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Brooke Davis Jun 2015
Doctors and Clinical Psycologists diagnose Depression as:

A mood disorder causing a persistent feeling of sadness or lost of interest.

Sadness however is just a side affect of depression.

The real culprit is exhaustion.

Exhaustion
that the world hasn't changed.
Exhaustion
that your career hasn't changed.
Exhaustion
that you are poor.
Exhaustion
that your family or other people around you havent changed.
Exhaustion
because you cant seem to fit in with them.
Exhaustion
you cant seem to change your appearance.
Exhaustion
because you cannot change your personality.
Exhaustion
because you are recognized for a fake smile.

Or maybe

Exhaustion
because you are not recognized at all.


Exhaustion strikes because you are ultimately unable to change the mechanics in the grand machine that is your life.

You are stuck in a never ending loop.
A cycle of what you feel is a wasted life.

A life you feel you are powerless to change because you are too exhausted
to do so.

This is the true meaning of depression:

The desperate, crippling, aching, hurt you feel.
The heavy signs you release at the end of the day.
The anger that rips and shakes through your body.
The screams and sobs you let fly deep into your pillow so nobody hears.
The silent pool of tears that stream down your face at night.
The ones that cling and stain your cheek.

All the emotions that stop when you finally sleep, when everything stops and you are taken by the dark void of a dreamland, when the exhaustion finally ends.

With a life like ours
can you really blame the exhausted,
For wanting to sleep forever?
Just felt like this needed to be said. I used to feel so exhausted when I was in my really bad stages of Depression. A lot of people dont understand the pain because it's in your mind. But it's as real as a broken arm or leg.
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.
Exhaustion
Corona Exhaustion
Pandemic Exhaustion
Lockdown Exhaustion
New Normal Exhaustion
Exhaustion
like know just time mind feel life world say people things lost we're does love think there's away long way thought night got words want better day human left right remember man dark end reality memory experience going make really eyes place 'cause good death tell great feeling soul home high consciousness live pain thoughts fear understand fall thing city sky believe god meaning thinking lose change oh felt hard ask heart times years shall need past light living existence choice use dreams power days cause poetry talking state we'll alive knowledge **** true moment little hope old wrong mental stars wave ago gone broken look brain dream far given truth feels head you'll best sensation baby try leave forget young sleep face stop escape blue dare drug lives wish doesn't drugs work earth new acid game nature bad sublime gods break beautiful ah writing hold born trying coming friends hold writing ah space daze burn body reason rain real moments wonder music memories exist psyche control 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won't medium empathos essence events reflect apotheotelos actual determine house issues worked begging virtuality swore gleaming sly gentleman wicked abyss feed lands tea moon miracle honest streetlights tale lust nights early chained allow placed life's actions emotional plant plan drizzle speaks spin hypocrite conviction watching rules jump application chains forged angel fail reflections lot illuminating flag grip fly sick wonderfully create freeman shine job supposed eggs draw pupil dripping tremble mescaline singularity subjective darkens alpha needed atlas orange discover rabbit warp joint wonderland perfection ponder souls silence ahead roll magic ease bag sorrow escapism sake chest magnitude chaser cloud infinity replaced revelation survived vs carry yearning school slip games begins curiosity heavens powerful typhoon furious theory hypothesis apathy serenity mind's marks window humankind cybernetic fraternity liberate cut movement excuse stopped thunder tire apparent mastery occurs motion paper masses throes falling race hanging bear follows sardonicism endless burning idea ideas burden court ya verse consume kick method stood temporary flash realized eat kindness occur advice shades properties shores hang shining ink rolling minutes street deem tools autumn empatheon entheos reach echoes remix diamonds gets worthy identity thoroughly stuck happens recall conclusion choices fiend dealing finding gun son stimulant experiencing depth twice starshine whilst chosen thereof hooked confused enables painful desires serotonergic teleology prey loop wishing relation neural animal hallelujah ultimately projection communication actuality significant experiences remind transcendention notion proposition works illusion puppet offers chalk series occasion calling degrees ended sin figure slick ending ash sentence glance rend november eve drum rainy destruction romantic drawn shadow observe ghosts bodies wandered atmosphere box familiar children honor road serve beliefs strong avoid lessons returns poison relax exhale whispered intention liquid stare dope needs ****** smoking club relative glitter reached fractured stones junkiedom aspect ketamine heavenly scares domain excess robes vast euphoria grass thrall elation buzz renew dr waste let's morality wanna bottle immortal owe intuitive wouldn't teachings transcendent nocturnal education eternal divinity drive aligned illegal lamplight sell sail insomnia curious beatific seeing insane continuum kiss beta void soar roar fog basis **** town cost regrets appropriate brave threat using emptiness fountain short stole shield riot shade ghost numbness stained steam dreampt october ion derived hazy money message sing quote metaphysical scene swept plain colors nirvana alright unlike dear low teens nonetheless pick considering teenagers beneath door electronic kids build pulse teaching kid mistake teach tear contextual political civilization vision dissociation completely tells normal nevermind raised brings laughed melody spot streets holding coffee praying violence appreciate vengeance law trust exploits slowly trouble mirror's refrain compassion eats recognition discovered blaze otherworldly pieces darkest angst brothers sit win buckfast vicious binge breaks undead forgot demands able notice lucid dimensions evolution sunrise plans philosopher killing produce working cloth produced painter gazing favourite track bunch haul arrives started chemistry prevent awaits definitive strive versus rule dread bare slow stayed onward altered helps lifestyle losing followed woke fight event innocence charade child ventures higher y'all acceptance pay any-more bay vicissitudes codex cannabis pleasures planes doses awareness steal beat zero-summing narcotic lest strength matters reading easy sons drift solstice half formed normality weren't hungry hopes declare research tales envelope regret tired breed release honestly haven't it'll blow entheogenic stories amidst insofar technology direct binary 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guys haunts spark poems poetic pull remained gazed vagabond presented blanket cried stranger glad lucidity turns sum details pour valuable exceed represent surprise continuity occasionally relinquish gravity likes weeks wrought gathering entirely reaper rays aging root laid balance four-twenty provide double-edged ceased exploration mates world's walls alteration faces breach million grey tidal unknown price absolute garden haunting train jungle aloud allowed habits closed syntax difficulty alter scratch glimmering drifting quenched explained forfeit in-between clearly ideals ubiquitous chemicals happening abandon supreme drifted soothing reveal alcohol stimulants psychonautes indescribable conscience closest dying andor travel gentle foodstuffs tree worried demons pair recognise inability ensure including hey graciously prove logic rhetoric 15 galaxy lately hearth ethereality forsake wanting steps memorable 'round player moves del you- encourage finished suspect frequently intoxicants acts aer veil qualities animals remembered karma kissed burying shooting bold scattered input howling design forsaken banish seraphim wide cola united democracy meandering -one zed's hot commit self-sufficiency thought's psychosis flows unreality immersion aesthetics realms struggle wisely immanence absolutely member add writings coin avoidance naturally boys inseparable standard convinced concerns passed prudence quick external suffer choosing produces letter proclaimed myths pains shroom bright absurdity awhile prospect sad distribution recreation responsibly ghb adrenergic minor neurotransmission cyclica lonesome foolishness cometh 5-ht2a beings golden pitch cathinone suggest conclude cognitive motions ethical condensate precious abuse compound underlying adult bask push damage attachment originally determinative heaviness concept facts today's regress detract step ugly absence cosmic note imagination psychedelos noumena noumenon reader haunt determining error questioning habit measured limitations manifestation learning arcadian joke hallucinogens material diethylamide mysterious exists 'twas response proportionate quantized nervous anyways identify qualify device analysis moderate moderation alterations accompanying totality fascinated gradually 'the represented brief juxtaposition played t'was resides tribe stead vote period liminality delete recurring mirror-neurons alexithymia craic ar positive drank maelstrom pharmahuasca wondered reflecting lovely facebook typing quale implicit dispute occurring fallacy treasure exactly reduction distinction discussion man's construct couple contain lovers failed confidence writer's integrity worst psychiatrist sesh rare chronology scale drug's definitely title sesh-heads who'd asks unable tomorrow plucked picture alphabet named coherence task pretends inevitable contemporary trips graces wrote entertain vice elicit psychoactives feens conform deface replace grin h-bomb atomic bleeding 20 bloodless unequalibrium following quench hunger bent euphoric display interstellar vertigo influence waited sunlight explored paradise soaring faded sitting unafraid aqua tinted source itches optional differently stem rich greed forbidden negative privacy react earned ails charity gift couch courage endlessly fascinating boyfriend phrase movies hopelessly loud admission inherent hypocrites intoned devil laconic sinful vein surrounded movie contempla
Composed on 01:33, 27/02/2017 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We still don't assume this means something.
Theshygirl Sep 2018
I have an exhaustion,
Buried deep under my skin,
And as hard as I try,
I can't seem to rid myself of it.
I oversleep and under-sleep,
I overeat and I under-eat.
I try just short of everything,
To find any ounce of energy,
I lost so long ago.
But I should have known better,
This was not just exhaustion.
No amount of sleep could cure
what I am plagued with.
An exhaustion not from lack of energy,
but from a lack of euphoria.
Fritzi Melendez Nov 2017
I am tired with the feeling of being dismissed, criticized as to what I'm going to do next.
I am tired of forcing myself to choke back the tears, hide my barb-wired stained arms behind a long sleeve sweater.
I am tired of fidgeting to keep my sleeves past mid fingers, because my knuckles are swollen and bruised green and purple from yesterday's misdemeanor.
I am tired of insomnia always wanting to be held by me, being woken every 2 hours as if I was tending to a crying baby.
I am tired of running around and around my brain, always overthinking until I go past insane.
I am tired of how my energy stops out of the blue, leaving me nothing but to stare into the wall dazed and confused.
I am tired of making people run away from my presence, love and hurt and leave me until I'm left too sick to keep myself barely on balance.
I am tired of walking with wobbly and scraped knees, my palms are bleeding with skin peeling off, barely able to write more sad poetry.
I am tired of being hurt by everything and everyone, they say my heart is a blessing, but it has cursed my life since the day I was born.
I am tired of the cruel criticism towards me, years upon years of insecure comments that developed into PTSD.  
I am tired of having to rely on someone else's heart just to make myself feel worthy and complete, I can't help sharing my entire heart just to get it back again obsolete.
I am tired of the sickness that tells me good morning each day, opening my mouth to cleanse my body of the food from yesterday.
I am tired of looking at my skin in the mirror, as my rib cage becomes more visually clearer.
I am tired of breathing in the oxygen plagued with depression, opening my eyes to a vast blur in my vision.
I am tired of smelling the fear raid out of my body, their eyes watch as I shake and choke on my spit as I drown in the sweat caused by my anxiety.
I am tired of feeling incomplete, my hollow heart filled with thoughts of the night my soul fell to my feet.
I am tired of crying on the bathroom floor alone, shaking with ***** dripping from my mouth whilst trying to type for help on my phone.
I am tired of wanting to be loved and adored, knowing full well they'll leave me when they get bored.
I am tired of scrolling through my phone to fill the space of pleasure, because his name is screamed to me until not my legs, but my brain makes me shake as if I was having a seizure.
I am tired of being vocal about my mental illness, if it only brings me back into a bigger mess.
I am tired of ruining everything I touch, shattering like a fallen sculpture, not being able to fix it much.
I am tired of thinking until I get ******, screaming with every  punch on the wall because I'm alone and won't be missed.
I am tired of dreaming what could have been between him and I, instead I begin to think of different ways to die.
I am tired of seeing my window sill every morning, thinking about how I can just jump from it so I can avoid today's daily dooming.
I am tired of talking without words to speak, instead they're drowned out by wails until everything turns bleak.
I am tired of being told I'm going to be a failure, only because my suicidal thoughts have made me unsure.
I am tired of the pressure for me to do better in school, knowing they are just going to insult me for being an emotionally unstable fool.
I am tired of the tears kissing my cheeks goodnight, only to knock me out with the help of the looming monster that is impossible for me to fight.
I am tired of feeling and being weak and fragile, telling myself I'm strong are only words filled with false hope dripping with vile.
I am tired of the days I feel happy and alive, whilst also telling myself this is temporary and will soon deprive.
I am tired of my mouth being sewn shut as to not mutter a single word, trailed off when it finally unravels to people who refuse to have me heard.
I am tired of the numbness in my body after I break down, realizing the man-made tornado had once again ripped into my lonesome town.
I am tired of being alone and having no friends, because I'm still trying to heal from the knife twisted deep into my spine from the last person that wanted my life to end.
I am tired of keeping myself in captivity, when I know that I can free myself to feel amenity.
I am tired of the bipolarity in my decisions, always asking to be left alone but cry when I'm not given attention.
I am tired of being the family burden, an annoyance who can never do right with flaws that can not be undone.
I am tired of getting tangled into the constant mess I put myself in, they say I keep doing this to myself as I place my problems on my head with a pin.
I am tired of being ******* to the strings, in which exhaustion plays and moves me like a puppet's unescapable fling.
I am tired of being tired all the time, it's becoming so hard to find words that rhyme.
I am tired, I am just so
Tired.
Lately has been nothing but terrible outcomes and I feel worn out and exhausted. I don't know how much longer I can keep these shallow breaths going.
L B Aug 2016
It was the time of my Auntie Bee summers
   I was small then
   She had a parakeet that landed on my head
   and a bathtub too
   with water so deep!
   and legs and claws!
   **** thing nearly chased me down the stairs!

