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Andy Sep 2016
Today I spotted
a disfigured man
by the lake.
His right hand
in a soiled
bandage loosely tied.
Left eye missing -
I dared not
uproot his repose.
I feared for
him so frail,
Beside black water.

Today I spotted
a disfigured man
aboard a train.
Earphone hung from
melted plastic ear,
does he listen?
He smells foul
and looks unblinking -
a commuting ghoul.
What station can
such a man
find his home?

Today I spotted
a disfigured man
at dinner alone.
His teeth rotten
with gums bleeding -
drinking soup slowly.
Waxy red blood
staining cheap napkins
He doesn't care.
An omnipresent reminder
that no man
survived a week.
Connor Apr 2018
-I-

Adoration-
Somnambulists cast
paradise magic, allowing a thimble to fall
upon the floor of our private heaven
(a perfect disquiet to our loving)

We daily reveal our reclusive
sensitivities, a flash (a lowered head, laughing distinctly)
Trailing close behind German poets/path of devotion, a second summit of their passionate influence, rippling generations ago now:

(vineyards caught by grasping suddenness/placating daytime/fig & flame/false tower of Babel, ornamental ruin/he feels owed the sensations of an active spirit, to repent the contrary forces within him/myself)

-II-
                      & upon my reflection in the Cabaret of Hell,
I see a gate perched at the base of my wondrous
Sehnsucht-apparition

                    BLUE MOON                 WALLFLOWER

(or perhaps the other way around?)

Overtaken by oscillating darkness/hall of mirrors (memories)
distorted flashbulb *** and anger

until the acts become indistinguishable from themselves/doubly
******* tigers brushstroked in animal blood... essence of devour/temper/
captivation, incredible lips, pulp teeth, pure excitement all disfigured
& joyous

-III-

My azzurine goddess, faced away in
shame, no wonder why!

(hair let down in a drowsy spill of
uncertain hours, wavering in a sullen high, thickly feeling,
the immensity/pleasure renounced for a cabbalist subliminity)

Mockery of the dead dead dog/blind in boyhood/while
curious ghosts skate across the ice-peripheral of our dreaming

I feel love, and horror/a frigid hand who's body I have dissolved-
-caressing my back tenderly
bordering terrific malevolence

...Later, in another try at my own eternal return, I find my comfort brother, accompanied by an overhead
divination lantern..

pounding! At the sun skull, for you (my cherished)
are of high order
I tempt soaking the cloth,
to steer the intention

..missing black mass, indulging instead
on feverish Damascus perfume

Splash ramp
down. Flesh, wailing
vampire/poet
hidden by darkly earth to inevitably
decay by their self-solitude

(descent writhes in the milk of heartache
and cusps the night firmly in his *****
withering palms)

I refuse this fate, and
in Western-fashion
fire down the city worshipper which was once
I, too        (unmercifully so)

..burying his bones in the Scottish dirt

Terrarium hydrangeas, pale (yourIrises) lipstick daggers
slashing in the white sleeve-
red with epicurean
baptism

-IV-

Big bad wolf
banished to his hole,
I kiss the winter fruit clean from your mouth (succumbing to pinnacles of fire/your lost domain) ******* on pebbles, trying to crack through the surface
like a dragon's egg for pride
(big bad wolf is hungry)
We wear away the season, memorizing the newspapers
which are tossed carelessly to our door. Ah, the kitchen ballet dancers are finally tired..endowed to the triplicate beauty
that we individually define (takes a bit to get there)

You/I privileged to ******* Venice with our mutual
imagination,                              owing to Calvino

To crave eachother
as an Acrobat craves the

trapeze
Jasmin Mishele Jul 2014
her heart,
disfigured and cold
with a burning hole
dead center.

empty and dark,
was her fragile heart
no hope, no fix
dead forever.
J-J Johnson Mar 2015
"No! No! This cannot be happening"
The words stumbled out as I tried hard to keep the sogged eye from draining
My vision became blurrer
And blurrer as I turned and run out of the house
Grabbing my stiletto as I did
Under the pear tree in the garden I stopped
And allowed the now heavy eyes
To drain the burning water
They flow on as if rain onto a wet clay statue
Bitter and hurt
Bitter from the disappointment and forlon
From a mixture of shock, disbelief and loss
Served in a glass of betrayal and a tray of painful regret
I raise the dagger in a drunken cognition
For my sob now has become the cry of a damage soul
A disfigured spirit
I can barely hear them from without in the midst of the caos
Those little voices in my heard
Screaming out at me
Hitting ******* the walls of my mind
Pushing my conciense
"Do it!" one says
"It wouldn't solve the problem" the other retorts
"But it will end it!"
"Leaving bigger problems"
The blood in my head is more than in any other part
The heat rising in exponents
The tension now causes my whole body to trob
To ache
My mind cannot hold it any longer
The quicker the better
I opened my mouth to say my final
But all the came out
Was a scream.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Daylight 4U2C May 2014
"Grow up tall,
little kid,"
said grandpa Joe.
And so I did.

The watermelon grow tall too.
The sunflowers look to the sky,
keeping their chins up,
raised real high.

So maybe it's silly,
watching grass grow,
but if you never try,
how could you ever know?

So maybe it's crazy,
chanting for the rain,
but if it never comes,
how could I grow the grain?

I'd prefer to stare at clouds,
than sleep forever like a rock,
skidding by life.
Why, that would just ****!

So, if you ask me to leave this here place,
you better shove it,
before you wake up
in an unknown space,
******* with lace,
with a disfigured face,
completely full of mace,
and a strange case
of something poisonous.
Birdy Thyne Oct 2012
As I brush my teeth in the bathroom, a young woman enters- tooth brush and face wash in hand.  I watch her reflection in the large mirror a front the sinks, I put an over-sized glob of tooth paste on my brush.
******* it Danielle, she sees this mistake you’ve made.

I turn the water on and attempt to wash away some of the toothpaste. We start brush at the same time, I smile to myself because these synchronized flukes, such as speaking in unison or laughing simultaneously, make me feel briefly connected to someone. Sounds a little silly, but don’t all ways of relieving loneliness?

My anxiety stirs again as I realize the volume of bristle to tooth.* Can you hear this? Is is disgusting to you? That sound of saliva and paste being ground into my teeth.
I lean forward to spit, inspecting the rusted faucet. I see my face in it’s metal stem, it convoluted my face.

I’d rather be disfigured, so that I’d no longer have to guess and worry about whether people were eying me. I would know. They could clearly see my faults if I had a missing jaw, drooping eye and liver spots mapped across my grey skin. I wouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of being seen in a favorable light.

The possibility of fooling anybody into thinking I’m not repulsive. I would know it.  I stare into the metal, I spit. Blood is all over the sink. I spit again and more blood. Again, blood. It’s pouring out of my mouth. I turn the water on high, panicked that the girl beside me will see. But she leaves, “goodnight” she says as she walks by. I try to say something but I’m choking on the blood. Where the **** is this blood coming from?

I glance up to the mirror, there is no blood in my mouth. Back to the sick- no blood. I am so confused, just moments ago Armageddon was spilling from my mouth; and now it’s vanished?
I stumble back wards into a stall.

“I saw that.”

A voice whispers from within the stall, or was it outside?   I open the door, but nobody is there.
Okay, Danny, calm down. Nobody is here, you’re imagining things.

“No, you heard.”

Confused, the voice, that voice- it’s coming from the stall door. No, doors can’t speak, I open the door but still, I am alone.

I run, bladder still full. Sundries still on the counter, I need to get out of there.
_______________________________
Paranoid Schizophrenia- A mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of the process of thinking and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction.*
___________

Within two weeks of my first experience of hallucinations, I was in the Summit Valley Institution for Mental Disorders. Highly medicated, with stitches along my chin and staples in my head.
I’d lost all control, they found me at the bottom of a stairwell after falling 3 stories.

Nurses told me that when I’d been taken in, they found more that one hundred scraps of paper in my pockets, on them were different snipets of conversation I’d heard throughout the day. It was a compulsion, I was told, associated with Schizophrenia.
Rafael Alfonzo Mar 2015
A bird rests its wings
On the thin disfigured fingers of
The trees branches
Reaching ever so helplessly
To pull the clouds from the sky

And the breeze beats them to the stroke –

The wrinkled eyes of the painter grin in an open field
With a canvas the bristle has yet to caress
Before rolling it up
Like a chess mat
Or a map

He taps it shut like a telescope
Departing for home where there is a woman waiting for him
To inhale her sweet aroma
To swallow the food she’s prepared
To delicately draw the hair
Falling over her face
And tuck it behind her ear
And whisper the words
And brush her skin with quiet hand-language

And he will not be beaten
To the stroke

(c) 2015
zebra Nov 2017
rocks don't care
all stubble and stones
a difficult geometry
so if they don't fit
they are hammered
and
crushed to rubble
jammed together to make virile walls
and if stabbed with swords
care not about
torn bellies and broken necks
soaking them crimson rust
or drowned nautilus
beneath the sea

humans
have futility in common with rocks
except that everything
girds and gnaws
at their belligerent sensitivity

all clouded soft towers
bi-pedal mortal spires
with tender flesh
beaten into place
lacerated
truncated amputees
to fit the outer life
of status and statues
a scandal to the inner coves of self

I'm envious of rocks
except for moments of
shifting watery kisses
clamorous for love

we remain
disfigured terrains
hunters of souls balmy unguents
while
fluctious immolating moons
unravel
in a hidden grieving

oh countenance of apathy
only to be more like you
a wilderness of stumps
and
dead rock gods

and our aspiration
indifference
our exit
the path of the renunciate
a penitence
feasting only on futility
and the vagaries of spirit
Lucy Tonic Nov 2011
A mansion reeking of mystery and ***
Unlike your parties, the brain is the hex
Who's got the most phantastic story
Stitch the real hunters with unreal quarries
By candlelight she writes in her mind
Death-obsessed, web-like bind
Study the corpse, exhume the dead
Fresher the better, revive the head
Harvest the organs, strike a chord
Of nerve tissue and spinal cords
Touch your jutting collar bone
Think there's no place like home
Electric frogs and pinwheel rats
What do you think about that
Run from the monster disfigured
It's trying to hug you like a gun hugs a trigger
Go worship all your seraphim
Yeah, it's a freak, but you made him
Where have you gone Prometheus
Were you our guest or just an atheist
Yeah, wonders come in clear handcuffs
You're only safe anonymous
Oh, it's dead and it's jiving in no man's hands
Oh, it's alive and it's lying in no man's land
Electric frogs and pinwheel rats
What do you think about that
Run from the monster disfigured
It's trying to hug you like a gun hugs a trigger
Go worship all your seraphim
Yeah, it's a freak, but you made him
Inspired by M. Shelley
Ah, Yorkshire, thou art purer than Coventry;
and thy promises whiter; than my fluid poetry.
Thou art braver, prudent, and all the way more intelligent;
thy lands are mightier; and perhaps in every possible way-more imminent.
Thou art sincere-and so more delicate than wine, and thoughtful;
Thou adored my words, and made everything else healing, and more beautiful.

In my heart but there might have been no Yorkshire at all-
had I attended not one Coventry last fall.
I witnessed not-at t'at time, all t'is rude twilight-and toughness and madness;
and every chapped breath it had in its roughness, and hilarious-though indeed fake, felicity.
No soul has even bits of a heart, here, to forgive others' soreness,
No being wants to share; no human lives in joy, nor simplicity.
No delight indeed; as I stream my way through every roads;
Everyone is either busy with their selfishness or their coats.
No living is cared for; for humans are phantoms at night and on morns;
Vulnerability is mocked, and demised and often slyly torn.
Ah! Coventry is but a sphere of hell!
For even hell is still lighter when has it not hellfire;
As well cities are, when there is no scoundrel nor liar;
But Coventry is not at all tender;
Its wicked gasp is alive, and never to heartily surrender.
It falls for glory; it bows to such fears for pleasure;
And wanes by the light of whose death; the end of whose allure.
But thou art true-thou art as shy as every flash of virtue;
Thou art indeed-everything t'at is solemnly agreeable and brand new.
Ah, and just now-I had dreams of a fine image of thee;
Smiling within thy fullest verdure, bushes, and lavish undergrowth.
And thy summer is but vivid and friendlier;
Healing every sore heart, and turning 'em all, merrier.
Thou adored the nouns and verbs I wrote,
and admired such simple notions I quoted;
Thou shine upon me-asthe light that shall makest me grow
and the promising dim, faraway region, that lets me glow.
O, Yorkshire, this is still but too early in the transparent evening;
But I am deeply endorsed yet, by t'is poetry writing-
And with thy soul that remains but too witty,
Tearing me away, but with loveliness-
from my cautious present engagement,
Thy charms might be just too hard to bear,
for thy tongue is too sweet;
and thy veracity too chaotic, ye' imminent.
In thee shall I find peace-of that I am convinced,
Peace whose soul is calm, neat and on all occasions, careful-
Unlike t'is bustle which is at times perpetual, and sorrowful;
Unlike t'is very city of Coventry,
Which is damp with exultant bareness, and haziness,
In many ways exalted, but indeed too proud;
And its tongue which is blurred with sin and poison-
Its all-too-loud excitement makes everything but faint,
And at times sends my heart to exile, sends my heart to pain,
In every possible way too unlike thee,
With an imagery, and coaxing voices so sweet
Thou shall leave all my poems bright and freshly lit,
Even though I am still here, even though we are still yet-to meet.

Coventry is too proud and vibrant-yes, too vibrant,
Amidst its own foolishness, which sadly made itself formerly too elegant.
Too elegant to me-in various shapes, and keenly cloaked in unseen deceit,
But only by some beings, whom I was to meet, and my breath to greet.
And as I wake up to an early morning hour,
the plain summer strangely makes me thirst for honest water.
And should I love still-one intelligence t'at is so bitterly repugnant?
I shall certainly not; I shall turn to thee, Yorkshire, who is truer ye' far above, tolerant.
Ah, Yorkshire, but honesty is something Coventry promises not;
for its soul has been maliciously beheaded, and twitched,
It has been paled, corrupted, and despaired-
by its own claws, derived from the jaws of those evil souls
Veiled by their even still inhuman, disguises,
And shall still be wicked, otherwise.
In t'is sea of hate, and these waves of despondency,
I shall think of thee with tantalising depth and scrutiny,
Though thou art still imprisoned in my soul,
Thou who hath flattered and accepted me as a whole.
But Coventry is-still, accidental with some of its bindings,
For mortal as thou art, itself, and is unable to escape its fate,
Still I canst think only of the beauty of thy linings,
And upon thy lands shall I venture to fill my plate.
Ah, Yorkshire, remember that virtue is in thy hand,
but neither is vice-thy dormant enemy, is in its therein,
Virtue who is vile to all of t'is world's inconsolable men,
like in Coventry, as deemed it is, unreasonable and ungenerous, within.
Virtue which is tragically abandoned, in its pursuit of honour;
virtue which was rich, but flattened, and dismayed and disfigured
within the course of one unsupervised hour.
Ah, York, Yorkshire, when shall I ever taste the grandeur
And the very superiority of thy dignity?
For in yon picture, thou art still but a comely neighbour,
Which endorses and attests to my mute, yet unaffected-virginity.

