Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Leo Jan 2018
My New Year’s Eve
was spent
collecting fragmented recollections
to confirm
that my dignity
had truly died.

Soberly,
I perused
the bars and clubs,
and walked aimlessly
up and down crowded streets,
feeling like my life
had somehow
been shifted
into slow motion,
while the rest of the world,
engaging in joyous celebration
and ffestivities,
was knocked out of rhythm
from my existence.

How in the world
could the clock strike midnight?
How could people embrace, and kiss
at the dropping of the ball?
How could they laugh and smiile,
and wish each other a “Happy New Year!”?

More importantly,
how could those ******* traffic lights
have the audacity
to continue changing
from red to ggreen to yellow,
then back to red again.

My dignity had just died.
My dignity had just died.
My dignity was dead.
My dignity was gone.

In the days and weeks
that followed the death of my dignity,
I noticed
that life faded
from colloquial to iconic,
like something mystical,
or an intangible object
of deep longing.

And recurrent images
of those *******
obnoxious traffic lights
insensitively
switching colors
replay in my mind
to remind me
over and over
in the greens (go),
the reds (stop),
and the yellows (be careful),
that my dignity
had died.  
    
Memories
of the ddays
before my dignity had died
run through my mind
like old home movies
with centuries
of black and white film
stuck on repeat,
and slowly fraying,
around the edges,
because of the harsh demands of time.

It is life’s
harsh and cruel irony
that these images,
once my greatest joy,
have now become
inflicters
of the greatest pain
that I
have ever felt.

Like a sound wave
of pain,
so powerful,
that it has silenced
any other pain
that my heart
has ever heard.

So now I know,
it is true
life is a *****.  

The fading
of my dignity
has made me
overly aware
of the earth
turning on its axis.

As spring approached,
for the very first time,
I noticed
the way the flowers
seem reluctant
to bloom,
as if uncertain
of their
welcome invitation.

Such a cruel reality,
that the flowers
would choose
to bloom,
and nature
would choose
to carry on,
slipping
further and further
away from the day
that my dignity died.

And still,
to this day,
those ****
traffic lights
keep switching colors
Nat Lipstadt Mar 2015
(I love) Dignity

tearing words apart,
a part
of  a joy I cannot
explain or share exactly


knew a man once,
forty two years gone,
died too soon enough,
soon enough,
he and I will be
the same age

this man
a duck out of water,
a stranger in an adopted land,
trouble-stooped, a hard life, well lived,
never bent,
dignified in every step

I cannot remember him
ever kissing me, tousling my hair,
holding my hand, loving me in
a manner I wanted beyond  desperately

yet here I am, 5:22 am
weeping tears recalling him
in glimpses long ago seen,
adding them all up to get a
single sum

Dignity.

tearing words apart,
a part
of a joy I cannot/explain,
share precisely


dig
in
to
my
chambered memory storage units,
unlocking those rusted locks with freshly oiled
tears
and loving the dignity he exampled

to the son he could not kiss, hand hold,
but taught him the one lesson, digging deep
to respect life and stand apart,
stand with dignity.

all else will follow

the son kissed his children plenty,
in a vain attempt to make up his missed
homework

now the grandfather,
now the grandfather
is still kissing
his last hope, his newest babes,
rolling on the floor,
so silly kissing belly buttons,
smelling their skin repeatedly,

in a manner most
undignified

still weeping
the son,
he tries to sort it out

and forgives and does not forget
the man that taught dignity
in everything,
even, especially,
in slow dying,

forty two years is a long time to wait
to weep.

it takes two hands in the dark
repeatedly
to collect all the waiting patiently
wetness and the
accompanied sniffles,
so undignified,
the son smiles at himself
declaring unabashedly,
digging out from himself
a poem, a self-reflection
on time tarnished reflections
clear enough to make him
sob,
believing

I love dignity.
for my father...
Your dignity should reflect, everything you are.  If you use it wisely, you will go very far.
Your dignity should reflect what you stand for; no matter what is said.  It will cause you to soar high; far above others head.
Your dignity will help you, and allow you to excel.  It will prevent you from troubles; encouraging you not to fail.
Your dignity will precede you, giving directions ahead.  It will give you knowledge, so follow while being led.
Always keep your dignity; regardless what others do.  Having a sense of dignity, will  always carry you through.
By, Sandra Juanita Nailing
Mateuš Conrad Jan 2020
.how  dignified it is, to simply take a walk at night...

)            that's all i wanted to disclose...
what comes now,
is all the unnecessary details
that would constitute a prose piece...
albeit in cascade - for the ease
of the eyes bunddled up in a
claustrophobia of a paragraph:

i know: the mere word 'dignified'
seems rather obnoxious...
but... how dignified it is,
to take a walk at night...
esp. when one is recycling leftover
bottles of whiskey, whiskey,
beer... whiskey...

after reading Knausgård vol. 1 -
with his father strapped to the house
with his mother drinking himself
to death...
perhaps i'm also akin...

but... there's "****" to do in between...
good god! mein gott!
greta thunberg! run! i said run idiot!
run to the recycling center with
those glass bottles!
success though: cutting the ingestion
by over a half...

current bank balance?
nearing 2 thousand pounds...
and there's the garbage to sort between
the recyclable and the non-recyclable...
there's the tending to keeping
the house clean...

there's a remnant spark about giving
a toss about some sporting event...
there's cooking a dinner...
but... it seems i miss the man who would
find about an hour and a half
to walk the streets at night...

somehow i missed it -
but... i imagine the sight of a week's worth
of empty bottles in the wardrobe...
i've had enough and...
i call the dog that's the dignity to take
a walk at night...
to never overthink anything except
thinking - that i can leave in the basket
of nothing...

sometimes the ego-automaton jumps
in and makes my walking meditation
fuzzy... that's where i find this mythological
ego of psychology -
ego the anti-narrator...

which implies: not myself... reflexive...
not my, self... the reflective circumstance...

and there's no familiar presence
of an mp3 player (broken, ****** lasted
for 3 years, good enough lifespan)
and no headphones...

perhaps i was anti-radio some time ago...
i've amassed a decent personal library
of audio... but now i rarely use it
having made a discovery of the gramaphone
and vinyls...
and being the late 20th century colt...
i should still be ripping c.d.s onto
mp3... but...
i just wanted to check out what i was
missing...
perhaps... the crazed sound of passing
cars, will indeed, never replace
the cobblestones and hooves...
but... there's a right to heave a sigh...
for no apparent reason other than:
i've met myself this very first time
having aged...

this is not a time for west coast
1990s pop punk or punk rock or whatever
they called it... when you would
either run in gallop jumping
in a jonathan edwards style...
or looking down and walking into
a lamp-post... this is no time to be
refreshing the cinema of youth...
with the offspring's ignition...

not when you're walking: and trying not to think...

also of today: my jewish newly converted
to islam neighbour came round
asking about my mother's slight bout
of depression concerning...
her recent hip-replacement...
and what's still in the post...
the aesthetic surgery...
after all: what surgery, proper...
is also a plastic surgery - an aesthetic...
obviously the muscles and the bones
are intact... but there is always a chance
that waste tissue will be removed...
fat... etc. and it hasn't even been 2 weeks
since the surgery...
and she said: your mum should look
at my surgery scars...
i lifted up my t-shirt and turned
to show her my back... namely my
right shoulder-blade...