She lived in slumbery Windsor Locks
   where bugs hung-out in the haze
   of teenage August
   I played in the tall weeds
   with a shoeless Italian boy
   who ate tomatoes like apples
   and cucumbers right off the vine!
   He was ***** free and foreign!
   We played— reckless, abandoned
   behind the gas pump, under the tractor, in the barn   
   and through the endless fields
   I didn’t know....
   His name was Tony
   I ate pizza with him—the first time

At Auntie Bee’s I had to go to bed at eight
   but I could watch night flowers
   bloom on wallpaper
   She came in to say good night
   slippered, shadowy, night dress slightly open
   and I peeped her *******!
   like Tony’s cucumbers!
   I had never seen my mother’s wonders....

Night spread its wings from the old fan—
   a bird of tireless exhaustion
   whipped, whipped, whipped to death in its cage
   tireless exhaustion
   tic-tocking in time to a wind-up clock
   stretched out on the whine
   of the overland trucks
   Route Five through the night of an open window

In the grape arbor below—
tremulous incessant
   crickets    crickets    crickets
tremulous incessant—insides of a child
   a summer child
   not yet ready for the fall of answers

Auntie Bee had a daughter—Maureen
   I followed her everywhere I could
   I was small then--    
   do anything for a stick of Juicy Fruit
I followed Maureen through my dreams
   of being sixteen
   and woke to Peggy’s “Fever”
   while she tied her sneakers
   against the mattress by my head

I followed Maureen (in my mind)
   tanned and bandanned
   to work in the fields of shade tobacco
   with all those Puerto Rican boys!
   She knew where she was going!

I was small then
...do anything for a stick of  gum

“Mauney! Mauney! Mauney!”
   ...through the goldenrod of roadside
   through the smell of oil that damped the dust    
I followed Maureen’s white shorts
   and chestnut hair...to the corner store
I followed the way the boys smiled
   the way the screen door slammed
   on her bright behind
   the way her lips taunted and took
   the coke-bottle’s green
I followed Maureen

I swear, I tried for hours to get that right!

Must have been Peggy Lee’s “Fever”

Maureen ties her sneakers in my face
Flaunts her years above my head
She has that look—
“We kids don’t know nothin”
(Little turds” that we be)

…followin’ Maureen
through the goldenrod of roadside
tic-tockin’, beboppin’

“Fever— in the morning
Fever all through the night….”
Peggy Lee's Fever:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4hXyALR9vI
I was seven years old and did I ever get this!
Peggy Lee's stripped down performance is the epitome of ***.

Windsor Locks is in Connecticut.
Silver Lining Nov 2014
Have you ever been so exhausted that

your words come out like feathers,

and breathing feels like a chore?
She steps into the dark swamp
where the long wait ends.

The secret slippery package
drops to the weeds.

She leans her long neck and tongues it
between breaths slack with exhaustion

and after a while it rises and becomes a creature
like her, but much smaller.

So now there are two. And they walk together
like a dream under the trees.

In early June, at the edge of a field
thick with pink and yellow flowers

I meet them.
I can only stare.

She is the most beautiful woman
I have ever seen.

Her child leaps among the flowers,
the blue of the sky falls over me

like silk, the flowers burn, and I want
to live my life all over again, to begin again,

to be utterly
wild.
Kitts Apr 2015
I...
    
                    Can't...
                                      
Sleep...

                      For...

The...    
                                        
               Fear...

                                  
Invades...

                         My...
                                                            
                                                                          
Dreams...

                                   Making...


Me...

                      Cry...
Aphrodite Feb 2012
Exhaustion pains me
Like a cold weight in my bones
It takes me under
Pressure of the cold dark sea
Unclear thoughts, it consumes me
Rosie Owen Apr 2015
Marriage is changing, from who can get married (37 states now allow gay marriage!) to who actually ends up doing it. Only 26% of millennials are married, a sharp decrease from 36% of Generation X and 48% of baby boomers, according to the Pew Research Center. But marriage isn't obsolete — in fact, in many ways it's thriving as we re-evaluate what the institution really means to us.

And with re-evaluating marriage comes re-evaluating weddings. The Knot's "2014 Real Weddings Study" found that couples are foregoing traditional wedding customs to modernize their nuptials through their choice of rings, dresses and officiants.

That includes — perhaps most importantly — the vows. Couples today are taking cues from badass brides like Amelia Earhart, who banned the word "obey" from her 1931 wedding vows, and reciting promises to one another that reflect the partnerships they strive for. Here are 12 real-life couples who vowed...

1. "To split the difference on the thermostat."

Why it's awesome: When Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston got married, Pitt pledged to "split the difference on the thermostat." While that partnership didn't last, as we all know, it was a lighthearted vow that highlights a crucial element of modern marriage: compromise. The key to a happy marriage is learning how to meet halfway.

2. "To be a true and loyal friend to you."

Why it's awesome: Marriages weren't always about intimate, caring partnerships between equals. But we know well enough now that the happiest, most long-lasting marriages are those in which partners see each other as friends (even studies have proven it true). Jevan's vows to Alithea, shared by the Knot, are a reminder that the bedrock of friendship is what makes a modern marriage stand.

3. "To communicate fully and fearlessly."

Why it's awesome: Among the traditional promise of partnership and faith, real-life couple Anne and Gabrielle told the Knot they vowed "to communicate fully and fearlessly" as spouses. In our modern world, we have seemingly endless ways to communicate — text, email, Skype, Snapchat — and yet still have to work to connect. Sitting down face-to-face, making eye contact and being vulnerable with one another is still crucial, as is being honest without fear of judgment from your partner. Emojis aside, that's what really sustains a lasting relationship.

4. "To grab your **** even when we're old and wrinkly."

Why it's awesome: As we become more open about sexuality (thank goodness), it's only natural that a wink and a nudge find their way into the wedding vows. In an open thread on A Practical Wedding, Zach and Kate shared their vows, which included the promise "to hit on you in awesome accents and grab your **** even when we're old and wrinkly." This promise to keep the spark alive even years down the line is no small thing. After all, studies have shown that all it can take is a simple touch to maintain a ****** connection.

5. "To value our differences as much as our common ground."

Why it's awesome: Love is a powerful force to bring people together, even when they're divided by cultural background, religion and, increasingly, politics. As society grows more divisive and we hold tight to our views, it's valuable to remember that our differences don't have to actually divide us, as these vows from real-life couple Greta Christina and Ingrid, told to Patheos, show.

6. "To continue to love your children, as if they were my own."

Why it's awesome: A marriage isn't just a vow to one person, it's a vow to an entire family — future and present. In 2011, Pew Research found that more than 4 in 10 American adults have at least one "step relative" in their family, including a stepparent, a stepchild or a step or half sibling. These adults are just as likely as others to say that family is the most important element of their lives. So it's no surprise that people have been adapting their weddings to encompass the commitment to an entire family, as Sara M. did in her vows, shared on Offbeat Bride.

7. "To comfort you when the Falcons lose and drink beer with you when they win."

Why it's awesome: As Mallory summed up so perfectly to Eddie in their vows, shared by the Knot, appreciating each other's distinct interests and actively sharing in them together makes a huge difference. It goes beyond just putting on the Falcons jersey: Sitting down for the game and sharing a beer is what researchers would call "shared leisure," and it makes a big difference for marital satisfaction. That football game is more than just a football game.

8. "To never try to hurt you just because I'm angry or tired."

Why it's awesome: The chaos of our lives means lots of stress, lots of late nights and lots of exhaustion. (Unsurprisingly, Gallup found that 40% of American adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep.) That can actually wreak havoc on a relationship, which is why it's all the more important to anticipate the challenge. Sarah's vows to her husband, which she shared on A Practical Wedding, are a promise not to take out her stress and exhaustion on him. Instead, she vows to trust him throughout the chaos, "even when we veer from GPS directions, schedules, itineraries and to-do lists."

9. "I have called you my life partner, my significant other, my longtime companion, my lover. ... Now I vow to love you always as my lawfully wedded husband."

Why it's awesome: The vows said by George Takei and longtime partner Brad Altman at their wedding, after the passage of marriage equality in California, were unsurprisingly moving, given they were 21 years in the making. As couples, straight and gay, wait longer to get married (and cohabit in the meantime), labels like "husband" or "wife" are less crucial for defining the relationship than the moments a couple has shared. Takei and Altman's wedding was not proof of their commitment, but rather a tribute to the commitment they had already demonstrated — a truth echoed clearly in their vows.

10. "To be your partner in all things, not possessing you, but working with you as a part of the whole."

Why it's awesome: If we're really striving for egalitarian marriages, then recognizing the equal amounts of work required by each half, as partners, is crucial, especially as women's participation in the workforce keeps growing (57.2% compared to 69.7% for men in 2013). In order for both careers to receive equal focus, a promise not to "possess" but to work to support each other is key. Much like Amelia Earhart refused to use the word "obey," real-life couple Alex and Michelle promised to be each other's "equal in all things" in the vows they shared with the Knot.

11. "I will love you no matter what makes my blood circulate, or even no matter what provides my body with oxygen."

Why it's awesome: Traditional weddings tend to be religious occasions, but with increasing rates of atheism and marriages across faiths, religion is taking a back seat to a more personalized expression of commitment. As of 2013, only one third of couples opted to get married in a church, and even more are removing religion from their vows. But that doesn't mean the vows don't appeal to a higher sense of faith — in the other person or in the world, as these scientific, "atheistic" vows, translated from Swedish and shared on Reddit, prove.

12. "I see these vows not as promises but as privileges."

Why it's awesome: Marriage might have been necessary decades ago, but these days it's more of a choice. So it's only natural that the vows we recite — traditionally a list of duties and obligations — actually reflect the happy choice that marriage now is for so many.

Yuval and Dina chose to frame their vows as honors, as they shared with the Knot: "I see these vows not as promises but as privileges: I get to laugh with you and cry with you; care for you and share with you. I get to run with you and walk with you; build with you and live with you." With between 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, it's more important than ever that couples remind themselves that being with their partner is a privilege in itself, and one to never take for granted.

Source: http://www.graziadressau.com
lX0st Jul 2014
I've grown tired of being there for you
To hold at night
When your mind
Suppresses your faith.
There for you to conquer
When you feel powerless.
There for you to love
When you feel generous.
You've stitched me up
With the thinnest of strings
That threaten to unravel
At the slightest touch
And you're anything but gentle.
Your carelessness keeps you unaware
And your incognizance renders you useless.
I've grown tired of holding you up
While my knees shake and quiver.
And I've grown tired of pouring my heart out
Into your impermeable hands.
And I've grown tired
Of growing tired.
I think I'll rest now.
Yule Mar 2017
noong una kitang nasilayan
inaamin kong hindi ikaw ang nais kong kamtan
ngunit habang tumatagal,
puso ko’t loob, sayo’y natuluyan

hindi ko rin alam kung bakit
dahil ba sa boses **** nakakahumaling?
o sa mga matatamis **** mga ngiti?
mistulang nawawala ang iyong mga mata
sa tuwing ito’y iyong gawin
di ko alam, pero simpleng titig mo lamang
ka’y laki na ng epekto nito sa akin
hanggang sa palagi na kitang hinahanap-hanap
aba’t ginayuma mo nga ba ako?

ngunit, kung ano't saya ang nadarama
ganoon din ang kapalit nito kapag nandyan ka
sa mga panahon na wala ka sa tabi
pasakit at dalilubho ang naranas
bakit ba hindi ko kayang sayo ay mawalay?
ngunit kailangan kong magtimpi at alamin
kung hanggang saan lang dapat ang hangarin

ngunit aking nagunita,
ikaw talaga ang natatangi sa puso, at tuwina
ngunit kung gusto ko ring makaalpas sa sakit
kailangan ika’y kalimutan
sa gayon ay baka matagpuan ang kalinaw

pero ang alaala ng kahapon ay sadyang bumalik
kahit saan man magpunta, ika’y naka-aligid
kung alam mo lang ang aking tinahak
pagod, at hirap – naranas upang sayo’y makalapit

ngunit ano ba pa ang magagawa?
sa una pa lang, nagmahal ng isang tala
at kung bigyan man ng pagkakataon
mas pipiliing sarili ay ibaon
lahat ng nararamdaman
na hindi mo rin kayang ipaglaban

dahil hindi mo rin naman ako mahal,
mas mahal mo ang iyong pangarap
at hindi ako yun, ito'y tanggap

sakim man sa kanilang paningin
ikaw lang naman ang gusto ko
ngunit, bakit? bakit…
ipinagkait pa sa akin ng mundo?
pero ito ang nagpapatunay
na kahit gaano pa ako kailangan na maghintay
para sayo'y hindi ako nararapat
dahil tunay nga ba ang aking intensyon?
o ginagawa lamang kitang desisyon?
tingnan mo nga, miski ako may pagdududa

kahit man ito’y pag-ibig natin ay isusugal
kahit gaano ko pa ipagsamo sa Maykapal
wala rin naman itong mahahantungan
hindi rin naman ako ang iyong kailangan

kaya't ito'y hahayaang dalhin ng langit,
kung saan mang lupalop ito'y dalhin
pinaubaya sa Maykapal,
antayin na lang maglaho
ito ang aking huling habilin,
bago kitang tuluyang iwan

pero ito'y mananatiling nakaukit
sa puso't isipan,
dahil kaya nga ba kitang kalimutan?

ito’y magsisilbing alaala
ng minsan nating pagsasama,
kahit sa panaginip lamang

ang ipagtagpo ang isang ikaw at ako,
ang mabuo ang salitang 'tayo' –
napaka-imposible…
napaka-imposible.

eng trans:
when I first saw you
I admit you're not the one I yearn for
but as time passes by
my heart, and mind – fell for you

I don't really know why
is it because of your alluring voice?
or because of your sweet smiles?
it's as if your eyes disappear
whenever you do this
I don't know but in your simple stares
it has a big impact on me
until I'm always looking for you
oh my, did you put a spell on me?

but in what happiness I felt
that's what I also feel whenever you're there
in times that you're not beside me
pain and dreading was experienced
why can't I stand being apart from you?
but I have to resist and know
to where I should stand in line

yet I've realized
you're the one that's always in my heart
but if I want to get rid of this pain
I have to forget you
by then I might find peace

but the memories of yesterday kept coming back
everywhere I go, you're there
if only you knew what I've been through
exhaustion, and rigor – I have to face to get close to you

but what can I do?
from the start, I've loved a star
and if given a chance
I'd rather choose to bury myself,
all these feelings
that you're not even willing to fight for

because you don't even love me,
you love your dream more
and it's not me, I've accepted it

it may be selfish in their eyes
you're the only one I want
yet, why? why...
did the world denied + you from me?
but this just proves
that no matter how long I have to wait
I'm not the one for you
because is my intention real?
or am I just making you a decision?
see? even I have doubts

even if I gamble this love of ours
even if I plea from the Creator
this will just go nowhere ++
I am not the one you need

that's why I'll just let the sky take this
wherever in the heavens this will be held
let the Creator take charge
I'll just wait for it to fade
this is my last will
before I will leave you

but this will remain etched
in my mind, and heart
because can I truly forget you?

this will serve as a memory,
of our once encounter
even if it's just in a dream

for you and me to meet,
to form the word 'us' –
it's so impossible,
**it's impossible
+ finding a translation I wanted for this was hard
++ even this //brainfart

suntok sa buwan (from ph; fil.)
lit.trans: hitting the moon; punching the moon
actual meaning: impossible

this was my entry for our "spoken poetry",
though none can relate...

pasensya na, mahal...
unti-unti, ako'y bibitaw na. | 170303

{nj.b}
Mateuš Conrad Jul 2018
.    like cardinal Leto remarked, having received news from Versailles... why is it always the ******* French?

perhaps in a less crude manner,
drinking wine,
while eating raw fruits -

  always a bad combination...
no *****, no meat?
   bad idea... wine, and raw fruit
akin to strawberries?
    irritable bowel movements...

