowing
blessings of grace
not as strangers,
but as fellow signatories
on the Declaration of Independence

brothers,
long lost, reunited
as if it had been many years,
since we had our arms entwined,
one family from one far away united place

dialectical differences ignored,
even the wide-eyed 'Bama boy,
totally comprehensible,
for on that say,
we spoke a language that
encompassed a single brotherhood,
a common history,
all on that
holy day

no tribes in America, no colors,
no religions,
only brothers-in-arms

I need not choose to believe
that should it happen again
twenty years hence,
perhaps with their sons,
my embrace will exactly
the same be,
for I know it true,
for there are
no tribes
in an
American heart
Why am I so dif-fer-ent?
They say I’m out of touch.
Why am I, ple-nar-ily sad?
This life it hurts so much.
And why do they come, come every day?
Shush, quiet now, they’re here.
Those awful tormentors of my soul all cackling and queer!
Whirling head of spinning revolutions,
…feel my stomach ache and pang.
Why will they not leave me alone?
This crew of darkness; Blackbird Gang.

I shouldn’t always feel like this, feel such solemn pain,
…troubling and trouble is these birds are driving me insane!
I’m screaming now! I’m mad with rage! Throwing ice cubes at my deck,
“Go away! Yes, go away!” -their numbers must be kept in check.
Blackhole-whirl, flying twirling darkness, their funnel it points to me-e-e-e-!
For too many is too painful and my mind’s a constant wreck!
One cannot think with those infernal be-e-e-asts,
...and the crazy song they sang.
Why do they so punish me?
The crew of darkness; Blackbird Gang.

I know they serve the Saturn’s wheel and now they’ve come for me.
What did I do? Oh what great sin, oh the blackbirds from within;

The Abyssimal Sea?

Their whirlpool funnel is all around, as my harried soul, it expiates.
I’m done-in; I’m over now, a sorely victim of the Fates!
They took me, took me away, when the tolling bell it rang.
Why could they not leave me alone?
The crew of darkness; Blackbird Gang.

If you find yourself all alone and mired in their thought,
…do not think, extirpate, all the human damage that you’ve wrought.
His flock of fledgling melancholy musical formation,
…will take you away and straight to Hell; the Seventh Circle congregation!
For they took me, took me away, when the tolling bell it rang.
And they will not leave you alone.
This crew of darkness; Blackbird Gang.
The primary reason I came to Hello Poetry is that every single publishing house I could find on the internet rejected every poem I sent them. Since my work is deemed to be worth nothing I gave it all to you for free. It seems that in a digital world where people can share this easily there will always be more content available for free than for a fee. One would think publishers would know this. I have seen some seriously good poetry here and some pieces that are extraordinary.
the creatures of nature, can sure be a jovial crew
the creatures of nature, can sure be a jovial crew
listening to them I often do, within this piece I'll explain to you
listening to them I often do, within this piece I'll explain to you
within this piece I'll explain to you, the creatures of nature
can sure be a jovial crew, listening to them I often do

birds sing mirthfully neath the sun, their choruses lift the heart
birds sing mirthfully neath the sun, their choruses lift the heart
in a rousing chord cicadas thrum, such a delight they all are
in a rousing chord cicadas thrum, such a delight they all are
such a delight they all are, their choruses lift the heart
birds sing mirthfully neath the sun, in a rousing chord cicadas thrum

the next time you're outside, tune into the natural world
the next time you're outside, tune into the natural world
you'll hear a happy zeal, a resonant gleefulness
you'll hear a happy zeal, a resonant gleefulness
the next time you're outside, you'll hear a happy zeal
a resonant gleefulness, tune into the natural world

their choruses lift the heart, a resonant gleefulness
birds singing mirthfully neath the sun, you'll hear a happy zeal
within this piece I'll explain to you, tune into the natural world
the next time you're outside, in a rousing chord cicadas thrum
such a delight they all are, listening to them I often do
the creatures of nature, can sure be a jovial crew
The Bellman's Speech

The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies--
Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
The moment one looked in his face!
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?"
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
"They are merely conventional signs!

"Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we've got our brave Captain to thank"
(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best--
A perfect and absolute blank!"

This was charming, no doubt: but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean
And that was to tingle his bell.

He was thoughtful and grave--but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
What on earth was the helmsman to do?

Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, "snarked".

But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
That the ship would not travel due West!

But the danger was past--they had landed at last,
With their boxes, portmanteaus, and bags:
Yet at first sight the crew were not pleased with the view
Which consisted of chasms and crags.

The Bellman perceived that their spirits were low,
And repeated in musical tone
Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe--
But the crew would do nothing but groan.

He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
And bade them sit down on the beach:
And they could not but own that their Captain looked grand,
As he stood and delivered his speech.

"Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!"
(They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
While he served out additional rations).

"We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
(Four weeks to the month you may mark),
But never as yet ('tis your Captain who speaks)
Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!

"We have sailed many weeks, we have sailed many days,
(Seven days to the week I allow),
But a Snark, on the which we might lovingly gaze,
We have never beheld till now!

"Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
The warranted genuine Snarks.

"Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
Which is meagre and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
With a flavour of Will-o'-the-Wisp.

"Its habit of getting up late you'll agree
That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o'clock tea,
And dines on the following day.

"The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun.

"The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
Which it constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes--
A sentiment open to doubt.

"The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
To describe each particular batch:
Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
From those that have whiskers, and scratch.

"For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
Yet I feel it my duty to say
Some are Boojums--" The Bellman broke off in alarm,
For the Baker had fainted away.
Coop Lee Jun 2014
to the young privateer.
the captain kidd & his bought n’ taut gang of holy bluffs.
they bribe and imbibe and swoon on the dock-way looking for a quest or two or three
to dream and bury their doubloons in island guts like little mysteries. little sundowns
over a rixdollar indian ocean.
let them take a turn.
destined to mutate from private to pirate, the kidd, like blackened rotten wood.
******* frigates.

the ship:
with her bob and sway. she is, the adventure.
& her song is calling out for a rapturous few,
for men ready to die on the highwater mark by glory or fire or dead glorious sun.
so they put her brass and bough to seafaring days,
the sweet galleon, barely wet, yet
completely riffed to voyage.
she is
from the shores of london. built. designed to kick 14 knots under a full sail blast.
& she will bite.

she’s in calm waters.
the kidd savvy toothed and butterscotched, he awaits the big show,
engorged to set forth the play like wily ocean dervish &
they do.
they do proceed with benefactors coined and crunched on postulations of pirate death &
pirate gold. reclaimed honor as they say. the hunt for pirate teeth.

& with official pass and parchment, high-throne approved,
king ***** III stamp & sealed,
this voyage is.
this voyage is and forever was, hereby charted, to recover said stolen goods.
to reclaim thy warrior vanity &/or vengeance.
to noble this **** with pinched loaf, like now.
set sail. now.
1696.

“**** them navy yachts at greenwich, the thames be ours, boys.”
slap *** and flick thumb toward those armada sons,
& as tribute
smoke balsam herbs on the starboard side for the mother she and the father be.
but for this slight,
this dishonorable silly ****,
one third of adventure’s men are pressed into service of the crown.

[continue.]

the adventuresome few, petty crew and crows.
steal the heart and mother-meat of a french ship. steal everything onboard.
steal the ship itself.
& on her way to new york, new boon, pure and entered into the new world.  
there are new men bought in the american port,
good men and odd men of long criminal legacy.
a small black vicious quartermaster. he’ll do.
a murderous preacher gripped by stars and celestial patterns. he speaks spanish. he’ll do.
another type of holy man and a wild drinker too, embattled by demons on the port side. sure.
plus the dock-boys destined to **** for fruits of exploration.
this is the way of the son of a gun.

the boatmen jockeyed. she is
the adventure
prancing the vertebrae of atlantic and beyond. cape of good hope, she
breathes easy out here on the wide tide and float.
out here on the vast blue this. she
evolves
out here. loves out here.

pirates.
the hunt for pirates or the lack thereof. she leaks.
she rasps into the years on. and on.
the kaleidoscope hallucinations of sun and moon, sun and moon, and moon and sun
forever.
the strait of bab-el-mandeb.
& there
she plunges into darkness, into the stars seen from and through a periscope formed
by ancient hominid lineage.
seen but untouched,
in dreams. the kidd, reluctantly lime, admits to his madness.
madagascar.

malaria and cholera and hell break the boat by the throat.
& thrash.
to be organic is to be ruled by a shadow, or entropy.
the mouth of a red sea.
one third of the men will die here.
simply as insects crushed and brushed off deck and into to her great spate of agua,
the mother gush.
her earth.
body.
father,
hear his whispers in the mirage.
the ancient mariner, the ancient holy ghost riming down there.

in destitution.
in a rough and soggy life squeezed and making men weird or violent or both be ******.
the kidd goes cold to hot sweating noxious.
turns pirate himself
out of sheer hunger.
out of sheer need to eat.
sets the boys like dogs upon a frigate of east india company men,
or french *****. either/or/or/either/or.
he & the boys are in a madness swirl of sun and heavy guts.
cuts to spill blood
or gold. this tender bit.
lip bit
& tested.

captain kidd fractures the skull of a deckhand named moore,
for bad attitude and giggles. moore gets death.
chisel on the deck.
& to think we are all troubled by some primal trauma.
some dumb thing called death, that is.
men starving, men dying, men falling in the vast black that is that eternal void.
dream of women and riches in the meantime.
fortunes.
1698.

savage kidd, cool kidd, cool spit
off the edge. to think of the once soulful idea of these paradise days
& trip.
savage to cool.
the two divine modes of a survived man.
a ghoul man, or aging man.
& to keep control of his crew kidd sets them upon the quedagh merchant;
a 400 ton armenian hulk chalk full of gold, silver, satins, and muslin. ‘tis *****.
renames her: the adventure prize.

