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Rose Feb 2018
Today you gave me a dozen red roses.
You told me how sorry you were,
And that you still loved me.
Today I shed a dozen tears.
One for each rose.
Your words are like the thorns on these roses,
Sharp and painful.
Even though they come from something so beautiful.
Today you gave me a dozen roses.
Today I watered them with my tears.
A dozen roses and a broken heart.
A dozen roses.
A dozen tears.
A dozen reasons that I left.
A dozen ways you’ve hurt me.
A dozen reasons to stay.
Today you gave me a dozen roses.
Today I shed a tear for each one.
2-14-18
A short poem about how my Valentines day has been so far. I hope you all are having a much better day than me.
Happy Valentines!
Mark Upright Aug 2018
The World Requires Edmund Black’s Random Acts of Doughnut Kindness (1/36)

Edmund!


a friend mutual on HP
sent me your poem below
asking me to respond appropriately,
close the tale, he said,
and that I would understand,
thinking by being marked,
I had some expertise in the matter

perhaps you are unaware that the world
exists only because there are at least thirty six^
righteous men on the earth and
personally believe,
there are more

who they are, a well kept secret,
but secrets tend to leak so...

only one,
Mr. Edmund,
employs a dozen doughnuts
(chocolate frosted)
to follow through
on the most important
commandment human
love thy neighbor
with a dozen holies

I’m told that like certain loaves of bread,
a dozen doughnuts
now have along with
wine and water
a place in the repertoire of the selector of the
thirty six

which needs noting,
a dozen
is 1/3 of thirty six

sometimes the answers are in the wholes of the holiest!


<•>
Edmund black
Jul 15

My Perfect Morning

The climate in the
World may change
But it will never
Change me
not for a moment
I truly have the most
amazing  life ,
Couldn’t be any better
I get up every morning
Next to  this gorgeous
amazing woman
Get my morning kiss
Maybe a few morning kisses
in my open mouth
If you get my drift
Cause you know I’m in love
Sit back in the back patio porch
Listening to Mother Nature’s  
Performance
while reading hellopoetry
Few minutes later
I told my lady  I had to
Go run  some errands
Not realizing yet
What’s up ahead,
Arrived and
While in line at Chrispy kreme’s
A little boy about 5 years of age
Loosing his mind over some
Chocolate frosted
Mother and father told him
They couldn’t afford it
They were only there for coffee
Little boy started
crying hysterically
My Heart Cries out for him
And chivalrously I’ve waited
in line right behind them
Just couldn’t allow
That to take place
I told dad if it was okay
I would love to buy the boy
a dozen chocolate frosted
He accepted and gave
me a hand shake
Mom teared up and dad
wouldn’t Stop thinking me
I hate seeing good
People like this
But anyway,
What an awesome moment
A moment of love sharing
And here’s the most
Amazing part of
my early morning outside
Of my morning kisses
I got the longest hug
From the little man
A handshake
From dad
And a kiss on the cheek
From mom
What can be any better
Than the life I live
I do what I want
And it’s mostly
Helping other people
That’s all that matters.
Having meanings in
Other people’s lives
Fulfills me ,
And what more
Can I say ,
My perfect
          Morning

I live life
For the inexplicable
Moment
Life is love and love
     Always gives
                    ALWAYS
^Mystical Hasidic Judaism as well as other segments of Judaism believe that there exist 36 righteous people whose role in life is to justify the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God. Jewish tradition holds that their identities are unknown to each other and that, if one of them comes to a realization of their true purpose, they would never admit it:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzadikim_Nistarim
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.
Syiera Rose Jan 2016
Sleeping on a dozen frozen boulders.
Dreaming of a dozen frozen rivers.
Being overcome by a dozen frozen fingers
Digging up what will soon become a dozen ice cold oceans.
A single ray of healthy golden sunlight
Shines down on all those frozen figures.
And as those frozen rivers start to melt
The frozen fingers begin to float up and away.
Then there grows a dozen tall and green trees.
In a dozen different voices they tell me
"May your heart remain weightless and your mind keep you floating. For the air may bring you to from a dozen different places. No one will benefit from your own self oppression."
I write all my poems, if you would like to use any of them, I ask you to ask my permission or at least tell me. that is the least you could do.
Thank you.
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

I'm an only child born in Montana in 1983, from a divided home. Parents divorced at seven, Mom was unstable and unfaithful. Dad obtained custody of me and we moved to Oregon Coast to live with my Grandma. I had unhealthy visits and relationship with Mom thereafter. My Grandma died at 12 and at 13 my Dad remarried an alcoholic woman, I had a strained relationship with them until adulthood when she stopped drinking. I had exposure to trauma; alcoholism, mental illness, verbal abuse and juvenile troubles. I rebelled by using drugs in my late teens and early twenties, I lived on my own for a few years after high school but had little direction.

My bride is the eldest with two little brothers, parents stayed in same area of Portland during childhood with lots of family support and her parents stayed married. They had Christian values but some anger and anxiety issues at home. She was sexually assaulted at 17 and never had good closure with this. She told me her parents didn't provide her enough help with things like this growing up. Status quo was the backbone of the family dynamic, challenging emotions were discouraged. She rebelled by being reckless with herself, financially and sexually. She decided to join the Navy at 19. She lived alone briefly, but mostly with Grandparents & Parents before our marriage.

I loved how we both grew up reading Archie comics. No other girl I had ever met had that in common with me. I think we wanted a surreal life like the one in Riverdale.

2002

She and I were 19 when we first met in my home town on the coast at an arcade. We became friends and secretly liked each other. I was too nervous to ever make a move on her. We traveled together, she stayed with me, we used drugs together and drank at times. One night she drank too much and had *** with a guy I knew at a party. I was devastated by this. She was Navy bound and I didn't see a real future for us. The next morning she left and I didn't talk to her again for two years. I figured she would be gone with the Navy soon and that she must not have been interested in a relationship with me despite the time we spent together.

2003

I was depressed about this rejection. I dated an older woman who was interested in me but was no substitute. I eventually moved to the Portland area to work and live. I still had few plans and was lonely, in or out of the few brief relationships I attempted. I never found someone that I felt safe with or had a true connection, let alone true love. She ended up not following through with the Navy and continued working her way up in her job at the call center. She attended community college and dated a few guys. She dated one guy for a couple of years who was not a good match for her but stayed with him off and on despite issues. His family was wealthy and treated her well. He slept around on her as did she. At one point he gave her an STD. She also had an ongoing affair with a married man in the military that she went to high school with. He had a child and a wife with mental health issues. She was still hurting a lot at times and not always doing well.

2004

She reached out to me via email after two years of no contact. We emailed back and forth a couple times over the next few months. We talked about meeting up. We spoke on the phone and eventually met up in Portland. We had an amazing night getting to know each other again and work past the confusion of our earlier days of friendship. I realized that she did in fact like me before but since I was timid and trying to be proper and take things slowly she didn't understand my motives. She apologized for her actions at the party as well. She claimed she was in a really messed up place and was making bad choices at that time. Getting our feelings out in the open was good and she appreciated my attitude towards being slow to make moves on her when we first met. I was worried about falling for her based on our history but eventually I was determined to give it a shot. We soon after starting dating and being intimate. Our love was extremely powerful and beyond all others we had both experienced. She broke ties with other suitors and shortly after we talked about marriage and started planning a wedding for the next year.

I remember when we first held hands. We were so shakey and she was quivering on my couch as I had my arm around her. We felt so safe with each other. We could finally be ourselves and do what our hearts desired. We knew we were on to something new and so amazing. We were so patient with each other as we navigated our new love and emotional thresholds.

I remember when we saw Matisyahu in concert together. That was a once in a lifetime experience and a life-changing moment for us. I feel it set the tone for things to come in our future.

I remember how creative my proposal to her was, in the Arcade where we first met. I hid the ring in a prize container from one of those claw machines. Pretending I got the ring from inside by reaching into the machine on one knee I was so nervous and wasn't sure if I could pull it off before she caught on. She looked so shocked and surprised. I was so excited she said yes! We took pictures in the photo machine and had burgers afterwards, I'd do all of it all over again just to see her face in that moment.

2005

We found an apartment for us in Portland. I moved in while she was still living back with her parents until the wedding. She had to change her number because the married man she was previously involved with kept calling her about changing her mind about marriage and continuing their relationship. She was offered a job in Denver and we decided to move away together after our sandy wedding in Cannon Beach. I still had a very hard time and was embarrassed with my past history with her. Many of my friends knew what had happened at 19 and how much it hurt me but I was so crazy about her I think I tried to pretend it didn't happen or that it was not a big deal because we were younger. We got married and moved to Colorado soon after. We made friends at a church, I became more active as a Christian and really loved being married. We were very involved in keeping spirituality in our marriage. I began to notice her poor financial decisions and practices more. This caused conflict but we always tried to communicate and work on things.

I remember when we went down to my folks for New Year's in 2005. We sipped tea in my Datsun as we drove to the coast over the snowy mountain pass. We told them of our engagement. We were all so blissful and excited. We never knew what was to come. We didn't even know about the opportunity in Denver yet. Our story is amazing!

I remember when I wanted to go see her in Portland and the roads were iced over. I left my car at a park and ride before I caused a wreck. I took the light rail across town then rode a bus to the Eastside shopping mall. The bus to her house was not running because it wasn't safe so I walked the rest of the 4 Miles sometimes having to crawl on my hands and knees to make it up hills in the ice and then I finally made it only to just spend a couple hours with her and fall asleep on her parents couch. Her Dad drove us back the next morning to my car so I could get to work. It was all worth it just to see her for that little extra time. I would have done anything for her.

I remember when she was interviewing for the new position in Denver? I drove all over Portland trying to find little toy cars to help with her illustration about how a team is like a car having all four wheels and how they work together to accomplish a goal. I was so proud of her for giving it her all and succeeding at earning that position. Now that I think of it, that car analogy applies to our family and us. We all need each other to be better and keep on track and be a team. I am so motivated by that and our boys. I lose my way without that and I want to be her reflection and motivation as she has been that for me. I truly thought we brought out the best in each other when we were together.

I remember when we were given tickets to see Fiona Apple. That was so spontaneous and a great way to kick off our time in Denver together. We always used to watch our same movies over and over again. Like the Friends DVDs and White Christmas every winter break and The Wedding Singer. We walked everywhere and lived simply. "I wanna be the guy, who grows old with you"

I remember in our first Denver apartment when we took baths together in our claw foot tub in the big bathroom. We put a board over the top and played cards. I liked playing Uno with her in bed too. She was so funny being slightly color blind and in the dark, mixing up the greens and blues. We played Uno in Breckenridge too at that cool bed and breakfast in the fall.

2006

We had continued fun and adventure in our new home of Denver. She was doing well as a trainer for the bank and I started working in health foods. We went camping in New Mexico a couple times with friends and we both took individual trips to Oregon as well as one together for her uncle's wedding. We had marital spats on occasion but always bounced back. The issues we had seemed like part of a normal marriage and were far better than what I had grown up around. I realized that marriage was a lot of work but I was up for the task. She occasionally became aggressive throwing things at me or breaking things during conflict.  I believed I was the problem and tried to change for her in many ways. With two incomes we still had trouble making our bills at times. She had debts that I never knew about that started to catch up with us but I took care of getting them settled and we paid off her car and traded it for an older Volvo Wagon that we both loved, I even had it repainted her favorite color for a birthday gift. Overall things seemed like they were progressing in a positive way.

I remember when we saw Midnight in concert in Boulder. That was the peak of our hippy days. We were alive with pleasure in our healthy vegetarian diets and practices living in a time and place like no other. I want to be like that again. Reggae was our music. We had much in common.

2007

We really fell into our roles in our marriage and the community; church and culture, friends etc. Things seemed very balanced and appropriate for us at that time and that age (24-25). We had separate bank accounts and jobs. I had money in savings. We started the process of buying a house so we could invest in something. She became pregnant shortly after. I embraced the challenge with positive energy but we were both in for a big change. We started having more fights. I didn't have many friends and would write to old friends via social media just so I could to catch up and tell them things were going great with being married to make myself feel better than I actually did. She hated the dawn of social media and also felt isolated I'm sure. She felt I should be doing more for her and I didn't know how to do what she needed but I failed to ask a lot of the time. After one argument, she left the house. My instinct told me to look at ******* and ******* as a retaliation. I had not done this much once we were married because she always met my needs but when things were difficult between us I felt more emotionally isolated. She walked in and realized what I had been doing. She was very upset, and because she was pregnant, thought I was not attracted to her. The truth is I found her even more beautiful and in fact when I looked at ******* I tried to look at women I found less attractive than her so that I feel good about what I have. I mostly fantasized about how these women were more submissive and loving than her. That is the part I needed to feel good about and feel better about myself with because I felt very dominated and controlled. She has never forgiven me for this and I will never stop feeling sorry to her for my brokenness. During one particular argument that year she was getting close to being violent towards me again and I pushed her away on the chest with my fingertips. She got very mad and said I hurt her. I immediately felt terrible and apologized. I never let something like that happen again. I have always avoided violence towards others especially women and of course her. I was defenseless against physical and emotional abuse.

2008

Our eldest son was born at the beginning of the year, it was a traumatic birth for everyone. We wanted a natural birth with a midwife but we were transferred to a hospital and she ended up having an emergency C-section, nothing went as planned. We had a really hard time coping with the emotions of this experience. A lot of buried feelings and trauma from both of us started coming out. We moved a month later into our new home outside of town. No more walking or biking to places, we had to drive everywhere. This house was next to our friends from church. We thought this would make us feel less isolated but we didn’t really have the community with them that we had hoped for. They were upset that they didn't have a child of their own yet and being around us might have been hard for them. My wife stopped working and stayed home with our son. All these changes made for a very difficult time. I did my best to support them but this was the first time we shared a bank account and needed to follow a budget more than ever before. We had no debt at the beginning of the year with money in savings but then the hospital bills put us down about $7,000 and rising with new home and moving expenses and baby needs. My job could barely keep up. She and I had a hard time adjusting. We could not afford to travel home to Oregon and visit family as much and we felt more and more isolated. She started showing me more signs of instability, locking herself in the bathroom with kitchen knives and scraping her legs which continued off and on for years to come. Talks of divorce and suicide threats seemed to happen more than before. I felt responsible and tried to fix her ever changing issues with me.

I remember when herr ******* were full and swollen with milk. It is so beautiful the way she could feed our babies. I wanted her in every way, our bodies belonged to each other. I was there for her and our shared pleasure. I loved it when she told me that she was mine in the heat of passion. This spark could only be a bandage for so long but I didn't know that yet.

2009

I tried to promote within my company but was not selected, they were cutting budgets and employment all around me. I felt worried about our future. I had always thought the military might be a good opportunity and could move us closer to family back home. My father-in-law encouraged me to look into the Coast Guard. I felt this would be a good way to get moved closer to Oregon.  I ended up joining the Navy because we found out we were pregnant again with our second son and that was the only way I could join a military branch. She worked off and on as a nanny and later in the year at a coffee house working nights. We barely spent time together and when we did it was a lot of hard conversations or arguments about finances with making up intimately in the middle of the night between times of caring for the baby. She once scratched my neck with her fingernails during an argument. People I worked with noticed. It was a hard time and we knew change was on the horizon with jobs and moving. We did visit Oregon that summer though and had a great vacation at the beach with a borrowed 4x4 and staying at a hotel and picnicking out of a cooler as well as going to her brothers wedding. I was 26 and about to join the Navy to provide better for my family at all costs sacrificing myself for their benefit because I would have rather died than look like I didn't try my best for them.

I remember when our babies would kick and move around inside her belly. I loved laying by her and feeling her tummy. I would hum to the baby and hear them move and squirm. I loved giving our boys baths when they were babies too. We had our little bundles of our love, wrapped in a towel in our hands, so tiny and vulnerable. I miss those days and want to remember them with her, aside from this state of melancholy.

2010

The Navy recruiters would only take me if we rented out our home and had her stay with family during boot camp and training. We moved to a furnished apartment in Denver and put our things in storage. She was 5 months pregnant and our eldest was two. I shortly after was let go from my job. Our second son was born in April. I got a contract with the Navy at the last minute but didn't leave until August. We sold our beloved vehicles and lived off retirement funds for six months and moved down to Florida where her parents had just moved out of the blue for work, to stay with them until I left for boot camp. I applied for temporary work in Florida at a dozen places but had no luck in my three months there. I took care of our eldest a lot while she took care of the new baby. Being in Florida was a culture shock for us but we had our moments of romance and made the best of it. Eventually I left for boot camp in August. It was really hard and sad to be gone. She stayed in Florida and came to visit me with the baby at boot camp graduation in October. I then went to Connecticut for five months of training. It was also hard but at least I could call home every day and be in the same time zone. I visited Florida during the winter break and saw my boys and her. We went to Disney world and had a great time on her parents. We also made a romantic home movie I could enjoy while away from her. I flew back to Connecticut and tried to make the best of things. My roommate was very abusive of substances and I resisted the temptation for a long time but the threat of being submarine service bound and missing my family pushed me to drinking every weekend and getting messed up to escape before I left.

I remember when we drove to Key Largo, Florida and stopped at a crazy bird wildlife center. I remember our oldest was so amazed hearing a bird say hello back to us. It was so foreign and fun there. I am glad we all shared that experience together.

I remember our trip to the citrus grove in Florida. That was such a great day for our family. I always look back on that with really fond sentiment. I felt like I was in a beautiful family music video with them.

2011

I finished Submarine Training and got orders back to the Northwest. The plan was all coming together. I arrived first and bought a car and got our items moved from storage in Denver to our townhouse rental in Washington. She and the boys joined me a month later. I didn't report to my Sub for another month as they were at sea. She became pregnant again with our third son right after arriving. We had just bought a small car and were not planning on another child. Towards the end of the year I was working a lot and having a really hard time, being bullied and treated poorly at work plus our financial situation was still very difficult. Adjusting to the military was hard among younger men being 28. I dreaded each day in that environment but I tried to endure it for my family. I went to sea for a couple months at the end of the year stopping in Hawaii and California. During this time She reached out to her ex married affair partner after six years of no contact. She didn't tell me until later. She said she needed closure with him, we were not in counseling yet but she decided this was appropriate. I flew home early from sea and wanted to surprise her. The stress and trauma of this quick transition home after being to sea for the first time (which was also traumatic) made me want to drink and get messed up before flying. I arrived home and surprised her but I seemed off to her which I was but didn’t explain why, I have never done that since. I got to be home for two months almost work free while we celebrated the holidays and prepared for the new baby to be born. She started getting more involved with a church and building a community for us which was great. Our financial struggles almost led us to foreclosure of our home back in Colorado but by the grace of God we got it sold with a short sale just in time.

I remember when I came back from Hawaii and brought her a beaded necklace and she wore it naked with her big beautiful pregnant goddess belly and we made passionate hippy love together. I want to grow out my beard again and spend my life making hippy love and feeling free again.

2012

Our third son was born in January. It was a very positive birth experience and much less stressful than the other two. Shortly after I flew out to finish the other half of the deployment I had missed. I really focused on being positive and spiritually connected by reading my Bible at sea which was helpful. I called her when I arrived in Japan halfway through being gone. She was upset because she tested positive for an STD while trying to get on birth control. I became suspicious of her yet she was suspicious of me. We both got tested again and I was clean, she told me she had a false positive after all. This put a big strain on our trust, especially being so far away. This forced us to be honest with each other about some things such as her contact with her ex lover and my drinking to cope. We were both very upset until I returned home and we could start some counseling to work through things. Forgiveness seemed to be difficult for us. It brought up hurts of the past when we were 19. She also had severe postpartum depression that became worse after each birth. I was still having a hard time with work and the submarine environment. Our church friends tried to counsel us but it was not the most helpful. My submarine was scheduled for extended repairs and not going to sea for three years, I would be transferred before the end of that period. I used this time to bond with her and my boys. I wanted to get better involved in our community and do volunteer work and side jobs to earn extra money. Our boys were all given diagnosis's for autism which begun to fill our lives with appointments and challenges for years to come but we were a good team in dealing with all of it. It gave us something to work together on but took our focus away from working on our own personal issues and relationship with each other as much as we should have.

