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Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Ashley Chapman Jul 2018
Pressesd tenderly,
your carnal flower opens,
its butterfly released,
hovers like a hummingbird
drinking from the bill.

Oh, I too would steal you away
and cage you happily,
to get under your black-fringed skirt; 
to see that pretty dress,
fly off once more,
and see you bare;
burned now forever in my banks,
a first sight,
of dark curls!

As I think of it,
my desire stirs,
but of us
I have already masturbated twice:
jammed,
hips pinned,
sliding over our wet perspiring bellies,
in our jungle heat:
'cause in the firmament of our embrace
- it's hot -
where glued we **** into each other,
stoking flames,
until sleep,
when we disappear from each other.
My mind crowds,
with niggling neurotic inanities;
yours with manic dreams where bed-wetting criminals in cages beg to be freed,
before better spaces overtake.

When I awake,
I am lying next to you,  
Gwen over the horizon of your fertile valley,
a mountain,
white and reposed.
You,
murmuring desire for me.
****!
I can't wait to answer.

It is late,
late morning,
and we are all half asleep.
You have your back to me,
as we lie,
rubbing feet,
stroking hands,
(the oiled bulb at the end of a finger),
your fine shoulders,
(that delicate but persistent bone in your wrist that stretches with pointed elegance);
as quietly inside,  
(warmly enveloped),
my couched *****,  
rocks us:
each diffusing into the other
like the early morning brew.

Lust and love,
closing-in,
which for a good while on edge had been:
the weeks,
days,
hours;
faint promises from afar;
sometimes a little closer,
our shadows in daylight cross,
as one over the other storms;
and once (or twice),
a sleeve brushes,
even better,
hair crackles,
as a speaking lip touches lobe,  
and for a moment,
taking in the other's scent,
a hint sublimely overpowers.

And these,
dearest of fancies,
are just some,
with which to penetrate your mind,
as you have mine:
the energy of my yielding tenderness,
inviting you to complete me,
as I spread for you with desire.

Much later,
those daring looks you have,
the way you walk our stage:
your beautiful elongated face,
those quick-fire arousing eyes,
your sultry self-assuredness,
your pre-possessing self.

I could talk about your couple,
of generosity,
reaching up,
beyond mere comprehension:
of the fact that I like Gwen
(his love gift for you, me);
but actually,
in truth,
I prefer to take this moment to make love to you;
to say how wrapped I am,
folded in your limbs,
in our mingling sweat;
how with your joy,
you touch my desires,
into yours,
so they flow,
run rather:
honeysuckle from your blessed nymphae.

You love my smell,
you say,
and I dream of gathering you in pheromones,
of drugging you,
of intoxicating you,
so once again you will find me,
take me,
have me.
Entice you once more like a creature from its shell:
Come!
where I can ravish you,
all of you,
lay naked to me,
flesh,
sinews,
everything,
your very bones;
those fine elbows,
those knees I would like to ******* over;
wash their smooth surfaces in my come:
from these cliff heights,
rain ***** on the rocks below.

To once more cast aside your socks and get at your toes,
to pour oil on 'em,
to rub and squeeze' em,
while in the moist cavern of your insides,
we ****,
half washed over by our own tide.
And as we do,
I quail,
speaking sweet nothings of appreciation;
from full lips,
your sounds return,
the hypnotic rhythm of your breath:
I engorge and in our labyrinth,
- the maiden and the bull -
we consume ourselves.

There,
Sweet Lentiform,
you did it,
you got me rolling in flesh,
lusting after your intimate parts,
wanting you in bed as I know you must have me:
pulling me on you,
kissing and biting;
my arousal in your palm,
pops,
as you run a curved finger over my nethers.

Lying,
lying,
side-by-side,
lying prone,
lying ******,
never unconsumed,
because,
please,
please  us,
with more;
so rarely,
unfucked even for a pause,
nothing doing more than sleeping and carousing;
our sustenance barely enough to keep us at it,
an occasional comic thrown in.
Oh,
God,
throw the ******* comic at me,
will you?
Beat my ******* flesh with it if you like.
Anything to see you standing in all your pearly naked glory!

And if you can,
keep texting me,
so I can hang on your every word like a ******* puppy!
Beautiful
long-haired,
skin tight,
upright,
wise,
gorgeously wild,
woman ...
Now pull me by my **** into your **** -
where I love it best.
Like a psychotic docent in the wilderness,
I will not speak in perfect Ciceronian cadences.
I draw my voice from a much deeper cistern,
Preferring the jittery synaptic archive,
So sublimely unfiltered, random and profane.
And though I am sequestered now,
Confined within the walls of a gated, golf-coursed,
Over-55 lunatic asylum (for Active Seniors I am told),
I remain oddly puerile,
Remarkably refreshed and unfettered.  
My institutionalization self-imposed,
Purposed for my own serenity, and also the safety of others.
Yet I abide, surprisingly emancipated and frisky.
I may not have found the peace I seek,
But the quiet has mercifully come at last.

The nexus of inner and outer space is context for my story.
I was born either in Brooklyn, New York or Shungopavi, Arizona,
More of intervention divine than census data.
Shungopavi: a designated place for tribal statistical purposes.
Shungopavi: an ovine abbatoir and shaman’s cloister.
The Hopi: my mother’s people, a state of mind and grace,
Deftly landlocked, so cunningly circumscribed,
By both interior and outer Navajo boundaries.
The Navajo: a coyote trickster people; a nation of sheep thieves,
Hornswoggled and landlocked themselves,
Subsumed within three of the so-called Four Corners:
A 3/4ths compromise and covenant,
Pickled in firewater, swaddled in fine print,
A veritable swindle concocted back when the USA
Had Manifest Destiny & mayhem on its mind.

The United States: once a pubescent synthesis of blood and thunder,
A bold caboodle of trooper spit and polish, unwashed brawlers, Scouts and      
Pathfinders, mountain men, numb-nut ne'er-do-wells,
Buffalo Bills & big-balled individualists, infected, insane with greed.
According to the Gospel of His Holiness Saint Zinn,
A People’s’ History of the United States: essentially state-sponsored terrorism,
A LAND RUSH grabocracy, orchestrated, blessed and anointed,
By a succession of Potomac sharks, Great White Fascist Fathers,
Far-Away-on-the Bay, the Bay we call The Chesapeake.
All demented national patriarchs craving lebensraum for God and country.
The USA: a 50-state Leviathan today, a nation jury-rigged,
Out of railroad ties, steel rails and baling wire,
Forged by a litany of lies, rapaciousness and ******,
And jaw-torn chunks of terra firma,
Bites both large and small out of our well-****** Native American ***.

Or culo, as in va’a fare in culo (literally "go do it in the ***")
Which Italian Americans pronounce as fongool.
The language center of my brain,
My sub-cortical Broca’s region,
So fraught with such semantic misfires,
And autonomic linguistic seizures,
Compel acknowledgement of a father’s contribution,
To both the gene pool and the genocide.
Columbus Day:  a conspicuously absent holiday out here in Indian Country.
No festivals or Fifth Avenue parades.
No excuse for ethnic hoopla. No guinea feast. No cannoli. No tarantella.
No excuse to not get drunk and not **** your sister-in-law.
Emphatically a day for prayer and contemplation,
A day of infamy like Pearl Harbor and 9/11,
October 12, 1492: not a discovery; an invasion.

Growing up in Brooklyn, things were always different for me,
Different in some sort of redskin/****/****--
Choose Your Favorite Ethnic Slur-sort of way.
The American Way: dehumanization for fun and profit.
Melting *** anonymity and denial of complicity with evil.
But this is no time to bring up America’s sordid past,
Or, a personal pet peeve: Indian Sovereignty.
For Uncle Sam and his minions, an ever-widening, conveniently flexible concept,
Not a commandment or law,
Not really a treaty or a compact,
Or even a business deal.  Let’s get real:
It was not even much in the way of a guideline.
Just some kind of an advisory, a bulletin or newsletter,
Could it merely have been a free-floating suggestion?
Yes, that’s it exactly: a suggestion.

Over and under halcyon American skies,
Over and around those majestic purple mountain peaks,
Those trapped in poetic amber waves of wheat and oats,
Corn and barley, wheat shredded and puffed,
Corn flaked and milled, Wheat Chex and Wheaties, oats that are little Os;
Kix and Trix, Fiber One, and Kashi-Go-Lean, Lucky Charms and matso *****,
Kreplach and kishka,
Polenta and risotto.
Our cantaloupe and squash patch,
Our fruited prairie plain, our delicate ecological Eden,
In balance and harmony with nature, as Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce instructs:
“These white devils are not going to,
Stop ****** and killing, cheating and eating us,
Until they have the whole ******* enchilada.
I’m talking about ‘from sea to shining sea.’”

“I fight no more forever,” Babaloo.
So I must steer this clunky keelboat of discovery,
Back to the main channel of my sad and starry demented river.
My warpath is personal but not historical.
It is my brain’s own convoluted cognitive process I cannot saavy.
Whatever biochemical or—as I suspect more each day—
Whatever bio-mechanical protocols govern my identity,
My weltanschauung: my world-view, as sprechen by proto-Nazis;
Putz philosophers of the 17th, 18th & 19th century.
The German intelligentsia: what a cavalcade of maniacal *******!
Why is this Jew unsurprised these Zarathustra-fueled Übermenschen . . .
Be it the Kaiser--Caesar in Deutsch--Bismarck, ******, or,
Even that Euro-*****,  Angela Merkel . . . Why am I not surprised these Huns,
Get global grab-*** on the sauerbraten cabeza every few generations?
To be, or not to be the ***** bullgoose loony: GOTT.

Biomechanical protocols govern my identity and are implanted while I sleep.
My brain--my weak and weary CPU--is replenished, my discs defragmented.
A suite of magnetic and optical white rooms, cleansed free of contaminants,
Gun mounts & lifeboat stations manned and ready,
Standing at attention and saluting British snap-style,
Snap-to and heel click, ramrod straight and cheerful: “Ready for duty, Sir.”
My mind is ravenous, lusting for something, anything to process.
Any memory or image, lyric or construct,
Be they short-term dailies or deeply imprinted.
Fixations archived one and all in deep storage time and space.
Memories, some subconscious, most vaporous;
Others--the scary ones—eidetic: frighteningly detailed and extraordinarily vivid.
Precise cognitive transcripts; recollected so richly rife and fresh.
Visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory reloads:
Queued up and increasingly re-experienced.

The bio-data of six decades: it’s all there.
People, countless, places and things cataloged.
Every event, joy and trauma enveloped from within or,
Accessed externally from biomechanical storage devices.
The random access memory of a lifetime,
Read and recollected from cerebral repositories and vaults,
All the while the entire greedy process overseen,
Over-driven by that all-subservient British bat-man,
Rummaging through the data in batches small and large,
Internal and external drives working in seamless syncopation,
Self-referential, at times paradoxical or infinitely looped.
“Cogito ergo sum."
Descartes stripped it down to the basics but there’s more to the story:
Thinking about thinking.
A curse and minefield for the cerebral:  metacognition.

No, it is not the fact that thought exists,
Or even the thoughts themselves.
But the information technology of thought that baffles me,
As adaptive and profound as any evolution posited by Darwin,
Beyond the wetware in my skull, an entirely new operating system.
My mental and cultural landscape are becoming one.
Machines are connecting the two.
It’s what I am and what I am becoming.
Once more for emphasis:
It is the information technology of who I am.
It is the operating system of my mental and cultural landscape.
It is the machinery connecting the two.
This is the central point of this narrative:
Metacognition--your superego’s yenta Cassandra,
Screaming, screaming in your psychic ear, your good ear:

“LISTEN:  The machines are taking over, taking you over.
Your identity and train of thought are repeatedly hijacked,
Switched off the main line onto spurs and tangents,
Only marginally connected or not at all.
(Incoming TEXT from my editor: “Lighten Up, Giuseppi!”)
Reminding me again that most in my audience,
Rarely get past the comic page. All righty then: think Calvin & Hobbes.
John Calvin, a precocious and adventurous six-year old boy,
Subject to flights of 16th Century French theological fancy.
Thomas Hobbes, a sardonic anthropomorphic tiger from 17th Century England,
Mumbling about life being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Taken together--their antics and shenanigans--their relationship to each other,
Remind us of our dual nature; explore for us broad issues like public education;
The economy, environmentalism & the Global ****** Thermometer;
Not to mention the numerous flaws of opinion polls.



And again my editor TEXTS me, reminds me again: “LIGHTEN UP!”
Consoling me:  “Even Shakespeare had to play to the groundlings.”
The groundlings, AKA: The Rabble.
Yes. Even the ******* Bard, even Willie the Shake,
Had to contend with a decidedly lowbrow copse of carrion.
Oh yes, the groundlings, a carrion herd, a flying flock of carrion seagulls,
Carrion crow, carrion-feeders one and all,
And let’s throw Sheryl Crow into the mix while we’re at it:
“Hit it! This ain't no disco. And it ain't no country club either, this is L.A.”  

                  Send "All I Wanna Do" Ringtone to your Cell              

Once more, I digress.
The Rabble:  an amorphous, gelatinous Jabba the Hutt of commonality.
The Rabble: drunk, debauched & lawless.
Too *****-delicious to stop Bill & Hilary from thinking about tomorrow;
Too Paul McCartney My Love Does it Good to think twice.

The Roman Saturnalia: a weeklong **** fest.
The Saturnalia: originally a pagan kink-fest in honor of the deity Saturn.
Dovetailing nicely with the advent of the Christian era,
With a project started by Il Capo di Tutti Capi,
One of the early popes, co-opting the Roman calendar between 17 and 25 December,
Putting the finishing touches on the Jesus myth.
For Brooklyn Hopi-***-Jew baby boomers like me,
Saturnalia manifested itself as Disco Fever,
Unpleasant years of electrolysis, scrunched ***** in tight polyester
For Roman plebeians, for the great unwashed citizenry of Rome,
Saturnalia was just a great big Italian wedding:
A true family blowout and once-in-a-lifetime ego-trip for Dad,
The father of the bride, Vito Corleone, Don for A Day:
“Some think the world is made for fun and frolic,
And so do I! Funicula, Funiculi!”

America: love it or leave it; my country right or wrong.
Sure, we were citizens of Rome,
But any Joe Josephus spending the night under a Tiber bridge,
Or sleeping off a three day drunk some afternoon,
Up in the Coliseum bleachers, the cheap seats, out beyond the monuments,
The original three monuments in the old stadium,
Standing out in fair territory out in center field,
Those three stone slabs honoring Gehrig, Huggins, and Babe.
Yes, in the house that Ruth built--Home of the Bronx Bombers--***?
Any Joe Josephus knows:  Roman citizenship doesn’t do too much for you,
Except get you paxed, taxed & drafted into the Legion.
For us the Roman lifestyle was HIND-*** humble.
We plebeians drew our grandeur by association with Empire.
Very few Romans and certainly only those of the patrician class lived high,
High on the hog, enjoying a worldly extravaganza, like—whom do we both know?