madness quenched for now.
charmed for now
& on the horizon are fragrant times. blissful distance.
but robert culliford,
with his mocha frigate. this man, this suave pirate lord, his vengeance act.
he had stolen kidd’s ship years back, &
the captain opts to cut his throat.
take the mocha.
keep calm & carry on.
to paradise.
to dream of her cool warm beaches and fruit forever, peacefully thinking.
so that night they two drink together in good health, and in the morning
most of the men defect to this other man, this other ship, culliford.
other dream,
other captain of true buccaneer effect.
act 3:

13 remain in the galley firm.
this is the house adventure.
& she is burnt alive three days later for rot and ill repair.
but she was fun,
& a *****.
a stitch of old woodwork given-in
& crackling with the eyes of her crew seen in fire.

kidd steps the pond to caribbean times with the adventure prize, toad toxins
& high on the jungled shore.
he trades that colossus, flips her for a sloop and seven little chests of gold.
little bellies.
the island-gut doubloons to bury.
dream, remember?

but the men-of-war are after him now. the privateers & hunters & devil’s dogs.
the men he once was.
men of marked death.
& he is now some pirate, some forthright bandit
settled to **** or be killed.
some sad kid.

first: buries that treasure up the coast of america.
oak island rig.
cherry rocks of the maine bank and *****-trapped pit.
the hunted.
they catch him on an inlet ****, and sail back
to london to be tried for crimes against the crown.
the high court of admirality.
1701.

they hoist and gibbet his body with worn chains above the river.
not for piracy, but for ******.
the ****** of that strange deckhand moore and his giggle.
kidd’s bones
suspended there for three or more years at the mouth of the thames,
as warning
to the perverse travails of a criminal lifestyle on the highwater pond.
Poetic T Feb 2017
She was a dainty little one, that's what her mother
used to say, but now she wasn't so young.
Time was a tide that had flowed over her hair once
blonde and flowing down her back now a shimmering grey.

But she had noticed a decline in the world of those of
mature age, clothes were drab ugly and grey.
So much unattractive clothing made by the mother of
modern age dullness. Trying to sweeten the *** by calling
each a different name

The Ashen Collection:  It fell from the clouds and landed on you.
The Pearly Collection:  Even beauty doesn't need colour

Were they not color blind? Ok maybe a few were, but
this was just horrible, it was like wearing cement.
Just as stiff and ghastly to even wear. This just made
people look frightful in dismal clothing not suited to be
seen in the light of any day they walked out in it.

So I had to make a stand, I had to keep this dismal color
from tainting the eyes of a younger soon to be older
generation. I had wrote to the fashion designer by
Email, what just because I'm old doesn't mean I haven't
got skills. Her name is Miss Grey Bottom....

---------------------------------------------------­---------------------------------------------
Dear Miss Grey Bottom,

As I am one of less years than more, it would be appreciated that
these years are filled with friends amusement and children's laughter.
I see though that your clothes line has been hitting the scene,
Yes I'm hip with the lingo..

I ask that you add a little color to this line of mature wear
due to the numbing effect it has on those wearing it?
There is no color in there face, no smiles just blank eyes.

At This time were most alive, we need the vibrant feel of life
in our daily lives. Not the mundane clothes that numb the senses.

Yours Sincerely,

                           F.G
-----------------------------------------------------------­-------------------------------------

I waited and waited, well ok I waited two weeks, ya don't
know how long you have left, it was like waiting for paint
to dry under the ocean. But I waited I even shrank an inch
in the time I wasted. So I thought I would do something about it,
as more and more were just walking around in dismal
clothing draining what little youth they had left. So I got a
few of my crew, and we got our design on. Front loop,
garter stitch, knit left loop, there so many weavings that we could
tell you about but now the first piece was finished.

"Try it on, it was an mixture of all our creativity, so we got
Mr. Robin he was 65 years old and had such cute rosy checks..
He looked puzzled?? "What's a matter Mr. Robin? Half his head
was sticking through the top of the jumper, not worried about
messing his hair or lack of...
He then preceded to tell us that it looked like a unicorn had
thrown up a rainbow on it.. "Oh, Colourful metaphor,
and then he proceeded to dance, I think he was break dancing??
He had good moves for his age.

"Ladies it itches so very badly, “I wasn't dancing,
"It feels like I have ants in my pants, crawling around
this jumper that I must take off now...


Sighing and regaining his composure,

"I never knew I had those kind of moves still in me,

Giggling slightly, he then folded the jumper.

He politely put it on the table, saying that if each did a
singular design, their own creation that it would be an art piece,
each a creation of their colourful imagining.
But please, please not in wool, try other fabrics.
And with this ladies of knowledge weaved there ideas together.
Two months later and quite a few pennies spent they produced
their own line of vibrant colours fulfilling the gap where drab,
grey clothing had drowned the feelings of an older generation
needing colour in this moment of their lives.