and i said to her: you know why i didn't
get aesthetic surgery on this mark
of cain? that's the same reason why i don't
have tattoos...
nothing against tattoos...
i have the only tattoo i need:
a mark of cain and some historical tattoos...
dates... that i keep close to me
from my time in the pedagogy meat-mincer
effort... how it began with the romans: per se...
later began with hastings 1066...
but it would never begin with:
the first battle of Tannenberg (1410)...
so you don't know how i think my mother
is exaggerating?
it's a good thing she's my mother...
she can have her ******* pass...
i'd give her the same ******* pass if...
we were married for 35 years and...
she was a woman i could grow with...
otherwise? the ******* pass i reserve for
children...

i subsequently signed her will...
yes... she came round looking for a second
witness for her will being made official...
or ****** bureucratic paper...
but nonetheless official...
i didn't mention the fact that...
the two witnesses that have signed the paper:
need to be present simultaneously...
i asked her... what's my occupation?
oh... right... i'm a scribbler...
a chicken-scratcher... writer of no
guild... a writ pusher...  

but all i wanted to write was...
i'm not a fan of the haiku...
esp. the western haiku... or a maxim:
i abhor maxims...
but if you put Kant into the juicer
and you spit out the congested
categorical imperative...
and it doesn't sound like the original, should:

act only according to that maxim whereby you can,
at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.

id est:

act only according to that haiku whereby you can...
at some distant point of time,
convene for it be a shared experience
in the ratio of a 1:2 point of seperation...
2:4 4:8 8:16...
but that's not really a categorical imperative
to begin with... what sort of "idiot" would strive
for a maxim to become a universal law...
universal laws are maxim spin-offs...
or i'm just blah-blahing too much...
waiting dear god: for the razor's edge (and drowning)...
or a punchline on stage in front of a dumb / mute
audience...

o.k. 5-7-5...
syllables... given the japanese don't use
letter but have syllables instead...
again: i'm not a fan...
if it took my long enough...
i'd find my 5 syllables and my 7 and again
my 5 syllables...
but i am a westerner...
i deal with letters... i don't deal with syllables...
unless they are prefixes akin to trans-...
meta-... anti-... post-...
the western adoption of the haiku implies
the boredom achieved from too many
sonnets... is the haiku the new sonnet?

i'll try... but i'll need to open a dictionary
for this effort...

water knee deep truce (5)
to the drowning man imploring (8)
signature the soul with this last breath (9)

or however many... it's just a passing thought:
i don't know how it would be worthwhile
to think inside a box... standing outside it
to begin with...
a haiku and no punctuation:
if you're going to be puritanical about it...
no punctuation?!
no diacritical markers?!

the Kant reference is just to ease up on:
who the hell would live by a maxim,
a stand-alone maxim at that...
one maxim to make it into the realm
of gravity...

there's the plethora of aphorisms that
are observations that... well...
let's just say it's no an imitation game... (

since how the hell does:
how dignified it is, to simply take a walk at night...
all of the above?
darwinism in images:

stopped climbing trees...
stopped being furry...
stopped dreaming about snakes...
stopped fearing snakes...
stopped wrestling with tigers...
stopped king kong versus tiger gorgon...
jumped into a whale...
came out sonar Jonah with hell'io Job
to boot...
stopped climbing trees...
took toward the complexity
of climbing rocks...
esp. boulders... later desired
the great big button of a cookie i.e.;
desired the moon...
brewed some moonshine...
build the mirror corridor
at Versailles...
dug up lazy dinosaur bones of
that thick glutton splodge and...
retired the horse... drove a car...
etc. etc.: came across
the happy birthday of death by
gregory corso and said:
that be one of the best recitations
of poetry i have ever heard...
in youth and Paris and Paris was
the signature...

all of this but there's still...
how dignified it is, to simply take a walk at night...
more to the point...
how dignified it is, to walk at one's own
leisure...
a bottle of england's finest ale...
theakston's the old peculier in one hand...
a marlboro cigarette in the other...
how dignified it is...
to walk: but to also walk... at one's leisure...
not running a marathon...
not... running the concrete or the tarmac
dry with new year's even resolutions
to loße mass... (yes... since weight involves
gravity blah blah)...

this auto-correct science factoid rubric
around each corner...
i can only admit that walking...
is a sport for gentlemen...
cognitive ping pong ensues...
a solo game... perhaps...
it's not a matter of sport...
or attempting gentlemanly stature...
which could be the case...
say... if i were 75... years old...
but...

that's all fine and dandy... the psychology
behind darwinism 2.0
not even copernicus made it that far
with his "revolutionary discovery"...
or not that Ptolemy was still...
index... bibliography and historical
constipation when attempting to be
democratic and historical...
in a single poo'em... with no rhyme...
and certainly no overt-technique biases
to: "identify with"...

it's still an image burning in my head...
the gorilla that would / could wrestle
a lion to sleep with a ripped-off jaw...
the thumb-king of the jungle
and the savannah...
and of course the donning of the conquered's
mane...

but beside all the discoveries in the past
and the present...
i will find myself smirking...
laughing to myself...
that someone will find this too...
i can't stress it enough:

when i see people driving their cars...
some fast, some slow...
walking onto a bus is not a leisure activity...
it's not even a dignity...
it's a time-warp... a short-cut...
besides the point...

even this brain sometimes allow for
the dignity of walking to be eclipsed...
what its sometimes-odd bursts of egomania /
megalomania or all those other:
traits of the rational man...

perhaps this is the first day i've truly
appreciated the sensibility of walking -
much more in that: it became a dignity...
like the time i found the antithesis of narcissus
in my shadow...
once upon a nightly promenade
in the english outer-suburban labyrinth...
20 minutes walk from the fields,
grazing horses... foxes, badgers and...
no wordsworthian naturalism... i.e. the idyll...

superior intelligence, the fork,
the knife, the screwdriver the *****...
the hammer and the nail...
the scythe, the sickle and the lollipop...
the telephone the radio the television
the soap opera addicts...
the bedsheets the bed the cushion
the shampoo and soap...
all of it... but none of it at the same time...
with what comes a priori and with
what comes a posteriori...
the dignity of walking...
perhaps the only state of grace...

perhaps less "abilism" and more - upon reflection...
a mother strapped to a bed
after a hip-replacement surgery?
i.e. in a personal, very personal,
non-Teheran specific vicinity?!

perhaps the most basic meditation is required...
nothing grandiose...
nothing temporal or non-temporal...
something basic...
i.e. spatial... a meditation on cross the street
like a mindful hedgehog that you are...
and not panic driven like a mother goose
with her nursery...

walk long enough and you can even
experience bouts of spontaneous amnesia...
which is not related to actual memories
and their totality...
more in the immediacy: amnesia ex cogitans...
amnesia out of thinking...
10 minutes apart and you can almost
forget what you were thinking of...
10 minutes more pass... the labyrinth spits
you out and you recover from that temp.
bout of crucible amnesia: to forget what you
were thinking about...
which is a variant to that other escapism
of day-dreaming...
since you're walking... and no day-dreamer
is synonym of the thinker who also walks...

this variant of escapism comes of its own
accord... perhaps it's an ontological built-in-mechanism
that when you couple walking with thinking...
you'll most certainly experience these
bouts of "amnesia"... which of course doesn't
include walking in circles... but in a labyrinth
of your unconscious motives...
that the body is dissociated from a conscious will...

since... what sort of thinking exists
on a treadmill... or during running... to begin with?

