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Steele Dec 2014
There is a Frantic Masquerade, I've heard it said,
where masquers revel in moonlight in the dark city streets.
Their iron shoes burn a smouldering red
and compels them never end the song they sing with their feet.

There is a leather Curtain, made up of silence and shame.
They place upon each dancer's face as they waltz through the night.
They never share a longing gaze, never whisper a lover's name,
and as their souls lose their lustre, their iron shoes burn ever bright.

There is a lonely Ballroom of sad rain and cold concrete,
where masquers revel in terror at the symphony in their heads.
Their steps move ever faster, but their empty eyes never meet.
Hearts cold, they dance with hot feet, ere they're dead.

     There is a Frantic Masquerade, I've heard it said.
     Their icy hearts stave off passion's heat.
              They'll dance that way till the shoes burn through their head,
and only when the ice melts might their heart's dance be complete.
ohellobeautiful Jul 2018
i melted off of you
like crystal clear water
as the snow changes form
you were the mountain i depended on
i had found home in your rubble
justified all of your cracks
when all along i knew
it wasn't me who
was falling
it was you

back then i was blind
but i thought i could see
how beautiful you + me could be
when my light peaked through
those broken parts in you

i guess that's what healers do
we attract the broken ones
knowing there is room to fill
but i have got to stop
and remember that no one
can understand my warmth
when they've only ever lived
in the cold corners of
my hopeful heart
when they only
loved me as
i looked
away

but that's
not romantic
it just left me frantic
yet all of that darkness
has made me a
mantic
Sarah Spang Oct 2015
Unclasp your fingers
Your clenched fists
And know the release of
Giving in

Let him drift away
Let the ocean stand between you
As a testament
To the vast expanse
That exists there now.

Stop fighting the waves.
Stop braving the icy waters
Arm over arm
To reach him on the other side.

The water will always win.
And you never were much of a swimmer.
He's just a distant island now
Shrouded in fog
Somewhere over the horizon.

Rest now,
The fight is over.
Your mangled, frantic heart
Can slow
And begin another tempo
When it's no longer bleeding over
An unreachable coastline.
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 BOXING DAY SALES



WHAT CAN I SAY ABOUT THE BOXING DAY SALES

WELL, THE MALL IS OFTEN A PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO

DO THEIR STUFF, BUT BOXING DAY EVERYONE

IS PUSHING OVER EACH OTHER

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GOING TO THE MALL ON BOXING DAY

BUT BE PREPARED, IT’S LIKE ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE

YA SEE, PEOPLE BUY THINFS THEY NEVER USE

AND THE MOTHERS BUY KIDS LUNCH, NEVER GETS EATEN

KIDS RUNNING AROUND, SAYING YEAH WE AIN’T AT SCHOOL

LET’S CELEBRATE LET’S CELEBRATE

YOU SEE BOXING DAY IS THE FRANTIC DAY

IF YOU LIKE THE REGULAR DAYS AT THE MALL

NEVER GO ON BOXING DAY

CAUSE, THEY CALL IT BOXING DAY

CAUSE PEOPLE AT THE MALL BOX YOU OUT OF THE WAY

TO EXCHANGE THE TACKY COAT YOUR MOTHER BOUGHT YOU

TO A STYLISH RED LEATHER COAT, LOOKS BETTER AND COSTS THE FUCKEN EARTH

YA SEE IN MELBOURNE, THE BOXING DAY TEST, WITH AUSTRALIA AGAINST THE REST

AND THEN IN SYDNEY, IS THE SYDNEY - HOBART YACHT RACE, AND THAT IS RAD

AND OFTEN PEOPLE ARE CAMPED OUTSIDE SHOPPING CENTRES

TO GET FIRST GRASP AT THE BOXING DAY SALES

WITH ME, I SHOP FOR THE MOMENT, SOM I DON’T GET DISSAPOINTED

I DON’T NEED TO FALL ASLEEP OUTSIDE WESTFIELD BELCONNEN MALL

I AM USING PANADOL CAUSE ATHENA’S METHANE IS POUNDING

BUT THAT IS PREVIOUS LIFE TRAUMA, YA SEE THE PARACETAMOL IS REALLY GETTING IN

AND I CAN FEEL, WITH THE COCA COLA, AND REGULAR BRUSHING

THERE WILL BE ON INFECTION IN MY MOUTH, I DON’T WANT THAT

I PUT MY VIDEOS ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO ATTRACT A COOLER KIND OF PERSON

YA SEE, I DON’T NEED THE FIRST THINGS IN THE BOXING DAY SALES

I GET WHAT I WANT OUT OF LIFE, I REMEMBER A SONG

THE FESTIVAL OF SYDNEY IS OUR DAY, SYDNEY SYDNEY SYDNEY OI OI OI

I HAVE MY HOME NOW, SO I DON’T NEED TO HANG AT THE MALL AS MUCH

BUT CURRENTLY I AM DOING A TAPESTRY ON PATRICK DUNBARS LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL

I FEEL COOL, I FEEL ON TOP OF THE WORLD, LOOKING, OVER CREATION, LOOKING

THE ONLY SOLUTION I CAN FIND, AND AS I SANG FINE, PETER BUCHANAN

A MATE IN WOODBERRY IN THE 1970S, DID A REALLY COOL FINNNEEE

WITH A DEEPER VOICE, HE WAS COOOL MAN

I FAKED HIM TO PROVE A POINT TO THE YOUNG DUDES SAYING

JUST BECAUSE THE OTHER YOUNG DUDES UNDERSTOOD DAD’S WAY

DOESN’T MEAN I DID, HE LOOKED LIKE A REAL PAIN IN THE ***

TAKING MY COOL KID AWAY, BUT MUSTN’T DWELL, WE MUST HAVE FUN

I AM OFF TO THE CAVALRY MATCH TOMORROW, TO SEE THE FIRST

BUT I AM LEAVING AFTER THE FIRST MATCH, NO BUSES IN THE NIGHT

AND THE BOXING DAY SALES BRINGS OUT THE RIFF RAFF THE ROUGHER TYPES

AND THE CHEAP SUPERMARKET PUDDING JUNKIES LIKE ME WHO NEED TO GO TO THE MALL TO LEAVE THE HOUSE

BUT BOXING DAY SALES ARE FUN, IF YOU AIN’T IN THE INITIAL LINE

THAT CAN BE FRANTIC
Jamie Riley Apr 2018
They look out from the terrace.

At the borders of sight
live rocky hills behind brown
and golden and olive crop
under a cloudless sky.

Sun beams brighten motley roofs
on tessellations which blacken beige
in blurry air.



























BANG!





















An artificial cloud.

































“Look,” she points, “Let’s go!”

She takes him and they fly down stairs,
diving like sparrows
into the street.

Boys sprint across pavements and climb;
men vault over fences in time
for news to reach ears.

“They’re coming!
"¡Ya vienen!"

Excitement and fear.

The rattling of cow bells
and galloping nears.

Men bait and dodge horns
and escape through doors
and up and over
red wooden bars.

Sticks beat on the concrete ground
and drive the mute beasts's sounds.

Seconds away –
until the last,
he side steps into a house;

indoors,

apart,

he runs through the foyer
and up the stairs
around a corner.

Long strides

too fast to follow.

She chooses left and
sings soprano
when doors won't budge
and
       a
           beast
                      crashed
                                       in.

She turns and the fear is paralysing.


"FERMIN!"






















He hurdles the stares
and explodes
when it rams her
to and fro,
thrashing her head
against the wall
where horns
sin and gore
cement and brick.

He clasps the tail
and heaves its hide from
side to side as
hooves smash
crates of wine -
they slip and slide
in fractured glass,
he finds a horn
and yanks the head!
He's yanked instead
half dead before the men
arrive down stairs
to punch and kick it;
strike and stick it
smack and hit it;
'til it
fits and quits
and flees the foyer,
fast and frantic,
flying flustered
by the frenzy,
finally finding
pattering

pavement

It


peters


off


into





the







street.





"¿Que ha pasado?
  ¿Quien ha sido?
  ¡El Balbotin
  y la Chicha!
  ¡Que una vaca
  les ha pillado!"





Hands bleed
and flesh breathes.

"¿Estas bien?"

Dizzy, she tends to him
with searching hands,
and scolding words.

"Podria haber sido peor"
This poem is about an incident which happened to my Grandparents, Fermin Yanguas Ochoa and Raimunda Ramos Frias.