2013

We had new years with both sides of our family in a snowy mountain setting in Oregon. It looked like it was going to be a great year until her Grandpa passed away suddenly. It ripped our entire family apart but especially her. He kept the family grounded and she was very close to him, he really loved all of us. She and I started going on dates again because we had Navy sponsored child care. It was the beginning of a really good thing for us. Tragically one night after a date we were dancing with the boys on the patio and I tried to pick her up and I lost my balance and fell on her, breaking her collar bone severely. She needed surgery and was very mad at me for years to come. She has a scar, a metal plate and numbness in her chest. We worked through it with our community from church but she still is very mad at me. I feel more terrible about this incident than she could ever know. I would lose a finger in place of that incident if I could. I continued having a really hard time in the Navy and I didn't want to stay in but She insisted our boys needed care only the Navy could offer. She also said she would divorce me if I ever left the Navy. I took this threat seriously even though she assured me later that she would never actually do that. Against my own convictions I reenlisted because I wanted to do the best thing for my family. We moved into base housing at the end of summer and didn’t go out to do things as much anymore. The house was nice but it ****** us in, we also had less community with people around our home. I started volunteering at church more and doing work with special needs people. I felt like I was doing good things and that I had purpose all around. I think she appreciated this about me.

2014

We started seeing a professional counselor together and individually. It became a regular event. I worked on myself and she worked on herself. I had a lot of issues with my Mom and eventually broke off communication with her for my own well-being and the betterment of my family. I got past a lot of the bad feelings I had. She worked on her traumatic experiences and our relationship dynamics. Just when things were going well I got a new boss who made things hard for me and others at work and I started messing up more. I got in trouble for messing up a job at work and was given strike one on my record. She lost respect for me as a provider but I tried to stay strong showing her that I would continue to do my best.

I remember when we had an appointment in Tacoma and we had a brunch date together afterwards. She looked so beautiful that day, I took her picture and was so proud to enjoy  huevos rancheros and momosas with her. I remember going to the Tacoma Art Museum seeing the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, we have a great time together doing new things and feeding each other's interests. I loved laughing with her too, sometimes we just bust up like nobody's around. I loved the sound of her laughter. I loved watching Portlandia with her, it is so funny to remember the funny place where we became close and be able to relate together.

2015

I kept working hard and being involved with family and appointments for my boys and her. I still maintained my volunteer work and part time side jobs. I got strike two with the Navy for messing up again... I had just gained orders to leave the sub for local shore duty. I could not get out of the extended repair situation soon enough. She was very disappointed in me and not so understanding. I worked through this situation with our counselor as did she. He always told her I am a good man and that I do a lot for her and the boys. It's true, I care more than anything about them, I made mistakes and I feel bad especially when I cause my family stress. I left for shore duty in April. It was a hard time adjusting to the new routine but eventually we seemed to make it work. That summer we took a trip to visit Texas where her parents had just moved from Florida. We spent a great night together for our 10th anniversary in a hotel in Texas and went dancing. We had a lot more time together as my work schedule was less. The more people we had in our home working with our kids on issues the less useful my input seemed. I was not included as much in making family decisions because they all seemed to happen while I was at work, despite my objections. We tried to get our budget under control but she still had anxiety discussing spending. She continued to struggle with depression and was put on medication because she had still been harming herself. She was put on Prozac daily and anti anxiety medication as needed. He family members were not very supportive of medication which upset her but I always tried to be supportive in seeking help and continued care for both of us.

2016

We had a busy routine of kids in school now and home school and preschool and appointments for all of us. She wanted to go to church less and less. I started drinking a couple beers at night almost every day. I tried to mask my stress from her mood swings. She decided not to go to church at all anymore and focused teaching the boys about Jewish traditions exclusively which was hard for me to adjust to and confusing for the boys. I loved her and wanted to be supportive. As usual I was submissive and removed myself from the Christian church and some friendships. I feel like we lost our community at that point. We searched for a good place to have a new community with Jewish people but it was like starting over. I felt like I converted to Christianity for her when we got together and now I had to convert again, either way I would have done it for her because I loved her that much. The kids were confused by this change. After trying and failing at many synagogues we finally found one that seemed right for us.

2017

We finally had some money in savings because I kept it a secret and ended up planning a trip to visit her parents in Texas but it fell through due to lack of military flights. Instead we spent three nights away in a nice hotel resort as a family in February. We had three days of pure family time. Playing Battleship and other games in our room as a family, watching movies and eating at all the different restaurants and getting room service. Going swimming everyday in the foggy pool. I love our family and how we can have a great time together doing nothing but at the same time so much. That was so peaceful and relaxing. I wanted to keep doing things like that together as a family before our boys got too old. Shortly after this vacation she wanted to go back to school, then we bought a third vehicle so she could. Shortly after this she changed her mind about school and wanted to buy another house instead. I went along with it to please her and we practically killed ourselves trying to get the move accomplished with not much help or money. We had a good year over all. We got away for a romantic anniversary together in the summer. Just before the boys were going to start public school in the fall, her parents moved back to the area. She had anxiety with this and cut off contact with her parents and brothers for a while. Her Dad called me very upset and I tried to keep the peace until they reconciled. I was doing better with work and made up for lost progress as well as making arrangements to change jobs in the Navy to something more fitting. Since the boys started public school, I planned on leaving for Navy training in my new position after the beginning of the new year when they would be at a more settled place in their routine.

I remember when we went to the Olympic Club for our anniversary and we stayed there for a night away. We drove the long way through the countryside talking about new music that she wanted to share with me and she made notes of it on my phone notepad. We brought our own cooler and picnic that included Session Lagers and chocolate. We checked in to our room and made noisy bohemian love on the edge of the creaky bed in our small European room inches from the door. Then we went to the theater downstairs and watched the late showing of a really interesting Sci-fi movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets". We took showers and slept sweetly together. We made love again in the morning before we had a delicious brunch outside on the patio. We took the long way home and drove around on new roads and found our way out of cell phone reception. We figured out the road less traveled to get back to our home. We loved being alone and away together, just one night can make such a difference and mean so much.

I remember going to the Forest Theater to see Tarzan with our boys. That was such a great time. I would love to get our boys into theater and go see them someday. I wanted to keep our dreams and goals together alive and not lose opportunity and fall short by losing our partnership.

I loved going camping in Seabeck. Loading the truck with all our gear and getting away. Archer got sick from the cowboy caviar and I had to clean him and the tent up in the night. I was glad we had each other to be a team in our marriage in that situation as with all the other times. These sorts of things are what escape a person's mind when they are determined to get a divorce.

2018

We had a lot less money than the year before, again buying a house took its toll on finances as did the boys school and after school activities. I stayed very involved taking the boys to appointments and sporting practices. We stopped going to synagogue but tried to practice Judaism at home as much as possible, which I was very supportive of and involved with. She was still depressed and talking about suicide at times. I encouraged her to get help as I always had. Eventually she was diagnosed as Bipolar 2 and manic depressive by a new provider. She started taking new medicine for this and was worried I would want to leave her. I assured her I would never leave her and that I always wanted to work on things with her and help her. I left for training in Mississippi February 8th. It was going to be hard but I thought it might be good to have some time apart from each other to miss one another and reflect on things as well as prepare for times when I would be away at sea. I got in trouble in Mississippi for giving junior personnel a ride and being negligent of people who might be underage and possibly drinking, this became strike three. I never thought this could happen. I became recommend for separation from the Navy shortly after and was stuck in Mississippi for six months instead of six weeks. She was supportive through most of it but seemed to fall into hopelessness. Money was spent by her that we didn't have without discussion. She quietly leased appliances and tires and purchased a vehicle as well as having a secret bank account and email address. I discovered through our insurance company that she wanted to leave our policy for divorce. I didn't know this and she had even told the boys she wanted a divorce before I even knew. I was caught off guard and confused. I kept trying to communicate and reason with her but she didn't want to talk. I refused to give up and wrote emails and a letter but it only seemed to push her away further. By the time I left Mississippi she had filed for divorce and a restraining order against me saying I was unstable and a threat. I couldn't return to my home. My whole life fell apart in just a couple months. I found out she had been talking to other men in the Navy and keeping more secrets. I assumed this was her way of taking control during a difficult situation. I really needed her support during this hard time of transition out of the military. I became homeless, jobless and without my family in a month. I prayed to God that given time things might change between us but it was of no use. Bipolar had consumed whatever was left of my bride and there was no turning back.

I felt that our love was not one to be cast away. Other people might not understand or agree but what we had was truly special. We may have surely needed some time and space to get counseling as well as reconfigure and repair our marriage but I didn't feel like our relationship was irretrievably broken. She was so important to me and I thought she was the love of my life and would always have my heart. I wanted to be her partner in love and life, watching our boys grow up and being there to support each other. Being that she is Bipolar I knew she will need a lot of help and I was more than willing to assist her in making sure she was taking care of herself and not throwing herself into harm's way, ensuring she sticks with a plan we agree to for consistency. I cared about her deeply and had much compassion for her. I didn't believe she was thinking this through or thinking about the future. I really wanted to look at the long and short game with her, neither seemed appealing to me if we progressed but here we are. Things are not going to be easier. She will still have to face her problems and deal with me on a regular basis for the rest of our lives no matter what happens. She can believe her lawyer when they promise she'll get the moon and stars out of this in the end but they only see half of the story. Above all they want our money. It would have been good for her to face me in person and tell me she wanted to divorce and we could have started talking about it with a counselor to figure out how that could even work. Instead she chose to avoid as much responsibility for her actions as possible by doing everything in my absence as if I am not a real person. I had to find out about it from our insurance company and was last to know.

Immediately after I hear the word divorce I looked into her cell usage history and find she has a new military boyfriend that she talks to 20-30 times a day. She felt she owed me no explanation for this and it was none of my business. A mature person would have let me know about this months before and I would have seen it coming but there was no sign until it was seemingly too late. She strayed down a dark path and never turned back.

Her proposed parenting plan was cruel and had no thought put into it. Two hours a week with supervision, no holidays but father's day? She said she’s not trying to keep me from the kids but this is the exact opposite of what she’s saying with the paperwork she filed. She seems very mixed up and still you continues to make rash and sudden choices. Like a completely bogus restraining order against me that contradicts so many facts she has stated herself on record during my Navy retention process. She was so bold as to want to change her identity and even put it in ink on the divorce paperwork as well to a whole new name. That is not the actions of a stable person. She has since changed her mind again on that just as quickly as everything else in her recent life choices. I can't trust that any decisions she is making right now are for the right reasons or that she is of sound mind. I have never seen her so conflicted and confused, grasping at straws and running scared from herself.

Using the legal system so carelessly and going back and forth makes me feel like she is not ready to be making big choices and changes for her and our family. It is very unfair that she can’t consider my feelings on things and what I wish for the boys as well. Very reckless behavior. She can’t anticipate that the day would come where she has to face me and talk to me like an adult. She wants to hide behind the legal system which only leaves much to be unresolved. Ghosting me is not really an option in a marriage of 13 years with children.

Having relationship conversations is too difficult for her at this time and she would rather avoid it and skip to divorce because she thinks that will somehow be easier. I suspect she knows she is making poor choices, possibly out of fear and lust for something new and less painful than the reality of things right now. Our marriage was nowhere close to divorce when I left. She was sad to see me leave and woke with me at 3:30 am to say goodbye, making me coffee and cookies for me to take with.

Our community and accountability seems to be gone due to the continued trend of isolation that she is drawn to. The God fearing loving committed wife I thought I had is gone or trapped inside a terrified shell of herself. She cut me off from her family members and I can't discuss my concerns about her with them either. She only seems to have community with those who are not going to discourage her from these destructive choices.

I understand we have had issues and struggles but we are no worse off than other couples during challenging times. I think that because we loved each other so much it just hurt more when things got hard. I can't accept or believe this is justified or the right choice based on the positive trend we were on before I left. This was the longest break we have ever had from each other and I think she just needed someone to be there more for her, no matter who it was. Time can heal all wounds and I hope that is true for our relationship as co-parents.

She still refuses to tell me about why she wanted a divorce or talk about anything beyond caring for the kids. I have fought the restraining and I can see my boys again but I am still not allowed to my home without her permission.

I have risen from the ashes in just a couple months. I rent a room from a nice couple from our old church and obtained a good paying job while I continue paying the household bills.

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Bo Burnham Mar 2015
I almost forgot about you today. A sizable
spill of coffee shot me to my feet, holding
up my mocha-soaked notebook like an
unclaimed child. A dozen eyes found
me at once---a security measure meant
to bring shame to a klutz breaking his
social contract. Attention for **** living.
When the pain receded I stood in place
and imagined you brushing your teeth.
Z Aug 2018
Too many thoughts, too many feelings, too many faces

Yea, what’s the feeling of success?
Achieved so many things, but all I feel is regret,
I feel alone inside my head what don’t you get?
Wake up every morning like it’s still my set,
Reminisce on where I come from so I don’t forget,
Been to rehab a dozen times, they called me a vet,
You thought you knew me, I haven’t opened the curtains yet

Alcohol destroyed all my relationships
Forgot most of my life - except for the video clips,
Poisoned my brain to forget the pain, on the daily I feel insane
I’m above the ground though I can’t complain, god relieve this pain
I feel like I drank the blood of Cain,

Every day is a surprise, my brain tells me I’m so wise,
But he’s a master in disguise, while I’m the one who cries,
He’s the one who lies,
To me in my own voice watching my demise,
When he’s in in control anything flies,
It scares me, I built a fortress to disguise,
This out of control mind, I want to cut the ties
A Broad perception, in a beautiful world, through these eyes,

Try to express my feelings, no one can understand
**** it no one can, this experience is mine god had it planned
Just hope I can grow up to be the man,
The one he created to do whatever he can,
Yea, whatever he wants, his drive his will he can make a stand,
A visionary, Socrates his thoughts are grand,

Who do I trust, who I am or who I want to be,
It’s confusing with a devil living inside of me,
Loving spouse, family man what I try to be,
This bipolar got a hold of me,
Blindfolding me I can’t see,
Please doctor doctor set my mind free,
I thought I knew everything with my degree,
The lessons I learned from the things I failed to see,

Mommy and daddy got divorced when I was a kid,
I think I was 8, I can’t remember, who am I to kid,
My first blackout in life, daddy’s about to lose his wife,
So much anger, “he’s” telling me to find the knife,
Take it to the artery just a little slice,
Life’s not as nice, as people make it seem,
No one hears me scream, from the pain,
Inside this brain, some days I feel insane,
110 on the freeway trying to stay in my lane,
Drunk driving no I’m not sane,
Getting high to alleviate the pain

One day I can be the man, goals, driven, and full of will,
The next be full of sadness, regret, life stands still,
I can remember anger that drove me to ****,
You don’t know how I feel,
People probably thought I made a deal,
With the devil to have all this skill,
I write all these thoughts, hoping there’s a heart to fill,

Hope someone can relate,
I hope my pain makes you elate,
My perceptions not up for debate,
Here is my life there’s no room to understate,
The reality of my life and the things on my plate,
Strive to be in a mentally stable state,
Sometimes life’s not so great,
My minds locked in a crate, and he is the key holder of my fate,

My life feels like an afterthought,
Stepdad thought love was something that could be bought,
Used to get in trouble every time I got caught,
Only if they knew the realism of what I did, or maybe they ought
Not to know, but for the sake of the flow, I’m going to let go,
Put on a show so they finally understand what they missed long ago,

Let’s start as a little boy, all the love you showed was a decoy,
For the truth that mommy and daddy were ready to destroy,
Split us up, brown moving boxes was it all momma’s ploy?
I still don’t know the truth, I don’t want to ask or annoy

They say they fell out of love, how can you fall out of love,
Unless you gave up? Don’t you realize who’s above,
Poor American white family, three kids and divorced, man the stereo type fits like a glove,
Never got physically, but always received a verbal shove,
Psychologically I wish I could dispose of,
This garbage that’s left behind, in this mind how am I supposed to give away free love,


One day at a time, one fight, I’m going to give it all my might,
Serenity prayer please give me the light,
To accept my life and guide me right,
Some days things are out of sight,
God comfort me so I feel alright,
I’m shrouded in darkness, call me the dark knight,
Noble I’m my cause, daily life’s a plight,

As a teenager I survived off my drive,
Then there was the day I didn’t want to be alive,
Locked those feelings deep in the archive,
Padlocked in the deep parts of the brain so they don’t thrive,
Questioning the purpose of life when I was five,
Asked about space and God, curiosity already took a dive,
Most people and me don’t really jive,
One instinct on my mind is to survive,
Mania kicking in putting me in overdrive,
Found out when I was twenty-five,
I’m mentally ill, my life took a nose dive,
Time to wake up and revive,
It’s time to deprive,
The addiction and the **** I do to connive,
God im going to work on my life until arrive,
To the kingdom, hopefully I live to see thirty-five,

Todays a new day, no telling what I might do,
Try to hold my family together, backbone and the glue,
Just accept my view, everything’s not about you,
Been self-reflecting, I’m having a break through,
This story is contagious, call it reality flu,
Knocked on deaths door, Alcohol blood volume .492,

What was I thinking? Pores stinking, breath wreaking,
Family and friends shrieking, at all my drinking,
Woke up surrounded by the medical team,
Asked me if I was suicidal, I said what do you mean?
I’m a genius, with a good job, had one since fourteen,
Worked hard my whole life, why am I here confused as hell - creating a scene,
Needle in my arm, threatening to restrain me,
God please set me free, right now you’re the only one that can help me,
Ready to fight the doctors and nurses, now they’re going to petition me,

When I opened up my eyes,
Seen my momma with tears in her eyes,
Most painful look I’ve ever seen on her face,
Now I feel like a huge disgrace, wish she knew gods grace,
My hearts racing at a fast pace, anxiety took over freaking out in this place,
The realest hug ive ever felt was from momma while I was in that room,
Time to clean up my life, time to clear my mind and get out of the back room,
Where my thoughts are locked, time to forgive and bury the in their own tomb,
Most think they know me, and its dangerous to assume,
Most my life you seen me in my costume, hiding behind the monster of doom,
Spent so many hours in my bedroom, drinking so much leaving behind an ethanol fume,
Days later it’s still hanging around, how the poison turns everything into a darkroom.

12 days locked in the psych ward, hopefully I can move my life forward,
Dr. says I had an episode of major depression, I forgot to tell them about my secret obsession,
These words are the closest thing I have to a confession,
When I die take my brain for a case study dissection,
Don’t let my evil said lead you to mis-direction,
When im aware I can make the correction,
What an elusive lie, chasing perfection,
Life is about love and a real connection,
God im tired, give me a symbol give me direction,

Therapy sessions for years, did nothing to help these tears,
Still react with impulsion and anger, watch out for the danger,
the biggest fear ive ever had was the fear of myself,
and the things I was capable of to destroy myself or secure the wealth.
So many secrets it’s a masquerade, im hidden behind my stealth,
The lies created to maintain this alter-ego destroying my mental health,

My biggest pains in life are when I had it all and left it all,
My depression after mania was the biggest fall,
I felt like I was the king of the world, king of the jungle; hear my call,
My ego inflated from my achievements, made me feel tall,
Daddys dream was his oldest boy would play college ball,
Just like the song boys of fall,

Daddys dream wasn’t mine to live,
But that wont stop me from giving all I can give,
Im sorry for the night I was drunk and we got combative,
I shut that night out its not something I want to relive,
Please daddy forgive, now you’re so corroborative.

Now momma I know we do not speak,
The real issue is we don’t want to feel weak,
Why are we so strong, the ones who cant take critique,
Maybe we are so unique, and live life with such technique,
The type of thoughts people think are antique,
Their arguments bleak, our common point is its our mind we speak,

Im ready for the conversation, a common destination,
Where we live in harmony, and actions don’t lead to causation,
I hope my dictation, and the acceptance of your creation,
Allows you to accept me and the ground I call my foundation,
Rebuild our family, together we can create a formation,
Our time and love the only donation, mix em together titration,
It’s a ruination of the family, its everything I wanted it to be,

Ive struggled with every relationship,
With anyone I let close I seem to lose myself and flip the script,
Those evil days I hide in my mind, security equipped and encrypt,
I feel like im writing a manuscript, a story of a man who slipped,
On the struggles of life, and opportunities that have been stripped,

Went to college on a full ride, paid for room and board seen the debt and just about cried,
350 a month to the government talk about a life hurdle that broke my stride,
Since graduation I noticed im the new dr. jekyl and mr hyde,
Success in my life was implied, mental health hit me on my broadside,
Missed my grad school opportunity, I should have applied,
Had love going for me, turned into a landslide,
All I want to do is have a good job and be able to provide,
Im not the only one suffering this epidemic is worldwide,
I just want to sit by the lake side, retire and reside,
Somewhere peaceful where a simple life is implied,
The only downside, is the demon inside me that takes me on the regular for a joyride.