how  dignified it is, to simply take a walk at night...
dignified in that: one is not so much able
to come across one's best ideas there...
but that one can simply come across... cogitans per se
-

yes... i.e.: to be free from cogito ergo sum...
to come across the res cogitans medium...
only while walking...
and not like Descartes imagining oneself
sitting at a desk of doubt...

i find no better alternative: walking opens up...
thinking-in-itself... sometimes that's merely translated
as: being... it does not specify / reveal itself
as a: necessity of narration...
thinking is not narration is not thinking...
if you have experienced the ugly spontaneity of
the ego... in that vein of psychology's
three-tier meta-brain dissection of the mind:
subsequently the soul... blah blah...

now i see... this has become a sit-down meditation...
it has to end...
now that the arms have been employed for
a period longer, than the legs were employed
for, prior.
Learn to speak with dignity, and not with any shame.  Use a good dictionary,to find the right words, to spell any given name.
Learn to speak with dignity, to show forth a good impression.  Say, "I will do my best in life," let this be your confession.
Learn to speak with dignity, so you can be a good example for others.  There are people watching you, especially, your Sisters and Brothers.
Learn to speak with dignity, to an audience that need your help.  When you speak in confidence, believe me it will be felt.
By, Author & Poet, Sandra Juanita Nailing
jeffrey robin Sep 2011
and the story-line
do you care to know?
and the child there?
do you care to enter
his tomorrow?
.......
and the terror...storm
do you care to show
your heart to a stranger?
are you still alive?
-------
we are  ......we
.
we were.........when?
what do you remember
of dignity?
_
and the story-line
do you care to know?
and the child there?
do you care to enter
his tomorrow
......
and the terror....storm
who still dares be born?
who fears the stranger?
who dares stand
in dignity?
..
we
.
dare stand in dignity
.
we
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.
everyone  has dignity everyone has pride
something we are born something deep inside
it helps us everyday in everything we do
pride within our self that helps to pull us through
dignity we hold there within our soul
that makes us feel so proud and make us feel so whole
no matter who you are no matter what you do
dignity and pride are there inside of you
everyone  has dignity everyone has pride
something we are born with. something deep inside.

it helps us everyday in everything we do
pride within our self that helps to pull us through.

dignity we hold there within our soul
that makes us feel so proud and make us feel so whole.

no matter who you are no matter what you do
dignity and pride are there inside of you
And winds they wither and they accentuate cosmic dithers
Ducks become swans and butterflies fly in the air of rivers
We should soon begin to question who we are on this plan-et
A bucket or cube, a form of strings finding tune
They said there’d be purveyors and pilgrims
These sages would then show the way in a web of disarray
So the picture plays and their gleam is seen
Incarnating from distant streams
’yes they call them starseeds

They have been helping societies feel secure, giving answers
Contributing to the developments thereto
Some called them heroes, psychics or star-soldiers
It was forgotten that they were merely messengers, creating vortexes so the many
Would get to the essence or heart of Creation and Divinity
The problems began with the worship of the commissars of Divinity
And the gods their parents, being merged into a monotheistic god
For artificial synchronization of stealing light and doctoring it into dark light
To subdue the power of Darkness
So with more people being manipulated and hooked by crystals
And chips, scrapping their memory of their once absolute multi-dimensional divinity
They began to forget and this energy was channeled to the heads of darkness and their fortresses
And as such humanity grew weak and the solutions were left to be found by the so called heroes

With the growing human-farming, as the hybrids being created then were used as mere sheep or even cattle  
With the decaying or ceasing dignity of the human conscience, they were made to be intermediary-conscious
And so the lives of the Messengers and their affiliates became the epitome of living for the many
Absurd as it is, the human races with its varying colours and fragrances, each soul being unique in its right
And now with this bombardment of doctrine that set a standard of being
These laws not culminating the commonwealth of many
Not governing humanity in its best interests, so the heroes began to be sacrificed
Their lives weren’t pure, they were planned before they were even born
Corrupting the consciousness of individuality and essential or sincere being

And they came in Kings/Priest Kings or Sorcerer Kings
And who would blame them, it is their Parents who set out or designed these paradigms
And so these corrupt thought forms of half truths and duality and dark light became hereditary
The times changed and these heroes took on the impressions of Presidents, Wealthy business men or Emperors of Commerce
Finding themselves in the modern Capitalistic World,  a world which was manufactured prior to their reign
The grave concern is the death of Identity and the Integrity of the Soul
And the lives of Pastors/Chanellers/Pilgrims/Shamans  or what have you became the mirror of Divinity
As opposed to Divinity mirroring in the clear view of people having identity and a sincere embrace of the heart’s mysterious logic
So it is safe to say that this would create a world robotic

This wouldn’t last forever though for some Parents are responsible and they care
So the Earth then would be visited by the Golden ones once more
Apparent with the recent UFO Sightings, crashed UFOs and the bodies of Extraterrestrials
Alien Abduction confessions, cavern findings
With this people would begin to remember and would not load their worries or problems on the shoulders
Of a few individuals as they would learn how big the world is
As Humanity would identify, if for the first time, who or what God is
Furthermore Who or WHAT THE Source is
And once the lives of heroes would cease to be manipulated, so too would the lives of the many
We would learn that there needn’t be “special” people for we will have found the Divine elements in each of us
And that the sooner we can enhance Intelligent Life working together without the need for hierarchies we can soon develop a
High Level of Spirituality and be an Independent Race
Heroes are beings too who have lives and ambitions, have flaws and afflictions, have faced convictions and submissions
The gods are beings with their mistakes as well, some who have lied and have not revealed the whole truth to
Protect their children for it could have been noted that they were too “young”
But humans will grow and God they will know, the Source furthermore, and there will be a shift in thinking and thus in being and Living
It has begun, Finding the answers following the Dignity of the Conscience,
Cosmic blueprint, a song sung for parents absent
A play of star glow, uplifting the wayward ways of the big show
Living in the Integrity of the Soul, following the Dignity of the Conscience.
This is to all the starseeds, indigos, orbs, rainbow children and star-hybrids who have been tortured and alienated. The wounds they have suffered due to social rejection, all that physical pain hinders their functioning and delays the missions they have here
This is to all the Presidents, Kings, Priests and Reformists who have been manipulated, used and sacrificed.
And this then an effort to sound the voices of those stuck in (hell) Inner Earth who have a Messiah-paradigm instilled deeply in their thinking, an effort to stretch the Light so they too can stand and access the True Light of Divinity...

Preparing for the Golden Age
Crossyde Gimp Jun 2014
She stands at the door to your heart knocking, steadily
Not seeking out your head but obsessed with your conscience,
Curious to dominate every burn of your passions,
And seek recognition wherever you register your presences.

She seeks to work in your work and gain expression,
She moves with her entire family of Love, Respect and Tolerance      
In all your dealings with those of your kind;
She demands you let her take the lead if you don't mind.

"Oh! if only they see how much they need me", she cries,
"Then humanity would not be ruled by these many lies".
Make haste and open the door don't further delay,
She sees your desolation and seeks to brighten your day.

She stands at the door to your heart please listen,
This reviving call must not escape your sense of reason,
Redefine and restore human values is her major quest,
Meet Dignity; give her your best and she'l fulfill the rest.
Seeing how great the hunger for bloodshed, and crimes of all sorts, has dominated man's heart, there is a need to for mankind to redefine and re-commit to the protection of human dignity... Only then can we make this world a better place.
I have nearly an ounce left,
and everyone's getting ready to pounce me.
They want to destroy it,
so I have to beg and plead.