- and that's because Einstein
didn't discover the concept of
gravity, in the format of: sideways?
in the form of orbits?
   expansive waves...
   that allowed for the elliptical interpretation?
like the old
              argument:
      (heliocentric) oval...
             contra the (geocentric) circular
"concern" for...
   whatever is up / down
            sideways in
      the Copernican terminology...
because there was ever a "shape"
concerning the universe,
  and not a medium,
            an extraction for the metaphor
for water,
   gas, liquid, solid...
              and the fourth aspect
of ancient elements:
   its existence in a vacuous "space"?

- but i can't fathom the French at this point...
once upon a time...
one Frenchman equated the motivation
for a "summa summarum"
    to be bound with a thinking,
and a curiosity...

            the current fashion of Latin
abbreviations...
   this... cogito ergo sum?
   it's nonsense...
    speak it long enough...
   and you'll find yourself inclined
to suppose that cogitans per se:
is a motivation, an impetus to exist...
yet... so much of thought it "wasted"
or, rather, to craft an impetus to
"doubt", within the confines of fiction...
but the motivation has lost its
origin within the confines of doubt,
and has been replaced by
the Freudian unconscious,
   a serialized phobia fest... notably
including a, clown...

originally, thought (per se) was
a secondary motivational outlet
that precipitated into being...
    first came... doubt...
   but... these days?
               doubt is a conspiracy theory,
no longer an emotional thrill
to prop-up thinking...
   and we have the French existentialists
to thank for this...
for they subverted their own
idea...

             negation has replaced doubt
as the origin, and motivation
for thinking...
        yet... this sort of "thinking",
has made, its materialization, so, so...
obscene...
    i can hardly find it surprising while
i took to propping two worthwhile
economic outlets...
   prostitution (since they will spend
the money i give them...
on things... i wouldn't even care
for propping up)...

    and... alcohol (scotch whiskey,
russian standard *****...
    shveedish cider...
                     german beer)...

but how can you even claim an existence,
if...
       there is no thrill...
of what is the secular expression of faith:
i.e. doubt?
  how can you replace doubt -
a motivation for thinking, materialized
into being... with negation?
  jean-paul Sartre attempted this inversion -

doubt has been replaced with negation
in his system...
             it's like that cliche of an English
1960s ***-joke / ***-like...
       this... frivolity over a blatant lie...
a lie so... bogus...
    so ineffectual in translating a hidden truth
that... you allow it...
   to care for the cheap comic aspect
of the execution...

but how can the French suddenly
feign to disbelieve their secularism -
   resorting to the antithesis,
namely:

  original

  doubt motivates thinking,
  which subsequently motivates
   being within the confines of reason,
or rather, reasonableness...

20th century existentialists

negation "motifs" thinking,
   which subsequently motifs
"being" within the freedom of non-reason,
or rather, unreasonableness...

   and by negation,
   i don't mean the atomic conceived softening
blow...
   akin to: dis-ease...
    i.e. (as i explained it to one old man
in a park, walking his dog):
  a negation, or ease... a denial of...

how can the Cartesian model work,
when the 20th century French existentialists
began with the presupposition:

   i deny, i think, therefore i exist?
where is the original thrill of
the secular aspect of faith, within the boundaries
of doubt?
              gone... vanished!
****! a **** on the London tube,
during the rush hour,
  during the heatwave
                of the past month!

                   perhaps this only comes
as a method of assimilating an increased population,
within the confines of the Taoist maxim:
the best way to aid the world,
is to forget the world, and let the world
forget about you...

             perhaps... the Andy Warhol 15 minutes
analogy...
      that in order to encompass the individual,
the world, and the individual within it...
   the approach had to change
from the original, exciting, exploration
genesis of thought, bound to the genesis
of doubt...
             having to be replaced by
a genesis of denial...
      the second tier of a secular society...
    the zeitgeist of Herr Censor...
to filter through what we see so often,
faces, bodies...
  but would be much more comfortable
having been bound to Plato's cave,
         of complete shadow theater...

perhaps... but the original tier of
secular societies' alternative to church prescribed
articles of faith...
                     to have replaced
the thrill of doubt...
      with this... Byzantine pillar of denial
as motivational groundwork for
thinking impetus
   that becomes an article of being?
am i the only one to see the frustration,
how, people abhor their being,
being founded upon an act of denial,
rather than an act of doubt?

     the once thrilling maybe (gnostic):
   has become the stale, "i don't know"
    (agnostic) - as if... people can't tell you
whether zebras have stripes!
   where there was once an article
of secular faith (doubt) -
   now?
                        there's not even that!

p.s.
  there has to be a much needed new mantra,
all publicity: is bad publicity -
unless of course you're riding that
fame juggernaut and are paying
for your all-inclusive status akin
   to madonna: since fame dies off
and you, none-the-less invest in the momentum...

one day where i drink a bottle of wine,
half a liter of whiskey,
   and i'm apparently not "screaming" in
my sleep from the heat,
the whole, "apparently", as i retorted:
at 5:15am? i was alseep! i was asleep!
how can i stop screaming in my sleep
like a banshee:
the sleeper and the blind man both see
eye to eye regarding the future to come...

one day without engaging in internet
content: of my own accord,
next day? this... this... lethargy builds
up in me... i end up thinking:
i can't do this any more,
this insomnia culture globalism of
24h news reels is tirying me,
i pick up the sunday newspaper
which i found to be respecteable...
the sunday times,
  i peer into the magazines...
toxic masculinity,
    desire: what three women want...
i'm bored...
well more tired than bored,
bored-tired...
                 what women want:
what an exhausting question...
**** fantasy, beta-male provideer...
yada-yada-yada...
                    
    the only relaxing aspect of the day
(apart from the shade) is watching
england beat india in the cricket...
i always loved cricket sport terminology:
50 overs... innings...
wickets... 6 throws of the ball in an over...
the rest? i'm no atlas...
i don't like the world crashing in on
me with all its problems...
not because i don't have the right
advice to give,
but i remember the most modern secular
motto about giving advice borrowed
from Athos of the creation of alexandre dumas:

the best advice? to not give advice...
you cannot be held accountable
for giving bad advice: and people complaining,
or good advice and leaving
people in your sphere of influence...
asking for more - non verbatim... of course...

second categorical imperative?
tao...
              the best way you can help
the world: is to forget the world,
and let the world forget you...

                        you only need two absolute
maxim vectors to orientate yourself
in this world,
a third is nice, but: it can be kept loose...
at least two on a tight leash...

but one night spent drinking,
not writing anything:
and i am... spent!

                            the boogieman of england's
persistent complaints...
the muslims are not integrating,
the english: we should give them more
ground...
           o.k., o.k.... joe peshi in the role
leo getz in lethal weapon II...
            i too had to integrate!
i said: like **** if you think i'll give up
my native tongue when spoken in private...
you're not getting it...
i'll spreschen ihre zunge, no problem,
i'll even write you pwetty free verses to boot!
but, guess what?
  i will not force you to eat my
sauerkraut, my schnitzels,
                           my smoked sausages,
my raw herrings etc.,
                      integration does not work
within the confines of: pampering to a people
expected to meet you half-way...
what happened when the polonaise attempted
to meet the english half-way?
brexit...
oh come on guv'... is there a ******* tram
echoing its way out of my eye
when you peer into it while i attach
an index finger to the bottom lid to give
you a clearer picture?
           25 years in england: no englush girlfriend:
i guess all the english girls just love, just love love
being ***** by 9 pakistanis
daubed in gasoline...
                   hey: they **** thrill...

i'm tired of the weakness of the english,
the humpty-dumpty nature they are imposing,
self-cencorship,
    appeasing, like neville chamberlain...
bringing back the munich agreement...
not on a piece of paper,
instead... waving a scrap of a toilet roll...
so the english could wipe their own *****
on the promises of the germans...
if this really hurts the northern monkies...
guess how much it hurts the sourthern fairies...
(well... fairy, is a designated region surrounding
devon, bristol, hardly a ******* fairy in essex)...

   why am i foreigner and i share
the same nausea of the natives,
                     exhausted by the narratives?
i guess the english didn't like the polonaise:
but the polonaise are to blame...
came here with a list of benefits they could claim:
without having even lived 5 years among
the natives... housing benefits, child benefits...
believe me: the polonaise are the only
people in the world that hate each other...
to the extent of citing bitter criticisms...
whenever i pass through warsaw to see my grandparents
i am gripped with a sickness:
this homogeneity is too much for me...
shove me back into the east end of London...
too much of the same genetic material...
and that's when the language i am keeping
(seemingly for vanity reasons) fizzles out
into your basic encounter and that basic reminder
that circa 40 million speak it too,
better or worse, but they speak it...

of all the festivals? download...
                                   i wish...
    glastonbury?       not my thing...
kylie? i'll concede: slow? live, with instruments,
rather than the studio original...
wasn't that a cover of
   bowie's fashion?
                  sure as hell sounded similar...
but i heard the cure were playing...
so while writing my father's invoice
i made myself a paperclip bracelet...
   i figured... "let's just pretend to be there"...
and no, the 1980s weren't that bad when
it comes to music,
not now, by comparison...
the cure's kiss me, kiss me, kiss me (1987)
release?
one of those rare albums you can
listen to akin to reading a book...

                       but there's still that persisting
exhaustion... i came from under communism,
from under the iron curtain,
but at least there was the economic aspect
of communism involved...

   only today i watched the story
of the terrible inversion of english jursprudence,
i.e.: guilty until proven innocent...
the 1975 case of the silesian vampire...
an innocent man was hanged...
the original vampire?
    smashed his wive's head in,
then his childrens', then he set himself
on fire...
              then again: the tragedy of those
rare cases of being presumed guilty
rather than innocent...
then the reverse: presumed innocent rather
than guilty and getting away with it,
through the parody of death
and the non existent god...

   there could not be anything more exhausting
than communism without a communist
economic model...
this current state of affairs in the west:
cultural marxism and the yet to be discovered
antithesis of cultural darwinism...

i'll use the cartesian chirality for a moment:
sum ergo cogito...
i don't like using political terms...
but... liberal (classical) - i don't even know
what sort of thinking goes into the label -
in the east? the liberals are exhausted
by a resurgent nationalism within
   the newly acquired capitalist system...
in the west? the liberals are exhausted
by an insurgent communism within
an ageing capitalist system...

         on a side: seriously, why even bother
engaging in any sort of "public intellectual"
debates when the public are only
discussing two books: 1984 and brave new world...
**** it, might as well talk to a camel jockey
who only own and rides the waves of
time in this world only using one...
muhammad...
   whom Khadija **** Khuwaylid
would probably whip into his young
respectable shape...

                  and this is how Ezra Pound comes
into rememberance:
usura... at least the muslims do not
play into the game of usury:
of interest... borrow a quid,
pay back £2.33...
            that's the only way you can
gain respect of the muslims:
if they truly were the money lenders
of this world: which they aren't...
unless a newly blessed...

   among the philistines and the proselytes...
england is such a tiresome project,
even on the outskirts of London...
i'm being dragged down by this intervention
of marxism: on a whim,
on a whimsical projection...
of "adding" values...
            
           communism would have worked...
in exceptional circumstances...
poland... circa 1945 - 1990...
syria: the current year...
  to whatever year is demanded...
exceptional as in: war torn...
where was the marshall plan
   for poland, when there was one
for sweden (neutral) and switzerland
(also neutral)?!
        black youths bothered about
the summer holidays,
having to live in council flats,
  concrete goliaths...
           want to know what it feels like
when entire cities are like council
estates,
with only pockets of remaining
   free-standing houses among
overshadowing council flats?
                                    nee bother...
sure... in a country where:
the house is the castle and there's a labyrinth
of castles constituting outer suburbia...
balconies... that's what the soviet
models had... balconies...
where women could grow flowers...
concrete staccato gardens in the sky...
the blocks of flats in england
didn't have balconies (sky gardens,
          esp. the early ones, massive fault)...
i spent one summer reading
bertnard russell's history of western philosophy...
lying in my grandparent's balcony,
in the shade...
watching passerbys among
          the barking dogs of the neighbours...