Okay, let’s say Laurence Olivier as Crassus in Spartacus.
Come on, you saw Spartacus fifteen ******* times.
Remember Crassus?
Crassus: that ***** twisted **** trying to get his freak on with,
Tony Curtis in a sunken marble tub?
We plebes led lives of quiet *****-scratching desperation,
A bunch of would-be legionnaires, diseased half the time,
Paid in salt tablets or baccala, salted codfish soaked yellow in olive oil.
Stiffs we used to call them on New Year’s Eve in Brooklyn.
Let’s face it: we were hyenas eating someone else’s ****,
Stage-door jackals, Juvenal-come-late-lies, a mob of moronic mook boneheads
Bought off with bread & circuses and Reality TV.
Each night, dished up a wide variety of lowbrow Elizabethan-era entertainments.  
We contemplate an evening on the town, downtown—
(cue Petula Clark/Send "Downtown" Ringtone to your Cell)

On any given London night, to wit:  mummers, jugglers, bear & bull baiters.
How about dog & **** fighters, quoits & skittles, alehouses & brothels?
In short, somewhere, anywhere else,
Anywhere other than down along the Thames,
At Bankside in Southwark, down in the Globe Theater mosh pit,
Slugging it out with the groundlings whose only interest,
In the performance is the choreography of swordplay and stale ****** puns.
Meanwhile, Hugh Fennyman--probably a fellow Jew,
An English Renaissance Bugsy Siegel or Mickey Cohen—
Meanwhile Fennyman, the local mob boss is getting his ya-yas,
Roasting the feet of my text-messaging editor, Philip Henslowe.
Poor and pathetic Henslowe, works on commission, always scrounging,
But a true patron of my craft, a gentleman of infinite jest and patience,
Spiritual subsistence, and every now and then a good meal at some,
Sawdust joint with oyster shells, and a Prufrockian silk purse of T.S. Eliot gold.

Poor, pathetic Henslowe, trussed up by Fennyman,
His editorial feet in what looks like a Japanese hibachi.
Henslowe’s feet to the fire--feet to the fire—get it?
A catchy phrase whose derivation conjures up,
A grotesque yet vivid image of torture,
An exquisite insight into how such phrases ingress the idiom,
Not to mention a scene once witnessed at a secret Romanian CIA prison,
I’d been ordered to Bucharest not long after 9/11,
Handling the rendition and torture of Habib Ghazzawy,

An entirely innocent falafel maker from Steinway Street, Astoria, Queens.
Shock the Monkey: it’s what we do. GOTO:
Peter Gabriel - Shock the Monkey/
(HQ music video) - YouTube//
www.youtube.com/
Poor, pathetic, ******-on Henslowe.


Fennyman :  (his avarice is whet by something Philly screams out about a new script)  "A play takes time. Find actors; Rehearsals. Let's say open in three weeks. That's--what--five hundred groundlings at tuppence each, in addition four hundred groundlings tuppence each, in addition four hundred backsides at three pence--a penny extra for a cushion, call it two hundred cushions, say two performances for safety how much is that Mr. Frees?"
Jacobean Tweet, John (1580-1684) Webster:  “I saw him kissing her bubbies.”

It’s Geoffrey Rush, channeling Henslowe again,
My editor, a singed smoking madman now,
Feet in an ice bucket, instructing me once more:
“Lighten things up, you know . . .
Comedy, love and a bit with a dog.”
I digress again and return to Hopi Land, back to my shaman-monastic abattoir,
That Zen Center in downtown Shungopavi.
At the Tribal Enrolment Office I make my case for a Certificate of Indian Blood,
Called a CIB by the Natives and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The BIA:  representing gold & uranium miners, cattle and sheep ranchers,
Sodbusters & homesteaders; railroaders and dam builders since 1824.
Just in time for Andrew Jackson, another false friend of Native America,
Just before Old Hickory, one of many Democratic Party hypocrites and scoundrels,
Gives the FONGOOL, up the CULO go ahead.
Hey Andy, I’ve got your Jacksonian democracy: Hanging!
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) mission is to:   "… enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. What’s that in the fine print?  Uncle Sammy holds “the trust assets of American Indians.”

Here’s a ******* tip, Geronimo: if he trusted you,
It would ALL belong to you.
To you and The People.
But it’s all fork-tongued white *******.
If true, Indian sovereignty would cease to be a sick one-liner,
Cease to be a blunt force punch line, more of,
King Leopold’s 19th Century stand-up comedy schtick,
Leo Presents: The **** of the Congo.
La Belgique mission civilisatrice—
That’s what French speakers called Uncle Leo’s imperial public policy,
Bringing the gift of civilization to central Africa.
Like Manifest Destiny in America, it had a nice colonial ring to it.
“Our manifest destiny [is] to overspread the continent,
Allotted by Providence for the free development,
Of our yearly multiplying millions.”  John L. O'Sullivan, 1845

Our civilizing mission or manifest destiny:
Either/or, a catchy turn of phrase;
Not unlike another ironic euphemism and semantic subterfuge:
The Pacification of the West; Pacification?
Hardly: decidedly not too peaceful for Cochise & Tonto.
Meanwhile, Madonna is cash rich but disrespected Evita poor,
To wit: A ****** on the Rocks (throwing in a byte or 2 of Da Vinci Code).
Meanwhile, Miss Ciccone denied her golden totem *****.
They snubbed that little guinea ****, didn’t they?
Snubbed her, robbed her rotten.
Evita, her magnum opus, right up there with . . .
Her SNL Wayne’s World skit:
“Get a load of the unit on that guy.”
Or, that infamous MTV Music Video Awards stunt,
That classic ***** Lip-Lock with Britney Spears.

How could I not see that Oscar snubola as prime evidence?
It was just another stunning case of American anti-Italian racial animus.
Anyone familiar with Noam Chomsky would see it,
Must view it in the same context as the Sacco & Vanzetti case,
Or, that arbitrary lynching of 9 Italian-Americans in New Orleans in 1891,
To cite just two instances of anti-Italian judicial reach & mob violence,
Much like what happened to my cousin Dominic,
Gang-***** by the Harlem Globetrotters, in their locker room during halftime,
While he working for Abe Saperstein back in 1952.
Dom was doing advance for Abe, supporting creation of The Washington Generals:
A permanent stable of hoop dream patsies and foils,
Named for the ever freewheeling, glad-handing, backslapping,
Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SCAEF), himself,
Namely General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man they liked,
And called IKE: quite possibly a crypto Jew from Abilene.

Of course, Harry Truman was my first Great White Fascist Father,
Back in 1946, when I first opened my eyes, hung up there,
High above, looking down from the adobe wall.
Surveying the entire circular kiva,
I had the best seat in the house.
Don’t let it be said my Spider Grandmother or Hopi Corn Mother,
Did not want me looking around at things,
Discovering what made me special.
Didn’t divine intervention play a significant part of my creation?
Knowing Mamma Mia and Nonna were Deities,
Gave me an edge later on the streets of Brooklyn.
The Cradleboard: was there ever a more divinely inspired gift to human curiosity? The Cradleboard: a perfect vantage point, an infant’s early grasp,
Of life harmonious, suspended between Mother Earth and Father Sky.
Simply put: the Hopi should be running our ******* public schools.

But it was IKE with whom I first associated,
Associated with the concept 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I liked IKE. Who didn’t?
What was not to like?
He won the ******* war, didn’t he?
And he wasn’t one of those crazy **** John Birchers,
Way out there, on the far right lunatic Republican fringe,
Was he? (It seems odd and nearly impossible to believe in 2013,
That there was once a time in our Boomer lives,
When the extreme right wing of the Republican Party
Was viewed by the FBI as an actual threat to American democracy.)
Understand: it was at a time when The FBI,
Had little ideological baggage,
But a great appetite for secrets,
The insuppressible Jay Edgar doing his thang.

IKE: of whom we grew so, oh-so Fifties fond.
Good old reliable, Nathan Shaking IKE:
He’d been fixed, hadn’t he? Had had the psychic snip.
Snipped as a West Point cadet & parade ground martinet.
Which made IKE a good man to have in a pinch,
Especially when crucial policy direction was way above his pay grade.
Cousin Dom was Saperstein’s bagman, bribing out the opposition,
Which came mainly from religious and patriotic organizations,
Viewing the bogus white sports franchise as obscene.
The Washington Generals, Saperstein’s new team would have but one opponent,
And one sole mission: to serve as the **** of endless jokes and sight gags for—
Negroes.  To play the chronic fools of--
Negroes.  To be chronically humiliated and insulted by—
Negroes.  To run up and down the boards all night, being outran by—
Negroes.  Not to mention having to wear baggy silk shorts.



Meadowlark Lemon:  “Yeah, Charlie, we ***** that grease-ball Dominic; we shagged his guinea mouth and culo rotten.”  

(interviewed in his Scottsdale, AZ winter residence in 2003 by former ESPN commentator Charlie Steiner, Malverne High School, Class of ’67.)
                                                        
  ­                                                                 ­                 
IKE, briefed on the issue by higher-ups, quickly got behind the idea.
The Harlem Globetrotters were to exist, and continue to exist,
Are sustained financially by Illuminati sponsors,
For one reason and one reason only:
To serve elite interests that the ***** be kept down and subservient,
That the minstrel show be perpetuated,
A policy surviving the elaborate window dressing of the civil rights movement, Affirmative action, and our first Uncle Tom president.
Case in point:  Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman & Metta World Peace Artest.
Cha-cha-cha changing again:  I am Robert Allen Zimmermann,
A whiny, skinny Jew, ****** and rolling in from Minnesota,
Arrested, obviously a vagrant, caught strolling around his tony Jersey enclave,
Having moved on up the list, the A-list, a special invitation-only,
Yom Kippur Passover Seder:  Next Year in Jerusalem, Babaloo!

I take ownership of all my autonomic and conditioned reflexes;
Each personal neural arc and pathway,
All shenanigans & shellackings,
Or blunt force cognitive traumas.
It’s all percolating nicely now, thank you,
In kitchen counter earthen crockery:
Random access memory: a slow-cook crockpot,
Bubbling through my psychic sieve.
My memories seem only remotely familiar,
Distant and vague, at times unreal:
An alien hybrid databank accessed accidently on purpose;
Flaky science sustains and monitors my nervous system.
And leads us to an overwhelming question:
Is it true that John Dillinger’s ******* is in the Smithsonian Museum?
Enquiring minds want to know, Kemosabe!

“Any last words, *******?” TWEETS Adam Smith.
Postmortem cyber-graffiti, an epitaph carved in space;
Last words, so singular and simple,
Across the universal great divide,
Frisbee-d, like a Pleistocene Kubrick bone,
Tossed randomly into space,
Morphing into a gyroscopic space station.
Mr. Smith, a calypso capitalist, and me,
Me, the Poet Laureate of the United States and Adam;
Who, I didn’t know from Adam.
But we tripped the light fantastic,
We boogied the Protestant Work Ethic,
To the tune of that old Scotch-Presbyterian favorite,
Variations of a 5-point Calvinist theme: Total Depravity; Election; Particular Redemption; Irresistible Grace; & Perseverance of the Saints.

Mr. Smith, the author of An Inquiry into the Nature
& Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776),
One of the best-known, intellectual rationales for:
Free trade, capitalism, and libertarianism,
The latter term a euphemism for Social Darwinism.
Prior to 1764, Calvinists in France were called Huguenots,
A persecuted religious majority . . . is that possible?
A persecuted majority of Edict of Nantes repute.
Adam Smith, likely of French Huguenot Jewish ancestry himself,
Reminds me that it is my principal plus interest giving me my daily gluten.
And don’t think the irony escapes me now,
A realization that it has taken me nearly all my life to see again,
What I once saw so vividly as a child, way back when.
Before I put away childish things, including the following sentiment:
“All I need is the air that I breathe.”

  Send "The Air That I Breathe" Ringtone to your Cell  

The Hippies were right, of course.
The Hollies had it all figured out.
With the answer, as usual, right there in the lyrics.
But you were lucky if you were listening.
There was a time before I embraced,
The other “legendary” economists:
The inexorable Marx,
The savage society of Veblen,
The heresies we know so well of Keynes.
I was a child.
And when I was a child, I spake as a child—
Grazie mille, King James—
I understood as a child; I thought as a child.
But when I became a man I jumped on the bus with the band,
Hopped on the irresistible bandwagon of Adam Smith.

Smith:  “Any last words, *******?”
Okay, you were right: man is rationally self-interested.
Grazie tanto, Scotch Enlightenment,
An intellectual movement driven by,
An alliance of Calvinists and Illuminati,
Freemasons and Johnny Walker Black.
Talk about an irresistible bandwagon:
Smith, the gloomy Malthus, and David Ricardo,
Another Jew boy born in London, England,
Third of 17 children of a Sephardic family of Portuguese origin,
Who had recently relocated from the Dutch Republic.
******* Jews!
Like everything shrewd, sane and practical in this world,
WE also invented the concept:  FOLLOW THE MONEY.

The lyrics: if you were really listening, you’d get it:
Respiration keeps one sufficiently busy,
Just breathing free can be a full-time job,
Especially when--borrowing a phrase from British cricketers—,
One contemplates the sorry state of the wicket.
Now that I am gainfully superannuated,
Pensioned off the employment radar screen.
Oft I go there into the wild ebon yonder,
Wandering the brain cloud at will.
My journey indulges curiosity, creativity and deceit.
I free range the sticky wicket,
I have no particular place to go.
Snagging some random fact or factoid,
A stop & go rural postal route,
Jumping on and off the brain cloud.

Just sampling really,
But every now and then, gorging myself,
At some information super smorgasbord,
At a Good Samaritan Rest Stop,
I ponder my own frazzled neurology,
When I was a child—
Before I learned the grim economic facts of life and Judaism,
Before I learned Hebrew,
Before my laissez-faire Bar Mitzvah lessons,
Under the rabbinical tutelage of Rebbe Kahane--
I knew what every clever child knows about life:
The surfing itself is the destination.
Accessing RAM--random access memory—
On a strictly need to know basis.
RAM:  a pretty good name for consciousness these days.

If I were an Asimov or Sir Arthur (Sri Lankabhimanya) Clarke,
I’d get freaky now, riffing on Terminators, Time Travel and Cyborgs.
But this is truth not science fiction.
Nevertheless, someone had better,
Come up with another name for cyborg.
Some other name for a critter,
Composed of both biological and artificial parts?
Parts-is-parts--be they electronic, mechanical or robotic.
But after a lifetime of science fiction media,
After a steady media diet, rife with dystopian technology nightmares,
Is anyone likely to admit to being a cyborg?
Since I always give credit where credit is due,
I acknowledge that cyborg was a term coined in 1960,
By Manfred Clynes & Nathan S. Kline and,
Used to identify a self-regulating human-machine system in outer space.

Five years later D. S. Halacy's: Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman,
Featured an introduction, which spoke of:  “… a new frontier, that was not,
Merely space, but more profoundly, the relationship between inner space,
And outer space; a bridge, i.e., between mind and matter.”
So, by definition, a cyborg defined is an organism with,
Technology-enhanced abilities: an antenna array,
Replacing what was once sentient and human.
My glands, once in control of metabolism and emotions,
Have been replaced by several servomechanisms.
I am biomechanical and gluttonous.
Soaking up and breathing out the atmosphere,
My Baby Boom experience of six decades,
Homogenized and homespun, feedback looped,
Endlessly networked through predigested mass media,
Culture as demographically targeted content.