My own friend grows higher on the scale,
turning me so very frail.
Then I become angry
when you boast about.

You expect me to live under your rule,
to live in stupidity
for the sake of you?
I refuse.

No, no, no.
That is not what I'm saying.
Friend, please listen,
before I shout.

I feel stupid myself,
when others brag about.
You are not stupid,
and never shall you be.

You hate me, don't you say?
It feels like you do,
when you lead me astray.
I shall not be ignored for a good score.

I'm not trying to ruin our friendship,
I just with you would listen.
People expect me one way,
and expect you another.

Please,
listen to me.
I'm not trying to make you feel inferior,
or myself superior.

What is this?
Another lie?
Everyday, people make me feel dumber.
It only makes me sadder and number.

I am not lying!
I am not trying to make you that way.
I'm just trying to keep you away.
Safe from the troubles of knowledge.

My friend,
you have no idea, do you?
Being smart means responsibility,
and being hated all day.

I don't care about that!
I just want to feel more for once.
How many times must I apologize
for getting a simple better than you?

Fine,
be that way.
I was only trying to help.
But you pushed me away.

Knowledge is the only thing
that gives me an ounce of dignity.
When I have none,
then not a drop is left.
*I am nothing.
i Jun 2014
i am crawling
on the floor,
looking for
the dignity
i lost, when
i told you
i loved you.
Like the moon her kindness is,
If kindness I may call
What has no comprehension in't,
But is the same for all
As though my sorrow were a scene
Upon a painted wall.

So like a bit of stone I lie
Under a broken tree.
I could recover if I shrieked
My heart's agony
To passing bird, but I am dumb
From human dignity.
Arlene Bozich Jul 2012
Tell your gods we call for blood
We're stirring hurricanes in your teacups.
It's an instant headache cure at the end of a barrel,
Though a worthwhile gauntlet to continue to breathe.

We’re stirring hurricanes in your teacups
It might be easier to crash and burn.
Though a worthwhile gauntlet to continue to breathe,
We should never measure our breaths to our steps

It might be easier to crash and burn.
Children die from the painful things they learn.
We should never measure our breaths to our steps,
But the dignity in life is too beautiful to regret.

Children die from the painful things they learn
It’s an instant headache cure at the end of a barrel
But the dignity in life is too beautiful to regret.
Tell your gods we call for blood
My attempt at a pantoum. Trying a new form of poetry each time I write now!
THE RAT AND THE PREGNANT WOMAN


A story poem

BY

Alexander K Opicho
(Eldoret, Kenya;aopicho@yahoo.com)



Dedicated to;
My mother Neddy Nabisino Mayende Kuloba Makhakara
And her mother Maritini Nabengele Nasenya Mulemia Namugugu Ilungu wa Wenwa.
The story telling power of these two ladies is the primary source of my passion and love for humorous and peace bettling stories. I owe them all the recognitions.







OPENING SONG
How do I start telling this story that I got from my
Grandmothers when sited around the fire yard in the evening?
I don’t know how to start surely,
For to day I am very shy; all of your eyes
Are on me, looking at me like ocean of looking organs
But let me embolden my self with the belt
Of a story teller that my grand father gave me
And commanded me to preach peace
Through story telling in every place I go
So my spiritual service to humanity is telling stories
Is to soothe and heal wounds of humanity
By softly telling peaceful stories
Let me then cough to clear my voice and start;

Long time ago, but not very long time
Some where between the centuries of twelve hundred
And seventeen hundred after the death of the other Jewish
Story teller who died without a wife, who died on the cross
But others say he died on the stake, his name was Jesus,
There existed only two kingdoms in land which is known today
As Bukusu land found in the present east Africa or Indian Ocean coastal Africa,
The first occupants of this vast land is the sons and daughters of Babukusu
Or the ones who like selling ironsmith products
And hence the name the people of Bukusu; the people who sell,
The two kingdoms were the Kingdom of muntu and the kingdom of manani
The citizens in the kingdom of muntu were short men and short women
Handsome and beautiful, slender and not assertive in their physical disposition
But the citizens of the kingdom of manani were all cyclopic,
In their everything; the manner of walking, talking farting, micturating
Farming, breathing, snoring, smiling, singing, whispering
Their whisper was a noisy as the tropical thunderclap
They were tall men and tall women, very tall
Their young person was as short as the tallest
Person in the kingdom of muntu,
When one of the citizen of manani snores
All the citizens of Muntu along together with,
Their king Walumoli wa Muntu had no option
But remain awake throughout the night,
Because the cacophony of a snore from
The sleeping courts of Manani was not bearable,

On many occasions Walumoli wa Muntu
The conscientious king of the muntu kingdom
Had arranged to talk to Silinki wa Namunguba
The ostensible king of the Manani Kingdom
About the cacophonous sleep robbing
Snores of daughters and sons in neighbour kingdom of Manani
Only to cow and chicken away in a feat of prudence
Lest Silinki wa Namunguba will suspect him for being
A night runner or a thief of *** perhaps
Who roams his compound during the wee of the night
In hunt of any of Namunguba’s wife maybe
Perchance having gone out for a mid-night *******,
This is how legendary snores of the sons and daughters
Of Silinki wa Namunguba the king of Manani
Has remained unchecked for ever till today,

One time an ugly passer by happened to be seen
Traversing the kingdom of muntu
In the early afternoon some two
Hours after Walumoli the king
Had just cleared the last plate
Of the mid day meal from
His last wife Khatembete Kho Bwibo Khakhalikaha Nobwoya
He always eats her food last in the afternoon
Because it comes on the table steaming youthfulness
He loves his Khatembete wife, the wife of his old age
The wife he married by use and show of the royal regalia
The powers and dignity of the king of muntu
He married her when he his a king, the scepter in his hand,

