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Rangzeb Hussain Mar 2010
Said the Prince unto his raven-haired Lady as he rode and galloped away,
He leaned back and this is what he had to say:
“Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.”

Jack O’Lantern prowls and haunts the frosted hills hunting to ****** for fresh meat.
This monster, this dark beast creeps down from upon the heath!
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

“Where be the Lord of this warm and happy house?” says Jack O’Lantern with claws tapping.
“Gone to London town,” says the Nurse the coins from Jack receiving.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

“Where be the lovely Lady of this house?” smiles Jack O’Lantern mouth full of jagged teeth.
“She’s in her red chamber,” says the Nurse asking for a treat.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

“Where be the delightful baby of the house?” says Jack O’Lantern purring like a cat.
“Asleep in the cradle,” says the Nurse accepting Jack’s gold sack.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

“We will pinch him, we will ***** him, we will stab him with a long pin!
Nurse, you will hold the basin for the blood all to run in.”
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

So they pinched him and they pricked him, then they stabbed him with a very sharp pin.
The false Nurse did hold the basin for the blood all to run in.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

“Lady, come down the stairs, come drink this tasty gin,” says Jack O’Lantern dripping sin.
“How can I see thee in the dark?” says the Lady unto him.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

“I have silver bracelets and rings fashioned out of gold,” says Jack O’Lantern bowing.
“Lady, pray sail down the stairs and come see them glowing.”
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

Down the stairs the radiant Lady gently glided without alarm, thinking there to be no harm.
Black-eyed Jack stood ready to snap her in his arms.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

There is blood in the kitchen and blood on the chamber floor, there is blood also in the hall.
There is blood upon the open door and blood upon the wall.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

There is slippery blood in the parlour and bedroom too where the Lady did slip and fall.
Now Jack will be caught and hanged and punished in hell’s hall.
Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
Be concerned! Lock and bolt the door until I return.

And the false Nurse will be broken and burnt in the fire raging scarlet and black.
Said the Prince unto his Lady dead as he rode back:
“Beware the moor, beware the fog, beware the nightly shadow of Jack O’Lantern!
O why did you unlock the door? My heart will now forever twist and turn!”
Inspired by a traditional Folk song which has been sung and rearranged by many artists over the years.
Neil Ang Sep 2018
There,
out in the darkness,
a fugitive running.
Running from God.

Did I write that? I don't think so, Maybe it was me. Wait, maybe I heard it somewhere.  

I sigh in frustration and look to the skies but I see nothing.
Just darkness. Not the total black, the absence of light brought on by the spinning of the sun, the darkness that signifies rest, rejuvenation ,
No. no, just a faint black, a charcoal blackish grey brought on by a fog;

I glance around but I have no clue where I am. The fog is too thick. I know that there's something beyond the fog. Um, big ball of fire burning in the sky. Sun. That's what it's called.

After forever, I see a path, a meandering, twisting path. Its bricks not yellow like Dorothy walked on but red. Wait, I can see the colour. Maybe this is the path I walk.It's a long trek but that's what I'll do. Trek. Lugubriously down the path. Flashes of gold before me, of red, of blue, of orange, of purple, of a colour I cannot name but seems like a blue green thing.

Sometimes I can catch them, sometimes I can't. Sometimes they form a picture. A face in front of me. A voice. A flash of lightning in a cold dank world. Rain, falls. I know rain. Rain, will make the flowers? Grow. No! not my words as well. Where do they come from? The weather grows darker, the fog grows thicker. I wish I remember how it all started. I close my eyes to think.

When I open my eyes, two little faces appear in front of me.  I know them? no, I don't. Wait, I do know them. They chirp something at me, like two little birds in a pod. Peas, peas in a pod. Peas don't squeak. Peas posit, no, peas don't talk at all they're not sentient. **** it, the fog is back. I look at them and smile. That's what you do when you see people don't you?

Now I see some people coming into the room! Big men! They'll steal from me! **** me! I have to defend myself!  Oh wait, one of them wears a face. I've seen a million times; it's so... familiar. I look across to the mirror in the bathroom. Oh, he wears some version of my face. But younger. With... well with better hair.

He growls at me, his voice booms and brings the room to a stand still. I still don't know what he says. The smaller one echoes. His voice slightly smaller, less boom-y. Boom-y, that's not a word.

There's a word for it, I, The words are there, in my head, like rays of sun bright, no sunlight, coming through the darkness. I wince at the thought of the heat burning my skin. But there's no heat. Just fog. Just that blasted, ****** fog. It came one day, out of the darkness chasing me down like I was fugitive. It never sleeps, it never eats, it never leaves. Just there. Why can't I see the sky. I remember what the sky was like. It was, green? no blue. The sky was blue.

My dreams are interrupted by the boom-squeakers. That's not a word is it? I used to be good at words, I used to write them in a book, for others to read, for others to write

The four faces are in full speed now, booming and squeaking and squeaking and booming. I nod at what they say, I still don't understand them. Something about school and class, something about work and money.

Suddenly I see her,  there's a fine one across the room, I open my mouth but no words come out. She's wearing blue is coming with something. Oh I remember this! Sweets! she must be coming with sweets. She's young and pretty, she knows my name. Wait, why does she know my name. A little too well, wait are we related? that would be bad. Oh no, she doesn't look like any of those around. Her rosy red lips move but I can't hear the words she must be saying. The fog always prevents that. She's brought me candy I think. In a little bowl too! Oo! that's nice. I used to love candy. I think I still do now?

I let my guard down! Oh no! they've got me! (Pop!) they've forced me to swallow something! I better spit it out! Spit! Spit! Spit! Oh wait, the darkness is coming, it's better than it normally is. I see the void and know it's time to rest. Maybe when I get up tomorrow, the fog will finally... clear.

As I teeter on the edge, I hear it. the voices. They're saying something. They say....

"Is Grandpa Grandpa today, Dad?"

"He'll be fine, son. sniff He'll... maybe. be ok. Some day."

"Maybe tomorrow he'll remember us?"

"Maybe tomorrow, now put on the music. He loved Les Mis, it was always his favourite."

"Don't go yet, Dad. Please... don't."

The world goes dark but its finally happened. The fog has cleared and I see the sky, just before the sun turns and it goes dark a final time.

Now I rest.
The first introductory bit is from "Stars" sung by Javert in the musical version of Les Miserables. I'm using a tiny bit of it here for a) its relevance on how this man feels like he's been chased like a fugitive by the fog and b) to represent the fact that he has somewhat forgotten that these are not his words, that his memories are blurring.  

Many people out there have a friend, or a loved one who is suffering from dementia. It's probably the worst punishment to have especially for this man who I've imagined to be a word-smith, perhaps a writer, of novels, perhaps dictionaries.

If you have a relative who's like that. Maybe go visit them one day, Maybe you can be the wind that pushes away the fog and they'll be able to see the sun someday.

Just maybe.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
the fog
is home
to me.

I close my eyes,
I am still standing in Santiago Chile.
business people are
rushing back from the lunch break.
the outside restaurants
teaming with customers.
I look up,
the Andes Mountains are head of me
a weak pink fog veils them.
my mom turns to me,
‘honey, that’s pollution’
I’m glad we have the real fog
back home

I close my eyes,
I’m flying back from Atlanta Georgia.
my fellow San Franciscans and I
waiting to see our home, I almost tear up.
our water had gone out that Atlanta summer
and I remember there wasn’t a day under 105 there.
the fog looks so tasty
like I would be fully
refreshed and rehydrated
after only one bite.

I close my eyes,
I’m living in Boston for five weeks.
a storm passes by now and again.
the east coasters complain that
the fog is ruining their city’s
sunny reputation.
the southerners complain
that summer isn’t actually there.
I just smile and smoke,
I love watching the smoke drift into the fog
mingle, then disappear.