Ah, but Coventry shall despise thee, and with its stubbornness
and overwhelming pride, shall jostle and taunt thee;
Shall defect and isolate thee-when I am but by thy side,
But God be with me still, and blind shall not, my virtuous sight.
Detesting and confronting thee for the remainders of years-as 'tis to be,
Which for thee lie ahead; as how hath it deluded me-just now!
I, who, disconcertingly, placed my heart within its sacred vow,
hath been robbed of my satisfactions, and utmost fortune,
All were perused in centuries and gone in one moon.
Ah, Yorkshire, shall I continue my poetry here-but call out endlessly to thee?
And shall I abandon this tiny caprice of mine-which is a fine, tiny desire of glory
And let myself on the loose, and for evermore be in search
of thee, whom I shall've lost-under the very indulgence of their mirth?
O, I think not!
For I shall mount my poetry-and achieve my silent dreams,
I shall take him with me, if allowed am I-to conquer him,
And make him and thee mine, just like I hath made my poetry,
And be thy light; and thy spiritual and endless reciprocal adoration
All day and night, at the end of our quest for destiny
Wherein I shall dwell, and thrive as my intellect be granted-its long-lost coronation.
O, Yorkshire, for within thy hands now I shall lie my faith-
and trudge along thy forking paths, unto the light of my fate.

Ah, Yorkshire, I am infatuated with these paintings-
these very paintings of thy lush green lands,
And of myself wandering and skulking idly about thy moors;
With my best frock, and his fingers, the one I love, entwined in my hand
As lights procured and on our storming out of yonder wooden doors.
I am shining like a bee is-upon the sweet finding of its honey;
but in whose tale 'tis like thee-to sweet and unpardonable to me.
Be with me, Yorkshire, and be with me forever, only,
As I leave behind this faint malice and commence my journey;
I shall be with thee, and my poems shall be free,
And t'is bitterness of winds shall be no more tormenting me,
Furthermore-be them what they desire to be;
But let me write; and play my song as beautifully as yon naive bee.

Ah, Yorkshire, and wait, wait again for me;
But before let me sink again into a deep sleep,
and tease thee again in my dreams;
Read me once more-the very passages of thy indolent poetry,
Take me out of my stiffness; swing me out of abhorrent Coventry.
Coventry shall be envious, and waiting forever for thy demise;
but honesty is honesty-and one that has no lies,
for thy virtue is clear as thy Western gem,
which is to God, shall always be virtue, all the same.
Wolfgang Blacke Feb 2014
Look up at the beautiful people
As he looks down on you
From his shaky pedestal
Sparkling eyes cite celestial

Loathing a godly view of self
Is surely blasphemy
Rip open his chest
See where his heart should rest

Hear the angel's forked tongue
Spit poisonous words
Protecting a shell like ear
Harsh words he can't stand to hear

A man that thinks himself better
Never thinks much
Perfect in every, foregone conclusion
Mirrors crack and shatter the delusion

Look up at the disfigured wretch
A victim of his own venom
Turn away from those milky pupils
Devoid of love, life and scruples
Kara Jean Jun 2016
Holding the mirror as it cuts me,
young distorted beauty.
I hear the lurking as you say,
"Hello It's me your guilty friend,
I've come uninvited moving in."
Slowly eating away my body until I disengrate.
Perhaps you may think you have the superiority over me,
Dismantling me taking away my abilities.
Sadly, you do not know the perseverance and **** stubborness fighting in me.
Good bye anorexia.
I struggled with an eating disorder  for many years. I'm now recovered and this me is conquering one of my demons.
O, for that warning voice, which he, who saw
The Apocalypse, heard cry in Heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be revenged on men,
Woe to the inhabitants on earth! that now,
While time was, our first parents had been warned
The coming of their secret foe, and ’scaped,
Haply so ’scaped his mortal snare:  For now
Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,
The tempter ere the accuser of mankind,
To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell:
Yet, not rejoicing in his speed, though bold
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt; which nigh the birth
Now rolling boils in his tumultuous breast,
And like a devilish engine back recoils
Upon himself; horrour and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir
The Hell within him; for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step, no more than from himself, can fly
By change of place:  Now conscience wakes despair,
That slumbered; wakes the bitter memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue.
Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view
Lay pleasant, his grieved look he fixes sad;
Sometimes towards Heaven, and the full-blazing sun,
Which now sat high in his meridian tower:
Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began.
O thou, that, with surpassing glory crowned,
Lookest from thy sole dominion like the God
Of this new world; at whose sight all the stars
Hide their diminished heads; to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name,
Of Sun! to tell thee how I hate thy beams,
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere;
Till pride and worse ambition threw me down
Warring in Heaven against Heaven’s matchless King:
Ah, wherefore! he deserved no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.
What could be less than to afford him praise,
The easiest recompence, and pay him thanks,
How due! yet all his good proved ill in me,
And wrought but malice; lifted up so high
I sdeined subjection, and thought one step higher
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burdensome still paying, still to owe,
Forgetful what from him I still received,
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharged; what burden then
O, had his powerful destiny ordained
Me some inferiour Angel, I had stood
Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised
Ambition!  Yet why not some other Power
As great might have aspired, and me, though mean,
Drawn to his part; but other Powers as great
Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within
Or from without, to all temptations armed.
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?
Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse,
But Heaven’s free love dealt equally to all?
Be then his love accursed, since love or hate,
To me alike, it deals eternal woe.
Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.
O, then, at last relent:  Is there no place
Left for repentance, none for pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduced
With other promises and other vaunts
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue
The Omnipotent.  Ay me! they little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vain,
Under what torments inwardly I groan,
While they adore me on the throne of Hell.
With diadem and scepter high advanced,
The lower still I fall, only supreme
In misery:  Such joy ambition finds.
But say I could repent, and could obtain,
By act of grace, my former state; how soon
Would highth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feigned submission swore?  Ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
For never can true reconcilement grow,
Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep:
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse
And heavier fall:  so should I purchase dear
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my Punisher; therefore as far
From granting he, as I from begging, peace;
All hope excluded thus, behold, in stead
Mankind created, and for him this world.
So farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear;
Farewell, remorse! all good to me is lost;
Evil, be thou my good; by thee at least
Divided empire with Heaven’s King I hold,
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign;
As Man ere long, and this new world, shall know.
Thus while he spake, each passion dimmed his face
Thrice changed with pale, ire, envy, and despair;
Which marred his borrowed visage, and betrayed
Him counterfeit, if any eye beheld.
For heavenly minds from such distempers foul
Are ever clear.  Whereof he soon aware,
Each perturbation smoothed with outward calm,
Artificer of fraud; and was the first
That practised falsehood under saintly show,
Deep malice to conceal, couched with revenge:
Yet not enough had practised to deceive
Uriel once warned; whose eye pursued him down
The way he went, and on the Assyrian mount
Saw him disfigured, more than could befall
Spirit of happy sort; his gestures fierce
He marked and mad demeanour, then alone,
As he supposed, all unobserved, unseen.
So on he fares, and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champaign head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides
Access denied; and overhead upgrew
Insuperable height of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm,
A sylvan scene, and, as the ranks ascend,
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops
The verdurous wall of Paradise upsprung;                        

Which to our general sire gave prospect large
Into his nether empire neighbouring round.
And higher than that wall a circling row
Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit,
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,
Appeared, with gay enamelled colours mixed:
On which the sun more glad impressed his beams
Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow,
When God hath showered the earth; so lovely seemed
That landskip:  And of pure now purer air
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
All sadness but despair:  Now gentle gales,
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils.  As when to them who fail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambick, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles:
So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend,
Who came their bane; though with them better pleased
Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume
That drove him, though enamoured, from the spouse
Of Tobit’s son, and with a vengeance sent
From Media post to Egypt, there fast bound.
Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill
Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none, so thick entwined,
As one continued brake, the undergrowth
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed
All path of man or beast that passed that way.
One gate there only was, and that looked east
On the other side: which when the arch-felon saw,
Due entrance he disdained; and, in contempt,
At one flight bound high over-leaped all bound
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet.  As when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve
In hurdled cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the fold:
Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,
Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault,
In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles:
So clomb this first grand thief into God’s fold;
So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.
Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regained, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect, what well used had been the pledge
Of immortality.  So little knows
Any, but God alone, to value right
The good before him, but perverts best things
To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.
Beneath him with new wonder now he views,
To all delight of human sense exposed,
In narrow room, Nature’s whole wealth, yea more,
A Heaven on Earth:  For blissful Paradise
Of God the garden was, by him in the east
Of Eden planted; Eden stretched her line
From Auran eastward to the royal towers
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,
Of where the sons of Eden long before
Dwelt in Telassar:  In this pleasant soil
His far more pleasant garden God ordained;
Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow
All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;
And all amid them stood the tree of life,
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
Of vegetable gold; and next to life,
Our death, the tree of knowledge, grew fast by,
Knowledge of good bought dear by knowing ill.
Southward through Eden went a river large,
Nor changed his course, but through the shaggy hill
Passed underneath ingulfed; for God had thrown
That mountain as his garden-mould high raised
Upon the rapid current, which, through veins
Of porous earth with kindly thirst up-drawn,
Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill
Watered the garden; thence united fell
Down the steep glade, and met the nether flood,
Which from his darksome passage now appears,
And now, divided into four main streams,
Runs diverse, wandering many a famous realm
And country, whereof here needs no account;
But rather to tell how, if Art could tell,
How from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,
Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,
With mazy errour under pendant shades
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art
In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon
Poured forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade
Imbrowned the noontide bowers:  Thus was this place
A happy rural seat of various view;
Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm,
Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind,
Hung amiable, Hesperian fables true,
If true, here only, and of delicious taste:
Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks
Grazing the tender herb, were interposed,
Or palmy hillock; or the flowery lap
Of some irriguous valley spread her store,
Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose:
Another side, umbrageous grots and caves
Of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine
Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps
Luxuriant; mean while murmuring waters fall
Down the ***** hills, dispersed, or in a lake,
That to the fringed bank with myrtle crowned
Her crystal mirrour holds, unite their streams.
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
The trembling leaves, while universal Pan,
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Led on the eternal Spring.  Not that fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower by gloomy Dis
Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world; nor that sweet grove
Of Daphne by Orontes, and the inspired
Castalian spring, might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle
Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,
Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,
Hid Amalthea, and her florid son
Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye;
Nor where Abassin kings their issue guard,
Mount Amara, though this by some supposed
True Paradise under the Ethiop line
By Nilus’ head, enclosed with shining rock,
A whole day’s journey high, but wide remote
From this Assyrian garden, where the Fiend
Saw, undelighted, all delight, all kind
Of living creatures, new to sight, and strange
Two of far nobler shape, ***** and tall,
Godlike *****, with native honour clad
In naked majesty seemed lords of all:
And worthy seemed; for in their looks divine
The image of their glorious Maker shone,
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure,
(Severe, but in true filial freedom placed,)
Whence true authority in men; though both
Not equal, as their *** not equal seemed;
For contemplation he and valour formed;
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God in him:
His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She, as a veil, down to the slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.
Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed;
Then was not guilty shame, dishonest shame
Of nature’s works, honour dishonourable,
Sin-bred, how have ye troubled all mankind
With shows instead, mere shows of seeming pure,
And banished from man’s life his happiest life,
Simplicity and spotless innocence!
So passed they naked on, nor shunned the sight
Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill:
So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair,
That ever since in love’s embraces met;
Adam the goodliest man of men since born
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.
Under a tuft of shade that on a green
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain side
They sat them down; and, after no more toil
Of their sweet gardening labour than sufficed
To recommend cool Zephyr, and made ease
More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite
More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell,
Nectarine fruits which the compliant boughs
Yielded them, side-long as they sat recline
On the soft downy bank damasked with flowers:
The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind,
Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream;
Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems
Fair couple, linked in happy nuptial league,
Alone as they.  About them frisking played
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase
In wood or wilderness, forest or den;
Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw
Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant,
To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed
His?kithetmroboscis; close the serpent sly,
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His braided train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded; others on the grass
Couched, and now filled with pasture gazing sat,
Or bedward ruminating; for the sun,
Declined, was hasting now with prone career
To the ocean isles, and in the ascending scale
Of Heaven the stars that usher evening rose:
When Satan still in gaze, as first he stood,
Scarce thus at length failed speech recovered sad.
O Hell! what do mine eyes with grief behold!
Into our room of bliss thus high advanced
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,
Not Spirits, yet to heavenly Spirits bright
Little inferiour; whom my thoughts pursue
The Milk-and-Water School
Alas! she would not hear my prayer!
Yet it were rash to tear my hair;
Disfigured, I should be less fair.

She was unwise, I may say blind;
Once she was lovingly inclined;
Some circumstance has changed her mind.

The Strong-Minded or Matter-of-Fact School
Well! so my offer was no go!
She might do worse, I told her so;
She was a fool to answer "No".

However, things are as they stood;
Nor would I have her if I could,
For there are plenty more as good.

The Spasmodic or German School
Firebrands and Daggers! hope hath fled!
To atoms dash the doubly dead!
My brain is fire--my heart is lead!