It was during a bull run in their village (Fitero) in Navarra, Northern Spain. 1972
CK Baker Oct 2017
Iron bench, open sore
dragon rock, three in score
flesh on body, tortured soul
arms high, in hell's hole

Corner bulb, neon light
drake hotel, second flight
jolly pop, rizla plus
open flame, behind the bus

Broken fixtures, tully hat
channel swimmer, at the bat
blind alley, words of cuss
dealer waving, in a fuss

Grim reaper, boys in blue
super bee, armored shrew
****** sips, swollen glands
potpourri, on demand

Black death, huddler's arch
beat the cold, and summer parch
toothless grin, ****** glare
obituary, to be shared

Dead of night, decontrol
cheeva tar, black coal
east central, chinatown
mr. freeze, is coming down

Foot soldier, skidder row
chicken feed, and white blow
silver spoon, casted hand
demons surface, on demand

Frantic sounds, below the glass
poison waiting, to be passed
crack pipes, over coat
bodies flat, begin to float

Gospel sounds, from union square
friends gather, deep in prayer
guardian angels, now deployed
thornton park, without a void

Covenant house, in holy charm
welcomes all, with open arms
salvation spreads, on chapel row
kindness that, cannot be sold
Madeleine V H May 2013
We are not defined by skype or video calls
or text messages or distance
and I won't let those things change us
or the lack of those things.
I miss you like hell
and I love you like heaven
but that doesn't change the fact that
this gets ******* difficult
or the fact that I get mad over nothing.
I know we are different and I know
this is worth it.
I know we seem crazy, insane, even unrealistic.
But I don't care.
I love you I love you I love you.
It's worth it because I know that someday
you will find the birthmarks that cover my torso and the scars
that cover my hips
and I will find out the way your spine curves and how your
voice sounds when you get out of the shower
and the way your lips part.
These frantic wishes fill me up
and swallow me whole.
My love for you saves me and sinks me
but when I'm down at the bottom, I find you
have not left me.
Despite the number of texts we send in a day or the
number of times I hear your voice
I will love you.
I will love you more than I hate the miles.
Cyril Blythe Sep 2012
I followed him down the trail until we got to the mouth of the mines. The life and energy of the surrounding maples and birches seemed to come to a still and then die as we walked closer, closer. The air was cold and dark and damp and smelt of mold and moths. Delvos stepped into the darkness anyways.
“Well, girl, you coming or aren’t you?”
I could see his yellowed tobacco teeth form into a slimy smile as I stepped out of the sun. It was still inside. The canary chirped.
“This tunnel is just the mouth to over two hundred others exactly like it. Stay close. Last thing I need this month is National Geographic on my *** for losing one of their puppet girls.”
“Delvos, ****. I have two masters degrees.” He rolled his eyes.
“Spare me.” He trotted off around the corner to the left, whistling.
“I survived alone in the jungles of Bolivia alone for two months chasing an Azara’s Spinetail. I climbed the tallest mountain in Nepal shooting Satyr Tragopans along the cliff faces. In Peru I…” Suddenly I felt the weight of the darkness. In my blinding anger I lost track of his lantern. I stopped, my heartbeat picked up, and I tried to remind myself of what I did in Peru.
I followed a Diurnal Peruvian Pygmy-Owl across the gravel tops of the Andes Mountains, no light but the Southern Cross and waning moon above. I am not scared of darkness. I am not scared of darkness.
I stopped to listen. Somewhere in front of me the canary chirped.

When I first got the job in Vermont I couldn’t have been more frustrated. Mining canaries? Never had I ever ‘chased’ a more mundane bird. Nonetheless, when Jack Reynolds sends you on a shoot you don’t say no, so I packed up my camera bag and hoped on the next plane out of Washington.
“His name is John Delvos.” Jack said. He handed me the manila case envelope. “He’s lived in rural Vermont his entire life. Apparently his family bred the canaries for the miners of the Sheldon Quarry since the early twenties. When the accident happened the whole town basically shut down. There were no canaries in the mines the day the gas killed the miners. His mother died in a fire of some sort shortly after. The town blamed the Delvos family and ran them into the woods. His father built a cabin and once his father died, Delvos continued to breed the birds. He ships them to other mining towns across the country now. We want to run a piece about the inhumanity of breeding animals to die so humans won’t.” I stood in silence in front of his deep mahogany desk, suddenly aware of the lack of make-up on my face. He smiled, “You’re leaving on Tuesday.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don’t look so smug, Lila. This may not be the most exotic bird you’ve shot but the humanity of this piece has the potential to be a cover story. Get the shots, write the story.”

“Do you understand the darkness now, Ms. Rivers? Your prestigious masters degrees don’t mean **** down here.” Delvos reappeared behind the crack of his match in a side tunnel not twenty yards in front of me. He relit the oily lantern and turned his back without another word. I reluctantly followed deeper into the damp darkness.
“Why were there no canaries in the mine on, you know, that day?” The shadows of the lantern flickered against the iron canary cage chained on his hip and the yellow bird hopped inside.
“I was nine, Ms. Rivers. I didn’t understand much at the time.” We turned right into the next tunnel and our shoes crunched on jagged stones. All the stones were black.
“But surely you understand now?”
The canary chirped.

When I first got to Sheldon and began asking about the location of the Delvos’ cabin you would have thought I was asking where the first gate to hell was located. Mothers would smile and say, “Sorry, Miss, I can’t say,” and hurriedly flock their children in the opposite direction. After two hours of polite refusals I gave up. I spent the rest of the first day photographing the town square. It was quaint; old stone barbershops surrounded by oaks and black squirrels, a western themed whiskey bar, and a few greasy spoon restaurants interspersed in-between. I booked a room in the Walking Horse Motel for Wednesday night, determined to get a good nights sleep and defeat this towns fear of John Delvos tomorrow.
My room was a tiny one bed square with no TV. Surprise, surprise. At least I had my camera and computer to entertain myself. I reached into the side of my camera bag and pulled out my Turkish Golds and Macaw-beak yellow BIC. I stepped out onto the dirt in front of my door and lit up. I looked up and the stars stole all the oxygen surrounding me. They were dancing and smiling above me and I forgot Delvos, Jack, and all of Sheldon except it’s sky. Puffing away, I stepped farther and farther from my door and deeper into the darkness of night. The father into the darkness the more dizzying the stars dancing became.
“Ma’am? Everything okay?”
Startled, I dropped my cigarette on the ground and the ember fell off.
“I’m sorry, sir. I was just, um, the stars…” I snuffed out the orange glow in the dirt with my boot and extended my hand, “Lila Waters, and you are?”
“Ian Benet. I haven’t seen you around here before, Ms. Waters, are you new to town?”
“I’m here for work. I’m a bird photographer and journalist for National Geographic. I’m looking for John Delvos but I’m starting to think he’s going to be harder to track than a Magpie Robin.”
The stars tiptoed in their tiny circles above in the silence. Then, they disappeared with a spark as Ian lit up his wooden pipe. It was a light colored wood, stained with rich brown tobacco and ash. He passed me his matches, smiling.
“What do you want with that old *******? Don’t tell me National Geographic is interested in the Delvos canaries.”
I lit up another stick and took a drag. “Shocking, right?”
“Actually, it’s about time their story is told.” Benet walked to the wooden bench to our left and patted the seat beside him. I walked over. “The Delvos canaries saved hundreds of Sheldonian lives over the years. But the day a crew went into the mines without one, my father came out of the ground as cold as when we put him back into it in his coffin.”
I sat in silence, unsure what to say. “Mr. Benet, I’m so sorry…”
“Please, just Ian. My father was the last Mr. Benet.”
We sat on the wooden bench, heat leaving our bodies to warm the dead wood beneath our legs. I shivered; the stars dance suddenly colder and more violent.
“Delvos canaries are martyrs, Ms. Waters. This whole town indebted to those tiny yellow birds, but nobody cares to remember that anymore.”
“Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Delvos and his, erm, martyrs?” The ember of my second cigarette was close to my pinching fingertips.
“Follow me.” Ian stood up and walked to the edge of the woods in front of us. We crunched the cold dust beneath our feet, making me aware of how silent it was. Ian stopped at a large elm and pointed, “See that yellow notch?” Sure enough, there was a notch cut and dyed yellow at his finger’s end. “If you follow true north from this tree into the woods you’ll find this notch about every fifty yards or so. Follow the yellow and it’ll spit you out onto the Delvos property.”
“Thank you, Ian. I really can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am to find out where to find this elusive Mr. Delvos and his canaries.”
“You don’t have to,” he knocked the ash out of his pipe against the tree, “Just do those birds justice in your article. Remember, martyrs. Tell old Delvos Ian Benet sends his regards.” He turned and walked back to the motel and I stood and watched in silence. It was then I realized I hadn’t heard a single bird since I got to Sheldon. The stars dance was manic above me as I walked back to my room and shut the door.