I close my eyes
I am standing in Rome
my family- taking cover in a store overhang
there was heavy rains and over cast
, but no fog ever descended for a meet and greet
on that day.

I close my eyes ,
I am looking at the tall slender buildings in Vietnam
along side the main highway of ** Chi-Man city
it is overcast- the storm last night brought down
a tree, crushing a poor shop with a sheet metal roof.
the overcast hangs, and I am feeling
a little nostalgia for home

I open my eyes,
I am back in the sunset district.
I’m laying on my reservoir,
looking out at the Pacific Ocean.
the wind blows inland
whatever weather on the westward horizon
blows in in a couple of hours
the fog sits at the horizon gathering itself up
for it’s long strut to the beach
and I wave to my old friend
it’s good to be home.
Written for D.A. Powell
Maxim Keyfman Nov 2018
tonight is our day
today fog around fog
tonight is our day
tonight is fog
fog and fog and fog and fog

what is fog and what is
and what is and what is and what
is the sun and landscape and landscape
and here is that landscape in white
that misty landscape is childhood

yes i know this childhood is for sure
exactly it i see him i saw him
this is not a dream this is not a dream
i am not sleeping all right
i don't sleep hey people i don't sleep live

11.11.18
st64 Feb 2014
When the fog burns off and the air's pulverized  

diamonds and you can see beyond the islands  

of forever!—far too dramatic for me. It hurts  

something behind my eyes near the sphenoid,  

not good. I prefer fog with fog behind it,  

uninflammable fog. Then there's no competition  

for brightness, no Byron for your Shelley,  

no Juno eclisping your Athena, no big bridge  

statement about bringing unity to landmasses.  



All the thought balloons are blank. The marching  

band can't practice, even a bird's got to get  

within five feet before it can start an argument.  

Like dead flies on the sill of an abandoned  

nursery, we too are seeds in the rattle  

of mortality. A foglike baby god  

picks it up, shakes it, laughs insanely  

then goes back to playing with her feet.  



I have felt awful cold and lonely and fog  

has been blotting paper to my tears.  

My dog is fog and I don't have to scoop  

its **** with my hand in a plastic bag.  

There are sensations that begin in the world,  

the mind responding with ideas but then  

those ideas cause other sensations.  



What a mess. We stand at the edge  

of a drop that doesn't answer back,  

fog our only friend although it's hell  

on shrimpboats. There, there, says the fog.  

Where, where? You can't see a thing.


                                                      by D. Young






21 Feb 2014
Dean Young (b. 1955)




Poet Dean Young was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and received his MFA from Indiana University. Recognized as one of the most energetic, influential poets writing today, his numerous collections of poetry include Strike Anywhere (1995), winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry; Skid (2002), finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Primitive Mentor (2008), shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize.  
He has also written a book on poetics, The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction (2010).

Strongly influenced by the New York School poets, and Surrealists such as Andre Breton, Young’s poetry is full of wild leaps of illogic, extravagant imagery, and mercurial shifts in tone. Using surrealist techniques like collage, Young’s poems often blur the boundaries between reality and imagination, creating a poetry that is enormously, almost disruptively, inclusive.
In an interview with the journal Jubilat, Young admitted of his poetry: “I want to put everything in.”

And speaking to the centrality of misunderstanding in his poetry: “I think to tie meaning too closely to understanding misses the point.”
Robbie Jan 2014
Fog
Swift as nightfall, it closes in
Rolling over sea still as glass
Thicker than smoke, darker than sin
The fog, it tumbles in an impenetrable mass
Blocking out the early light of day

With tiny footsteps it creeps to the dock
Softly stirring secret shadows
Standing quiet, observing, I in my night frock
Some part of me still dreaming of distant meadows
Moving swiftly, it devours the very last of the sun’s rays

I wrap my robe around me
Making my way out of doors
The fog, it deepens, struggling to be free
And like a cat, crawls on all fours
Up and over and past the bay

Frightfully quick now it surges on
Some part of me murmurs that my feelings are wrong
My mind urges, “Do not fall prey to nature’s con!”
Yet the sweet, seductive calling of the fog’s siren song
Sends me dreamwalking into its heavy gray

My spirits start to soar
Engulfed and held by the fog’s thickening grasp
Against my mind’s desire, I want more
And as the fog turns suffocating, I gasp
Falling to my knees in this place I long to stay

The fog, ever enveloping me in its endless cloak
Whispers words of freedom like the loveliest of poem
I close my eyes, tripping, slipping, fumbling, tumbling, giving in to the beauty of the smoke
Knowing deep inside that I am home
And in the fog, forever I lay
Andrew Robertson May 2013
Of fog! Oh fog!
What do I see?
Nothing! Nothing!
I can't even see me!

Oh fog! Oh fog!
Why are you so mean?
Go away! Go away!
Just let me be me.

Oh fog! Oh fog!
What can I say?
You've painted this morning
A thick shade of grey.

Oh fog! Oh fog!
What can I do?
I'm goin on home,
But I'll walk with you.


Written by: Andrew D. Robertson
Jo Swan Oct 2018
Faraway from home and lost with the wild
the mystical fog has surrounded my sight
From seeing the road that lies ahead.
should I despair and sensed be in fright?
My predicament has left me in dread.

Fog slowly suffocates me from my breath.
In my anguish, I cry out to the Lord,
“This path could lead me to my imminent death!
I’ve no guts to walk through the forlorn fog.
Must I walk alone through gravel road and sward?”

Through the smoky fog, a Lyre Bird flutters-
fans his feathers in majestic manner
and sings sweetly like warm days of summer.
Has the lord listened and made his answer?
In the fog, the dusk of doubts dissipate.

Though I walk on this unforeseeable path,
My body burns with vitality of hope
as I've finally found faith in the fog
There -- is some fog above the pond.
There is some fog above the "pond."
Here is some fog above the pond.
There is some haze above the pond.
There is some fog... above the pond.
There is some fog over the pond.  
...There is, some fog above the pond.
There... is some fog above the pond.
There (some fog is above the pond.)
There is this fog above this pond.
Chris Voss Oct 2013
Dear Mom,
Hey! How’re things?
So, LA is weird. It’s all sticks and stones and billion dollar homes. Last week on the Metro I forgot my headphones, but it all worked out because there was a homeless man who was naked from the waist down except for a pair of Spiderman underwear with the tag still attached who was singing “Sweet Caroline” at the top of his lungs.
Everyone here is someone important. They live the philosophy of Descartes like scripture.
I think therefore I am... exhausted. I haven’t been sleeping because my mind has taken up running, which means it’s acclimating to the culture here quicker than my body because everyone in this town ******’ loves running almost as much as they love vintage shoes and car horns.
It’s strange though, I can’t shake this feeling that I’ve lost something.
Anyway, I love you.

Dear Mom,
Thank you for the eyes.
Last afternoon a stranger told me they were beautiful, and on a day where every mirror seemed to be of the funhouse variety, it was a welcome compliment.
I’m sorry I haven’t called in a few weeks, please don’t think it’s because I don’t miss you.
It’s just, lately, I’ve been feeling a bit like a marionette whose had his strings clipped.
Slumped and crumpled.
Small.
Collapsed and sprawled cracked in some forgotten corner--the hollow knock of wood bouncing across the walls of this mezzanine dressed in finer things than me that have been fostered by
Father Time and his Mistress Stillness.
And I know how you worry.
You worry ‘til bones bruise and still your skeleton aches to shoulder my melancholy yourself, so I can’t bear to bridge this distance with crestfallen phone calls where the past year locks fully loaded on six-shooter lips--the way heels cling to cliffs edge--before finally, reluctantly, free falling; firing off each round.
Six words aimed with eyes closed as if it were up to God to decide where they’d hit:
“I wish I could come home...”
Then your silent, empty-cartridge, catacomb sigh would just teach this telephone how cavernously a mother’s heart aches for her children.