Going back to the ugly passer by
It was never known where he came from
Not from the east where the Indian Ocean is
Not from the west where the vastness of the land
Of black people of Baganda and Bacongo
Baigbo and Bayoruba or Bafulana of Nigeria
Or the sons of Madiokor Ngoni Diop in the Senegal,
Not from the south from shaka the Zulu and Mandella the wise one
Not from north in the land of Dinka and Nuer, Ethiopian Jewish and the Egyptians,
The passerby was ugly and from no where, in a dress and
A very ***** dress that fumed out a malodorously stenching reek
He was a man in attires of a woman; this was a taboo in the land of muntu
He was left handed and a heavy weight stammerer, with an appalling
Protuberation of   a hunched back, an enormous hunchback
Enmassing entired of his masculine shoulders,
When the wind blew his loose dress followed it
Leaving the man’s thighs and then bossom naked,
Leading bystanders to a strange discovery; he was not circumcised
He was old like any other father, he had beards
But not yet circumcised, his ***** ends in corkscrew of a sheath,
This was a taboo in the land of muntu, in the kingdom of muntu
Which Walumoli wa Muntu the son of Mukitang’a Mutukuika ruled
For the spirits, gods and ancestors as well as foremen of the kingdom
Behooved that all male offsprings of the kingdom of muntu
Whether born in marriage or out of the wedlock
Born the blood or born as a ******* must and must be
Circumcised in the early teen hood
They must be circumcised before they grow the hairs
On the face, on the chest, in the scapula and on the areas
Surrounding the testicles, the **** and the endings of the backbone,
The man again had six fingers on the legs and on the hands
He walks slowly like a porcupine, his dress was in tartars
He was violent to every one he met
Insulting old people and old women with words
Of bad manners not used in the kingdom of muntu,
He terrified and beat young children, including the royal children
And grand children of Walumoli the king of muntu
He again had to beat and chase nine young virgins
Who had come from the palace of Walumoli the king of Muntu
Away from the forest when they picking fire wood
As well as playing a game of hide and seek with other palace lads,
The ugly passer by then chased to get hold of the
Nalukosi the first born daughter of
Khatembete Kho Bwibo Khakhalikaha Nobwoya
The beloved last wife of the king of Muntu
All other virgins ran home, but Nalukosi remained behind
In the inextricable grip of the ugly passer by
She screamed with hysteria of a hypochondriac
She screamed and kicked with her wholesome mighty
The stubborn passer by never left her alone
She gnawed the ugly passer by with
Her girlish claws of her fingernails
But is like the passer by was mentally disordered
He was a ******* of some time
He derived some pleasure and instead
Enjoyed the girlish scratches of his captive,
Before the eight running virgins reached the palace
Together with their companions, the playmate lads
The shrilling scream of the captive Nalukosi
Was sharply heard at the palace, first by King Walumoli
Who called his wife Khatembete Kho Bwibo Khakhalikha Nobwoya
To come out of the hut, the kitchen and help to listen,
Immediately Mukisu wa Mujonji the palace keeper surfaced
His face displayed genuine askance of an adept military man
Whose martial arts have rusted for a week without usage
He confirmed to the king that the cry from the forest
Is of the one from this royal home of your majesty the king
And none other than the ****** princes Nalukosi Mukoyonjo
The pride of her father, the eye of the palace,
Without hesitation the king permitted the wallabying Mukisu ,
Permission to run in a military dint and find out whatever that
Was eating Nalukosi Mukoyonjo the familial heart of the king,
Mukisu wa Mujonji who was clearly known in the kingdom of muntu,
For his swift running like a desert kite, he already twice chased
And gotten single handedly two male gazelles,
Without aid of a dog nor aid of fellow hunters
And delivered them to the king as a present to the palace
Which he achieved because of the speed of his legs,
On this royal permission he unsheathed his matchette
And went away like any arrow from the bow
His shirt trailing behind him like mare’s tail
Or like the flag on the post on a windy day,
Not a lot of time passed.
Mukisu wa Mujonji is at the spot of struggle,
Between Nalukosi and the Ugly passerby
There was no question or talking,
The first thing was Mukisu to sink the Matchette
With all of his mighty into the tummy of the ugly stranger
The bowels of the ugly stranger opened puffwiiii!
He breathed and gasped twice then succumbed to death.
His grip still strong on the leg of Nalukosi Mukoyonjo
The ugly passer by reached the rigor Mortis
When Nalukosi was still strongly gripped in his
Beastly hand, Mukisu wa Mujonji with all the skills
Used a Sharp matchette again; chopped of the hand
Of the ugly dead passer by off, from its torso
At the point of the muscular elbow,
Now Nalukosi was extricated, but not fully
From the grip of the dead ugly stranger,
The chopped off hand is still knotted at her leg
Around her leg, the dead hand also grips.
Nalukosi jumped here and there to throw away
The leg and the dead hand, but it was not easy to throw
The hand still stubbornly gripped around her angle,
*** time passed, each and every one of the kingdom came
Including the king Walumoli wa Muntu himself
And his nine wives, Khatembete Khobwibo Khakhalikha Nobwoya
Came last, as she was energyless due to rudely shocking tidings
Which the escaping virgins and lads had given her
That the ugly passer by had turned into the ogre
And had swallowed her daughter Nalukosi
That he had swallowed her piecemeal without chewing,
People of muntu came and found the ugly passerby dead
The left had chopped off its torso
But still hanging loosely on the leg of Nalukosi
Nalukosi jumping, kicking, screaming
Screaming away the dead hand from the grip of leg
But nothing had forthcame her way,
Walumoli wa Muntu could not afford to see
The hand on the leg of her beloved daughter
What could he tell his wife, is your all know
Dear reader and audience to this song;
Even the mighty and the wise ones
Generously bend when under the pressure of love,
Out of this dint, even before Mukisu wa Mujonji
Could display his next military card
Walumoli wa Muntu grapped the dead hand
That stuck of the leg of her daughter
And pulled it with another force that
No man born of woman has
Never used since the creation of the earth
By the gods and spirits of Muntu,
The hand come off, he throw it
On the cadaver of the ugly stranger,
He clicked and clicked and hissed
With anger like a wild turkey
In the African thorny forest,
He ordered the dead one to be buried
Their without haste, nor ceremony
Mukisu wa Mujonji buried the body
Quickly in a brief moment with precision
As if he was taking notes
From the lines of the poem
OF Pablo Neruda on how
To bury a dog behind the house
This time burying an ugly stranger
Behind the forts of the kingdom,
After all these women, children and men
Of muntu plus their king Walumoli
Went back to their houses hilariously
Broken into a song and a wild *** dance;
Makoe eehe! Makoe !
Nifwe Talangi Makoe !
Talangi!
Khwaula embogo sitella
Nifwe Talangi!
They sang up to midnight before
They all retired to their beds
Respective beds with panting thoraces
From heavy singing and dancing.

There is connection and disconexion between
The living and the dead, the living fear the dead
And dead loves the living,
The dead want the company of the living
For the living to accompany in the land of the dead,
When the ugly stranger was killed
And buried uncircumcised with the hunch
Not plucked out of his back
The gods and the livings dead
In the realm of the ancestors
Of the kingdom of Muntu were not happy,
They never wanted uncircumcised old man
With a hunch back to join them
And worse enough with the six fingers,
The gods and ancestors really god annoyed
That Walumoli wa Muntu has done them bad
He is only caring for the living, the pre-mortals
Especially his last wife and the daughter
But he has neglected the ancestors,
Why trash to ancestors a stark humanity,
They communed among themselves
And resolved to sent Namaroro
The god of dreams, dreams as messages
From the ancestors and dreams from the gods
Namaroro visited Namunyu Lubunda the palace
Prophet in the Kingdom of Muntu to pass
The message vesseling unhappiness of the ancestors
And gods in a blend of gloomy read to execute
A vendetta;
This is when in the wee of the night that Namunyu Lubunda
Dreamed and had a vision of a old man from
The east is warning of the coming long spell of starvation
That will befall the kingdom of Muntu for ten years
                                      That Namaroro told Namunyu Lubunda
As for ten seasons of foodlessness
Behold a begging kingdom
Behold a starving throne,
The scepter of Muntu is a disgrace
To the holder
Then Namunyu Lubunda set forth by dawn
To the Palace to meet Walumoli wa Muntu
In his, palace before any other royal chores come up,
Both good and bad luck combined
Only to have Namunyu Lubunda to get the king at the palace
He got him fresh and relaxed chewing the cup of fortune
In his full ego, all his wives had submitted to the morning dishes
To his dining hall in the palace, he moved his hands from
One plate of food to the other.
Namunyu Lubunda entered with a submissive salutation
To the royal, He bowed and declared the glory of the king
In typical standards of the ethnic composition of the house of Muntu
Walumoli wa Muntu Mukitang’a Mutukuika
Majave Kutusi Mbirira Omwene esimbo ya
Kumukasa,
Walumoli responded with a feat of dignity to Namunyu Lubunda
The palace prophet, as he roared to him; come in
Come in son of Lubunda son of our people,
He did mention the name of Namunyu Lubunda father
As he fears his words may escape with the power
Of his kingdom the scepter of Muntu
To other insignificant families in the kingdom,
Let me announce what brings me here; intoned Namunyu
Go ahead and announce my holiness
s the prophet of this kingdom; responded Walumoli,
Misfortune is awaiting the kingdom
It will eat this kingdom away
Like a ravenous hyena on the ewe’s tail
The ancestors and the spirits of this land
This kingdom of yours the son of Muntu
Are immensely offended with your recent behaviour
In which you commandeered all villages
In your kingdom; from east and west
The **** the innocent passer by
With your owner hands that handle the scepter
You killed and lay to rest the foreigner
A pure omurende to the kingdom of muntu
You buried him uncircumcised without contrite
In the cemeteries of our foremen who asleep and circumcised
Why did you lower the dignity of our forefathers
Who never share a roof with uncircumcised person
To share the ancestral realm; our emagombe
With hunchback foreigner not circumcised?
This kingdom is condemned to all spell of curse of death
Ceaseless hunger famines and starvation
Women dwindle in their reproductive capacity
Rarely will you come across a pregnant woman
Food will be difficulty to put on the table
Even the sweat of your brow will go to naught,
You will not be buried with insignia
Like a pauper you killed will you be buried
The house of your wife Khatembete Kho Bwibo
Khakhalikha no bwoya is a house of no consequences
For even your daughter Nalukosi stands cursed
She will not mature to be wedded into a marriage
She will hover the earth under heavy agonies of hunger,
My assignment is done and over
With or without your permission let me go.