one day, one ******* day!
   and i'm already exhausted from the castrato
english narrative...
pandering to the people you expected
to integrate...
  no! you're not changing your standards...
your standards are perfectly reasonable!
i'm tired of the english pandering
to the sort of people who, will, not,
integrate!
               i integrated in a way
of respecting both the english culture,
as well as hiding / preserving my own...
why don't i just do the following:
   pisać po polsku?
                      like some czesław miłosz?

ah... good point... at what point
is the standard of integration appreciated?
when nothing is preserved?
surely integration is supposed to
accommodate some variation
of preservation?
     i might add: that's a fine line...
preserve all? no integration...
preserve some? integration...
                    preserve none? no integration...
food is a cheap target to example
with...
                   it's a low hanging fruit...
given that even i find indian cuisine
   the most superior in the world...
food is a cheap target concerning integration...
but the niqab?
  when the local english authorities
are employing face-recognition
technology and when testing it...
are forcing people to uncover their faces,
subsequently arresting them out of protest...
but not the women wearing the niqab...
out of? out of what?
   a secular society shouldn't be allowed
to discriminate against any religion...
it should discriminate against: all religions!

                isn't that what the secular ideology
is all about? the... softcore version
of soviet atheism?
        secularism of the west (miltary-industrial
complex)...
"vs." soviet atheism of the east
  (scientific-industrial complex)...
           i'm still so ******* tired
               of this bogus trap of "necessary"
                       commentary.
Lee Sharks May 2015
BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR TELEPATHIC PROSE
Lee Sharks & Jack Feistfrom Pearl and Other Poems

1.     Compose real poems telepathically, with mind control powers, inside your glorious brain.

2.     You are your own best advocate. Insist the world acknowledge your poems as artifacts of tiny doom. Accept nothing less. Threaten to smash yourself in the face with gasoline and set your hair on fire. Leap over the seats to aggressively stand inside the world’s personal space and get up in its grill. Take this container of Tic-Tacs and smash it on your forehead. Crush each Tic-Tac individually into your eyeballs and ask the world if it likes your poem, and if it likes your poem, then eat your poem: “Do you like my poem? Then eat it.”

3.     Always seek constant approval, then punch your cat in the face.

4.     Arrive alive. Don’t text and drive.

5.     Always write poems all the time.

6.     Never professionalize writing. Professionalism is the last refuge of responsible people looking for work.

7.     Your life is your poem. Take care to write it biographically. Failing that, invent false biographies and post them on Wikipedia.

8.     Get as much education as you can, then ****** your education in the face to save it from sloppy education. Get enough education to respect your contempt for education.

9.     Give it all that you have, as deep as it goes, as desperate and total as taking a breath.

10.  Also be pedantic mundane pig-critic of precise punctuation juggling and ruthless crossed-out darling murdering of your own puny sentences. Save every draft and revert to original after enormous work, then drown yrself in the bathtub. Remember: editing is organization.

11.  Be long-sighted prodigy of skeptically believing in nothing, but also believe in destiny, but quietly, and hit yourself in the face for naivety’s sake.

12.  You are a seamstress of words—place each stitch carefully, deliberately. Develop a series of rituals and perform them, without variation, prior to placing each word. Allow the frequency and intensity of these rituals to grow until you spend hours, each day, touching and retouching your left index finger to the tip of your nose in a rhythmic, counter-clockwise motion, in sets of thirty revolutions, in order to place a single character. Spend years of your life shut away from the world, wasting away into an awkward, unhygienic shadow of your former self, and have, to show for it, a two-syllable word of Germanic origins on an otherwise clean, white page. This word will be redoubtable, the bedrock of your writing career. Go on to spend vast sums of personal wealth and total dedication, alienating the remaining handful of long-suffering friends who continue, despite all odds, to solicit the memory of your humanity, in order to learn the arts of metalworking, Medieval alchemy, and font design, recreating a metal-cast, alpha-numeric set of Times New Roman font, from scratch, going broke long before “numeric,” and with only the half-formed germs of the characters W, N, and sometimes-vowel Y.  hat are such retrictio s to  ou?  ou are a poet,  ot a mathematicia .  ou are a creature of steel.  ou  ill  rite a  e  and better  orld, a  orld  ithout the letter   , forgi g it, o e smoki g husk of a  ord at a time.

13.  Turn over a new leaf. You’re not getting much done like this, anyways, let’s face it. Break the chains of your censoring, conscious mind; tap into the spontaneous well of unconscious human brilliance that springs from the source of dreams. Thwart the stick-in-*** tyranny of your internal editor by making a commitment to write constantly, without ceasing, editing, or even thinking, no matter what, ignoring the anally retentive quips your brain will no doubt make. Make a further commitment: you will not only write, irrespective of internal censorship, but in a way that is unconscionably terrible, on purpose. Your writing will be, by turns, embarrassing, infantile, automatic, and marmaduke poppers—or shall we say, antagonistic to the indoctrination in repressive concepts such as “sentence” and “word” of your reader, who is always, and only, you. Let your writing be a spiritual discipline of Bat-a-rang pancakes and lightly alarm clock, ding—your toast is done.

14.  Always Alka-Seltzer eyelids all the time.

15.  At last, you are ready to make it new, to ****** your darlings, to first thought, best thought, to your heart’s content. Your adverb will be the enemy of your verb, the difference between your almost-right word and your right word will be the difference between your lightning bug and your lightning. You are ready to have a spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling, then censor the s**t out of it. You are ready to turn your extremes against each other: Unlearn your apple pancakes and burst through the mental barriers; then slow the flood, let the lovely trickle out & edit, edit, edit. Capture spontaneous gem of native human genius, then marshal vast armies of technical knowledge & self-discipline to ensure it glimmers and cuts.

16.  Believe in things like destiny. No really—the path will shatter you so many times your shards will have splinters, your bombshells, shrapnel. By the time you get there—which you probably won’t—even your exhaustion will be tired. Exhaustion of mind and body will have passed so far beyond the physical, and through malaise of spirit, that it will emerge on the other side, as physical exhaustion again. In the face of this, nothing but a little Big Purpose will do. Besides, a little ideology never hurt anyone. Feel free to be all Voltaire with your bad self, in public—but don’t give up.

17.  After all of this, when your will is finally broken (again), and you have given up for the final time (again), start over. The former model wasn’t working. Refashion yourself and your writing. Lather, rinse, usurp your noble half-brother, and repeat, until you get somewhere, or die in the trying.  

18.  Achieve consistency of voice; it is the signature by which you will be known. Your “you” should ring out clearly from each individual letter. In this, the writer is like the salesman. Like a new car, neither the writing’s merits, nor the reader’s needs, will be the final, deciding factor. Ultimately, the deciding factor is you.

19.  Unlike a new car, it is difficult to drive a poem, to use it to get to school or work. Unlike a car salesman, a writer does not wear enormous ties.

20.  Be so consistent that your writing consists in composing the same words, in the same order, creating the some overall voice and style, consistently, over and over, an eternal return of the same. Maintain this disciplined drudgery over the course of years. Let years become decades, and decades, an entire life: You will have “found your voice.” Variety is the spice of life, but consistency is its signature.

20.  Be so consistent that your writing consists in composing the same words, in the same order, creating the some overall voice and style, consistently, over and over, an eternal return of the same. Maintain this disciplined drudgery over the course of years. Let years become decades, and decades, an entire life: You will have “found your voice.” Variety is the spice of life, but consistency is its signature.

21.  Then again, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Throw things up a little bit. One day, put on your hobgoblin hat, the next day, your small mind.

22.  On second thought, re: #16-17: Stop here. You don’t look like much of a writer. Save yourself the trouble of a deep investment that is sure to yield no returns. The prize is big, and not many take it. The Iliad showed us that the prize of writing is life eternal, and taught us to long for that promise; but the Odyssey taught us not to bother. There are many suitors, a single Odysseus. While the husband wends arduously homeward, Penelope weaves impending glory, an evaporating glamour, enchanting them, until he arrives. We are in for a bad end, if we chase another man’s wife, or a prize not rightfully ours. There are many suitors, a crowd of them. They begin as a chittering swarm of bats and end in the very same manner. You cannot have what is not yours. What is yours, no man can take. So, like Emily says,

I smile when you suggest that I delay ‘to publish’—that being foreign to my thought as Firmament to Fin. If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her—if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase—and the approbation of my Dog would forsake me—then—My Barefoot Rank is better—

23.  Therefore, take these Sturm und Drang commandments to the trash heap. Return to step 1, as the only useful piece of advice: Compose real poems telepathically, with mind control powers, inside your glorious brain.

(c) 2014 lee sharks & jack *****

from Pearl and Other Poems:

http://www.amazon.com/Pearl-Other-Poems-Crimson-Hexagon/dp/0692313079/ref=sr11?ie=UTF8&qid;=1429895012&sr;=8-1&keywords;=lee+sharks+pearl
BELIEF & TECHNIQUE FOR TELEPATHIC PROSE http://mindcontrolpoems.blogspot.com/2014/12/belief-technique-fortelepathic-prose.html
Ignite Mar 2019
Some of my friends and family do not understand anxiety
“It can’t be that bad”
“You don’t have anything to be afraid of”
“Just calm down”

“It can be that bad” I tell them
Anxiety strings barbed wire across doorways and coats people in broken glass
You can’t go anywhere
Anxiety is like a room in an adventure movie where water is steadily pumping onto the floor until it’s up to your chest
Except there’s no magic lever or button for anxiety
It just keeps going until you’ve drowned
Anxiety is a boulder strapped to your back
It keeps pressing and pressing
Even when you’re tired and you just want to sleep, it keeps pressing
Even when you fall, it keeps pressing
Even when you stop struggling to move, to survive, it keeps pressing

“There’s plenty to be afraid of” I say
Anxiety is a monster with giant bulging eyes and thousands of teeth and claws
And the worst part is that no one else can see it following you down the hallways at school
Stalking you in the bathrooms at concerts
Hiding under your own bed
Anxiety is like an uninvited party guest
You never know when Anxiety is going to join the party
It just shows up
And you never have enough snacks or blankets for Anxiety
It always wants more
And it doesn’t leave until 4am when you’re shaking from exhaustion
Anxiety doesn’t even say Thank you
For taking up everything you had in you
It just leaves
And you know Anxiety will be back
Eventually
What’s scary about Anxiety is that it keeps you from doing something you really wanna do
Like spending the night at your friends
You really wanna go but you just don’t
Because you don’t want to have to explain why your body has begun to unravel itself, time traveling back to when anxiety kept humans alive and why apparently your body thinks your friend’s sweet little French bulldog is the equivalent of a modern day saber tooth tiger  
Another scary thing about anxiety is the fact it’s something your brain makes up and your body BELIEVES it of all things
“I’m dying” your brain says
And so your body believes it
Because why would a piece of your body lie to itself?
Why would you lie to yourself?

“I can’t just calm down” I say to them
The whole thing with Anxiety is not just the fact that the guy next to you could be a suicide bomber or that the girl across the isle could have a knife in her pocket or  the fact you’ve got a test to pass or that your shoelaces aren’t symmetrical
It’s that anxiety gives you anxiety
What a beautiful self-destructive cycle
And if I could calm down don’t you think I would?
Do you think I would scratch myself raw trying to force the anxiety out of my skin?
Do you think I would spend my friend’s birthday party having a panic attack in the bathroom?
God why is it always bathrooms?
Do you think I would spend my every waking hour anxiously figuring out how I can avoid all the things that give me anxiety?
The thing about anxiety is that nothing can “get rid of it”
There is no cure
A million billion poems and hugs and dark closets and angry songs and therapists could not get rid of anxiety
Anxiety has embedded itself into me and I don’t have enough strength to dig the scalpel into my own skin and carve it out
I don’t think anyone has that kind of strength

“Anxiety is a part of me” I tell them
And the thing I ask now even gives me anxiety
Isn’t that ironic?
But I still ask it
I always ask it
“Will you still accept me?
Hi guys! I have no clue what I’m doing here, but hi!
CP May 2014
I look at myself and all I see is grey
I try so hard to pray it away
I know it's cliche
But I can't stand my own face

It's sad eyes
They see through my lies
My oversized thighs
My failure to revise
I despite this disguise

I look at myself and all I see is disappointment
Try harder I mumbled in exhaustion
What a collision
My own derision

One day, soon, I will look at myself and all I will see is joy
My reflection, I will enjoy not want to destroy
I will not be coy
As the sun dawns
All will be gone I vowed

I look at myself today and all I see is hope
For I am proud
I want to scream it loud in crowd
I am proud of me and you
And with that statement I feel so new.
KAT COLE Mar 2015
I'm so tired.
Tired of living.
Tired of dying.
Tired of just being so tired.

To not feel is a curse.
& to feel is a blessing.

But what is the in between?
Exhaustion I think.