This must have something to do with my own metamorphosis.
I think of Gregor Samsa, a Kafkaesque character if there ever was one.
And though we share common traits,
My evolutionary progress surpasses and transcends his.
Samsa--Phylum and Class--was, after all, an insect.
Nonetheless, I remain a changeling.
Have I not seen many stages of growth?
Each a painful metamorphic cycle,
From exquisite first egg,
Through caterpillar’s appetite & squirm.
To phlegmatic bliss and pupa quietude,
I unfold my wings in a rush of Van Gogh palette,
Color, texture, movement and grace, lift off, flapping in flight.
My eyes have witnessed wondrous transformations,
My experience, nouveau riche and distinctly self-referential;
For the most part unspecific & longitudinally pedestrian.

Yes, something has happened to me along the way.
I am no longer certain of my identity as a human being.
Time and technology has altered my basic wiring diagram.
I suspect the sophisticated gadgets and tools,
I’ve been using to shape & make sense of my environment,
Have reared up and turned around on me.
My tools have reshaped my brain & central nervous system.
Remaking me as something simultaneously more and less human.
The electronic toys and tools I once so lovingly embraced,
Have turned unpredictable and rabid,
Their bite penetrating my skin and septic now, a cluster of implanted sensors,
Content: currency made increasingly more valuable as time passes,
Served up by and serving the interests of a pervasively predatory 1%.
And the rest of us: the so-called 99%?
No longer human; simply put by both Howards--Beale & Zinn--

Humanoid.
Autumn moves fast through the tunnel of love
Push from the top; bottom falls from above
Dangling leaves are flexing about
Dreaming of hope is a nightmarish shout

Cackle of ghouls; a shivering spine
All that is due will be due in due time
Whispering wind softly kisses my cheek
Lifetime of searching; know not what I seek

Darkness emerges as light fades away
Tried to hold on knowing no one can stay
Feeling alive only once I am dead
Listen but don't hear a word that is said

Roar of a flame, the warmth of the light
Fireball streaks interrupting the night
From the ashes we rose and to dust we return
Heart made of ice will not sooth what’s been burned

Holding my breath and not rising for air
Promise to no one the nothing I share
Hugging and squeezing a cuddly toy
Faded reminder when I was a boy

Roar of a racing car traveling fast
Linear stories that live in the past
Afternoon stroll through the paths in the woods
Wasn't enough when it’s all that I could

Didn't regret not regretting a thing
Perfectly still while I sit on the swing
Lazy and careless; the problem I tackle
Chained here forever without any shackles

Future and past presently now amuck
Free man who's also imprisoned and stuck
Roaring, the waves speaking softly to me
Shouting a message using secrecy

Cackling rooster call to end the day
Adult you become but your parents can't stay
Ending's begun and beginning ends near
Enveloped in fog; then it all became clear

Through stutter and stammer, I clearly can speak
World’s strongest man; I am fearful and weak
Worldly observer, I travel through life
Don't leave my house; Live alone with no wife

Peacock with confidence strutting my stuff
Have had my fill but not yet had enough
Nothing I fear but much fear have for it
Blowing out candles that never were lit

Bellowing cheers of "hip-hip hooray!"
Round of applauds for those who've died today
Subtle of strikes from a blatant attack
Gift you are given; already took back

Slapped with audacity right in the face
Composed with the utmost politeness and grace
Without allergy present, my body reacts
Calmly I sit through a panic attack

Telling a lie until it becomes truth
Speaking with stature his words are uncouth
Deafening silence rang shots from the gun
Finished a race that has not yet begun

"Rule" one time "Golden", now covered in rust
Did what was needed but not what I must
You can be anything but yet nothing you are
Traveling often but didn't go far

Properly set for no expectations
Biased perception began at creation
Feet on the ground and head in the clouds
Displayed while I'm naked; exposed in my shroud
Written - April 6, 2017

All rights reserved.
NELSON MANDELA, NUMBER 46664 IS DEAD; EULOGICALLY ELEGIZING DIRGE FOR SON OF AFRICA, HOPE OF HUMANITY AND PERMANENT FLAME OF DEMOCRACY


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

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's anti-apartheid beacon, has died
One of the best-known political prisoners of his generation,
South Africa's first black president, He was 95.
His struggle against apartheid and racial segregation
Lead to the vision of South Africa as a rainbow nation
In which all folks were to be treated equally regardless of color
Speaking in 1990 on his release from Pollsmoor Prison
After 27 years behind bars, Mandela posited;
I have fought against white ******* and
I have fought against black *******
I have cherished the idea of a democratic
And a free society in which all persons live together
In harmony and with equal opportunity
It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve
But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,

Fortunately, he was never called upon
To make such a sacrifice
And the anti-apartheid campaign did produce results
A ban on mixed marriages between whites and folks of color,
This was designed to enforce total racial segregation
Was lifted in 1985
Mandela was born on July 18, 1918
His father Gadla named him "Rolihlahla,"
Meaning “troublemaker” in the Xhosa language
Perhaps  parental premonitions of his ability to foment change.
Madiba, as he is affectionately known
By many South Africans,
Was born to Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa,
a chief, and his third wife Nosekeni *****
He grew up with two sisters
In the small rural village of Qunu
In South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.
Unlike other boys his age,
Madiba had the privilege of attending university
Where he studied law
He became a ringleader of student protest
And then moved to Johannesburg to escape an arranged marriage
It was there he became involved in politics.
In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC),
Four years before the National Party,
Which institutionalized racial segregation, came to power
.
Racial segregation triggered mass protests
And civil disobedience campaigns,
In which Mandela played a central role
After the ANC was banned in 1961
Mandela founded its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe
The Spear of the Nation
As its commander-in-chief,
He led underground guerrilla attacks
Against state institutions.
He secretly went abroad in 1962
To drum up financial support
And organize military training for ANC cadres
On his return, he was arrested
And sentenced to prison
Mandela served 17 years
On the notorious Roben Island, off Cape Town,
Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president
On May 10, 1994
Cell number five, where he was incarcerated,
Is now a tourist attraction
From 1988 onwards, Mandela was slowly prepared
For his release from prison
Just three years earlier he had rejected a pardon
This was conditional
On the ANC renouncing violence
On 11 February 1990,
After nearly three decades in prison,
Mandela, the South African freedom beacon was released
He continued his struggle
For the abolition of racial segregation
In April 1994,
South Africa held its first free election.
On May 10,
Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first elected black president,
Mandela jointly won
The Nobel Peace Prize
With Frederik de Clerk in 1993
On taking office
Mandela focused on reconciliation
Between ethnic groups
And together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
He set up the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
To help the country
Come to terms
With the crimes committed under apartheid
After his retirement
From active politics in 1999,
Madiba dedicated himself
To social causes,
Helping children and ***-AIDS patients,
His second son
Makgatho died of ***-AIDS
In 2005 at the age of 54,
South Africans have fought
a noble struggle against the apartheid
But today they face a far greater threat
Mandela he posited in a reference to the ***-AIDS pandemic,
His successor
Thabo Mbeki
The ANC slogan of 1994; A better life for all
Was fulfilled only
For a small portion of the black elite
Growing corruption,
Crime and lack of job prospects
Continue to threaten the Rainbow Nation,
On the international stage
Mandela acted as a mediator
In the Burundi civil war
And also joined criticism
Of the Iraq policy
Of the United States and Great Britain
He won the Nobel Prize in 1993
And played a decisive role
Into bringing the first FIFA World Cup to Africa,
His beloved great-granddaughter
Zenani Mandela died tragically
On the eve of the competition
And he withdrew from the public life
With the death of Nelson Mandela
The world loses a great freedom-struggleer
And heroic statesman
His native South Africa loses
At the very least a commanding presence
Even if the grandfather of nine grandchildren
Was scarcely seen in public in recent year

Media and politicians are vying
To outdo one another with their tributes
To Nelson Mandela, who himself disliked
The personality cult
That's one of the things
That made him unique,
Nelson Mandela was no saint,
Even though that is how the media
Are now portraying him
Every headline makes him appear more superhuman
And much of the admiration is close to idolatry
Some of the folks who met him
Say they felt a special Mandela karma
In his presence.
Madiba magic was invoked
Whenever South Africa needed a miracle,

Mandela himself was embarrassed
By the personality cult
Only reluctantly did he agree to have streets
Schools and institutes named after him
To allow bronze statues and Mandela museums
To be built
A trend that will continue to grow.

He repeatedly pointed
To the collective achievements
Of the resistance movement
To figures who preceded him
In the struggle against injustice
And to fellow campaigners
Such as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Luthuli
Or his friend and companion in arms
Oliver Tambo who today stands in Mandela's shadow,
Tambo helped create the Mandela legend
Which conquered the world
A tale in which every upright man
And woman could see him
Or herself reflected,
When Prisoner Number 46664 was released
After 27 years behind bars
He had become a brand
A worldwide idol
The target of projected hopes
And wishes that no human being
Could fulfill alone,
Who would dare scratch?
The shining surface of such a man
List his youthful misdemeanors
His illegitimate children
Who would mention his weakness for women?
For models
Pop starlets
And female journalists
With whom he flirted
In a politically incorrect way
When already a respected elder statesman?
Who would speak out critically?
Against the attacks
He planned when he headed the ANC
Armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe
And who would criticize the way
He would often explode in anger
Or dismiss any opinions other than his own?
His record as head of government
Is also not above reproach
Those years were marked by pragmatism
And political reticence
Overdue decisions were not taken
Day to day matters were left to others
When choosing his political friends
His judgment was not always perfect
A Mandela grandchild is named
After Colonel Muammar Gaddaffi
Seen from today's perspective
Not everything fits
The generally accepted
Picture of visionary and genius,
But Mandela can be excused
These lapses
Because despite everything
He achieved more than ordinary human beings
His long period of imprisonment
Played a significant role here
It did not break him, it formed him
Robben Island
Had been a university of life for Mandela once posited
He learned discipline there
In dialogue with his guards
He learnt humility, patience and tolerance
His youthful anger dissolved
He mellowed and acquired
The wisdom of age
When he was at last released
Mandela was no longer
Burning with rage,
He was now a humanized revolutionary
Mandela wanted reconciliation
At almost any price
His own transformation
Was his greatest strength
The ability to break free
From ideological utopia
And to be able to see the greater whole
The realization
That those who think differently
Are not necessarily enemies
The ability to listen,
To spread the message of reconciliation
To the point of betraying what he believed in,
Only in this way could he
Serve as a role model
To both black and white humanity
, communists and entrepreneurs,
Catholics and Muslims.
He became a visional missionary,
An ecclesiast of brotherly love
And compassion
Wherever he was, each humanity was equal
He had respect for musicians and presidents
Monarchs and cleaning ladies
He remembered names
And would ask about relatives
He gave each humanity his full attention
With a smile, a joke, a well aimed remark,
He won over every audience
His aura enveloped each humanity,
Even his political enemies,
That did not qualify him
For the status of demi-god
But he was idolized and rightly so
He must be named in the same breath
As Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama
Or Martin Luther King
Mandela wrote a chapter of world history
Even Barack Obama posited
He would not have become
President of the United States
Without Mandela as a role model,

And so it is not so important
That Mandela is now portrayed
Larger than life
The fact that not everything
He did in politics succeeded is a minor matter
His achievement is to have lived
A life credibly characterized
By humanism, tolerance and non-violence,
When Mandela was released
From prison in 1990,
The old world order of the Cold War era
Was collapsing
Mandela stood at the crossroads and set off in the right direction
How easily he could have played with fire, sought revenge,
Or simply failed; He could have withdrawn from public life or,
Like other companions in arms, earned millions,
Two marriages failed because of the political circumstances
His sons died tragically long before him
It was only when he was 80 and met his third wife,
Graca Machel,
That he again found warmth,
Partnership and private happiness,
Setbacks did not leave him bitter
Because he regarded his own life
As being less important
Than the cause he believed in
He served the community humbly,
With a sense of responsibility
Of duty and willingness to make sacrifices
Qualities that are today only rarely encountered,

How small and pathetic his successors now seem
Their battles for power will probably now be fought
Even more unscrupulously than in the past
How embarrassing are his own relatives
Who argued over his legacy at his hospital bed
Mandela was no saint
But a man with strengths and weaknesses,
Shaped by his environment
It will be hard to find a greater person
Just a little bit more Mandela every day
Would achieve a great deal
Not only in Africa
But in the bestridden geographies
Epochs and diversities of man,