Worked 80 hours a week, drinking a fifth a day,
Most people don’t even know what to say,
To me it was just another day,
Its about to get nasty watch out for the word play,
Life not black and white live in the grey,
Area, mass hysteria, my mind runs astray,
Enough liquor in my blood to make me sway,
One wrong move may be my doomsday,
I write about my life like a final exam essay,
Giving it my all no halfway,
Yea, im making headway, opening the doorway,
For all to enter; serve up my experience like a fine dining entrée,
Living check to check, cant wait for payday,
Maybe someday, ill be on the golden walkway,
To the kingdom of god then ill be okay,
Impulses so strong its hard not to obey,
The other side of me that’s so hard to portray,
When hes manic I get risqué,
Let me paint a picture, get your tickets to the screenplay.

They say its not what you go through, but what you became of it,
My lifes not a stereotype, those stipulations don’t fit,
I seem to get back up after every hit, I couldn’t write this skit,
Im trying to use my ****, my mind feels split, I cant take this ****,
I just want to quit, go to therapy to learn skills and what to omit,
From my life, its hard ill have to admit,
Elementary school I realized I was a misfit,
Dreams in the stars, illuminated and moonlit,
Building a legacy without a permit,
Try to live life so im not a hypocrite.

Shocked by the responses to voice and gods word,
You can say in high school I was a nerd,
Football MVP and valedictorian man that’s absurd,
Wanna know my secret, ask me the password,
Stand on my own, not a part of the heard,
Forgive me for all my problems and troubles that have occurred.

The darkest secret you don’t know,
Is that im not motivated by the dough,
It’s the times where Im feeling high and low,
Sometimes it feels like time is slow,
The biggest crush to my ego,
Was when I had a 20-gauge ready to pull the trigger and blow,
Racking the shells, playing with the ammo,
The rest of my life I was about to forego,
I wanted to let go, because I wanna know
I write to share my story of experience, strength and hope.
In Recovery mentally and Recovering from substance abuse
corpser May 2016
I drink to all the sleepless nights
We spent talking and laughing.
I drink to all the bad memories
We shared on the streets.
I drink to all the sweet words
Whispered beneath our ears.
I drink to all the changes
Brought by the many seasons.
I drink to the two years
And the wicked lies of love.
I drink for the rain
And the never ending night.
I drink to the memory of you
I drink to the memory of what used to be me.
Sarah Richards Dec 2014
The week you
died
I ate a
package
of bear claws
of gooey,
cinnamon
almond
pastries

and you couldn't breathe
and you couldn't speak
and you couldn't see me
eating alone
in the dark

Dying isn't romantic
no wings
no music
no angels and
feeling of peace

it's sitting alone
in the dark
your back sweating
eating a dozen donuts.
zen Sep 2018
A dozen fellows draped in threadbare tread densely,

Profligating goons in obsidian gowns
gathered under rainbow
moonshine shaking bronze hands,
howling and ******,   in the shambles of the moon,  
rap'n and nod'n to the notes of midnight.
The mellow marines mourned over malice,
lionizing over lost ones,
many howled venerated, exalted in wonder
in  favor of their thrilling grace, and delight,
and brilliance, and might!
but some neighboring sticklers,
    behaved haughty and in disdain,  
of the crowdy Cavaliers bellowing echoes
signaling out
                 to the seers of the sea,
singing to the wands overwatching the wedding,
and ravens listened,
   roving like noble patrolsmen.

Traveleres and trainees at sea
   humble and bright
niave, and frieghtened
in traverse,
           volatile and toiling,
           tireless,
Lunatics, (laughing, laughing, laughhing,)
Rumaging through rain,
fireciely,
rallying and rableroused,
through towering halls of mohogony,
     hefty and wholesome were their hearts
though, beast of the woodsy edifice
were foul and benumb
scowling with contempt,
haste to devide and devised to hindrance.

Hence the heroes heed
   to the valleys of rose, and violet,
and strawberry fields of forever,
 seeking Saint Nicholas,
in the bustling Byzantium,
      in the murky shadows of doubt.
zebra Aug 2016
on the first date
she confided in me
i have a chromosomal disorder, disorder, disorder
i need love and pain strangely mixed together
my elixirs
i suffer reality distoooorrtions
a ghastly Vatican of ****** compulsions
my soul is black matter
my **** a seething cauldron of despicable desire
my *** cries for homicidal cruelty

mold me into a *******
fold me like a two dollar beach chair
the wrong way
tear me to bits
unwind my intestine
eat me like a blood ******* ghoul
make me squirm like an anime victim

i thought oh finally a soul mate
with soul

strange as a Dionysian mad hatter on hallucinogenics
hot girl creeping
grimacing at me
meandering conjurations by ****** contortions
stunning impersonations of a Fellini impaling
shes a famous artist
keeps broodish bowels and blood tampons in stainless vitrines
spot lighted
ready for her debut at the
Museum of Modern Art

she blows torrents of snot like ****
her beautiful desperate tongue searching the upper lip
a salty runny viscoses snack
oozy
finding it finally with her frenetic tongue
feeding her gooey ****
with wet fingers
oh yummy yum goo
up her *** too

first smiling then hideous scowls
exposed teeth
posing with a knife
wana see me cut my self bad boy, she taunts
wana see my impersonation of pizza with extra tomato sauce

blood blood *** in the be in the bed
wipe it up with ginger bread

some how she miraculously bulges her eyes out
then performs, ******* lips as if a minnow in a fish jar

pointing to her ***
giving me that **** hurt me twisted look
how about a peanut butter jelly ******* sandwich
with a side of ****** feet
**** and **** on toes
its especially prized this day of the month
as her **** tears like a vampires mouth, a torrent of blood
pouting **** with white red stained thighs that break a mans heart
*** nothing at all she quips
just a little accident
do you like it?
as she glares like an invitation
to play slip and slide bare foot in her puddle of blood

oh she made me *****
my cherry red **** having a nervous breakdown
from apoplectic horror gasms
a dose of heavens hell

i want her
she is voluptuous like a dozen venomous snakes
copulating in warm soup dark water everglades
she is slither theater

curdling screams
then muggling *******
brought on by the first belly stab
falling to her knees
looking up shocked
mouth gaping
eyes wide
grinning
glance steady
holding holding holding
the belly cut
a cacophonous modern dance of agony
followed by rapturous convulsing *******
that went on and on and on

get a bat she implored

she is a real ******* movie star
the Greta Garbo of *****
a dark jewel
a must have
a hell wife
goddess of dread
a ******* *** genius
my best girl ever

fused by desire
we kissed like **** loving catholic priests
in adoration of their savior
young boy *** castrato hitting the high notes


she looked up with desperation
eyes with glittering tears
and said
are you my black knight?
do you know how to hurt a girl
are you my
Vex Mallus
Dr Satan
Marquis De Sick
Nick Nick
Dark Officer
Remus the Werewolf
Dom Sugar Daddy
Pit Bull
Tommy the Tummy Gutter
5 o'clock Shadow
London Cabby
Amputee ******
Uncle Surgery Gone Wrong
King of the Carpathian Vampires
my sweet kissy Kitten

ooohh yes i said
i am all that for loves sake
albeit twisted
i am what you crave.. your no taboo lover boy
your ******* licking foot slave with a razor in hand
a bubble of poison between my legs
your homicidal suicidal cockealiciousness

she said good,
now that we have that settled
can we go out for dinner
ill be dressed in a jiffy
if i can find my dead skirt
of soft white gauze
with that lovely motif of dread red
and my precious toe tag jewelery
My poems remain explorations of the subconscious ******
If i where a film maker or a novelist  you  would see me telling a story, not judge me, although i admit to my paraphilias  
These poems  are lunar anamorphic streams of consciousness from the deep chaotic subterranean glitz of transgressive  impulses we all share
Read them if you dare...You might find that part of yourself that you don't want you to know about and then again  you may feel more complete some how if you do....I always loved that dark thing that sleeps with in me
Egg May 2018
We cannot write silence.
The beats.
The pause.
The breath.
The way it aches
and persists

and begs that,

if only for a moment,

our consciousness is only a whisper.
our bodies,
our lips,
the air that passes through falling chests
and stillness.

A melody of emotion.
Sleeping in the quiet of a heartbeat skipped
a word lost to the wind.

The wickedness of reticence
Encapsulated in air and time.

The moment stretched too long.
Hesitation perpetuated in the grip of fingernails
pressed into palms.

We cannot write silence,
but we can try.

to find a way to immortalize emotion
to create space
in the ceaseless drone of words that speak and spin.

I cannot write silence. But I can write
tears and years
and the burn of long-stretched lies.

I can write goodbyes and hellos
And dozen ways to say
I love to hate you
Or
I hate to love you
and sometimes
I cannot tell the difference.
Silence.
The space I have upheld for myself.

I love to hate you
Heart.

I hate to love you too.

I cannot write silence.
But I know it.
and I have held it in my hand.
Inspired by the Vanity Fair article of André Aciman's reaction to his book *Call Me By Your Name* being made into a movie. Specifically the quote, "I couldn't write silence."
Mateuš Conrad Jul 2018
.wow, i never thought it would ever be possible,
i'm sorry, i have no empathy for these youtuber "creators",
any idiot can regurgitate the news,
venture into vulture journalism,
  then again: gone are the days of closely associated
with people like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein...
they are really gone: what the hell was gamer-gate
compared to watergate? gate after gate,
and all i'm hearing is response videos,
it should have never come to this,
whereby journalists are as untrustworthy as politicians,
and of what remains, come the saturday and
the sunday editions, when the petty bourgeoisie
come out of the woodworks of a week,
album reviews, book reviews, t.v. reviews,
restaurant reviews: real, real journalism,
all the grit you'd expect from a warzone...
           journalists forgot they were not kindred spirits
of politicians: but immediacy historians...
the front-line history chroniclers...
i find... these days, esp. these days...
    you know why i like heidegger so much,
and forget the fact that he joined the **** party?
in 1938 he was already disillusioned by it...
so the ad homine fallacy bites the dust...
   even a **** deservers a redemption...
but i find that these days, of all days...
   man, as a historiological creature has to bow
before the unshakeable facets of the biological man,
esp. in the english speaking world...
    in terms of history and biology:
     history has all the fun stories,
and a sensible "concern" for time,
   well... if not "concern" then at least a bearbable
time-frame...
                  after all, i am the one who said:
all the great deserts of the world,
akin to sahara? they were once great
mountain ranges... you already know where
to look between a mountain range akin to the alps
and a desert... bound to h'america...
   monument valley: utah...
  a mountain becomes a rock after a while...
while the desert expands...
    ayers rock (uluru)... but monument valley (utah)
is a transition period between a mountain range
and a desert, if we're going to stand outside
of all space and time, and look back in...
we have plenty of time to catch-up on...
           just like i believe that black holes
are actually 2-dimensional objects:
   that spin really fast, giving an impression
of them being 3-dimensional objects:
as usually represented by a gravity dip associated
with them pulling matter into themselves...
i think that black holes are paradoxes...
since how can a 2-dimensional object
actually exist in a 3-dimensional space?
   that depends on the size of the "3-dimensional"
object / space... the universe is a medium,
it's defined as a "space" but to me...
      it's beyond space... it's only space on the grounds
of isolated time, 365 days,
the time and space it takes for the earth
to orbit the sun... which is an isolated example,
outside? well: there's atmosphere on earth,
outside? vacuum!
who's going to prove my theory wrong?
               not anyone in my lifetime -
besides the point with these youtube content
"creators": where credit is due, credit is due,
but once might have cared for their vulture
journalism... two old farts akin to felix (black pigeon
speaks) and sargon of akaad talking about how:
the youth are congregating to youtube to listen
to music: that's what i've always done...
  i discovered these youtube "creators" by accident,
i just wanted my jukebox back, man,
i wanted my algorithm back, my imprint back,
now that the devil's dozen scenario took hold
of the platform: 1 video playing, 12 back-ups...
and they're all the same, unrelated, *******...
        talk all you want, please, just give back
my algorithm imprint, where i can discover new music...
again... i never thought i'd see another
compilation video, 173 videos bound to one...
and, mind you... after finding about 6 googlewhacks
(googlewhack? when you use the sort of
language that provides you with only one search
result on the behemoth platform of billions
of results, 1 is grand, but 6? it's becoming too
predictable)...
                        so here's what i found
   (band - song):

wooly mammoth - mammoth bones / kyuss - space cadet,
rainbows are free - last supper / grand magus -
                                                mountain of power,
zed - lies / om - cremation chant I & II,
    smoke - hallucination / weird owl - white hidden fire,
orchid - son of misery / witch - seer,
               unida - you wish / black mountain - old fangs,
b.r.m.c. - ain't no easy way /
              jack daniels overdrive - ****** to death,
shrinebuilder - blind for all to see,
                   datura - mantra / the heavy eyes - voytek,
the machine - infinity / clutch - the regulator,
   colour haze - mountain / maligno - son of tlalocan,
dozer - twilight sleep / gomer pyle - albino rattlesnake,
blockback - dead mans blues / greenleaf - witchcraft tonight,
cactus jumper - right way / borracho - bloodsucker,
alabama thunderpussy - motor ready,
                    earthless - sonic power,
my brother the wind - death and beyond,
   zaphire oktalogue - carrion fly / siena root - reverberations,
unida - slaylina / pothead - toxic / sungrazer - mountain dusk,
   rotor - costa verde / blizaro - it's in the lighthouse,
planet of zeus - woke up dead,
     kongh - pushed beyond / ufomammut - smoke,
high on fire - to cross the bridge,
              the secret - bell of urgency,
      unida - wet pussycat / dozer - big sky theory,
cavity - chloride / brutus - swamp city blues,
the grand astoria - something wicked this way comes,
sasquatch - the judge / pharaoh overlord - skyline,
baby woodrose - love comes down / kamni - **** of satan,
lay with me - the flying eyes / cowboys & aliens  -
                                                out of control,
sons of otis - liquid jam / hainloose - recipe,
    ridge - rancho relaxo / bongripper - ****** sutherland,
skraeckoedland - cactus / grails - satori,
    lo-pan - chicken itza / five horse johnson - people's jam,
blind dog - don't ask me where i stand,
     wiht - orderic vitalis / hisko detria - nothing happens,
liquid sound company - leage for spiritual discovery lives,
   goatsnake - black cat bone / gandhi's gunn - rest of the sun,
the egocentrics - wave / propane propane - it's alright,
heliotropes - ribbons / mother mars - price you pay,
che - the knife / annimal machine - condenado,
   earth - tallahassee / the whirlings - delirio,
orchid - heretic / maeth - horse funeral,
siena root - rasayana / graveyard - longing,
           tia carrera - hell / hainloose - recipe,
      burner - five pills (and a bottle of whiskey),
dala sun - guilty for ****** / vulgaari - lie,
        slo burn - muezli / stonehelm - zombie apocalypse,
smallman - evolution / spiders - fraction,
         shakhtyor - e. jaspers / earthmass - lunar dawn,
evoke the lords - dregs / colour haze - silent,
     sutrah - el septimo viaje...

  

who are "these" people,
who: "supposedly" live for the future...
they always cite it,
as the one motivational
momentum of the present -
it's as if they've never seen
a bull itch the ground
with its front hoofs -
   imitating building up momentum
before a charge...
or how a slingshot,
or how a bow works...
   to these people,
the ******* sideways movement
of a bow against a violin...
sometimes...
      you do not retreat into
the past, to hide, to amount
to nostalgia...
     sometimes
the only reason for the reflexive
affirmation, confined to maxims
and aphorism, nay: even poems!
is to look back...
     to reap what was once
sowed, rather than sow blindly,
and reap: what no one wants
to reap...
    drunk? getting there...
       it felt so relaxing paying off
a 100 / 250 part of a debt
i owe her...
            while buying a russian
standard liter,
   asking for a 100 cash-back
of the supermarket cashier,
- the limit is 50,
   but if you buy something else,
i can give you another 50...
- oh... ok...
   so me went to and took a bottle
of shveedish cider...
   rekorderlig...
   mind you? the swedish,
what they perfected fermenting
better than what the the irish claim
to fame is?
    sorry... magners:
               irish? stick to the guinness...
(it's actually the only cerveza
i'd go into an english pub to
drink from the tap... bottled? canned?
not the same)...
     but with such swedish delights
such as the above mentioned,
  ålska and K  ö   nigsberg
                            *œ
?
no competition... the suede(s) just
do one thing grand...
    cider...
- what was i talking about?
  ah... the "dreaded" past...
     the people who say:
  but you can't live out a life,
   holding onto a private past,
a memory...
    so... these other ******* were
allowed to implant a false
past, unrelated to me,
teaching me whether it was
Newton, or Leibniz who first
invented the infinitesimal calculus
method?
                i'm betting on Leibniz...
after all... he took the position
of a ******* librarian...
   and he wasn't buried with pomp
& circumstance at Westminster Abbey...
sometimes...
         one person can't have it all...
but if the education system
is a system that is indicative for
the erosion of memory, esp. private
matters... and juggernauts in
with these selective rubrics of science
and history...
fair enough the basic
implants: numerical arithmetic,
and lettering arithmetic -
    and then... lessons in mental
entertainment... when applied
           to menial labour...
memory is: supreme...
          i can't give my memory up...
that's what: killer proteins
eating the fat tissue of the brain
like starvation in reverse
        of a case of Alzheimer's?
memory is: cameo cinema -
    however distorted it might be,
although i beg to differ on
whether time per se,
  is not the better psychedelic
component
when coupled with memory -
esp. the cinematic aspect of memory...
there was never a "living" in
the past -
      there was a point about memory
to sharpen the edges of
    "dasein"... all speculation and
questions regarding consciousness,
as championed through
a chimpanzee's *** are somehow
pointless:
    given there's a higher tier of
conceptualization -
   working from dasein...
            hierjetzt -
      or in english?             presence...
- because why would i treat
a personal memory,
like some inorganic entity of
a schooling system,
under Catholic measures,
  that made it necessary to include
Pythagoras... but not Horace?
that's inorganic memory...
and unless i turn into some
inorganic entity -
   the organic aspect of my psyche:
my past, my cameo cinema?
   that's going to be a leech,
attached to me...
  and i'm not going to give it up,
just like... when i walk about
my door, and enter the england
that i know on the peripheries...
i'll speak the lingua franca -
     but with my privacy?
    you'd better cut my tongue off
before i stop speaking
my western slavic heritage...
    and it pains me...
when certain groups of immigrants...
don't know the POINT
where immigration becomes
insensible... self-lacerating...
           i once hated their approach...
now i just pity them...
anyone ****** can juggle
     two oranges rather than three...
p.s. old school cure for a cold?
forget the pills...
   glass of warm milk,
  an egg yolk,
     and a good scratch of butter...
  (on the rare occasion,
  milk infused with garlic)

mixed together...
before bedtime...
  if the ****** won't sweat out
the bacteria during the night...
     well... stick to the synthetics...
i'm pretty sure i know why i drink...
certainly not to: PARTY PARTY PARTY...
i always aim for
the one safety net of "pharmacology"...
ssssssssleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

p.s. so much for children loving their
parents...
        in vitro and the whole
m.g.m. debacle:
so, sweet little *******,
       no *******, no chance for your
for a quickie satellite launch date from
Tehran, under all the weight of
monotheism turned secular...
christianity: the only "monotheism"
with overt tinged of polytheism,
lutheran, baptist, catholic, orthodox...
just today i opened my door twice...
once to a confused curry house delivery man:
did you order some food:
i too replied with a confused look
and the word: huh?! no.
then a black woman with a a white ol' granny
came by with a leaflet...
the jehovah's witnesses were on my trail...
lucky of my grandfather,
   the profanity brigade of the hebrew name
i will not dare utter came by...

  and if you have lived a good enough life:
memory? memory beats hollywood
technicolour and CGI...
at least in the cinema of memory i always
get to play the cameo (role)...

oh i get the youtube creators:
   living with his parents... still. aged 33...
funny that i don't mind them,
since they're getting older they're settling
into their solispsism,
        annoying as ****, but i stand them,
thank god the protruding caduceus veins
on my phallus protected me from
a circumcision...
  i can ******* like a girl with a web-cam...
no scented candles:
the no. 1, 2 & 3 on the throne of thrones...
the toilet, simultaneously masaging my ****
and prostate...