I'm just so tired.
vircapio gale Aug 2012
boasting of the god of love's attentions,
this magicweaver lures her prey--
conjures forth her whim
seeking quench of fickle thirst within
attempting avenues of guile
numerously failed, and baits another heart
to suit her object's mate,
whose favors hail from Shiva
unto dominion everywhere,
  except at forest hut where Rama--
with Sita --honeymoons in exile
having snapped the cosmic dancer's massive bow
to win her for his wife, yet bound
by family word to wilderness
  in elder-shade of mystic eagle
guarded by their builder,
brother Lakshmana, in whose absence Kamavalli comes
to woo the godlike archer for her own.

little bells on anklets ring--
from creeper snagged
as if in venery yearning,
urgent vines would find their way to rest on skin
and squeeze in verdant rooting underform
prancing by, playfully demure
to enter subdued greenery
of Panchvati's gated yard
to catch the stoic Rama's eye
in invitation flashing for his gaze:
a sculptured form of flawless grace
nubile teeth shining from the forest dark,
a smile unassuming of callipygean sway
beneath the flitting lashes of her iris' swell

baffled there he stirs to praise her openly
as perfect--
despite his inner-goddess-for-a-wife he keeps inside--
with tripping words
welcomes and blesses this new girl,
exalting her with blushing queries,
sylvan surging rush to know
interrogate her mystery,
rapt in wide-eyed wonder verging beatific breath--
but learning of her lineage...
begins to plot their deaths.

banter light,
flirtations with a hidden, cosmic weight to pun against,
his praise asserts its hold
pretending bachelorhood;
his kindly, transauthentic voice resists
and in a sympathetic, skillful tone, promulgates
a drama to entice her eager mind--
ironic fancies of domestic bliss
flow from Rama, subtle jests
become her plight obsessing
into darkness embered with her lust
to truly claim him as her love,
her grandiosity defused in simple
entertainment quipping of their castes
and then with sudden burst entranced in luminescent rays of stunning rustic glow
from cottage comes his wife to claim her presence known.

the blow is dealt: Manmatha lays Kamavalli's fate: to self-disintegrate

jealousy to deafen gods, in cave retreat
to nurse her spite, surrounded in a dance
of serpent flails to sate her woe,
and only feed in ouroboros knotslip pulse
a lump-filled throat of gulping incite forward zest salacious
pungent flare of earth identity of fang and blood
the cry to shudder down a wolfine howl
in blast of animal, from screaming womanhood
the swoon precipitate-- vast height, abysmal fall
on being spurned by one who led her on
into delusion wrapped in sham an alter self
she met in bed a thousand cravings razing sanity
into a hate for moon, for elements themselves,
railing at Manmatha's haze infernal globe within and out
projecting Rama's face transfixing her inept
in wracking convulse whine of every cell,
her being sweating out imagined arms,
palms of his to cup her, lift from hellish pit of stifled longing never known 'til volcanically regrown--
in new love's throws an innocence of honest
selfhood found in him, bizarrely enemied in Lila's
killing spree of ego-dolls of lotus costume tracing all
searching through his fresh phantasm for her quelling salve
his diamond ******* targets for her soul
his broadness engirthing her to moan until her last in ecstasy
unknown asura-brew untold invented only now forever lost,
the moment fondled vastly gone,
his chest but gossamer instead of flesh
the emerald shoulder glimmer fake
the boundless confidence exuded in his
tender skin's encapsulated sinew strength
merely thought on causing pelvic quake
repeating there an apparition for her nearly endless letting out
he comes for her a demon double of her making
demi-god creator-demon vision for her writhing,
abandoned to the ambrosia torment he provides
wailing at the cavern sky her prison boudoir den
enscaled with slither pile coat of snakes, masturbatory wake of swooning still again

through to dawn..
in which psychotic break decides:
Soorpanaka births herself anew--
possession of her goal, or suicide.
the dewy spectra shines reflection of the choice;
rave committal forms its mould--
exhaustion hatches colorspray of plots,
braving mutilation to abduct,
lies and bribes surmounting each before
in ****** propositions to her ever widened bed,
else demonic armies loosed,
infatuate Ravana's heart
with illusory snare of golden Sita's rumored wares
to get her man alone and hew derision
with her desperate charm, by cantrip or war
spawned from deeper lairs of a broken,
fallacious heart, toward matrimony
or destruction bent













.
mg Mar 2014
i am tired.
not for a lack of rest --
no, i slept quite well last night
and I've had my coffee.

its something deeper, something
inherently present, in the
fibers of my skin,
in my tendons, in my eyes.

i am exhausted,
fatigued by life
by the noise and the silence,
the people, and
the empty rooms,
the light and the dark;
by hope and
despair.

so worn down by the world
that nothing in it can
refresh my mind from the
constant buzzing.

i am tired, and there are not
enough hours in the night
for the type of rest i need.


-U.K. & m.g.
Arlene Corwin May 2017
Guilt & Shame, Exhaustion, Doubts & Failure

I’m capable of grief, regret and feeling sad.
But is that guilt? And is guilt bad?
Knowledge that the one responsible is you,
However caused:
From innocence or ignorance,
Naiveté, unworldliness,
The mess created to put other(s) in a stew.
Perhaps it is.

In the stillness of decision,
From a willingness and will,
Rejecting guilt, dismissing shame,
Taking culpability in name of karma,
(though I’d never harm a
                                     fly on purpose),
If I’ve done a something to a someone,
I will have to pay back someone sometime,
Try to form and glue a future, integrated, sutured me,
New belonging and identity;
Acquiring a philosophy to lean on:
A new frame, new name, rules of the game
Ameliorating guilt and shame.

They write about this all the time
Have done it since the start of
Any kind of written art -
In prose, in picture and in rhyme
In life, in death, with every breath,
Mistakes corrected to reach truth
Uncovered and un-smothered,
Reaching out that truth to other.

Through the spittle,
Perhaps victual
Of the title
I reach out to you.

Guilt & Shame, Exhaustion, Doubts & Failure 5.7.2017
Circling Round Egos; Nature Of & In Reality; Definitely Didactic;
Arlene Corwin
Cars driving
Trucks going
Ice melting

Factories making
Workers working
Ice melting

Stars living
Poor dying
Ice melting

Science arguing
God watching
Ice melting

Students learning
Teachers talking
Ice melting

World arguing
States fighting
Ice melting

One teen
Wishing
To help
But not knowing how
In this world of exhaustion
So
Ice keeps melting
Just think about it
Nylee Mar 2019
I bet you are tired now
Coz' you were in my dream
Yesterday night
Running a marathon.
King Panda Aug 2017
a crocus opens and
closes with the stream of
midnight moon.

the playmate of exhaustion
crosses the room
in his heavy, black boots
to close the curtains.

goodbye, light.
goodbye, pride of lions
and boy transformed
into a werewolf.

a scratch
of larceny,
the cuddle of
maple leaves rotting,
the magnet spinning
in rocket-ship orbit.

all secrets held in
feathers,
in hair compounded
into strings of
black opal,
and limbs stenciling
comets around
five feet of woman.

nothing in the talk
can suffocate—a quick
and easy birth of
ecstasy and the emotional
sidestep into the dark
of slumber,
seemingly feminine but
dreams strong as
barbed wire.

when to sleep?

a question finger-written
on my chest.
Amarys Dejai Jul 2018
I often wish that I was still a child.
So many things change when we grow up.
Innocence becomes lost,
days become shorter,
the nighttime still scares me,
playing house becomes a game of survival,
boys become men, men become frightening,
I become sad, worried, anxious, and self-aware,
friends will lose their half of the necklace or their friendship ring,
being loved by someone will determine my worth,
I no longer feel small next to the kitchen counter,
but in the presence of everyone around me,
“Forever” loses its meaning,
everyone will eventually leave,
death is no longer a myth,
I will not smile as often as I did,
I will not cry as little as I did,
I will not feel safe in school anymore,
I will not go outside and play anymore,
I will try and pick the imperfections off of
my skin until it is red and bleeding,
**** in my stomach whenever I walk,
work myself into exhaustion,
feel overwhelmed by every task,
have anxiety attacks in public places,
and wish that I was a child again.
jennifer wayland May 2014
step number one: read the book wintergirls.
tuck away every detail like you're cramming for a test.
dog-ear the pages and carry it with you like a travel guide.
decide that with your fingers and toes always icy cold for as long as you can remember,
you were destined to be a wintergirl.
reread it periodically, for inspirational purposes.

step two: download the myfitnesspal app.
use it to track every calorie you put into your body.
memorize that an oreo has seventy calories, an apple has one hundred, a cup of hot chocolate has eighty,
a bagel has two hundred seventy (a number that terrifies you),
and on and on and on.
let numbers float behind your eyes just before you go to bed,
and let them stay there as you throw off the covers to do guilty pushups and situps in your room
for twenty minutes (burning one hundred and twenty calories).
ignore the warnings shouted at you in red text
when you eat less than twelve hundred calories per day.
look at the projections it gives you for five weeks from now
with weights that seem both too small and too large at the same time.
when your net for the day hits the negatives after weeks of trying,
feel the slightest pang of satisfaction.

step three: find your "thinspiration".
make a tumblr just to look at pictures of jutting-out spines and thigh gaps and ribs.
hold your phone up next to your reflection in the mirror
and pick out everywhere your body differs from hers.
when the girls on the fitness blogs start looking too heavy for your goal,
find the eating-disorder blogs.
obsess over their bodies almost as much as you obsess over yours,
but not quite as much.

step four: begin losing weight.
imagine yourself floating away, feather-light.
imagine yourself becoming skin and bones.
imagine this as you drag your heavy body from class to class,
as your muscles waste from malnutrition.
imagine this as you have to clean your hairbrush out
three times while you work tangles from your hair.
imagine this as you snap at anyone and everyone,
as you spend hours locked in your room.

step five: become a poet and write about yourself.
romanticize your own demons, just by calling them demons.
use as many metaphors as you can,
to avoid the harsh language of the truth.
and especially avoid writing about the crippling guilt
that hits you when you eat too much,
you're fat you're worthless you'll never be anything,
and hits you when you don't eat enough,
what's wrong with you how did you let it get to this point
voices in your head never abating.
avoid writing about your lack of motivation and constant exhaustion and always,
always, use words that imply mystery.
describe your mind as foggy, call your body diminishing.
never say it how it is, because you could convince yourself to quit.
never say that it's torture and you're in pain
and you just wish you were eight again, never considering this path.
never say that you need help but you don't want help.

if you have the urge to say these things,
say only that this disorder is not one you would willingly give up,
because you finally have something to control.
because it is the truth,
but it is also the romanticized truth.
trigger warning, obviously. this just came out of nowhere the other day. apologies for how harsh/offensive it may be.
This war professes the whispers of infatuation
A hopeful faith yearning for satisfaction
Deteriorating steps that began to  carve my way

The spirit knew he had to stay away
With visions of burning fields
As  you return from your flight
I'm condemned for the harsh tight wounds
That you created and sewed in my chest
A dress made of scars and a  lost youth

You may stay and gather
To try and survive
Although this place will beat your bare
All hours I  still wanted to come inside
You were awake hiding in a piece of a shadow
Sheltering your rage
Destroying the hunger of lies
The mystery of numb thinking

The very words that escape your throat
Lust that reflected the water onto the stones
A displaced reflection without the truth
Vomiting my beliefs of this solitary exhaustion
Petals of torment that hindered me
Trembling with a million pieces of need

Obstructed by the hostility that fulfills me
A vision of intolerance frantically spreading
The taste of callouses gathering on my tongue
I unearth the truth
Peeling the flaws of our mistakes away
No man or women should have to go through domestic violence. Not only does it destroys families it can strip your children of there youth. Peace and love I encourage you to seek help. Save your family.
I haven't slept
Not once
The exhaustion comes
I want to sleep
I close my eyes
Sleep doesn't come
My mind is running wild
I try to just breathe
Don't think I tell myself
Just breathe
Sleep doesn't come
I lie there for hours
Lie there with my eyes closed
Hoping, praying I can sleep tonight
But sleep just doesn't come
Kyle Dedalus Jul 2010
Recovering from exhaustion only available
after nights and nights (and nights) of dreamless sleep
and sleepless dreams and mourning pillows that hold
more tears than we'd like to admit. Recovering from night terrors
only possible after decades of shameless meandering along
a rocky shore of somniferous hyperactivity.
Hide your fires no light will find you here.

Wake up, feel the sweat drip from your brow:
your heart is racing and you've no clue why.

Life is burden when sleep is terror.
1.

From our
safe windows,
we crane our necks,
rubbernecking
past the slow
motion wreckage
unfolding in Homs.

We remain
perfectly
perched
to marvel at
the elegant arc of
a mortar shell
framing tomorrows
deep horizon,
whistling through
the twilight to
find its fruitful
mark.

In the now
we keep
complicit time,
to the arrest
of beating hearts,
snapping fingers
to the pop
of rifle cracks,
swooning to
the delicious
intoxication of
curling smoke
lofting ever
upward;
yet
thankfully
remain
distant
enough to
recuse any
possibility
of an
intimate
nexus
with the
besieged.

2.

From our
safe windows,
we behold the
urgent arrivals of
The Friends of Syria
demanding
clean sheets
and 4 Star
room service at a
Tunisian Palace
recently cleaned
and under new
management
promising a
much needed
refurbishment.

The gathered,
a clique of
this epochs
movers and shakers,
a veritable
rouges gallery of
ambassadorial
prelates, Emirs and
state department
bureaucrats
summoned
with portfolio
from the
darkest corners
of the globe.

They are
eager to
sanctify
the misery
of Homs,
deflect and
lay blame
with realpolitik
rationalizations,
commencing
official commissions
of inquiry,
deliberating
grave considerations,
issuing indictments
of formal charges for
Crimes Against
Humanity
while
remaining
urgently
engrossed
in the fascination
of interviewing
potential
process servers
to deliver the bad news
to Bashar al-Assad
and his soulless
Baathist
confederates,
if papers
are to be
served.

Yes, the diplomats
are busy meeting
in closed rooms.

In hushed circles
they whisper
into aroused ears,
railing against
Russia’s
gun running
intransigence
and China’s
geopolitical
chess moves.

Statesmen
boast of the
intrepid justice
of tipping points
and the moving poetry
of self serving tales,
weighing the impact
of stern sanctions
amidst the historical
confusion of the
asymmetrical
symmetries
of civil war.

Caravans
of Arab League
envoys roll up
in silver Bentleys,
crossing deserts
of contradictory
obfuscations,
navigating the
endless dunes
with hand held
sextants of
hidden agendas.