The canary chirped and Delvos stopped.
“This is a good place to break out fast. Sit.”
I sat obediently, squirming around until the rocks formed a more comfortable nest around my bony hips. We left for the mines as the stars were fading in the vermillion Vermont sky this morning and had been walking for what seemed like an eternity. I was definitely ready to eat. He handed me a gallon Ziploc bag from his backpack filled with raisins, nuts, various dried fruits, and a stiff piece of bread. I attacked the food like a raven.
“I was the reason no canaries entered the mines that day, Ms. Waters.” Delvos broke a piece of his bread off and wrapped it around a dried piece of apricot, or maybe apple. I was suddenly aware of my every motion and swallowed, loudly. I crinkled into my Ziploc and crunched on the pecans I dug out, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I’m not a parrot, Mr. Delvos, I don’t answer expectedly on command. You’ll tell me if you want.” I hurriedly stuffed a fistful of dried pears into my mouth.
Delvos chuckled and my nerves eased, “You’ve got steel in you, Ms. Rivers, I’ll give you that much.”
I nodded and continued cramming pears in my mouth.
“I was only nine. The canaries were my pets, all of them. I hated when Dad would send them into the mines to die for men I couldn’t give two ***** about. It was my birthday and I asked for an afternoon of freedom with my pets and Dad obliged. I was in the aviary with pocketfuls of sunflower-seeds. Whenever I threw a handful into the air above me, the air came to life with flickering yellow brushes and songs of joy. It was the happiest I have ever been, wholly surrounded and protected by my friends. Around twelve thirty that afternoon the Sheriff pulled up, lights ablaze. The blue and red lights stilled my yellow sky to green again and that’s when I heard the shouting. He cuffed my Dad on the hood of the car and Mom was crying and pushing her fists into the sheriff’s chest. I didn’t understand at all. The Sheriff ended up putting Mom in the car too and they all left me in the aviary. I sat there until around four that afternoon before they sent anyone to come get me.”
Delvos took a small bite of his bread and chewed a moment. “No matter how many handfuls of seeds I threw in the air after that, the birds wouldn’t stir. They wouldn’t even sing. I think they knew what was happening.”
I was at a loss for words so of course I blurted, “I didn’t see an aviary at your house…”
Delvos laughed. “Someone burnt down the house I was raised in the next week while we were sleeping. Mom died that night. The whole dark was burning with screams and my yellow canaries were orange and hot against the black sky. That’s the only night I’ve seen black canaries and the only night I’ve heard them scream.”
I swallowed some mixed nuts and they rubbed against my dry throat.
“They never caught the person. A week later Dad took the remainder of the birds and we marched into the woods. We worked for months clearing the land and rebuilding our lives. We spent most of the time in silence, except for the canary cries. When the house was finally built and the birds little coops were as well, Dad finally talked. The only thing he could say was ‘Canaries are not the same as a Phoenix, John. Not the same at all.”
The canary chirped, still only visible by the lanterns flame. Not fully yellow, I realized, here in the mines, but not fully orange either.

When I first walked onto John Delvos’ property on Thursday morning he was scattering feed into the bird coops in the front of his cabin. Everything was made of wood and still wet with the morning’s dew.
“Mr. Delvos?” He spun around, startled, and walked up to me a little too fast.
“Why are you here? Who are you?”
“My name is Lila Waters, sir, I am a photographer and journalist for National Geographic Magazine and we are going to run an article on your canaries.”
“Not interested”
“Please, sir, can I ask you just a few quick questions as take a couple pictures of your, erm, martyrs?”
His eyes narrowed and he walked up to me, studying my face with an intense, glowering gaze. He spit a mouthful of dip onto the ground without breaking eye contact. I shifted my camera bag’s weight to the other shoulder.
“Who told you to call them that?”
“I met Ian Benet last night, he told me how important your birds are to this community, sir. He sends his regards.”
Delvos laughed and motioned for me to follow as he turned his back. “You can take pictures but I have to approve which ones you publish. That’s my rule.”
“Sir, it’s really not up to me, you see, my boss, Jack Reynolds, is one of the CEO’s for the magazine and he...”
“Those are my rules, Ms. Waters.” He turned and picked back up the bucket of seed and began to walk back to the birds. “You want to interview me then we do it in the mine. Be back here at four thirty in the morning.”
“Sir…?”
“Get some sleep, Ms. Waters. You’ll want to be rested for the mine.” He turned, walked up his wooden stairs, and closed the door to his cabin.
I was left alone in the woods and spent the next hour snapping pictures of the little, yellow canaries in their cages. I took a couple pictures of his house and the surrounding trees, packed up my camera and trekked back to my motel.

“You finished yet?” Delvos stood up and the memory of his green and brown wooded homestead fled from my memory as the mine again consumed my consciousness. Dark, quiet, and stagnant. I closed the Ziploc and stuffed the bag, mainly filled with the raisins I sifted through, into my pocket.
Delvos grunted and the canary flapped in its cage as he stood again and, swinging the lantern, rounded another corner. The path we were on began to take a noticeable ***** downward and the moisture on the walls and air multiplied.
The canary chirped.
The lantern flickered against the moist, black stones, sleek and piled in the corners we past. The path stopped ahead at a wall of solid black and brown Earth.
The canary chirped twice.
It smelt of clay and mildew and Delvos said, “Go on, touch it.”
I reached my hand out, camera uselessly hanging like a bat over my shoulder. The rock was cold and hard. It felt dead.
The Canary was flitting its wings in the cage now, chirping every few seconds.
“This is the last tunnel they were digging when the gas under our feet broke free from hell and killed those men.”
Delvos hoisted the lantern above our heads, illuminating the surrounding gloom. All was completely still and even my own vapor seemed to fall out of my mouth and simply die. The canary was dancing a frantic jig, now, similar to the mating dance of the Great Frigate Bird I shot in the Amazon jungle. As I watched the canary and listened to its small wings beat against the cold metal cage I begin to feel dizzy. The bird’s cries had transformed into a scream colder than fire and somehow more fierce.
The ability to fly is what always made me jealous of birds as a child, but as my temple throbbed and the canary danced I realized I was amiss. Screaming, yellow feathers whipped and the entire inside of the cage was instantaneously filled. It was beautiful until the very end. Dizzying, really.
Defeated, the canary sank to the floor, one beaten wing hanging out of the iron bars at a most unnatural angle. Its claws were opening and closing, grasping the tainted cave air, or, perhaps, trying to push it away. Delvos unclipped the cage and sat it on the floor in the space between us, lantern still held swaying above his head. The bird was aflame now, the silent red blood absorbing into the apologetic, yellow feathers. Orange, a living fire. I pulled out my camera as I sat on the ground beside the cage. I took a few shots, the camera’s clicks louder than the feeble chirps sounding out of the canary’s tattered, yellow beak. My head was spinning. Its coal-black eyes reflected the lantern’s flame above. I could see its tiny, red tongue in the bottom of its mouth.
Opening.
Closing.
Opening, wider, too wide, then,
Silence.


I felt dizzy. I remember feeling the darkness surround me; it felt warm.

“I vaguely remember Delvos helping me to my feet, but leaving the mine was a complete haze.” I told the panel back in D.C., “It wasn’t until we had crossed the stream on the way back to the cabin that I began to feel myself again. Even then, I felt like I was living a dream. When we got back to the cabin the sight of the lively yellow canaries in their coops made me cry. Delvos brought me a bottle of water and told me I needed to hit the trail because the sun set early in the winter, so I le
by
Alexander K Opicho

(Eldoret, Kenya;aopicho@yahoo.com)

When I grow up I will seek permission
From my parents, my mother before my father
To travel to Russia the European land of dystopia
that has never known democracy in any tincture
I will beckon the tsar of Russia to open for me
Their classical cipher that Bogy visoky tsa dalyko
I will ask the daughters of Russia to oblivionize my dark skin
***** skin and make love to me the real pre-democratic love
Love that calls for ambers that will claw the fire of revolution,
I will ask my love from the land of Siberia to show me cradle of Rand
The European manger on which Ayn Rand was born during the Leninist census
I will exhume her umbilical cord plus the placenta to link me up
To her dystopian mind that germinated the vice
For shrugging the atlas for we the living ones,
In a full dint of my ***** libido I will ask her
With my African temerarious manner I will bother her
To show me the bronze statues of Alexander Pushkin
I hear it is at ******* of the city of Moscow; Petersburg
I will talk to my brother Pushkin, my fellow African born in Ethiopia
In the family of Godunov only taken to Europe in a slave raid
Ask the Frenchman Henri Troyat who stood with his ***** erected
As he watched an Ethiopian father fertilizing an Ethiopian mother
And child who was born was Dystopian Alexander Pushkin,
I will carry his remains; the bones, the skull and the skeleton in oily
Sisal threads made bag on my broad African shoulders back to Africa
I will re-bury him in the city of Omurate in southern Ethiopia at the buttocks
Of the fish venting beautiful summer waters of Lake Turkana,
I will ask Alexander Pushkin when in a sag on my back to sing for me
His famous poems in praise of thighs of women;

(I loved you: and, it may be, from my soul
The former love has never gone away,
But let it not recall to you my dole;
I wish not sadden you in any way.