men were not exactly supposed to derive
pleasure from ***: they were,
supposed to give pleasure,
and in giving pleasure to one outlet,
they were subscribed to finding out what
best pleases them: ergo?
women would always derive more of
the people from *** than men would ever...
*** is not a story of bragging about
a harem... the woman lies flat...
the man pumps her...
after all... she is the one burdened
to carry a child, why wouldn't she be
the one deriving more pleasure from *** than
a man could ever?
72 virgins! ha ha!
   ah ha ha!
             what's the ratio?
   last time i checked... a 3 hole caravan...
of a woman's worth...
   mouth, ******, ****... and man?
only two points of entry, well...
"entry"...
                    seems that the tomatoe,
really is a fruit, but is treated like a vegetable
nontheless!
homosexuality in the 1960s...
william burroughs in Tangiers...
                    when Islam was quiet radical...

well... i cook, i clean...
                what are my other options of continuing
to write and living the ed gein "lifestyle",
i tried getting social housing in england,
but, i'm not a somali with two wives and a dozen
kids...
              rent, in london?
extortion...
                   housing shortage...
                 well there's me hating my parents,
the outside world just needs to see
an ed gein imitation...
               or there's me living off acorns
in the woods, or rummaging on the streets,
making the N25 bus from oxford st. to ilford
my own personal mobile hotel as a homeless
man in london...

   i think it's time to succumb to your
parents prejudices, if only for the jokes,
no point in making ethical high judgements
to fit into a zeitgeist narrative surrounding
yourself with people: you'd never eat a meal with...
that's how i define the highest form of respect:
if i'll eat with you: implies that i respect you...
i drink alone...
a high school fwend once thought he could
bribe me with his company,
that i "had to" drink with him...
      no... not really...
          i much prefer drinking by myself...
these days you're not expected to honour your
mother and your father,
i.e. make them proud...
               honour is a double-edged sword...
just don't be ashamed of having
a mother or a father...
not that hard: given western divorce rates...
i.v.f., frozen eggs... yadda yadda yadda...
lucky me in having went to university...
oh... really? so much cooler in a cosmopolitan
environment with your contemporary
flat-mates?
               get the picture?
                 paying rent while literally living
in a diguised cardboard box?
i can't help the fact that poetry doesn't pay...
that there are economic factors beyond
my control in play...
   maybe if i was the grandson of my parents,
born in england, and not elsewhere,
there would be some sort of + leverage...
for a bricks and mortar start-up...
plus... i hoard...
         books and music...
                     mind you:
neither of my parents spoke english as their
mother tongue...
  neither did i...
they didn't teach me this tongue:
i had to teach this language by myself:
for myself...
           aged 8: thrown into the deep end
of the pool: now swim ******, swim!

i just feel sorry for the immigrant parents
who gave birth to their children into the *****
of the land they immigrated to...

two days ago i found a heartbreak,
a romanian couple, with a child...
the father was stubborn in teach his daughter
his / her native sprechen...
romanian... but she was already speaking
perfect antithesis of accent kindergarten english...
and almost non-responsive to her tongue
alligned to her biology...
    clearly she was born in england,
but her parents were both romanian...
i've had that conundrum in my head
for a long time...
   what if i married an english girl...
and i was unable to teach my offspring
my native language,
what if i had to silence my native tongue,
"forget" it, or only speak it by myself,
via reading a book in western slavic?
what if the woman i married:
wouldn't see the benefits of bilingualism,
outside of the mainstream economic
mantra of ensuring your children
learn either german or mandarin or arabic?
that worried me...
          oh believe me, i enjoy my lapses
into english: since i am providing the groundwork...
but in the case of having offspring...
e.g. teaching them the western slavic tongue
so they could speak to their grandparents
(i.e. my parents)...
       even my grandparents lament
the scenarios when a woman would marry
an austrian... and she wouldn't teach
her children her native tongue,
and when the grandchildren would visit their
grandparents... they'd be speaking
a crude variation of braille, morse,
   sign-language: na migi...
               i know that my mother is alive
in me even under this veil of english...
because she's more than the womb,
the genitals of my conception, the breast fed off...
she's also the Atlas of my vocabulary
of the "hiding" tongue beneath this one...

i already knew the "game" was rigged from
the get-go... i've seen how one hindu woman
suffered being married to a scouser...
she never managed to pass on her language
to her children,
she bought a library, thinking her children
would succumb to learning: however poor
they might end up being...
but she was suffocated by the english
tongue of her husband...
and her children didn't express even the most
vague of desires to learn their mutterzunge...

that's what worried me to begin with,
marrying an english woman i was afraid
of the ignorance that someone bilingualism
was en route toward a psychiatrist disorder
i was diagnosed with: schizophrenia...
this anglophonic ignorance still scares me...
like: everyone is expected to speak the revisionist
globalist lingua franca: this anglo lingua...
if i didn't meet a bilingual / polyglot woman,
i'd return to rearing idiotic children...
anglo lingua was only supposed to be a middle-ground,
a "no man's land"...
             a language of trivial economic transfers...
a language primarily orientated around usage:
rather than an ethno-centric basis for "englishness"...
to **** with: god save the queen...
the british grenadiers' fife & drum...
                 old scot dragoons': auld lang syne...
those where my forever anthems...
see...
        what gave birth to a jihadi john?
his mother "forgot", his father "forgot":
his "mother" forgot, his "father" forgot to speak
the "ancient" tongue...
there's a point to integration of the immigrant,
an immigrant is a forgetful creature,
an ever pleasing creature...
never to mind himself as an ex-pat...
you ****** forget your mutterzunge...
you'll be speaking in cockney accents
with broken affairs of arabic beheading people
for zombified reasons of grandeour!
*******...
          you, you: you are to blame!
you were so ashamed of your parents that you
delved on honoring them to the point
of thinking giving pride unto them was very
much akin as keeping shame away from
their girdle of the wedlock of your own existence!
death has not made your a martyr...
i guess you deserve those 72 mishaps,
those 72 annoying voices...
and i pray to god that you receive your reward!
i hope that among the 72 you will never find
a chance a repose to find your: self!

integration is one thing,
pandering to the "elites": plebs who think they
are kings among the plebs,
is quiet another...
plebs who go places and think english
is a universal tongue: just because
uncle sam says so...
of those i respect:

y cymraeg: pwy dal eu tafod...
an gàidhlig: cò fhathast bruidhinn an cuid teanga...
i nawet moim: co ma mówić
to nawet tyle: co znaczy tak niewiele!

there are boundaries... learn the customs
of the natives, but ensure you retain the customs
you were born with...
a child, born in a foreign land,
ought to ensure his parents teach him
the words to speak to his grand overseers...
complete immersion,
this cultural abortion,
this cutting of the umbilical chord
from: i have never met a people so
content at having been subjugated outside
the indian sub-continent,
cricket... for ****'s sake...
       as to demand other europeans
to treat them as superiors,
when sitting alongside an englishman...
****-bud-bud, the **** are you on about?!
once again: england has become the circus
for the grounding of what began
with engels and marx...
   wasn't communism born from
engels and marx observing english society?
sure... first experimented en masse in
mongolia... but its origins?

   so of course i had problems finding a suitable
mating partner... i was afraid that my nativ-zunge
would die a slow but solemn death...
that an english bridge would not consider
the worth of a bilingual child, or a polyglot,
or that she would repress the chance of my
"biological continuum nuance" to respond outside
of the anglo lingua refrain of: beside the english language?
there are quiet a few one might want to learn...

it's not easy being a first generation immigrant,
esp. if you moved aged 8, mute as a wolf
to a domesticated dog's barking...
but hey, no jihadi john in me...
           jihadi john should have been raised
bilingual... i wouldn't be the one speaking broken
tourist arabic while beheading someone...
jihadi john spoke tourist arabic...
the dichotomy of the mind to the biological
reality, beside the current, western,
"biological relativism" debate...
      clearly darwinism was "wrong"...
man is, these days, left with neither a biological
reality, nor a historical reality...
              but there is a historical reality:
but it's so knit-&-picky...
come on... philip augustus of the capetian
dynasty?
                 casimir III...
                        jeremi wiśniowiecki...
konrad I of masovia...
                           kuno von lichtenstein...
alles ist gott: und gott ist alles -
  gott mit, uns!

              mit eine leben wert leben:
    erinnerung ist die nur kino
             wert sehen eine film beim;

hell... could be worse:
   i might have translated some latin
of horace into pig-trough comfort food.
Erin C Ott Jun 2018
Fallow brown, like he's poured his whole soul out through the gold sieve and lies in wait to be replenished.

2. The color of the ocean. Blue, I guess, but that’s not even the half of it. All the ruggedness of the waves—forming up, breaking, and forming again like life is only the motions. Her eyes are blue, but you could hardly tell.

3. A hand-painted bowl of fresh chocolate frosting from which the most immature hands soonest get a mouthful.

4. Beautiful. Like, drop dead gorgeous. I’d dig my own grave and stick to rolling in it if she ever looked at me some type of way. Their color? I don’t know. But most of all, I dare to wonder about the bludgeoned scar between them.

5. Sturdy cobalt. Far more indicative of her steady heart than gold could ever hope to be. Still susceptible to tear, but not so easily warped by heat or stress.

6. Simply brown. No, red? It’s always been hard to tell through the fog. Truthful like the rawest earth, I’ll call her mahogany.

7. Faded blue spray paint over a slate gray wall. Forcibly muted after her years of blasting music, but there’s still that rogue twinkle to them that I pray slips through the cracks.

8. Coffee, with all the vim and vigor to make you click your heels and fall in love.

9. Unripe lime seen lazing in the shade. Not fit for a margarita just yet, but straining at the bit nonetheless.

10. Hazel, although I still don’t know what the **** that actually is. Whatever. It looks nice on her resume.

11. Green. Or were they blue? The memories of her were too wonderful, too important, that I had to let the littlest details fade away first.

12. The crystallized seafoam that made me realize I deserved to feel alive, too.
Dedicated to any pair of eyes that's ever struggled to raise itself from the sights they've grown used to.
Olwyn Scarbeary Jan 2013
He left a dozen daisies,
on my car two weeks before,
at the start so white a supple,
a smell so fair and pure.

Days flow by like crystal honey,
petals falling to the floor,
wilting in the heavy air,
whispering their bitter lore.

The flowers soon escaped my mind,
the water running fully dry,
until the white was bitter beige,
and the smell became obscure.

Long after twisted leaves had wilted
they sat and watched the daylight fade,
the ghosts of daisies once in bloom,
now lifeless memories in decay.

Still I cannot let them go,
their wicked shapes so cold and worn,
the reminiscence stings my soul,
of something dried up months ago.

He left a dozen daisies,
on my car two weeks before,
now haunting with their crippled shapes,
a feeble love without restore.
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to **** you.
You died before I had time ----
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My ****** friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You ----

Not God but a *******
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the *****.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two ----
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagersnever liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you *******, I'm through.
You said the anger would come back
just as the love did.

I have a black look I do not
like. It is a mask I try on.
I migrate toward it and its frog
sits on my lips and defecates.
It is old. It is also a pauper.
I have tried to keep it on a diet.
I give it no unction.

There is a good look that I wear
like a blood clot. I have
sewn it over my left breast.
I have made a vocation of it.
Lust has taken plant in it
and I have placed you and your
child at its milk tip.

Oh the blackness is murderous
and the milk tip is brimming
and each machine is working
and I will kiss you when
I cut up one dozen new men
and you will die somewhat,
again and again.
Kyra Dec 2014
I hated your drinking
I hated your smoking
I hated your tattoos

& I hated it when the store clerk asked me if it was a rough night when I purchased a dozen of roses

because replying, "yeah my friend's stuck in his grave"
was something I never wanted to say in my whole life

But here I am, a dozen roses in hand
and here you are, buried, and unseen

I miss your drinking
I miss your smoking
I miss your tattoos

Because at least you *were alive
Nupur Chowdhury Sep 2018
I log into the network of my self-esteem,
To see the hearts and the wows and the laughs flooding in.
A simple 'like' wouldn’t cut it anymore
‘Likes’ were so 2010, even 2010 was bored.

‘Cause that’s the zeitgeist of the age, you see,
A tendency to wear hearts on sleeves.
Loves and kisses are a dime a dozen,
With a million friends and followers double.

National debates and social justice petitions,
Real crises, distorted renditions.
High definition photos of disaster zones
Flash up against cat videos on every smart phone.

Snapchat filters do not lie,
Just tell a story of hours gone by;
Selecting the perfect background, the ideal shade
To express love on the dozen’th date.

But that’s the zeitgeist of the century,
A tendency to wear hearts on sleeves.
To document in minute detail, with extensive pictorial evidence
Clockwork days of humdrum nonchalance.

And perhaps the generation that came before
Would call it vanity, vainglory, or something more.
But it ain’t like they were without their sins,
We didn’t invent tabloid columnists.

And now that we are at the end,
Let me sign off with this request:
Like, comment, and share your love
Let your heart fall out of your shirt cuff.
I.

One night at the Troubadour I spotted this extraordinary girl.

So I asked who she was.

‘A professional,’

That was my introduction that on a scale of one to ten

there were women who were fifteens—beautiful, bright, witty, and

oh, by the way, they worked.

Once I became aware,

I saw these women everywhere.

And I came to learn that most of them were connected to Alex



II.

She had a printer engrave a calling card

that featured a bird of paradise

borrowed from a Tiffany silver pattern

and,
under it,

Alex’s Aviary,

Beautiful and Exotic birds.



A few were women you’d see lunching at Le Dôme:

pampered arm pieces with expensive tastes

and a hint of a delicious but remote sexuality.

Many more were fresh-faced, athletic, tanned, freckled

the quintessential California girl

That you’d take for sorority queens or future BMW owners.





III.

The mechanism of Alex’s sudden notoriety is byzantine,

as these things always are.

One of her girls took up with a rotter,

the couple had a fight,

he went to the police,

the police had an undercover detective visit

(who just happened to be an attractive woman)

and ask to work for her,

she all but embraced her

—and by April of 1988 the district attorney had enough evidence

to charge her with two counts of pandering

and one of pimping.

For Alex, who is fifty-six

and has a heart condition and diabetes,

the stakes may be high.

A conviction carries the guarantee of incarceration.

For the forces of law and order,

the stakes may be higher.

Alex has let it be known that she will subpoena

every cop she’s ever met to testify at her trial.

And the revelations this might produce

—perhaps that Alex compromised policemen

by making girls available to them,

—perhaps that Alex had a deal with the police to provide information

in exchange for their blind eye to her activities

—could be hugely embarrassing to the police and the district attorney.

For Alex’s socially correct clients and friends,

for the socially correct wives of her clients and friends

and for a handful of movie and television executives

who have no idea they are dating or

married to former Alex girls,

the stakes are highest of all.



IV.

Alex’s black book is said to be a catalogue of
Le Tout Los Angeles.

In her head are the ****** secrets

of many of the city’s most important men,

to say nothing of visiting businessmen and Arab princes.

If she decides to warble,

either at her trial or in a book,

her song will shatter more than glass.





V.

A decade ago, I went to lunch at Ma Maison,

There were supposed to have been ten people there,

but only four came.

One of them was a short woman

who called me a few days later and invited me to lunch.

When I arrived, the table was set for two.

I didn’t know who Alex was or what she did,

but she knew the important facts of my situation:

I was getting divorced from a very wealthy man

and doing the legal work myself

to avail lawyers who wanted to get a big settlement for me.


Occasionally, she said, I get a call for a tall, dark-haired,

slender, flat-chested woman

—and I don’t have any.

It wouldn’t be a frequent thing.

There’d be weekends away, sometimes in Palm Springs,

sometimes in Europe.

The men will be elegant,

you’ll have your own room

—there would be no outward signs of impropriety.

And you’d get $10,000 to $20,000 for a weekend.





VI.

The tall, slender, flat-chested brunette

didn’t think it was right for her.

Alex handed her a business card

and suggested that she think about it.

To her surprise, she did

—for an entire week.

This was 1978, and $20,000 then

was like $40,000 now,

I knew it was hooking,

but Alex had never mentioned ***.



Our whole conversation seemed to be about something else.



VII.

I was born in Manila

to a Spanish-Filipina mother and German father,

and when I was twelve

a Japanese soldier came into our house

with his bayonet pointed at us,

ready to do us in.

He locked us in and set the house on fire.

I haven’t been scared by much since that.



My mother always struck me as goofy,

so I jumped on a bus and ran away,

I got off in Oakland,

saw a help-wanted sign on a parish house,

and went in.

I got $200 a month for taking care of four priests.

I spent all the money on pastries for the parish house.

But I didn’t care.

It felt safe.

And the priests sparked my interest in the domestic arts

—in linen, in crystal.



A new priest arrived.

He was unpleasant,

so on a vacation in Los Angeles I took a pedestrian job,

still a teenager,

married a scientist.

We separated eight years later,

he took our two sons to another state

threatened to keep them if I didn’t agree to a divorce.

Keep them I said and hung up.

It’s not that I don’t have a maternal instinct

—though I don’t,

I just hate to be manipulated.



My second husband,

an alcoholic,

had Frank Sinatra blue eyes, and possibly

—I never knew for sure—

had a big career in the underworld

as a contract killer.

Years before we got serious,

he was going out with a famous L.A. ******,

She and her friends were so elegant

that I started spending time with them in beauty salons.

They were so fancy,

so smart

—and they knew incredible people,

like the millionaire who sat in his suite all day

just writing $5,000 checks to girls.



VIII.

I was a florist.

We got to talking.

She was a madam from England

who wanted to sell her book and go home.

I bought it for $5,000.

My husband thought it was cute.

Now you’re getting your feet wet.

Three months later,

he died.

After eleven years of marriage,

just like that.

And of the names in the book

it turned out

that half of the men were also dead.

When I began the men were old and the women were ugly.



IX.

It was like a lunch party you or I would give,

Great food Alex had cooked herself.

Major giggles with old pals.

And then,

instead of chocolate After Eight,

she served three women After Three



This man has seen a bit of life

beyond Los Angeles,

so I asked him how Alex’s stable

compared with that of Madam Claude,

the legendary Parisian procuress.

Oh, these aren’t at all like Claude’s girls,

A Claude girl was perfectly dressed and multilingual

—you could take her to the opera

and she’d understand it.





He told me that when she was 40

she looked at herself in the mirror

and said

Disgusting.

People over 40

should not have ***.

But She Was Clear That She Never Liked It

even when she was young.

Besides, she saw all the street business

go to the tall,

beautiful girls.

She thought that she never had a chance

competing against them.

Instead,

she would take their money by managing them.





X.

Going to a ****** was not looked down upon then.

It was before the pill;

Girls weren’t giving it away.

Claude specialized in

failed models and actresses,

ones who just missed the cut.

But just because they failed

in those impossible professions

didn’t mean they weren’t beautiful,

fabulous.



Like Avis

in those days,

those girls tried harder.

Her place was off the Champs,

just above a branch of the Rothschild bank, where I had an account.

Once I met her,

I was constantly making withdrawals and heading upstairs.





XI.

We took the lift

and Claude greeted us at the door.

My impression was that of the director

of an haute couture house,

very subdued,

beige and gray, very little makeup.

She took us into a lounge and made us drinks,

Whiskey,

Cognac.

There was no maid.

We made small talk for 15 minutes.

How was the weekend?

What’s the weather like in Deauville?

Then she made the segue. ‘I understand you’d like to see some jeunes filles?’

She always used ‘jeunes filles.’

This was Claude’s polite way of saying 18 to 25.

She left and soon returned

with two very tall

jeunes filles,

One was blonde.

This is Eva from Austria.

She’s here studying painting.

And a brunette,

very different,

but also very fine.

This is Claudia from Germany.

She’s a dancer.

She took the girls back into the apartment and returned by herself.

I gave my English guest first choice.

He picked the blonde.

And wasn’t disappointed.

Each bedroom had its own bidet.

There was some nice

polite conversation, and then



It was slightly formal,

but it was high-quality.

He paid Claude

200 francs,

not to the girls

In 1965, 200 francs was about $40.

Pretty girls on Rue Saint-Denis

could be had for 40 francs

so you can see the premium.

Still, it wasn’t out of reach for mere mortals.

You didn’t have to be J. Paul Getty.





XII.

A lot of them

were models at

Christian Dior

or other couture houses.

She liked Scandinavians.

That was the look then

—cold, tall, perfect.

It was cheap for the quality.

They all used her.

The best people wanted

the best women.

Elementary supply and demand.