It now felt like what once was missed entered their lives through
the creations of these vibrant grannies.  But as there designs were embraced by the [silver mains] people of older graces.. The dullness was fading, and a certain lady didn't approve of such sunlight in
those that once wore her garments now being used as wash clothes.. Miss Grey Bottom was sullen for her plans to make the word
feel as she did, sombre in thoughts that weaved into her designs.
But she wasn't giving in  without a fight, she brought out new collections that had a hint of silver grey a hue not colour but
not as bland... but this was a start, its was called the;

Cloud collection:  Everyone has a silver lining..

Fashion Granny smiled, as she knew that seeing those of
Mrs Grey bottoms age infused had slightly changed her,
and with that they made more clothing to invigorate those
of climbing years..
Reviews were steadfast from those wearing there line:

Mr Whitehall:  I love the colouring of your clothing, it was
like it was made for my personality.

                                        Thanks F.G

Miss Waterson:  I feel like a millions pounds, this line enriches
my life every day I wear it.

                                        Thanks F.G

These were but a few of the thousands of reviews they were
scoring at 4.9 out of 5 stars in the reviews and the grannies smiled,
glad that they brought some reflection into their collection of clothing.
There was a knock at the door, and to all there surprise none other
than Miss Grey Bottom.

"Hi grey, about time you answered my email,  
Said her sister. Yes Miss Grey was fashion Grannies sister,
older by 10 years 2 months and 3 days.

"Why wouldn't you answer my calls and emails??
" I was really worried about you and those clothes so
gloomy yet I could tell the beauty was trying to come out
with those beautiful lines,


She just stared at her sister in silence and then, noticing
a tear she wiped it with her thumb tenderly holding her sisters
face. Miss Grey burst into tears and Fashion Grannie held on
to her sister, they hugged for what seemed like forever before
Miss Grey composed herself. "I have missed you so much,
Fashion granny smiled,
"Me to, you silly sausage, 
 
She introduced her sister to all those who helped her with
the colouring and design of their brand F.G, then they sat;

"Your my sister I didn't want to burden you with my
problems,


Fashion granny lent over and kissed her sister forehead

"You silly sausage, that's what family are for,

With those words a smile eclipsed Miss G B's face,
a smile rose across her sisters remember that beauty
that she once knew returning to her sisters face.

"Well you have me and my crew as friends now..

"Your crew, giggling aloud Miss G.B couldn't
even frown for she was for the first time in a long
time smiling, laughing.. Even though tears were
falling they were of happiness, not sadness as before.

Three Months Later,

The world had become a brighter place as sisters
and friends created art woven from cloth and not
only for those of silver locks, but these were hip
grannies they were weaving for the younger crowd.
The first show was about to start and they looked
out to see if many had come to see the new line,

A unicorn had thrown up a rainbow collection:
         So much colour you'll see rainbows in your sleep

It was an international hit, and the grannies were so proud
of what they had done not a singular person, but as close
friends. They carried on with this until they retired which
was not as far away as you'd think. But they had made new
friends and two sisters had once again found each other again
both thinking of how proud there mother would be now.
Wrote for my daughter, she is awesome 1359 words I know little long but worth it for her
Amy Foreman Feb 2017
When we set forth, the breeze blew fair,
The sun shone balmy, warm.
Our sheets were fixed; sail filled with air,
No warning of the storm.

Our crew of two, so cheerfully,
With confidence untried,
Thought we could lick the strongest sea
And still enjoy the ride.

In dinghy small: in ocean great
Our tiny course still true.
We charted stars to navigate;
From Heaven took our cue.

And so we cruised for many years,
Successful in our tour.
With frequent laughter, scarcer tears,
The partnership secure.

But one night when the stars were gone
And clouds obscured our view,
A gust surprised us, struck head-on
And blew the mast askew.

In darkness thick, with rising surge,
We struggled with the sail.
The waves now threatened to submerge
Our vessel in the gale.

We could not see to douse or reef
And so we grappled, blind;
Our crew of two, in disbelief
Left buoyancy behind.

The dinghy tossed like wreckage now
And, hope so far from sight,
We tried once more and then, somehow,
Our crew began to fight.

Through foam and froth and swelling wave
Our agitation grew.
Each violent blast a cause to rave,
To quarrel, stage a coup.

Our crew of two, now one-on-one,
Not just against the squall
Attacked each other ‘til undone,
A rebel’s free-for-all.

So will we drown in waters vast
This tempest take our souls?
And, sinking, will we still lambaste
Each other’s weak controls?

Or could we, if we changed our tack
And pulled together, firm,
Outlast this storm, this inky black,
Our partnership affirm?

Oh, please, let’s try, although the sky
Above is dire and grim.
You take an oar and so will I,
Together scull and skim.

I’ll call you “Captain;”  call me “Mate.”
We’ll rally, make amends.
And, crew of two, we’ll navigate
This stormy night as friends.
I was pleased to have this poem featured in the 2017 Valentine's Day edition of the Epoch Times (pg C03)
Idris Muntaqim Mar 2020
The Defenders have found out something bad;
The supervillain team called the Wrecking Crew is going to **** the coronavirus patients and that makes the Defenders mad.

The Defenders search for the Wrecking Crew immediately;
When the Defenders find the Wrecking Crew and the villains see them, they try to **** the heroes, as you can see.