I loved you silently, without hope, fully,
In diffidence, in jealousy, in pain;
I loved you so tenderly and truly,
As let you else be loved by any man.
I loved you because of your smooth thighs
They put my heart on fire like amber in gasoline)

I will leave the bronze statue of Alexander Pushkin in Moscow
For Lenin to look at, he will assign Mayakovski to guard it
Day and night as he sings for it the cacotopian
Poems of a slap in the face of public taste;

(I know the power of words, I know words' tocsin.
They're not the kind applauded by the boxes.
From words like these coffins burst from the earth
and on their own four oaken legs stride forth.
It happens they reject you, unpublished, unprinted.
But saddle-girths tightening words gallop ahead.
See how the centuries ring and trains crawl
to lick poetry's calloused hands.
I know the power of words. Seeming trifles that fall
like petals beneath the heel-taps of dance.
But man with his soul, his lips, his bones.)

I will come along to African city of Omurate
With the pedagogue of the thespic poet
The teacher of the poets, the teacher who taught
Alexander Sergeyvich Pushkin; I know his name
The name is Nikolai Vasileyvitch Gogol
I will caution him to carry only two books
From which he will teach the re-Africanized Pushkin
The first book is the Cloak and second book will be
The voluminous dead souls that have two sharp children of Russian dystopia;
The cactopia of Nosdrezv in his sadistic cult of betrayal
And utopia of Chichikov in his paranoid ownership of dead souls
Of the Russian peasants, muzhiks and serfs,
I will caution him not to carry the government inspector incognito
We don’t want the inspector general in the African city of Omurate
He will leave it behind for Lenin to read because he needs to know
What is to be done.
I don’t like the extreme badness of owning the dead souls
Let me run away to the city of Paris, where romance and poetry
Are utopian commanders of the dystopian orchestra
In which Victor Marie Hugo is haunted by
The ghost of Jean Val Jean; Le Miserable,
I will implore Hugo to take me to the Corsican Island
And chant for me one **** song of the French revolution;


       (  take heed of this small child of earth;
He is great; he hath in him God most high.
Children before their fleshly birth
Are lights alive in the blue sky.
  
In our light bitter world of wrong
They come; God gives us them awhile.
His speech is in their stammering tongue,
And his forgiveness in their smile.
  
Their sweet light rests upon our eyes.
Alas! their right to joy is plain.
If they are hungry Paradise
Weeps, and, if cold, Heaven thrills with pain.
  
The want that saps their sinless flower
Speaks judgment on sin's ministers.
Man holds an angel in his power.
Ah! deep in Heaven what thunder stirs,
  
When God seeks out these tender things
Whom in the shadow where we sleep
He sends us clothed about with wings,
And finds them ragged babes that we)

 From the Corsican I won’t go back to Paris
Because Napoleon Bonaparte and the proletariat
Has already taken over the municipal of Paris
I will dodge this city and maneuver my ways
Through Alsace and Lorraine
The Miginko islands of Europe
And cross the boundaries in to bundeslander
Into Germany, I will go to Berlin and beg the Gestapo
The State police not to shoot me as I climb the Berlin wall
I will balance dramatically on the top of Berlin wall
Like Eshu the Nigerian god of fate
With East Germany on my right; Die ossie
And West Germany on my left; Die wessie
Then like Jesus balancing and walking
On the waters of Lake Galilee
I will balance on Berlin wall
And call one of my faithful followers from Germany
The strong hearted Friedrich von Schiller
To climb the Berlin wall with me
So that we can sing his dystopic Cassandra as a duet
We shall sing and balance on the wall of Berlin
Schiller’s beauteous song of Cassandra;

(Mirth the halls of Troy was filling,
Ere its lofty ramparts fell;
From the golden lute so thrilling
Hymns of joy were heard to swell.
From the sad and tearful slaughter
All had laid their arms aside,
For Pelides Priam's daughter
Claimed then as his own fair bride.

Laurel branches with them bearing,
Troop on troop in bright array
To the temples were repairing,
Owning Thymbrius' sovereign sway.
Through the streets, with frantic measure,
Danced the bacchanal mad round,
And, amid the radiant pleasure,
Only one sad breast was found.

Joyless in the midst of gladness,
None to heed her, none to love,
Roamed Cassandra, plunged in sadness,
To Apollo's laurel grove.
To its dark and deep recesses
Swift the sorrowing priestess hied,
And from off her flowing tresses
Tore the sacred band, and cried:

"All around with joy is beaming,
Ev'ry heart is happy now,
And my sire is fondly dreaming,
Wreathed with flowers my sister's brow
I alone am doomed to wailing,
That sweet vision flies from me;
In my mind, these walls assailing,
Fierce destruction I can see."

"Though a torch I see all-glowing,
Yet 'tis not in *****'s hand;
Smoke across the skies is blowing,
Yet 'tis from no votive brand.
Yonder see I feasts entrancing,
But in my prophetic soul,
Hear I now the God advancing,
Who will steep in tears the bowl!"

"And they blame my lamentation,
And they laugh my grief to scorn;
To the haunts of desolation
I must bear my woes forlorn.
All who happy are, now shun me,
And my tears with laughter see;
Heavy lies thy hand upon me,
Cruel Pythian deity!"

"Thy divine decrees foretelling,
Wherefore hast thou thrown me here,
Where the ever-blind are dwelling,
With a mind, alas, too clear?
Wherefore hast thou power thus given,
What must needs occur to know?
Wrought must be the will of Heaven--
Onward come the hour of woe!"

"When impending fate strikes terror,
Why remove the covering?
Life we have alone in error,
Knowledge with it death must bring.
Take away this prescience tearful,
Take this sight of woe from me;
Of thy truths, alas! how fearful
'Tis the mouthpiece frail to be!"

"Veil my mind once more in slumbers
Let me heedlessly rejoice;
Never have I sung glad numbers
Since I've been thy chosen voice.
Knowledge of the future giving,
Thou hast stolen the present day,
Stolen the moment's joyous living,--
Take thy false gift, then, away!"

"Ne'er with bridal train around me,
Have I wreathed my radiant brow,
Since to serve thy fane I bound me--
Bound me with a solemn vow.
Evermore in grief I languish--
All my youth in tears was spent;
And with thoughts of bitter anguish
My too-feeling heart is rent."

"Joyously my friends are playing,
All around are blest and glad,
In the paths of pleasure straying,--
My poor heart alone is sad.
Spring in vain unfolds each treasure,
Filling all the earth with bliss;
Who in life can e'er take pleasure,
When is seen its dark abyss?"

"With her heart in vision burning,
Truly blest is Polyxene,
As a bride to clasp him yearning.
Him, the noblest, best Hellene!
And her breast with rapture swelling,
All its bliss can scarcely know;
E'en the Gods in heavenly dwelling
Envying not, when dreaming so."

"He to whom my heart is plighted
Stood before my ravished eye,
And his look, by passion lighted,
Toward me turned imploringly.
With the loved one, oh, how gladly
Homeward would I take my flight
But a Stygian shadow sadly
Steps between us every night."

"Cruel Proserpine is sending
All her spectres pale to me;
Ever on my steps attending
Those dread shadowy forms I see.
Though I seek, in mirth and laughter
Refuge from that ghastly train,
Still I see them hastening after,--
Ne'er shall I know joy again."

"And I see the death-steel glancing,
And the eye of ****** glare;
On, with hasty strides advancing,
Terror haunts me everywhere.
Vain I seek alleviation;--
Knowing, seeing, suffering all,
I must wait the consummation,
In a foreign land must fall."

While her solemn words are ringing,
Hark! a dull and wailing tone
From the temple's gate upspringing,--
Dead lies Thetis' mighty son!
Eris shakes her snake-locks hated,
Swiftly flies each deity,
And o'er Ilion's walls ill-fated
Thunder-clouds loom heavily!)

When the Gestapoes get impatient
We shall not climb down to walk on earth
Because by this time  of utopia
Thespis and Muse the gods of poetry
Would have given us the wings to fly
To fly high over England, I and schiller
We shall not land any where in London
Nor perch to any of the English tree
Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Thales
We shall not land there in these lands
The waters of river Thames we shall not drink
We shall fly higher over England
The queen of England we shall not commune
For she is my lender; has lend me the language
English language in which I am chanting
My dystopic songs, poor me! What a cacotopia!
If she takes her language away from
I will remain poetically dead
In the Universe of art and culture
I will form a huge palimpsest of African poetry
Friedrich son of schiller please understand me
Let us not land in England lest I loose
My borrowed tools of worker back to the owner,
But instead let us fly higher in to the azure
The zenith of the sky where the eagles never dare
And call the English bard
through  our high shrilled eagle’s contralto
William Shakespeare to come up
In the English sky; to our treat of poetic blitzkrieg
Please dear schiller we shall tell the bard of London
To come up with his three Luftwaffe
These will be; the deer he stole from the rich farmer
Once when he was a lad in the rural house of john the father,
Second in order is the Hamlet the price of Denmark
Thirdly is  his beautiful song of the **** of lucrece,
We shall ask the bard to return back the deer to the owner
Three of ourselves shall enjoy together dystopia in Hamlet
And ask Shakespeare to sing for us his song
In which he saw a man **** Lucrece; the **** of Lucrece;

( From the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire
Which, in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire
  And girdle with embracing flames the waist
  Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste.