Her soul is flint, and what am I?
Scorch'd by her fierce, relentless eye,
Nothingness is my destiny!
i dreamed a rattlesnake was loose in the closet i heard it rattling i was afraid to open the door



a man suffering a toothache goes to see his dentist the dentist administers laughing gas when the man comes to his numb tongue swooshes around his mouth he asks how long was i under the dentist answers hours i needed to pull them all out



he imagines when he grows old there will be a pencil grown into one hand and a paintbrush grown into the other they will look like extra fingers grown out from the palms extensions of his personal evolution little children will be horrified when they see mommy mommy look at that man’s hands!



what if we are each presented with a complete picture of a puzzle from the very start then as our lives proceed the pieces begin showing up out of context sometimes recognizable other times a mystery some people are smarter more intuitive than others and are able to piece together the bigger picture some people never figure it out



i wasn’t thinking i didn’t know to think nobody taught me to think maybe my teachers tried but i didn’t get it i wasn’t thinking i was running reacting doing whatever i needed to survive when you’re trying to survive you move fast by instinct you don’t think you just act



many children are relieved when their parents die then they no longer need to explain prove themselves live up to their parent’s expectations yet all children need parents to approve foster mentor teach love



she was missing especially when her children needed her most she was busy lunching with girlfriends dinner dates beauty shop manicure masseuse appointments shopping seamstress fittings constant telephone gossiping criticizing she was too busy to notice she was missing more than anything she wanted to party show off her beauty to be the adored one the hostess with the mostest



i dreamed i was condemned to die by guillotine the executioner wore black and wielded an axe just in case the device failed in the dream the guillotine sliced shallow then the executioner went to work but he kept chopping unsuccessfully severing my head this went on for a long time



1954 Max Schwartzpilgrim sits at table in coffee shop on 5th floor of Maller’s Building elevated train loudly passes as he glances out window it is typical gloomy gray Chicago day he worries how he will find the money to pay off all his mounting debts he is over his head in debit thinks about taking out a hefty life insurance policy then cleverly killing himself but he cherishes his lovely wife Jenny his young children and social life sitting across table Ernie Cohen cracks crass joke Max laughs politely yet is in no mood to encourage his fingers work nervously mutely drumming on Formica table then stubbing out cigarette in glass ashtray lighting another with gold Dunhill lighter bitter tastes of coffee and cigarettes turns his stomach sour he raises his hand calling over Millie the waitress he flirtatiously smiles orders bowl of matzo ball soup with extra matzo ball Ernie says you can’t have enough big ***** for this world Max thinks about his son Odysseus



when Odysseus is very young Dad occasionally brings him to Schwartzpilgrim’s Jewelers Store on Saturday mornings Dad shows off his firstborn son like a prize possession lifting Odysseus in the air Dad takes him to golf range golf is not an interest for Odysseus Dad pushes him to learn proper swing Odysseus fumbles golf club and ***** he loves going anyway because he appreciates spending time with Dad once Dad and Odysseus take shower together Dad is so life-size muscular hairy Odysseus is so little Dad reaches touches Odysseus’s ******* feeling lone ******* Dad says we’ll correct that make it right Odysseus does not understand what Dad is talking about at finish Dad turns up cold water and shields Odysseus with his body he watches Dad dressing in mornings Dad is persnickety to last details of French cuff links silk handkerchief in breast pocket even Dad’s fingernails toenails are manicured buffed shiny clear



Odysseus’s left ******* does not descend into his ******* the adults in extended family routinely want to inspect the abnormality Mom shows them sometimes Dad grows agitated and leaves room it is embarrassing for Odysseus Daddy Lou’s brother Uncle Maury wants to check it out too often like he thinks he is a doctor Uncle Maury is an optometrist the pediatrician theorizes the tangled ******* is possibly the result of a hormone fertility drug Mom took to get pregnant the doctor injects Odysseus with a hormone shot then prescribes several medications to induce the ****** to drop nothing works eventually an inguinal hernia is diagnosed around the age of 9 Odysseus is operated on for a hernia and the ******* surgically moved down into his ******* the doctor says ******* is dead warning of propensity to cancer later in life his left ball is smaller than his right but it is more sensitive and needy he does not understand what the doctor means by “dead” Odysseus fears he will be made fun of he is self-conscious in locker room he does not comprehend for the rest of his life he will carry a diminutive *****



spokin alloud by readar in caulkknee axescent ello we’re Biggie an Smally tha 2 testicles whoooh liv in tha ******* of this felloh Odys Biggie is the soyze of a elthy chicken aegg and Smally is the size of a modest Bing cheery



one breast ****** points northeast the other smaller breast ****** points southwest she is frightened to reveal them to any man frightened to be exposed in woman’s locker room she is the most beautiful girl/woman he will ever know



Bayli Moutray is French/Irish 5’8” lean elongated with bowed legs knobby knees runner’s calves slim hips boy’s shoulders sleepy blue eyes light brown hair a barely discernable freckled birthmark on back of neck and small unequal ******* with puffy ******* pointing in different directions Laura an ex-girlfriend of Odysseus’s describes Bayli’s appearance as “a gangly bird screeching to be fed” Laura can be mean Odysseus thinks Bayli is the coolest girl in the world he is genuinely in love with her they have been sleeping together for nearly a year it is March 11 1974 Bayli’s birthday she turns 22 today Bayli is away with her family in Southeast Asia Odysseus understands what a great opportunity this is for her to learn about another culture he knows Bayli plans to meet up again with him in late summer or autumn in Chicago Dad wants Odysseus to follow in his footsteps and become a successful jewelry salesman he offers Odysseus a well-paying job driving leased Camaro across the Midwest servicing Dad’s established costume jewelry accounts Odysseus reasons it is a chance to squirrel away some cash until Bayli returns it is lonely on the road and awkward adjustment to be back in Chicago Odysseus made other plans after graduating from Hartford Art School he is going to be an important painter after numerous months and many Midwestern cities he begins to feel depressed he questions how Bayli can stay away for so long when he needs her so bad the Moutray’s send Mom and Dad a gift of elegant pewter candleholders made in Indonesia Mom accustomed to silver and gold excludes pewter to be put on display she instructs Teresa to place the candleholders away in a cabinet Mom also neglects to write a thank you note which is quite out of character for Mom Bayli’s father is a Navy Captain in the Pacific he is summoned to Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia the Moutray’s flight has a stopover in Chicago Bayli writes her parents want to meet Odysseus and his family Odysseus asks Dad to arrange his traveling itinerary around the Moutray’s visit Dad schedules Odysseus to service the Detroit and Michigan territory against Odysseus’s pleas Odysseus is living with his sister Penelope on Briar Street it is the only address Bayli’s parents know Odysseus has no way to reach them when the Moutray’s arrive at the door Penelope does not know what to tell them Mom and Dad are not interested in meeting Bayli’s parents it is not the first sign of dissatisfaction or disinterest Mom and Dad convey regarding Bayli Odysseus does not understand why his parents do not like her is it because Bayli is not Jewish is that the sole reason Mom and Dad do not approve of her Odysseus believes he needs his parent’s support he knows he is not like them and will likely never adopt their standards yet he values their consent they are his parents and he honors Mom and Dad let’s take a step back for a moment to get a different perspective a more serious matter is Odysseus’s financial dependency on his parents does a commitment to Bayli threaten the sheltered world his parent’s provide him is it merely money binding him to them why else is he so powerless to his parent’s control outwardly he appears a wild child yet inwardly he is somewhat timid is he cowardly is he unsure of Bayli’s strength and sustainability is that why he let’s Bayli go whatever the reason Dad’s and Mom’s pressure and influence are strong enough to sway his judgment he goes along with their authority losing Bayli is the greatest mistake of Odysseus’s life



he dreams Bayli and he are at a Bob Dylan concert they are hidden in the back of the theater in a dark hall they can hear the band playing Dylan’s voice singing and the echoes of the mesmerized audience Odysseus is ******* Bayli’s body against a wall she is quietly moaning his hand is inside her jeans feeling her wetness rubbing fingers between her legs after the show they hang around an empty lot filled with broken bottles loose bricks they run into Dylan all 3 are laughing and dancing down the sidewalk Dylan is incredibly playful and engaging he says he needs to run an errand not wanting to leave his company Odysseus and Bayli follow along they arrive at an old hospital building it is dark and dingy inside there is a large room filled with medical beds and water tanks housing unspeakably disfigured people swarming intravenous tubes attach the patients to oxygen equipment feed bags and monitoring machines Dylan moves between each victim like a compassionate ambassador Odysseus is freaking out the infirmary is too horrible to imagine he shields his eyes wanders away losing Bayli searching running frantically for a way out he wakes shivering and sweating the pillow is wet sheets twisted he gets up from the bed stares out window into the dark night he wonders where he lost Bayli



these winds of change let them come sailor home from sea hunter home from hill he who can create the worst terror is the greatest warrior
Nina Messina Oct 2013
Outwardly I am a titanium barrier, inwardly, a net of strings hold me together within confining my true self to my mind. The metaphoric needle posed between thumb and forefinger, sewing patch after patch across my ruined skin, holding in the things that threaten to burst. The thread is my self value, thin and dissolving.
Watching in the shattering mirror, who I am, as tears and blood slip past trembling fingers.  Reaching upwards towards light, but I drown in the darkness. I am swallowed by hopeless misery.
Floundering and toiling in the shadows of my own faith and nearly forgotten beliefs.
Sorrow floods me, consuming in a cold fire that doesn’t burn, but freezes to the core.
Refracting shards of light that escape like a song. They fall like a melody from my lips.
While the heat of the world swirls around me in shades of blue and black. I am bruised and ask "why do I hate myself?"
I never have an answer. Only the memories of a life so beyond dysfunctional that I have to resort to story writing to make believe a happy ending, never truly believing in it.

What were these whispered words that squirmed and infiltrated my mind, what are those lost secrets and memories left to fade away. Tormented, still I remain silent. Suffering quietly. Wondering if I'll go down without a fight, or would I take my own life. It is the loss of my humanity. I transcend in definition, no longer resembling who I was.  Silver tears, dripping from the eyes of the moon, as if such a cold distant satellite mourns for and with me.

Fear remains, as it always does, clutching my heart in an iron grasp. Despite the freedom of a new life, my knees are buckling, I’m poised to run, as if there were a place to escape to. Walls arise on all sides. I am locked in a box, where I hide away from the world, and I become, cold and distant as the moon. Fighting myself endlessly.
Hide everything I am from the world, and put it out of sight of myself, I don't dare to confront it.
I ask myself again. "Why do I hate?" I know a vague answer to it this time. I have allowed the evil and cruelty of a despondent life before this one to shape me, even after my resurrection, despite my belief and faith. I had let it consume me.
My heart, a thousand splinters of ice, would once break, even if it was looked at, or touched, cracked and shatter repeatedly. I only watch, making no attempt to heal myself. Content with viewing my own nails clashing with soft flesh that gives way to pain and agony. Slicing into cold abysmal depths, bleeding a metaphoric spectrum of ****** colors into my veins that then spill down the drain of my heart.

I wonder if there is any capacity within me, for the remnants of a shimmering soul to return to hope?   I'd abandoned love and hope for so long, had they dissipated completely. Do I dare to uncover such a startling miserable revelation?
My voice catches in my chest, as I sing halfheartedly for my freedom. To be released from my anguish. My voice not carrying past my lips, stolen by the wind of despair circulating around me.
I had changed, believed myself worthless and ugly. Melancholy, a kaleidoscope of emotions contrasting with one another. Dripping together to create the painting of my life. Magnificent, yet lonely and sad. Like forlorn splatter-paint tears down the side of eroding walls.

I was told once that I was shiny on the outside, and dull on the inside. Gilded. I want to change that. I cannot hide the scars I have been dealt, nor can I conceal the ones I've inflicted to my own body. I remember each slice to the skin with shame. That I had knowingly marred perfect flesh.
"What value could I possibly have if I'm constantly looked down upon?"  I pose questions like this to myself.
Everything they say makes me feel worthless, like I'm not supposed to be here.
Maybe I'm not, I wasn’t supposed to live was I?
“Worthless. Freak. Stupid.”
Do these words define me?
Are they who I am?
I am a shadow, As I sink into the depths of my own insignificance I stare speculatively, emptily up at the opalescent translucence far above me. I’ve always been worthless,  but now I am nameless. I’ve never been to solid in my own emotions, right now I don’t know what to feel anymore. Where and what is joy? What happened to the light?
I dissolve into toxicity and an almost chemical stasis of depression, seeping into my heart with the thickness of sick black tar, dragging me farther than I’ve ever been beneath the surface.

I become nothing, for that is what I presume I always was, nothing. Only a mirage burning holes into the fabric of lonely hearts longing, a haunting memory left to torment into seclusion and sorrow.
An empty shell of what once was a girl with dreams, is all that remains to decay in the dark. While the shudder of sobs dies down into a tempest of self loathing.
An incandescent nightmare, flares out like the petals of a blossoming flower, they unfurl and cover the dystopia of eloquently disfigured words that curl and uncoil, only to surround the wounds of me that pour from a inky black liquid that has replaced the blood in my veins.
The push and pull of the sorrow and hope mixing into the discordant symphony of life. The sound that is the melody of me.
The stars still shone last night, and tasted pretty like my last sonnet;
And I still loved thee; and imagined thee 'fore I retreated to bed.
Ah, but thou know not-thou wert envied by t'at squeaking trivial moon;
It seduced and befriended thee; but took away thy sickly love too soon.
Ah, t'at moon which was burnt by jealousy, and still perhaps is,
Took away thy love-which, if only willing to grow; couldst be dearer than his.
But too thy love, which hath-since the very outset, been mostly repulsive and arduous;
And loving thee was but altogether too customary, and at gullible times, odious.
Ah, but how I was too innocent-far too innocent, was I!
Why didst I stupidly keepeth loving thee-whose soul was but too sore, and intense-with lies?
And at t'is very moment, every purse of stale dejection leapt away from me;
Within t'eir private grounds of madness; but evaporating accusations.
Ah, so t'at thou desired me not-and thus art deserving not of me;
But why didst I resist not still-thy awkwardness, and glittering sensations?
Oh, I feeleth uncivil now-for I should hath been too mad not at the moon;
For taking away thy petty threads, and curdling winds, out of me-too soon.
And for robbing my gusts, and winds, and pale storms of bewitching-yet baffling, affection;
But in fact thrusting me no more, into the realms of death; and t'eir vain alteration.
Ah, thee, so how I couldst once have awaited thee, I never knoweth;
For perhaps I shall be consumed, and consequently greeteth immediate death; within the fatal blushes of tomorrow.
But still-nothing of me shall ever objecteth to t'is tale of blue horror, and chooseth to remain;
And I shall distracteth thee not; and bindeth my path into t'at one of thy feet-all over again.
Once more, I shall be dimmed by my mirthlessness and catastrophes and sorrow;
Yet thankfully I canst becometh glad, for all my due virtues, and philanthropic woes.

I shall be wholly pale, and unspeaking all over me-just like someone dead;
And out of my mouth wouldst emergeth just tears-and perhaps little useless, dusty starlings;
I shall hath no more pools or fits or even filths of healthy blood, nor breath;
I shall remembereth not, the enormous fondness, and overpowering passions; for our future little darlings.
For my love used to be chilly, but warm-like t'ose intuitive layers behind the sky;
But thou insisted on keeping silent and uncharmed-a frightfulness of sight; I never knew why.
Now t'at I hath returned everything-and every single terseness to my heart;
I shall no more wanteth thee to pierce me, and breaketh my gathered pride, and toil, apart.
For I am no more of a loving soul, and my whole fate is bottomless and tragic;
I canst only be a lover for thee, whenst I am endorsed; whenst I feeleth poetic.
I shall drowneth myself deep into the very whinings of my misery;
I shall curseth but then lift myself again-into the airs of my own poetry.
For the airs of whom might only be the sources of love I hath,
For t'is real world of thine, containeth nothing for me but wrath;
Ah, and those skies still screameth towards me, for angering whose ****** foliage;
Whenst t'ose lilies and grapes of my soul are but mercifully asleep on my part.
I wanteth to be mad; but not any careless want now I feeleth-of cherishing such rage;
For I believeth not in ferocity; but forgiveness alone-which rudely shineth on me, but easeth my painful heart.
I hath ceased to believe in my own hand; now furnished with discomfort;
But still I hath to fade away, and thus cut t'is supposedly long story short.
I hath been burned by thee, and flown wistfully into thy Hell;
But so wisheth me all goodness; and that I shall surviveth well.
And just now-at t'is very moment of gloom; I entreateth t'at thou returneth to her, and fasteneth yon adored golden ring;
For it bringst thee gladness, which is to me still sadly too dear, everything.