The heroic
Bedouins are
eager to offload
their baggage
and share
on the ground
intelligence from
their recent soirées
across Syria.

They beg
a quick fix,
the triage of a
critical catharsis
to bleed their
brains dry
of heinous
recollections,
pleading
release from a
troubled conscience
victimized by
the unnerving paradox
of reconciling
discoveries of
perverse voyeurism
with the sanctioned
explanations
of their respective
ruling elites.

The bellies
of these
scopophiliacs
are distended;
grown queasy
from a steady diet
of malfeasance
an ulcerated
world parades
in continuous loop;
spewing the raw feeds
of real time misery;
forcibly fed
the grim
visions of
frantic
fathers
rushing
the mangled
carcases
of mortally
wounded
children
to crumpled
piles of smashed
concrete that were
once hospitals.

We despondently
ask how
much longer
must we
look into
the eyes
of starving
children
emaciated from
the wanton
indifference
of the world?


3.

From our
safe windows
we wonder
how much
longer can
the urgent
burning
ambivalence
continue
before it
consumes
our common
humanity in
a final
conflagration?

My hair already
singed by the
endless firestorms
sweeping the prairies
of the world.

How can we survive
the trampling hoards,
the marauding
plagues of acrimony
fed by a voracious
blood lust aspiring to
victimize the people
of Homs and a
thousand cities
like it?


4.

From my safe
window I stand in witness
to the state execution of
refugees fleeing the
living nightmare
of Baba Amr.

The ****** of innocents,
today's newly minted martyrs,
women and children
cornered, trapped
on treacherous roads,
mercilessly
slaughtered and
defiled in death
to mark the lesson
of a ruthless master
enthralled with the
power of his
sadistic fascist
lordship.

I cannot avert my eyes
marking sights
of pleading women
begging for the
lives of their children
in exchange for
the gratification
of a sadists
lust.

My heart
is impaled
on the sharp
spear of
outrage
beholding
careening
children mowed
down with the
serrated blades
protruding
from marauding
jeeps of laughing
soldiers.

I drop
to my knees
in lakes of
tears
reflecting
a grotesque
horror stricken
image of myself.

My eyes have
murdered my soul.

The ghastly images
of Homs have chased
away my Holy Ghost
to the safety of a child's
sandbox hidden away
in a long forgotten
revered memory.


5.

From my safe window
I seethe with anger
demanding vengeance,
debating how to rise
to meet the obscenity of
the Butcher of Damascus.

The sword of Damocles
dangles so tantalizingly close
to this tyrants throat.  

The covered women
of Homs scream prayers
“may Allah bring Bashar to ruin”

Dare I pray
that Allah trip the
horsehair trigger
that holds the
sword at bay?

Do I pick up
the sword
a wield it
as an
avenging
angel?

Am I the
John Brown
of our time?

Do I organize
a Lincoln Brigade
and join the growing
leagues of jihadists
amassing at the
Gates of Damascus?

Will my righteous
indignation fit well
in a confederacy
with Hamas and
al-Qaeda as my
comrades in arms?

Do I succumb to
the passion of hate
and become just
another murderous
partisan, or do I
commend the power
of love and marshal
truth to speak with
the force of
satyagraha?

I lift a fervent prayer
to claim the justice
of Allah’s ear,
“may the knowing one
lift the veil of foolishness
that covers my heart in
cloaks of resent, cure
my blindness that ignores
my raging disease of
plausible deniability
ravaging the body politic
of humanity.”

6.

Indeed,
physician heal thyself.

I run to embrace my
illness.

I pine to understand it.

I undertake the
difficult regimen
of a cure to eradicate
the terrible affliction.

This
pernicious
plague,
subverting
the notion
of a shared
humanness
is a cunning
sedition that
undermines
the unity of
the holy spirit.  

The bell from
the toppled steeples
still tolls, echoing
across the space of
continents and eons
of temporal time.

The faithful chimes
gently chides us
to remove the wedge
of perception that
separates, divides
and undermines.

Time has come
to liberally
apply the balm
that salves the
open wounds
so common to
our common
human condition.

The power of prayer
is the joining of hands
with others racked
with the common
affliction of humanness.

Allah,  
My eyes are wide open,
my sacred heart revealed,
my sleeves are rolled up,
my memory is stocked,
my soul filled with resolve,
my hand is lifted
extended to all
brothers and sisters.
Lift us,
gather us
into one
loving embrace.

Selah


7.

From the safe
windows of
our palaces
we live within
earshot of
the trilling
zaghroutas
of exasperation
flowing from
the besieged
city smouldering
under Bashar’s
symphony of terror.

Our nostrils
fill with the
acrid plumes
of unrequited
lamentations
lifting from the
the burning
destruction
of shelled
buildings.

Our eyes spark
from the night
tracers
of sleeking
snipers
flitting along
the city’s
rooftops.

The deadly jinn
indiscriminately
inject the
paralysis of
random fear
into the veins
of the city
with each
skillful
head shot.

These
ghoulish
assassins
lavish in their
macabre work;
like vultures
they eagerly
feast on the
corpses of their ****,
the stench of bloated
bodies drying in the
sun is the perfume
that fills their nostrils.


8.

From our
safe window
we discern the
silhouettes of militants
still boldly standing
amidst the
mounting rubble of an
unbowed Homs
shouting;

Allah Akbar!!!
Allah Akbar!!!
Allah Akbar!!!

raising pumped fists,
singing songs
of resistance,
dancing to
the revelation of
freedom,
refusing to
be coward by
the slashing
whips of a
butchers
terrible
sword.


9.

From my
safe window
my tongue laps
the pap
of infants
suckling from
the depleted
teats of mothers
who cannot cry
for their dying
children;
tears fail
to well from
the exhaustion
of dehydrated
pools.

10.

From my
safe window
my heart stirs
to the muezzin
calling the
desperate faithful
from the toppled
rubble of dashed
minarets.

We can
no longer
shut our ears
to the adhan
of screams
the silent
voices that echo
the blatant injustice
of a people under siege.


11.

From my
safe window,
I pay
Homage to Homs
and call brothers
and sisters to rise
with vigilant
insistence
that hostilities
cease and
humanity be
upheld,
respected and
protected.


12.

From my safe
window
I perceive
the zagroutas
of sorrow
manifest as a
whiling hum,
a sweeping
blue mist,
levitating
the coffins
from the rubble
of ravaged streets.

The swirling
chorus of
mourning
joins my
desperate
prayers;
rising in
concert
with the
black billows
of smoke
dancing
away
from the
flaming
embers
of scorched
neighborhoods.


13.

From my
safe window
I heed
the fluttering
wings
of avenging
angels
furiously
batting
as they
climb
the black
plumes,
lifting from
the scattered bricks
of the desecrated
city.

It is the
Jacob’s
Ladder
for our
time;
marking
a new
consecrated
place
where
a New Adam
is destined
to be formed
from the
pulverized
stones of
desolation.

14.

From our
safe windows
we peer into
resplendent
mirrors
beholding
the perfect image of
ourselves
eying
falling tears
dripping blood,
coloring death
onto the
blanched sheets
of disheveled beds.


15.

From our
safe windows
our voices are silenced,
our words mock urgency
our thoughts betray comprehension
our senses fail to illicit empathy
our action is the only worthy prayer


16.

From my
safe window
I hear the
mortar shells
walking toward
my little palace,
the crack
of a ******
shot
precedes
the wiz of a
passing bullet
whispering
its presence
into my
waxen
ear.


17.

From my
safe window,
my palms scoop
the rich soil
of the flower boxes
perched on my sill.
I anoint the tender
green shoots of  the
Arab Spring
with an incessant flow
of bittersweet tears.

Music selection:
John Coltrane
A Love Supreme
Acknowledgment

Oakland
2/28/12
jbm
Listening doesn't always mean understanding
- Listening could mean getting lost in your own thought of tranquility
- Or even your own devastational whir
- Listening doesn't have to be with your ears
- Just the exhaustion of emptiness that outlines your skull;
- Or even the numbness that conquers every length from spine to external excellence of your mind;
- Gliding from one emotion to another could be the loudest transaction without making a single clamor;
- Listening doesn't always mean understanding
- But the utter perplexity of ones thoughts drowning in the sound of nothingness.
By Macee L
Black and Blue Mar 2017
I'm not sure what exhaustion plagues me more; fatigue from depression/stress/anxiety/workload/socialization/emotional upheaval or fatigue from explaining why a woman with a liberal arts degree is important in a man's world.
Mitchell Duran Jun 2012
The night rested in a humid Spring night as the cable cars
And taxi cabs lazily made their way around the
Soft and silent streets of the city. Stray cats and dogs
Picked away at half-eaten lunch meat and
three day old bread as the moon slowly began to rise.
The restaurants that lined the alley ways and
Side streets were filled with the Saturday evening crowd. The
Clinking echoes of wine glasses and dinner plates spilled
Out onto the sidewalk and into the street. The passerby's would
Occasionally turn their heads to look inside, some envious that they
Were not smiling and drinking and eating that night. Across the
Street and throughout the town, lonely men drank from half empty
Beer mugs, wondering where their passion had gone.

On the corner of Barry and 3rd stood a man alone with
A suitcase in his hand. He wore tattered brown dress
Shoes - two years too old - a black neck tie with a half
Button-up T-shirt and a pair of dark brown slacks he had
Bought from Goodwill for $3. His free hand hung open,
Letting the night breeze snake around his fingers. There
Were the stars above him that shone down onto the street
And the sidewalk and a few spotted puddles that had
Built up from an earlier rain. On the corner of Barry and 3rd
There was only one thing to do with one's time, and that
Was to stand around and think of where to go to next.

Up on 17th, there was a bar the man had heard of
From a woman who had tried to pick him up at the bus
Station, some kind of ******* that was really only looking
For a couple of free drinks and a packet of cigarettes. The man
Thought of this place, and weighed back and forth if it would
Be advantageous to wander up there and see if he couldn't
Find someone to shack up with for the night.
He decided it would be.

As he passed the busy restaurants, listening to the insides
Of the building and its occupants churn like silverware
In a blender, he remembered he had placed a half-loaf
Of bread inside of his suitcase.
He stopped on a rough concrete stoop of a Catholic
Church, where above him, stood a large wooden cross.
Around the cross were plaster sculptures of baby angels and
Gargoyles and a snaking vine made of black stone that made
Its way around the cross, tying itself around the center
Where the horizontal met the vertical, and continued
To spin around and around until it reached the top.
At first, the man thought it was some
Kind of snake signifying Adam and Eve, which was all
He really knew about religion, the basic kid stories, but
When looking closer, realized that it was only an innocent
Plant seeking a spot of sun.

The man placed his suitcase on the 3rd step of 8, where he
Then sat on the 4th. He leaned his weathered, bent back against
The hard stone concrete and listened to the faint cracks
Of his spine inside his body. He realized that he hadn't sat d
Down and relaxed since he had gotten off the train. He threw
His head back in a exaggerated and child-like yawn, and felt the warm tears
Of bashful exhaustion fill the sockets of his heavy eyes. The night was
Warm and he unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt
To let the air blow over his sweat drenched chest.

"There are certain times to be alone in life," He mused
To himself, "And I do believe that I have
Found one of them."

In a room above him the window was wide open
And the curtains danced outside with the wind. A head
Poked out from the window sill and peered down to
Look at the man musing, but did not say anything. The man
knew nothing of the stranger's eyes above him and felt
No other presence around him, other than the passing taxi
Cabs and street walker's and - if you counted the one's inside
The church - the saints and the angel's and God that lived
In holy silence enshrined behind him.

"There are things in life that are never meant to be
Solved," he philosophized, "And maybe I am
One of those things. When I think of my life, my entire
Life here on Earth, I don't think I ever found
A straight line to follow that I was ever comfortable
With...not one straight line I could follow that would
Bring me true happiness or a sense of accomplishment.
Now, am I bad in feeling this way? Am I no good
For never feeling that the good ain't ever good enough?
I do my laundry like everybody else and I walk the
Street just the same, but, there is something else that
Smells and feels and can taste the eternity in all things
That makes me restless so I can't sleep sometimes, forces
Me to stare into black infinity with only a mind I feel
That I will never truly meet. There has got to be a word
For whatever feeling this is, but I can't seem to think of it now."

The head above that had poked out before ******
A dark object out the window. It wavered for a moment
In the still warm air of the night, then, whooshing and
Splashing down, a full bucket of water cascaded down
on the man's head and suitcase. The man sat frozen, unsure
Whether it was from the Heaven's itself and paused before
He began to swear and curse at the tenant above him.

"You rat **** eating vanilla ice cream eating convict!" he
Screamed up towards the apartment complex, "I'm going
To come back with a gallon of gasoline, 10,000 tooth-picks, and
Find out your favorite magazine subscription and bring 1,000
Those by, and burn this place down - gifts and all!"

His voice
Echoed in the street
And down the darkened alley-way,
Where the bums of the city
Slumbered, not hearing a sound
Of the rant the man in the now wet
Two year old dress shoes rambled
On with; for bums sleep with
Absolute peace with their lack of
Care or fear of time.

"At last," he muttered underneath his dripping hair,
"I am released unto the Earth for what I truly am: A hung
Sheet - fresh out of the washer - meant only to be
Basking in the moonlight so to be dried by
Morning for the house-guests in the evening."

The man snapped his fingers,
Clicked his tongue, and looked up,
Once more trying to spot the culprit, until
Another bucket of water came crashing
Down upon him.

"QUIET DOWN THERE,"
The voice from above hollered,
"THERE AIN'T A SINGLE WORD ANYONE
IN THIS BUILDING WANTS TO HEAR
RIGHT NOW! CHILDREN ARE SLEEPING AND
THE OLD ONE'S ARE WATCHING THIER PROGRAMS!"