Haply that name of chaste unhapp'ly set
This bateless edge on his keen appetite;
When Collatine unwisely did not let
To praise the clear unmatched red and white
Which triumph'd in that sky of his delight,
  Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
  With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.

For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
Unlock'd the treasure of his happy state;
What priceless wealth the heavens had him lent
In the possession of his beauteous mate;
Reckoning his fortune at such high-proud rate,
  That kings might be espoused to more fame,
  But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.

O happiness enjoy'd but of a few!
And, if possess'd, as soon decay'd and done
As is the morning's silver-melting dew
Against the golden splendour of the sun!
An expir'd date, cancell'd ere well begun:
  Honour and beauty, in the owner's arms,
  Are weakly fortress'd from a world of harms.

Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
The eyes of men without an orator;
What needeth then apologies be made,
To set forth that which is so singular?
Or why is Collatine the publisher
  Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
  From thievish ears, because it is his own?

Perchance his boast of Lucrece' sovereignty
Suggested this proud issue of a king;
For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be:
Perchance that envy of so rich a thing,
Braving compare, disdainfully did sting
  His high-pitch'd thoughts, that meaner men should vaunt
  That golden hap which their superiors want)

  
I and Schiller we shall be the audience
When Shakespeare will echo
The enemies of beauty as
It is weakly protected in the arms of Othello.

I and Schiller we don’t know places in Greece
But Shakespeare’s mother comes from Greece
And Shakespeare’s wife comes from Athens
Shakespeare thus knows Greece like Pericles,
We shall not land anywhere on the way
But straight we shall be let
By Shakespeare to Greece
Into the inner chamber of calypso
Lest the Cyclopes eat us whole meal
We want to redeem Homer from the
Love detention camp of calypso
Where he has dallied nine years in the wilderness
Wilderness of love without reaching home
I will ask Homer to introduce me
To Muse, Clio and Thespis
The three spiritualities of poetry
That gave Homer powers to graft the epics
Of Iliad and Odyssey centerpieces of Greece dystopia
I will ask Homer to chant and sing for us the epical
Songs of love, Grecian cradle of utopia
Where Cyclopes thrive on heavyweight cacotopia
Please dear Homer kindly sing for us;
(Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and
it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and
loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the grey
sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but
glad to have escaped death though we had lost our comrades)
                                  
From Greece to Africa the short route  is via India
The sub continent of India where humanity
Flocks like the oceans of women and men
The land in which Romesh Tulsi
Grafted Ramayana and Mahabharata
The handbook of slavery and caste prejudice
The land in which Gujarat Indian tongue
In the cheeks of Rabidranathe Tagore
Was awarded a Poetical honour
By Alfred Nobel minus any Nemesis
From the land of Scandinavia,
I will implore Tagore to sing for me
The poem which made Nobel to give him a prize
I will ask Tagore to sing in English
The cacotopia and utopia that made India
An oversized dystopia that man has ever seen,
Tagore sing please Tagore sing for me your beggarly heat;

(When the heart is hard and parched up,
come upon me with a shower of mercy.

When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song.

When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out from
beyond, come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner,
break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.

When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy one,
thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder)



The heart of beggar must be
A hard heart for it to glorify in the art of begging,

I don’t like begging
This is knot my heart suffered
From my childhood experience
I saw my mother
unwritten Nov 2014
she was a poet,
and he was her pen.
in him,
she always found words to write,
songs to sing,
thoughts to think.

he'd smile,
and kiss her softly,
and say,
"write me a poem."

and she would.
she'd put poe,
and whitman,
and shakespeare to shame,
and she'd write a poem that made his eyes water.

she'd compare him
to a rose with no thorns,
a book with no end,
a world with no poverty --
the things we all wish for,
but can never attain.

//

he asked her one day,
"what am i?"
and so she picked up her pen,
and began the usual:
you are the shining sun after a hurricane,
with rays that open the eyes of the blind.

but he stopped her after those two lines,
and said that this time,
he didn't want any metaphors,
or similes,
or analogies.
he wanted the truth.

and so on that night,
as he slept,
the poet picked up her pen,
and she wrote.

she wrote,
then thought better of it,
then started over again,
and this cycle continued well into the early hours of the morning,
until suddenly,
she wrote, frantic,
if i can't love you for what you really are,
have i ever really loved you at all?


this, too,
she thought better of,
condemning it to the trash.

the next morning the poet was gone,
her final work a mere two words:

i'm sorry.

(a.m.)
this is more of a story than a poem but i like how it came out so leave thoughts & comments please
shyann raulerson Jul 2013
I heard faint noises downstairs, and I decided to investigate. I pulled on a pair of cut-off jeans and grabbed the old pump shotgun that had served me so well in Viet-Nam from under my bed and crept downstairs to check. My Ranger training came into play, and I moved soundlessly, down the stairs and into the living room. An air of vague shadowy figures were searching through the cabinet that housed my collection of antique silver. I announced my presence in a sudden and intimidating manner: I merely pumped the action of the shotgun, then immediately moved to the right so if anyone shot, he would shoot where I had been, not where I was now. That sound was a language that everyone understood, including the two figures before me. They froze, and were still motionless.

"Mr. Steve?" one of the figures quavered. "Please don't shoot!"

I recognized the voice as belonging to Lisa, the twenty-year-old daughter of my nearest neighbor. I didn't know who the other person was or who else may be in the house, so I kept the shotgun pointed in their direction and hit the light switch with my free hand. Immediately a car cranked up in my driveway, and tires squealing, raced out to the road and away. I looked at my midnight visitors. I recognized Lisa and Julie, who was a close friend of Lisa's and a frequent overnight visitor of hers. They were holding between them a laundry bag containing most of my silver collection. I lowered the muzzle of the cut down shotgun.

"You sure know how to get yourselves killed," I stated. "Mind telling me who was in the car? You don't want to take the rap all by yourselves."

"Please don't shoot! That was Mike, it was all his idea! He made us do it! He said he would put us out and make us walk home if we didn't do it! Are you going to call the Cops?"

Now I could understand why the girls tried to burglarize my home. It was a fifteen-mile walk home in pitch darkness on a moon-less night for the two frightened girls. It was just what a worthless **** like Mike would pull. Knowing what I did about Lisa's boyfriend, I knew what he probably needed the money for. He was nineteen; the only job he had ever had was selling drugs, and I don't mean at the pharmacy. He was a charmer though. Girls fell for his good looks and his charm, and would do anything for him, and he of course chose the best looking one of the bunch, Lisa. She never realized what a slime-ball he really was. The problem was that Lisa didn't have a father to threaten to put a bullet in Mike's behind, and her mother was just as deceived as she was.

"You broke into my house and attempted to steal my belongings. Why shouldn't I?" I said with false sternness. I wouldn't really turn them in, now that I knew the situation. I would give the girls a good scare, then a ride home. Maybe then Lisa would see through Mike's veneer.

"Because we'll do anything you want," Julie offered, speaking for the first time. "Anything at all!"

Julie stepped over and ran her hand up my leg, pausing to tweak the head of my ****, which was hanging out of the leg of my cutoffs. I hadn't bothered to pull on any underwear. Julie was almost as good looking as Lisa was. Both girls had fabulous bodies, large firm ****, and smooth well-rounded *****. Julie had a cute face, whereas Lisa was absolutely beautiful.

"Yes, anything you want to do!" Lisa agreed.

The girls weren't wanton *****, but scared out of their wits and taking the only way out that they could think of. Of course they weren't virgins. It hadn't occurred to me to take advantage of the girls like this, and I would have declined Julie's offer if she hadn't fooled with my **** like that. You see, I was developing an outrageous *******, and with my **** hanging down the leg of some fairly tight shorts, the situation was rapidly becoming painful and serious. I had to get those pants off fast! Also, I hadn't been laid in quite a while. I decided to lay my cards on the line.

"You kids know me. I never had any intention of calling the Cops. I was going to give you a scare to teach you a lesson, then drive you home. Does that mean the offer is withdrawn?"

The girls looked at each other and both breathed a sigh of relief, big smiles on their faces. Lisa winked at Julie. "Nope," Julie said, smiling, "It still stands. Lets go upstairs."

I escorted the girls to my bedroom, pressed the magazine block on the shotgun, pumped out the shell that was still in the chamber, then put it back in the magazine. I tossed it onto the dresser with a loud thump.

I turned around and both girls were stark naked. Lisa came over, dropped to her knees, and planted a wet kiss on the head of my painfully throbbing ****. My ******* became harder still. I had to get out of those cutoffs! Julie solved that problem. She unzipped and unbuttoned them and gently worked them down around my rock-hard ****, allowing it to spring up to freedom.

"Lets get on the bed first," I suggested, "Then we have fun."

"Lay down on your back," Lisa insisted. "Have we got something for you!"