Dear Dad,
I know it goes without saying, but thank you for the check and the note attached to it.
It’s hard to describe how much home I find in the deft curves of your surgeon’s cursive.
I hope you’re doing well. Last time I saw you, you seemed a bit like a lit cigarette filter tip watching the singe approach.
Maybe it was just the embers of your eyes glazed over by one too many heavy handed nightcaps.
And this isn’t to say the Superman who stayed up late nights holding me through fits of anxiety has up and flown away, this is just to say you seem to be flickering.
This is just to say I hope you still laugh at bad movies with the thunderous bass of July fourth fireworks.
This is just to say I’ve been staying up late nights holding on to yesterday.

Dear Mom,
The care package was unnecessary.
I now have more Skittles than any one human should ever consider consuming in a lifetime. So thanks. I know I told you, at some point, years ago, that they were my favorite… but *******.
Really though, waking up to that box on my doorstep choked me up quicker than a swift kick to the nuts. You have a way of weaving through this heartland like a Middle-American interstate and I love you so much for that. It’s just next time, maybe try something that doesn’t have the nutritional value of flash-fried butter sticks.
But not too healthy. Maybe fruit leathers?
P.S. Keep the homemade fudge coming.

Dear Dad,
Forgive the handwriting of an earthquake.
My hands are shaking again like when I was young. I’ve been finding stillness, though, in between sips of five dollar coffee and midnight cigarette drags beneath and incandescent moon that seems to use breeze hands to play cat’s cradle with strings of smoke.
Life is fast here. It’s all gas pedal and touch-and-go breaks.
P.S. If you see mom, don’t mention the cigarettes.

Dear Mom,
I got your e-mail about smoking and the ensuing health issues it leads to. Graphic stuff. That was super informative and totally unprompted. Thanks for that.

Dear Dad,
...

Dear Mom,
Stop worrying so much, you’re making my bones ache.

Dear Dad,
In my dreams I am a lighthouse with an unfocused beam. I’m searching for something, I just don’t know what.
At least I’m sleeping right?

Dear Mom,
These days blur together with the fading speed of a half-life hardly lived to its fullest.
Was it different for you when you were my age? I shift between a drifting stick stuck in a current and desert stone.

Dear Dad,
In my dreams I’m a lighthouse.
There’s a fog horn distant.
I’m still searching for I don’t know what I’m searching for something and there’s a fog horn far off like it’s from someone elses dream but at least I’m sleeping.

Dear Mom,
Do you believe that streams take sticks where they need to be?

Dear Dad,
Have you dreamt of fog horns lately?
I am a lighthouse looking for a nameless something in fog so thick I should be choking.
But I’m not.
At my feet there are rocks and they’re jagged but I’m not anxious because they stay up late nights holding me.
And in the distance there’s a fog horn that seems to be saying “All is not lost.”

Dear Mom,
Do you think that desert stones are waiting for something?

Dear Dad,
In my dreams a lighthouse is built upon jagged rocks that are shaped like your hands. I’m searching for something and even though my lamplit electric torch eyes can’t touch the sky through this ******* fog, I keep them burning because I should be choking but I’m not, I’m finding stillness in the way breeze plays with smoke strings and far off there’s a fog horn distant promising “All is not lost.”

Dear Mom,
This town is all sticks and stones and broken home drifters.

Dear Dad,
All is not lost.
Johnny Gillespie Feb 2015
The world is on my shoulders with nothing beneath my feet.
We move together and within each other, and we lie in an eternal fall.
As we wander through the fog she lies on the other side. She is here, there, everywhere.
She falls the same as we do, just from a different place.
If we ever meet, it will not be me as I rise, but her, as she falls.

Though I never know why I am in the fog, it is not being there that has me lost.
It is from where I came, to where I could possibly go.
I have been running from the fog all of my life, only to see that it is the fog that runs in my sight, running from me. It surrounds me, because it trusts me. We share a connection like no other, but this you will never see. This, I can bear no longer. And yet, this, will be protected with my life.

No emotion captures what I feel . Nothing works, nothing lives, nothing dies, nothing is.
All that occurs is the fall of the world on my shoulders, forcing me into the fog before it can Depart, perpetually. I am the stranger to the fog, but not for long.

I am the stranger to the fog, but not for long.
When the night comes down
and darkness is all around
I can't see before my face,
guide me with your grace
when the night comes down
when the night comes down

When the fog rolls in
can't tell right from sin
can't see where I'm goin'
don't know where I've been
oh, guide me with your grace
keep me in the Way
when the night comes down
and the fog rolls in.

We all have times
when we lose our way
lose our direction,
don't know what to pray.
when the night comes down,
and the fog rolls in,
when the fog rolls in

Oh Mother, guide me
when the fog rolls in
when the fog rolls in

In the darkest night
I can't see a light
I hear the foghorn moan
and waves breakin' on stone
I know the channel's near
guide me while I steer
away from danger here
yeah the night came down
the fog rolled in
but Your grace blows clear.
Copyright 2019 Michael S. Simpson
All rights reserved by the author.
Mick Gloss Aug 2014
After the Harvest...
A light, as blinding as the sun, flew into my eyes as if it were entering a home it had long been parted from. It was just as rapidly followed by a crack that could be felt in my bones. In that moment the euphoria and the peace fell away. All the calm understanding that had taken so long to learn, disappeared. By the time my eyes adjusted, it was gone. The garden I had been left to tend was no more. The lightning that seemed as if it were aimed right at me, was in fact intended for the tree that I remained under. The tree that I was left to protect and guard, that in turn protected me from natures impending doom. With that protection, though, came a steep cost. As I looked around I could see exactly what that cost was. The entire garden was already disintegrating. It began with the tree in the center, but it spread outward like some sort of vicious disease. Without the tree in the heart of the garden, the rest could not survive. Even the massive stone walls that once seemed so safe and strong, are now no more than those of a well built sand castle on a beach in New England. But how can this be? The walls were stone. Stone does not live, nor can it die. As soon as the thought had appeared in my brain, the answer overtook it. The walls were never truly stone. They appeared as stone because that is how he wanted them to appear. He who brought me here. He who is here. Where is he though? The tree is now a pile of ash on the ground. The flowers have all withered, and the stream has run dry. He is nowhere to be seen, though. Did he survive though the garden perished? Where do I go to look for him? Is there even a point? One thing I know for certain, he no longer resides here. The garden that once seemed beautiful and safe is no more. Now I stand in what appears to be a forgotten field, with fallen stone walls around me. It's as if I have been transplanted onto the grounds of a farm in New York fifty years after the last owner died. I am not there, though. I am here. But where is he?

One Step After Another...
The world ahead of me appears more desolate than the withered home I'm leaving. There is nothing but fields for as far as I can see. Granted I cannot see very far because of the fog in the distance. I never much noticed the world outside the garden walls before. In fact, I think I forgot entirely of its existence. I'm not even certain how long I was in the garden for. It felt like an eternity, but my appearance did not change. I know because I could see my reflection in the stream every day as I bathed. The sun would rise every morning, and set every evening, and I would sleep beneath the tree at night, but as I woke each day I appeared just as I had the day before. My hair did not grow, and my face did not age. The amount of mornings seem innumerable to me now. I kept track once, but then, one day, I just stopped. It lost all importance to me. In fact, everything lost all importance to me. All that mattered was being in the garden, being with him. While I was there I could feel him in everything. It was as if he were in every living thing within the holds of the stone walls. It was as if he were in me. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it all seems to me now. How could he be inside the plants of the garden? How could he be inside of me? Well, there was a time he and I were inside of each other quite a bit, but this was different. This wasn't physical lust or animalistic tendency, this was deeper than that ever could have been. I felt his soul as clearly as I felt my own. More often than not, I felt it more than my own. How, though? I haven't even seen him in what now feels like years, lifetimes even. So, how did I feel him so clearly, and why only until the walls fell? More importantly, where am I now? Where am I going?