In my post dirge I will ever echo words of Mandella
He shone on the crepuscular darkness of the Swedish
Academy, where cometh the Nobel glory;
Development and peace are indivisible
Without peace and international security
Nations cannot focus
On the upliftment
Of the most underprivileged of their citizens.
Sad Girl Jan 2017
At some point in time
she grew tired of thinking,
tired of feeling.
She couldn't leave the earth
for the sake of the ones that she loved.
Her pain enveloped her.
She hurt in silence.
Silence was her way of screaming.
Crying for help.
Hiding away,
Wishing,
Hoping,
Praying -to a God she nor accepted or disputed-
Just waiting for someone to notice her descent.
If one person could be puzzled by her disappearance it could have made a difference.
She laid in the darkness for days.
Day after day
She watched the time pass and
h o p e d
that it would soon be over.
She
w i s h e d
that someone would stop her
She
P R A Y E D
that her heart would stop
Her pain and the darkness enveloped her.
Tired of thinking.
Tired of feeling.
She just let go.
She drew back into herself and began to drown.
Sleeping, dreaming, imagining
A better life,
A significant existence.
Not thinking about important things,
Not feeling what there was to feel,
Barely existing.
Seeing that she had been let go of, she stopped
Waiting-
Wishing-
Hoping -
She stopped praying.
She no longer cried.
She became the darkness.
She became the silence.
She enveloped all.
Had to re-upload this because I have OCD and I offset my poetry post pattern :/ sorry.
*** trafficking – the trafficking and debasement of souls; Drug trafficking – the trafficking of substances that debase the body.  Here compared you will find the prevalence, impact, and rehabilitation processes associated with *** and shrug trafficking.  Respective clientele, demographics, and locales that these types of trafficking touch will be revealed in order enlighten you to their world-wide prevalence. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impact of lifestyles that result from these two types of trafficking will be detailed to etch vividly an image of just how far-reaching the impact of these two activities is. Light will be shed upon the rehab processes that lead to recovery from each.
                 According to UnoDC.org, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the use of illicit drugs has remained in a stable trend, with approximately the same number of people using illicit drugs each year. This trend has continued for a number of years. Upon examining the world drug report, written by UnoDC.org, production of several drugs exhibit particularly interesting trends. ***** production for example fell and spiked in a somewhat predictable patter from 1990 until 2010. When this data is graphed a reasonable medium appears for all the years, revealing that ***** production has stayed around an average production of roughly 200,000 hectares annually. Likewise, coca cultivation pictures an interesting trend. From 1990 to 2010 coca production appeared to be almost identical each year, and with little to no rise or fall in production, there is a similar trend in its being trafficked.  
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is a documentary that was released in 2012 by Exodus Cry Its producers and researchers saw firsthand the atrocities of the *** trafficking industry. The film crew interviewed former pimps and prostitutes, spoke to traffickers, the families of the trafficked and to individuals still actively engaged in three sides of the *** trade referring to currently employed pimps and prostitutes as well as those who purchased ***. The researchers and producers interviewed eastern European gang members and took a trip to Amsterdam’s red-light district – home of legal prostitution. They journeyed to Los Angeles and saw the glamorized side of the dark issue of *** trade.
According to Nefarious, the number of humans trafficked for the purpose of providing ****** services is on a shockingly steep rise. In a matter of a few years, *** trafficking rose from the third largest criminal enterprise to the second. It is second only to drug trafficking and is vying for the position as top criminal enterprise in the world. It is encroaching upon that position far more speedily than any authority or decent human being would care to acknowledge.  A survey taken in 2010 by DART (the drug awareness resistance training program) revealed that 21.8 million people aged 12 and older had taken an illicit drug in the previous month. In 2010 it was estimated that between 153 and 300 million people had used an illicit drug at least once in the previous year. These statistics fail to take into account the impact that this usage has on the lives of the families of drug users. Neither do these statistics reveal the extent to which drug users lifestyles are impacted by drugs. However, nearly  every single human trafficked for ****** purposes is completely and utterly enveloped in the lifestyle of prostitution and the violent world of being prostituted. In Nefarious a shocking statistic is revealed. Approximately ten percent of the entire human population of earth has been trafficked. Both human and drug trafficking are prevalent across the globe. Human trafficking occurs in 161 of 192 countries. Illicit drugs are trafficked in every country that has laws that deem substances unlawful. There are little to no race, religion, ethnicity, or age restrictions on who can and is trafficked for use of ***, but drugs are far more limited by age and ethnicity in their use.
Drug trafficking, though similar to *** trafficking in many ways, is in no way as substantial a damaging force to the mind, soul, and spirit as the world of *** trafficking  is in terms of the critical and dangerous force it exhibits in the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual  impact it has on young girls. Both drugs and *** trafficking have some influence in all of these respective areas. The primary area in which people are affected by drug use is the physical. Drug users’ health declines, they become physically or psychologically dependent, and they may develop diseases from sharing of needles or lack of inhibitions that lead to *** with an infected individual. Drugs may, in some rare cases, lead to psychoses and mental disorders. They may cause brain damage, which is both physically and mentally damaging. Drugs may even set one’s heart and soul in a place that they are more susceptible to lies or truth. They alter spiritual state for some individuals, but only mildly. However, *** trafficking victims are impacted majorly and in their entirety as a person. In all aspects of the physical, mental, and spiritual, *** trafficking victims are consumed by *** trafficking. In Nefarious it is revealed that In order to “break” *** trafficking victims they are profusely beaten, and are psychologically toyed with to create a twisted trust and dependence on their various handlers. They are repeatedly *****, and are examined like cattle by those who wish to buy women. They are imprisoned in dark rooms and not allowed to leave unless told to do so. They are bedridden and forced to ******* themselves. After being broken in ways described above and sold to a ****, girls are forced every day to meet certain quotas of customers and cash flow. If they do not meet these they are beaten even more. They lay in bed sometimes a week at a time to recover physically enough to usefully return to their “job”.  Through this hellish ordeal, their soul, self-worth and identity are being attacked by circumstances that devalue them. They become like animals.
*** trafficking victims become dependent on their environment for normalcy. This is so true for some individuals that even though they have been rescued from the lifestyle, they return.  This is not because the *** trafficking victims enjoys the lifestyle of prostitution, and it is not because they want to. Instead, it is because they think they can be nothing more than a *******. The *** trafficking victim, in this case, believes that they need to settle into the numb and thoughtless mind state that they develop when broken. Returning to prostitution does not evidence an addiction. In contrast, it is the cry of a soul that is desperately trying to cope. They do this in order to feel as if they can survive.  
The rehab processes for *** and drug trafficking differ greatly in commitment and length, but are similar in that they both require physical and psychological rehabilitation.  Drug rehabilitation programs typically consist of twelve-step programs or something similar. They last a number of months, or occasionally a few years. They allow individuals counsel and encouragement, and they attempt to, by abstinence, exorcise an addicted individual’s addiction. *** trafficking rehabilitation requires the re-creation of an individual. Self-worth must be reconstructed. The spirit must be healed in order to allow for psychological healing. Prostitutes are not addicted to prostitution, but prostitution produces dependence in that the prostituted crave normalcy. This dependence must be killed. Successfully rehabilitating women from this forced lifestyle requires lifelong commitment and endless resources. It requires passionate fanatics, people who will pour their life into changing the lives of others, because only the incurable fanatic can wreak havoc on the tragedy of human trafficking. Any short-term effort to rehabilitate a *** trafficking victim is doomed to failure. The degree to which the brokenness of *** trafficking victims becomes ingrained in them is so extreme that it takes a lifetime to reshape their lives.
While researching *** trafficking in order to accurately produce Nefarious, the researchers and producers of Nefarious became convicted by facts that they collected. The evidence they collected speaks to the fact that *** trafficking does not just attack the body; it attacks the entire being, and in far worse ways than drugs ever could. Varied races and ages are prostituted and / or consume drugs. The impact of both of *** and drug trafficking is severe, but much more so severe in the case of human trafficking. The rehab process for human trafficking is much more in depth and is testament to the horror and degree of psychological, mental, and emotional disfigurement, as well as acclimation to a horrible situation to the point that horror becomes normal – a new definition of addiction. Human trafficking is an atrocity that is far more horrendous and prevalent than imaginable. It is far more destructive than drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is one of the most destructive forces in this generation.  Surely consuming drugs is one of the most horrid things we can do to our bodies, but what about consuming souls? *** trafficking consumes souls, hearts, minds and bodies. It splits, fragments, debases, brutalizes, obliterates, murders, rapes, molests, destroys, and dehumanizes the prostituted.  Drug trafficking attacks the body the soul, and sometimes the mind, but in much milder ways.
Deceive me
Lie to me
**** with my head

On the edge of the cliff
Then you pull me to bed

Your love is a drug
*** with you gets me high
I’m a full blown ******
Makes no sense; don’t know why

You're an ever present torment
The fission laser splitting my mind
A jig-saw puzzle that was completed
Slowly each piece from each piece you unbind

Seductively you tear me down
Like the clothing you disrobe
A deer staring into headlights
I am frozen on the road

The weight of the world bearing down on me
As those focused beams get closer
Gladly I welcome them
Even though I’m not supposed to

Every rational thought I have
tells me how wrong you are for me
But they are drowned and muffled out
No more thoughts; keep your pennies

No sensible way to explain
Why I ******* love you so much
You’re a psychotic crazy *****
that I don’t want anyone else to touch
A blowtorch ignites a flame
A fire fierce and burning bright
Even though I know it will burn me
With all my gathered strength and might

All it takes from you is that look
You cast that Vampire’s gaze and grin
Instantaneously my defenses lowered
and you know you’ve ****** me in
Immerse myself into the flame
Intense pain; you melt my skin
Until pain I feel no more
I’m enveloped in your sin

And like a ****** choosing dope
Everyday, your sin I’ll take
I will gladly sell my soul
The most egregious of mistakes

A preying succubus appears
like a dreamy demoness
A world of dreams are turned to nightmares
Fills her needs for human flesh
Written: February 19, 2018

All rights reserved.
jane taylor Jun 2016
how i have ached to walk amongst the evergreens
encased by dazzling quaking aspen
in my rocky mountain home

i yearn to fall again while skiing
and catch a wisp of icy sky blue
snow powder crystals
on my tongue
******* feelings
rise and fall
as they melt
and disappear

i long to breathe in your scent
sitting on the peak of wooded ridges
amidst slate colored boulders
sea salt combined with cinnamon
laced with wildflowers
crisply filling my lungs

i hunger to once again
behold again your red rock formations
creating tender hollows
through which timid coral sunsets peer

i crave hiking at dusk
into your jagged emerald forests
and sit wistfully mid the columbine
while darkened sunflowers juxtapose
against the jet black emptiness
enticing the stars
to etch enchanting paintings
on inky cobalt skies

hankering to be at the sundance film festival
coyly peeking into restaurants
covertly spying on the movie stars
on old park city main

itching to experience waiting patiently
for a moose to cross the street
its majesty splashing gingerly
sending chills throughout the galaxy
magnificence abounds

i pine to have memories gently cradle me
like worn out patchwork quilts
warmed by incandescent fires
wrapping me in soft colored canvas
the past craving transformation
by an echo that’s now dim

faintly crying out for
an old familiar artist’s brush
that still lingers
to snag times gone by
and paint the future in

amalgamating the antiquated
with the present
luring in
my destiny

i dream to don my fringed leather jacket
and hear my cowboy boots
fiercely clicking
against charcoal shadowed midnight sidewalks
while i watch the harvest moon

i’m parched too see your autumn chestnut leaves
against the bloodshot auburn sky
as cardinal hues give way to glistening winter
melding into tender spring

your summertime birthing
tingles down my spine
as chartreus aspen leaves
morph to golden bisque
enticing ute country
to blow in
copper colored indian summers
with cherry fragrant wind

yutaahih you were called
by the apaches
their historic essence
somehow ingrained within
my every cell
thirsty to lie enveloped
like a long lost lover
in your rugged western terrain

once having left your presence
i return to you now
my heart flutters
with wild anticipation
to see your precious face again
utah

©2016janetaylor
after a 5 year absence, we are returning to utah at the end of this month
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.
unnamed May 2014
the words we softly whispered
in a language of our own
as we silently ruled our kingdom
from our pillow thrones

i'm cradled in your arms
and the room is dimly lit
as my soldiers lay down their arms
and i begin to let you in

novels of dreams and childhood years
tales of sleepless nights
reports of all my irrational fears
which i confessed by dim candlelight

thoughts that my mind had never before heard
tumbled from my mouth- i was choking
on the brutality of all my honest words
and the ideas which you were provoking

like birds in a cage,
my feelings trapped for too long
and the dust on this page
had been there all along

the first time i was hurt
i swore it was my last
but i begin to revert
with my red wine filled glass

as we slowly drift off into our peaceful slumber
both enveloped by the night
i did, in fact, begin to wonder
if i should confess love by dim candlelight
inspired by and loosely based on lamplight by bombay bicycle club
ryn Oct 2014
Elated to see you aloft in the night sky
To what do I owe this enchanted boon.
In the merry company of winking stars,
Enthralled by this sight as I admire my moon.

Bathe me in your streaks of translucent silver.
Accompany me through my sleepless nights.
Watching over me with unwavering vigil.
Swathe me in whispers of peaceful respite.

Oh how you govern the raging tides of my soul.
Rest your gaze as the waters break upon my shore...
Erode and weaken the load strewn over my burning shoals,
Sands drowned breathless but craving for more.

Few nights now... Smitten as you coyly turn away.
Thick strands of shadow clad hair in gentle cascades,
Alluringly obscuring a slight fraction of your face.
A tiny crescent blanketed away; into the blackness it fades.

More nights pass... Now I see only a lesser moon
Leaving me with only half; darkness so had claimed.
Please make yourself last; you mustn't leave too soon,
I'm not ready to be left crippled and maimed.

I silently look up as more nights go by.
I watched my lunar love dissolving into space.
My heart too, torn away a morsel at a time...
Finally she had gone; without a sliver or a trace.

Every nightfall since is rife with emptiness and despair.
I asked the stars if they could soothe my gaping void...
But they'd only twinkle in indifference...
Regardless of the pleas I've employed.

Unsure of how many rises it has thus been.
Nights only brought the onslaught of mocking stars above.
Still I toy with the promises made overhead,
For the awaited return of my crazed elusive love.

I know it's frivolous to think I'm the only one...
There are others who pine just as I do.
But I yearn the most for your sought after attention,
For our hearts have sung in every colour and every hue.

Anxiety at peak, dismayed almost broken,
Then I hear a sweet song sung; distant and far.
A song that shared the words we once had spoken,
Again enveloped in translucent silver, with relief I sighed...,
                          *"There you are..."
Inspired by the lunar cycle...
MoeGallo Dec 2014
I’m rendered powerless. Just about breathless. I watch as each layer of clothing gravitates toward the floor. Strip off the clothes that enveloped his beauty. My knees begin to fail me. Through his stare it feels as though he’s already probing every crevice of my being. Eye-fingers ravish me. He’s bare. My eyes haven’t left him. He smirks, refusing to leave me a spectator. Clammy hands penetrate the chill of the tile lined room. He strips me. I'm sure he senses me shaking.. goosebumps begin to rise. We step into shower. The tap is high, the temperature hot. The passion as well. He’s capturing me. Rapturing my frame, Grasping me. Gasping for me. He pulls me into him.. into the air. My legs incoherently wrap around him. The hot vapors aren't from the water, but our lust we heed. It’s wet. "Think ya can make it to the bedroom?" My throat closes. Barley touching, the pleasure, pressure, of his words render me unable to respond clearly. I nearly whimper out an answer. The smirk returns. This act meant for cleansing morphs into such a ***** one. I’m miserable within myself, the sheer amount of desire burns. Pushing me to the wall his body presses against me. He pushes into me. His hips. His lips. I feel him sliding in and out, violating, his tongue twisting around my own. His body as well. We’re intertwined...
Inspired by Stardust's "Showering together" c:
Hope you liked it!
Alex Apr 2018
I walk with my head down, I've outgrown this town,
I know my way around but it's boring now,
I'm snoring now, ignoring clowns that surround me, how
Do I break out, find some glory now,
See the globe, rewrite my story, develop some clout,
Enveloped by doubt...can't seem to figure it out,
Developed my sound, need to deliver a shout, no fuss, gotta row,
This **** bridge fell in the moat,
Forget a paddle,
I'm still building a boat,
Don't doubt though, I'll break out now, might be slow but expect a ******* as I go,
Not gonna linger, stay sharp like iguana fingers,
Depressed and full of stress, my best is yet to come,
Inhibitions, lack of rest keep my ambitions undone,
My dreams have been oppressed, my soul remains repressed,
But instead of being stunted I'll stun, refuse to just regress
The pains of reality justify the
Deep seated sorrow of man.