The leader of the Defenders, Dr. Strange, uses his magic to fight and defeat the Wrecker, who's the leader of the Wrecking Crew;
Namor the Sub-Mariner fights and defeats Bulldozer and what I'm saying is true.

The Hulk fights and defeats Piledriver, which is really cool;
The members of the Wrecking Crew are total fools.

The Silver Surfer fights and defeats Thunderball, which is really swell;
Here are other things that I'll tell.

When the Defenders defeat their foes, they call the cops;
The Wrecking Crew is full of slop.

The coronavirus patients thank the Defenders for saving their lives, which is polite;
The Defenders are always doing things that are right.

When the cops arrive and arrest the Wrecking Crew, the Defenders go away;
The Wrecking Crew is going to prison and that's all I have to say.
Nat Lipstadt Nov 2016
posted on Mar. 6th 2016
~~~
"I would look at them in the audience:
the frail old lady with thin white hair;
the big, rough biker-looking guy;
the pleasant middle-aged teacher;
the silver-haired accountant with two young kids;
the beat-up middle-aged woman with rheumy alcoholic eyes who is sweetly gracious, modest, as she moves to give you a seat;
the obese, wild-haired man bursting out of his torn, cracked leather jacket;
the giggly, chatty middle-aged redhead in the NoLabels.org sweatshirt;
the Patti Smith-looking woman, tall, pale and austere; the hunky football player;
the skinny hipster girl in architect eyeglasses and torn jeans. Everybody listening so closely to the candidates.
Beret guy, too, with a white bandage on his eye and a beard that went down to the third button of his shirt.
What a crew we are."


Peggy Noonan, political columnist, writing about a New Hampshire meet-the-candidates Town Hall 2016

~~~

*confess here, am an avowed legally, registered voter,
who fails to vote with almost
perfectly regular regularity

for his solitary voice almost always
swallowed whole,
living in the futility utility of a self-selected body politic,
geographical location where
dissent is a now pathetic revolutionary concept lost
in the new intolerance of a place

where there is none of the
demanding New England hampshired state
that brooks, adheres to
only the standard highest,

"live free or die"

in the sweeping crush of nationalized,
commoditized would be Commodores,
whose sounds bite,
elephantine donkeys and donkey'd elephants,
leading us to the same slaughterhouse,
by different paths

but I am a crew member here...

proud and free,
proud to be,
amidst this mess of characters,
homogenous in their pursuit
of independent assaying
of the character of men and women
to whom we would
our liberty,
entrust

God, it gives me breathing space,
these unusual common folk, who with the
unpracticed eye of a periodic literary critic,
in their first-in-the-nation primary,
selected the would be revolutionaries extremists,
polar opposites

God bless their orneriness,
though both of their final aisles choices to me,
anathema,
message received,
we are tired of the ordinary hacks,
who think their longevity means success,
want a sea core change,
a fresh revolution
as principled as the original...

but they suit up, on uncomfortable
folding chairs,
willing to listen,
all the while acknowledging
their presence physical,
evidentiary proofs each,
that you can fool some of the people
some of the time,
but you cannot fool
all the people
all the time

a man proud to be a crew member,
of this cantankerous irascible population
who will vote this time
but not on any machine that offers up
more of the same ole insane,
will exercise my vote,
in the most old fashioned now way

the same way
I write poetry,
upon a ballot where I will
write in, write on with
ink and paper,
tag a name of person
good enough for representing the
interests best
of this rag tag crew o'mine,
who I love so....
100% reporting
New Hampshire Votes

Hillary Clinton
Democratic Party
48%
346,816

Donald Trump
Republican Party
47%
345,379

Gary Johnson
Libertarian Party
4%
30,376

Jill Stein
Green Party
0.9%
6,246

Rocky De La Fuente
Independent
0.1%
672
Poetic T Feb 2020
We got your crew like you were an
easy catch, cos once we got our
hooks in your postcode we ain't
                                              letting go, fact.

We see the youngens, they little bait,
but once we hooked them,they'll be
piranha's in our tank, stripping the
dignity from out of your
                        voice in 20 seconds flat.  

We got your crew like you were an
easy catch, cos once we got our
hooks in your postcode we ain't
                                              letting go, fact.

We strung up your boys, gasping for air.
But once we got our hooks on you
                               were gutting you easy.
But not before we get what we need from
                                                     your pleads.

We got your crew like you were an
easy catch, cos once we got our
hooks in your postcode we ain't
                                              letting go, fact.

Look little fish you in a tank of sharks,
we grin our grills gravestones of  what you
                   see last before your dispatched.  
But don't you worry there are plenty to keep
you company down there, you ain't the first
                             and you ain't going to be the last.

We got your crew like you were an
easy catch, cos once we got our
hooks in your postcode we ain't
                                              letting go, fact.

We got nicknamed the fisherman, we sail into
your town catching what ever we want.
        We don't scrap the sea floor hoping
for a catch. We fish for the real deal.
  Disillusioned of the fish bowl they swimming in.