The Formerly Beaten Path...
The path ahead of me seems as if it were walked before, but not in this lifetime. The plants grow thinner and not as high as the giant stalks to my left and right. In some ways it's quite beautiful. It seems to have been untouched by man for decades. The thin stems of the plants at my feet wither beneath my step. They come up to about my knee, and tickle as I walk over them. The air smells heavy, like right before a rainstorm, but the clouds above don't look ominous at all. They are quite numerous, but their color is white as snow. In the distance I can see only fog. It leads me to believe that there is water ahead. Until then I will enjoy the small flowers tickling my feet with their orange and red petals. The world is so quiet here. The only sounds come from the crunch and sweep of my walking on the path. It's strange, for the first time in so long I actually feel alone. My soul is my own, and it's on its own.

Walking On This Ice...
As I walked I couldn't help but notice that the world is not how I remembered it to be. When I entered the garden, the world around me seemed to be bustling and chaotic. That was one of the reasons the garden seemed beautiful. It was silent, and peaceful, and blocked out the troubles outside. The world around me now seems anything but the world I left, though. The ground is overgrown with plants, there only seems to be nature everywhere I look, and there is no extraneous noise. In fact, there is no noise at all but the wind through the plants, and my feet on the ground. Entering the garden still seems like a lifetime ago, and my memory is hazy at best. I know I followed him there, though. The question I'm now facing, however, is, "where is everyone else?" I'm the only one I can hear, and there doesn't appear to see any signs of life around me, other than plant life. As I walk, the air is starting to get thicker. While lost in thought, I made it all the way to the fog. It's strange, it seemed so far away just moments ago, but now I can't see anything else. The ground at my feet is now bare. The plants that were once ubiquitous have become sparse at my feet. As my eyes move up from the ground I can only see the watery fog. It's thicker than any I have seen before, and it seems to never dissipate. The more I look into it, the colder I start to feel. Not on my skin, but inside. My chest feels heavy, and I have that strange feeling between my lungs and my stomach. Like when you're loved one is in the operating room and the doctor finally comes to the waiting room to talk to you. That feeling you get as they go to open their mouth and tell you how the procedure went is how I feel. The difference is, I have no loved one in an operating room. I have myself, in the middle of a great deal of fog, and I have no way out. With that realization I begin running. If I can't see an exit, maybe I can run to one anyway. I could feel the ground hardening beneath my feet as I ran through the seemingly endless fog. When I glanced down to investigate why, what I saw shocked me. Ice. The ground at my feet was completely frozen solid. I was not cold, however. Not even a little bit. I started to slow down in order to investigate, and to not fall on my face as I crossed the now slippery path. As I bent down to touch the ice, I felt a great deal of water. It was melting. Sure the ice was still solid enough to walk on, but there was a large amount of water on top of it. The ice had to be melting. With this new knowledge, I reasoned it would be wise to return to my initial pace and try to get off the disappearing floor that I was waking on. So, I started running again. A few slips and slides later, I started noticing plants coming up through the ice. I was heading in the right direction. With my focus on the ground in front of me, I ran as fast as I could. To tell you the truth, it wasn't that fast. From all the time I spent in the garden, I had gotten really out of shape. I wasn't overweight, I just hadn't used those muscles in a long time. I hadn't used any muscles in a long time, for that matter. Thankfully, I still remembered how to run. Soon I was running on ground that didn't have a bit of ice on it, and the fog was thinning. I began to notice something the second I escaped the fog, noise. Nothing too loud, but it was definitely there. It was consistent as well. There were no lulls, and it was rhythmic. It was music. That means that someone had to be close by! I might not be alone for much longer, but is that necessarily a good thing?
The beginnings of a series.
(Bergen)SEVEN days all fog, all mist, and the turbines pounding through high seas.
I was a plaything, a rat's neck in the teeth of a scuffling mastiff.
Fog and fog and no stars, sun, moon.
Then an afternoon in fjords, low-lying lands scrawled in granite languages on a gray sky,
A night harbor, blue dusk mountain shoulders against a night sky,
And a circle of lights blinking: Ninety thousand people here.
  Among the Wednesday night thousands in goloshes and coats slickered for rain,
  I learned how hungry I was for streets and people.
  
I would rather be water than anything else.
I saw a drive of salt fog and mist in the North Atlantic and an iceberg dusky as a cloud in the gray of morning.
And I saw the dream pools of fjords in Norway ... and the scarf of dancing water on the rocks and over the edges of mountain shelves.
Bury me in a mountain graveyard in Norway.
Three tongues of water sing around it with snow from the mountains.
  
Bury me in the North Atlantic.
A fog there from Iceland will be a murmur in gray over me and a long deep wind sob always.
  
Bury me in an Illinois cornfield.
The blizzards loosen their pipe ***** voluntaries in winter stubble and the spring rains and the fall rains bring letters from the sea.
robin Apr 2013
in the fog of a cold summer,
you shivered like a seismograph
tremors assaulting your faultlines
and i took you in my arms,
zipped you into my ribcage to keep you warm -  
you shivered to the rhythm of my pulse,
hot blood exiling
the summer chill.
from the fog of a cold summer,
i took you into my bed,
plucked your feathers
to keep you with me;
made dreamcatchers from your feathers
to keep the nightmares from your mind.
shivering seismograph,
can't fly with bare wings.
through the fog of a cold summer,
i walked with you,
held your hand
anchoring you to my side,
shackles between  us
keeping you safe
[you can't fly in this fog
little seismograph:
the clouds will eat you up
the fog will wrap around you
and dash you against the rocks.
oh, you are beautiful,
but you won't be when you're
bleeding broken on the talus,
your bones escaping your skin.
blood breeds art
but what use is art when you're gone,
when you've found your feathers and flown]
in the fog of a cold summer,
you asked to leave.
i need to fly, you said,
i need to become lost
in arms of mist
and fog.
your ****** arms aren't enough,
your ****** arms are staining me
corporeal.

just keep your arms around me,
just remain in my ribs,
just close your eyes
and let me be your
air currents,
lifting you above the talus.
i can fill all your fault lines,
i can ossify
all your fissures.
i'll fill your hollow bones with my
hot
blood
and exile the summer chill.
in the fog of a cold summer,
in the wake of a muscle spasm,
you fell from the sky
and i caught you,
plucked your feathers
so you could never fall again.
little seismograph,
shivering to the rhythm of my pulse,
i will keep you
so warm.
i'll keep you safe
in my cage.
title ideas much appreciated
Cori MacNaughton Jun 2015
There is a strangeness in fog
that is palpable
and perhaps it is the strangeness in me
which responds

It is no accident I know
that I was raised
where fog is legend
and so remains
a cloying fact of life
for coastal Sunny California
is coldly blanketed each morning
six months of every year
in chilly dampness

What once was familiar
now changed
hidden within soft billows
of clouds brought to earth
the monotonous drip
from the leaves of the trees
the eaves of the roof
the rocks on the hillsides . . .
stars and planets obscured
only the mysterious moon
peeks through the diaphanous veil
lighting her shroud from above

now moving
now shifting
a glimpse of . . . something
caught
only to disappear once more
deep within the flowing haze

Yet where others find in fog
a thing to fear
I find in it a pleasure
seldom found elsewhere
for me familiar comfort
in the heavy grey mist
enveloping me
as a blanket of spirit
or ancestors

And perhaps it is this
the others fear
for the spirits of fog
can be cunning and cruel
hiding dangers
from those unwary
or disrespectful

But I miss the fog
laying low upon the cliffs
turning ordinary landscape
into otherworldly and strange

I long for the lonely cries
of the foghorn at sea
and should the sea monster come
I pray it finds
the love it seeks

Cori MacNaughton
19Jan2007
This is one of my favorites, written about growing up in my native Southern California, with a nod to Ray Bradbury's short story "The Foghorn" (aka "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms") at the end.