XIII.

She had a camp number tattooed on her wrist. I saw it.

She showed it to me and Rubi.

She was proud she had survived.

We talked about the camp for hours.

It was even more fascinating than the girls.



She was Jewish

I’m certain of that.

She was horrified at the Jewish collaborators

at the camp who herded

their fellow Jews

into the gas chambers.

That was the greatest betrayal in her life.



XIV.

She was this sad,

lonely little woman.

Later, Patrick told me who she was.

I was bowled over.

It was like meeting Al Capone.

I met two of the girls

who worked for her.

One was what you would expect

Tall

Blonde

Model.

But the other looked like a Rat

Then one night

she came out

all dressed up,

I didn’t even recognize her.

She was even better than the first girl.

Claude liked to transform women like that.

That was her art.

It was very odd,

my cousin told me.

There was not much furniture

and an awful lot of telephones.

“Allô oui,”



XV.

I had so many lunches

with Claude at Ma Maison

She was vicious.

One day,

Margaux Hemingway,

at the height of her beauty, walked by.

Une bonne

—the French for maid

was how Claude cut her dead.

She reduced

the entire world

to rich men wanting *** and

poor women wanting money.

She’d love to page through Vogue and see someone

and say,

When I met her

she was called

Marlene

and she had a hideous nose

and now she’s a princess.

Or she’d see someone and say

Let’s see if she kisses me or not.

It was like

I made her,

and I can destroy her.

She was obsessed

with “fixing” people

—with Saint Laurent clothes,

with Cartier watches,

with Winston jewels,

with Vuitton luggage,

with plastic surgeons.



XVI.

Her prison number was

888

which was good luck in China

but not in California.

‘Ocho ocho ocho,’ she liked to repeat

Even in jail, she was always working,

always recruiting stunning women.

She had a beautiful Mexican cellmate

and gave her Robert Evans’s number

as the first person she should call

when she was released.



XVII.

Never have *** on the first date.



XVIII.

There will always be prostitution,

The prostitution of misery.

And the prostitution of bourgeois luxury.

They will both go on forever.



“Allô oui,”



It was so exciting to hear a millionaire

or a head of state ask,

in a little boy’s voice,

for the one thing

that only you could provide

It's not how beautiful you are, it's how you relate

--it's mostly dialogue.



She was tiny, blond, perfectly coiffed and Chanel-clad.

The French Woman: The Arab Prince, the Japanese Diplomat, the Greek Tycoon, the C.I.A. Bureau Chief — She Possessed Them All!



XIX.

She was like a slave driver in the American South

Once she took a *******,

the makeover put the girl in debt,

because Claude paid all the bills to

Dior,

Vuitton,

to the hairdressers,

to the doctors,

and the girls had to work to pay them off.

It was ****** indentured servitude.



My Swans.



It reached the point

where if you walked into a room

in London

or Rome

as much as Paris

because the girls were transportable,

and saw a girl who was

better-dressed,

better-looking,

and more distinguished than the others

you presumed

it was a girl from Claude.

It was, without doubt,

the finest *** operation ever run in the history of mankind.



**.

The girl had to be

exactly what was needed

so I had to teach her everything she didn’t know.

I played a little the role of Pygmalion.

There were basic things that absolutely had to be done.

It consisted

at the start

of the physical aspect

“surgical intervention”

to give this way of being

that was different from other girls.

Often they had to be transformed

into dream creatures

because at the start

they were not at all



Often I had to teach them how to dress.

Often they needed help

to repair

what nature had given them

which was not so beautiful.

At first they had to be tall,

with pretty gestures,

good manners.

I had lots of noses done,

chins,

teeth,

*******.

There was a lot to do.



Eight times out of ten

I had to teach them how to behave in society.

There were official dinners, suppers, weekends,

and they needed to have conversation.

I insisted they learn to speak English,

read

certain books.

I interrogated them on what they read.

It wasn’t easy.

Each time something wasn’t working,

I was obliged to say so.



You were very demanding?

I was ferocious.



It’s difficult

to teach a girl how to walk into Maxim’s

without looking

ill at ease

when they’ve never been there,

to go into an airport,

to go to the Ritz,

or the Crillon

or the Dorchester.

To find yourself

in front of a king,

three princes,

four ministers,

and five ambassadors at an official dinner.

There were the wives of those people!

Day after day

one had to explain,

explain again,

start again.

It took about two years.

There would always be a man

who would then say of her,

‘But she’s absolutely exceptional. What is that girl doing here?’ ”





XXI.

A New York publisher who visited

the Palace Hotel

in Saint Moritz

in the early seventies told me,

I met a whole bunch of them there.

They were lovely.

The johns wanted everyone to know who they were.

I remember it being said

Giovanni’s Madame Claude girl is going to be there.

You asked them where they came from and they all said

Neuilly.

Claude liked girls from good families.

More to the point she had invented their backgrounds.



I have known,

because of what I did,

some exceptional and fascinating men.

I’ve known some exceptional women too,

but that was less interesting

because I made them myself.



Ah, this question of the handbag.

You would be amazed by how much dust accumulates.

Or how often women’s shoe heels are scuffed.





XXII.

She would examine their teeth and finally she would make them undress.



That was a difficult moment

When they arrived they were very shy,

a bit frightened.

At the beginning when I take a look,

it’s a question of seeing if the silhouette

and the gestures are pretty.

Then there was a disagreeable moment.

I said,

I’m sorry about this unpleasantness,

but I have to ask you to get undressed,

because I can’t talk about you unless I see you.

Believe me, I was embarrassed,

just as they were,

but it had to be done,

not out of voyeurism, not at all

—I don’t like les dames horizontales.



It was very funny

because there were always two reactions.

A young girl,

very sure of herself,

very beautiful,

très bien,

would say

Yes,

Get up, and get undressed.

There was nothing to hide, everything was perfect.



There were those who

would start timidly

to take off their dress

and I would say

I knew already.

The rest is not sadism, but nearly.

I knew what I was going to find.

I would say,

Maybe you should take off your bra,

and I knew it wasn’t going to be

beautiful.

Because otherwise she would have taken it off easily.

No problem.

There were damages that could be mended.

There were some ******* that could be redone,

some not

Sometimes it can be deceptive,

you know,

you see a pretty girl,

a pretty face,

all elegant and slim,

well dressed,

and when you see her naked

it is a catastrophe.



I could judge their physical qualities,

I could judge if she was pretty, intelligent, and cultivated,

but I didn’t know how she was in bed.

So I had some boys,

good friends,

who told me exactly.

I would ring them up and say,

There’s a new one.

And afterwards they’d ring back and say,

Not bad,

Could be better, or

Nulle.



Or,

on the contrary,

She’s perfect.

And I would sometimes have to tell the girls

what they didn’t know.

A pleasant assignment?

No.

They paid.



XXIII.

Often at the beginning

they had an ami de coeur

in other words,

oh,

a journalist, a photographer, a type like that,

someone in the cinema,

an actor, not very well known.

As time went by

It became difficult

because they didn’t have a lot of time for him.

The fact of physically changing,

becoming prettier,

changing mentally to live with millionaires,

produced a certain imbalance

between them

and the little boyfriend

who had not evolved

and had stayed in his milieu.

At the end of a certain time

she would say,

I’m so much better than him. Why am I with this boy?

And they would break up by themselves.



Remember,

this was instant elevation.

For most of them it was a dream existence,

provided they liked the ***,

and those that didn’t never lasted long.

A lot of the clients were young,

and didn’t treat them like tarts but like someone from their own class.

They would buy you presents,

take you on trips.



XXIV.

For me, *** was something very accessoire

I think after a certain age

there are certain spectacles one should not give to others

Now I have a penchant for solitude.

Love, it’s a complete destroyer,

It’s impossible,

a horror,

l’angoisse.

It’s the only time in my life I was jealous.

I’m not a jealous person, but I was épouvantable.

He was jealous too.

We broke plates over each other’s heads;

we became jealous about each other’s pasts.

I said one day

It’s finished.

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and say:

Break my legs,

give me scarlet fever,

an attack of TB, but never that.

Not that.



XXV.

I called her into my office

Let us not exaggerate,

I sent her away.

She came back looking for employment,

but was fired again, this time for drugs.

She made menacing phone calls.

Then she arrived at the Rue de Boulainvilliers with a gun.

She shot three bullets

I was dressed in the fashion of Courrèges at this moment

He did very padded things.

I had a padded dress with a little jacket on top.

The bullet

—merci, Monsieur Courrèges

—stuck in the padding.

I was thrown forward onto the telephone.

I had one thought which went through my head:

I will die like Kennedy.

I turned round and put my hand up in a reflex.

The second bullet went through my hand.

I have two dead fingers.

It’s most useful for removing bottle tops.

In the corridor I was saved from the third bullet

because she was very tall

and I am quite petite, so it passed over my head.



XXVI.

There were men

who could decapitate,

****, and bomb their rivals

who would be frightened of me.

I would ask them how was the girl,

and they’d say

Not bad

and then

But I’m not complaining.

I was a little sadistic to them sometimes.

Some women have known powerful men because they’re their lover.

But I’ve known them all.

I had them all

here.



She will take many state secrets with her.



XXVI.

I don’t like ugly people

probably because when I was young

I wasn’t beautiful at all.

I was ugly and I suffered for it,

although not to the point of obsession.

Now that I’m an old woman,

I’m not so bad.

And that’s why

I’ve always been surrounded by people

Who

were

beautiful.

And the best way to have beautiful people around me

was to make them.

I made them very pretty.





XXVII.

I wouldn’t call what Alex gives you

‘advice,’

She spares you Nothing.

She makes a list of what she wants done,

and she really gets into it

I mean, she wants you to get your arms waxed.

She gives you names of people who do good facials.

She tells you what to buy at Neiman Marcus.

She’s put off by anything flashy,

and if you don’t dress conservatively, she’s got no problem telling you,

in front of an audience,

You look like a cheap *****!

I used to wear what I wanted when I went out

then change in the car into a frumpy sweater

when I went to give her the money she’d always go,

Oh, you look beautiful!



Marry your boyfriend,

It’s better than going to prison.

When you go out with her,

she’ll buy you a present; she’s incredibly generous that way.

And she’ll always tell you to save money and get out.

It’s frustrating to her when girls call at the end of the month

and say they need rent money.

She wants to see you do well.





We had a schedule, with cards that indicated a client’s name,

what he liked,

the names of the girls he’d seen,

and how long he’d been with them.

And I only hired girls who had another career

—if my clients had a choice between drop-dead-gorgeous

and beautiful-and-interesting,

they’d tend to take beautiful-and-interesting.

These men wanted to talk.

If they spent two hours with a girl,

they usually spent only five or ten minutes in bed.



I get the feeling that in Los Angeles, men are more concerned with looks.



XXVIII.

That was my big idea

Not to expand the book by aggressive marketing

but to make sure that nobody

mistook my girls for run-of-the-mill hookers.

And I kept my roster fresh.

This was not a business where you peddle your ***,

get exploited,

and then are cast off.

I screen clients. I’ve never sent girls to weirdos.

I let the men know:

no violence,

no costumes,

no fudge-packing.

And I talked to my girls. I’d tell them:

Two and a half years and you’re burned out.

Save your money.

This is like a hangar

—you come in, refuel, and take off.

It’s not a vacation, it’s not a goof.

This buys the singing lessons,

the dancing lessons,

the glossies.

This is to help you pay for what your parents couldn’t provide.

It’s an honorable way station—a lot of stars did this.



XXIX.

To say someone was a Claude girl is an honour, not a slur.



Une femme terrible.

She despised men and women alike.

Men were wallets. Women were holes.



By the 80s,

if you were a brunette,

the sky was the limit.

The Saudis

They’d call for half a dozen of Alex’s finest,

ignore them all evening while they

chatted,

ate,

and played cards,

and then, around midnight,

take the women inside for a fast few minutes of ***.



They’d order women up like pizza.



Since my second husband died,

I only met one man who was right for me,

He was a sheikh.

I visited him in Europe

twenty-eight times

in the five years I knew him

and I never slept with him.

He’d say

I think you fly all the way here just to tease me,

but he introduced me

by phone

to all his powerful friends.

When I was in Los Angeles, he called me twice a day.

That’s why I never went out

he would have been disappointed.



***.

Listen to me

This is a woman’s business.

When a woman does it, it’s fun

there’s a giggle in it

when a man’s involved,

he’s ******,

he’s a ****.

He may know how to keep girls in line,

and he may make money,

but he doesn’t know what I do.

I tell guys: You’re getting a nice girl.

She’s young,

She’s pleasant,

She can do things

she can certainly make love.

She’s not a rocket scientist, but she’s everything else.



The world’s richest and most powerful men, the announcer teased.

An income “in the millions,” said the arresting officer.

Pina Colapinto

A petite call girl,

who once slid between the sheets of royalty,

a green-eyed blonde helped the police get the indictment.

They really dolled her up

She looks great.

Never!

What I told her was: ‘Wash that ******.’





XXXI.

Madam Alex died at 7 p.m.

Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,

where she had been in intensive care after recent open heart surgery

We all held her hand when they took her off the life support

This was the passing of a legend.

Because she was the mother superior of prostitution.

She was one of the richest women on earth.

The world came to her.

She never had to leave the house.

She was like Hugh Hefner in that way.


It's like losing a friend

In all the years we played cat and mouse,

she never once tried to corrupt me.

We had a lot of fun.


To those who knew her

she was as constant

as she was colorful

always ready with a good tidbit of gossip

and a gourmet lunch for two.

She entertained, even after her conviction on pandering charges,

from the comfy depths of her blue four-poster bed at her home near Doheny Drive,

surrounded by knickknacks and meowing cats,

which she fed fresh shrimp from blue china plates.



XXXII.

She stole my business,

my books,

my girls,

my guys.

I had a good run.

My creatures.

Make Mommy happy

Oh! He is the most enchanting cat that I have ever known.



She was, how can I say it,

classy.

When she first hired me

she thought I was too young to take her case.

I was 43.

I'm going to give you some gray hairs by the time this is over.

She was right.





XXXIII.

I was fond of Heidi

But she has a streak that is so vindictive.



If there is pure evil, it is Madame Alex.





XXXIV.

I was born and raised in L.A.

My dad was a famous pediatrician.

When he died, they donated a bench to him at the Griffith Park Observatory.



I think that Heidi wanted to try her wings

pretty early,

and I think that she met some people

who sort of took all her potential

and gave it a sharp turn



She knew nothing.

She was like a little parrot who repeated what she was supposed to say.



Alex and I had a very intense relationship;

I was kind of like the daughter she loved and hated,

so she was abusive and loving at the same time.



Look, I know Madam Alex was great at what she did

but it's like this:

What took her years to build,

I built in one.

The high end is the high end,

and no one has a higher end than me.

In this business, no one steals clients.

There's just better service.



XXXV.

You were not allowed to have long hair

You were not allowed to be too pretty

You were not allowed to wear too much makeup or be too glamorous

Because someone would fall in love with you and take you away.

And then she loses the business



XXXVI.

I was pursued because

come on

in our lifetime,

we will never see another girl of my age

who lived the way I did,

who did what I did so quickly,

I made so many enemies.

Some people had been in this line of business

for their whole lives, 30 or 40 years,

and I came in and cornered the market.

Men don't like that.

Women don't like that.

No one liked it.



I had this spiritual awakening watching an Oprah Winfrey video.

I was doing this 500-hour drug class

and one day the teacher showed us this video,

called something like Make It Happen.

Usually in class I would bring a notebook

and write a letter to my brother or my journal,

but all of a sudden this grabbed my attention

and I understood everything she said.

It hit me and it changed me a lot.

It made me feel,

Accept yourself for who you are.

I saw a deeper meaning in it

but who knows, I might have just been getting my period that day!



XXXVII.

Hello, Gina!

You movie star!

Yes you are!

Gina G!

Hello my friend,

Hello my friend,

Hello my movie star,

Ruby! Ruby Boobie!

Braaawk!

Except so many women say,

Come on, Heidi

you gotta do the brothel for us; don't let us down.

It would be kind of fun opening up an exclusive resort,

and I'll make it really nice,

like the Beverly Hills Hotel

It'll feel private; you'll have your own bungalow.

The only problem out here is the climate—it's so brutal.

Charles Manson was captured a half hour from Pahrump.



I said, Joe! What are you doing?

You gotta get, like,

a garter belt and encase it in something

and write,

This belonged to Suzette Whatever,

who entertained the Flying Tigers during World War II.

Get, like, some weird tools and write,

These were the first abortion tools in the brothel,

you know what I mean?

Just make some **** up!

So I came out here to do some research

And then I realized,

What am I doing?

I'm Heidi Fleiss. I don't need anyone.

I can do this.

When I was doing my research, in three months

I saw land go from 30 thousand an acre

to 50 thousand an acre,

and then it was going for 70K!

It's urban sprawl

—we're only one hour from Las Vegas.

Out here the casinos are only going to get bigger,

prostitution is legal, it's only getting better.





XXXVIII.

The truth is

deep down inside,

I just can't do business with him

He's the type of guy who buys Cup o' Noodles soup for three cents

and makes his hookers buy it back from him for $5.

It's not my style at all.

Who wants to be 75 and facing federal charges?

It was different at my age when I

at least...come on, I lived really well.

I was 22,

25 at the time?

It was fun then, but now I wouldn't want

to deal with all that *******

—the girls and blah blah blah.

But the money was really good.



I would've told someone they were out of their ******* mind

if they'd said in five years I'd be living with all these animals like this.

It's hard-core; how I live;

It's totally a nonfunctional atmosphere for me

It's hard to get anything done because

It’s so time-consuming.

I feel like they're good luck though....

I do feel that if I ever get rid of them,

I will be jinxed and cursed the rest of my life

and nothing I do will ever work again.



Guys kind of are a hindrance to me

Certainly I have no problem getting laid or anything.

But a man is not a priority in my life.

I mean, it's crazy, but I really have fun with my parrots.



XXXIX.

I started a babysitting circle when I wasn't much older than 9

And soon all the parents in the neighborhood

wanted me to watch over their children.

Even then I had an innate business sense.

I started farming out my friends

to meet the demand.

My mother showered me with love and my father,

a pediatrician,

would ask me at the dinner table,

What did you learn today?

I ran my neighborhood.

I just pick up a hustle really easily,

I was a waitress and I met an older guy who looked like Santa Claus.



Alex was a 5' 3" bald-headed Filipina

in a transparent muu muu.

We hit it off.

I didn't know at the time that I was there to pay off the guy's gambling debt.

It's in and out,

over and out.

Do you think some big-time producer

or actor is going to go to the clubs and hustle?



Columbia Pictures executive says:

I haven’t done anything that should cause any concern.

Jeez, it's like the Nixon enemies list.

I hope I'm on it.

If I'm not, it means I must not be big enough

for people to gossip about me.



That's right ladies and gentlemen.

I am an alleged madam and that is a $25 *****!

If you live out here,

you've got to hate people.

You've got to be pretty antisocial

How you gonna come out here with only 86 people?

That's Fred.

He's digging to China.

You look good.

Yeah, you too.

It's coming along here.

Yeah, it is.

I wanted to buy that lot there, but I guess it's gone?

That's mine, man! That's all me.

Really?

I thought there was a lot between us.

No. We're neighbors.



He's a cute guy

He's entertaining.

See, I kind of did do something shady to him.

I thought my property went all the way back

and butted up against his.

But there was one lot between us right there.

He said he was buying it,

but I saw the 'For Sale' sign still up there,

So I went and called the broker and said,

I'm an all-cash buyer.

So I really bought it out from under him.

But he's got plenty of room, and I need the space for my parrots.

Pahrump will always be Pahrump, but Crystal is going to be nice

All you need are four or five fancy houses and it'll flush everyone out

and it'll be a nice area.

They're all kind of weird here, but these people will go.

Like this guy here,

someone needs to **** him.

I was just saying to my dad that these parrots are born to a really ******-up world

He goes, Heidi, no, no; the world is a beautiful garden.

It's just, people are destroying it.

I’m looking into green building options

I don't want anything polluting,

I want a huge auditorium,

but it'll be like a jungle where my birds can really fly!

Where they can really do what they're supposed to do.

There were over 300 birds in there!

That lady,

She ran the exotic-birds department for the Tropicana Hotel,

which is a huge job.

She called me once at 3:30 in the morning

Come over here and help me feed this baby!

Some baby parrot.

And I ran over there in my pajamas

—I knew there was something else wrong

and she was like

Get me my oxygen!