Ah! Look! Look still-at t'ose streaks of blueness-which are still within my poetry on thee;
But I shall removeth them, and blesseth them with deadness; so that thou shalt once more be young, and free.
For what doth thee want from me-aside from unguarded liberty, and unintimate-yet wondrous, freedom?
For thou might as well never thinketh of me during thy escape;
And forever considereth me but an insipid flying parachute-to thy wide stardom;
Which deserveth not one single stare; as thou journeyeth upon whose dutiful circular shape.
And a maidservant; a wretched ale *****-within thy inglorious kingdom;
Which serveth but soft butter and cakes, to her-thy beloved, as she peacefully completeth her poem.
The poem she shall forceth to buy from me-with a few stones of emerald;
To which I shall sternly refuseth-and on which my hands receiveth t'ose climactic bruises.
For she, in her reproof-shall hit me thereof, a t'ousand times; and a harlot me, she shall calleth;
And storm away within t'at frock of endless purpleness; and a staggering laugh on her cheeks.
And I-I shall be thy anonymous poet, whose phrases thou at times acquireth, at nighttime-but never read;
A bedroom bard, in whose poetry thou shalt not findeth pleasures, and to which thou shalt never sit.
A jolly wish thou shalt never, in thy lifetime, cometh anyhow-to comprehend-nor appreciate;
But should I still continueth my futility; for poetry is my only diligent haven, and mate.
In which I shall never be bound to doubteth, much less hesitateth;
For in poetry t'ere only is brilliance; and embrace in its workings of fate.
And sadly, a servant as I am-on her vanity should I needst to forever wait, and flourish;
To whom my importance, either dire profoundness-is no more t'an a tasty evening dish.
And my presence by thee is perhaps something she cannot relish;
I know not how thou couldst fall for a dame-so disregarded and coquettish!
To whom all the world is but hers; and everything else is thus virtual;
So t'at hypocrisy is accepted, as how glory is thus defined as refusal.
But sometimes I cometh to regret thy befallen line of glory, and untoward destiny;
I shall, like ever, upon which remembrance, desireth to save thee, and bringst thee safely, to eternity.
But even t'is thought of thee shall maketh me twitch with burning disgust;
For I hath gradually lost my affection for thee; either any passion t'at canst tumultously last.
And shall I never giveth myself up to any further fatigue-nor let thy future charms drag me away;
For I hath spent my abundant time on thy poetry-and all t'ose useless nights and days;
As thou shalt regard me not-for my whole cautiousness, nor dear perseverance-and patience;
Thou shalt, like ever, stay exuberant, but thinketh me a profound distress-a wild and furious, impediment.
Thou hath denied me but my most exciting-and courteous nights;
And upon which-I shall announce not; any sighs of willingness-to maketh thee again right;
nor to helpeth thee see, and obediently capture, thy very own eager light.

And when thy idiocy shall bringst thee the most secure-yet most amatory of disgrace, turn to me not;
I hath refused any of thine, and wisheth to, perfunctorily-kisseth thee away from my lot,
I shall writeth no more on thy eloquence-for thou hath not any,
As nothing hath thou shown; nothing but falsehood-hath thou performed, to me.
Thou hath given none of those which is to me but virulent-and vital;
Thou art not eternal like I hath expected-nor thy bitter soul is immortal.
Thou art mortal-and when in thy deft last seconds returneth death;
Thou, in remorse, shalt forever be spurned by thy own deceit, and dizzily-spinning breath,
And after which, there shall indeed be no more seconds of thine-ah, truly no more;
Thou shalt be all gone and ended, just like hath thou once ended mine-one moment before.
All t'at was once unfair shall turneth just, and accordingly, fair;
For God Himself is fair-and only to the honest offereth His chairs;
But the limbs of Heaven shall not be pictured, nor endowed in thee;
To thee shall be opened the gate of fires, as how thou hath impetuously incarnated in me.
No matter how beautiful they might be-still thy bliss shall flawlessly be gone,
Thou shalt be tortured and left to thy own disclosure, and mock discourses-all alone.
For no mortality shall be ensured foreverness-much less undead togetherness;
As how such a tale of thy dull, and perhaps-incomprehensible worldliness.
By t'at time thou shalt hath grown mature, but sadly 'tis all too late;
For thou hath mocked, and chastised away brutally-all the truthful, dearest workings of fate.
And neither shalt thou be able to enjoy-the merriments of even yon most distant poetry;
For unable shalt thou be-to devour any more astonishment; at least those of glory.
And thus the clear songs of my soul shall not be any of thy desired company;
Thy shall liveth and surviveth thy very own abuse; for I shall wisheth not to be with thee;
For as thou said, to life thou, by her being, art the frequented life itself;
Thus thou needst no more soul; nor being bound to another physical self;
And t'is shall be the enjoyment thou hath so indolently, yet factually pursued-in Hell;
I hope thou shalt be safe and free from hunger-and t'at she, after all, shall attendeth to thee well.

And who said t'at joys are forbidden, and adamantly perilous?
For t'ose which are perilous are still the one lamented over earth;
For in t'ose divine delights nothing shall be too stressful, nor by any means-studious;
For virtues are pure, and the walls of our future delights are brighter t'an yon grey hearth;
And be my soul happy, for I hath not been blind; nor hath I misunderstood;
I hath always been useful-by my writing, and my sickened womanhood;
Though I hath never possessed-and perhaps shall never own, any truthful promise, nor marriage bliss;
Still I longeth selfishly to hear stories-of eternal dainty happiness, for the dainty secret peace.
Ah, thee, for after thee-there shall perhaps no being to be written on-in yon garden;
A thought t'at filleth me not with peace, but shaketh my whole entity with a new burden.
Oh, my thee, who hath left me so heartlessly, but the one whom I hath never regarded as my enemy-
The one I hath loved so politely, tenderly, and all the way charmingly.
Ah! Ah! Ah! But why, my love, why didst thou turn t'is pretty love so ugly?
I demandeth not any kind purity, nor any insincere pious beauty,
But couldst thou heareth not t'is heart-which had longed for the one of thine-so subserviently and purely?
For I am certainly the one most passionately-and indeed devotedly-loving thee,
For I am adorable only so long as thou sleepeth, and breatheth, beside me,
For I am admired only by the west winds of thy laugh, and the east winds of thy poetry!
Ah, but why-why hath thou stormed away so mercilessly like t'is;
And leaving me alone to the misery of this world, and my indefinite past tears?
Ah, thee, as how prohibited by the laws of my secret heaven,
Thus I shall painteth thee no more in my poesies, nor any related pattern;
There, in t'is holy dusk's name, shall be spoiled only by the waves of God's upcoming winters,
In the shapes of rain, and its grotesque, ye' tenacious-and horrifying eternal thunders.
And thus t'ese lovesick pains shall be blurred into nothingness-and existeth no more,
But so shall thy image-shall withereth away, and reeketh of death, like never before.
For I shall never be good enough to afford thee any vintage love-not even tragedy,
For in thy minds I am but a piece of disfigured silver; with a heart of unmerited, and immature glory;
Ah, pitiful, pitiful me! For my whole life hath been black and dark with loneliness' solitary ritual,
And so shall it always be-until I catch death about; so grey and white behind t'ose unknown halls.
And shall perhaps no-one, but the earth itself-mourneth over my fading of breath,
They shall cheereth more-upon knowing t'at I am resting eternally now, in the hands of death.
And no more comical beat shall be detected, likewise, within my poet's wise chest;
For everything hath gone to t'eir own abode, to t'eir unbending rest.
But I indeed shall be great-and like an angel, be given a provisionary wing;
By t'is poetry on thee-the last words of mouth I speaketh; the final sonata I singeth.

Thus thou art wicked, wicked, wicked-and shall forever be wicked;
Thou art human, but at heart inhuman-and blessed indeed, with no charming mortal aura;
Thou wert once enriched indeed-by my blood, but thy soul itself is demented;
And halved by its own wronged purity, thou thus art like a villainous persona;
Thou art still charmed but made unseeing, and chiefly-invisible;
Unfortunately thou loathe scrutiny, and any sort of mad poetry;
Knowing not that poetry is forever harmless, and on the whole-irresistible;
And its tiny soul is on its own forgiving, estimable, and irredeemable.
Ah, thee, whose soul hath but such a great appeal;
But inanely strained by thy greed-which is like a harm, but to thee an infallible, faithful devil.
Thou art forever a son of night, yet a corpse of morn;
For darkness thriveth and conquereth thy soul-and not reality;
Just like her heart which is tainted with tantrum, and scorn;
Unsweet in her glory, and thy being-but strangely too strong to resist-to thee.
Ah, and so t'at from my human realms thou dwelleth immorally too far;
As art thou unjust-for t'is imagination of thine hath left nothing, but a wealth of scars;
I used to recklessly idoliseth thee, and findeth in thy impure soul-the purest idyll;
But still thou listened not; and rejected to understandeth not, what I wouldst inside, feel.
After all, though t'ese disclaimers, and against prayers-hath I designated for thee;
On my virtues-shall I still loyally supplicate; t'at thou be forgiven, and be permitted-to yon veritable, eternity.
I

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul’s sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time’s covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero summer?

              If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world’s end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city—
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.

              If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

II

Ash on and old man’s sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
Dust inbreathed was a house—
The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,
The death of hope and despair,
       This is the death of air.

There are flood and drouth
Over the eyes and in the mouth,
Dead water and dead sand
Contending for the upper hand.
The parched eviscerate soil
Gapes at the vanity of toil,
Laughs without mirth.
       This is the death of earth.

Water and fire succeed
The town, the pasture and the ****.
Water and fire deride
The sacrifice that we denied.
Water and fire shall rot
The marred foundations we forgot,
Of sanctuary and choir.
       This is the death of water and fire.

In the uncertain hour before the morning
     Near the ending of interminable night
     At the recurrent end of the unending
After the dark dove with the flickering tongue
     Had passed below the horizon of his homing
     While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin
Over the asphalt where no other sound was
     Between three districts whence the smoke arose
     I met one walking, loitering and hurried
As if blown towards me like the metal leaves
     Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.
     And as I fixed upon the down-turned face
That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge
     The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
     I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
     Both one and many; in the brown baked features
     The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable.
     So I assumed a double part, and cried
     And heard another’s voice cry: ‘What! are you here?’
Although we were not. I was still the same,
     Knowing myself yet being someone other—
     And he a face still forming; yet the words sufficed
To compel the recognition they preceded.
     And so, compliant to the common wind,
     Too strange to each other for misunderstanding,
In concord at this intersection time
     Of meeting nowhere, no before and after,
     We trod the pavement in a dead patrol.
I said: ‘The wonder that I feel is easy,
     Yet ease is cause of wonder. Therefore speak:
     I may not comprehend, may not remember.’
And he: ‘I am not eager to rehearse
     My thoughts and theory which you have forgotten.
     These things have served their purpose: let them be.
So with your own, and pray they be forgiven
     By others, as I pray you to forgive
     Both bad and good. Last season’s fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
     For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
     And next year’s words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
     To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
     Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
     In streets I never thought I should revisit
     When I left my body on a distant shore.
Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
     To purify the dialect of the tribe
     And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
     To set a crown upon your lifetime’s effort.
     First, the cold friction of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
     But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
     As body and soul begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
     At human folly, and the laceration
     Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
     Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
     Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others’ harm
     Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
     Then fools’ approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
     Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
     Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.’
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
     He left me, with a kind of valediction,
     And faded on the blowing of the horn.

III

There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives—unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.
If I think, again, of this place,
And of people, not wholly commendable,
Of no immediate kin or kindness,
But of some peculiar genius,
All touched by a common genius,
United in the strife which divided them;
If I think of a king at nightfall,
Of three men, and more, on the scaffold
And a few who died forgotten
In other places, here and abroad,
And of one who died blind and quiet
Why should we celebrate
These dead men more than the dying?
It is not to ring the bell backward
Nor is it an incantation
To summon the spectre of a Rose.
We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party.
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.

IV

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
     Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
     To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
     We only live, only suspire
     Consumed by either fire or fire.

V

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
The Serpent squeezes the mundane egg, for a moment in time,
…to begin the ages, turn the wheel, and so begin the rhyme,

The circus has commenced, a dancing, swirling motion,
…a pit of ghastly horrors, seen as a vast deep ocean,
…or celestial or cosmic, as some would have the notion.

Some of them were large, although some were also small,
…and grotesquely figured or disfigured, a scary monster’s ball,
…and trudging, stampeding, stomping or slithering down the hall.

There they danced, sang or prattled, where giants fought and where they battled, …thunder unto heroes rattled, with awful screams so frightening, and terrifying lightning!

Scaly, hairy or feathered, wet and fiery or weathered,
…conjoined, twisted or tethered, slithery writhing together,

Kingu and his wife, some say it was t’was his mother,
…his plan was war and strife, pitting brother against brother,

A ******* existence and so morally depraved,
…a state of sickly persistence, they found themselves enslaved.

Then abounding voice of heaven, that divided night by day,
…brought forth a princely king of Luke; the warrior Marduk.

Fourteen engaged in combat, the one against thirteen,
…and thus aligned with the ecliptic, at night they can be seen,  

Sloshing in the Apsu, beaten with the club,
…slain and torn to pieces, cutting channels of their blood,

A north wind sent them to their places, fixed on Tiamat’s wheel,
…and the starry constellations, did Marduk bring to heel.
The Sumerian story of creation is the source of St. John's Apocalypse and it is the story of the Dragon Tiamat and her unholy son, Kingu, who go to war with the earth and are defeated by the son of god, the son of the Sun itself(Marduk). "Marduk," means, "High Prince," but signifies west, shining and high as-in the heavens. West was used as a moniker or symbol for the sun since it rested each day in it's kingdom in the west.

The, "one against thirteen," means the Sun versus the twelve signs of the Zodiac and space itself or the Dragon. It is an ancient term.
Sia Jane Nov 2013
**** head, struggling for breath
Final hit, before the red
Light flashes, warning to stop
Over dose, **** the innards
She never chose to lose this
Battle, between herself & it
Where'd she go, lost in space
Chasing herself, a dog with his tail
Praying to an above, to lead her
Straight laced, not swerving off track
Please God save me, her last plea
Before another day dawns, her final wish
Sketcher, tweaker, where's that syringe
The lights too bright, reality a curse
Rolled up in rehab, another ghetto kid
Not this girl, high class, white, moneyed
Lost to the night, speed freak, hopeless
Drowning in addiction, using again
Chemical structures defining her fate
Her brain the game
Disfigured face, unrecognizable eyes
Family love, isn't ever enough
Rushed to ER, another broken soul
Promises that drugs will save her
When only she can ever
Save herself
This time, she's not another life
Lost
The Gods sure blessed her, not with
Her wish
So she's packaged off to rehab
The third times a charm, right?

© Sia Jane
John Feb 2013
Mickey Mouse is so
Scary
So one-dimensional
So simple
So odd

That eerie grin
And his three fingered hands
Each with a clean, white glove
Slipped over them

Why gloves?
Why white gloves?
What about his fingers?
Why would a mouse need fingers?
And why does he only have three on each hand?