The first time I read this poem in public, shortly after it was written, the conversation in the Oxygen Bar (Dunedin, Florida) stilled to the point that, by the end of the poem, there was silence but for my voice.  Having only begun reading my poems in public a couple of years before, that was an awesome experience, and having my boyfriend (now husband) there to witness it was wonderful.  This was a favorite of my mother's, who introduced me to the Bradbury story, as it was her favorite short story.

This is the first time it appears in print.
aviisevil Jan 2014
As the sun begin to rise and the stars appear to fade
Her voice echoed in the fog , calling for a dark shade
She was dressed in white , purest of them all
Men and beast alike , she was lost in the fog
As she walked through the forest , the birds begin to sing
The flowers bloomed like never before and the trees started to swing
The forest came alive , from the presence of something dead
As she made her way through the forest , in search of one last breath
Her heart was full of sorrow and her mind was full of pain
As she walked through the gallows , in search of a forgotten name
The sun was slowly rising high and the fog begin to disappear
Frightened as she was , as calm she appeared
She closed her eyes and the tears begin to fall
Nurturing the land beneath , watering the small
Her hands reached out for someone , something to hold her back
But all she received in return was with black
She had brought along all she had and all she knew
She kept moving and the pain grew
She walked on and on , inside the deepest and the darkest of the wilderness
Her own darkness reflected upon the place
And now it was too dark to remember the face
Even the sun Coudnt penetrate the place she stood
And the birds stopped singing as if they understood
The flowers started losing the colours , as if mourning her cause
And everything stood still , so quite engulfed in the fog
Her legs stopped moving and she reached a Brooke
Shimmering in the dark , as she took a look
She looked down , deep inside the nothingness
All she could see was herself in the darkness
As she stepped inside , it started turning red
Bleeding like she always bled
And Ina moment it was all gone into a little of nothingness
She was covered in black , surrounded by darkness
And for the first time she was at peace
The sweet dreams were over and the nightmares would cease
She could see the sun , as she drifted away, slowly enlighting the world above
As she finally let herself go , in the name of love
She knew it'll be waiting on the otherside with open arms
And she was cold no more , she was at peace , so calm
Though she is gone , the forest can still feel her walk
But her tale is forgotten , lost in the fog
JL Feb 2012
It took fog to realize
There is no use in growing
Things that grow will always be cut down
Dew on the grass, peppered by spider webs
Hills full of red angry fire ants

It took fog to remember
That I could always go back home
That I could skip the canal
And pick an orange straight from the tree
Peeling it with a rusted pocket knife
Would you sit in the grass with me?
The stick of the juice between your fingers

It took fog to show me
That I can still walk down the rows of sugar cane
After playing hide and seek
That I can still **** snakes
And get cut by the sawgrass

It took fog to remind me
That the mangroves were
Full of mosquitoes and fish
And the yellow sun
Was only a round disk
Through the fog
rained-on parade Jun 2016
Fog
I.

No, don't go now. Please
don't go now; the fog is creating ghosts
out of people and we're breathing clouds out of our mouths.
Tell me about that time when you held your breath
under the lake for six years and still survived;
tell me how if I do that, it'll never work.
I'm not a sea God
any more.


II.

My knees tell better stories than my tongue
ever did, please don't; wretched hive harangues
the mind in a plague, can't you see I'm holding you down
and telling you you're all I ever wanted,
you're all I ever wanted; your head is the stuff of dreams
you're all I ever wanted; you can put your arm
right through me and only feel mist;
I am fog. I'm creating ghosts out of you.

III.

Make it up to me in a rainbow of hues of grey;
at the end of it I'm holding my ribs open. I've never
been more colourful and sad at the same time.
You're the mirrors to my house; stay
has always sounded better than don't go

yet neither seems to work anymore.
I like the fog during the night
To smell the ice cold and feel the cold
To see that white cloud between my skin
Tangling my brown hair
I like to smell the fog and how he makes a sinister air
To look and feel that breeze covering the old trees and autumm leaves
I like the fog and to feel the cold entering my troat
To say that it reminds me of winter
I like the contrast between the foggy white and the city's light
But I love the scent of fog

- d.a
Sometimes, in the lively and dense fog of our lives, small inconsistencies appear.
Short moments when the fog dissipates a little, just enough to see a tiny bit through it.
The reality unveiled beyond the fog brings me to humble, mortal tears.
For a brief moment i was able to catch a glimpse of a bigger picture,
OH, but it is not for human eyes to seize.
If they do endure the sight,
they will quickly retreat to a thicker part of the fog,
where it's more cozy, human and sane,
away from the despair of Ephemeros.

In contrast, if the curiosity is too great, one might risk it's humanity by gazing too long into the gaps of the fog, all the while missing the fun and crazy shapes the fog takes or the colours that shine through at different times of day.

Two specks of dust join each other and decide to deconstruct themselves, both giving a part of them to create a third particle of dust, that is conscious about being a bad speck of dust, even knowing that being this tiny grain is utterly meaningless, it was the product of two bits of dust, therefore this meaningless effort should not go to waste... should it? How long has it been...? ... going to waste for...?
These moments usually have a trigger, today: photographs of my parents when they were young and travelling together... they had a life... how time flew... how much they invested in me... my defects that i can't fix and bring shame only to my inner self and nobody else...
Nat Lipstadt Jun 18
once again the fog draws me in,
speaking fog soft,
“of me, of me, you must,”
so write-birthing,
I am mustered out,
permissioned,
commissioned,
so ordered.

This fog is personal, in your face, changing by
masking/unmasking street and bay, slow burning,
this one, revealing a tableau, like a theater curtain
rising to audience applause for the set before them,
so unexpected, eye-delighting, pleasuring perspective.

why should you care? what matters this to you?

your fog likely little different, in the Cascades,
Everest, the California coastline morning burning off,
not costing anyone’s life, the Blue Ridges smoking meats,
the Quatse River saying, follow me to the Alaska glaciers,
(in the Midwest, some states, use rivers as boundaries,
so they like the fog to keep the ‘neighbors’ on the other side),
the twin Ghats, or mourning steam rising from the Ganges,
or the Zambales Mountains, guarding Manila Bay entrance,

all mine, here too, so slow retreating, gifting a quiet, wider
bay vista tween two islands, one Long, one sheltered.

so wrong, it matters so, none beyond compare!

these mountain or river comparison, white or gray,
listen friend, look closer, see my face, my words
fogging your soul’s view, full of carryover affection,
so deep, they borrow West Virginia coal miner~heroes
to dig it out, a different kind of mining,
but,
nonetheless,
mine.

so it is here, I see your multi-colored faces like
light flickers shedding clarity to these troubled times,
troubled waters, saying here we are, we are!


we here, outside your window, on waters calming,
see us dancing, but it’s so hard for me spot you in
the mists, for mine eyes are clouded, misted over too,
glasses fogged now, **** these **** tears.
8:53am
Jun 18th
Year of the Mask
You know where...


Eugene O'Neill

“The fog was where I wanted to be. Halfway down the path you can’t see this house. You’d never know it was here. Or any of the other places down the avenue. I couldn’t see but a few feet ahead. I didn’t meet a soul. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. Out beyond the harbor, where the road runs along the beach, I even lost the feeling of being on land. The fog and the sea seemed part of each other. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt ****** peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.”


― Eugene O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night
Zack Phillips Sep 2015
Fog
The fog is leaking through the door
Creeping slowing across the floor
Coming closer, frightening me
Filling the room, I can hardly see

The fog has broken down the door
Can't escape it any more
Nothing more that I can do
Now I'm enveloped with thoughts about you

The fog has eaten away the door
I'm not getting out of this, I'm sure
Soon the fog will turn to fire
This room to become my funeral pyre

There's only fog, there is no door
Now I know what it's got in store
Suffocating, I can hardly breathe
I take a step but cannot leave
Grace Nov 2017
Last night, I couldn’t sleep because
the dark and the blankets felt like guilt
and I couldn’t live as myself anymore.
I woke up in the morning anyway
and took a boat into the fog and found myself
on the island, walking across a cliff top into cloud -
walking into the unseeable, feeling alive.