The vulture encircles me
Events surrounded by mystery
Enveloped in insanity
The human race is
Captivated by mystery
Doomed to repeat history

Collusion to bestow unmitigated
Sorrow upon my being

Simply put, I am
Damaged goods

Speak softly now
And choose your next thoughts
Carefully,
For the devil has called
My soul to dance

Reckless, unmitigated
Abandonment
Of mind, body, and soul
Fruitless searches
Forever numb
Longing to feel whole

Deep beneath the rolling waves
Lies serenity
Amongst sunken slaves
Deep inside my brain
The labyrinth of my mind
Memories that
I've left behind
Gone with the breeze
Above arid land
Somewhere lost in the desert
Where only shamans understand
Somewhere locked in the innocence
Of childhood frailty
Misplaced in the universe
Perpetuating reality
Walking alongside
All the gods of the ages
Bounding across time
In history's pages
Vacated with the morals
Of man
Lost in the seams of
Our lives
In the absence of the infinite
Shared hallucinogenic cries
Gone with the limbs of
The serpent
Ignored individuality dies
The reflection of man tainted,
For it is where the devil hides
Looming in the shadows
Of irresistible allure
No acquittal of our sins
A race ****** to remain
Impure
Violence surrounding our
Unequivocal, dastardly instincts
Perched in the forefront of our
Perceived selves
Selfish, devilish
Acts of kindness
The misfortune of the fortunate
Given all the amenities
Of a king's meal
Without the sensation of
Taste
Washed away with our
Dreams of betterment
Laying upon the chests
Of mythological beasts
Souls left rotting
Souring with ferment

Supreme consciousness
Arouses the senses
Invent my future with the
Myths of the past

You're stuck in a state of
Imaginary grace
Dream myself into
New bounds of transparency

Cryptic writings
Things left unsaid
Unsure of the real
Or the surreal
Life's slipping away
Once again
Paper in hand
Palms begin to sweat
Indulging into reality
Memories
I long to forget

It seems forever
Since I've been home
Trying to balance
This chemical imbalance
But always, I'm left here
Alone
Believing my dreams real
Realizing my world's surreal
Living with uncertainty
Imagining reality

Where do I go
To hide the pain?
Dual existence?
Acute psychosis?
Trapped inside my own
Brain
There's a place in my mind
I like to hide
Where all of my secrets
I do confide
There's a place I go
To bury the pain
A papered existence
Conducive synopsis,
Abstained

I begin to sweat
My heart screaming
From my chest
Let the feeling pass
Delve into the kingdom
Inability to
Repress
Take me away
To that far off place
Abscond into surreality
Amongst things I dare not
Confess

Drinking in divinity
Affixed on mortality
Will I die in this place?
Unable to resurface
Back in reality

Stuck running in circles
On a surface-less plane
Can't escape the shadows
Can't remove the pain
Simple design
Made up of
Over thought complexity
A universe separated
Removed from the modern mind
Inexorably

Amputation of
The mutation
That is the
Human race
Segregation of this
Charred realm
From other wordly
Space
We live
We die
And death begins it
Reinvent our minds
Ignite our passions

Drowning in a gene pool
Of degenerates
Souls thrashing
Wildly, forlorn
Plunged into unmitigated
Evil
Of a race that destroys
The unborn

Lachrymose gaze
Upon the living dead
A thin film of separation
Through which lies
Are fed
Understanding the weakness
Into which we are
******
For shed blood
Forces cries
Ripping from mother's eyes
Witnessing her own demise
As a piece of her
Slowly dies
For father's impenitent
Fantasies once dreamed
Torn away from aching
Fingers
Left ravaged,
Impotent

Gazing at you
Under the cloak of
Intrigue
Watching you struggle
In the tangled lies
You weave

Commanding the head
Of the serpent
Lilith forcing man's
Non-repent
Imposed upon our being
Righteous punishments
Such ramifications
Deemed astringent

Incomprehensible
Allure
Masochists of
Everything pure

Watch the world die
From afar
Irrevocable despair
Promising allegiance
To a life I cannot
Bear

Killing myself with
Indecision
On the perimeter
Of sanity
In the psychotropic prison
And psychotic affliction

Here it comes again
The voices, getting louder
It doesn't feel good anymore
How do I escape
Escaping?
Where do I go when my sanctum
Has been compromised?
Unable to quiet
The insurgents afoot
Incurable, incalculable
Indecision
Lost, finding my way home
Left in between existence
Alongside myself
Alone

The cold, inhuman ability
To sacrifice one's own mind
Hanging onto the coat tails
Of free thought
Journey we now,
Into the nightmare
Ignoring loss of
Comprehension
Vacated laws of
Apprehension
Arming latent illness
Plotting revenge
Beneath the surface

Here it comes again
I hear it getting louder
It doesn't feel good anymore
Who will save the lifeguard
When he's about to drown?

Can you see me?
Can you hear my cry out?
He looks to find
There's no one around

Searching indefinitely
For myself
Lost in another
Under the guise of
Someone else
Why does it matter?
Seemingly insignificant
In a moment of clarity
Just breathe for a moment
Shoved back in reality
"Am I dreaming," he asked
His reflection replied
The answer profound
Unknowingly died

I sold my soul to get here
On the periphery of realization
Stuck on the perimeter of reality
Reentry revoked
Forced to sit idly
As my life passes
Before my eyes

This is my letter
Unable to deliver
This is my life
Unable to decipher
This is my nightmare
That I've never dreamed before

Trapped in the prison
I've constructed on my own
Locked myself in four walls
Of uncertainty
Built in the center of being
Unnoticed by the proprietor
Frailty prevalent
Implosion of the mind
Leading to the ******* of
The insanity
I've come to find

Death looms at the end
Of the candlestick
Walk hand in hand
With me
Fellow traveler of
Uncharted paths
My fellow affliction
With the unknown
Unable to save myself
From the pain I know
Awaits me

Here it comes again
Inescapable, maniacal laughter
It doesn't feel good anymore
And all I ever wanted
Was your guiding hand
Complacent in lies
Forcing deafening cries,
For there will be
No reprise
As my soul flutters
And dies

Death for sale
Ten will take you away
Consumed by the thought of it
No more worry
No more being suppressed
This other kingdom
Unknowingly repressed
Delve deeper into the nightmare
We lie together
Naked
Unashamed
Open to the probing
Fingertips
Of the world
Unable to speak
Sleep paralysis,
Yet this is no dream
Wide eyed
Searching
Unable to scream

Incommunicable desires
No longer latent
Unsuppressed is the disease
Of your discontent
Insufferable, forcible pain
Towards the ones loved most
Catatonic, embryonic
Feeble mind
Please save me from myself

Forgive me, father
For I know not what I do
Forgive me, mother
For I do not blame you

Plastic state of being
Suspended in the viscous
Coagulant of stolen thought
And free will
Drowning in my
Own enjoyment
Of self suffering

How will you remember me?
A trembling voice
To read my eulogy?

Forget the things I should have said
This demoness I've brought to bed
Speaking in riddles
Bewilderment of the senses
Deeper appreciation
For the subjugation of man

War criminals in suits
Pretentious, cowardly vestiges of man
Surrounded by an air of
Undeserved arrogance
Getting fat on young girls
Sending their children to war
Safeguarded by a desk
And the allure of change
Obscene, disgusting animals
Consuming their weight daily
In the profit of drugs and
Devised disease
Profiteers of death
Politicians work the corners

And I fall,
Too weak to carry on
Can't escape my own
Lonely, cold, loveless
Gaze
Black holes in my head
Leading into the depths of
My soul
Emptiness pervading
Madness running rampant
Destroying who I once was
Tearing to pieces
My uniqueness
Stripped of self
Thrown back to march
Within the masses
Towards impending demise

Staring into the eyes
Of the serpent
Turned to stone
Numb to emotion
Numb to pain
I cry out for substance
I miss the person
I used to be
The person you loved
Before you met me

Relieve me now of sin
Unto re-birthing, begin
Relieve me now of this burden
Knowledge and shame
Relieve me now of myself
And self inflicted pain

There it goes again
Making me feel dour
It doesn't feel good anymore
Purge me of this dependency
Ancient, carnal need
Necessity of loathing the infinitesimal

I've met the devil in my dreams
She looked a lot like you
Dreaming in wakefulness
Awakened desire in dreams
What is my intention?

Do I provide a function
Or functionally provide?
Are you living in a nightmare?
Have you gone to sleep and died?

Synesthesia upon awakening
My sensory perceptions
The permutation of the
Infinite

Children of the wilderness
Remove us from the
Impurities of societal disorder
Relieve us of the blandishment
Of media driven fallacies
As the masses are hoarded,
Spoon fed their own flesh,
And directed onward
By the pusillanimous grave robbers
Awarded with the title of
Government official
Given diplomatic immunity
And free reign over
The direction of our lives

There lies a serenity
Beneath the quiet surface
Of the ocean
The ocean floor is vast,
Uninhabited promise

I have developed an acute prescience
For what will come

Man unknowingly conspires
Against himself,
For the good of man
Cannot overcome
The evils of mankind
Conquering in the name of
Worthless ideals
And fruitless endeavors

Conforming to nonconformity
You're only fooling yourself

Wandering about in a dreamy state
With unexplained expectations
For some sort of happy outcome
Welcome to my nightmare
My inescapable kismet
Defend me from myself
I have become
My own worst enemy
Just a hyena looking for
A lions share
More animalistic than
A starving predator

Morally ambivalent
Acting upon
Inconclusive notions
There is no stability
In this loose earth
Sinking ever deeper
Into life unbeknownst
To me
Quicksand enveloping
Sanity and conscience
Leaving behind
Only memories of
What we ought to have
Become

Been suppressing emotion
For so long
Seems like forever
Since I've gone
Numb to the heartache
Blind to the happiness
Rediscovered childhood
At the end of my life

The words become a
Flowing river
My pen cannot dance
Quickly enough
To capture my
Escaping tongue

Discovering escape
Through self sufficiency

Sanity is nomadic
Traveling from
Person to person
Mind to mind
At any given moment
We are all insane
Began as a stream of consciousness and developed into a monster.
Emily Oct 2013
i saw the shimmer on the sea
one that i have never seen
I had a heart of a thirteen
and it said "hey, i'll hug you"
so reckless and naive
so i threw myself in
despite being hydrophobic

flapping my arms and legs
mimicking how the victors in swimming do
i was close to drowning
the blues raged
over how i was hurting it
it expressed emotions quietly
but i was sure guilty

i climbed to the shore
but unable to forget
its serenity and colour

so i came back to it
and it enveloped me
this time not a hug
PrttyBrd Oct 2011
The epidemic of conformity consumes all
Children play by board game rules
Stifled by the world to paint a proper picture
They draw flowers of red with stems of green
Fields of wildflowers viewed as weeds enveloped in insecticides
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet
That is a rainbow, in that order alone
We are taught to live by the colors in a box of eight crayons
But even so, those colors cannot make a proper rainbow
A rainbow should be praised if drawn in mixed-breed hues
That field of flowers, natures pallet
We should begin with a box of 124 and grow infinitely
Where lilac dragons can live in cherry trees
Where those waist-high weeds hide the predator from the prey
For where would we be without cops and robbers, or hide and seek
In a world where out of sight incites widespread panic
Children's laughter in the sun is slowly silenced by the rules
Instead, embrace the joy and encourage creativity
We should harbor imagination and develop unreality
For it is there that is born the ideas that will form the future
copyright©PrttyBrd 22/10/2010

Written for the Adopt a Metaphor challenge.  Words given were "develop unreality"
Steph Bell Oct 2010
In the darkest depths of dream time
The mind does start to play
I can't get any peace while I'm awake
It's better off this way

I'm going for a joyride
On a psychedelic tortoise
Riding barefoot through the air
On a wave of floating fairydust

A mass of smiling faces
Of people as we pass them by
I wave and grin right back at them
And breathe a contented sigh

The sun isn't just red and yellow
It's blue and green and pink
The tortoise glides towards it
We're heading there I think

Fairies sprinkle magic dust
with gold and silver hues
The land of golden memories
Where no-one sings the blues

We drift around from place to place
Past villages and towns
Just floating through the cosmos
Enveloped in sights and sounds

Onward to the morning
My tortoise brings me back to light
to spend my day anticipating
where we shall travel to tonight.
This is years old but I enjoyed writing it. Hope you all like it too.
Please don't steal me, just ask. : )
Vicki Kralapp Aug 2012
Enveloped in a cloud of rain,
drenching spirit and soul.
Sunlight flickering through clouds ahead;
finally hope.

Leaving sadness behind at last,
my spirit longs to move in the sunlight of dance.
My body singing, rising to its newness,
twilight is turning bright with vibrancy ahead.

Praying the path will not turn
to the dark rainforest of gloom once more.
Can I believe in the light?
Can I believe in a future with hope?
All poems are copy written and sole property of Vicki Kralapp.
Claire Jan 2014
Air

  "I'll tell you what I've told everyone else.  The lake doesn't usually freeze because the air isn't usually so cold.  It was frigid that day.  Or more so, that week.  That year.  It wasn't a good one for Amie, she told me that.  And while the lake consistently stayed warm throughout the coldest of times, even it gave up that day, as had she.  It gave up and froze, the warmth taking Amie with it, lost under the icy surface. I know you know this."

  "Well, you have gotten us off to a good start.  I'm going to ask you some questions. What was Amie like at school that day?"
  
  "As far as I can remember, she wasn't acting in any unusual way.  They all ask me if I saw her smiling or laughing; pouting or crying.  School certainly isn't anything to cherish, nor anything to dread.  Amie wasn't some sort of intellect, she didn't want to be.  Or maybe she did.  She woke up at the outrageous time, walked the gloomy halls and did the infinite amount of meticulous homework-"

"But did you hear her complain?"

" No.  In fact, Amie was so monotonous in everything she did, it was hard to tell if she was truly alive.  She didn't talk, she listened, and to more than just voices.  All it took for people, including you and your coworkers, to become aware of this 'boring' life she lead was, ironically enough, her death."

"Don't say that. We were all aware of her existence in one way or another, and if not, you surely were.  You and her were good friends, is this correct?

"Amie was my best friend.  Not in the way your best friend is yours.  She was my best friend in knowing that I could sit in the same room as her for hours in utter silence.  I didn't even cry that day.  We weren't even close.  Our friendship was exclusive--the only person I wanted to be around was her because she was as human as everyone else but yet she served as my escape from everything human.  Do you know what I mean?  I know why she didn't hesitate the moment she fell through the ice.  And I'm the only one who understands because I am the only one who understood her."

"You said she listened to more than just voices.  What exactly are you implying?"

"I'm saying she could hear the earth breathe.  And you could too, if you tried.  It's all she did and it's all she ever wanted to do.  She was more than in love with nature and its simplicity; she believed that it was everywhere, alive and thriving.  I honestly don't think any person could ever make her feel the way she felt when she sat in an empty classroom.  Or when she laid on her driveway at night.  Or, the most relevant scenario, when she ran her fingers through the water of the lake in her backyard.  Amie may have been my best friend, but that lake was hers."  

"So this lake was clearly very important to her.  How often did she go outside to visit it?"

"Oh, every day.  More often than that on days she was home.  I spent a lot of time there at her house, and most of the time I would only watch as she went.  I think the lake gave her the same kind of escape that she gave me.  It was a beautiful thing and I wouldn't take that lake away from her even if it meant she would still be here today.  You just have to see things in the light that Amie saw them before you try to comprehend exactly what happened that day."

"Listen to me.  Do you know why you're here?"

"I'm here because you think Amie drowned herself.  And listen to me when I say that that's not what happened.  She let the lake drown her.  Willingly, yes, but this is a completely different situation.  You didn't know Amie, none of you did.  Even I may not have known who she was, but I knew her.  And I know that there is no other way she would've wanted to die."

"You're here because a girl is dead, presumably from a suicide.  It was you who, in fact, reported the incident a few moments too long after you witnessed from a window the disappointment in her face when her fingers touched the ice, which cracked beneath her feet at the center of the lake .  You watched and felt the indifference run through her body as the water enveloped her lungs, and this girl drowned.  She lived alone in a house with a backyard lake, and every other person we have brought in here sits down exactly where you're sitting and draws a blank after that.  Nobody knew Amie."

"I know what you're going to say and I've heard it countless times.  She was not depressed!  Haven't you been taking in what I've been telling you?  Despite her lack of interest in everything every human considered interesting, Amie was happier than you or I could ever be.  This is because, unlike us and everyone else in the world, she didn't need people to be happy.  I am like her in many ways except that because I needed her.  Shes gone but i'm ok because i still find her in the littlest things i see or hear, and she taught me how to do that.  She was and still is everything good in my life and subconsciously in yours, too."