Is he some type of ungodly
Ghastly and disfigured
Form of a man?
Or did someone
Drop a rat's DNA in with
A man's in a test tube?
Nuclear radiation, maybe?
Other-worldly being?
Resident of a parallel universe?
Or we're mice and/or rats walking around
Smiling relentlessly, donning red trousers
White gloves, and cursed with two three-fingered hands
When the dinosaurs
Were eating each other?
I love Mickey and I love Disney and everything associated with it as much as the next guy... Bit seriously, what the ****, man?
Amanda Goodness Jun 2013
When I was younger I was very girly,
I wore dresses and leggings,
But never jeans.
I loved pink and purple,
And I loved sparkles and bows.
I was very girly,
But I hated dolls.
I drew on my sister's baby dolls with ballpoint pens,
Covering their foreheads with my cryptic squiggles.
I would strip my Polly Pockets,
And let them lay naked and ashamed on my bedroom floor.
I would take all the limbs off of my Barbies,
And rearrange them into disfigured beauty queens.
Fake people have always bothered me.
Akemi Apr 2017
Barbiturate is one of the few drugs capable of killing you painlessly, so of course the state has banned it. Instead we get paracetamol, a ****** over-the-counter painkiller that leaves you in pain for up to five days while your liver and kidneys shut down. Suicide prevention is a ******* joke. Secular appropriations of Christian values that assume life is worthwhile, whether you desire it or not. It’s long been known that rates of suicide rose dramatically with the birth of modernity—techno-scientific paradise for the middle-class which stresses efficiency over existence. New forms of automation, the human body disciplined into repetitious acts, the partitioning of workspaces so that no single worker could operate the whole—so that any worker could be fired and replaced with the minimum amount of training necessary for capital to continue circulating. The body is individualised, scrutinised, and punished by rich kids playing panopticon, so that any mass agitation is coerced into silence through the threat of destitution.

Slitting your wrists barely succeeds and more likely than not leaves you with tendon and muscle damage. Catalytic converters in cars now convert carbon monoxide into harmless CO2 and H2O. Drowning is one of the most painful ways to die. You cannot escape. The state places helpline numbers around suicide spots to treat life after the fact, rather than at the source of suffering. Vocal band-aids, ****** ******* aphorisms that seek to revert you back into a happy state-serving commodity. Things will get better. Life is worth living. Think positive. Alienation is omnipresent. Neoliberal discourse requires you to be subservient to the greater system of capital and the easiest way towards this is the instilment of comfort, of pleasant nullity, the circumscription of emotional capacity and reflectivity. Suicidal thoughts are abnormal, because life is worth living. Eat your packaged food item and watch Netflix.

For a drop into water to be fatal, it has to be 250 feet. Try to aim for your head to maximise brain injury. The most prominent suicide spot around here has a drop of 100 feet. They cordoned it off anyway. Your life doesn’t belong to you. The first time I tried to suicide my mother asked ‘why would you do that?’ as if it was the dumbest thing in the world. The second time, the doctor looked at me in an exasperated manner and prescribed me lots of drugs. Geettt bettterrrr. Nobody cares about you, they simply want you to return to normal. Normality as in serving your parents, serving your friends, serving the state, and serving the market. Normality as in not questioning social norms and institutions. Normality as in get a stable job (i.e. compete against other workers in an exploitative, undemocratic system that values and inculcates self-serving desires), get married (preferably to someone of the opposite *** who is middle-class and imbibes European culture), get pregnant/get someone pregnant (but only once or twice, because anyone who has more children than that is backwards), invest in housing (those students and lower-class families need to learn how the world works; really, it’s a benefit to take their money), watch sports (to instil national pride in your children; no son, we didn’t colonise the Pacific Islands, keep watching the man with the wooden stick hit *****), eat out every week (preferably exotic restaurants), go see the world (preferably exotic locations, so you can be served by exotic people, take in exotic sights, then leave without considering where any of your money has gone to, whether any of it has reached the slums, whether the beach you lay on is accessible to the people living there, or whether it has been privatised by the tourist firm so that only rich tourists like yourself can lie on it), join a club (those capitalists were innocent, it was the indigenous folk that were making a ruckus over the new golf course; it’s not like we’ve been colonising their land and culture for the past three centuries), donate to charity (but never any charity desiring systemic change; that’s crazy), consume, always consume (keeps the economy going; why question the desire for infinite growth in a world with limited land, resources and markets?), replace your phone every year (those poor workers in Asia need our help), repeat to the point of nausea.

The most successful method to suicide is a shotgun to the head; high calibre, slug rounds. Of course, with all these methods, the chance of failing may leave you disfigured, paralysed, mentally disabled or physically crippled (spinal damage, broken limbs, failed organs), with no guarantee that your family, or even your state, will allow for euthanasia. After all, the popular discourse paints suicide as selfish—an irony, considering liberalism places the self first and society second. It is viewed as sinful regardless of context—deontologically detached from anomie, alienation, material deprivation, social pressures, psychological affectations, any cause or structure. Life is worth living. This ignores that the subject is situated in existence. The subject moves through existence to live. Life, then, is the totality of the subject’s interactions. It cannot be universalised into a single state or judgement that merges all subjectivities into a catch-all worthiness. Worth is dependent of the subject.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. Maybe I just want everyone to **** themselves, because the world is ****** and the majority of people are ******* it worse. Most people think being nice makes them good. They turn blind to the systems of oppression they partake in. A while ago my mother was asking if I’d heard about the mass suicides happening at Foxconn, the largest electronics manufacturer in the world. This year she showed me her new iPhone. I don’t ******* understand. I don’t understand how people can be outraged at humanity abuses, yet do ******* nothing to help or change their ways. Yes, market solutions are ******* ****, but these commodities are still coming from somewhere, and while capitalism is in place, our money is still flowing back. I don’t understand how people can be concerned about ecological issues, then pour dishwashing liquid down the sink every night, dissolving the gills, eyes, and organs of fish in rivers and oceans. I don’t understand a ******* thing. I feel physically sick most days. I can barely function outside of university, because engaging with real people, in real systems, just reminds me of how careless, worthless, and disgusting they are. When I first turned vegan, my dad simply said plants are living too. Well no ******* **** dad, why didn’t you ask me my reason for turning vegan, rather than simply repeating the dumb **** everyone else says? If you were stuck on a desert island. Well I’m ******* not. I’m stuck on this **** world filled with nice people who don’t give a **** about anything. I’m stuck every week walking the same roads, to the same university, where I become more and more distanced from reality through abstract philosophical theories that no one else cares about. I’m stuck walking through the supermarket every week, to purchase overpriced commodities produced by transnational corporations I don’t support, but nonetheless have to buy to survive. What alternatives I buy are mocked because it's so funny being ethical in our day and age. Because it’s so much more normal eating pies, and drinking beer, and treating women like objects, and affirming nationalistic sentiments of white supremacy, and making fun of ethnic minorities while they’re incarcerated, and beaten, and killed. All lives matter, the liberal conservatives cry out, while doing ******* nothing to help any cause. I don’t understand this world, and I have no desire to be in it if this is all there is.
Wandisa Zwane Oct 2015
Written by

Wandisa Zwane  


April 16, 2015



INT.  APT 3101 - THE BEDROOM  

It's 02:31 am and I find myself laying silently on my bed scrolling through Instagram...Twitter...Tumblr....and Snapchat. I find myself struggling to go to sleep.  I wasn't even able to sleep for an hour or two. It's not normal as its way past my curfew. I receive a text message. I'm confused because it's
still too early for anyone to be texting me, and I know everyone nearby is fast asleep because we have school. So who could be texting me?

CUT TO: PHONE SCREEN

HER ( via text )

I'm struggling with the math homework, help ? Are you up ?

ME ( via text )

I am actually. FaceTime, call or text?

20 minutes later my phone starts ringing. She was FaceTiming me. I stare at her name for about 5 seconds trying to put myself together.

ME

Hello, Ellie

I wasn't focused on the math. I was hoping that we could forget about the math and just talk about us and the futility of life. For some stupid reason I really thought you were gonna say something cheesy like I can't get you out of my head but can we just talk until we fall in love? But no it never happened as we had an hour long conversation about math.

CUE " MATH CONVERSATION"

The futility in that conversation was cosmic to the point where I began questioning existence. But when the call finally ended I was disappointed.

CUT TO: VARSITY

It's 8am and I'm at sitting in English tired and drained. Still contemplating about the futility of life.

HER

Hey, Tyler thanks for helping me with the math homework.

ME

Uhm Ellie do you want to come over too my apartment over the weekend and chill ?

CUT TO: APARTMENT 3101

It's 12am and the apartment is really untidy. I jump out of bed and clean the entire apartment in a record time of 12 minutes and 44 seconds. I'm going crazy over here as I'm trying to remember if I gave her the correct directions. Thank god I gave her the correct directions as I see the uber pulling up in front of the apartment complex. I start sweating and shaking and I'm fearful that I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. I start cringing.
I open the door the door and it's her standing directly in front of me. I can't breathe. I'm overwhelmed by an awe of emotions. Literally - she's beautiful

ME

I mumbled - Hey Ellie it's so good to see you ( the hug was very awkward because I was nervous - it was one of those hugs where both people don't know how to hug each which makes things really awkward)

HER

Hi


ME

So glad you could make it. How was the drive ( note to self: I should stop making things awkward ) I'm so irritated at myself.

CUT TO:  APARTMENT 3101 - LIVING ROOM

She's sitting on the couch. And I'm sitting right next to her. Okay let's just say there was a 30cm gap between the both of us. I was really nervous. I found myself drinking gallons of water. I forgot to offer her anything. I was nervous to the point where I couldn't even make eye contact. I just stared at her forehead and her lips.

ME

Aren't you exhausted I mean that drive was really long ( she lived like 3 blocks away from me )

HER

Not really , I'm just really stressed about varsity and stuff I guess.

We actually start conversing with one another for 5 hours straight.We smoke about 3 cigarettes and have the most fruitful conversation ever about female energy and the power of the the heart. She's really enlightened - I thought she was really basic. We both can't go to sleep because we're actually  enjoying the presence of one another. It was cathartic and refreshing actually.

ME

Want go up to the roof and look at the universe?

HER

I'd love too.

CUT TO : COMPLEX ROOF

I brought a blanket up to the roof cause I thought it was cold. It wasn't but we just layed down underneath the open night sky and gazed into the stars. We connected with the universe/ourselves/each other. It was bliss. We ended up falling asleep on top of the roof. To my amazement we were silently wrapped around each other.

CUT TO: APARTMENT 3101 - THE KITCHEN

HER

( chuckling )
How'd you sleep

ME

( Smiling )
I slept pretty well.

ME

Do you have any plans for today?

HER

YES actually...

SEVERAL HOURS LATER: APARTMENT 3101 - KITCHEN/BEDROOM AND LIVING ROOM

The sun is setting and she still hasn't packed her bags.

ME

When are you leaving?

She said she was leaving on Sunday

HER

In 30.

ME

(I tried to not crack in front of her)
Cool.


APARTMENT 3101

About 2 weeks later she surprisingly pitches at my door with her luggage.

HER
I'm moving in with you!

I was excited at the fact that she was moving in with me but I obviously tried acting cool and composed.

CUT TO: WOLVES CAFE

As they're sitting there talking to each other about their families, Osho and meditation over a cup of tea.

ME

I was adopted.

HER

WOW - That's a huge plot twist.

She sat there speechless for about 2 minutes trying to fathom the knowledge I just presented to her.

HER

So do you ever think about your real parents?

ME

All the time - they both died in a car accident when I was 3.

HER

I'm so sorry.

ME

It's okay - I mean I know they're somewhere out there in the universe checking up on me. I speak to them when I feel lonely.

Enough about my tragic past..How are your parents?

I've never told any other soul about my parents before. She was the first person I ever told .

HER

I never knew my dad but my mom has been living with a brain tumour for like 2 years now.

ME

Wow. That's must've been so tough for you when you found out about it.

HER

It was. I went through the most vicious cycle of depression for an entire year. But I'm trying to make most of the time I have left with her.

ME

How much time do you have left to see her her and stuff ?

HER

(She starts tearing up)
3 months

CUT TO: APARTMENT 3101 - LIVING ROOM

I'm still fascinated by the fact that she's into Osho, existentialism, metaphysics and epistemology. But I also felt like our relationship had escalated so quickly. We're we rushing things? The relationship felt like it was moving at the speed of light.

ME

Do you feel like we're moving too fast ?

HER

There's no such thing, if it's meant to be it will be, whether fast or slow as long as it's true, it will last as long as you want it to.

I was momentarily tongue-tied as I was trying to digest the words she just said.

ME

......

(Still voiceless)

She still had a lot more to say after that

CUES : "rants"

But in that entire rant she said something that echoed within me.

HER

YOU KNOW I MAKE YOU HAPPY

After she said this I felt like fainting. So not only did she make me voiceless I was overwhelmed by an ocean of indescribable emotions- wow

DAYS LATER: APARTMENT 3101 - KITCHEN

I'd finally recovered from those powerful words she preached to me. So I found myself sitting in the kitchen trying to write a letter to her about how I really felt. I wasn't the best at expressing my emotions through writing but I gave it a shot.

ME

Love is the unforetold explanation for creation. Love is life. It's the merger of minds. The marriage of minds. It transcends through time, it's timeless. It takes you into a dimension filled with possibilities and opportunities. It helps you understand you are that you are not worthless. Every time I am with you I understand we are here for a reason. And every time I stare into your eyes. I realise that you are mine.  

I sealed it an envelope and put it on the kitchen counter.

LATER ON THAT DAY:

She opens the letter and starts crying.

CUT TO: THE TREEHOUSE

I introduce her to some of the guys in the treehouse. They welcomed her to the treehouse with open arms.

HER

So what do you guys do in the treehouse?

PAUL : (one of the guys part of the treehouse)

Well in the treehouse we just try to expand. We write, make music, poetry, nothing much really.

MCDONALDS DRIVE- THRU

She was to lazy to go home and cook supper she was s bit hypocritical cause she said we should stop buying junk food. So we decided to go to McDonald's. We were down to our last packet of 2 minute noodles anyway.


CUT TO: HOSPITAL

We went to visit her mother. She introduced me but there was no warmth in the hug we shared. I could feel her shrill body disintegrating. She was really cold. You could see she was dying.

HER

How've you been mom ?

MOM

She couldn't even speak properly. It was sad but when she eventually managed to responded to Ellie's question.

MOM

I'm still fighting but I don't know if I can do this for much longer.

HER

No mum you can't leave me.

MOM

I don't want to make you empty promises my child.

Who's this handsome young man Ellie?

HER

(Smiling heavily)
It's Tyler, my boyfriend

She just called me her boyfriend in front of her mom. She just put a label on our relationship. I thought it was completely platonic.

ME

Afternoon Mam. It's a pleasure to finally meet you.

I knew her name ( Stacy )  but in that moment I felt like a child in primary school - so I decided to be respectful and call her mam. I wasn't sure whether or not I should call her "Ellie's mom" or Stacy. It was just a tricky situation. So I opted for mam.

MOM

( smiling )
The pleasure is all mine Tyler.

She told me to come closer to her cause she wanted to whisper something into my ear.

MOM

Tyler I'm clearly dying as you can see. So I'm leaving with you an important task of ensuring that's my daughter remains happy at all times.Take care of her for me - please

ME

I'll take care of her - she's in safe hands.

MOM

That's the spirit Tyler. Can you give us a moment please Tyler.

HER

Just go down to the kiosk and get me a bottle of distilled water. Please.

(Tyler leaves the room)

MOM

I remember the first time you wrapped your tiny hand around my index finger , you had my soul laying on 3 cms of palm.