We got your crew like you were an
easy catch, cos once we got our
hooks in your postcode we ain't
                                              letting go, fact.

Making it even easier to catch, to turn them from
                neighbourhood trash to one of our sharks.
showing other that once we got you hooked,
the only way you leaving is dead floating at the
bottom of the tank.

                We coming to your postcode.

We got your crew like you were an
easy catch, cos once we got our
hooks in your postcode we ain't
                                              letting go, fact.
Hey everyone I just created my collection named Poetic Party Crew.
I will be sending invites to you so please accept my invention.
Poetic Party Crew is for poets who want to enjoy life.  You only get one life so enjoy your life.  Life is poetry.
I haven't posted a picture yet.  I'm trying to find the right one.
You can post any type of poem in Poetic Party Crew.
hip hop poems, party poems, any type of poem,
Rap poems, Anagram poems, you can also add short stories, prose poetry, rock and roll poems, Jazz poetry, horror poems
wehttam Jun 2014
Friction into reality; I should say into fiction into life.  Small beads form on the upper lip,  Shoes strings become untied, a bottle is cracked as the ship leaves it’s slip.  Fret and cascade escape a troubled brow.  A boat builder an architect leans smirks and shifts toward the end of the pier.  The wake presses a ripple across the bay’s cloudy shiloutte.  Mooring lines tighten righting an unballasted keel.  Its crew makes up chalks and moors with figure eights and half hitches.  Take up slack and pull with the boatswains command.
Captain, Executive officer, and first mate critique fit for crew and evolution.  

Pea coats smocked, boots weather sealed with wax, glove, slacks, hat, and pants.  Stores are stacked and awaiting brow and chain gang.  Rations and stores for 4 weeks.  The harbor’s main berthing finds vacancy at the vessels underway taking.  Bow to stern aspect three hundred feet washed and clean.  She has a 9 foot draft with another 22 feet to the first rail.  

The lines in the boat shore for a nimble light sailing ship.  A clipper maybe,  I’ll wait to report further direction possibly assuming more command.  A cigarette falls from my first *******.  A jostle to my left crafts seagulls posturing a stolen meal.  Sulfur stings my nostril igniting the first of two puffs.  The captian rolls his eyes my direction gives the once over finding his intrest in the rest of the evolution.

A few pier hands set eyes on the clipper, smoking.

Mice run along the wooden edge of the pier away from some of the salted pork and grain.  Two other mice lose courage at my sight line.  XO and first mate shift and turn retrieving my concern.  The brow is being landed at the stern of the ship.  

No decals and no name yet.  At some point Ill find or ask to be apart of the ships crew.  Deck hand, cook, messenger, helmsman, assistant to first mate all compatible with ability.  The first mate chuckles and mentions a figurative by stander knowing that an employment opportunity starts with a  conversation.  

Crew’s first leiutenant for the most part looks squared away and a bit untouchable, salty.  Pants tucked into calf high boots, a beard, pea coat and a lost stare.  Hesitating a bit he grins and settles back to appropriate conversation.

My bag and jacket drop accompany to the stores.  Maybe a slow patient walk aft, there has to be a name for her.  At the stern a marching movement to my right and I can follow the rear of the boat and in peripheral the command group.

The Lion’s Winter in large old English print below a iron clad window pane bounces with the tide to the left and right in a roll.  I can see the ship, now calming into a quiet slop off of the pier and its mooring lines. The rudder is a massive distorted key shaped piece of poplar with copper piano hinges all the way to the back of the keel.  A small blue crab lengthens a breast stroke across the top of the water.  

The three follow the appropriate custom before crossing the brow and the first louie barks a few times.  Two of the ship’s crew begin inventory on stores while a bit of nervousness creeps over the contents of my only possessions.  Wetting my lips I can taste the salt on my face.

One of the crew yells,
“Louie, move him off.  He stump’n around the grub.”
He barks again,
“Turn two.  Got more an him eny’d, a Rat!”

I took that as on opportunity to introduction.  Mr. Louie straightened pursed heels and drained thought from my façade.  His eyes narrowed, he felt the calm of my urgency.  He knew I needed, obliged then walked to conversation.  “Cryme's, you look’n for someone.”

“Humm, a shipmate.”
I could see the it was not the conversation he was expecting.  He leveled, “Pretty tight around here. What do you have in the bag?”

“Mostly books.”  

“You cant cross the atlantic reading books.”

Sharply understood in sponse to kurt, “Is that an opportunity or an intrest accompany to nothing.”

“You can naught cross the Atlantic.”