"I don't think you have been taking in what I'm telling you.  Please listen to me.  You might not think so right now, but Amie was sad.  she was helpless and broken and without words, no one could hear her cry.  Amie, this girl who loved nature, this girl who didn't need people, who passed all of her classes in school but barely spoke, who lived in a perfect house with her beloved backyard lake, who no one really knew about, this girl is you.  And you're still alive."

"Wait, stop.  What are you talking about? I told you she was my best friend-"

"I know you love this lake and I know you have no one to live for but you have to believe that whether or not you need people, people need you.  You said it yourself.  YOU need you."

"No, I'm fine, I'm here in this room and I'm alive and-"

"You need to swim.  Swim towards the surface."

"I-"

"Amie, you need to press your hands against the ice.  Press it and push up.  Push!"


And suddenly, there was air.
Ameerah Holliday Nov 2015
Shh, listen.
Did you hear it?

Its disturbing echo
inching down your spine.
Its chilling breath at the
nape of your neck.  

Snaking through my mind,
creeping in like fog.
Seeping through the floor,
spilling secrets like blood.  

Sounds of a clock
muffled by cotton.
Cloaked, it hammers
growing louder.  

Can’t you hear it?
The thumping it emits.
Shuddering through my frame,
suffocation, blame!  

It’s growing louder!
Uttering secrets only I know.
Acute are the senses
that hear its woe.  

Pounding away all thoughts,
persistent, Its haunts.
Shattering midnight it stalks,
nightmarish pillow talk.  

It grows, my skin pales.
louder and louder it wales!
A dead man’s heart yells,
telling its tale.  

Say that I am mad, do you?
If only you knew,
I hear things in hell, it’s true.
Don’t you hear it too?
Homage to Edgar Allen Poe's A Tell-Tale Heart

Copywrite 2013 Fall Aztec Literary Review, San Diego State University
Blythe Cassidy Jul 2014
In a movie everyone has seen
a man tells a woman that,
even though most people get sad when it rains,
it only rains because she is sad.

Is the sky obscured by gray
when she feels alone in the world?
Or does lightning fall like snow
during moments of fury?

She has no idea what power
her light frame contains
nor every one of the infinite
worlds she could build.

Famine would be no more
if her sadness enveloped a dry field
and cities would turn to ash
if her anger never stopped.

Perhaps she will never know.
Indigo words from a loving man
will all be worthless in comparison
to her life before her storm.

Rising each day to turn on the news
and watch plastered on smiles
tell her the weather before it changes
in the blink of her eye.
Elizabeth Foley Oct 2011
This is the world
That I escape to when I’m desperate
A world where dreams
Transform into soft realities

I watch it sparkle
The sun rises brighter every time
But then the dark comes
And I watch the sun set on my sublime

For every sun beam
There are two moons
It shines so brightly
But leaves too soon
And we lay enveloped
In what we’ve lost
But I’m forced to stay here
Trapped in the dusk

You laugh and you cry
When you’re in this place
Weighed down by fears
That can’t be erased

So you start running fast
And push off of the ground
Then soar like an eagle
Before you come tumbling down

I tried to escape from this other world
Tried harder and harder to never go back
But it’s Neverland for adults you see
And discipline is a virtue that I lack

For every sunbeam
There are two moons
It shines so brightly
But leaves too soon
And we lay enveloped
In what we’ve lost
But I’m forced to stay here
Trapped in the dusk

Still with all of its faults
I can’t get away
But just like a mirage
I can never stay

So I travel back
To a world that’s fake
Full of fantasies
My brain could never make

For every sunbeam
There are two moons
It shines so brightly
But leaves too soon
And we lay enveloped
In what we’ve lost
But I’m forced to stay here
Trapped in the dusk
It's a song about writers and the way we see the world.
Mike Essig Apr 2015
Birdsong and Mozart,
perfect morning music.
Wake to it; wake with it.
The uncertain night has fled.
Sunshine floods my living room.
Sunshine and possibilities;
Birdsong and Mozart.
Anything might lie ahead.

I will take this day
into my arms
like a sleepy lover;
I will embrace her
and walk into whatever
she may bring,
enveloped in
birdsong and Mozart,
together.

~mce
Anonymous Jun 2013
The sun causes shadow,
Just as joy causes sadness.
You go blind in the light,
Until you're completely enveloped in the darkness of depression.
It's a predator stalking you,
While wear that care free smile on that ignorant face.
Completely unaware of it.
It strikes you when you are most vulnerable.
Painting a pretty picture with the silent flash of the muzzle.
Trapping it's next victim just like that.
Night is longer than day,
And the world will end in the darkest of nights.
skyler Sep 2017
you
i want you
in every way there is to want a person

from lazy rainy days
sitting around in underwear
wrapped up in the covers
enveloped in each other

to lustful late nights
high happy and in love
too absorbed with each other
to focus on anything else

i want you
and i see so much in you
that counting all your perfections
would be like counting the stars
there's too many to keep track of
and they just seem endless

i am utterly in love
with every inch of your being
every corner of your mind
and everything in between

i might not know what i believe
or where i'm going
or what i'm doing
but i do hope
you'll hold my hand
and wander blindly with me
because as long as i'm with you
i don't need a destination
you are the journey

i am simply enamored with your entity
captivated by your character
fascinated
infatuated
amorous
in love
you asked me to write you a poem, i hope you like it
Amanda Kay Burke Jul 2018
Heavy-chested, I try to release emotions,
The moon shakes its head in dismay,
Seasons unwinding, heartache in slow-motion,
And in weather hides words I can't say.

In the thick sincere compliments
Concerns flail, attempt to get out,
Bang on barriers, will not budge,
'Life consumed, hopeless doubt.

Mind enveloped in fear,
Shackled by trusting nature,
Wings clipped, self-made prisoner,
I wonder if you sense restraints stir.

Certain only one choice allowed,
A crowd of disapproving eyes stare,
Maybe stars can take me far from this place,
They twinkle, dreams in night air.

Want to shine with a similar light,
Ugly areas stand in protest,
Hold back the glow, I seem dimmer,
Searching for a spot to rest.

Weakness planted in crevices,
Rosebushes bearing thorns blooming,
Learning to love myself even when no one else does,
I'm hard to be with, I am only human.
Love me when i least deserve it, because thats when i need it the most.
Saint Ozz Apr 2014
Echo and Narcissist

He stared into her life
It enveloped him, metamorphosing his reality
Sometimes we are changed until we dont remember
those quaint things that we pretend to adore
and lose ourselves in the Medusa’s gaze
of a life
trans-formative and different.
Human connection changes us sometimes for better sometimes naught
The shadow we cast is ours but ever changing
We are changed by those we enter and leave
We are amalgams of those we change and those
who change us for better or worse
PrttyBrd Sep 2012
Through the icy morning
To the sunny afternoon
I find myself looking at you
So far away, yet I remain surrounded
In the warm sun and cool breeze
You tickle my skin happy
In the blue/gray sky that reflects your gaze upon mine
Until finally I am enveloped in dreams of you
copyright©PrttyBrd 09/01/2011- From 14
Amitav Radiance Oct 2014
While sitting under a tree
I could touch the roots above
Wondering, how deep they traveled
Each one holds ground
Creating a network
With the synergy
Communications takes place, there
And passes through the trunk
Right up to the branches
When leaves whisper among them
Trying to communicate with wind
To pass on the messages
Those are rooted deep
What may be going on there
We will not know
Roots that explore beyond
Century of stories buried
This tree stands testimony
To the events
The tree stands tall
Weathering many adversities
With roots to bear all
Which have traveled deep
Enveloped by rich soil
gd Jan 2014
I haven't stayed up this late
since our restless early morning contests
to see who would fall victim to
heavy eyelids and tired thoughts.
I won of course, you most of the time,
but I won on the longest nights (or so I'd like to think)
though my satisfaction was rooted from
something entirely different.
To be honest, I could have cared less about the victor;
I was competitive but I liked when you won -
the shine in your voice and
the glimmer in your smile telling me
how I snored through the night (I didn't)
was much more rewarding.

I haven't stayed up this long
since our late night conversations
turned into early morning slurred sentences
of who could make the most sense
whilst repeating I love you
inaudibly through earphone speakers
and bundled blankets.
And as much as the tiredness
enveloped me in its embrace,
the thought of yours implied through
the telephone waves proved
to be worthwhile, nonetheless.
You were miles beyond my reach,
but you were simple words away.

I haven't stayed up this late
since we fell asleep falling in love

in different beds but with the same desires,
on the same line; on the same page.
And I hate to admit it,
but I still like to think of it that way.

- g.d.
And surprisingly, I'm smiling about this realization.
One Winged Angel


Dec 10, 2011, 7:39:29 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




It was very late, and Lucian had just gotten back from his assignment. he unlocked the door to his house and set his things down on the bed. he removed his shirt and removed the bandages on his chest. that demon put up quite a fight... he put on a robe and decided to get some rest. he set his things down on the floor next to him and hung his sword by the bed. he exhaled deeply and relaxed, finally back in the comfort of his own home. sleep quickly enveloped him and he began to dream.
******
Lucian was woken from a deep sleep by the sound of his door breaking down. Two massive angels shrouded in black cloaks stepped inside his room as Lucian scrambled to his feet, feeling a sudden chill beneath his simple white robe. One of the angels spoke, "Lucian, Elite Angel number 373-14, you are under arrest for high treason, grand theft, and ******."
Lucian was dumbfounded at the accusation. "What on heaven are you talking about?!"
the guard-angels grabbed the warrior-angel and dragged him out of his house and onto the streets where a small crowd had gathered. They escorted him to the capitol, which wasn't far away. Lucian gazed up at the massive black monolith before him.
He was immediately sent to the rooftop, where the Punisher was waiting.
Lucian desperately tried to explain. "I've been set up!! Please let me go! I've done nothing wrong!!"
The angel to his left looked at Lucian in disgust. "Quiet, you."
He reached to Lucian's throat and he felt a massive bolt of electricity course through his body. He collapsed in their arms and blacked out for a moment.
He couldn't say anything; he had a sign of silence on his throat. He blacked out again and when he woke he was on his knees in front of the punisher. His hands were bound behind his back and he was held by a multitude of chains and braces. The guard-angel touched his throat and the seal of silence was removed. "elite angel Lucian, number 373-14, you are charged with high treason against the holy city, grand theft of a holy artifact and the murders of 7 holy officials, as punishment-"
"I didn't do any of those things!!!"
"SILENCE!! There is evidence that places you at the scene."
"What-"
"your punishment, you will lose your wings," Lucian gasped and tears formed in his eyes. "...and will be given the Mark of Eternal torture."
"No! Not the Mark!! Please no!!"
The punisher stepped forward and drew his slender sword. As he stepped forward, Lucian squirmed and fought against his bindings but to no avail. "God help me!"
"How dare you speak the lord's name, criminal!" the punisher slashed at Lucian's throat, grazing it and leaving a long, bleeding cut. Lucian groaned and said, "No... No... Please..."
the punisher stepped to Lucian's side and raised the sword. Lucian's tears came and began hyperventilating. "No, NO, NOO!!!"
The punisher brought the sword down and Lucian screamed in agony as one of his wings fell to the ground. Lucian was in so much pain, he wished he could die right then, right there. He was crying now, tears of sorrow and pain. "No, please, I beg you! Have mercy!"
For some reason the punisher then sheathed his sword. "Fine, you may keep your remaining wing."
"th-thank-" he was cut off as the punisher knelt down and grabbed Lucian's throat. He screamed again as he felt an intense burning. He continued to cry out as the punisher released him but the burning remained, slowly spreading over his entire body with such intensity that he lost consciousness multiple times. after an excruciatingly long torture, the burning ceased, and Lucian saw that it had etched runes and twisting lines over his whole body, almost his whole body, it had left his head and hands untouched. His voice had turned into a hiss and he tried to speak. he was unbound and he reached back to touch where his left wing had been, there was only a stump left.
"Lucian, you are hereby renounced of your warrior status. Get him out of my sight." Lucian was escorted outside, where the guardians left him stranded in the street. He blacked out and felt himself being picked up and carried somewhere else.
************
"he's heavy" thought the angel. He carried the limp body off the streets and through alleys, to an abandoned complex not far away. "Melinda!" he called. A slender young angeless came from the shadows.
"Who on heaven is this, Ven?!"
Ven looked around and said, "not here... Let's get inside."
he carried the angel inside and set him down on the dimly lit bed. He was still out cold. Ven sighed and said, "Remember that trip I took to the holy city?"
"Yes of course."
"Things happened there... the Network had me do some things..."
she narrowed her eyes. "What type of things?"
"i-i had to steal some artifacts...and some officials got killed."
"WHAT?!?!"
"i didn't get caught! But... i-i panicked, i blamed it on... On him..."
melinda was speechless," i-i cant..."
"melinda... Please..."
"no, i cant deal with this anymore, i'm leaving."
"wait!"
"no, ven. Figure this out on your own." and she disappeared.
Ven sighed and looked over at the one-winged angel.
"i'm sorry"
the angel stirred slightly but didnt wake. Ven looked at the stump where the angel's wing should have been, and the scars that lined his body.
"i need to take him to the Network... Maybe, maybe then i can finish what i started... And give this angel what i stole from him... I have to take him to the Holy One..."
he closed his eyes for a moment, then,"i promise, you will get your wing back." and he fell asleep.
**********
Lucian woke up as parts of his body burned fiercly. He cried out and writhed in pain. Soon the burning became a simmer, but it still hurt. lucians heart was beating rapidly and he was exhausted. He replayed last night's adventure. He glanced over his shoulder and as expected, he didnt see his wing. he could feel the blood caked on his back and he felt weak when he tried to get up. He fell and caught himself on the table. "wait a moment... Where am i?!" he frantically looked at his surroundings. He saw another angel asleep in a chair and a doorway behind him. The door looked weak but lucian wasnt sure he could do anything in his weakened state. "i have to try..." he ran, or rather stumbled toward the door and managed to break it down. He fell down outside and was temporarily blinded by the sunlight. He managed his way into the street, where the angels looked on in confusion. "i'm... this
is my street..." he hobbled over to his house and stepped inside. nothing had been touched since last night. "i'm not going to be able to find work... I'm not going to be able buy food.. agh! What am i going to do!" he sat on the bed, his head in his hands. he looked over to the wall, where he had his warrior blade hanging just in case. He grabbed his bag and packed some clothes. He changed into his finer dress clothes that he used on formal occasions. He grabbed his bag and put the sword on his belt. "i wish it didnt have to come to this..." he pushed on a spot on the wall and it slid away. Inside the compartment were his warrior armor and weapons. He took off the suit jacket and grabbed his vest. he put various weapons in their spots and shut the wall. He put the suit-jacket back on and buttoned it to conceal the vest. He felt energized and ready for anything. That was until he turned and saw the angel from the complex.
"where do you think You're going?"
"who are you?"
the angel looked amused and said, "you can call me Ven."
"well, Ven, i'm going to find the one who set me up, and i'm going to do what he did to me."
ven looked frightened. "why dont you come with me."
lucian didnt trust this ven. "i'm not going with anyone." and he dove through the window. He sprinted down the street, the bag and his sword held firmly in his hands. "i need money, i need food... I need to find him."
***********
after all these years of loyal service, after all he'd done, he'd been thrown out without trial, revoked his warrior status, and now Lucian was going to find whoever had done this to him, and he was going to make him pay. he was a fallen angel, and he had nothing to lose.
lucian was perched on the top of the church spire, contemplating where to start his search. *the evidence.. what evidence...?