Get me this, get me that.

I called my dad; he was like,

I don't know, honey, you better call the paramedics.

They ended up getting a helicopter.

And they were taking her away

in the wind with her IV and blood and everything

and she goes, Heidi, you take care of my birds.

And she dies the next day.

She was just a super-duper person.



XL.

I relate to the lifestyle she had before,

Now, I'm just a citizen.

I'm clean,

I'm sober,

I'm married,

I work at Wal-Mart.

I'm proud to say I know her. I look into her eyes

and we relate.





I got out in 2000,

so I've been sending her money for seven years

She was…whatever.

Girlfriend?

Yeah, maybe.

But ***, I tried like two times,

and I'm just not gay.

She gets out in about eight or nine months

and I told her I would get her a house.

But nowhere near me.

I didn't touch her,

but I'd be, like...

a funny story:

I told her,

Don't you ever ******* think

about contacting me in the real world.

I'm not a lesbian.

Then about two years ago, I got an e-mail from her,

or she called me and said, 'Google my name.'

So I Googled her name,

and she has this huge company.

Huge!

She won, like, Woman of the Year awards.

So I called her and I go,

Not bad.

She goes, 'Well, I did all that because you called me a loser.'

I go, '****, I should've called you more names

you probably would've found the cure for cancer by now.



XLI.

No person shall be employed by the licensee

who has ever been convicted of

a felony involving moral turpitude

But I qualify,

I mean, big deal, so I'm a convicted felon.

Being in the *** industry, you can't be so squeaky-clean.

You've got to be hustling.

Nighttime is really enchanting here

It's like a whole 'nother world out here, it really is

I’m so far removed from my social life and old surroundings.

Who was it, Oscar Wilde, I think, who said

people can adjust to anything.

I was perfectly adjusted in the penitentiary,

and I was perfectly adjusted to living in a château in France.



We had done those drug addiction shows together

Dr. Drew.

Afterward we were friendly

and he'd call me every now and then.

He'd act like he had his stuff together.

But it was all a lie.

Everything is a lie.

I brought him to a Humane Society event at Paramount Studios last year.

He was just such a mess.

So out of it.

He stole money from my purse.

He's such a drug addict because he's so afraid of being fat.

He liked horse ****, though. He did like horse ****.

This one woman that would have *** with a horse on the internet,

He told me that’s his favorite actress.

Better than Meryl Streep.



XLII.

The cops could see

why these women were taking over trade.

Girls with these looks charged upwards of $500 an hour.

The Russians had undercut them with a bargain rate of $150 an hour.

One thing they are not is lazy.

In the USSR

they grew up with no religion, no morality.

Prostitution is not considered a bad thing.

In fact, it’s considered a great way to make money.

That’s why it’s exploding here.

What we saw was just a tip of the iceberg.

These girls didn’t come over here expecting to be nannies.

They knew exactly what they wanted and what they were getting into.

The madam who organized this raid

was making $4 million a year,

laundered through Russian-owned banks in New York City

These are brutal people.

They are all backstabbers.

They’re entrepreneurs.

They’re looking at $10,000 a month for turning tricks.

For them, that’s the American dream.



XLIII.

If you’re not into something,

don’t be into it

But,

if you want to take some whipped cream,

put it between your toes,

have your dog licking it up and,

at the same time,

have your girlfriend poke you in the eye,

then that’s fine.

That’s a little weird but we shouldn’t judge.



She was my best friend then

and I consider her one of my best friends now,

because when I was going through Riker’s

and everyone abandoned me,

including my boyfriend,

I was hysterical,

crying,

and she was the one that was there.

And, when somebody needed to step up to the plate,

that’s who did, and I have an immense amount of

loyalty, respect, and love for her.

And if she’s going to prison for eight years

—that’s what she’s sentenced for

—I’ll go there,

and I’ll go there every week,

for eight years.

That’s the type of person I am.
Robin Carretti Apr 2019
Your the one son being rebellious little darlings here comes
the sun drenching delicious but wait those cloudy days
watch out the hunters run ducking our heads like babies
wetting and water squirting beds getting too saucy
  ten O clock playpen the daring duck gourmet sauce
Orange you glad all her rich creme spread across
her penpals
Do you trust those gals too country slick on Newsweek

Getting paid he is the longest laid egg all grilled we are
not thrilled here is the "Chuckie Duckie" doll those *****
barbie collectors they are sitting duck Graphic Artist
Not one quack doll plastic surgeon duck lips she thinks
shes the hot stuff romantic "French" lips up the
"Eiffel Tower" splash splash she is out of cash
Those hot items presidential poll what a lost soul

Too much blue yes attention swan dancers Springtime
Not  the red attention yellow instead ****** please
I need a  journey not the "Attorney" such a ****** case
When you need them they always duck
When they have a new quack case they are ruining
my image
Duck tapesty Carol Kings youve got a friend

I'm feeling yellow homesick on your feather duck pillow
The same yellow tie a different atmosphere Go- Spa
She's flirting do you know where your going how is
life treating you he's giggling way too wild on her
goose chase
  Losing our grip down to her chicken bone hip
Duck season not much time for love being hunted

The Spa  la la ha have Merci' oh la la 'Disco Duck"
The wild ones the only ones quack- quack the
lonely ones
At the waterfront trip to "Chinatown" they let
them hang to dry but why Dad? They are better
like the delicacy shark finn soup we need a Spa
lucky green group Irish eyes are smiling stories
of ducks

I am  not buying do you see duck climb the
          "Eiffel Tower" yellow as a canary
All talk-talk is cheap lets talk French Mom walks
With her pretty duck handle umbrella we waddle
The penquin what a beauty swan feather pen
  But she's the"Prima Donna" look out!

The slingshot Marilyn Monroe wiggles out
                  The "Spa- Ma"
                 Don't  Scramble me darlings
                    Breakfast eggs cagefree
                     *          *          
My little chickadees organic brown on my gown
Spa duckies traveled the whole Atlantic town
The longest pond sleeping like "Rip Van Winkle"
twinkle twinkle
doublecrossed the street you get one dermerit
Sesame street Big bird how many words in duck
vocabulary quack- quack who get's the duck star

Mars from Men women go to the Spa like the bad
omen and they don't leave tap tap chop chop
I want it now!! Its now or never why does she always
get ugly duckling book delivered
Lazy goose she is the spoiled rotten egg how
do we love those  I apples
Carrots are for the eyes Mom always gets bird eyes

My little chickadees the Alaskan cute puppies
Big salute to the cutest duck feet "God Bless America"
  Visa  American Express Daffy Duck in Disney mess
the real picture "Mona Lisa" getting the duck
         Prime  chop minister
"Parliament Spa" prices so sinister
"Eat Duck and Pray" the  southern biscuits
more recruits

My cute rookies those duckier cookies another Spa day
So prim and proper teatime with "Queen deck"
  Alice in rabbit hole-Santa candycane poles cute chick
is homesick you better sent her money quick
The ducky bib the Chinese duck soup won ton
The feather fan she loves her Sushi roll Hollywood
Style California all duck drama
The best treatment duck made carpet

On the "Disney Hollywood" deck "Epcot"
On the futon what diction for a duck "My Fair lady"
Got the whole fortunes bed
The duck on the hill what a fool but the monk
Is the whole spiritual existence
The peacock's longest wait for lobster tails
centerpieces red bird Robin fly Robin Fly

Disco ball fancy tails she ended up up up to the sky
Her duck sunglasses a dozen ***** spin's the disco
The Duck Pop singer wants him back
High price or a short mack duck shooter attack
Food for thought homesick all saucy duck tie waiter
Cinderella rags to ducklings I went to "Woodstock"
Imagine me the teenager chick the duck split

Fill wing concert sky made a hit
The blues love is strange chick-lets are yellow
Like clock work what a duck work out orange          
        Duck handle umbrella               
 Duckies I pledge to you College Preppies
The chick feeder Ain't nothing but a hound dog
      Elvis heart breaker bird-brain feeder

  Moms duck sugar cookies
******* Jack one prize quack quack
 Huckleberry Finn paper boat old billy goat
  In the drowned mans eye holy ducks he delivered
I will blow you down duck horn the day you
were born
Having a third eye one duck Wendy 4 for a 4

Notre Dame church tragic but saved
   The  Easter yellow chicks

To Rome lend me your feathers no secret ears
Sticky Fingers she lost her writing finger in the
pond  OH! look whats beyond so kind
With her duckling apron dress he ducked
The chatty cat "City Dr Seuss"

Wearing duck boots those duck lips played her
like the fancy feast
The teachers pet the ducklings cute darlings
Spa cream she quite the flabber belly dancer
The ballet swan achiever "Spa One Day tripper"
The ugly duckling changed to beauty witch
Holy-land or duck pond Mickey's ears
                   Disneyland

Stand up daffy duck comedian Las Vegas
Godiva Peking duck soup flapping swishing
mess
The Big Ben red whose been sleeping in my
duck wing bed
The car stops he hiccups cute bebops
The guardian angel quack quack any luck
Yummy raspberry pie someone delivered

Christmas Scrooge all tears
New York lights camera I love my
        Serendipity chandeliers
Those duck tear drops last stop
Or you die__your still quacking
       Just in time said I
           Fly Robin Fly

     Saved my baby chick lovely
     Cradled her to love her
          Dr Seuss read
Its about all speculation dreaming need of a nature cool environment ;our eyes up get your cafe favorite cup my baby chicks  words will give flight and I hope you will feel just perfectly right with her duck lips  Quack Quack
J Arturo Dec 2017
A little bird tried to fly through the screen door and I thought, 'if only there were more air up here'.

The view from the second story deck encompassed miles of low scrub hills, piñon, and was daily growing less hazy as the fires subsided. The little bird was dead. Was not even twitching or rolling or whatever idiot birds do to fight or hold onto life. Or maybe it was unconscious. If it was a head impact, it could just be out cold. I could take it in for a bit, see if it revives. But the brains of birds are very small... maybe not large enough to switch out of consciousness without damaging the whole system. It could wake up brain damaged: amnesic, whistling gibberish, unable to collaborate or co-worm-locate or sit on eggs or whatever other higher functions birds perform. Angry, all the time. Likely a burden and a danger to the community. Condemned to either death or a life of lonely suffering. I'd rather not be culpable for that.

Prospective buyers are arriving at four, the realtor as well, for a tour, so I grabbed a broom and swept the quiet body into the shaggy juniper that surrounded the house. Swept up with maple leaves that had settled on the porch since this time yesterday, together a mass of decomposing matter, under the railing and into the dark.

I'd spent a lot of time alone in the house on Grand. Watched nature slowly creep through the iron fence and into the faux-pond, up under the patio bricks, purple flowered and needley plants growing taller and more hostile daily. Increasing numbers of little brown birds mistaking the reflected sunset in the plate glass doors for real sky.

"If only there were more air up here." A little joke I repeat out loud while sweeping broken bodies into shrubs. The thickest places, where they wouldn’t be seen when (if) someone ever dropped by to view the house.


I don't live here, the house is soon to be foreclosed. But a friend of mine knew I needed a place to stay and offered this, his third home, empty of everything except a coffee maker, some landscaping tools, a few boxes that had yet to be moved. I have a twin sized mattress in what must have been a child's room: a strip of Denver Broncos wallpaper runs the circumference, every other surface painted complimentary blue.


The couple arrived at five. She wears a salmon coloured shawl over a white blouse. They’re performing the theatric act of young couples in love (with the idea of a larger house): she ecstatic over the seven jets in the master Jacuzzi tub, he hesitant about the people-paths in the wall-to-wall-carpet, the everpresent pastels we know were once in vogue but will take weeks and at least two layers of base to fully eradicate. It’s the realtor’s job to showcase the place but I often stand outside the plate glass windows of the living room, keeping an eye. Playing the role of groundskeeper because hitchhiker is so much less glorious.

So far it’s been the same. Always she with a genuine smile that will be gone forty minutes after she’s left the driveway. He, always in t-shirt and “trying to be casual” jacket calculating the square footage of each room, the viability of the fireplace. Opening cabinets, but not concerned with storage space. He wants to see if the brass hinges really have brass pins. Is it wood, linoleum? Look closely at his eyes and watch them dance across a virtual blackboard, adding up the gallons of primer and paint needed to cover up the colour mistakes of a before-his-decade.

  2

You can almost watch his eyes dart across the blackboard. A house is a house but the home must be shredded, burned, before making it yours.


But they all do this. A dozen or so now, this summer. And I spend a lot of time alone. Injecting my thoughts into people who think they know what they need next, before getting in a small car and checking out a properly closer to town. Making little jokes to myself as I sweep the porch. The isolation even maybe altering small parts of my self. The social parts, perhaps. I feel good, most days, but find myself repeating the same phrases: “****. Shower. Shave”, “If only there were more air up here.”, “I could learn to love a leopard”, even recently a little Old Testament, which like a ******* I’ve been taking to bed with increasing frequency and a growing selfish guilt, repeating,

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.”


They won’t be back, but for the first time now there’s a deer in the yard. Meaning there must be a hole in the fence. A doe, and fawn too, and I can sit and stare with my broom in hand because my job is to sweep the deck. Dead birds and maybe rats, leaves of course, but with all the water the bank is wasting on this waste of a lawn, come deer: come all ye deer, come and eat. Maybe you will even eat the frighteningly thistly things. Regardless, in exchange for this room I was given a broom and deer are far too large to sweep.



When my student visa expired in Canada I left the country with no identification, five Canadian dollars, a five litre backpack mostly occupied by a camera, and in my mind some distillation of the romanticism from On The Road that I’d managed to power-read in a Heathrow bookstore four years before (lacking the pounds to actually purchase the book). I crossed the border via ferry, and entered the country without identification. I thought this was impossible but it turns out that when you have no time but your whole future ahead of you, and nowhere to get to anyway, insisting “I am a U.S. citizen and you need to let me into this country” does in fact work, if you repeat it enough, and are willing to wait. In my case border patrol even gave me a twenty note and a pat on the back before sending me on my way.


How I ended up sitting on the floor watching birds die, backlit by a desert sunset, in the mountains of New Mexico, is a long story, and to be honest the details have largely escaped me. I do remember I was reading Hemingway. “The Innocents Abroad”, and trying to find myself in any character I could lay my hand on. The word “Innocent” in the title, I suppose, far moreso any actual character, struck the most.


It’s the middle of The Great Recession. Or The Great Depression. The Great Compression. I can’t remember any longer which economic period this particular episode occupied (why can’t they name them more sensibly, like hurricanes?) Call it, then, The Great Introspection, as I narrated myself through the dozen rooms of a million-dollar house: the material self still alive and thriving inside in a self-congratulatory spiral over the personal ROI that left Canada on five dollars and put me, rent free, in a home worth that multiplied 200,000 times. The home where I first had my own key. The home where I learned to drink a glass of water before my morning coffee.

(Five years and $98,000 in college expenses later that was, easily, the best advice I’ve ever received.)


Eventually the phone was disconnected, the water, the power. The jacuzzi, though dry, was still a good place to lie and read. And the piñon and snakes, cacti and juniper, then inklings of pine trees came in steadily. When you would look at them they would freeze. But every morning something new was growing, some new pink flower popped up promisingly to crack the mortar in front of the door. Sweetly at first, then growing thorns, and I walking the perimeters saying “if only there were more air out here”, saying, “can not feel her anymore”, as if the decadent madness of the lawn could be silenced by speaking out loud. Trying to walk the edge of the fence, increasingly losing it in the encroaching bush, then resigning myself to the living room, the **** carpet flattening into a forest path while I impressed miles into that offensive floor.



words. seeds. thistles. marvin morales.


Sleeping on that filthy mattress, the Denver Broncos looking down, still optimistic about their upcoming trophy, or cup. Whatever it was that a bunch of cartoon horses could win. But the sweeping gave me solace, even though the growing thistles made the bricks uneven and caught in the bristles of the broom, leaving little shards of transplanted pink flowers emedded in the yellow polyethylene. I loathed them, but looking back I can see I played straight into their plan. Transplanting little seeds to new weak places in the cement, where they could grow tall again and **** up what little good was left of the land. Bring deer to eat them. Bring little idiot birds to pick the seeds out of the faeces, recycling with pure intent, and flying off into the bright light of sunset. Then crashing broken to the floor.

And like the lawn, like the porch, like what happens when you read Twain, something in me changed. “If only there were more air”, yes, but there is never enough air. Piling up among the deer, among the doe, among my now all-consuming pacing and talking to ghosts who don’t live here anymore, among the many birds who ate their worms and went on to hatch a dozen more, flew into a plate glass sunset, and were ignored.
9/22/2014
K Balachandran Apr 2016
Was with  a salacious witch
      with amazing quick silver tongue,
Confidence personified
   she challenged me to chase her,
If I so wish, not in words.
 Her liquid eyes and gestures,
made me mad with pleasure
by the time we reached the peacock hill.
Peacocks, big  blue eyes painted on feathers,
   each, was in love with her, it seemed.
Danced vying with each other,
 to please her, while she winked at me.
As if to say"They'll **** each other
  to get my glad eye"wouldn't I feel jealous?


Helpless, I did surrender to her spell,
 like others in the line, in my front and back.
When just one touch of her *******,
  would evoke magic, I'll get
Transformed to a young peacock
 of  exquisite beauty, with blue green plumes
none have even seen before,to flaunt at
others of the ilk, on seeing they'd back out.


Such a witch is one of a kind,my mind
    whispers, it's she who assures me this,
On the full moon night, due in a week
    we'll fly to the far hill where
She'll be with me helping to build a nest,
turning to a peafowl herself,
She'll lay a dozen eggs,
yes, in  to my ear, she says, this is only later,
when, she with index finger
   gently touch me and proclaim, thus:
"This is the peacock I enticed and bound
   with my witchcraft , for life"
In the middle ages overt sexuality of women sorcerers caused the fear that witches steal, penises from males and keep in boxes.as souvenirs.Such fear is rampant even in present day Africa.
What a chance trek with a mercurial witch who offered to be the  guide to a  peacock hill, would evoke?
mark john junor Sep 2014
her happier eyes
brilliant even in the sun
but she has a rough feel to her soul
she walks along the hot sidewalk with a dozen bags in arm
looks like it would tire an army of horses
but she says shes fine
"don't bug me with that 'good guy ****'
know your good, just not right now...
cause id rather be mad"

three thirty in the pool of a streetlight
we both swim in reasons
we both have battleships on fire
and its really only the hot humid air that keeps the blow by blow going

by dawn we are curled up in a park
miles from home
making love cause there aint much left to say
shes still mad
but shes ready to cry
i tell her i'm wrong
but we both know that don't matter
we both are just confused by the her that aint here
we are just confused by what should be

her happier eyes brilliant like twin starlight trains
keep speeding over me
and i keep kissing her hand
cause it s the nice guy thing to do
two hopeless romantics lost in the south florida rainforest
Robert Thomas Dec 2019
The thought came to me,
How wonderfully splendid it would be
If I were to buy for my lassie
     A dozen roses.

How happy she would be,
How surprised and full of glee
She would be when she should see
     A dozen roses.

Cheerfully she would receive,
I would joyfully perceive,
And from my clasped hands would leave
      A dozen roses.

Is there such a love
Here on earth or heaven above
That could compare with my love's love of
      A dozen roses from me?
A dozen starlings
dozing in the evening sun
doesn't dare the season's end.

It dozen-n't, dare it,
these dozing within warm pinks
to dream up spring's spry bend.
Prathipa Nair May 2016
Kerala, with its blessed beauty of nature, long and silver-haired with colorful clips of fishes and a black mountain cap, standing in a green curly dress full of colorful butterflies and glowing flowers on it, mesmerizing eyes with calm and peaceful nature gifts us a pleasant world.

             In 1975, a new creation of God, his loving child came to this world. I cried as every child does but at the next moment I laughed because I have been born into God’s own country, The Paradise. Thanks to the Almighty for bringing me to this wonderful heaven. Oops! I forgot one special person. Slowly I turn towards that smiling face, the one who is holding me in her hands, my sweet Mother.

            Hi, I am Neha, the blessed child born into a loving and caring family. Our house too was not less than a paradise in a beautiful village which was full of greenery. It was a joint family with grandfather, grandmother, great grandmother, uncles, and aunts and especially with a dozen of cousins! After three years, being blessed with a younger sister.