-

So here I am on the island,
the fog – the symbol for that murky future –
is rolling in across the hills, across the cliff top
in one straight barrier.

I feel alive as I face the fog
and I stomp right through it.
One day, I tell myself,
I’m going to make it.
One day, things will be
different.
I just can’t see it yet.

I smile in the fog. I love the fog.

It clears and there’s the monument
that I’ve seen so many times before.

There’s the familiar at the end of the tunnel
it would seem
and I'm going to make it.

-

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here though.
It’s always going to be easier to face the symbol
as the I in the poem than as the I in the real,
facing the actual.

-

Back in the now, the fog has gone
and everything is blue and green.
I’m sitting on a bench below the monument,
remembering how a poet once walked here
and I really do feel alive today.

I stay on the bench in the blue and green,
quoting other people’s poetry to myself:

See, I’m sad because I’m sad. It’s psychic, it’s chemical.
I should hug my sadness like an eyeless doll
or just go back to sleep.
And I know there are promises I really ought to keep,
and miles to go before I get that sleep,
but aren’t the woods so lovely dark and deep?
And they are, but when it comes right down to it,
and the fog fails and the light rolls in
and I’m trapped in my overturned body
with fears that I may cease to be,
before I’ve had chance to write or love,
I must go to the shore of the wide world and stand alone and think –
and let there be no moaning there, when I look out to sea.
Let it just be sunset and evening star and one clear call for me.

-

I’m still sat on the bench, enjoying the sun
and suddenly I think

one day i’ll bring my girlfriend here
she’ll probably know of more exciting places
but i’ll bring her to the island
and we’ll sit by the monument
looking at this very same view

I find myself thinking in the future tense and it’s strange because
I don’t have any hope for beyond the now.
I’m still thinking I’ll probably be dead
and yet out of nowhere,
here’s the shift into a different tense
and the view of the end of the island
where it looks like it should plummet straight down
into the sea, but it doesn’t.

There’s more island beyond the end.

I sit on the bench, shocked at myself,
but I keep trying to believe that one day it will be different
and one day I will come here again,
with my girlfriend, whoever she maybe,
if she may be, maybe, please?

-

I come down from the cliffs and go to the shore,
to walk alone and think.

The sea casts gold and silver on the sand,
the sunlight gives puddles lilac halos
and I think maybe, just maybe.
Maybe, just maybe,
because today I feel alive.

-

The beach is a beautiful blue winter.
Winter, being the time of death,
blue being the colour of the endless sky and sea,
the colour of sadness and the colour of calm.
Beautiful, there because it is beautiful
and to nuance it further

The sea has left traces of itself
on the beach and I concentrate on those.
I look at the smaller elements
and try to forget the wide ocean.

The cliffs are crumbling and eroding.
The beach is rocky and ragged.
They are symbols for my own erosion
and my own weakness against the sea.

-

The beach is also real
and I walk on the sand,
feeling separate from everything,
feeling the possibility of everything,
feeling that maybe, just maybe.

I feel like something could go right
in this beautiful blue winter.

-

But this is also a liminal moment and while
I feel at home in the liminal      in the space inbetween,
you cannot build your home there.
The future needs a more solid base
and the liminal will eventually rip you apart.

-

I feel like a child here, but not quite.
I feel like an overgrown child
or a child in a too big body
or a child who knows too much about this world,
or an adult, who still feels inadequate.

I balance across stones, I jump puddles.
I don’t care anymore.
I’ll be the child or the adult.
I’ll be the I.

-

There is hope here, hope in feeling alive,
in curling my hand and imagining someone
will one day hold it.

For now, I walk across the sand and
look at the cliffs, the gold,
the lilac, the blue, the shipwreck,
the deposits of the ocean
and I write them down
into the notes on my phone
so I can turn them into poetry later.

I want to capture these precise scenes,
these precise feelings of being so alive
for the first time in forever,
of seeing the end of the beach and thinking,
maybe, maybe, some part of this will turn out okay.

-

The problem is,
I want it, this future, this something else,
and I think maybe it’s possible,
but I’m not sure I can get back on the boat
and carry this belief home safely.

Here on the island,
sipping at the brimming nostalgia,
breathing the blue winter,
living on the shore,
camping in the liminal,
it is all maybe, just maybe,
but maybe is a fragile word
and could easily get lost in the ocean.

-

I’m so caught between
wanting to end it all and wanting to survive it
and maybe it’s just the liminal moments
that make me want to live.

I pick maybe up off the shore
and tuck it into the pocket.

I have no idea if it will survive the journey back
but maybe, just maybe, it will.
The feeling didn't survive long, but whatever.

A long poem from a couple of weeks ago after a day trip.

The poems mentioned in this are:
- A Sad Child - Margaret Atwood
- Stopping by woods on a snowy evening - Robert Frost
- When I have fears - Keats
- Crossing the Bar - Tennyson