The man ran his hands through his dripping wet hair
And flicked the droplets of water out onto the street. His
Suitcase, which sat to the right of him, was soaked as well and
The man worried about the single baguette he had stored
In there in case he had gotten hungry. He knew it was ruined
Now, but was happy that there was only an extra pair
Of 50 cent socks and an undershirt he had found underneath
A bridge on the way into the city. He cocked his head up to the open window.

"You speak for everyone here in this building?" He
Asked the black and blotchy figure above him.

"I speak for everyone that doesn't have the nerve or
The cajones or the energy to holler down at you at
This Un-Godly hour, if that's what your asking."

"They vote you into that position?" He asked, prodding them.

"No vote. I'm a volunteer," they defended.

"Ha. Always going to be some kind of
Volunteer when there's power involved."

"Isn't power, it's responsibility."

"Responsibility," the man repeated, chewing the
Word in his mouth, seeing it spelled out in his mind.
"Responsibility is quite a subjective thing: some people
Take a liking to it and never want to stop being responsible and
In charge, and some just don't want none of it and
Would rather lay back in the sun and act
Like their in charge, while whoever believes
Their power works under'em and for'em; which one are you?"

"Neither. I'm just here trying to ward off some
Rambling *** with what looks like nothing but a
Suitcase and some old clothes and shoes."

"Well," he said, "You must have some pretty good
Eye-sight in this setting dark, because that's
All I got at the moment."

"Where you hail from?" the voice asked.

"Originally I hail from here, but where I was
Before I hailed from as well. To tell you the truth, I don't
Truly know - that's a good question."

The man tilted his chin up slightly and
Rolled over his response. The question had
Dropped an icy fire into the pit of his stomach and filled it
With hundreds of gnawing, fluttering butterflies; he
Hadn't thought about home in a long time and
Had forgotten why he had even chose to show-up in the first place.

"I'm here for reasons I can't seem to remember at the moment,"
The man admitted to the voice above and to himself.

"Can't remember?" the voice laughed, "How
You gonna' forget why you came home?"

"Don't know," he said, shaking his head," Just
Can't seem to recollect it."

"Scary thing."

"Yes, indeed."

They both paused as a taxi cab passed slowly by. It stopped
And honked its horn trying to signal the man to see
If he needed a ride. The man waved his hand to send the
Cabby off and looked down at his wet clothes and suitcase. The
Chill of the night had gotten its way into his skin and
He noticed that his teeth were chattering and his feet were
Beginning to shake. He worried about getting sick because he
Wouldn't be able to buy any medicine if he did. He looked up
To see the figure still looking down at him in silence. Suddenly,
An object fell, back and forth in the air like a feather,
Down towards the man and onto the stoop where he stood.
It was a blanket and wrapped inside was a tattered pillow.

"Bring it back if you want," the voice called out to him, "Don't
Even care if you sleep on the stoop, but, it's a little wet, as you know."

"There a park around here?"

"Down two blocks and a left. You'll see it."

"Thanks for your kindness," he said looking up at the window.

"Thanks for your silence," the voice said stubbornly.

The man brushed off the remaining water on his clothes
And suitcase and tried to squeeze the water out his hair.
He picked up his suitcase and wrapped the blanket around
His body and fitted the pillow underneath his arm. He walked
Two blocks up from where the figure had told him and took a
Left, illuminated by the stark orange and white street lights. He looked
Around after he took the left and spotted a small children's park
With a few benches spotted along the sidewalk that snaked through it.
He picked a bench near a water fountain, unbuckled his belt and took
Off his wet pants and laid down, wrapping the thick wool blanket
Around his body. He placed his suitcase underneath the bench and
Positioned the pillow so it fitted gently under his head. After he
Closed his eyes and rested for five minutes, he reached down to
Touch his suitcase. He felt the cool, damp leather of it, and
Quickly wrapped himself back up into the blanket,
Eagerly awaiting for dawn to rise and bring warmth back to his body.

At dawn, the sun painted the man's body with dark yellow streaks
of sunlight, heating his body up so much that when he woke, his
Clothes were close to dry again. The small patch of grass and
Weeds underneath him rustled with the wind and the sounds
Of the street a few blocks away drifted into his ear. He stirred
Inside of his blanket but did not rise. The pillow had fallen
To the ground throughout the night, but the man was too tired
To reach for it and kept his head on the hard wooden surface of the bench.
While lying there, half awake, the man thought of the figure that
Had been speaking to him from their window the night before. He
Knew he must return the blanket and pillow, but he was unsure
Whether he should bring something else. He had no money -
No money to spare at least - so he chose to bring only the
The things that were leant to him back, hoping that would suffice.

He shifted his position on the bench and saw through a crack of
The bench, that there were children already playing on the playground
Behind him, their parents leaning over their porches watching them; they
Didn't even seem to notice or care about the man sleeping on the bench.
The man felt embarrassed about this and rolled over to avoid the
Gaze of the parents and any of the children that may have spotted him. He
Laid on his back, his head atop the worn but comfortable pillow, and
Gazed up into the blue sky that was clear save a few passing milky
White clouds, that hovered above him like colossal globs of marshmallows.
He hoped in his mind that he remembered where the house the was that
Had been kind enough to give him the blanket and pillow and he wished
That he had paid more attention to the street signs and physical objects
Surrounding the building. All the man could recall were the bright neon
Orange light posts, a long line of thinly pruned circular bushes, a few
Mailboxes that stood as if attention on the sidewalk of the street, and
Numerous houses that all looked the same when he passed them in the night.
He knew he needed to find the house but was too comfortable to rise and
Too scared of the failure of ever finding the house and the thought
Of carrying around the blanket and pillow made his face flush a deep red.

The man rose cooly, as if rising from a nap spent on a couch in his
Summer cottage that rested on the bank of some far off river somewhere.
He looked over to the children and the parents up on their porches, but
Still, none of them paid him any mind. This relieved him. He was allowed
To be a shadow and embraced the idea of being anonymous rather
Than feeling the helplessness one feels when no one sees you. He folded
The blanket neatly like his mother had taught him to do ever since
He was a little boy, and instinctively fluffed the ***** pillow, even though
It was far beyond repair already. The sun was just peaking over the tops of
The ramshackle apartment buildings and he noticed that he had been
Sleeping in what looked like a very poor part of town; in the night, it
Looked like every other park corner where the elderly would to
Think about their past and the children would play with their present.

"Night and day are two different worlds," the man muttered
To himself, "Some people belong in one and some
The other; I wonder...which one am I?"

He looked up towards the sun and squinted, feeling a
Small droplet of sweat make its way down his right cheek. He
Wiped it away with his fingertip and brought it to his mouth -
He was terribly thirsty and his stomach rumbled within him. He
Had noticed the night before on the way to the park, a sign
For a bakery, but was not sure whether it was open or not because
The night was too dark to reveal any signs of it. The man had 10 dollars to
His name and knew he could buy two loaves of bread for at least 50 cents
If he haggled with whoever was running the place. They would be sure
To see his condition and help him if he showed them a little of the money he had.
There was also a childish charm to the man that he would bring out whenever
He truly was in need - he never liked abusing this gift, if one could call it that -
But in times of desperation and starvation and dehydration, he was
Forced to use it and mustered as much courage up to do so.

He walked through the path that had brought him to the park and
Made a right down the street towards the bakery and possibly the
House where he had been given the blanket and pillow. There was
No one on the street save a few alley cats and dogs and all the window
Blinds were down to block out the intense shining sun rising in the sky. There
Was a light breeze passing through the trees that cooled the man off. He
Had begun to sweat from holding the pillow and blanket so close
To his body, and wished he could have the nerve just to throw it in a
Garbage can and make his way to the neighborhood where he had been told
About the bar, but his conscious weighed him down, so he carried on.

He walked a block down the street and found the bakery on the other side
Of the street. He crossed and saw there was an old woman inside.
He checked his pockets for any spare change and opened his wallet
To make sure the 10 dollars was still there. He needed water and something
To put in his belly and he whispered a prayer before he went inside of the bakery.
When he pushed the door to enter though, it wouldn't budge - it was locked. The
Woman behind the counter turned her head and looked at the man, who
shook her head and waved him off. The man knocked gently on the glass
Door, but the old woman just kept waving and shooing him off like an animal. The
Man checked the clock inside and saw that
Monique Pereda Nov 2014
I feel your weight on my body
But I cannot see you
I cannot know where to find you
You reside my shoulders
Weaken my arms
Limit my legs
Drown my chest
Pull down my head
Stiffen my bones
And you run in all my blood vessels
You are as a disease
Creeped in unnoticed
A surprise when I woke up
I want to know where you are
So I can tell you to
Leave me!
My back longs for the bed
Yet I know that the bed will not suffice
I told Brain to ignore you
But Brain will give in soon
And Heart will do the same too
Leave me!
Leave me now!
jack of spades Apr 2016
1995 saw the start of Generation Z,
the ‘iKids’ with a knack for this new-fangled technology,
Millennial 2.0,
caught in the limbo of the World Wide Web development and Rose Gold iPhones.
They say we’re adaptable,
but apparently we can’t make our own decisions about anything.
They say that we don’t care about anything
except for our tiny little screens,
but they forget who put them in our hands,
and they forget who they run to for help
when they forget how to troubleshoot.
They forget what kind of technology we need to keep sustaining life in the Information Age,
Caught in a crossfire because
Yeah, we’re 90s kids—but the 90s never really actually ended until 2006,
the only difference between two decades being
how much neon versus how much chrome,
and just how expensive accidentally opening the internet app on your mom’s blackberry phone was.
We’re nostalgic for all the things we can’t quite remember,
and half these high schoolers weren’t actually born until 2000 or 2001.
Most of us aren’t old enough to even remember 9/11, nothing outside of the news clips that our teachers show us in history class every single September.
I was born in the same year as the Columbine shootings.
The United States has not been at peace for a year of my life.
We are always fighting— fighting for everything.
Human equality,
posing arguments about micro aggressions and refugees, seeing the inhumanity in the past that we’re living.

None of us are older than 21,
under such hard scrutiny while Baby Boomers Wave 2 still run our country.
We inherited the Millenial’s exhaustion,
the generation before us spending our childhood fighting for all the things that we have never really believed in.
Fairytales.

Generation Z.
The ‘iKids’ who are going to one day be making leaps and bounds with technology,
the generation to nurse this dying planet back to health,
Millennials 2.0 who know how to learn from our forerunners’ mistakes,
who know how to adapt from Sidekicks to iPhone 6S Plus in less than a decade.
We’re the kids who have realized that fun is found in safe spaces rather than invading each other’s personal spaces.

They say we’re too sensitive,
but at the same time they claim that we’re desensitized.
And I thought we were the generation that couldn't make decisions.
Rebecca Carter Apr 2013
Exhaustion overtakes her soul
She used to fight it and her demons
Yet lately she sees no reason, for life has taken toll
Sun shines so lovely and weather warmed so right
She found that smiles came and laughter trilled
Her heart fell and leapt slightly again
Yet his words still burned where they fell
Lonely and broken, she stands once again to face the world
The cruel world that stripped away her innocence and ***** her of pure joy
The world that held her up and dropped her, dropped her flat
Just as flat as her deflated lost heart
But yet, she fought on
And through this fight, she developed an unimagiable strength
Her smile still shone warm, her eyes always light
A new detemination urged her on
A new phase of her life
Yes life would be complete in his arms
Yet away from that protection is where she learned:
Life is cruel and painful but through the pain, beauty overtakes time and time again
The Moon and Sun shared Ecliptical Longitudes the night They murdered The child.

Beneath a stelliferous empyrean,
Like Sojourners among the quiescent Twilight, Mother and child, Ventured to meet the woman’s husband, the father of the child.

She, no more than five and ten years Old,
The child, a girl, of only months,
Lay swaddled across the Woman’s
*****, tucked inside a papoose.
A rustic device carefully woven
From wool and hide, in it contained a
Priceless world.

She cooed and clucked in the frigid
Night air.
The sound penetrated the
Spectral calm and was matched only
By the maternal soothing of a muted hum.
Together, they represented the
Heathen form of the wilderness,
The Tempi Madonna among the
Silver and shadow moonbeams that
Glimmered like the dust of diamonds
Across the river’s obsidian sheen.  

Ahead, where the river narrows,
The silence stirred and was broken.
Hushed voices rose from the outer
Dark.
The woman strained to listen.

(British Soldiers, she thought)

Foreign words...

        (Drunken and ravenous)

                         ...slithered from their mouths like Venom. Fear bloomed in the woman’s Chest.
Her heartbeat quickened.

        (Touched by the chill of terror)

Her eyes darted madly about the
Darkness.

         (Alone no longer)

Their  shadows manifested like
Smoke along the tree line.
Their
Features blurred in the darkness.
Their gestures muted.
Like birds of
Prey, they set motionless upon their
Perch along the stony shore.

I say, a man said. Indian children are natural born swimmers,
Capable at birth of swimming great distances.

Utter foolishness, old boy, another opined.

We will need proof of this claim, my good sir, an anonymous voice Quipped from somewhere in the dark.

She let escape from her full lips
The tiniest of shrieks.
Followed immediately
By
Sick
Regret.

(stupid girl, her mother’s voice echoed in the dark.
                             You always were too impulsive.)

Rage consumed her as
She struggled against the current.  
She tried to paddle for deeper
Water as the men broached
The black sheen of the river.

The moments passed by
In jagged surrealism.
There was no sound
When they pitched the woman
And child into the
Frigid abysm.

The splashing of water.
The gasping
For air.
The primal
Grapple and
Grunt of men.
The cold, pungent scent of
Fear and sweat mixed with the
Alcohol-stale air.
The twisting of
Hands that groped about the
Darkness.