( Ellie interrupts )

HER

Mom don't do this , prolonging life is pure idiocy.

(she smiles as a tear rolls down her cheek )

Die so your soul can have its summer ,don't worry about my pain cause I'm really happy for you, your soul can finally taste true liberation, see my tears as autumn leaves falling from trees , I'm naked and all I can show you is the truest forms of love.

MOM

You're so beautiful because you're so true. Our connection has no equation my daughter, as I leave my body just know that my time with you transcends forever.

HER

Mother it's time for you to leave. Take a piece of my happiness, it's futile anyway and I have it in abundance but I shall be lost without you in body, I shall be found when I'm with you in soul.

MOM

Clarity comes with the last breath, as hatred and love become nothing, you are nothing and everything all at once, I'm happy for you have given it to me, tomorrow and yesterday no longer matter

(her heart stops beating and her souls goes home - heart rate monitor indicates her mom has just flat lined)

Ellie starts screaming. The nurses and doctors come sprinting in.


DOCTOR

NUURSE HAND ME THE DEFIBRILLATOR !!

HER

(in agonising pain and disbelief that her mother is dead she starts screaming)

SAVE MY MUM, PLEASE SHE CANT LEAVE ME !! YOU CANT LET HER DIE.

DOCTOR

Nurse get her out of here.

She's kicking and shoving the other nurses as she is being escorted out the room.

NURSE

Don't worry the doctors are doing all they can to save her.

Tyler comes back from the kiosk with the distilled water to find Ellie on the floor crying.

ME

What's wrong?

HER

( Her face goes pale )
She's gone ....

2 DAYS LATER: BACK AT 3101

Ellie has locked herself in my/our room. We haven't spoken to each other for like 2 weeks.

She finally decides to come out of the room.

HER

(Breaks down, again  )
It's her birthday today.

I've never seen her so broken and disfigured before. She's in pieces - distorted.

NARRATOR

Death is the door between two lives; one is left behind, one is waiting ahead. Death is the ultimate experience of this life - Osho

“Birth leads to death, death precedes birth. So if you want to see life as it really is, it is rounded on both the sides by death. Death is the beginning and death is again the end, and life is just the illusion in between. You feel alive between two deaths; the passage joining one death to another you call life. Buddha says this is not life. This life is dukkha – misery. This life is death"

HER

I WONT CRUMBLE - IM A BIG GIRL NOW. MOMMA RAISED ME TO BE A STRONG WOMAN SO IM GONNA DO THAT.

She put up this facade as if nothing ever happened. She didn't allow herself to mourn the death of her mother. She was apathetic for the next 2 weeks.

This  was a tricky phase because she either woke up angry or sad. She just rampaged through the house, didn't attend lectures - she just left a trail of destruction wherever she went. I even have the scars to prove it.

A FEW WEEKS LATER: THE DEATH ORDEAL IS FINALLY OVER

She gained about 5 kilograms in that entire period. She just kept on stuffing her face with ice cream and chocolates

HER

Tyler thanks for being there in my moment of absolute depression.

ME

I thought you were never going to be able to get yourself out of that dark abyss you were trapped in.

AT THE BEACH

The sun is setting and the couple is walking along the sand enjoying each other's company.

ME

I've got something for you Ellie

( I hope she likes it )

HER

Yes?

ME

Close your eyes

(Takes out a heart shaped pediment from back pocket  and places it around her neck )

You can open your eyes now.

HER

(Smiling)
It's lovely, thank you

ME

(Smiling back)
I'm giving you my heart but not my soul.

HER

(Blushes)

ME

(In my head)
I'm giving her my heart she better not break it.

Have you ever had that feeling before in a relationship where you think you love the other person more than they love you. To the point where you'd even get their names tattooed onto your chest. Cause that's how I feel right now.

IN THE CAR:


I'm driving Ellie to the airport. OR Tambo in fact. I'm playing some Jamie ** but I quickly change it and play my favourite song Female Energy.

CUE "FEMALE ENERGY"

ME

You excited?

HER

Yes I'm really really excited for this.

ME

I'm really gonna miss you

HER

Me too.

Ellie was completing her mothers bucket list - so she had had to travel all the way to Tibet and learn Buddhism. Nothing much really she was leaving  for 2 months.


But little did Tyler know that this was going to be the last time he sees Ellie because her plane never landed in Tibet - the plane crashed and it sunk with no no one  surviving.

STILL IN THE CAR:

Ellie hands Tyler a letter

HER

Tyler please don't open this until you get home.

ME

(Smiling)
I'll try my best.


Car parks at drop and go zone at the airport. Tyler takes out Ellie's bag from the boot.

They hug and kiss

Ellie cries.

CUT TO : "APT 3101 - LIVING ROOM "

Tyler opens the letter.

CUE "ELLIES VOICE AND ON OUR SWEATERS "


It's funny how for someone who has been so used to being lonely, the second I grip onto something that seems real, my biggest fear is losing that grip - even though for the longest time ever I've become immune to the feeling of loneliness. The same way people become dependent on other beings, people can become dependent on loneliness too - you become immune to self reassurance, your insecurities, your vulnerability and after a while it seems ideal and okay, but only because it's all you've got. You allow yourself to be consumed by this self indulgent energy making you think you don't need anybody because how else do you get by when you know that you have nobody. So when someone comes creeping in through the front door, with nothing but good intentions - you shut them out because you've lost sight of the difference in the realness of someone coming through the front door and the fakeness of someone coming through the backdoor. I struggle to fathom your presence because I didn't see you coming, through any door, you were just always there in plain sight. I don't know how to describe what I feel when I'm around you because I have never felt anything like it. All I know is that it leaves me in a place
An incomplete screenplay.
Feel Sep 2012
I feel close to you,
Though far,
I feel the chill down the spine.
Like raindrops falling on leaves,
you slipped right through me.
You slipped right into me.

I imagine your hands
and how it would feel like to hold them,
I imagine your eyes,
and how it could read my play by play.
Imagination fuels curiosity,
Curiosity fuels death – death in your hands.

Unique relationship of a thousand purposes,
We walk towards an oriental sun,
I remember your perfume
like memorizing keyboard characters.
But we have dismembered physicality.
We have configured a disfigured mentality.

Let’s not go outside,
Beauty has its way to disconnection,
I know it too well from you.
I feel detached from my consciousness,
In this dream, rationality became serendipity.
I turned to sleep – only to stay awake.
Now when Dawn in robe of saffron was hasting from the streams of
Oceanus, to bring light to mortals and immortals, Thetis reached the
ships with the armour that the god had given her. She found her son
fallen about the body of Patroclus and weeping bitterly. Many also
of his followers were weeping round him, but when the goddess came
among them she clasped his hand in her own, saying, “My son, grieve as
we may we must let this man lie, for it is by heaven’s will that he
has fallen; now, therefore, accept from Vulcan this rich and goodly
armour, which no man has ever yet borne upon his shoulders.”
  As she spoke she set the armour before Achilles, and it rang out
bravely as she did so. The Myrmidons were struck with awe, and none
dared look full at it, for they were afraid; but Achilles was roused
to still greater fury, and his eyes gleamed with a fierce light, for
he was glad when he handled the splendid present which the god had
made him. Then, as soon as he had satisfied himself with looking at
it, he said to his mother, “Mother, the god has given me armour,
meet handiwork for an immortal and such as no living could have
fashioned; I will now arm, but I much fear that flies will settle upon
the son of Menoetius and breed worms about his wounds, so that his
body, now he is dead, will be disfigured and the flesh will rot.”
  Silver-footed Thetis answered, “My son, be not disquieted about this
matter. I will find means to protect him from the swarms of noisome
flies that prey on the bodies of men who have been killed in battle.
He may lie for a whole year, and his flesh shall still be as sound
as ever, or even sounder. Call, therefore, the Achaean heroes in
assembly; unsay your anger against Agamemnon; arm at once, and fight
with might and main.”
  As she spoke she put strength and courage into his heart, and she
then dropped ambrosia and red nectar into the wounds of Patroclus,
that his body might suffer no change.
  Then Achilles went out upon the seashore, and with a loud cry called
on the Achaean heroes. On this even those who as yet had stayed always
at the ships, the pilots and helmsmen, and even the stewards who
were about the ships and served out rations, all came to the place
of assembly because Achilles had shown himself after having held aloof
so long from fighting. Two sons of Mars, Ulysses and the son of
Tydeus, came limping, for their wounds still pained them; nevertheless
they came, and took their seats in the front row of the assembly. Last
of all came Agamemnon, king of men, he too wounded, for **** son of
Antenor had struck him with a spear in battle.
  When the Achaeans were got together Achilles rose and said, “Son
of Atreus, surely it would have been better alike for both you and me,
when we two were in such high anger about Briseis, surely it would
have been better, had Diana’s arrow slain her at the ships on the
day when I took her after having sacked Lyrnessus. For so, many an
Achaean the less would have bitten dust before the foe in the days
of my anger. It has been well for Hector and the Trojans, but the
Achaeans will long indeed remember our quarrel. Now, however, let it
be, for it is over. If we have been angry, necessity has schooled
our anger. I put it from me: I dare not nurse it for ever;
therefore, bid the Achaeans arm forthwith that I may go out against
the Trojans, and learn whether they will be in a mind to sleep by
the ships or no. Glad, I ween, will he be to rest his knees who may
fly my spear when I wield it.”
  Thus did he speak, and the Achaeans rejoiced in that he had put away
his anger.
  Then Agamemnon spoke, rising in his place, and not going into the
middle of the assembly. “Danaan heroes,” said he, “servants of Mars,
it is well to listen when a man stands up to speak, and it is not
seemly to interrupt him, or it will go hard even with a practised
speaker. Who can either hear or speak in an uproar? Even the finest
orator will be disconcerted by it. I will expound to the son of
Peleus, and do you other Achaeans heed me and mark me well. Often have
the Achaeans spoken to me of this matter and upbraided me, but it
was not I that did it: Jove, and Fate, and Erinys that walks in
darkness struck me mad when we were assembled on the day that I took
from Achilles the meed that had been awarded to him. What could I
do? All things are in the hand of heaven, and Folly, eldest of
Jove’s daughters, shuts men’s eyes to their destruction. She walks
delicately, not on the solid earth, but hovers over the heads of men
to make them stumble or to ensnare them.
  “Time was when she fooled Jove himself, who they say is greatest
whether of gods or men; for Juno, woman though she was, beguiled him
on the day when Alcmena was to bring forth mighty Hercules in the fair
city of Thebes. He told it out among the gods saying, ‘Hear me all
gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as I am minded; this day
shall an Ilithuia, helper of women who are in labour, bring a man
child into the world who shall be lord over all that dwell about him
who are of my blood and lineage.’ Then said Juno all crafty and full
of guile, ‘You will play false, and will not hold to your word.
Swear me, O Olympian, swear me a great oath, that he who shall this
day fall between the feet of a woman, shall be lord over all that
dwell about him who are of your blood and lineage.’
  “Thus she spoke, and Jove suspected her not, but swore the great
oath, to his much ruing thereafter. For Juno darted down from the high
summit of Olympus, and went in haste to Achaean Argos where she knew
that the noble wife of Sthenelus son of Perseus then was. She being
with child and in her seventh month, Juno brought the child to birth
though there was a month still wanting, but she stayed the offspring
of Alcmena, and kept back the Ilithuiae. Then she went to tell Jove
the son of Saturn, and said, ‘Father Jove, lord of the lightning—I
have a word for your ear. There is a fine child born this day,
Eurystheus, son to Sthenelus the son of Perseus; he is of your
lineage; it is well, therefore, that he should reign over the
Argives.’
  “On this Jove was stung to the very quick, and in his rage he caught
Folly by the hair, and swore a great oath that never should she
again invade starry heaven and Olympus, for she was the bane of all.
Then he whirled her round with a twist of his hand, and flung her down
from heaven so that she fell on to the fields of mortal men; and he
was ever angry with her when he saw his son groaning under the cruel
labours that Eurystheus laid upon him. Even so did I grieve when
mighty Hector was killing the Argives at their ships, and all the time
I kept thinking of Folly who had so baned me. I was blind, and Jove
robbed me of my reason; I will now make atonement, and will add much
treasure by way of amends. Go, therefore, into battle, you and your
people with you. I will give you all that Ulysses offered you
yesterday in your tents: or if it so please you, wait, though you
would fain fight at once, and my squires shall bring the gifts from my
ship, that you may see whether what I give you is enough.”
  And Achilles answered, “Son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, you
can give such gifts as you think proper, or you can withhold them:
it is in your own hands. Let us now set battle in array; it is not
well to tarry talking about trifles, for there is a deed which is as
yet to do. Achilles shall again be seen fighting among the foremost,
and laying low the ranks of the Trojans: bear this in mind each one of
you when he is fighting.”
  Then Ulysses said, “Achilles, godlike and brave, send not the
Achaeans thus against Ilius to fight the Trojans fasting, for the
battle will be no brief one, when it is once begun, and heaven has
filled both sides with fury; bid them first take food both bread and
wine by the ships, for in this there is strength and stay. No man
can do battle the livelong day to the going down of the sun if he is
without food; however much he may want to fight his strength will fail
him before he knows it; hunger and thirst will find him out, and his
limbs will grow weary under him. But a man can fight all day if he
is full fed with meat and wine; his heart beats high, and his strength
will stay till he has routed all his foes; therefore, send the
people away and bid them prepare their meal; King Agamemnon will bring
out the gifts in presence of the assembly, that all may see them and
you may be satisfied. Moreover let him swear an oath before the
Argives that he has never gone up into the couch of Briseis, nor
been with her after the manner of men and women; and do you, too, show
yourself of a gracious mind; let Agamemnon entertain you in his
tents with a feast of reconciliation, that so you may have had your
dues in full. As for you, son of Atreus, treat people more righteously
in future; it is no disgrace even to a king that he should make amends
if he was wrong in the first instance.”
  And King Agamemnon answered, “Son of Laertes, your words please me
well, for throughout you have spoken wisely. I will swear as you would
have me do; I do so of my own free will, neither shall I take the name
of heaven in vain. Let, then, Achilles wait, though he would fain
fight at once, and do you others wait also, till the gifts come from
my tent and we ratify the oath with sacrifice. Thus, then, do I charge
you: take some noble young Achaeans with you, and bring from my
tents the gifts that I promised yesterday to Achilles, and bring the
women also; furthermore let Talthybius find me a boar from those
that are with the host, and make it ready for sacrifice to Jove and to
the sun.”
  Then said Achilles, “Son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, see to
these matters at some other season, when there is breathing time and
when I am calmer. Would you have men eat while the bodies of those
whom Hector son of Priam slew are still lying mangled upon the
plain? Let the sons of the Achaeans, say I, fight fasting and
without food, till we have avenged them; afterwards at the going
down of the sun let them eat their fill. As for me, Patroclus is lying
dead in my tent, all hacked and hewn, with his feet to the door, and
his comrades are mourning round him. Therefore I can take thought of
nothing save only slaughter and blood and the rattle in the throat
of the dying.”
  Ulysses answered, “Achilles, son of Peleus, mightiest of all the
Achaeans, in battle you are better than I, and that more than a
little, but in counsel I am much before you, for I am older and of
greater knowledge. Therefore be patient under my words. Fighting is
a thing of which men soon surfeit, and when Jove, who is wars steward,
weighs the upshot, it may well prove that the straw which our
sickles have reaped is far heavier than the grain. It may not be
that the Achaeans should mourn the dead with their bellies; day by day
men fall thick and threefold continually; when should we have
respite from our sorrow? Let us mourn our dead for a day and bury them
out of sight and mind, but let those of us who are left eat and
drink that we may arm and fight our foes more fiercely. In that hour
let no man hold back, waiting for a second summons; such summons shall
bode ill for him who is found lagging behind at our ships; let us
rather sally as one man and loose the fury of war upon the Trojans.”
  When he had thus spoken he took with him the sons of Nestor, with
Meges son of Phyleus, Thoas, Meriones, Lycomedes son of Creontes,
and Melanippus, and went to the tent of Agamemnon son of Atreus. The
word was not sooner said than the deed was done: they brought out
the seven tripods which Agamemnon had promised, with the twenty
metal cauldrons and the twelve horses; they also brought the women
skilled in useful arts, seven in number, with Briseis, which made
eight. Ulysses weighed out the ten talents of gold and then led the
way back, while the young Achaeans brought the rest of the gifts,
and laid them in the middle of the assembly.
  Agamemnon then rose, and Talthybius whose voice was like that of a
god came to him with the boar. The son of Atreus drew the knife
which he wore by the scabbard of his mighty sword, and began by
cutting off some bristles from the boar, lifting up his hands in
prayer as he did so. The other Achaeans sat where they were all silent
and orderly to hear the king, and Agamemnon looked into the vault of
heaven and prayed saying, “I call Jove the first and mightiest of
all gods to witness, I call also Earth and Sun and the Erinyes who
dwell below and take vengeance on him who shall swear falsely, that
I have laid no hand upon the girl Briseis, neither to take her to my
bed nor otherwise, but that she has remained in my tents inviolate. If
I swear falsely may heaven visit me with all the penalties which it
metes out to those who perjure themselves.”
  He cut the boar’s throat as he spoke, whereon Talthybius whirled
it round his head, and flung it into the wide sea to feed the
fishes. Then Achilles also rose and said to the Argives, “Father Jove,
of a truth you blind men’s eyes and bane them. The son of Atreus had
not else stirred me to so fierce an anger, nor so stubbornly taken
Briseis from me against my will. Surely Jove must have counselled
the destruction of many an Argive. Go, now, and take your food that we
may begin fighting.”
  On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
ship. The Myrmidons attended to the presents and took them away to the
ship of Achilles. They placed them in his tents, while the
stable-men drove the horses in among the others.
  Briseis, fair as Venus, when she saw the mangled body of
Patroclus, flung herself upon it and cried aloud, tearing her
breast, her neck, and her lovely face with both her hands. Beautiful
as a goddess she wept and said, “Patroclus, dearest friend, when I
went hence I left you living; I return, O prince, to find you dead;
thus do fresh sorrows multiply upon me one after the other. I saw
him to whom my father and mother married me, cut down before our city,
and my three own dear brothers perished with him on the self-same day;
but you, Patroclus, even when Achilles slew my husband and sacked
the city of noble Mynes, told me that I was not to weep, for you
said you would make Achilles marry me, and take me back with him to
Phthia, we should have a wedding feast among the Myrmidons. You were
always kind to me and I shall never cease to grieve for you.”
  She wept as she spoke, and the women joined in her lament-making
as though their tears were for Patroclus, but in truth each was
weeping for her own sorrows. The elders of the Achaeans gathered round
Achilles and prayed him to take food, but he groaned and would not
do so. “I pray you,” said he, “if any comrade will hear me, bid me
neither eat nor drink, for I am in great heaviness, and will stay
fasting even to the going down of the sun.”
  On this he sent the other princes away, save only the two sons of
Atreus and Ulysses, Nestor, Idomeneus, and the knight Phoenix, who
stayed behind and tried to comfort him in the bitterness of his
sorrow: but he would not be comforted till he should have flung
himself into the jaws of battle, and he fetched sigh on sigh, thinking
ever of Patroclus. Then he said-
  “Hapless and dearest comrade, you it was who would get a good dinner
ready for me at once and without delay when the Achaeans were
hasting to fight the Trojans; now, therefore, though I have meat and
drink in my tents, yet will I fast for sorrow. Grief greater than this
I could not know, not even though I were to hear of the death of my
father, who is now in Phthia weeping for the loss of me his son, who
am here fighting the Trojans in a strange land for the accursed sake
of Helen, nor yet though I should hear that my son is no more—he
who is being brought up in Scyros—if indeed Neoptolemus is still
living. Till now I made sure that I alone was to fall here at Troy
away from Argos, while you were to return to Phthia, bring back my son
with you in your own ship, and show him all my property, my
bondsmen, and the greatness of my house—for Peleus must surely be
either dead, or
I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
The snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress.