Tim says leave the world.  I laugh and he says no righting, laughter.
The first chapter
megacreative poetry crew personified by poetic devices (we the best exploring poetry industry) Words that doesn't sound strange to any ear, words that can be called one poem heals all.
Listen to these words made from punchlines and their cousins figure of speeches immaturity fall.
Blessed are the ones listening to the poem written by the hands that got the touch of the situation.
Megacreative Poetry Crew (Personified by poetic devices) Rocking back n fourth whining side to side into the bigger picture of literature as big as the important use of rhymes in a poem brews and cooks magic.
The magic that is the ear bud to your ears.
The magic that is infused with words that are born from soothing figure of speeches that's their mothers.
We heal with metaphors.
When the pain comes again it won't be like before.
The wise doesn't just spit but before that you got to be sure.
It's sad how they don't want to learn wisdom but when you do you are labelled as the biggest flop.
One's life is not like an influenza, you can't always have chest pains and cough.
As it will move you it doesn't hurt to dream of being on a cover page of Forbes.
Ofcourse, morden men doesn't shove wives with chores.
With words, the mind and soul resasitation.
Holding the mic to melt the written punchlines on the blessed pages, you got to love such situation.
Wisdom shows up just as we throw words on the white surface with red lines like a sangoma throwing bones on a mat created through tradition.
For us write words that unlocks wisdom to your mind that's as entertaining as theatre.
Poetry is alive in us.
Water it, ignoring such soothing words into your soul it will be as peace destroying as a witch.
Just as we play around the pages with a pen its the first stage to one's life changing, but as we spit words Personified by poetic devices Rocking back n fourth , whining side to side one is healed. Megacreative Poetry Crew  (personified by poetic devices)
devoted to Megacreative Poetry Crew  (Personified by Poetic devices)
Thomas Crone Dec 2012
Your home in White Rocks Marina you sat; always there to greet your crew before a voyage. Your red sails standing out among the rest. Silently awaiting your Skipper, our own George Hay Kain, as you rested in your slip, anxious to get underway. You wouldn’t make a sound as you patiently waited for your crew to load their gear down below. After quick yet thorough engine checks your Yanmar engine would roar to life, never failing to put a smile on your Skipper’s face. Your stern lines would come off. Your excitement would rise but you would remain still waiting to be completely free. Your bow lines would come off. You then would gracefully back out of your slip, ready for yet another adventure. Onto the Bay you’d go, wondering where you’d end up next. No matter the challenges you faced, whether in the open ocean, or in the Chesapeake Bay; you always brought your crew home safely; you always prevailed.

My personal experiences aboard never left the Chesapeake Bay, however, the Bay was all I needed. Each moment I spent on board; each trip I attended; will remain with me always: My First Voyage with our Skipper, Branson, DJ, and Sam; Chestertown; simply preparing you for the winter; Long Cruise; Hurricane Irene; Your Final Voyage.

So faithful you would be for your crew, for your Skipper; harsh conditions or not. You may not be resting in your slip in White Rocks Marina, anxious to get underway, but you will always be in the memories, and the hearts, of Skipper George Hay Kain, and the crew of Sea Scout Ship 25.

May you now sail freely across the horizon, out on the open ocean,

Kuan Yin.
If any of you have ever grown fond of not only sailing, but a specific vessel in general, you can imagine or even know due to the economic struggles how it feels to be a part of the crew that brings her to her fate of being sold. Kuan Yin, a Mason 443 Ketch, was not just another boat for us Sea Scouts, she was an experience; a bond.
I was part of the crew of a Sloop-of-War
That had sailed in the Caribbean,
We were caught asleep in the port one night
By the crew of a Brigantine.
They loosed a broadside, seven guns
As the Skull and the Bones flew high,
And I was dragged to the pirate ship
Where they said, ‘You’ll serve, or die!’

There wasn’t a choice to be had back then,
So I climbed aloft on the mast,
Setting the rig of the fore topsail
And making the halyards fast,
They made me stay in the Crows Nest then
To be swept by the wind and rain,
With only a couple of tots of ***
To deal with my aches, and pain.

I kept lookout on the pirate brig
For His Majesty’s ships, and land,
They knew we wouldn’t stand much of a chance
As a Privateer Brigand,
We sought to shelter within a cove
In an island, not on a chart,
And rowed ashore in a longboat there
With the bosun, Jacob Harte.

Captain Keague had stayed on the ship
With the bloodiest of his crew,
The rest of us had been pressed to sea
To do what we had to do.
We filled our barrels with water from
A rill that flowed from the hill,
And gathered fruit that we’d never seen
From trees with an earthy feel.

The trees had tendrils that waved about,
And trunks that were black and charred,
Just like a fire had raged there once
And left them, battle-scarred.
A voice rang out in a clearing there,
‘Hey mates, head back to the sea,
Don’t let the tendrils fasten on you
Or you’ll all end up like me.’

And deep in the trunk was a human face
With its skin all burnt and black,
The pain was etched on his weathered skin,
‘Look out, these trees attack!
We tried to burn them away, but they
Caught every one of the crew,
That fruit you carry is poison, mates,
They’ll be the end of you!’

The tendrils whipped and the tendrils slashed
And they wrapped round Jacob Harte,
He hadn’t much time to scream before
They seemed to tear him apart,
And each of the crew was tangled there,
Was absorbed into a tree,
I made it back to the beach that day
Though I’m anything but free.