I complied, and Lisa leaned over and put my **** in her hot mouth. Her tongue swirled over the head, ran up and down the shaft, and started over again. I looked over at Julie and she was watching avidly. Not having anything better to do with my hands, I reached between her legs and caressed her ****. Julie gasped with surprise, then spread her legs. Her **** was already hot and wet, so I slid my ******* in all the way, then started finger ******* her and massaging her **** with my thumb. Her **** hardened and grew. Julie had her eyes closed and was erotically tweaking her ***** *******. She was slowly lowering her body, deepening the ******* of my finger, and rocking her hips back and forth, intensifying the stroking of her ****. Julie's hot ***** juices ran down my hand while Lisa's mouth was still working on my throbbing ****.

I began to draw my hand from Julie's sopping wet ****, but she grabbed it and held it tightly to her crotch. I pulled my hand now, and she came with it. I grabbed her thigh and swung her leg over me, so she was now sitting on my chest. I pulled my finger from her hungry ****, grabbed her ***, and pulled her ****** right up to my face. As soon as I flicked her **** with the tip of my tongue, she went wild, ******* my face, filling my nostrils with the sweet aroma of her **** juices. I thought I would give her all the licking she could handle. I rammed my tongue into her ****-hole with all my might, then gently nibbled on her ****. Apparently she had a low threshold, as this was all she could stand.

"Oh God, I'm coming!" she screamed, ground her **** into my face one more time, quivered, then collapsed sideways onto the bed.

One down, one to go. I looked at Lisa, still ******* my **** for all she was worth. I was nearing the end of my endurance, and I still hadn't had my **** in any hot **** yet. I grabbed Lisa's shoulders and pulled her mouth from my ****. I turned her around and held her up, her blonde ***** triangle just inches over my waiting tool.

"Give it to her! Now!" Julie whispered.

Lisa's **** didn't look wet or ready to take anything in it yet, but my **** was ready to take some *****. Julie reached over and spread the lips to Lisa's still dry *****, and began tweaking her ****. Lisa gasped her surprise at her most private place being touched by another chick. Within seconds though, her **** and inner ***** lips began to swell, and her juices started flowing. I slowly lowered Lisa to my rod, admiring her glistening pinkness. Julie guided my throbbing rod into Lisa's wet love hole.

"Please, be careful! Ah-h-h-h! Go slow, I'm so tight!"

I lowered Lisa very carefully, for her hot ****-hole was indeed the tightest ***** I had ever felt. With that in mind, I fought the urge to slam her down on my eager ****. As soon as she was down, I grabbed her *** and began sliding her back and forth. Lisa bit her lip as a tear trickled down from one eye.

"Stop, Mr. Steve! It's hurting her!" Julie commanded. Then to Lisa, "You haven't done it much, have you?"

"Just once, with Mike, and he isn't this big. It hurt then, too!" Lisa sobbed. "I wanted so bad to do it with Mr. Steve because he's been so nice to me, and I was so scared when I saw how big he was. Oh, it hurts!"

"You'd better get up then." I reassured, "I don't want to do anything to you that you don't want me to do."

"I want to go on, really I do! But don't you have anything I could use to make it easier?"

"Yeah, any Vaseline, or KY jelly, or something like that?" Julie asked.

"I have some KY jelly in the bathroom." I answered.

Julie jumped up and padded into the bathroom. I watched her naked *** jiggle as she left.

"You're gonna have to get up." I told Lisa. I gently lifted her ***. She bit her lip again and moaned as my **** slowly withdrew from her tortured hole. With a pop from her *****, a shriek burst from her lips as my **** sprung from her nearly dry ****-hole. She knelt on the bed next to me, softly crying, clutching herself where it hurt. I realized that she had been wrong in pretending to be so eager. A more gentle approach was needed.

I reached over, pulled her to me, and kissed her lips passionately. She ****** once in surprise, then melted into my arms, returning my kiss, forgetting the pain in her ****. I ran my hand around to her firm **** and gently stroked her *******, feeling them harden under my touch. I pulled my mouth from hers and kissed the point of each hard ******. She moaned and gasped with each touch of my lips, but from pleasure this time, not from pain. While I had her aroused, I lightly traced circles on her tummy with my finger, each circle going lower and lower, until I finally reached the blonde **** of her ***** hair. Slowly, I reached down and cupped her ***** with my hand, being careful not to press too hard or insert my finger. I would know when she was ready for *******. She responded with a **** and a gasp. I pressed again, and she gasped again. I kissed each firm ****** one last time, then started kissing down her tummy to her love nest, which was now warming and starting to respond to my touch.

I spread her legs and gently ran the tip of my tongue the full length of her slit. When I reached the vicinity of her ****, she reacted as though she had been shocked. She arched her back, pressing her **** against my face. Maybe she was ready. I probed again with my tongue, harder this time, hard enough to separate her ****-lips and tickle her ****. She went mad again, jerking and twitching in response to the touch of my tongue, moaning and panting. Then I felt her **** harden, her inner lips swell and spread, and her delicious juices start to flow. Now she was definitely ready for more. I probed her ****-hole with my tongue, licked all the way up to her ****, swirled it around, bit it gently, and then probed her hole again. When I started doing all this, she went even wilder. She spread her legs, ****** and reared against my face, and pulled my head tight against her hot cooze.

"Oh-h-h-h-h, **** me," she moaned, "I can't stand it any more! I don't care if it does hurt! Please, please **** me!"

I put her throbbing **** between my lips and gave it one hard ****, drawing it completely into my mouth, and pulled my head back sharply, causing her **** to pop back. She screamed, ****** her hips at me, and grabbed her sweating *******.

When she had subsided, her legs still spread, I mounted her in the traditional position. I started to position my throbbing pole for a gentle entry, but Lisa released her **** and spread her ****-lips with one hand and guided my tool to her sopping wet ****-hole with the other. She was much wetter now than when Julie diddled her ****, wet enough to ****.

"Please do it now!" Lisa pleaded.

I began to insert my **** cautiously, and found that due to her juices, entry was no problem. Lisa groaned like a ****** as I slid into her hot wetness. When she had taken as much of my ten-inch tool as she could, I still wasn't all the way in. But she began pumping her hips, causing the swollen head of my **** to ram against the back of her *****. She was as deliciously tight as before, but she must have been stretching, for with just a few strokes, my ***** were slapping against her ***, and I was in to the hilt. My tenderness and foreplay had paid off.

"Oh-h-h-h, that's good!" she purred when I began pumping to meet her rhythm. She wrapped her legs around my waist, and was pumping as hard as I was. With each stroke, I would completely withdraw from her hot, tight wetness, then shove my eager tool back in to the hilt, never missing her voracious target, always sliding easily in, jamming against the back of her *****.

Her pumping increased in tempo, and I sped up to match. Each pump became harder and more frantic than the one before. Lisa's breathing became harder and faster. She was about to come, and I wanted to come with her. I raised her legs over my shoulders so that I had a better angle at the depths of her tight hole, and started ramming as hard as I could.

"Don't stop! I think I'm gonna come! Oh-h-h, its so good! Come in me! Oh, please, I want to feel your load in me!" Lisa screamed. She bucked and reared and screamed incoherently, then went limp. I continued to pump. In just a few seconds, she began to pump anew. For more times than I could count, she orgasmed.

Once I felt my ****** approaching, I gave her one last hard ram and drove my weapon in as far as I could. I came at this point, spurting her sweet, tender Steve **** full of my hot sticky come, like an erupting volcano. She gasped, trembled, and fell back to the bed. I pulled out my softening ****. Our ****** energies were spent for the moment.

I glanced down at the foot of the bed, and saw Julie, whom I had forgotten. She sat in the chair at the foot of the bed, her legs spread, working a coke bottle in and out of her *****. She had found the KY jelly, then found us ******* away. Feeling left out but excited by the ****** sight of her best friend getting a good *******, she slicked up the coke bottle and began using it as a *****.

I saw that Lisa also was seeing something she had never seen before, her best friend's ****, gaping open, a coke bottle almost disappearing inside it. "Look how far in she puts it! And see how big it is to go in her like that. How does she do it?" Lisa asked, amazed.

"Why don't you get a closer look," I suggested. "Ask her." Lisa crawled down to the foot of the bed and sat on the end, astounded, watching Julie *******.

Julie finally looked down, under heavy-lidded eyes and saw Lisa so close. "Why don't you do this for me?" Julie asked.

"How?" Lisa queried.

"Just do what I'm doing now," came Julie's reply. Lisa watched for a few seconds more, then pushed Julie's hand aside and grasped the slippery end of the bottle. "In and out, and twist it a little bit. Oh, yes-s-s, oh, yes-s-s. Do it good, oh, that's so good!" Julie purred.

My **** was hardening again at the sight of one female ******* another.