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.
The assembly now broke up and the people went their ways each to his
own ship. There they made ready their supper, and then bethought
them of the blessed boon of sleep; but Achilles still wept for
thinking of his dear comrade, and sleep, before whom all things bow,
could take no hold upon him. This way and that did he turn as he
yearned after the might and manfulness of Patroclus; he thought of all
they had done together, and all they had gone through both on the
field of battle and on the waves of the weary sea. As he dwelt on
these things he wept bitterly and lay now on his side, now on his
back, and now face downwards, till at last he rose and went out as one
distraught to wander upon the seashore. Then, when he saw dawn
breaking over beach and sea, he yoked his horses to his chariot, and
bound the body of Hector behind it that he might drag it about. Thrice
did he drag it round the tomb of the son of Menoetius, and then went
back into his tent, leaving the body on the ground full length and
with its face downwards. But Apollo would not suffer it to be
disfigured, for he pitied the man, dead though he now was; therefore
he shielded him with his golden aegis continually, that he might
take no hurt while Achilles was dragging him.
  Thus shamefully did Achilles in his fury dishonour Hector; but the
blessed gods looked down in pity from heaven, and urged Mercury,
slayer of Argus, to steal the body. All were of this mind save only
Juno, Neptune, and Jove’s grey-eyed daughter, who persisted in the
hate which they had ever borne towards Ilius with Priam and his
people; for they forgave not the wrong done them by Alexandrus in
disdaining the goddesses who came to him when he was in his
sheepyards, and preferring her who had offered him a wanton to his
ruin.
  When, therefore, the morning of the twelfth day had now come,
Phoebus Apollo spoke among the immortals saying, “You gods ought to be
ashamed of yourselves; you are cruel and hard-hearted. Did not
Hector burn you thigh-bones of heifers and of unblemished goats? And
now dare you not rescue even his dead body, for his wife to look upon,
with his mother and child, his father Priam, and his people, who would
forthwith commit him to the flames, and give him his due funeral
rites? So, then, you would all be on the side of mad Achilles, who
knows neither right nor ruth? He is like some savage lion that in
the pride of his great strength and daring springs upon men’s flocks
and gorges on them. Even so has Achilles flung aside all pity, and all
that conscience which at once so greatly banes yet greatly boons him
that will heed it. man may lose one far dearer than Achilles has lost-
a son, it may be, or a brother born from his own mother’s womb; yet
when he has mourned him and wept over him he will let him bide, for it
takes much sorrow to **** a man; whereas Achilles, now that he has
slain noble Hector, drags him behind his chariot round the tomb of his
comrade. It were better of him, and for him, that he should not do so,
for brave though he be we gods may take it ill that he should vent his
fury upon dead clay.”
  Juno spoke up in a rage. “This were well,” she cried, “O lord of the
silver bow, if you would give like honour to Hector and to Achilles;
but Hector was mortal and suckled at a woman’s breast, whereas
Achilles is the offspring of a goddess whom I myself reared and
brought up. I married her to Peleus, who is above measure dear to
the immortals; you gods came all of you to her wedding; you feasted
along with them yourself and brought your lyre—false, and fond of low
company, that you have ever been.”
  Then said Jove, “Juno, be not so bitter. Their honour shall not be
equal, but of all that dwell in Ilius, Hector was dearest to the gods,
as also to myself, for his offerings never failed me. Never was my
altar stinted of its dues, nor of the drink-offerings and savour of
sacrifice which we claim of right. I shall therefore permit the body
of mighty Hector to be stolen; and yet this may hardly be without
Achilles coming to know it, for his mother keeps night and day
beside him. Let some one of you, therefore, send Thetis to me, and I
will impart my counsel to her, namely that Achilles is to accept a
ransom from Priam, and give up the body.”
  On this Iris fleet as the wind went forth to carry his message. Down
she plunged into the dark sea midway between Samos and rocky Imbrus;
the waters hissed as they closed over her, and she sank into the
bottom as the lead at the end of an ox-horn, that is sped to carry
death to fishes. She found Thetis sitting in a great cave with the
other sea-goddesses gathered round her; there she sat in the midst
of them weeping for her noble son who was to fall far from his own
land, on the rich plains of Troy. Iris went up to her and said,
“Rise Thetis; Jove, whose counsels fail not, bids you come to him.”
And Thetis answered, “Why does the mighty god so bid me? I am in great
grief, and shrink from going in and out among the immortals. Still,
I will go, and the word that he may speak shall not be spoken in
vain.”
  The goddess took her dark veil, than which there can be no robe more
sombre, and went forth with fleet Iris leading the way before her. The
waves of the sea opened them a path, and when they reached the shore
they flew up into the heavens, where they found the all-seeing son
of Saturn with the blessed gods that live for ever assembled near him.
Minerva gave up her seat to her, and she sat down by the side of
father Jove. Juno then placed a fair golden cup in her hand, and spoke
to her in words of comfort, whereon Thetis drank and gave her back the
cup; and the sire of gods and men was the first to speak.
  “So, goddess,” said he, “for all your sorrow, and the grief that I
well know reigns ever in your heart, you have come hither to
Olympus, and I will tell you why I have sent for you. This nine days
past the immortals have been quarrelling about Achilles waster of
cities and the body of Hector. The gods would have Mercury slayer of
Argus steal the body, but in furtherance of our peace and amity
henceforward, I will concede such honour to your son as I will now
tell you. Go, then, to the host and lay these commands upon him; say
that the gods are angry with him, and that I am myself more angry than
them all, in that he keeps Hector at the ships and will not give him
up. He may thus fear me and let the body go. At the same time I will
send Iris to great Priam to bid him go to the ships of the Achaeans,
and ransom his son, taking with him such gifts for Achilles as may
give him satisfaction.
  Silver-footed Thetis did as the god had told her, and forthwith down
she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus. She went to her
son’s tents where she found him grieving bitterly, while his trusty
comrades round him were busy preparing their morning meal, for which
they had killed a great woolly sheep. His mother sat down beside him
and caressed him with her hand saying, “My son, how long will you keep
on thus grieving and making moan? You are gnawing at your own heart,
and think neither of food nor of woman’s embraces; and yet these too
were well, for you have no long time to live, and death with the
strong hand of fate are already close beside you. Now, therefore, heed
what I say, for I come as a messenger from Jove; he says that the gods
are angry with you, and himself more angry than them all, in that
you keep Hector at the ships and will not give him up. Therefore let
him go, and accept a ransom for his body.”
  And Achilles answered, “So be it. If Olympian Jove of his own motion
thus commands me, let him that brings the ransom bear the body away.”
  Thus did mother and son talk together at the ships in long discourse
with one another. Meanwhile the son of Saturn sent Iris to the
strong city of Ilius. “Go,” said he, “fleet Iris, from the mansions of
Olympus, and tell King Priam in Ilius, that he is to go to the ships
of the Achaeans and free the body of his dear son. He is to take
such gifts with him as shall give satisfaction to Achilles, and he
is to go alone, with no other Trojan, save only some honoured
servant who may drive his mules and waggon, and bring back the body of
him whom noble Achilles has slain. Let him have no thought nor fear of
death in his heart, for we will send the slayer of Argus to escort
him, and bring him within the tent of Achilles. Achilles will not ****
him nor let another do so, for he will take heed to his ways and sin
not, and he will entreat a suppliant with all honourable courtesy.”
  On this Iris, fleet as the wind, sped forth to deliver her
message. She went to Priam’s house, and found weeping and
lamentation therein. His sons were seated round their father in the
outer courtyard, and their raiment was wet with tears: the old man sat
in the midst of them with his mantle wrapped close about his body, and
his head and neck all covered with the filth which he had clutched
as he lay grovelling in the mire. His daughters and his sons’ wives
went wailing about the house, as they thought of the many and brave
men who lay dead, slain by the Argives. The messenger of Jove stood by
Priam and spoke softly to him, but fear fell upon him as she did so.
“Take heart,” she said, “Priam offspring of Dardanus, take heart and
fear not. I bring no evil tidings, but am minded well towards you. I
come as a messenger from Jove, who though he be not near, takes
thought for you and pities you. The lord of Olympus bids you go and
ransom noble Hector, and take with you such gifts as shall give
satisfaction to Achilles. You are to go alone, with no Trojan, save
only some honoured servant who may drive your mules and waggon, and
bring back to the city the body of him whom noble Achilles has
slain. You are to have no thought, nor fear of death, for Jove will
send the slayer of Argus to escort you. When he has brought you within
Achilles’ tent, Achilles will not **** you nor let another do so,
for he will take heed to his ways and sin not, and he will entreat a
suppliant with all honourable courtesy.”
  Iris went her way when she had thus spoken, and Priam told his
sons to get a mule-waggon ready, and to make the body of the waggon
fast upon the top of its bed. Then he went down into his fragrant
store-room, high-vaulted, and made of cedar-wood, where his many
treasures were kept, and he called Hecuba his wife. “Wife,” said he,
“a messenger has come to me from Olympus, and has told me to go to the
ships of the Achaeans to ransom my dear son, taking with me such gifts
as shall give satisfaction to Achilles. What think you of this matter?
for my own part I am greatly moved to pass through the of the Achaeans
and go to their ships.”
  His wife cried aloud as she heard him, and said, “Alas, what has
become of that judgement for which you have been ever famous both
among strangers and your own people? How can you venture alone to
the ships of the Achaeans, and look into the face of him who has slain
so many of your brave sons? You must have iron courage, for if the
cruel savage sees you and lays hold on you, he will know neither
respect nor pity. Let us then weep Hector from afar here in our own
house, for when I gave him birth the threads of overruling fate were
spun for him that dogs should eat his flesh far from his parents, in
the house of that terrible man on whose liver I would fain fasten
and devour it. Thus would I avenge my son, who showed no cowardice
when Achilles slew him, and thought neither of Right nor of avoiding
battle as he stood in defence of Trojan men and Trojan women.”
  Then Priam said, “I would go, do not therefore stay me nor be as a
bird of ill omen in my house, for you will not move me. Had it been
some mortal man who had sent me some prophet or priest who divines
from sacrifice—I should have deemed him false and have given him no
heed; but now I have heard the goddess and seen her face to face,
therefore I will go and her saying shall not be in vain. If it be my
fate to die at the ships of the Achaeans even so would I have it;
let Achilles slay me, if I may but first have taken my son in my
arms and mourned him to my heart’s comforting.”
  So saying he lifted the lids of his chests, and took out twelve
goodly vestments. He took also twelve cloaks of single fold, twelve
rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number of shirts. He weighed
out ten talents of gold, and brought moreover two burnished tripods,
four cauldrons, and a very beautiful cup which the Thracians had given
him when he had gone to them on an embassy; it was very precious,
but he grudged not even this, so eager was he to ransom the body of
his son. Then he chased all the Trojans from the court and rebuked
them with words of anger. “Out,” he cried, “shame and disgrace to me
that you are. Have you no grief in your own homes that you are come to
plague me here? Is it a small thing, think you, that the son of Saturn
has sent this sorrow upon me, to lose the bravest of my sons? Nay, you
shall prove it in person, for now he is gone the Achaeans will have
easier work in killing you. As for me, let me go down within the house
of Hades, ere mine eyes behold the sacking and wasting of the city.”
  He drove the men away with his staff, and they went forth as the old
man sped them. Then he called to his sons, upbraiding Helenus,
Paris, noble Agathon, Pammon, Antiphonus, Polites of the loud
battle-cry, Deiphobus, Hippothous, and Dius. These nine did the old
man call near him. “Come to me at once,” he cried, “worthless sons who
do me shame; would that you had all been killed at the ships rather
than Hector. Miserable man that I am, I have had the bravest sons in
all Troy—noble Nestor, Troilus the dauntless charioteer, and Hector
who was a god among men, so that one would have thought he was son
to an immortal—yet there is not one of them left. Mars has slain them
and those of whom I am ashamed are alone left me. Liars, and light
of foot, heroes of the dance, robbers of lambs and kids from your
own people, why do you not get a waggon ready for me at once, and
put all these things upon it that I may set out on my way?”
  Thus did he speak, and they feared the rebuke of their father.
They brought out a strong mule-waggon, newly made, and set the body of
the waggon fast on its bed. They took the mule-yoke from the peg on
which it hung, a yoke of boxwood with a **** on the top of it and
rings for the reins to go through. Then they brought a yoke-band
eleven cubits long, to bind the yoke to the pole; they bound it on
at the far end of the pole, and put the ring over the upright pin
making it fast with three turns of the band on either side the ****,
and bending the thong of the yoke beneath it. This done, they
brought from the store-chamber the rich ransom that was to purchase
the body of Hector, and they set it all orderly on the waggon; then
they yoked the strong harness-mules which the Mysians had on a time
given as a goodly present to Priam; but for Priam himself they yoked
horses which the old king had bred, and kept for own use.
  Thus heedfully did Priam and his servant see to the yolking of their
cars at the palace. Then Hecuba came to them all sorrowful, with a
golden goblet of wine in her right hand, that they might make a
drink-offering before they set out. She stood in front of the horses
and said, “Take this, make a drink-offering to father Jove, and
since you are minded to go to the ships in spite of me, pray that
you may come safely back from the hands of your enemies. Pray to the
son of Saturn lord of the whirlwind, who sits on Ida and looks down
over all Troy, pray him to send his swift messenger on your right
hand, the bird of omen which is strongest and most dear to him of
all birds, that you may see it with your own eyes and trust it as
you go forth to the ships of the Danaans. If all-seeing Jove will
not send you this messenger, however set upon it you may be, I would
not have you go to the ships of the Argives.”
  And Priam answered, “Wife, I will do as you desire me; it is well to
lift hands in prayer to Jove, if so be he may have mercy upon me.”
  With this the old man bade the serving-woman
Lola Lucille Sep 2013
I have nothing left
To say
To anyone but
You