Alternative version with photos: https://justanothergrace.weebly.com/writing-blog/maybe-on-the-shore-again
Mitchell Duran Jun 2014
'There wasn't a beer in the house. The wind pushed the branches and the leaves of the trees outside like bullies does its prey. There wasn't a single beer in the house while the moon hung in the night sky like a thick toe nail. The stars were splatters of milk on an endless blackened canvas. I looked at my watch. It read 1AM. I had an hour.
My dog Wino laid next to me on her side. She was a miniature french bull dog who took pleasure in sleeping, eating, and occasionally drinking wine mixed with cocoa cola and water. The perfect dog if one had a small attention span and could keep them fed, petted, and fit. The coke and water trick had not come into fruition by my mind, but from my friend, Penny. He drank at a place called The Lounge, a dive of dives meant for locals and young kids with old souls. Luckily we were still young and somehow blessed with the formalities and general manners opposite of a drunken frat boys bent solely on intoxicating themselves on red bull and jager shots mixed with an aperitif of bud light.
The Lounge was four blocks toward downtown from where I lived. It was the kind of place that served microwaved hot dogs until closing if you're wondering what I meant about dive of dives. Penny was there, dead drunk or pain-stakingly sober, depending on how much money he had. I don't know why I thought of him at that moment, most likely trying to figure who else to drink with other than myself, but right when I thought of him, I knew it was already a lost cause. It was 1:05. The hour was too late to reconvene with anyone. I knew I'd have to go alone.
*******, there's got to be something, I thought, this God forsaken house is empty? A beer? A shot? Anything? Nothing! How can it be? My good for nothing roommates must have drank it all...or maybe it was me? Maybe I'm to blame? No...that couldn't be right. I would have remembered? But why so sure? I could have easily forgot from all the beer I was drinking before...people make mistakes...happens all the time. Jesus, I told myself, get yourself together and start thinking straight.
I felt like a handicapped, bloodthirsty hyena. Pensive, I looked down at Wino. She was dead asleep with her tongue oozing out between her lips. The stench of wine coke hung around her. She would be no help at all.
I got up from the kitchen table and looked in the refrigerator. Hungry gripped me as well. Getting attacked on the front of drink and food was not an enjoyable place to be. Moves would have to be made...but where? When? Well, before 2AM of course and where, well, that would take some thought. As I scrounged around in the deep crevices of the refrigerator, pushing aside moldy mashed potatoes and old plastic tins of Chinese food, furry oranges and near empty bottle of ketchup, dark soups with mysterious things swimming around inside and a very large bowl of what looked to be sugar, but was actually Arm and Hammer. We would eventually get a dating and signature system to avoid all of these unwanted science experiments, but that's another story.
There was nothing of nourishment in the fridge so I closed it, discouraged, weighing my options. There was a liquor store on Geary, the main drag in the inner richmond, my neighborhood. But it was a Wednesday and they were most likely closed. Why would they stay open late on a weekday? For people like me? Not a chance. I stepped into the laundry room and looked out the window. The sky was clear and the moonlight and the stars were white florescent shining down on the tops of the leaves hanging from the branches of the trees like a prisoner dead on the gallows. The roofs of the apartments across my ours were painted with this same cream white. I could smell the salt of the ocean from sporadic gusts of a sharp wind. In the distance, an ocean tanker heading into the city or out to sea blared their fog horn. It sounded like a whale in heat. There was a party going on in an apartment across the way. I saw people with glasses in their hands and listened to their chatter and their laughter. I knew they would have *****. I also wondered who throws a party on a wednesday night in the middle of June in San Francisco's winter of all the times. The fog had been rolling in hard the last few days and that night was no different. I was in a thick sweater, pants, and knee high socks and my teeth were still chattering. No use staring over plaintively at their apartment, I thought, I probably look like some kind of shadowy, drunk apparition. Better go inside before they call the cops on me...
Inside, I ran the faucet with hot water into a bowl. When it was almost full, I stopped the water and submerged my hands. That sting that happens when extreme cold goes to extreme hot began. My entire body started to tingle, go numb, especially my hands. The reason for this action I never fully understood for I really wasn't that cold, but the image of a hot water filling a bowl just popped into my head and I gave it no thought, only action. If anyone had walked in at that moment, I'm sure they would have thought me drunk and craze and, well, maybe I was? I was no longer sure. The only thing I did know that needed to happen was to get down the stairs, out the door, down the street, and to the 8th and Geary where my liquor store hopefully, was open.
My phone read 1:21 PM. I'd be cutting it close. Luckily, I had cash, so they wouldn't have to be bothered with a debit card transaction. I recalled trying to use a debit card there once and they were convinced it was OK to charge me $5 for a purchase under $10. Most places would charge you 50 cents, a dollar at most, but these hustling swindlers were trying to push $5! I wouldn't have it. I walked outta' there quick and knew the next time I ever was forced (I usually bought alcohol at grocery stores where their inconvenience offered more deals) to step foot into a liquor specific store, I would have cash in hand, poised in the ready position.
There was a problem with my departure though: I couldn't find my shoes. I thought back to when I got home from work, beers in my backpack as well as a pint of whiskey in the secret zipper department. My shoes were on at that point, I was sure of it. When I had arrived say around 3:30 - 4 o'clock in the afternoon, no one was home. They were still all at work and in no way taken my shoes by accident. This had never happened, so I was curious why I thought that that specific day, when I would later need my shoes so desperately, somebody would have mistakingly took them to thwart whatever plans I may or may not make to go out. In truth, I couldn't see any of my roommates devising such a plan, at least on a week day, even more so a wednesday. But where were they? Had they slipped under the couch? I checked, but was only to discover a few quarters, which I pocketed for pool and juke box use in the future, various types of potato and tortilla chips, a hat, *****, lint covered socks, and a remote control to the TV which I had been searching since the week I had moved in a year ago. No shoes though. Where could they be?
I lightly ran downstairs to check the shoe rack that no one ever used. The middle of our door is a rectangular piece of glass, so one could see right through and down to the street. The stale light of of a single street lamp beamed an orange streak across the pavement. Besides that, the block was black. There was a car parked in the space in front of our steps. No one was inside, at least it didn't look like there was. It was very dark. I could have been mistaken. The car sat underneath a large tree with heavy, thick branches that blocked any light that may have been coming from the lamp or the stars, so very possibly there could have been a mysterious person, thing, entity, what have you in vicious wait. But, I asked myself, waiting for what? For me? Why for me?. All I'm looking for is a six pack and another flask. What would this thing in that car even want with me except twelve bucks? I stared out the window, thinking these things until I remembered why the hell I was there in the first place. The shoe rack was filled with old bills, coupon brochures, voting ballots, and neon pink Chinese menus. I rummaged around this heap, with no sign of my shoes. Well, I thought, there's only one more place these ******'s could be.
My desk, which holds most of my books, looks out onto the street. It holds stacks of papers in deep drawers that should be thrown away but are kept due to the fear of tossing something potentially important, condoms, pens, checkbooks, candies, film canisters, notes from friends, headphones, cards, hair gels and deodorants, and really anything I don't want on my desk. Occasionally, there will be a left over dinner or breakfast plates lingering around the edge of the desk, flirting with its own demise and even more so if I have left the window open, which is  half a foot away. If not plates then bills that have yet to be paid or notes on old papers, probably old bills, that I never got around to flushing out or did and just never got rid of. A large oak desk, it sits and feels a little small for my size, but, I make it work, for it was a gift. I try to use whatever I receive for free to the utmost until the discomfort is either too much or I come across something better that I can afford, which is rare. But, there they were, pushed up against the wall that faced the street. My chair was jammed all the way up into the desk as well , so much so that it was tipped slightly upward, like someone had been trying to throw the thing out the window. I didn't remember doing this at all which made me think perhaps it wasn't me, maybe someone else had been in here...but who? Why would anyone trespass on such a simple, lowly place with no real worth or chance of treasure? It just couldn't be, so I threw the thought into the wind and got my shoes on. I checked my phone again. It read 1:37. That gave me 23 minutes.
I stumbled down the stairs, out the door, and down the stairs. A car drove by me as I walked down the street toward Geary. Their headlights were off. I turned to see the driver of the car as they passed me, but they were mere shadow, their faces black, blurry smudges. I paused and turned around back toward my apartment. Something in me told me the car would stop at my house, but it continued on to the stop light, then up the hill toward the park. Where we they going?
At Geary, I took a left and walked quickly toward 8th avenue. There were no cars on the main drag. Both sides of the streets were completely empty. A large gust of wind from the west forced me to pause, almost making me take a step back. I looked up into the sky. It was thick with a rolling grey fog. At night, the fog always rolled in the hardest. I never knew why. It just did. And there were no stars. Everything was black and grey, but when I pushed forward through the wind, I saw the neon yellow and red shell station ahead as well as the flashing stop lights which hung over the streets. As I came to 8th avenue, I saw the liquor store. It was closed. The only light that shone was a rotating blinking light in the shape of a beer bottle. I wanted that beer bottle, even if it wasn't real.
The store windows were grated and there was a large metal gate before the actual door to the store. This told me they had had trouble before, probably from guys like me. Inside there was everything I would need to get me through the night and to the morning. Out there, on the cold sidewalk with a violent fog swirling around me like a hurricane, I was just cold and dangerously sober. Reality rapped on my temples like a ravens beak on a thin window. There was nothing I could do. I was forced to go home, empty handed.
As I brushed my teeth in nothing but my underwear, I wandered to the back deck and opened the window. The fog was still rolling heavy and would continue to do so until the sun came to burn it all away. Sometimes, the fog was too much and it would hang there all day like a heavy shawl. Those days were nice. They didn't make me feel guilty about staying inside all day reading or sleeping or really doing nothing at all. Sometimes that is necessary. I spit my toothbrush saliva mixture into a dead plant that rested on the banister near the ladder that lead to the roof. I hadn't ever been up there. Terrified of heights, I figured I never would be.
My clock read 2:13. It had taken me a long time to walk home after such a defeat. I had spent so much time thinking about moving I had failed my overall goal. Too much discussion with oneself can make you go crazy. I've seen it happen to friends, family, ****...myself. I closed my eyes and told myself there is plenty of value in talk, in discussion, but it takes a true human being to act after all of that talk. I would have to remember that one. Yes, I would have to write that one down.
Solaces Mar 2014
Another warm campfire..
I lay again on my back and watch the smoke mix in with the fog..
Under dead trees I think of this endless journey I have been on..
The smoke and fog have a beautiful mixture to it..
Like a ghost that does not know he is a ghost..
I sometimes wonder if I am just that..
Maybe I died long ago and just wander this hell..
Not to far off I notice an owl in the dead tree alone..
He or she flies off into the fog..
To them the world is the same..
Nothing has really changed..
I dream that night under the smoke and fog..
I dream that this dead forest is alive again..
The trees are filled with white owls..
They all look to me and fly off..
As they take flight they turn into the fog..
I also see smoke..
Its coming from the piles of people that are dead..
I see myself in the pile on top..
vagabond dreams.. in a world that is gone..
Drin Tashi Nov 2014
Blury you,
in the fog of nowhere.