          I was a shy and reserved character for strangers in the outer world but I was open with my family just because of the serenity they made me feel by giving the freedom to express my feelings and wishes. My childhood days gave me the most memorable and golden moments in my life. It was such great fun! In those days we used to play a lot of outdoor games, going for movies with our granny, fighting with brothers, walking on walls, sitting near the pond and chatting till our granny came running with a bamboo stick, competing with the cuckoo and making it angry and making fun of boys! My cousins and I never missed the regional movies on Doordharshan. I was passionate about listening to music on AIR, writing it down, memorizing it and singing along with the singer. When my mother finds me missing, she comes searching for me without a second thought to catch me red-handed with a radio.

         Then came the tape recorder which made it easier for me to listen to my favorite songs when I wish and record my own sweet voice... (giggling) Actually I love doing intoxicating things and have fun which I shouldn’t being doing! Isn’t it funny? But my grannies were too strict that I had to control all my mischievous behavior and be a very good girl. Got confused? Ha! Ha! There were about four grannies. There was always a unity in our family. I never had the feeling of being without a brother of my own as my cousins who were brothers always made me feel more like their own sister.

        One more thing about me friends, I am a great devotee of Lord Krishna, whom I believe is always with me as a friend, lover and well-wisher. Oh my God! I revealed the secret about my love and lover! Imagining Him as a lover, playing with Him, dancing with Him, enjoying happiness to the fullest with Him was my great dream. Please don’t shake with laughter but I really wish that to happen, a blessing to see the original form with His flute, the sky-blue colored Krishna and experience the love and lust transforming myself to Radha, making it a spiritual affair.

My father, who was a great artist, used to draw Krishna’s pictures especially for me, knowing my crazy love for Him.

            I did my schooling well as a normal child and scored average marks happily!

I felt that I was the luckiest person in this world. (smiling)

            Mmmm. Now it’s time for college. I got admission for BA English Literature, my favorite subject, my passion and one of my dreams.

            One of my cousins (sister) and I joined the college. We were in great excitement and were sure about having great fun because when we both were together, there was no doubt of pleasure and entertainment. Even though I was not so modern I was stylish and became a queen in everyone’s eyes!  We had a great time in college with our friends. There were boyfriends too.

One of our friends, a best friend, Nikhil was so special, caring and loving, always doing something exciting to make me fall hard into laughter.

         Hey! One more secret: I used to feel that I am playing with Krishna as a friend (Remember my wish?  ...LOL)

         Nikhil and I used to fight a lot on different topics but when it’s all over and we got tired, we were back together with more affection and fondness for each other. He was a very comfortable friend with whom I could share any of my feelings and viewpoints straight from the heart.

I was moving forward to the fourth month of my college, September, when the buds of beautiful flower forget-me-not blossom smiled at us.

       In this beautiful month, comes Onam, the day that welcomes the great King, Mahabali to Kerala. It was a month of celebration for me. A pookkalam would be drawn, decorated with different colorful flowers in front of each house till the day of Onam for ten days, which I really enjoyed during the festival.

       Knowing my wish to do this, permitting me to make pookkalam for those ten days.

      I got up early in the morning wandering everywhere to collect flowers from our house and of course our neighbor’s house (giggling).

       After making my art with flowers and admiring myself, I gave a pat on my back mentally as if I have won the first prize for pookkalam. The most interesting thing is, my cute great Grandmother joined me with a no tooth smile (imagine)

I enjoyed my holidays with my family in new clothes and Onam sadhya with my favorite Ada pradhaman ( payasam) ….yummy !!

       During those days there were only landline and it was strictly prohibited for us. Permitted to make only important calls if necessary and only girls could ring us, not boys (how sad, isn’t it?)


                        No mails! No Facebook! No Whatsapp!

      Still it was a great time because we were able to feel moment of celebrations, relationships and perceive the worth of feelings of our dear and near ones. Almost everyone was free of mental and emotional strain in our time. The only reason was many of them were able to solve the complications and pressure of their lives through direct communication, a joint family, a joint society. There was always a lot of helping hands.

         Children enjoyed each others company as they met daily by playing outdoor games, going to school by cycles, walking together and sharing their daily class sessions, their mischievous acts and how were they punished together by their teachers. They even shared their family issues and there was no need of counseling for children at that time.


         I was back to college after the Onam holidays and celebrations. You might be thinking why I didn’t mention about missing my friends and college.

Actually they were in my thoughts but I am the kind of person whose policy is to “Live in the Present” and not spoil the present happiness of oneself and others.


       I am sharing one more secret! I missed a special person among them. Guess who?

You were right! It’s none other than Nikhil, my Krishna.

       Reached college in my caravan, BSA SLR (my cycle) with my cousin sister. All our friends came running towards us and we contributed our love and affection for each other.

I lost my father when I was in college but my uncle never gave me a chance to mourn the loss and stood with me as a pillar filling absence of my father. I always believed that Krishna was with me in all my ups and downs in different forms to support me.

After my father’s death, I decided to take life in a methodical way with my credence in Krishna to overcome the trammels coming on my way.

I accomplished my graduation and joined for post-graduation. You might be wondering why I am not mentioning anything about Nikhil….hmmm….I read your mind….

The truth was that I was totally lost after the death of my father and my full concentration was to complete my graduation well.

        Hey! But his full support made me more ardent and to gain more will-power to face all ups and downs.

        Nikhil completed his B.com and then joined to do CA. As his father got transferred his family relocated to another state. That was a big shock for me but I consoled my mind and heart, requesting them not to make me weak.

Accomplished my post-graduation, did my Teachers Training and I am an English teacher now! Surprised? But happy for me, right?

       One thing friends, till now I have faith and belief in my Krishna.

I know what is going on in your mind. Did Nikhil and I communicate with each other after his father’s transfer? Did we meet again?

After leaving the city, we were in touch for few months till he flew to America.

Slowly I too stopped communicating with him and engaged myself in daily matters and family duties and took care of my mother and sister.

      All my cousins, one by one completed their academics, some got married and settled in their family life. But there was always a get together once in a month. Now my mother wanted me to get married and settled.

      Many alliances came and I was ready to shake my head like a goat to the one which my elders chose for me.

Ha! Ha! Just kidding…. They know what is good and bad for me. Actually that is what I believe.

Hmmm…. Anyway I made one promise to myself that if I give birth to a baby boy, I would surely name him “Nikhil”.

Now I am a wife and a mother of a one and a half-year old boy.

Excuse me, did you ask me something?

Oh! My son’s name?

One second please …. My baby is crying…

Nikhil…….

Please change the baby's diaper !
A short story of a girl who lived in Kerala in 80s and 90s.  Hope you all will enjoy it :-) Sorry, if it's too long.. Please take time and have patience to read it.. Read when you are completely free and mood off :-)
I met Neal Cassady last night in a waking dream sitting across from me with his back turned to the noise; the bar was loud. He repeatedly leaned forward and asking if I wanted a smoke.
        He looked just like Neal, talked like him. I hated and admired him just like I would the real Neal Cassady. His mind was incredible; beyond the worries of mortality, no thoughts or pains of hubris. He had the candor that I lacked only because I hadn't the nerve to jump first. When I asked him if he truly was the great Cassady, he stared at me from across the table with a wry smile; patted his breast pocket down, leaned back and said as he turned with precision out of his chair,
        "Let's go for a smoke".
        Such practiced determination, he was already outside before I had put on my coat. Of course I had no cigarettes of my own, he had expected me to bring one for the both of us. But I for one expected him to procure an entire carton by the time I was outside; one bent cigarette from every Saintly being at the bar.
        And what a bar! Great young gone gals; dressed in short skirts and long autumn coats; wool scarves around their necks and under chins beneath cold steel eyes. Ahh, forever young the white dresses and mistresses of the college bar.
        By the time I had opened the door and exhaled my first breath of the crisp night air, Neal was playing the part of locomotive engine with a German couple who were smoking and pretending to be Parisian. The three of them were standing in formation of a triangle on the edge of a stone staircase with a railing leading down into a steep lawn with Neal’s back facing the moon. It was all arranged in a perfect geometric mandala of overlapping Platonic solids.
        As I approached the cloud, Neal was recounting the tale of a nurse he had lain in the backseat of her father's station wagon in Nebraska in the heat of the afternoon sun. The German man was stocky and ill-dressed for the weather. He told me later that his name was Heinrich, but I did not believe him even though I knew he had nothing to hide. The woman whom I believed to be only his girlfriend told me, with a thick German accent, that her name was Deline. I believed her. She was well-dressed for the weather and smoking heavily; style is everything.
        "They've graciously offered to roll us a dozen", Neal expelled between great gusts of smoke, a boyish grin smeared on his face by the thousand red lips and wet ***** of passed consequence. Even in the light of a single lamppost coming through the haze that billowed forth from the three talking chimneys, I could still see a sheen in Neal's eye. The sort of sheen that implied hooliganisms. The sort of sheen you see before a person flies off the handle. The exact sheen you see before you wake up tomorrow in the late light of the afternoon, wondering who the Hell took your hand last night and jumped into total darkness with you. That is, if there was somebody around to take your hand.
        I liked Neal.
                He had a style about him that reminded me of a dark velvet curtain. Once you had passed through that curtain in your business casual attire, you witnessed the burgundy coloured stain of truth. There was no backpedaling after that; your chains would knot up and you would fall off the ride if you tried.
        The German couple looked around at their surroundings and the both of us with a degree of boredom. I had seen them earlier in the bar, they looked bored then too. Neither had spoken to the other once and I was beginning to feel like we were exasperating them.
        “Who cares? They offered to roll us a dozen” I thought. What did it matter how Neal got them to do it, they've offered twelve cigarettes and now they belong to us.
        Deline handed Neal and I six cigarettes each; they were magnificently rolled.
        “Goodbye, then! Thank you for your business”, Neal said and slid down the railing to the lawn below, lighting his cigarette mid-slide. I had just lit mine and started after him down the staircase. I turned around and spoke clumsily with a cigarette bobbing at the corner of my mouth,                      
        “Yes… thanks”, and left without another word.

        Neal walked with sporadic intensity; arms often stabbing out into the blanket of night; legs that would walk straight and stiff but then bent and fast with sudden changes as if he was preparing to spring off into the evening of speckled lampposts and smoke. His head bobbed West to East, North to South, and all Axis’ between X, Y and Z. The more I stared at this character whom I called Neal the more I thought of him as an illusion of my own delusions. When I had finished that thought, Neal had spun around and laughed a good hearty and honest laugh; he seemed to have read my mind and proceeded to flick the space between by eyebrows with his thumb and *******. The pain was real enough. This Neal must be real, unless I had gone full mad with lunacy. We blasted off down the avenue which connected the college bar to the dormitories and the library after that.
        Beyond the avenue laid the cozy valley of goodnight downtown with all it’s lights of sodium pearls below and us upon the hill top looking down with eager intensity. Neal gave another rounded laugh and stared with mad eyes above my head and pointed straight up into the sky at Sirius.
        “Tonight, yes yes, we go out. Not just out, my dear friend, but up. Yes yes, to the great up-and-over. Beyond the next stop we absolutely must climb.”

         I don’t know what mad beast had possessed me that evening but I followed this ghost; this great memory of romantic America into the heart of the infinite night.
        “Good gal Deline”, said Neal

        “Who?” I replied
        “Nimble fingers, strong hands for the German working class” he said, “Great gone gal. Good gal. Fine gal by all standards of beauty and sleek german ingenuity”
        “Hmm”, I responded inhaling my cigarette deeply. The Germans were just fine at rolling, but the tobacco was all American. It was harder and harder for me to physically keep up with Neal. He kept speeding off sporadically twenty feet in front of me, sometimes stopping and spouting at young folks asking for cigarettes. 

        “But you’ve already got one” They would say

        “Yes yes, but it’s for when I’m not smoking one is why I want one”, Neal would answer as he trailed off further and further down the road. They thought he was mad, but they all smiled nonetheless.

        My curiosity was brimming. Who was this mad man? Who was this loon impersonator of the American night? I could not stand by my idle silence and unquestioning.
        “What’s the plan tonight?”, I asked

        “What plan? No good plan. Only great plan and great plain rising higher and higher and we will be up all night but on top of the world for we must climb up and up forever until we can climb no more, and then after we can climb no more then we must climb a little further for life itself is nothing more than an infinite climb ever higher and why not get there faster than all the rest?”

        I had stopped walking and Neal’s voice echoed and vibrated the walls of the stairs between the library and the meal hall. His voice was like that of mountain that had slid beneath the ground reborn into an endless peak above.
“Jailbird Cassidy. Great bellowing Cassidy all energy and no direction, but getting there in no time just the same Cassidy”, I thought to myself.
“I trust you Neal”, I had said out loud.
“Not yet! First great big night time breakfast for you and me, for one can not climb without a good energy and good rounded stomach digested of food and stories.”
Victor D López Dec 2018
Victor D. López (October 11, 2018)

You were born five years before the beginning of the Spanish civil war and
Lived in a modest two-story home in the lower street of Fontan, facing the ocean that
Gifted you its wealth and beauty but also robbed you of your beloved and noblest eldest
Brother, Juan, who was killed while working as a fisherman out to sea at the tender age of 19.

You were a little girl much prone to crying. The neighbors would make you cry just by saying,
"Chora, neniña, chora" [Cry little girl, cry] which instantly produced inconsolable wailing.
At the age of seven or eight you were blinded by an eye Infection. The village doctor
Saved your eyesight, but not before you missed a full year of school.

You never recovered from that lost time. Your impatience and the shame of feeling left behind prevented
You from making up for lost time. Your wounded pride, the shame of not knowing what your friends knew,
Your restlessness and your inability to hold your tongue when you were corrected by your teacher created
A perfect storm that inevitably tossed your diminutive boat towards the rocks.

When still a girl, you saw Franco with his escort leave his yacht in Fontan. With the innocence of a girl
Who would never learn to hold her tongue, you asked a neighbor who was also present, "Who is that Man?"
"The Generalissimo Francisco Franco," she answered and whispered “Say ‘Viva Franco’ when he Passes by.”
With the innocence of a little girl and the arrogance of an incorrigible old soul you screamed, pointing:

"That's the Generalissimo?" followed up loud laughter, "He looks like Tom Thumb!"
A member of his protective detail approached you, raising his machine gun with the apparent intention of
Hitting you with the stock. "Leave her alone!" Franco ordered. "She is just a child — the fault is not hers."
You told that story many times in my presence, always with a smile or laughing out loud.

I don't believe you ever appreciated the possible import of that "feat" of contempt for
Authority. Could that act of derision have played some small part in their later
Coming for your father and taking him prisoner, torturing him for months and eventually
Condemning him to be executed by firing squad in the Plaza de Maria Pita?

He escaped his fate with the help of a fascist officer who freed him as I’ve noted earlier.
Such was his reputation, the power of his ideas and the esteem even of friends who did not share his views.
Such was your innocence or your psychic blind spot that you never realized your possible contribution to
His destruction. Thank God you never connected the possible impact of your words on his downfall.

You adored your dad throughout your life with a passion of which he was most deserving.
He died shortly after the end of the Spanish Civil War. A mother with ten mouths to feed
Needed help. You stepped up in response to her silent, urgent need. At the age of
Eleven you left school for the last time and began working full time.

Children could not legally work in Franco’s Spain. Nevertheless, a cousin who owned a cannery
Took pity on your situation and allowed you to work full-time in his fish cannery factory in Sada.
You earned the same salary as the adult, predominantly women workers and worked better
Than most of them with a dexterity and rapidity that served you well your entire life.

In your free time before work you carried water from the communal fountain to neighbors for a few cents.
You also made trips carrying water on your head for home and with a pail in each hand. This continued after
You began work in Cheche’s cannery. You rose long before sunrise to get the water for
Home and for the local fishermen before they left on their daily fishing trips for their personal water pails.

All of the money you earned went to your mom with great pride that a girl could provide more than the salary of a
Grown woman--at the mere cost of her childhood and education. You also washed clothes for some
Neighbors for a few cents more, with diapers for newborns always free just for the pleasure of being
Allowed to see, hold spend some time with the babies you so dearly loved you whole life through.
When you were old enough to go to the Sunday cinema and dances, you continued the
Same routine and added washing and ironed the Sunday clothes for the young fishermen
Who wanted to look their best for the weekly dances. The money from that third job was your own
To pay for weekly hairdos, the cinema and dance hall entry fee. The rest still went to your mom.

At 16 you wanted to go to emigrate to Buenos Aires to live with an aunt.
Your mom agreed to let you--provided you took your younger sister, Remedios, with you.
You reluctantly agreed. You found you also could not legally work in Buenos Aires as a minor.
So you convincingly lied about your age and got a job as a nurse’s aide at a clinic soon after your arrival.

You washed bedpans, made beds, scrubbed floors and did other similar assigned tasks
To earn enough money to pay the passage for your mom and two youngest brothers,
Sito (José) and Paco (Francisco). Later you got a job as a maid at a hotel in the resort town of
Mar del Plata whose owners loved your passion for taking care of their infant children.

You served as a maid and unpaid babysitter. Between your modest salary and
Tips as a maid you soon earned the rest of the funds needed for your mom’s and brothers’
Passage from Spain. You returned to Buenos Aires and found two rooms you could afford in an
Excellent neighborhood at an old boarding house near the Spanish Consulate in the center of the city.

Afterwards you got a job at a Ponds laboratory as a machine operator of packaging
Machines for Ponds’ beauty products. You made good money and helped to support your
Mom and brothers  while she continued working as hard as she always had in Spain,
No longer selling fish but cleaning a funeral home and washing clothing by hand.

When your brothers were old enough to work, they joined you in supporting your
Mom and getting her to retire from working outside the home.
You lived with your mom in the same home until you married dad years later,
And never lost the bad habit of stubbornly speaking your mind no matter the cost.

Your union tried to force you to register as a Peronista. Once burned twice cautious,
You refused, telling the syndicate you had not escaped one dictator to ally yourself with
Another. They threatened to fire you. When you would not yield, they threatened to
Repatriate you, your mom and brothers back to Spain.

I can’t print your reply here. They finally brought you to the general manager’s office
Demanding he fire you. You demanded a valid reason for their request.
The manager—doubtless at his own peril—refused, saying he had no better worker
Than you and that the union had no cause to demand your dismissal.

After several years of courtship, you and dad married. You had the world well in hand with
Well-paying jobs and strong savings that would allow you to live a very comfortable life.
You seemed incapable of having the children you so longed for. Three years of painful
Treatments allowed you to give me life and we lived three more years in a beautiful apartment.

I have memories from a very tender age and remember that apartment very well. But things changed
When you decided to go into businesses that soon became unsustainable in the runaway inflation and
Economic chaos of the Argentina of the early 1960’s. I remember only too well your extreme sacrifice
And dad’s during that time—A theme for another day, but not for today.

You were the hardest working person I’ve ever known. You were not afraid of any honest
Job no matter how challenging and your restlessness and competitive spirit always made you a
Stellar employee everywhere you worked no matter how hard or challenging the job.
Even at home you could not stand still unless there was someone with whom to chat awhile.

You were a truly great cook thanks in part to learning from the chef of the hotel where you had
Worked in Mar del Plata awhile—a fellow Spaniard of Basque descent who taught you many of his favorite
Dishes—Spanish and Italian specialties. You were always a terribly picky eater. But you
Loved to cook for family and friends—the more the merrier—and for special holidays.

Dad was also a terrific cook, but with a more limited repertoire. I learned to cook
With great joy from both of you at a young age. And, though neither my culinary skills nor
Any aspect of my life can match you or dad, I too am a decent cook and
Love to cook, especially for meals shared with loved ones.

You took great pleasure in introducing my friends to some of your favorite dishes such as
Cazuela de mariscos, paella marinera, caldo Gallego, stews, roasts, and your incomparable
Canelones, ñoquis, orejas, crepes, muñuelos, flan, and the rest of your long culinary repertoire.
In primary and middle school dad picked me up every day for lunch before going to work.

You and he worked the second shift and did not leave for work until around 2:00 p.m.
Many days, dad would bring a carload of classmates with me for lunch.
I remember as if it were yesterday the faces of my Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, German, Irish
And Italian friends when first introduced to octopus, Spanish tortilla, caldo Gallego, and flan.

The same was true during college and law school.  At times our home resembled an
U.N. General Assembly meeting—but always featuring food. You always treated my
Closest friends as if they were your children and a number of them to this day love
You as a second mother though they have not seen you for many years.