You possess the answers
To questions
That keep me tossing
And turning

Yet you push me away
With cold indifference

Seemed I wasn't worth
The time of day

Until

You spend the early hours
Of the morning
Disproving everything
Confusing me further

Is that all I am to you
Now?
some ***** secret you harbour
In your closet

A late night
Guilty pleasure?

or was that embrace for
Real?

Was it only me who felt it?

Supernovas in my head

When you bent down
Kissed me out of
My drunken state

Hardest punch I ever
Took
Completely sobering
And intoxicating
All at once

I can't shut my thoughts
Out
Can't stop attempting
To slam keys into

Submission

You make my head spin
Dizzy fast

Is there any room left
For me in your heart?
Cause I can tell you
There's none in mine

For anybody

But you

One smile
One glance
Is all it takes
For the facade

To shatter around me

You tell me I have no idea
But I don't think you
Really see

All the things you make
Me feel
Just what you've always
Meant to me
Mother, mother, what ill-bred aunt
Or what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you so unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she
Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and nod at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?

Mother, who made to order stories
Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear,
Mother, whose witches always, always
Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder
Whether you saw them, whether you said
Words to rid me of those three ladies
Nodding by night around my bed,
Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head.

In the hurricane, when father's twelve
Study windows bellied in
Like bubbles about to break, you fed
My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine
And helped the two of us to choir:
'Thor is angry; boom boom boom!
Thor is angry: we don't care!'
But those ladies broke the panes.

When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced,
Blinking flashlights like fireflies
And singing the glowworm song, I could
Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress
But, heavy-footed, stood aside
In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed
Godmothers, and you cried and cried:
And the shadow stretched, the lights went out.

Mother, you sent me to piano lessons
And praised my arabesques and trills
Although each teacher found my touch
Oddly wooden in spite of scales
And the hours of practicing, my ear
Tone-deaf and yes, unteachable.
I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere,
From muses unhired by you, dear mother.

I woke one day to see you, mother,
Floating above me in bluest air
On a green balloon bright with a million
Flowers and bluebirds that never were
Never, never, found anywhere.
But the little planet bobbed away
Like a soap-bubble as you called: Come here!
And I faced my traveling companions.

Day now, night now, at head, side, feet,
They stand their vigil in gowns of stone,
Faces blank as the day I was born.
Their shadows long in the setting sun
That never brightens or goes down.
And this is the kingdom you bore me to,
Mother, mother. But no frown of mine
Will betray the company I keep.
Disfigured beyond recognition.
Aloft you will see ready to fall.
On my path I once had walked.
High above on another plain.
Never to come to come back again.
Sorrow and loss are my guides.
For you will leave me in your stride.
I am nothing but the hate that makes me.
No love will be there to take me.
Better left dead and I'll be alone.
Too ****** and twisted to ever atone.
No longer do I have a choice.
There is no pain or remorse.
My words are scribed and no one can save me.
I'll always be this way.
Nothing can change what I feel this day.
I am betrayed,
Broken,
Disfigured beyond all recognition.
Yenson Aug 2018
Bony small fingers wrapped round the cup and lifted it to pale dry lips
she took a sip and lowered cup
Sat opposite I looked at a face that was once to me the most
beautiful face ever
Now for the first time in my life I had undoubted confirmation
that beauty does fade
And those that say 'beauty is only skin deep were right all along

I was never in love with her, I liked her, liked her a lot, but right
now I sat broken hearted
Heartbroken because to me God's magnificence has been defaced,
the Divine work of The Most Divine has been destroyed
How could this be, how can this happen
Is evil such a powerful force, powerful enough to obliterate the face
of an Angel.

Yes, I know the prettiest Rose will one day wither and die
Yes I know nothing last for ever in our world
Yes I know we will all grow old and die
Yes I know night turns to daylight
Yes I know we all return to dust

It hurt, it hurt, it hurt, for how can Aphrodite turn into Medussa
within the course of a year
To twist the dagger in me more, it seem as if all the changes were by her deliberate design and welcomed by her
How can one blessed as such decide I want to alter myself and look
the most unattractive I can be
It was as if Lucifer stood there, saying 'you see my power, anything
you consider worthy, proper, Holy or beautiful, I can *******, mess up or destroy'...

Small bony claws put down the cup after the final sip, internally I was in stunned disbelief, how cruel is evil, how can an Angel be
thus disfigured. Where is God, why allow this.

I was never in love with her, I liked her but never had any reason
to think we could be an item. But her beauty always reminded me of God's magnificence and induced praise to God anytime I saw her. Now the hurts burnt so deeply into my soul, that I don't believe in the beauty of humans anymore. I was shallow somewhat
Now I know only Inner Beauty matters and everything happens for a reason
Ashes to Ashes
Dust to Dust
Kara Rose Trojan Dec 2014
What’s the difference between hate and love
When they are two sides of the same blade.

Sharpened brandished waving wildly in ghost columns
against the disfigured, burning-white face of abrasion.
Then,
march home with square, taut shoulders – slightly bony –
Body swelled and puffed with
the blood-red energy of something desperate to naked pairs
ramming themselves against each other in an effort to
release.
These colorless concepts, abstract words
that hang in the air the same as
smoke-rings – ghost columns.

Could it give You a religion;
a belief that there is some guiding force in the universe
binding the two of you together by
touch, smell, scratching, grinding --
And he and You quelled
each other’s pleading prayers within
the folds of each muscles
the steeple of each elbow,
the hollow of each throat.

Some spiritualists call this the Kundalini – feel this world through a material base
A Love religion – fixing body and body together
because it’s the one thing that seems to make sense in this crude moment
when the ashes settled to fossilize inside
His and Yours brains.

“My God. His chest, his belly,
the riding and the falling, the moans.
How he clung to me, how he struggled --
Life and death! Life and death!”

The circle of arms is the gateway
to some emotional dry-heave:
the swelling, purging, and crashing
of grief, rage, love, and comfort
those same abstract, colorless concepts
teetering on the edge of a beaten-down slave gospel.

We can give our vegetables a gender:
Female onions. Peel only when ripe then
ferment in a closed plastic bottle.
Color sensations that can only pass between illuminated palms on an
angry evening.
Shakespeare’s Gloucester could only see this world feelingly, woman:
How will you cope after being blinded by his tears?
And when the ream is spent, write a poem on the back.

After your limbs searched for each other after years gone, searched underneath the covers for a comforting hand that could save the loneliness from shaking your souls out of your bodies?
When limbs stretched forward to hold both bodies together,
the backbones that ****** you both pressed against the skin --
The very skin that ****** you, too.
That dream baby bearing the handprint of his ghost --
his skin on your skin on baby skin
Against undifferentiated dark, it may glow beneath the cradle’s mobile.
“Another illegitimate black baby.” Let’s call it Smoke and Mirrors for maybe just a second.
Don’t pay attention to the swerve of small-town eyes.
Then, we can see the light through the parenthesis.
Call it the ghost of his Love. The ghost of meat love. Delirious brilliance.

Ghost of mouth-on-the-screen-door Love.
The same taste of nickels, of iron, of blood --
Leave the porchlight on if you want him to find his way back.
Hang the water-filled jar from the tree to ward away the evil ghosts.
Light it, love it, leave it. Light it, love it, leave it.
Who’s going to guide the insect-feelers
to the light
on the nights
When words split, scatter, and sift
into labor-streaked pyramids between these fingers?

Now do you know where you are? We see a little farther now, a little farther still.
Staked in fury, can we recognize red ants on a red ant hill, now?
Shrouded in a glory-cloud, at least you knew you fit somewhere.

As Women, We know the gospel well. A little farther now and a little farther still.
The maddening dances around *** and Song – it is possible for the rest of Us to understand
and know how You’ve been bleeding.
*The quotations applied in the poem are drawn from James Baldwin's play Blues for Mister Charlie in order to expound on the ambiguously defined struggle that Juanita, one of the Black students, encounters after Richard Henry leaves the bedroom in Act 2 and during the courtroom proceedings in Act 3. Faced with Richard Henry's impending doom, she mulls over how the lives of all the characters begin to intertwine and, ultimately, demonstrate the lyrical quality of grief individuals voiced during during and after the ****** of Emmett Till -- each with its own score, tone, and measure.

Blues for Mister Charlie is James Baldwin’s second play, a tragedy in three acts. It was first produced and published in 1964. It is dedicated to the memory of Medgar Evers, and his widow and his children, and to the memory of the dead children of Birmingham.“ The play is loosely based on the Emmett Till ****** that occurred in Money, Mississippi, before the Civil Rights Movement began.

While they’re out and dancing, Richard confides in Juanita about his time up North and how he became a ****** after encountering the jazz scene. Juanita and Richard share an intimate moment full of innocent nostalgia for their romantic history and cathartic awakening to the tumultuous circumstances for Black individuals in society.

After Richard is killed, Juanita testifies to Richard’s character in court. However, since Juanita has been to jail (for non-violent protest) and has had *** before marriage (with someone she loves), the racist white townspeople defending Lyle suggest her testimony is of no importance.
Ottar Apr 2013
It has happened here it has happened there,
Coast to coast,
Oh I am sure it has happened everywhere.

Boys trying to act like the men, nice toys, wanna keep 'em?,
Not only in Canada, eh?
Males smoking cigarettes, selfish stale, group identity.

Not one brain between all and any number of 'em.
Not enough evidence?
That however, does not make it their right, do YOU follow?

Free flowing liquor, reels them in, boys/men are guilty of this sin,
Hold your daughters, closer and your princesses close,
Seen and Unseen, depravity,  all in the name of a house,rave party.

There is no excuse, there is no reason, no ONE or more males,
Has this privilege, so I write
Stop, before you ruin her life, stop, before the media has a frenzy.

You may one day meet and marry,
the woman of your dreams,
will she have to be wary,
and are you what you seem?

DWE 2013-04-10
Media, Newspapers and News defend their reporting, 'bout time they get into the 20th century - this is where they go wrong - sensationalism = today's reporting = welcome to the coliseum (roman style)=with out blood, guts and gore, no one will buy a subscription. Grow up, you are looking a little bit aged.

Update YES, C'mon N.S. -make it right.
Nirali Shah May 2015
Once upon a time
There stood a frigid little snowman
With finger holes for eyes
Which spoke no truth nor lies

Two twigs made his disfigured arms
And a stoll for keeping him "warm"
There he stood with all his smiley charm
From the dusk until the dawn!

His head covered with dad's old beret
And a stalky little carrot nose
Oh yes,He was our brave little snowman
Who grew as he further froze.

Then came the mighty spring
Putting our little snowman at risk!
And then came the sunshine
Leaving only the beret,stoll and the twigs.

Months passed by
Winter came again
And Childern came along
With the Brave little snowman!
Just a little word doodle :)
{My Soul} I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
"Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul

{My Self}.  The consecretes blade upon my knees
Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was,
Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
Unspotted by the centuries;
That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
From some court-lady's dress and round
The wodden scabbard bound and wound
Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn

{My Soul.} Why should the imagination of a man
Long past his prime remember things that are
Emblematical of love and war?
Think of ancestral night that can,
If but imagination scorn the earth
And interllect is wandering
To this and that and t'other thing,
Deliver from the crime of death and birth.

{My self.} Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
Five hundred years ago, about it lie
Flowers from I know not what embroidery --
Heart's purple -- and all these I set
For emblems of the day against the tower
Emblematical of the night,
And claim as by a soldier's right
A charter to commit the crime once more.

{My Soul.} Such fullness in that quarter overflows
And falls into the basin of the mind
That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
For intellect no longer knows
Is from the Ought, or knower from the Known --
That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
Only the dead can be forgiven;
But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.

{My Self.} A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;
The finished man among his enemies? --
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what's the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?
I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.
I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

— The End —