I had an idea. If Julie was as promiscuous as she seemed, she might not object to what I had in mind. While Lisa continued to work the bottle in Julie's stretched ****, I helped Julie out of the chair and down to the floor, her heaving **** on the floor, her *** up in the air. She stayed in the position, crooning wordlessly, **** juice dribbling down her thighs, Lisa still ******* her.

I picked up the tube of KY jelly that Julie had used, and liberally covered my ***** rod with it. Then I stood behind Julie, straddling Lisa.

"What are you going to do?" Lisa asked.

"Watch and see!" I responded. With that I grasped Julie's hips and aimed my **** at the delicate rosette of Julie's ***. Using my **** like a weapon, I suddenly shoved my tool in as far as I could. Julie let out a scream, tearing out fistfuls of carpet.

"Oh God, **** my ***! That hurts so good! **** me harder, give me all you've got! Make it hurt! Give me more of that bottle!"

"I'm ***-******* Julie!" I informed Lisa, who was now completely mind-blown.

I needed no invitation, and neither did Lisa. Both of us gave Julie all we could, Lisa with the bottle in Julie's ****, me with my **** far up Julie's clenching ***. Julie rocked back to take us both in, then forward, then back for more. I couldn't see
I.
And my hair became too much

It overtook the walls
made its way into the office on the sixth floor
and then hung
like a dripping willow’s branches
over the desks

By the time they thought to find me
I’d already been wrapped up in a cocoon of brown hair  
indistinguishable from the walls
that was now
also covered in the thick strands of undulated hair

II.
everything and everyone became consumed.


III.
In hairy chrysalis, the scissors uselessly
hung on some poor frantic pair of hands
forced into pupa

IV.
It was on the third day that the streets surrounding the corporate buildings were once again
populated with people, that a young woman in heels swore she heard a
faint choral singing coming from the 5th or 6th floor of a dreary grey building.


V.
everything cocooned
everyone consumed
all in pupa

VI.
During metamorphosis, a caterpillar digests itself leaving only behind imaginal discs
that shape it’s adult body.  

everything becomes consumed.
Snehith Kumbla Aug 2016
what forests are those we pass,
blazing along the railway tracks,
a tree bloom of still cranes,
stream black of ******* bane,

stench of dead city rubble,
factories of rusted cast metal,
distant cotton twilight skies,
sun slide across a bunch of wires,    

passing tunnels echo
lonely platforms, frantic gecko,
looming hillside,
crackle dry wood fire,

a god barred in lock&key, 
blink glimpse of the sea 
one rush of vision,
pebble fling at frisson,

metal-crunch rhythm,
grind music sublime,
spark, grunt, grate,
we arrive, we dissipate...
(As experienced on a train journey undertaken in December 2014)
ryn Feb 2015
.
•    
re-
     kindle
    the spark
   that governed
    this game•the fire
  that once burnt as bri-
  ght as sun•all of this once
before, had a name•but now
is weak from the time it had be-
gun•there was a time when it wo-
uld consume•......it would defy the
odds....just so it could burn as one•
frantic and desperate for the magic
to resume•uncertainty has carved
itself into the heart that has come
undone•winds bearing ill no-
tions revealed as the enemy•
stitch up the gaps keep-
ing out the rogue
gust•
  pro
tect
  the
light that burns ever weakly•rejuve-
nate the spirit that harbours broken trust
•rekindle me now... i'm still in the game•
the heart                   save the     you will
isn't                              candle           need
ready                           and              to see
to make                         nur-              me    
sense                            ture             with
of the                             it                 this
dark•                             to                  in-  
                                    fla-              sig-  
                                   me•             nia
                                     ­                     as my
                                                         mark
                                                         •
.
Denel Kessler Apr 2016
We attempt rescue, unable to bear
the stardust-coated dragonfly
beat, beat, beating
frantic on the glass.

We entice him to perch
on our extended lifeline-broom
nurse him in a box, where he flutters
quivers, lies quietly blue.

My son cries bitterly
as we place a minute cross
upon the dragonfly grave
while intoning our final goodbyes:

We honor those who have fallen victim
to this fatal architectural trap, lured
by skylights of enticing white-light death
and the paned illusion of freedom.

In admiration of winged determination
and perseverance in the face of futility
we carefully tend the fragile, curved bodies
lay them here to rest under the mock orange.


years of gauze-weighted detritus
swept beneath these ponderous shrubs
a reminder - what seems like freedom
                                                         ­           often isn’t.
We lived in a house that had outdoor skylights.  Insects would be lured by the light and die trying to fly through the glass that imprisoned them.
I hated those skylights...

Hey lovely poets!  Thank you so much for being a supportive, amazing group of people.  I'm truly honored that you take the time to read my poems.  The Daily is just icing on an already sweet cake.
: )
Pagan Paul Aug 2018
.
i.
Smoke coils up and dissipates,
soon the images will be clear,
as she stares with cold contempt,
into the depths of the Seers Sphere.
And she stands toking her pipe,
watching as the story unfolds,
soon her hate will boil once more,
unleashing her vengeance of old.

ii.
Smoke coils up and dissipates,
a thousand lifetime's away,
blackened stone and charred bodies,
the remains of a village destroyed.
The flames still licking at the flesh
and melting mortar of cottage walls.
Raiding horsemen ride off cheering,
with swords, shields and firebrands,
carrying amidst them a prisoner,
their prize and sport for the victory feast.
Savages are these violent men,
barbaric in their wanton lust for war,
the red mist and the ****** fury,
it's all they really have a care for.

iii.
She waits with patient seething,
her moments will arrive so soon,
the spilling of her black arts,
witnessed by a Woman's Moon.

iv.
The Vale was so beautiful lush and green.
Steep sided, oak trees, clear blue stream.
With fresh grass on which horses grazed,
and smooth rocks where wild fowl lazed.

v.
But the leader here was not a man,
she was the daughter of this warrior clan.
Fierce, cold, she barked out her orders;
build a fire, make food, secure the borders.
Her status unquestioned by her riders,
they would all fight and die beside her,
and as the camp grew out much wider,
her boot casually crushes a hated spider.

vi.
Manacles held her ankle fast,
shackled as she was to a tree.
Withdrawn, shivering with cold,
still seeing her burning family.
Images scorch her private intimacy,
awaiting the moment of her epiphany,
eyes watching with careless vacancy,
preparations for the nights ceremony.
But she would not co-operate,
would not give her jailers pleasure,
as she knows these last few hours
would seem to her like forever …

and Nature weeps with a prelude to grieve,
as the Maiden pulls a dagger from her sleeve.


… deny them their sport she will,
placing the dagger 'neath her breast,
a sharp tug towards her heart,
a thousand nightmares laid to rest.

vii.
A thousand lifetime's away,
smoke coils up and dissipates,
a cackle rents the air like ice,
the time her Woman's Moon anticipates.
And the instant arrives with joy,
as the Seers Sphere is thrown,
shattering and cackling hold hands,
as the glass touches solid stone.
At that moment of contact with rock,
time slips into a reverberating shock.

viii.
The Vale was so beautiful lush and green.
Steep sided, oak trees, clear blue stream.
With fresh grass on which horses grazed,
and smooth rocks where wild fowl lazed.

And the earth heaved and tremored,
shaking the Vales languid peace,
uprooting trees with tremendous urge,
rending the loamy soil from beneath.
Frenzied horses scatter with fright,
and men are thrown up high,
screams and shouts of piercing pain,
and the stream suddenly runs dry.
The quake unsettles the warriors camp,
leaving many broken bones and blood.
Then an ominous deafening roar
heralds the arrival of the coming flood.
And water coursed fast into the Vale,
no longer pretending to be calmer.
All living men drowned and dead,
encumbered by their heavy armour.
But she was much fleeter of foot
and ran hard as the waters rose.
Tripped by a treacherous branch,
head banged, stunned, her eyes closed.

ix.
Sunrise saw many things.
Smoke coiling up and dissipating,
over the ruins of a village,
crows and dogs feasting well.
It saw
the hooded robed figure of a woman,
squatting on top a new grave,
smoke coiling up from her pipe,
cackling …

x.
She awoke in darkness.
It didn't take long to panic and scream.
It took no time to realise,
she was sealed naked in a coffin.
And she screamed and screamed.
Pushing at the sides, the lid.
The air was heavy, stifling, stifling, stifling.
Precious oxygen running out.
The coffin moved, and she screamed,
desperately scratching and scratching.
And in the box she heard … cackling.
Her frantic screams turn to sobs of pleading
to be let out, to breathe, to live.
She felt something touch her inner thigh,
she screamed, as it touched again feint.
Brushing it away as the voice cackled on,
more tickles on her thighs, she screamed.
And something landed on her face.
The feel of a large spider on her mouth,
and she screamed and screamed.
But the cackling persisted
as she scratched at the wood,
her fingernails shredding to pieces,
but the wooden prison gave no quarter,
the skin raw and bloodied,
scratching, scratching, scratching.
And in her tomb she screams,
she screams and screams and screams.

xi.
… sunrise saw many things.
It saw a new river,
wending its way to the sea,
caressing the contoured land,
it saw horses running wild,
across the lush grass on plains.
It saw
the hooded robed figure of a woman,
standing beside a new grave,
as she places the flame dagger
upon the Maiden's final resting place,
it saw
ice blue eyes of fire and malevolence.
Weeping.