THE FIRST SONG
Our song continues dear brethren
Come join me in arms we sing
Joyous singing of these songs of peace
Telling the world peaceful stories
As we enjoy sitting together around my grandmothers fire yard
Warming our selves to her lovely fire inherent in her good stories,
These songs will sing the glory and success of the king of Manani
It is an irregular Ode to Silinki wa Namunguba the son of Mwangani,
The son of Tunduli, the son of Wajala Njovu, the son of Welikhe, the son
Of manyorori, the son of Chumbe, the son of Kajo, the Son of Mabati, the son of welotia,
The son of sikele sia mulia, the son of Toywa,the son of siruju, the son of Mango, the son of Mulwoni sinyanya Bakhasi, the son of Mbakara , the son of Makhakara wa Nambuya, the son of Mukoye mulala kukhalikha w0nga, the son of Zumba the son of God.
Silinki
I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
aphotic blue Apr 2017
In that exotic locale, where we met
Never expecting, but so may prepared banquet
Past times when I didn’t even know you,
You aren’t even my favourite asset
I can’t imagine, your now with me
From being shy and timid, changed in being coquette.

Holding both hands while walking,
Jerking, joking, and loving,
We talked just like a couple,
But realizing I am in the state of frienzoned
In being friends, Everyday warzoned
Because of hoping and begging in a state couplezoned

As a gentleman’s dignity, I will do the very best
So that we can love in very deepest
In every relationships, I will answer every test
So that t’ll infinity our link will never be the failest.

Woke up early in the morning with embrace
To never stop gazing at your  gorgeous face
Yes, everyday my kisses we’re too misplaced
Anywhere I want, even though your already in grimace.

I want to see you walking
In this memorable thing
In front of the altar,
Walking slowly with gentle
strumming of guitar,
I want to hear you saying ‘I do’
When the priest started saying
and I said ‘I do’ more than I Iove you .

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer
I love you as gentleman’s dignity
Having this serious matrimony,
Without difficulty, and experiencing this simplicity,
Now you are in my property, with my own security
I will provide you full priority
If you love me with fidelity.

Without guilt and anxiety,
Please love me so dearly,
In facing this perfect matrimony,
We can’t be judged since we are already in legality.

I will guarantee my loyalty,
I will be faithful with my own dignity
Until we reach the age of ninety
Playing naughty and having infinity.
©AphoticBlue
Ozioma Ogbaji Apr 2015
Like the heavens and the skies
Like the deep seas so wide
When I am confident and true
When I have faith in you
Colour me blue, colour me blue

Like the royals of Great Britain
Like the noble in truth and ambition
In my wisdom, dignity and pride
In my mystery and grandeur so wise
Colour me purple, colour me purple

Like fire and blood
Like the intensity of a flood
In my strength and passion
In my desire, love and emotion
Colour me red, colour me red

Like the warmth of the tropics
Like the sun, my daily tonic
When I am determined and creative
When I am happy and attractive
Colour me orange, colour me orange

Like a smile so warm
Like joy even in a storm
When I am cheerful and happy
In my intellect, when I am savvy
Colour me yellow, colour me yellow

When I am all these and more
When I am despised or adored
With the colours of the rainbow
With the colours that make me glow
Colour me colours, colour me colours
Jesse Bourque Aug 2010
Dignity
My edge
My ace in the hole

Proudly I stride,
through the rows of mocking faces
Head held high

Proud
Dignified
(c) Jesse Bourque
Fame Leanne King Jun 2014
Further my mind goes, than I believed it could fathom
Fathoms below even the deceased dreams chasm
Impassionately growing through and between atoms
To learn
There is no whole truth in solely words
Blindfolded, if your mind isn't where the memory occurs
So it's sure
We'll never understand more than we're capable to confer
And it doesn't mean, you can't relate to the way I toss n' turn
In my sleep
That it isn't the same color we bleed
Or that we aren't perhaps equally 'deep'
Just that we hold some nature of privacy in our thoughts, from any other's gaze
Did I mention it was books of seperate authors, though we're on the same page?
What I wish to relate today
Is I have been changing to date
I'm breaking, down just like anyone else
Draining my health
Enslaved by the chase of wealth
Smiling while we're high, but we'll retreat to our personal hells
The honesty is, I'm scared to delve into myself
Because I know where my truth gets ugly, and has no glamour
Not the 30 second commercial version of what it's like living with cancer
It's habits, actions and manner
Looming over my pride
Leaving a weakness in my stride
Making me feel tired before I've tried
Drake Brayer Nov 2015
Sometimes I feel a sadness
So deep it hurts to breathe
When life slips to madness
And puts you on your knees

No god walks beside me
No king or country calls
No man is bound to duty
No cause is worth the fall

I'll walk with dignity
Right into an open grave
I'll take death with impunity
I'd rather die than be a slave
jeffrey robin Sep 2014
////  • ||
<>
\
/     \

###

I
                      I done seen everyone  

///

Too little food

Over population

----

What do you think is gonna come ?


//////

    We walkin in a daze

We tryin to be free

The WARLORDS
and BANDITS

Runnin the whole place

////

The fear of dyin

The lose of dignity

The child of compassion

Is cryin

///

We keep talkin as if somethin might be done

///

I done seen you hidin

( I done seen everyone )

••••

Too little food

Over population

Fukushima death honeymoon

///

Gather up the remnants and stand and be

A lover of life till the end

---

In full sanctity

A world of pure wonder



A world

Of purest possibility


Becoming           Love
98

One dignity delays for all—
One mitred Afternoon—
None can avoid this purple—
None evade this Crown!

Coach, it insures, and footmen—
Chamber, and state, and throng—
Bells, also, in the village
As we ride grand along!

What dignified Attendants!
What service when we pause!
How loyally at parting
Their hundred hats they raise!

Her pomp surpassing ermine
When simple You, and I,
Present our meek escutheon
And claim the rank to die!
jeffrey conyers Dec 2015
She poise
Her presence commands respect.
She doesn't quickly respond when under attack.

She dress elegant.
Then can dress accordingly.