The roots of the trees had reached on out
To the Brigantine in the bay,
Curled like manacles round its decks
And torn its masts away,
They dragged it up on the sandy beach
And they crushed it to a shell,
Caught the crew in their tendrils too
And Captain Keague as well.

I’ll put this note in a bottle, send it
Floating off in the sea,
Hoping that someone picks it up,
It’s the last you’ll hear from me.
Don’t let them seed in the world out there
These tendril trees are cursed,
And keep this Island from off the map,
If not, I fear the worst!

David Lewis Paget
As time goes by the world is in constant change. Such is also seen in the voices of our children and in our lives and affecting our fortunes. Trust in a relationship comes by faith theough love of understanding. Patience is a virtue and neccessity. Kindness and the willingness to adapt to the ever changing tides in the human enviroment. Both heart and soul is lost like a ship at sea without understanding it is tossed by storm after storm. The faithful stay the lines and continue to say-all. Destiny would have it say the wind steers the ship but the captain weathers the storm and guides the ship through the stormy seas. The rain is blown in like cool refreshing water to be sure the captain stays alert to save the crew. A successful relationship is said to be based on trust. However, trust is not found without faith but through faith. Faith for faith as it has now been said begins a successful marriage. Just as the crew must trust the captain, the captain must also trust the crew. Vanity leads to both destruction of captain amd crew. Just as a captain must be skilled, so must the crew also be skilled. The husband is like a captain to where the wife is like the crew because this is where our children first arrive and strive to be. Lessons in life may be tough but just as children deserve second chances so do our relationships like captain and crew setting an example for our children. Who can say love is without envy? Love is the desire of the heart and a captain knows best what is to be desired in the mind. Like salt and pepper so is the inter-twining of love righteously seasoned. Thus the salt from the see and the pepper from the ground keeps captain amd crew informed for the children in families that without it would no longer be. There may be a sun and a moon or even earth and sky but nothing is nothing if love exists not in the eyes of the child. The heart that devours then devours itself. The heart that devours only devours nations upon nations. Love is the timeless gift of life and en-sures a future in a place throughout time and space without it all things would cease to exist. Explore with only love's understanding.
Clear Vision 2020
martin Jun 2014
In the cold grey light of the sixth of June, in the year of forty-four,
The Empire Larch sailed out from Poole to join with thousands more.
The largest fleet the world had seen, we sailed in close array,
And we set our course for Normandy at the dawning of the day.

There was not one man in all our crew but knew what lay in store,
For we had waited for that day through five long years of war.
We knew that many would not return, yet all our hearts were true,
For we were bound for Normandy, where we had a job to do.

Now the Empire Larch was a deep-sea tug with a crew of thirty-three,
And I was just the galley-boy on my first trip to sea.
I little thought when I left home of the dreadful sights I'd see,
But I came to manhood on the day that I first saw Normandy.

At the Beach of Gold off Arromanches, 'neath the rockets' deadly glare,
We towed our blockships into place and we built a harbour there.
'Mid shot and shell we built it well, as history does agree,
While brave men died in the swirling tide on the shores of Normandy.

Like the Rodney and the Nelson, there were ships of great renown,
But rescue tugs all did their share as many a ship went down.
We ran our pontoons to the shore within the Mulberry's lee,
And we made safe berth for the tanks and guns that would set all Europe free.

For every hero's name that's known, a thousand died as well.
On stakes and wire their bodies hung, rocked in the ocean swell;
And many a mother wept that day for the sons they loved so well,
Men who cracked a joke and cadged a smoke as they stormed the gates of hell.

As the years pass by, I can still recall the men I saw that day
Who died upon that blood-soaked sand where now sweet children play;
And those of you who were unborn, who've lived in liberty,
Remember those who made it so on the shores of Normandy.
____________
Jim is a D-day veteran and folk singer who wrote this song. I just watched him perform it on tv at a banquet to commemorate the 70th anniversary.
Read and don't be ashamed to shed a tear for the thousands of young lives lost on that day.
Mary Catherine Jul 2011
The ******

Tried so very hard to please his crew

But you see

Out on the high seas

Tensions run high

But you cannot take words

Back

See the crew loved the ******

They just didn’t know how to show it

In the night

The ****** rowed on a rowboat

Far away from the harsh crew

The crew saw him

Stop they yelled

But the ****** was already gone

Just

Like

That.
Alyssa Underwood Mar 2016
I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  “That fellows got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some **** their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
******* a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one’s throat, before
The hangman with his gardener’s gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.


II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer’s collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock’s dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God’s sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had ****** us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


III

In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman’s hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother’s soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool’s Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil’s Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a ****-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another’s terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The **** crew, the red **** crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the ****** grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

“Oho!” they cried, “The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame.”

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God’s dreadful dawn was red.

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to ****.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows’ need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness *****:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man’s heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a ***** in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the ****** sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


IV

There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God’s sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man’s face was white with fear,
  And that man’s face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were ***** and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer’s heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God’s kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man’s despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who ***** the yard
  That God’s Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


V

I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart,
  And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean *****’s house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ’s snow-white seal.


VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men **** the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

— The End —