I keep trying to focus,
but you seem to fade away.

I try to yell but I can't,
I try to run but I can't.

Yet, you seem to fade away,
in the fog of nowhere.
the song and video version of the poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqJuw6IWcs4
consumedinfire Oct 2014
As they walk through the thick blanket of fog,
All that is heard is their vulgarity toward God.
Repeating to spew the poison from their tongues,
As the blood diminishes to cover their sins they enjoy dwelling in.
More continue to walk into this venomous fog, lost in their disobedience.
They walk blindly pretending to see what is ahead, a nose too high obstructing the view.
Not knowing that their reality will end in a second or two, like the hasty winds.


As they walk through the thick blanket of fog,
There boastful season has ended, for they feel nothing to walk on.
The ground was absent, the realization that they have fallen off an unseen cliff.
Was the lawlessness well worth it? With no hand of God to catch their fall,
To fall and continue to fall, only to be devoured by the darkness too many have swarmed to.
An end is the end, not when personal possessions have been lost but when a soul was never found.
Must it be too late to find out the truth, lost children? To grieve the Father as He sees His children pouring down that cliff.




But then...silence! What can be heard through this thick blanket of fog?
One!... Two!.. Three! Out of the thousands. The only voices praying to Him pleading to be rescued!
Singing and searching for their Maker, the hearts that refused to hardened.
Knowing of their own disobedience, they continued to seek the One who forgave.
For the love and joy gleamed from His heart,
To know His children who were looking for their way back home.
He steered his way toward their voices, clearing the fog and shining is light.
Then to proceed the way back home to finally know what content is; anchored in His wholeness.
By R.E. Smith(ConsumedinFire)
consumedinfire.BlogSpot.com
Francie Lynch Mar 2016
There's a fog over Inverness,
Wrapping the banks
Of the river Ness;
Enveloping me
As you once did.
A fog that will not dissapate,
A mist that mirrors
The break and ache.
A fog that chides
Lonely distress.
This fog can't hide
What I can't forget.
Part I

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
Mayst hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
“There was a ship,” quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—”
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

“And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine.”

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—”With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.”

Part II

“The sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners’ hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The ****** sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.

And some in dreams assured were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

Part III

“There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye—
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.

At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist;
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I ****** the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a-flame,
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the sun.

And straight the sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the sun,
Like restless gossameres?

Are those her ribs through which the sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
‘The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!’
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper o’er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

One after one, by the star-dogged moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

The souls did from their bodies fly,—
They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my crossbow!”

Part IV

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.’—
“Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropped not down.

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie;
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the ***** like pulses beat;
Forthe sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.

An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

The moving moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April ****-frost spread;
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmed water burnt alway
A still and awful red.

Beyond the shadow of the ship
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.”

Part V

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,
That slid into my soul.

The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light—almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.

And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.

The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The moon was at its edge.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.

The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—
We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’
“Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
’Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:

For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.

Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the skylark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!

And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.

It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe;
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.

Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.

The sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ‘gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion—
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.

Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.

How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.

‘Is it he?’ quoth one, ‘Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’

The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, ‘The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’

Part VI

First Voice

But tell me, tell me! speak again,
Thy soft response renewing—
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the ocean doing?

Second Voice

Still as a slave before his lord,
The ocean hath no blast;
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the moon is cast—

If he may know which way to go;
For she guides him smooth or grim.
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him.

First Voice

But why drives on that ship so fast,
Without or wave or wind?

Second Voice

The air is cut away before,
And closes from behind.

Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner’s trance is abated.

“I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.

And now this spell was snapped: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen—

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew.

Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own country?

We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray—
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway.

The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
So smoothly it was strewn!
And on the bay the moonlight lay,
And the shadow of the moon.

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,
That stands above the rock:
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady weathercock.

And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same,
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.

A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck—
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.

This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly sight!
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light;

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart—
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.

But soon I heard the dash of oars,
I heard the Pilot’s cheer;
My head was turned perforce away,
And I saw a boat appear.

The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord i
lost in my mind Mar 2015
My uncle used to tell me that the clouds would
get lonely so they would come to the ground
in fog form to hang out.
But now I think that the clouds
and the ground are secret lovers,
but everyone is against them.
The sky separates them
and the humans have terrible accidents
when they get lost in it.
Humans get lost in the thickness of their love.
There is no softer breath-taking kiss
than when the fog kisses the ground.
Jim Timonere Sep 2014
The weight of my life pressed behind me
Pushing like a dark wave for me
To outrun before it could swallow me.
I drove to work with thoughts
Of the must things and the must nots I had to obey
Or suffer a fall from which I could not rise.

My eyes were locked on scenes in my mind
When I turned a corner where a small bank of fog
Had taken temporary residence in a field.
The sun was rising behind the tree line, so it
Was safe for the fog to sit here for a moment and change the world
Into something soft as it piled and flowed in a gentle breeze.

It drew me in

I almost felt it on my face in the cool morning
I wanted to stop and run into the bank where the pressure
Couldn't find me and the must-must nots were not
The fog was all potential and would whisk me off
To where I should be…

Prisoners call fog the parole man because it can hide an escape
I see why now for I needed to be released from
What I had wished for and received.

But the car moved and the sun rose and the wave pushed me on

Someday.

Someday.
Hinting that they could escape
moquino Aug 2017
i have always craved a love like that of the fog,
for love among people never suits those like me.
i am an ocean trapped within a set of bones
unwilling to let me free;
jailed, misunderstood by the simplicity
of average bodies and frames
and shallow minds and ideas.
i am the blue sea in a skin bursting at the seams
with thoughts and subtle grace
that only appears as chaos above
and darkness from the depths at which they swim.
an acquired taste, i am unlovable,
for i hold the weight of countless ships on my shoulders,
but also the weight of the drowned in my heart.

i am the most beautiful violence, the most deadly benevolence;
an eloquence of earthy tongue not many understand.
the fog is my beloved code that orders the confusion
and assures me, even for just a moment,
that i am lovable like the rest.
for the fog kisses my lips with gentleness that seems
idiosyncratic amongst my battlefield of
sunken ships and lonesome hidden remnants of better times.
it shelters me, engulfing me in soft caresses
and breezy whispers; tearing away my stormy facade
with the most ethereal efficiency.

however much i may toss and roar and kick,
the fog stays and there and listens, watches.
it does not dare to change me,
but it lingers in its soft, chilly presence
until I have calmed myself.
i am never sad when it does fade away,
trailing wispy fingers along me as it does.
for my love, the fog, never dares to go
until even the tiniest phantom of the storm has passed
and the sun is beaming down upon me again.
Prana Moonshine May 2015
Who is the carrier of the mist?
Who is the harbinger of justice?

I wonder how many sweet reeds
There are that blow in the wind?

The fog, dividing the big square.
The mist, forming a circle.

An encircling protection.
The night has its shades.

We have seen the good mist
Positively rolling along the open field
Towards us
We who make the camaraderie.
“Oh, now that’s a good mist”.

The mist, the fog. Wet dew
Of sustenance
With hope, I bow to you.

— The End —