You had tremendous passion and affinity for being a mother (a great pity to have just one child).
It made you over-protective. You bought my clothes at an exclusive boutique. I became a
Living doll for someone denied such toys as a young girl. You would not let me out of your sight and
Kept me in a germ-free environment that eventually produced some negative health issues.

My pediatrician told you often “I want to see him with ***** finger nails and scraped knees.”
You dismissed the statement as a joke. You’d take me often to the park and to my
Favorite merry-go-round. But I had not one friend until I was seven or eight and then just one.
I did not have a real circle of friends until I was about 13 years old. Sad.

I was walking and talking up a storm in complete sentences when I was one year old.
You were concerned and took me to my pediatrician who laughed. He showed me a
Keychain and asked, “What is this Danny.” “Those are your car keys” I replied. After a longer
Evaluation he told my mom it was important to encourage and feed my curiosity.

According to you, I was unbearable (some things never change). I asked dad endless questions such as,
“Why is the sun hot? How far are the stars and what are they made of? Why
Can’t I see the reflection of a flashlight pointed at the sky at night? Why don’t airplanes
Have pontoons on top of the wheels so they can land on both water and land? Etc., etc., etc.

He would answer me patiently to the best of his ability and wait for the inevitable follow-ups.
I remember train and bus rides when very young sitting on his lap asking him a thousand Questions.
Unfortunately, when I asked you a question you could not answer, you more often than not made up an answer Rather than simply saying “I don’t know,” or “go ask dad” or even “go to hell you little monster!”

I drove you crazy. Whatever you were doing I wanted to learn to do, whether it was working on the
Sewing machine, knitting, cooking, ironing, or anything else that looked remotely interesting.
I can’t imagine your frustration. Yet you always found only joy in your little boy at all ages.
Such was your enormous love which surrounded me every day of my life and still does.

When you told me a story and I did not like the ending, such as with “Little Red Riding Hood,”
I demanded a better one and would cry interminably if I did not get it. Poor mom. What patience!
Reading or making up a story that little Danny did not approve of could be dangerous.
I remember one day in a movie theater watching the cartoons I loved (and still love).

Donald Duck came out from stage right eating a sandwich. Sitting between you and dad I asked you
For a sandwich. Rather than explaining that the sandwich was not real, that we’d go to dinner after the show
To eat my favorite steak sandwich (as usual), you simply told me that Donald Duck would soon bring me the sandwich. But when the scene changed, Donald Duck came back smacking his lips without the sandwich.

Then all hell broke loose. I wailed at the top of my lungs that Donald Duck had eaten my sandwich.
He had lied to me and not given me the promised sandwich. That was unbearable. There was
No way to console me or make me understand—too late—that Donald Duck was also hungry,
That it was his sandwich, not mine, or that what was on the screen was just a cartoon and not real.

He, Donald Duck, mi favorite Disney character (then and now) hade eaten this little boy’s Sandwich. Such a Betrayal by a loved one was inconceivable and unbearable. You and dad had to drag me out of the theater ranting And crying at the injustice at top volume. The tantrum (extremely rare for me then, less so now) went on for awhile, but all was well again when my beloved Aunt Nieves gave me a ******* with jam and told me Donald had sent it.

So much water under the bridge. Your own memories, like smoke in a soft breeze, have dissipated
Into insubstantial molecules like so many stars in the night sky that paint no coherent picture.
An entire life of vital conversations turned to the whispers of children in a violent tropical storm,
Insubstantial, imperceptible fragments—just a dream that interrupts an eternal nightmare.

That is your life today. Your memory was always prodigious. You knew the name of every person
You ever met, and those of their family members. You could recall entire conversations word for word.
Three years of schooling proved more than sufficient for you to go out into the world, carving your own
Path from the Inhospitable wilderness and learning to read and write at the age of 16.

You would have been a far better lawyer than I and a fiery litigator who would have fought injustice
Wherever you found it and always defended the rights of those who cannot defend themselves,
Especially children who were always your most fervent passion. You sacrificed everything for others,
Always put yourself dead-last, and never asked for anything in return.

You were an excellent dancer and could sing like an angel. Song was your release in times of joy and
In times of pain. You did not drink or smoke or over-indulge in anything. For much of your life your only minor Indulgence was a weekly trip to the beauty parlor—even in Spain where your washing and ironing income
Paid for that. You were never vain in any way, but your self-respect required you to try to look your best.

You loved people and unlike dad who was for the most part shy, you were quite happy in the all-to-infrequent
Role as the life of the party—singing, dressing up as Charlie Chaplin or a newborn for New Year’s Eve parties with Family and close friends. A natural story-teller until dementia robbed you of the ability to articulate your thoughts,
You’d entertain anyone who would listen with anecdotes, stories, jokes and lively conversation.

In short: you were an exceptional person with a large spirit, a mischievous streak, and an enormous heart.
I know I am not objective about you, but any of your surviving friends and family members who knew you
Well will attest to this and more in a nanosecond. You had an incredibly positive, indomitable attitude
That led you to rush in where angels fear to treat not out of foolishness but out of supreme confidence.

Life handed you cartloads of lemons—enough to pickle the most ardent optimist. And you made not just
Lemonade but lemon merengue pie, lemon sorbet, lemon drops, then ground up the rind for sweetest
Rice pudding, flan, fried dough and a dozen other delicacies. And when all the lemons were gone, you sowed the Seeds from which extraordinarily beautiful lemon trees grew with fruit sweeter than grapes, plums, or cherries.

I’ve always said with great pride that you were a far better writer than I. How many excellent novels,
Plays, and poems could you have written with half of my education and three times my workload?
There is no justice in this world. Why does God give bread to those without teeth? Your
Prodigious memory no longer allows you to recognize me. I was the last person you forgot.

But even now when you cannot have a conversation in any language, Sometimes your eyes sparkle, and
You call me “neniño” (my little boy in Galician) and I know that for an instant you are no longer alone.
But too son the light fades and the darkness returns. I can only see you a few hours one day a week.
My life circumstances do not leave me another option. The visits are bitter sweet but I’m grateful for them.

Someday I won’t even have that opportunity to spend a few hours with you. You’ll have no
Monument to mark your passing save in my memory so long as reason remains. An entire
Life of incalculable sacrifice will leave behind only the poorest living legacy of love
In your son who lacks appropriate words to adequately honor your memory, and always will.


*          *          *

The day has come, too son. October 11, 2018. The call came at 3:30 am.
An hour or two after I had fallen asleep. They tried CPR in vain. There will be no more
Opportunities to say, “I Love you,” to caress your hands and face, to softly sing in your ear,
To put cream on your hands, or to hope that this week you might remember me.

No more time to tell you the accomplishments of loved ones, who I saw, what they told me,
Who asked about you this week, or to pray with you, or to ask if you would give me a kiss by putting my
Cheek close to your lips, to feel joy when you graced me with many little kisses in response,
Or tell you “Maybe next time” when as more often than not the case for months you did not respond.

In saying good bye I’d give you the kiss and hug Alice always sent you,
Followed by three more kisses on the forehead from dad (he always gave you three) and one from me.
I’d leave the TV on to a channel with people and no sound and when possible
Wait for you to close your eyes before leaving.

Time has run out. No further extensions are possible. My prayers change from asking God to protect
You and by His Grace allow you to heal a little bit each day to praying that God protect your
Soul and dad’s and that He allow you to rest in peace in His kingdom. I miss you and Dad very much
And will do so as long as God grants me the gift of reason. I never knew what it is to be alone. I do now.

Four years seeing your blinding light reduced to a weak flickering candle in total darkness.
Four years fearing that you might be aware of your situation.
Four years praying that you would not feel pain, sadness or loneliness.
Four years learning to say goodbye. The rest of my life now waiting in the hope of seeing you again.

I love you mom, with all my heart, always and forever.
Written originally in Spanish and translated into English with minor additions on my mom's passing (October 2018).
JJ Hutton Jun 2010
every time we fall in love,
they call it trite,
a false fairy tale.

love is weak.
and weak ain't trending no more.

every time we speak our mind,
they tell us to shut up,
too young to have an opinion.

the youth is unreliable,
too many fresh hormones.

every time we stand up straight,
they cross us,
crucify us.

acquiescing is appropriate,
they gift certificates in frames for that.

every time we subscribe to a higher code of ethics,
they call us radical,
salivate, and spectate as we are torn asunder by lions.

love should never transcend national pride,
here it's guns, god, no homosexuals or mexicans all the time.

if i make a stand, and you make a stand,
and the dominoes begin to fall,

if i inspire a dozen, and you inspire a thousand,
the gears will grind, the tide will turn,

the lions will all be too full,
and
they surely will run out of nails,
before they've crossed every single one of us.
Copyright 2010 by Joshua J. Hutton
Nicole Rountree Jun 2016
You gave me a dozen roses
Thinking it would ease my pain
But instead it only reminded me of what I bear in shame.

I accepted these flowers and again you do the same.
The repetitious behavior that only a boy can bring.

Never learning from the mistakes and forever making more
Not a man, but still a boy that fails to understand the value of love.

These red, red roses...so beautiful and fragrant.
The intent behind which they were given already withering away.

I dare not place these roses in a vase, but instead return them today from whence they came
For, today I make this promise...you will never have to give me roses again.
The time of night, mid
   It was dark
          She was drunk
The ***** was cheap
   She'd fallen into a nightmare
            Of her own dreams
        And she was in way too deep
Death was at her doorstep
    And the promises she made
             She could no longer keep
   She weeped into the bottle
Then drank some more
       Time was of the essence
    Yet, the past came back to haunt her
            Just like before
      Too much to handle
For their sake
          She handles it everyday
     "Resilience" they say
  But she's a fake
          Weak and ashamed
     How did she get this way?
Those ghosts of memories that
          never faded away
  On that night
     She lost complete control
              And the roses
Were dead and rotting
          Just like her *soul
Roberta Day Jan 2012
All of a sudden,
something is aloof
The air becomes stale,
like the bread of sourdough;
you refuse to walk through
the garden overgrown, infested with
insecurities and a plethora of doubt
           I  believed you to be
           a recipe I figured out
I'm left teetering on my toes
as vehemence in me grows
and the mystery within you
is unfortunately never shown

Riddle me your chivalry's
whereabouts as of late
You're good at concealing
all that you're feeling
I remember when you were sweet,
     like the aura we would create
           like the donuts you brought me;
           a dozen sugar-coated holes and
           one lone blueberry
My insides have been fried
in a hot mess called love,
and a dozen-sugar coated holes
from you my dear, was
considerably enough
Part three.
Jeff Raheb Aug 2014
Dal Lake

I float on Dal Lake
Suspended
between the thick soupy crisp air of soldiers
water lilies, Kashmiri bread
and the Muslim prayers
that penetrate the hardness of war
chanting Allah Bismallah
Floating Islam
Holy words drenching the air
Drenching the green cloth of Hindu soldiers
Sliding down the cool metal of a rifle
9 years of war
1,000 houseboats lie empty
in the Himalayan fog
Intricately carved furniture
Thick with dust
and the powder of blood and bullets

Himalayan silhouette etched black
against the song of lotus gatherers
Foggy voices like cloud of moon
Lotus lake
Gray of war and desperation
Children beg
1 rupee
1 rupee
1 rupee
Endless monologue
Parched like lotus shaped paddle
They throw flowers to me
endlessly
I throw them back
endlessly

Time passes slowly
like smoke on a lizard’s tail
trailing in the thick, rancid air
of burning meat and maple leaves
Like a shikara
moving over the glass of Kashmir

The sound of a dozen Bangees
floating over the water
Hollow, solemn and mournful
Echoing against the hardness
of the surrounding mountains
The circle of Himalayas
Like a womb
around the prayers of Pachin

In the middle of the lake
I hear the call to prayer
Azan Nemarz Suba
Azan Nemarz Pashin
Azan Nemarz Degar
Azan Nemarz Sham
Azan Nemarz Koftan
From dawn till dusk

Azan
4 mosques
4 singers
4 directions
staggered by a breath
like an imperfect echo

Azan slips into the pockets of island soldiers
Waters the impatience of soldiers on the shore
Steals into the vacant eyes of soldiers in the Mosque
They want to go home to their wives and children
They want to leave the place of prayer, which is not theirs
The place of prayer, which has seen death
The place where God was pushed out
In order to not see the killing
To **** what they don’t see
The place, which was no longer a refuge

Outside

Dal Lake turns to the color of red lentils
cooking in a dented metal ***
In the Shikara boat we eat dal and rice
and throw scraps into the silver water
where it washes up
onto the ***** boots of a soldier
I hear the dull gray click, click of his rifle
as it touches the ground

The prayers have ended
Nigel Morgan Oct 2012
There was a moment when he knew he had to make a decision.

He had left London that February evening on the ****** Velo Train to the South West. As the two hour journey got underway darkness had descended quickly; it was soon only his reflected face he could see in the window. He’d been rehearsing most of the afternoon so it was only now he could take out the manuscript book, its pages full of working notes on the piece he was to play the following afternoon. His I-Mind implant could have stored these but he chose to circumvent this thought-transcribing technology; there was still the physical trace on the cream-coloured paper with his mother’s propelling pencil that forever conjured up his journey from the teenage composer to the jazz musician he now was. This thought surrounded him with a certain warmth on this Friday evening train full of those returning to their country homes and distant families.

It was a difficulty he had sensed from the moment he perceived a distant gap in the flow of information streaming onto the mind page

At the outset the Mind Notation project had seemed harmless, playful in fact. He allowed himself to enter into the early experiments because he knew and trusted the research team. He got paid handsomely for his time, and later for his performance work.  It was a valuable complement to his ill-paid day-to-day work as a jazz pianist constantly touring the clubs, making occasional festival appearances with is quintet, hawking his recordings around small labels, and always ‘being available’. Mind Notation was something quite outside that traditional scene. In short periods it would have a relentless intensity about it, but it was hard to dismiss because he soon realised he had been hard-wired to different persona. Over a period of several years he was now dealing with four separate I-Mind folders, four distinct musical identities.

Tomorrow he would pull out the latest manifestation of a composer whose creative mind he had known for 10 years, playing the experimental edge of his music whilst still at college. There had been others since, but J was different, and so consistent. J never interfered; there were never decisive interventions, only an explicit confidence in his ability to interpret J’s music. There had been occasional discussion, but always loose; over coffee, a walk to a restaurant; never in the lab or at rehearsals.

In performance (and particularly when J was present) J’s own mind-thought was so rich, so wide-ranging it could have been drug-induced. Every musical inference was surrounded by such intensity and power he had had to learn to ride on it as he imagined a surfer would ride on a powerful wave. She was always there - embedded in everything J seemed to think about, everything J projected. He wondered how J could live with what seemed to him to be an obsession. Perhaps this was love, and so what he played was love like a wilderness river flowing endlessly across the mind-page.

J seemed careful when he was with her. J tried hard not to let his attentiveness, this gaze of love, allow others to enter the public folders of his I-Mind space (so full of images of her and the sounds of her light, entrancing voice). But he knew, he knew when he glanced at them together in darkened concert halls, her hand on J’s left arm stroking, gently stroking, that J’s most brilliant and affecting music flowed from this source.

He could feel the pattern of his breathing change, he shifted himself in his chair, the keyboard swam under his gaze, he was playing fast and light, playing arpeggios like falling water, a waterfall of notes, cascades of extended tonalities falling into the darkness beyond his left hand, but there it was, in twenty seconds he would have to*

It had begun quite accidentally with a lab experiment. J had for some years been researching the telematics of composing and performing by encapsulating the physical musical score onto a computer screen. The ‘moist media’ of telematics offered the performer different views of a composition, and not just the end result but the journey taken to obtain that result. From there to an interest in neuroscience had been a small step. J persuaded him to visit the lab to experience playing a duet with his own brain waves.

Wearing a sensor cap he had allowed his brainwaves to be transmitted through a BCMI to a synthesiser – as he played the piano. After a few hours he realised he could control the resultant sounds. In fact, he could control them very well. He had played with computer interaction before, but there was always a preparatory stage, hours of designing and programming, then the inevitable critical feedback of the recording or glitch in performance. He soon realised he had no patience for it and so relied on a programmer, a sonic artist as assistant, as collaborator when circumstances required it.

When J’s colleagues developed an ‘app’ for the I-Mind it meant he could receive J’s instant thoughts, but thoughts translated into virtual ‘active’ music notation, a notation that flowed across the screen of his inner eye. It was astonishing; more astonishing because J didn’t have to be physically there for it to happen: he could record I-Mind files of his thought compositions.

The reference pre-score at the top of the mind page was gradually enlarging to a point where pitches were just visible and this gap, a gap with no stave, a gap of silence, a gap with no action, a gap with repeat signs was probably 30 seconds away

In the early days (was it really just 10 years ago?) the music was delivered to him embedded in a network of experiences, locations, spiritual and philosophical ideas. J had found ways to extend the idea of the notated score to allow the performer to explore the very thoughts and techniques that made each piece – usually complete hidden from the performer. He would assemble groups of miniatures lasting no more than a couple of minutes each, each miniature carrying, as J had once told him, ‘one thought and one thought only’.  But this description only referred to the musical material because each piece was loaded with a web of associations. From the outset the music employed scales and tonalities so far away from the conventions of jazz that when he played and then extended the pieces it seemed like he was visiting a different universe; though surprisingly he had little trouble working these new and different patterns of pitches into his fingers. It was uncanny the ‘fit’.

Along with the music there was always rich, often startling images she conjured up for J’s compositions. At the beginning of their association J initiated these. He had been long been seeking ways to integrate the visual image with musical discourse. After toying with the idea of devising his own images for music he conceived the notion of computer animation of textile layers. J had discovered and then encouraged the work and vision of a young woman on the brink of what was to become recognised as a major talent. When he could he supported her artistically, revelling in the keenness of her observation of the natural world and her ability to complement what J conceived. He became her lover and she his muse; he remodelled his life and his work around her, her life and her work.

When performing the most complex of music it always seemed to him that the relative time of music and the clock time of reality met in strange conjunctions of stasis. Quite suddenly clock time became suspended and musical time enveloped reality. He found he could be thinking something quite differently from what he was playing.

Further projects followed, and as they did he realised a change had begun to occur in J’s creative rationale. He seemed to adopt different personae. Outwardly he was J. Inside his musical thought he began to invent other composers, musical avatars, complete minds with different musical and personal histories that he imagined making new work.

J had manipulated him into working on a new project that had appeared to be by a composer completely unknown to him. L was Canadian, a composer who had conceived a score that adhered to the DOGME movie production manifesto, but translated into music. The composition, the visuals, the text, the technological environment and the performance had to be conceived in realtime and in one location. A live performance meant a live ‘making’, and this meant he became involved in all aspects of the production. It became a popular and celebrated festival event with each production captured in its entirety and presented in multi-dimensional strands on the web. The viewer / listener became an editor able to move between the simultaneous creative activity, weaving his or her own ‘cut’ like some art house computer game. L never appeared in person at these ‘remakings’, but via a computer link. It was only after half a dozen performances that the thought entered his mind that L was possibly not a 24-year-old woman from Toronto complete with a lively Facebook persona.

Then, with the I-Mind, he woke up to the fact that J had already prepared musical scenarios that could take immediate advantage of this technology. A BBC Promenade Concert commission for a work for piano and orchestra provided an opportunity. J somehow persuaded Tom Service the Proms supremo to programme this new work as a collaborative composition by a team created specially for the premiere. J hid inside this team and devised a fresh persona. He also hid his new I-Mind technology from public view. The orchestra was to be self-directed but featured section leaders who, as established colleagues of J’s had already experienced his work and, sworn to secrecy, agreed to the I-Mind implant.

After the premiere there were rumours about how the extraordinary synchronicities in the play of musical sections had been achieved and there was much critical debate. J immediately withdrew the score to the BBC’s consternation. A minion in the contracts department had a most uncomfortable meeting with Mr Service and the Controller of Radio 3.

With the end of this phrase he would hit the gap  . . . what was he to do? Simply lift his hands from the keyboard? Wait for some sign from the I-Mind system to intervene? His audience might applaud thinking the piece finished? Would the immersive visuals with its  18.1 Surround Sound continue on the five screens or simply disappear?

His hands left the keyboard. The screens went white except for the two repeats signs in red facing one another. Then in the blank bar letter-by-letter this short text appeared . . .


Here Silence gathers
thoughts of you

Letters shall never
spell your grace

No melody could
describe your face

No rhythm dance
the way you move

Only Silence can
express my love

ever yours ever
yours ever yours



He then realised what the date was . . . and slowly let his hands fall to his lap.

— The End —