Some refer to as lady of dignity.

She reserved.
Hold truth to her word.
Up hold the honors of all women.

And when she speaks so divine with words.
Many can't even believe it's her.

But when noticing her.
They soon come to the conclusion she's a lady of dignity.
Robin Carretti Jul 2018
The sunny time's no old news
She is doing the walking in her
instant replay just pray for her
The Instant "Karma Shoes"

Any or too many Travelers' Advice
       ---    ....   _   _gone.. down
You set your own sunset like a price

A lovely lady bringing out
Her sunset went lower down her
body waves
What's inside us that craves?
It's time for you to figure out
her clues

Like he's the detective

A mind is a terrible thing to waste
Being selective pickier
The colors of the sunset change tricky
Burning heart love can be massive
What lines ahead of both of them
The crimes build like a guild

To run or to paint a lovely stay put
Eyes move the sunset
Like a crystal rock shield
Medieval love don't move
Changes the sun yellow yield
The women so beautiful
as they are to hold
  The King-set the chair or cheer
drinking
International  lip to lip he gets
The waitress jumps in an instant
Him or the hugs of bears or  beers

In her honor the Tapestry
What an artistry pink reds
burnt orange
The Venus of Dynasty

Instant Karma thinks he's
the Genious that prodigy
It will get you in your
boxers inside
Like a top student of biology
Like she's the
instant pudding smooth
To mix movie buff
The network like a NetFlix
She had another brainstorm
That's another flavor
puddling to fix
What are you waiting for?
What a gentleman opening
up her door
The Business workers, metals of hearts
Like steel robotic digging for metal heart
the undertakers tearing words apart
The true pledge leaders and
pitter scatter
heartbreakers
Was better watching the
Dog breeders your watch
Something changed at midnight
Cinderella without her clock

Who are the dreamers waiting for there love the sunset
It hot you don't get it yet? You need to cool off

The chocolate to die for the vanilla we cry for
In an instant, he opens her most dangerous door
Watch your heels clicking time bomb floor

You decide the bet never the ring box set
Lord of the rings we are never ready
at the same time near the sunset

The Dragon Lady like a picnic of flies
Vanilla sky

Dinner at eight Jean Harlow
How did she get into the picture
Don't ask why?

Just mellow transcend the prime
picture yellow
Like wings, you smile the butterfly
Your steps will get you just realize

In his Gucci shoes in the sandals
That sunflower hits her every hour
The instant smile resort
Be a sport, the sunset goes down
Can we change someone's heart
Another bone to throw dog watchers
X-Box you're moving to watch your
weight watchers
Your sunset all blood sweat and
tears beard trimming

The Dalmatian keeps taking your spots

How many times to be outfoxed
That sunset will be my last lick shot
Another heart to repair
Have dignity it's hard to work miracles
Don't fall for Autumn
when its the summertime

Her pink blush you heard it through
the grapevine wine
I heard her through the grapevine
How many times did she want him to be mine?

Sweet Caroline loves her lemonade
Flowers at her stand how lovely
Adds character like a big fun parade
They are  growing how her brain works
losing hope
The trees wake you up the color's alive

She's blooming innocent
until we meet again my sunset after 5
  The first time so instantly I saw her face
Those instant messages you need to feel
to regain consciousness your
skin of a  baby seal

She's the cloud passing her
whip cream delicious
But you have been whiplashed
Love should be clean something
cruel leads to mean

Seeing the change to have perished
The sunset disappears when my love
grows deeper it moves to vanish

But someone plays with your head
like a game *Instant Karma

No time for daydreaming
Like a bundle of cute Pomskies
Part huskies and Pomeranians
The sunset is coming
In the strangest place
You've been backhanded
the card game kingdom

Like a demonic joke
Or going broke life is a
comic book Fandom
I phone ring every day
in June

But your not ready its way too soon
Another instant Karma I Tunes
Miss Apple Jubilee so materialistic
you had me
The tapestry box
Poems of letters paradox
Who is truly the go-getter
Someone is springing like a
change of season
The four seasons love liaisons
For the right reasons
Like a new renovation
Internationally speaking
the whole entire
Sunset lips look divine waiting wet
Please don't dampen her spirit
To Remember September to relive it

The Morning glory Sapphire

Her energy got riveting so cheek razzled
Like the magician lost his love facts
Instant Zazzle Red Riding hood
Looking down going to Grandmas house
But down and out like the sunset of the Gods

How the sunset keeps coming love is more puzzling?*

This is a small figment of your imagination
A small town is divided like division
But the huge love
Came with the Divination
Ruled by the bark and paws mission
Something got caught
Bone to pick near her sunset
They left the love was too much
The camera wasn't set up

The love Men they ran with the box set
of boxers and ruff with
mans best friend their boxer bark
Their home is their bark
Instant Karma this is in our heads, not the wedding bells that are to ring  just relax I don't bite perhaps a French croissant all night something is always crispy and flaky but what about dreamy or to top things off Sunset is not set into your ******* just racing over something this not real
Sam Martin Jul 2010
though sandy beaches wave along the empty netted fog
happy days will flutter by
like the careless wings on a butterfly
when you return to me
my sweet dignity
Martin/Martin
Nat Lipstadt Nov 2013
No job no dignity no cry.

look again at those words,
please,
with all deliberate speed.

dig.

just a little more, a little deeper.
scrape off the foolish pride topsoil that
looks (are) rich and fertile.

god bless the child who plants themselves
roots in the ugly, hardscrabble earth.
they cannot be uprooted.
never.

you have not ever seen my picture here,
of my face,
only once I showed a single hand,
well worn from
Digging
with only fingernails.

the hands of babies are soft,
easy to kiss, easy to love.

but the hands of responsibility
are usually worn lined scarred sometimes even
nail bitten from
**** digging for dignity.
6:06, AM.

See  Nat Lipstadt · Sep 19
You have a death grip on dignity
Nat Lipstadt Sep 2013
you have a death grip
on dignity

More not needed.
Not now, not ever.

Let the rage course,
The tears, coarse,
Fall free,
When no ones looking.

The panic attack,
The body all a-wrack,
The fury unleashed,
The sobbing secret,
When no ones there.

I know, I know.

Small consolation.
Worse, no one to share,
Worse, the one to share,
Is the one making life unfair.

But all this pales by compare,
When the words out loud you speak,
The lodestar, the key phrase.
                    
I hear them, though by proxy.
I read them, though far by mile,
I am comforted in the knowing,
That anyone who can write those words
Is stronger than most.


You
Have
A death grip
On dignity.