"i'll start with the judges chambers..."
lucian looked to the north, where the monolith towered over the city. he jumped from roof to roof as he neared the building. i'll do whatever i have to... anything to clear my name. different parts of his body started to burn, and the others began to cool off.
the mark... its burning, it's going to keep burning...
he cried out and fell from the roof he was on. he hit the alley hard enough to break bone, but he happened to land on his wing, cushioning his fall, only a little bit though.
this mark is going to **** me someday... he checked his wing and brushed off the dirt. he folded the wing flat against his back and sat up. he got back on his feet and continued to the monolith.
will i have to live with this mark forever?
*************
(one day later)
"GET BACK HERE!!! STOP THAT MAN!!!" lucian was on the run. he found exactly what he was looking for, now he needed to find more information concerning the artifacts and the theif. but first he had to get away. he was turning corners and sprinting like a madman, but he couldnt escape the Detainers. then he heard a voice, "One Wing! over here!"
lucian looked towards where he heard the voice and saw an Angeless beckoning for him to come. "follow me!"
lucian reluctantly followed, winding through abandoned buildings and finally ducking behind an old counter. after a few minutes of silence, the woman said, "okay, we're clear. i'm Elora."
"lucian."
"oh... you're THE One-wing-angel..."
lucian looked down at the ground. "yeah... that's me."
"you were an elite, a warrior angel, weren't you?"
"yeah, but then i was set up and now i'm an outcast..."
"you were set up?"
"yeah, i was. i had everything i ever wanted, why would i need to commit those crimes? i was loyal, and trusted by everyone. and i swear that i will find whoever set me up..."
"and then what?" elora seemed to be waiting for something.
"i'm going to do to him what he did to me."
"what did he-" elora was cut off by lucian as he cried out. "what's wrong?!"
"the mark.... of eternal torture..."
"oh my gosh... i didnt know..."
"its nothing... i'm used to it..."
he took off his suit jacket and elora gasped when she saw his scars. she didn't seem to notice the vest of weapons or the sword at his side. "this is..."
"...the Mark..."
she grimaced as she saw them and said, "i'm sorry..."
"but why?"
"because, i was going to turn you in..."
lucian was on his feet immediately. "what?!"
"wait!! i'm not going to... not after seeing what they did to you..."
"how can i be sure i can trust you?!"
elora looked down at her feet and said, "you cant... but i can get you out of the city..."
"you can?"
************
Lucian was still finding it hard to trust Elora, but he stuck with her anyway. She took him away from the city and was about to turn back. Something inside Lucian wanted her to stay. "Wait! Don't leave. Come with me to the holy city."
She seemed hesitant but willing, "i-ive never been to the holy city...."
"It's an amazing place, quite a sight to see."
She took a moment to think and nodded, "I'll go with you."
Lucian smiled and walked forward. After long hours of relentless walking, Elora asked," how far do we have to travel?"
"A few more hours of walking..."
Elora sighed and said, "Alright..."
Lucian glanced over at her and saw that she was tired. "We should rest."
Elora and Lucian got off of the path ad took shelter beneath some gild-trees. "Elora, go ahead and rest up."
she reluctantly slept, but she was glad to, they had been traveling all day.
Lucian sharpened his blades and meditated while she slept.
Lucian prayed, like he had always done every morning. He had vowed not to let his becoming an outcast interfere with his routine. After he was finished, he sighed and glanced over at Elora; she was fast asleep. He then glanced at the sky and saw dark clouds quickly closing in. Lucian didn't want to wake Elora but he wanted to get her out of the rain. He set his suit jacket and weapons vest next to her and he extended his wing over her just as the rain began to fall. he was pleased to see that the rain would not touch the sleeping angel. On the other hand, Lucian was vulnerable, but he didn't mind. He would rather shelter Elora than himself. Lucian ignored the rain and decided to doze for a while.
***********
Elora woke up as a cold wind blew. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and saw the millions of raindrops in front of her. it took her a moment to realize that she was dry. she glanced over and saw that Lucian was soaking wet and had his wing extended over her. "You should have woken me, Lucian." she extended one of her wings over him as he shivered.
"th-thanks, e-elora." she could tell he was freezing because even the feather's  above her were shivering. she decided to do something to repay his kindness.
"come closer, we can share body heat." suddenly the feathers stopped shivering, they became rigid, as if lucian was surprised... apparently he was.
"really?"
"yeah, its the least i can do." she sat closer to him and put an arm around him. his skin was cool to the touch and his muscles were tense, but they soon relaxed, as did the feathers above her. he soon stopped shivering and the rain stopped falling.
Martin Narrod Feb 2015
Part I


the plateau. the truest of them all. coast line. night spells and even controlled by the dream of meeting again. the ribbon of darker than light in your crown. No region overlooked. Third picnic table to the drive at Half Moon Bay, meet me there, decant my speech there. the table by the restroom block. While the tide is in show me your oyster garden, 3:00p.m. at half-light here in the evilest torments that have been shed.---------------door locked.  The moors. Cow herds and lymph nodes, rancorous afternoon West light and bending roads, the cliffs, a sister, the need to jump. There is nothing as serious as this. There is nothing nor no one that could ever, or would ever on this side come between. Who needs sleep or jokes or snow or rivers or bombs or to turn or be a rat or a fly or ceiling fan or a gurney or a cadaver or piece of cloth or a bed spread or a couch or a game or the flint of a lighter or the bell of a dress; the bell of your dress, yes, perhaps. Having been crushed like orange cigarette light in a pool of Spanish tongues. I feel the heave, the pull; not a yawn but a wired, thread-like twist about my core. Up around the neck it makes the first cut, through the eyes out and into the nostrils down over the left arm, on the inside of the bicep, contorting my length, feigning sleep, and then cutting over my stomach, around and around multiples of times- pulled at the hips and under the groin, across each leg and in-between each nerve, capillary, artery, hair, dot, dimple, muscle, to the toes and in-between them. Wiry dream-like and nervous nightmarish, hellacious plateaus of leapers. Penguin heads and more penguin heads. Startling torment. The evilest of the vile mind. The dance of despair: if feet contorted and bound could move. The beach off Belmont. The hills and the reasons I stared. Caveat after caveat at the heads of letters, on the heads of crowns, and the wrists, and on the palms. Being pulled and signed, and moved away so greatly and so heavily at once in a moment, that even if it were a year or a set of many months it would always be a moment too taking away to be considered an expanse, and it would be too hellacious to be presumptuous. It could only be a shadow over my right shoulder as I write the letters over and again. One after another. Internally I ask if I would even grant a convo with Keats or Yeats or Plath or Hughes? Does mine come close? Does it matter the bellies reddish and cerise giving of pain? Does it have to have many names?


"This is the only Earth," I would say with the bouquet of lilies spread out on the table. Are lilies only for funerals, I would never make or risk or wish this metaphor, even play it like the drawn out notes of a melody unwritten and un-played: my black box and latched, corner of the room saxophone. Top-floor, end of the hall two-room never-ending story, I'm the left side of the bed Chicago and I see pink walls, bathrooms, the two masonite paintings, the Chanel books, the bookshelves, the white desk, the white dresser, you on the left side of the bed in such sentimental woe, **** carpet and tilted blinds, and still the moors and the whispering in the driver's seat in afternoon pasture. Sunset, sunrise, nighttime and bike room writing in other places, apartments, rooms where I inked out fingertips, blights, and moods; nothing ever being so bleak, so eerily woe-like or stoic. Nothing has ever made me so serious.

Put it on the rib, in a t-shirt. Make it a hand and guide it up a set of two skinny legs under a short-sheeted bed in small room and literary Belmont, address included. Trash cans set out morning and night, deck-readied cigarette smoking. Sliding glass door and kitchen fright. Low-lit living room white couch, kaleidoscope, and zoetrope. Spin me right round baby right round. I am my own revenge of toxic night. Attack the skin, the soul, the eyes, the mind, and the lids. The finger lids and their tips. Rot it out. Blearing wild and deafening blow after blow: left side of the bed the both of us, whilst stirs the intrepid hate and ousts each ******* tongue I can bellow and blow.

Last resort lake note in snow bank and my river speak and forest walk. Wrapped in blocks and boxes, Christmas packaging and giant over-sized red ribbons and bows. Shall I mention the bassinet, the stroller, the yard, several rings of gold and silver, several necklaces of black and thread? I draw dagger from box, jagged ended and paper-wrapped in white and amber: lit in candle light and black room shadow-kept and sleeping partisan unforgettable forever. Do I mention Hawaii, my mother dying, invisible ligatures and the unveiling of the sweat and horror? Villainous and frightening, the breath as a bleat or heart-beat and matchstick stirring slightly every friends' woe and tantrum of their spirit.

Lobster-legged, waiting, sifting through the sea shore at the sea line, the bright tyrannosaurs in mahogany, in maple, and in twine over throw rose meadow over-looks, honey-brimming and warehouse built terrariums in the underbelly of the ravine, twist and turn: road bending, hollowing, in and out and in and out, forever, the everlasting and too fastidious driving towards; and it's but what .2 miles? I sign my name but I'll never get out. I am mocked and musing at tortoise speed. Headless while improvising. Purring at any example of continue or extremity or coolness of mind, meddling, or temptation. I rock, bellowing. Talk, sending shivers up my spine. I'm cramped, and one thousand fore-words and after words that split like a million large chunks of spit, grime, and *****; **** and more ****. I might even be standing now. I could be a candle, in England, a kingdom, in Palo Alto, a rook in St. Petersburg. Mottled by giants or sleepless nights, I could be the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, a heated marble flower or the figure dying to be carved out. I'm veering off highways, I'm belittling myself: this heathen of the unforgettable, the bog man and bow-tied vagrant of dross falsification and dross despair. I am at the sea shore, tide-righted and tongue-tide, bilingual, and multi-inhibited by sweat, spit, quaffs of sea salt, lake water, and the like. Rotten wergild ridden- stitched of a poor man's ringworm and his tattered top hat and knee-holed trousers. I'm at the sea shore, with the cucumbers dying, the rain coming in sideways, the drifts and the sandbars twisting and turning. I'm at the sea shore with the light house bruise-bending the sweet ships of victory out backwards into the backwaters of a mislead moonlight; guitars playing, beeps disappearing, pianos swept like black coffees on green walled night clubs, arenose and eroding, grainy and distraught, bleeding and well, just bleeding.






I'm at the sea shore, the coastline calling. I've got rocks in my pockets, ******* and two lines left in the letter. I’m at the sea shore, my mouth is a ghost. I've seen nothing but darkness. I'm at the seashore, second picnic table, bench facing the squat and gobble, the tin roof and riled weir near the roadside. .2 and I'm still here with my bouquet wading and waiting. I'm at the sea shore and there's nobody here. My inches are growing shorter by the second, cold, whet by the sunset, its moon men, their heavy claws and bi-laws overthrowing and throwing me out. The thorns stick. The tyrannosaurs scream. I'm at the sea shore, plateau, left bedside to write three more letters. Sign my name and there's nobody here.

I'm at the sea shore: here are my lips, my palms (both of them facing up), here are my legs (twine and all), my torso, and my head shooting sideways. I'm at the seashore and this is my grave, this is my purposeful calotype, my hide and go seek, my show and tell, my forever. .2 and forever and never ending. I was just one dream away come and keep me. I'm at the sea shore come and see me and seam me. I'm without nothing, the sky has drifted, the sea is leaving, my seat is a matchbox and I'm all wound up. The snow settling, the ice box and its glory taken for granted. I'm at the sea shore and there's nobody here. The room with its white sets of furniture, the lilies, the Chanel, the masonite paintings, the bed, your ribbon of darker on light, the throw rug **** carpet, pink walled sister's room, and the couch at the top of the stairs. I'm at the sea shore, my windows opened wide, my skin thrown with threat, rhinoceri, reddish bruises bent of cerise staled sunsets. I'm at the sea shore and there's nobody here. I'm at the plateau and there isn't a single ship. There are the rocks below and I'm counting. My caveats all implored and my goodbyes written. I'm in my bed and the sleep never set in. I'm name dropping God and there's nobody there. I'm in a chair with my hands on a keyboard, listening to Danish throb-rock, horse-riding into candle light on a wicked wedding of wild words and teary-eyed gazes and gazers. Bent by the rocking and the torment, the wild and the weird, the horror and everything horrifying. There is this shadow looking over my shoulder. I'm all alone but I feel like you're here.



Part II




I wake up in Panama. The axe there. Sleeping on the floors in the guest bedroom, the floor of the garden shed, the choir closet, the rut of dirt at the end of the flower bed; just a towel, grayish-blue, alone, lawnmower at my side, and sky blue setting all around. I was a family man. No I just taste bits of dirt watching a quiet and contrary feeling of cool limestone wrap over and about my arms and my legs. Lungs battered by snapping tongues, and ancient conversations; I think it was the Malaysian Express. Mom quieted. Sister quieted. Father wept. And is still weeping. Never have I heard such horrifying and un-kindly words.-----------------------It's going to take giant steel cavernous explorations of the nose, brain cell after brain cell quartered, giant ******* quaffs of alcohol, harboring false lanterns and even worse chemicals. Inhalations and more inhalations. I'm going to need to leap, flight, drop into bodies of waters from air planes and swallow capsules of psychotropics, sedatives beyond recalcitrance. I'm requiring shock treatments and shock values. Periodic elements and galvanized steel drums. Malevolence and more malevolence. Forest walks, and why am I still in Panama. I don't want to talk, to sleep, to dream, to play stale-mating games of chess, checkers, Monopoly, or anything Risk involving. I can't sleep, eat, treaty or retreat. I'm wickeded by temptations of grandeur and threats of anomaly, widening only in proverb and swept only by opposing endeavors. Horrified, enveloped, pictured and persuaded by the evilest of haunts, spirits, and match head weeping women. I can't even open my mouth without hearing voices anymore. The colors are beginning to be enormous and I still can't swim. I couldn't drown with my ears open if I kept my nose dry and my mouth full of a plane ticket and first class beanstalk to elysian fields. It's pervasive and I'm purveyed. It's unquantifiable. It's the epitomizing and the epitome. I have my epaulets set for turbulent battles though I still can't fend off night. Speak and I might remember. Hear and it's second rite. Sea attacks, oceans roaring, lakes swallowing me whole. Grand bodies of waters and faces and arms appendages, crowns and more crowns and more crowns and more crowns and more crowns and I'm still shaking, and I'm still just a button. And I still can't sleep. And I'm still waiting.