         (Her rage now eclipsed by fear)

She inhaled.
Her body, numb.
Her appendages quaked.
Her body fading
As they fall upon her.
Their thick bodies
Blacked out the stars.
Their gaunt faces
Pinched and rucked in the
Moonlight
Reflected the fury, the
Hatred, and
The disgust for what would come next.
Their hands moved across her
Ravenous
Like demons as they
Groped at her small body
Beneath the choppy wash of the
River.

(A hand grazed her thigh and she shrieked in Terror. Another
         gnashed at her buttock. Another fell upon her back. Her mind
         reeled at the possibilities of what would need to come next.)

They tore at her clothing.
Her body jarred about the water as
She writhed against their grasps.
She clawed against the murk.                  
    
         (Escape the horror)

She released the paddle—

(Forever lost to the deep, useless to her now)

Hysterical animalistic thoughts
Trounced off their tongues as they
Laughed at her doom—

        (Like a pack of hyenas)

She kicked at them in nameless
Places.
She thrusted her hand into
The fabric where the child had been
Moments before cooing and clucking. 
Mere moments ago she had sang to the
Babe the same song her
Mother had once sung
To her.

             (she felt nothing where the child had been…)    

She struggled away from them.
Her mind frantic with pain, the cold,
And panic
For the child.
She no longer cared for
Herself, or what they would need to
Do with her body.
Her appendages
Flailed and churned in the dark water.
          
         (A single gasp of air followed by
              The burning inhale of water)

A shrill call to the child—

(a name lost to time)

Her voice cut through their maniacal
Laughter.
It echoed off the water and vanished,
Disappearing entirely
In the outer gloom of the wilderness.

        (like afterthoughts, lost)

She groped relentlessly among the
Water for the child.
The men, near
Frozen, lost interest and returned to
The adjacent shoreline.
It was more ****** that way.
They jeered at her,
Proud of themselves.
          
        (The seething lust of the mindless savage, she thinks)

Their mouths salivate
As they watched
Vicariously.
Her struggle
Became the current
For which she bore.
The impending death of the woman even
More satisfying than the feeling against their flesh of her cunning, wet crease that lies exposed between
Her brown legs.
They watch like wolves
Unable to reach their prey,
Desperate for fresh meat.
Despite the frigid cold,
Their *****, hard,
With the anticipation of death.

The woman clamored among the darkness
She searched for the child.
Heavy fingers fell upon woolen fabric
By chance—

(Hope bloomed in her constricted chest)

Her body finally beginning to seize
Exhaustion permeated
Her mind.
She freed the papoose
From the frozen depths and expelled
The last bit of energy she possessed
To swim to the far side of the shore,
Temporarily out of their reach.

The soldiers,
Quiet now,
Returned to the spectral woods.
They disappeared back down the
Black road from which they came.

She felt the blood as it began to
Return to her appendages, the pins And needles feeling erupting in them.
Her teeth clattered nearly exploding In her mouth.
Her body
Quaked Violently

         (The child, near in her mind, cried)

She reached for it.
Her chest,
Rising and
Falling,
Rapid like the river
As she inhaled the burning,
Frozen air.
The child let loose a cough and  
She clutched it
tighter to her *****.  

(Deny the river its prize)

A stream of consciousness,
Steadily slipped from her lips.

       (A great heathen prayer calling up some
                       Great Spirit
                                As she relentlessly brokered
                                            For a
                                       Life for a life)

The moments passed by like hours.
And the
Great Spirit, with
His wanton lust
For despair, did not manifest that night.

The child fell silent, then still.
The tears came now.
Blurred vision and
Angry sobs.
Darkness consumed entire.

The river flowed by her electric as if
Its lights descended from a place far
Beyond the black taciturn veil of
Night to reflect the merciless
Tragedies among the wretched souls of
The Maine Woods.
Mateuš Conrad Oct 2015
.let's begin: i've been watching youtube haemorrhage over the past few years (4 / 5 in total) and... i do still enjoy the sort of cabaret weimar associated with criticalcondition when comapred to beanie hat tim pool... sorry: i just like a bit of cabaret, i know that comedy is translated in the western lands by stand-up monologues, but in germany and poland: cabaret is the toy assurance to compensate the justifications for theatre or opera... i like criticalcondition, trans-, ******: my my, how did the chemistry prefixes of attachement groups of a benzene ring overpower bio-realism? imagine a blocked toilet in terms of hinduism / buddhism in terms of the metaphysics of reincarnation... well: metaphysics by their great culinary understanding implies: a return to the same debacle, perhaps only slightly elevated... we have already reached a post- gott ist tot scenario of metaphysics... gott is quiet apparent, since the ancient greeks believed that "shamed" men would come back as women: now? the women did a shortcut... they said: tod ist tot... wouldn't that be the case? a blocked toilet, well... if god has to die first, then death itself has to die, ergo: tod ist tot! ha ha... imagine... to think of the glamorous concept of eastern theology as nothing more than a plumber's day-shift... looks like the toilet is blocked... since... men are not spawning into female form after death, instead, deciding to spawn back into male form with a female "brain"... who is that god of mischief in hinduism? oh... look! Aditi! well it's not an isolated case, is it? i once picked up a thai surprise from a park bench, played her some jazz, ****** her in the garden... bangkok ladyboys are the duran duran of 1980s electro-puppy-pop! once god dies, death follows suit... after all... death is (a) shadow of (the) god... blocked toilet metaphysics, all the brahmin as running wild, naked, psychotic: but the lesser men were not supposed to know they were reborn into female bodies, there was that safety net in place to: let them reincarnate with an amnesia principle! what's happening?! the women are raiding up the ranks?! contrapoints compared to tim pool? sorry beanie-boy... you're not the beastie... quiet... i'd love to b.j. that make-up off from contrapoints... problem being... i love when a ****** speaks so much sense... but... hands... i find a woman's hands too be the most ****** aspect of her body... 4/5... that's a fraction... for my five knuckles in terms of hand size, ***** "envy" and what my five knuckles look like to a woman's 4? you get the picture... there is also another fraction... 72 genders?! wha-?! i see gender in the 3/2 fraction... a woman can satisfy three men... the ****, the **** the mouth... a man... can only satisfy 2... the **** and the mouth... oh... wait... 3/3... someone can be giving him a b.j. while he's giving him a b.j..... it's still a blockage of reincarnation though... the greeks believed the lesser man was to be reborn in a "lesser" body... ****, i always forget how the ratio works... i always think: 1 man has 3 options of entry, 3 women have 1 point of entry each... but fraction is wonky though... in that... a woman can entertain three variations of entry: mouth, ****, ****... but a man has to entertain two points of entry and one point of insertion... so the fraction still stands at 3/2... which makes the islamic celestial harem nonsense... unless equipped with an exess of res extensa ****** to satiate the hunger of 72 virgins... a ****** gambit if you ask me... 72 virgins sounds more like a headache than what Solomon forsake in owning for the queen of Shēba... king! Solomon! after all the *******, enough wisdom suddenly trickled into his head, and he chose the route of the monogamy of birds! mind you: whatever wisdom king! Solomon ever had to begin with... i would still favor king David... i like a man with a distrust of women and having an unadulterated desire for music as second to none medicinal property to cure existential ailments; i tried *******, no good... sure, great exercise... esp. with prostitutes... but an in depth analysis of the perpetuated banality of life and how to learn to masquerade it behind a veil of seemingly banal? a harem will not help, but music will. even nietzsche understood this... criticalcondition: i do actually fancy him it her they... she does have that: je ne sais quoi air... weimar cabaret "revised"... not quiet the switz cabaret dada voltaire... but all i know is the number of holes of points of insertion and the fact that i have hands the size that could hold a basketball in one... and how... oh, wow! i really came late to the asian fetish party late... here, have some grenades! **** ying, cat meng, na mu han, you mi, ni ye teng, ai sayama, hoshina mizuki, ayaka noda, (l)im ji hye, lie fei er, (barbie) ke er... ergo? this whole asian fetish scene? am i looking at dolls? i'm not even sure... am i white, by comparison to these procelain babushkas?! i'm not white: orange man bad! i thought so too: i'm... piglet! the i'm not white: these girls are... and the funny thing is, the "funny" thing, is? i don't have to see much more beside the cleavage or the ******* or the thighs to... hey! i'm a late bloomer to this asiatic fetish... side-tracked by the european transgender ******* and the thai surprise ladyboys... what is **** what isn't ****: that, really depends on how much you rely on your imagination... if a sight of white, porcelain cleavage gets you off... who the hell needs the whole "show"... after all... even the niqab is a game on how to arouse the male libido... it's pretty hard to be aroused by a fully exposed female torso like some maasai ivory beauty... then the "said" objects are more functional and designated for feeding purposes... than ***** *******... aren't they?! oh i can see a revision of the niqab... imagine this in saudi arabia... both the eyes are not hidden from view, as isn't the mouth! batman 2."oh"... oh i don't like these new communists in the west... white... priv. who, that japanese?! i'm not white, i said it already and i'll say it again: i'm not a porcelain doll! talk to the **** about white privilege... they're the ones with milk veils... my "white privilege" is only associated to having blond hair, green or blue eyes... it has nothing to do with... skin!

i’m suspicious of the ones that say: without telling the truth
we can moralise, by not stating the truth
we can allow ourselves falsehood in the prime
instinct to provide replicas of ourselves
without truth of two subject interacting,
but merely the truth of two objects interacting
reducible into the dwarf of darwinism
that speaks: over-sexualise and feel less encountered
by understanding the opposite!
so much is true in this era - with the english poodle
waggling in frenzies for the americans to spectate and applaud...
i’ve had to become a german in england,
the sort that might be liked by nietzschean arrogance,
but apart from that i’m working on how
certain people simply use words rather than letters,
how they can never use the shovels and pickaxes,
how this congregation of atheists at comic stand-up shows
is doing my head in: a theological mid-life crises,
this blatant take on theology using the logic:
from monkey you came, to monkeying you shall return...
now that trends like the crown all animals have,
all animals already unique do not need to replicate consciously,
but man is stumbling into wasting his conscious on replication,
on plagiarism... it’s so odd... so so odd! why would man
waste his consciousness to simply invoke replication?
where’s the self in that, the anti-frankenstein story so powerful
he does not wish to do anything other than marvel at
the connectivity of the bone to the nerve to the muscle?
the 20th century gave birth militant atheism -
the 21st century is labouring with a different kind of atheism -
the sort of atheism that says no barriers exist between master and servant
as between worm and pigeon - even though
the depression of the master is opposed to the servant’s depression
that he only spots analogues within the framework of
synonymity with other masters... ‘why are we so depressed?’
asked master a, ‘i have no idea,’ answered master b over lunch.
in the lower decks of the ship servant a says to servant b -
- ‘god, i rowed all day long, i’m so ****** tired!
no thought will keep me awake.’
- ‘that’s true, i’m knackered also, broken limbs of my effort
like a chestnut, no thought will keep me awake either,
lucky we exhaust the body.’
- ‘too true, with the body exhausted the mind is never disputed
never disputed by not having origins in thinking
but rather having origins in the body.’
- ‘verily, i rather our fate than the masters’ fate.’
- ‘why?’
- ‘as you said, our’s is the story of ****** demands,
their’s is a story of thought’s demands,
meaning they exhaust their mind in the accesses
thought provides, it’s like a secondary body we have no knowledge of,
they are exhausted by thinking because their body is not exhausted.’
- ‘makes sense.’
- 'hence their malady of melancholia and our as simple exhaustion.'
- 'where’s the buffer?'
- 'in the olympians, the discus throwers, the most positive lot, and due to this, the easiest
to break down from high positivity; they have no awareness
of complex thinking and are quickly undermined with all this sports’ psychology!'
- 'true to the burning tire... it's all dietary awareness and muscle bulk with them after a loss.'
- 'indeed, as our's is with aesop dreamily awaiting a freedom that’s an anarchy,as translated from aesop's fables into
spartacus' resolve.'
- 'ah yes, that old spartan revolt in the roman empire.'
so like i said, i do know that darwinism is the new super cool sensibility,
taking into account more than 10,000 years of history
and talking about it for 2 hours wishing that something
spectacular might happen tomorrow, or any other given day...
but like i said previously... darwinism just killed history...
outside the realm of journalism we’re talking millions of years...
so why would i give a **** if it’s a friday the 23rd of october in the imaginary year 2015?
well if you put crocodile into a pile of hyenas you’ll probably
get a a cuckoo mixed with a squid because of the beak shared by the two...
i know, atheism is cool, for now,
but when the quantum j provides the classical physics’ objects like jupiter
you’ll ask what the quantum of j is... and i’ll say... full-stop...
that’s because, perhaps, i never use language as:
copy - work - paste - with - copy - me - paste - on - copy - this - paste - one,
but rather...
w - grammatical arithmetic (g.a.) - o - g.a. - r - g.a. - k,
because no one can tell me that the letter j
is uniform in the context of i or k...
as the quantum phonetics of uttering the word
onomatopoeia... is no different from uttering the word bull...
so many variables of spotting the quantum physics
in pronunciation... so many varying levels of required energy
to utter j or k... onomatopoeia or bull -
so... what's the antonym of quantum - the maximum
amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction -
i know that poets speak of grains of sand = no. of stars
and that the mathematicians use the curtain of infinity
to digress... but finding the maximum will be harder
given that there will be no socratic knowledge to use as canvas...
i.e. nothing;
added to the fact that there’s a non-differential quantum
that makes ë and em almost identical in terms of the least energy used,
this humanistic paradox of bonding means there is no unique human
sound that doesn’t borrow another human sound to execute a phoneticism,
otherwise ë and em translate as eh and humming anti-treble of the lips, or finger licking mmm of kentucky.
actually... we have the opposite of quantum physics...
the body functions within an ~37ºC emission...
there are four seasons in a year... the earth's orbit is 365 days,
i just took all the known macro units
and consolidated them in the micro unit of joules undifferentiated
in terms of observable "energy."

— The End —