No more needed.
For the one who wrote those words.
Jay M Wong Feb 2013
1:1
Stop. Who’s there? Tis clock strikes twelve,
brings thy Horatio to seek tis specter from hell,
In Denmark, something is rotting in thy state,
In Norway, unimprovèd mettle hot and full awaits,
Tis specter arrives to arouse confusion and fear,
but to treat it violence and majestic threat,
thy specter departs as the ****’s crow drew near,  
leaving the blows of malicious mockery to regret.
And for Hamlet may speak to the wandering soul,
Tis morning to Hamlet must the three a’go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5:2
Hamlet to Horatio, does his truths trust,
Of thy wretched King and his unjust,
Of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern English death they meet,
With sacrifice and thy seal was thou to spare self defeat.
Now’st Osric enters to Hamlet a’chat,
For’st not hot, nor cold, nor sultry at.
And a’wish to court, with thy Laertes of excellence,
For Hamlet’s head does thee King expense.
With six French rapiers and poniards assign,
For by fate’s determination, shall this court incline,
For a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,
Can we do not, but abide by fate a’follow.
Trumpets and drums, now’st the fence begins,
For Hamlet and Laertes hand and hand therein.
Pardon he begs, Hamlet to thy brother,
For in him is but foil Hamlet yet another,
And so they fence for honor and fence for life,
Two of two leads Hamlet the strife.
The King, to Hamlet he drinks,
Tis pearl shall he the cup he sinks,
And unwounded for two, Hamlet prevails,
But Queen, the dearest Mother, so faithfully frail,
For she drinks thy cup of heavenly pearl,
For heavenly it be not, as thy malicious plot unfurl,
The cup! The cup! A poisonous potion,
Cause yet another by venomous commotion.
A distracting cause, for Hamlet to bear,
For Laertes envenomed blade must’e beware,
Now envenomed blood shall Hamlet shed,
Shall he hold thy rapier of Laertes instead,
to shed thy venomous blood of thy venomous mind,
For now thy murderous plot shall unwind,
At the honorable death of brother Laertes,
Shall the death of Claudius be a’seized.
The King’s to blame for the death of all,
And tis day shall he see his destined fall.
With thy venomous blade held a’hand,
Let the doors be locked and the evils banned,
For Hamlet wounds thy treacherous soul,
And shall horrid Claudius pay his destined toll,
For Hamlet forces to drink thy murderous potion,
And shall he too die of venomous commotion.
The death of four and tis ****** scene,
Shall Horatio tell to those unseen.
Shall he speak of murderous truths embark,
for Fortinbras shall now throne Denmark,
For in Fortinbras does his admiration lay,
For does Hamlet trust thou’st fiery ambitious way,
And tis now concludes thy Hamlet’s life,
For death and death thou’st all alike...
A dedication and summary of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" the tragedy of the witty prince of Denmark written in 2011 for a class journal assignment.
DC raw love Mar 2015
Two words
Two different meanings
But they are often used wrongly

Dignity and Pride
If you truly do not understand them
They only can get you in trouble

Ways of earning true respect

It's not about the way you dress
It's not about what you have

That's called surreal
Big on the outside, phony on the inside

Gaining respect is about what you do for others
If you can build something, a family, a business, a community
And show everyone respect on the way

Respect is returned and you will be known
You will be a dignified individual
and people will be proud to know you

That is my definition
of
Dignity and Pride
Have confidence in one's self
Carl D'Souza Jul 2019
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
says we all should have equal dignity,
but is that the way we think
in everyday life?

I live in a big house in wealthy suburb
and you live in a small house in a poor suburb:
Should I have more dignity than you?

I drive an expensive sports car
and you drive a second-hand sedan:
Should I have more dignity than you?

I wear a bespoke suit
and you wear an off-the-rack:
Should I have more dignity than you?
Valentine Mbagu Oct 2014
Behold Nigeria my motherland
A land that sits upon the hills of many waters
A country built on the ancient landmark of heroes band
An Eagle that protects her citizens in the arms of her feathers.

A beautiful Nigeria whose fields are as green as green could ever be
An Iroko that stands on the root of peace and unity
A fertile land that is as fertile as fertility can ever be
A united people, a proud nation void of segregation nor discrimination in her city.

My motherland a land that upholds the staff of dignity and natural endowment
A land of unity and peace glowing like a river of gold across the horizon
A nation that feeds on the diet of heavens supplement
An ocean that runs through the test of raging storms un-torn.

My motherland! My motherland!
A Nigeria that adores her women more highly than the Queen of England
An Olive that yields more than the cedars of Lebanon
A land whose daughters are as beautiful as the daughters of Job in Jerusalem's land
An independent country as powerful as the King Nebuchadnezar of Babylon.

It's Nigeria my motherland
A land that rests on the pillars of her freedom
A country seated on the pearls and treasures of many Ireland
A Nigeria that lives on the soil of heavens wisdom.
Isaac Golle Jan 2013
Honor. Valor. Dignity. Love.
Honor. Valor. Dignity. Love.
Three things amaze me
Four I do not understand
An eagle in the sky
A snake on a rock
A ship on the high seas
And the way of a man with a young woman
Honor. Valor. Dignity. Love.
I will always take the fall, I say
And I won't push back when you push me away
I will take the flack of a full frontal attack
And I will turn the other cheek when you slap me across the face
But I will not be known as meek!
For to be meek is to be mild
And to be mild is to be tasteless, flavorless, and vile
Devoid of passion
Crawling with passivity
Embodying all that is apathy but trying to pass it off as some kind of charity
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you for even sinners do that well,
Try loving the ones you'd rather see burning in hell
BUT IT CANNOT BE DONE
If you agree say aye,
I, think you're just too afraid to try
Well blessed are the meek,
for the will inherit the earth
Blessed are the peacemakers
for they will be called children of God
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me
But I'll be tossin' temple tables and chasin' people out with whips and cables
If they say my God is not able
For a city built on a hill cannot be hidden
And a man under God cannot be smitten
So I claim the love and grace in which I have been placed
And I claim the calling into which I am falling
And when the enemy comes a calling
I raise my sword in the air and boldly declare
DEVIL THIS HEART HAS NO ROOM FOR YOU TO SPARE
FOR MY GOD IS SO GREAT IT'S NOT EVEN FAIR
SO PACK UP YOUR TRICKS AND TEMPTATIONS AND TOYS
FOR GOD HAS MADE A MAN OUT OF THIS FRAIL LITTLE BOY
He said YOU are the salt of the earth but if the salt loses its saltiness it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot
So I take hold of love and grace
And I proclaim the name of the one holding me firmly in place
I lay waste to the lies replaced by fear in mine enemies eyes
And lift my hands up high
Honor. Valor. Dignity. Love.
Surely I am only a brute, not a man
I do not have human understanding
I have not learned wisdom
Nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One
But I know I have found the truth.
And I will not let go.
Ben Balserak Sep 2014
Upward-curled, gleam of white
But as yet, something missing
“I swear, I’m quite alright!”
My wonder turns to stressing.
Is she really quite alright?

No-one wears their shoes,
Socks upon the carpet
Browning fog turning loose,
But purple mist diffuses.
Is she really quite alright?

My wonder turns to worried health,
I turn my focus to myself,
I pull a beer down from the shelf,
Indulging still our failing health,
She smiles, as if to say that she’s alright.

Trading sweat between our hands,
A greeting shared from man to man
We speak ambition, WE ARE PROUD
Our cigarettes, they make no sound.
They know that it will soon be their turn.

To be or not… I have forgot.
Our wasteland, wasted, seems alright
It skips my mind I’m all I’ve got
I’ve never put up much a fight
I hope I’ll quickly be all right.

But there are NO PROMISES
And no safe-houses.
smoke arouses surety,
But holds the door for vanity.
But as for me,
I highly doubt she's feeling free.

Charging, useless, up the hill,
The last endeavor of it's kind,
Cry peace, peace, but peace is killed,
Fulfill the end of southern mind.
There is no way that she's okay.

As men in grey
Lay on the ground
Bleeding with untempered sound
I cast my eyes about the house
I find her broken, fading lips
Pressed limp against assailant’s kiss

Those pearls that were
Her sentient eyes,
They cast upon me smiling sighs
She clings the arm of shifty eyes
And leaves the party, new inside.
And now I know she’s not alright.

But then again, nor am I.
References to T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland", The Civil War, and Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

— The End —