It is night. The moon ripening, peeling back his face. Writhing. Seamed by the beauty of the nocturne, his ways made by sun, sky, and stars. Rolled and rampant. Moved across the plateau of the air, and its even and coolly majestic wanton shades of twilight. It heads off mountains, is swept as the plains of beauty, their faces in wild and feral growths. Bent and bolded, indelible and facing off Roman Empires too gladly well in inked and whet tips of bolder hands to soothe them forth.-----------Here in their grand and grandiose furnaces of the heart, whipped tails and tall fables fettered and tarnished in gold’s and lime. Here with their mothers' doting. Here with their Jimi Hendrix and poor poetry and stand-up downtrodden wergild and retardation. I don't give a ****. I could weep for the ***** if they even had hair half as fine as my own. I am real now. Limited by nothing. Served by no worship or warship. My flotilla serves tostadas at full-price. So now we have a game going.-----------------------------------------------------------­------------------------  My cowlick is not Sinatra's and it certainly doesn't beat women. As a matter of factotum and of writ and bylaw. I'm running down words more quickly than the stanza's of Longfellow. I'm moving subtexts like Eliot. I'm rampant and gaining speed. Methamphetamine and five star meats. Alfalfa and pea tendrils. Loves and the lovers I fall over and apart on. Heroes and my fortune over told and ever telling. Moving in arc light and keeping a warm glow.

the fish line caves. the shimmy and the shake. Bluegrass music and big wafting bell tones. snakes and the river, hands on the heads, through the hair; I look straight at the Pacific. I hate plastic flowers, those inanimate stems and machine-processed flesh tones. Waltzing the state divide. I am hooked on the intrepid doom of startling ego. I let it rake into my spine. It's hooves are heavy and singe and bind like manacles all over me. My first, my last, my favorite lover. I'm stalemating in the bathtub. Harnessing Crystal Lite and making rose gardens out of CD inserts and leaf covers. I'm fascinated by magic and gods. Guns and hunters. Thieving and mold, and laundry, and stereotypes, and great stereos, and boom-boxes, and the hi-fi nightlife of Chicago, roasting on a pith and meaty flame, built like a horror story five feet tall and laced with ruggedness and small needles. My skin is a chromium orchid and the grizzly subtext of a Nick Cave tune. I've allowed myself to be over-amplified, to mistake in falsetto and vice versa. To writhe on the heavy metallic reverberations of an altercated palpitation. The heart is the lonely hunted. First the waterproof matchsticks, then the water, the bowie knife, crass grasses and hard-necked pitch-hitters and phony friends; for doing lunch in the park on a frozen pond, I play like I invented blonde and really none of my **** even smells like gold.--------------------- There are the tales of false worship. I heard a street vendor sell a story about Ovid that was worse than local politics. As far as intermittent and esoteric histories go I'm the king of the present, second stage act in the shadow of the sideshow. Tonight I'm greeting the characters with Vaseline. For their love of music and their love of philosophy. For their twilight choirs and their skinny women who wear black antler masks and PVC and polyurethane body suits standing in inner-city gardens chanting. For their chanting. The pacific. For the fish line caves. For the buzzing and the kazoos. For the alfalfa and the three fathers of blue, red, and yellow. For the state of the nation. But still mostly working for the state of equality, more than a room for one’s own.-------------------------------------------------------------­------"Rice milk for all of you." " Kensington and whittled spirits."
(Doppelganger enters stage left)MAN: Prism state, flash of the golden arc. Beastly flowers and teeming woodlands. Heir to the throes and heir to the throng.----------------------------------------------------------­--------------- The sheep meadow press in the house of affection. The terns on my hem or the hide in my beak; all across the steel girder and whipping ******* the windows facing out. The mystery gaze that seers the diplopic eye. Still its opening shunned. I put a cage over it and carry it like a child through Haight-Ashbury. At times I hint that I'm bored, but there is no letting of blood or rattle of hope. When you live with a risk you begin at times to identify with the routes. Above the regional converse, the two on two or the two on four. At times for reasons of sadness but usually its just exhaustion. At times before the come and go gets to you, but usually that is wrong and they get to you first. Lathering up in a small cerulean piece of sky at the end turnabout of a dirt road
annika Mar 2017
dear god your voice

i have sat here for the past hour, on the ground, ruminating on my own ****** lack of emotional understanding
i sit here
my stomach infested with moths
my mind becoming entangled with vines of restlessness
confusion
infatuation
angst
more infatuation bordering on fascination
my mind is being enveloped by the somber shadows cast by the incessant, demanding, creeping leafy limbs

i no longer know how to feel

another human has seen past your facade!!
broke the davinci code!!
never once failed to be the voice of reason when you can’t even understand your own voice!!

i love your voice
good god i forgot that this poem existed but i just found it while cleaning out my google drive. i'm honestly not terribly proud of his but it's nice to see that i've improved since this was written.
zebra Apr 2017
kisses on your warm sweet mouth
tender lips caressed
exploring your ******* and raised ******* ..
belly and thighs enveloped
those eager dark delicious places that i covet so
your musk erogenous
the path to your hungry soul
eater of the poison apple
your eyes widen bright with delight
a strange synesthesia you say
your smile a hypnotic alter
you prone
back arched
belly willing
as i drag a curved blade slowly across your winsome flesh
worshiping you
breathing your warm breath into my mouth and nostrils
come now
you coo
i am sheildless

then little strangles that excite
to see how you do
will you love it
adorations twisted mind
she demon
a wizened dizzy Venus

please yes
her **** drenches the bed
a warm viscosity
legs widen
feet piqued
*****
exotic delicatessen

Heralded
i enter with long sweet butter strokes
the sabbath of desire
I swear
i wont let you suffer...
never !
why you say?
because i love you
lovely scythe you call
as if lulled to sleep
whispering dreadful incantations   .
i ache to close the curtain
to lifes scalding chatter
wrap me
in a raggy shawl
impale the throat
like ive alway dreamed
a last exhalation
flood gates pour forth
as deaths dark fold
dissolves all

i rock you drugged
absinthe and wormwood
a last ***** of candles flame
white gauze cinched
lips on a lost mouth
eyes a static pyre

i linger
wishing you still plush
an animated glow
so that i could feel your arms,
now milky white relics
only to take you all over again and again and again
dreamer of the abyss
yet you stand
aberrations, smoke ghost
sacrificially swaying your hips
calling from Hades
dancer of ritual copulation
i melt like wax in the sun
wither
and die myself
marriage Italian style
dead bells in love
blotted out by the Sirens of Mara
Mara ..Greek Damon of deception and distorted thinking
Nigel Morgan Jul 2013
It was their first time, their first time ever. Of course neither would admit to it, and neither knew, about the other that is, that they had never done this before. Life had sheltered them, and they had sheltered from life.

Their biographies put them in their sixties. Never mind the Guardian magazine proclaiming sixty to be the new fifty. Albert and Sally were resolutely sixty – ish. To be fair, neither looked their age, but then they had led such sheltered lives, hadn’t they. He had a mother, she had a father, and that pretty much wrapped it up. They had spent respective lives being their parents’ companions, then carers, and now, suddenly this. This intimacy, and it being their first time.

When their contemporaries were befriending and marrying and procreating, and home-making and care-giving and child-minding, and developing their first career, being forced to start a second, overseeing teenagers and suddenly being parents again, but grandparents this time – with evenings and some weekends allowed – Albert and Sally had spent their time writing. They wrote poetry in their respective spaces, at respective tables, in almost solitude, Sally against the onslaught of TV noise as her father became deaf. Albert had the refuge of his childhood bedroom and the table he’d studied at – O levels, A levels, a degree and a further degree, and a little later on that PhD. Poetry had been his friend, his constant companion, rarely fickle, always there when needed. If Albert met a nice-looking woman in the library and lost his heart to her, he would write verse to quench not so much desire of a physical nature, but a desire to meet and to know and to love, and to live the dream of being a published poet.

Oh Sally, such a treasure; a kind heart, a sweet nature, a lovely disposition. Confused at just seventeen when suddenly she seemed to mature, properly, when school friends had been through all that at thirteen. She was passed over, and then suddenly, her body became something she could hardly deal with, and shyness enveloped her because her mother would say such things . . . but, but she had her bookshelf, her grandfather’s, and his books (Keats and Wordsworth saved from the skip) and then her books. Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas (oh to have been Kaitlin, so wild and free and uninhibited and whose mother didn’t care), Stevie Smith, U.E. Fanthorpe, and then, having taken her OU degree, the lure of the small presses and the feminist canon, the subversive and the down-right weird.

Albert and Sally knew the comfort of settling ageing parents for the night and opening (and firmly closing) the respective doors of their own rooms, in Albert’s case his bedroom, with Sally, a box room in which her mother had once kept her sewing machine. Sally resolutely did not sew, nor did she knit. She wrote, constantly, in notebook after notebook, in old diaries, on discarded paper from the office of the charity she worked for. Always in conversation with herself as she moulded the poem, draft after draft after draft. And then? She went once to writers’ workshop at the local library, but never again. Who were these strange people who wrote only about themselves? Confessional poets. And she? Did she never write about herself? Well, occasionally, out of frustration sometimes, to remind herself she was a woman, who had not married, had not borne children, had only her father’s friends (who tried to force their unmarried sons on her). She did write a long sequence of poems (in bouts-rimés) about the man she imagined she would meet one day and how life might be, and of course would never be. No, Sally, mostly wrote about things, the mystery and beauty and wonder of things you could touch, see or hear, not imagine or feel for. She wrote about poppies in a field, penguins in a painting (Birmingham Art Gallery), the seashore (one glorious week in North Norfolk twenty years ago – and she could still close her eyes and be there on Holkham beach).  Publication? Her first collection went the rounds and was returned, or not, as is the wont of publishers. There was one comment: keep writing. She had kept writing.

Tide Marks

The sea had given its all to the land
and retreated to a far distant curve.
I stand where the waves once broke.

Only the marks remain of its coming,
its going. The underlying sand at my feet
is a desert of dunes seen from the air.

Beyond the wet strand lies, a vast mirror
to a sky laundered full of haze, full of blue,
rinsed distances and shining clouds.


When Albert entered his bedroom he drew the curtains, even on a summer’s evening when still light. He turned on his CD player choosing Mozart, or Bach, sometimes Debussy. Those three masters of the piano were his favoured companions in the act of writing. He would and did listen to other music, but he had to listen with attention, not have music ‘on’ as a background. That Mozart Rondo in A minor K511, usually the first piece he would listen to, was a recording of Andras Schiff from a concert at the Edinburgh Festival. You could hear the atmosphere of a capacity audience, such a quietness that the music seemed to feed and enter and then surround and become wondrous.

He’d had a history teacher in his VI form years who allowed him the run of his LP collection. It had been revelation after revelation, and that had been when the poetry began. They had listened to Tristan & Isolde into the early hours. It was late June, A levels over, a small celebration with Wagner, a bottle of champagne and a bowl of cherries. As the final disc ended they had sat in silence for – he could not remember how long, only from his deeply comfortable chair he had watched the sky turn and turn lighter over the tall pine trees outside. And then, his dear teacher, his one true friend, a young man only a few years out of Cambridge, rose and went to his record collection and chose The Third Symphony by Vaughan-Williams, his Pastoral Symphony, his farewell to those fallen in the Great War  – so many friends and music-makers. As the second movement began Albert wept, and left abruptly, without the thanks his teacher deserved. He went home, to the fury of his father who imagined Albert had been propositioned and assaulted by his kind teacher – and would personally see to it that he would never teach again. Albert was so shocked at this declaration he barely ever spoke to his father again. By eight o’clock that June morning he was a poet.

For Ralph

A sea voyage in the arms of Iseult
and now the bowl of cherries
is empty and the Perrier Jouet
just a stain on the glass.

Dawn is a mottled sky
resting above the dark pines.
Late June and roses glimmer
in a deep sea of green.

In the still near darkness,
and with the volume low,
we listen to an afterword:
a Pastoral Symphony for the fallen.

From its opening I know I belong
to this music and it belongs to me.
Wholly. It whelms me over
and my face is wet with tears.


There is so much to a name, Sally thought, Albert, a name from the Victorian era. In the 1950s whoever named their first born Albert? Now Sally, that was very fifties, comfortably post-war. It was a bright and breezy, summer holiday kind of name. Saying it made you smile (try it). But Light-foot (with a hyphen) she could do without, and had hoped to be without it one day. She was not light-footed despite being slim and well proportioned. Her feet were too big and she did not move gracefully. Clothes had always been such a nuisance; an indicator of uncertainty, of indecision. Clothes said who you were, and she was? a tallish woman who hid her still firm shape and good legs in loose tops and not quite right linen trousers (from M & S). Hair? Still a colour, not yet grey, she was a shale blond with grey eyes. She had felt Albert’s ‘look’ when they met in The Barton, when they had been gathered together like show dogs by the wonderful, bubbly (I know exactly what to wear – and say) Annabel. They had arrived at Totnes by the same train and had not given each other a second glance on the platform. Too apprehensive, scared really, of what was to come. But now, like show dogs, they looked each other over.

‘This is an experiment for us,’ said the festival director, ‘New voices, but from a generation so seldom represented here as ‘emerging’, don’t you think?’

You mean, thought Albert, it’s all a bit quaint this being published and winning prizes for the first time – in your sixties. Sally was somewhere else altogether, wondering if she really could bring off the vocal character of a Palestinian woman she was to give voice to in her poem about Ramallah.

Incredibly, Albert or Sally had never read their poems to an audience, and here they were, about to enter Dartington’s Great Hall, with its banners and vast fireplace, to read their work to ‘a capacity audience’ (according to Annabel – all the tickets went weeks ago). What were Carcanet thinking about asking them to be ‘visible’ at this seriously serious event? Annabel parroted on and on about who’d stood on this stage before them in previous years, and there was such interest in their work, both winning prizes The Forward and The Eliot. Yet these fledgling authors had remained stoically silent as approaches from literary journalists took them almost daily by surprise. Wanting to know their backstory. Why so long a wait for recognition? Neither had sought it. Neither had wanted it. Or rather they’d stopped hoping for it until . . . well that was a story all of its own, and not to be told here.

Curiosity had beckoned both of them to read each other’s work. Sally remembered Taking Heart arriving in its Amazon envelope. She brought it to her writing desk and carefully opened it.  On the back cover it said Albert Loosestrife is a lecturer in History at the University of Northumberland. Inside, there was a life, and Sally had learnt to read between the lines. Albert had seen Sally’s slim volume Surface and Depth in Blackwell’s. It seemed so slight, the poems so short, but when he got on the Metro to Whitesands Bay and opened the bag he read and became mesmerised.  Instead of going home he had walked down to the front, to his favourite bench with the lighthouse on his left and read it through, twice.

Standing in the dark hallway ready to be summoned to read Albert took out his running order from his jacket pocket, flawlessly typed on his Elite portable typewriter (a 21st birthday present from his mother). He saw the titles and wondered if his voice could give voice to these intensely personal poems: the horror of his mother’s illness and demise, his loneliness, his fear of being gay, the nastiness and bullying experienced in his minor university post, his observations of acquaintances and complete strangers, train rides to distant cities to ‘gather’ material, visit to galleries and museums, homages to authors, artists and composers he loved. His voice echoed in his head. Could he manage the microphone? Would the after-reading discussion be bearable? He looked at Sally thinking for a moment he could not be in better company. Her very name cheered him. Somehow names could do that. He imagined her walking on a beach with him, in conversation. Yes, he’d like that, and right now. He reckoned they might have much to share with each other, after they’d discussed poetry of course. He felt a warm glow and smiled his best smile as she in astonishing synchronicity smiled at him. The door opened and applause beckoned.

— The End —