© Pagan Paul (02/08/18)
.
3rd poem in Judderwitch series.
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2076298/judderwitch-the-beginning/
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/1923972/judderwitch/

Today, Aug 2nd, marks two years on hp for me.
Thankyou to all those who have supported and helped me over these last 2 years. You are all greatly appreciated :) PPx xox
patty m May 2014
Overturned are my
struggles to find the jewels of the sun.
A stealth of time, purveyor of death,
watches me constantly.   He is the sole survivor;
bag of bones, a Lazarus, rising from the grave,
his dark half my constant shadow.
Shrouded in mist the ghost moon rises.
I feel snared in its web of dreams.

Null regions, temp idle chance,
The Mirrored Realm on high,
indeterminately drifts.
Dog Chewers battle the Serpentine Lynx'
their violence flares.
                 Hugging the thorn-bush
I become both pawn and victim,
making frightened noises
while rooted to the spot.

Then a brief interlude as War-birds fly over,
and the hunters flee their domain.
The shore line winds bone-white
past deserted fishermen's shacks as
gulls shriek eerily over a turbulent sea.

Vaporous thought, as a perpetual chill
seeps through my skin,
how I yearn for yesterday's blankets,
but yesterday was years ago.

I slip into oblivion, boulder-gray
blown about in frantic wind gusts.

Suddenly tiny creatures
descend through the darkness;
each small hand holding a glowing ember,
as they flit on tiny wings
offering hope from up above.

I stare, dazzled by sunlit-ice
no mouth of death, this,
but a luminous feeling of well being.
Now descending  is a glorious presence
scattering  goodness upon the earth.
Two embers she gently places in my hands,
jewels of the sun,
                 see how they gleam and flicker,
or could they be stars?
Marshal Gebbie Nov 2012
A coarse, yellow coat with dark spot aplenty
Lean as a greyhound with limb long and lengthy,
Faster than hare from a cold standing start
Impossibly glimpsed in tall grasses that part.
Crystaline jewels in two huge hazel eyes
With the svelt of a feline’s cold killing surprise,
Explosively quick with an elegant gait
And a murderous jaw full of canines that wait
For a fleeing gazelle or a springbok at speed
Then a launch that would emulate bullet, when freed.
Incredibly smooth with a fast loping stride
That would tax any racehorse an envious ride,
Snapping manouvers to left and to right
That mirror a quarry’s evasions of flight.
A blur in a frantic explosion of dust
Then the life blood erupts, splashing red as the rust.

Heaving great flanks after thrill of the chase
Wide open muzzle and gore on the face,
Guarding the game till the kittens locate
Then the spoils of the chase will make portions dictate.*


Marshalg
Serengetti Plain
Central Africa
30 November 2012
Rahul Luthra Feb 2015
It's a thunderstorm when the both of us are together
It'd probably be easier if we were birds of a feather
Sparks flew off the first time we met
It wasn't much of a story, it started off as a bet
We both know it's wrong but we can't stay apart
Pulling the trigger will only take us to the start
No lubricant in the world can ease the friction in between
If I'm the king babe you're the queen
It's suicidal, it's catastrophic; that's all that is in store
These frantic moments of kamikaze love is what I live for...
- May 2014
prom itself is just an overglorified dance
the after party is where the real fun begins
sitting at the kitchen table of my best friend's house
sipping strawberry margaritas her mom made
then progressing to shots of tequila
and playing shots uno, steadily getting more and more dizzy
until i'm trying to twerk on a wall
and calling my friends to tell them i love them
pretending to be a koala on an armrest
updating my snapchat story so people at other gatherings can be jealous
forgetting how to pull my pants back up in the bathroom
talking to my ex boyfriend for an hour on the phone, telling him
exactly why i didn't dance with him at prom
and that i fingered myself for a boy
and i wanted to tell him and everyone, for that matter, about her
but i didn't because rejection and rumors are my worst enemies
he stays quiet and the only sound left is
my frantic whispering that i hope i stay this happy in the morning
because sober me lays in the deep end of the spectrum of sadness
its a blue Monday
after Super Sunday
Americas 45th funday
yesterdays spectacle

the dip is done
the broken bones
of buffalo wings
fill giant glad bags

the ridged ripples
of broken Doritos
scattered on the floor
wait for a vacuums hum

dead soldiers rattle
a melodious cascade
the aroma of flat Bud
plunge into recycle bins

ribbed Trojans
dripping bagged ****
rim plastic trash cans
confirm an ****'s frenzy

the game forgotten
commercial reveries remain
seared into the briney mush
of compliant olfactories

collective hallucinations
successfully branded
a new and improved
global consciousness

Madmen Shamans
ebulliently channel
transactional zeitgeists
from the ripped boxes of
Best Buy plasma screens

Monday morning
water cool scuttlebutt
the planet is buzzing about...

Google's cool slap
of IPod clad automatons
the vanquishers of IBM's evil empire
Apple's brave new world is next
("meet the new boss,
same as the old boss?")

we all dug
rolling with Eminem
through the glitzy
streets of Motown

How cool is 8 Mile?
The hoods lookin good
angelic chorus lifts spirits
Swing Low Sweet Chrysler

The artistic types
faun over
the graphic beauty
illustrious aestheticism

moving story line
the epic journey
of the worlds
greatest brand

heroic product marketing pros
rival Jason and the Argonauts
sojourning trans-formative odysseys
of clever packaging and fat tail shelf life

holding precious real estate
of living imaginations
infecting hearts and minds
of future generations

realizing
everything
ends better
with coke

The State Farm Pre-Game
Jimmy Johnson's new coiff
jawed away with his old boss
rattlesnake booted Jerry Jones

A poignant embrace captured in
living color on grand jumbo trons
lording over a cavernous palace
a new stadium for Homeboys

Jimmy J asks Jerry J
"Why you overpaid
for The Boys New
Crib?"

"A billion 4,
a palace for the masses".
Jerry breaks some news
with an impish wink.
"No expense is spared
for the peeps."

"I always make out,
get a good return. I
make a profit. Ain't
America great."

This year Super Bowl
went Hollywood
and installed
a long red carpet.

Mike Strahan, collared
Harrison Ford.
Bagging his greatest sack
on a dazzling red rug.

"How many Super Bowls
is this for you?"
Strahan whistles
through his gaped teeth.

The aging Indiana Jones
came to promote his new flick,
"Cowboys and Aliens"
(I'm told an early Cannes
favorite. And it should be. Spoiler alert,
the movie is a moving story of an American tragedy.
Romo blows another one
throwing an interception in overtime.
The Aliens return it 95 yards for a touchdown.
Boy's lose again. America's Team vanquished by bubble headed Martians.
All of Texas weeps.)

Indy
coolly quips an answer
whipping with sarcasm,
"after today, one."
yuck yuck
lol

Strahan continues
to stalk Ford like a
scrambling quarterback,
"where will you be sitting?"

Ford shrugs
"dunno,
somewhere
up-there,
I guess",
he points to
the lofty
luxury boxes.
Royalty sits
next to God
in Jerry Jones
house of the
people.

Ford dons a green scarf.
He's down with the Pack.
Another sunshine *****
in the seat.

Michael Douglas and Zeta Jones
arrive in time to hear
Keith Urban sing
"Who Wouldn't Want to be Me?"

"He's alive
He's free
Who wouldn't
want to be me?"

Indeed who?

The parade
of heroes
continue.

The walking,talking
little S Corp, LLC's
dance their way
into the stadium
on resplendent
cushions of red.

Terrific brands
all earnestly
questing to
urgently
deliver
messages
to promote
themselves
and plug
shameful
products.

A Black Eye Peas
teaser
blinks onto
my giant
flat screen.

Will I Am
a black man
in a blacker mask
marches down the street
zapping people
with a ray gun.
(fascist culture is so cool, a
little light on liberation,
but **** does he look bad as all get out
in that leather rumble don't **** with me
outfit)

Jamie Foxx on the royal carpet leaks
that he yodeled three tunes
at a pregame party for Jerry's Kids;
T Boone and the Big W among them.

Quick cut
to Jamie's
new movie
Rio.
(I wonder if its
about Mexicano's
crossing the river?)

Wealth
Power
the perfect
image of ourselves
take a pill

I am Limitless
a new movie?
I've seen this one before.
I think I'm watching it now.

Just Go With It
Adam *******,
Jennifer Aniston
Americas sweetheart
teamed with Americas
kosher jokester.

He looks hot
in his droopy
pretend
don't give a ****
orange sweatshirt
and acid washed jeans.

Jennifer's ****, legs
what can you say
about America's sweetheart?
I think Brad Pitt
made a big mistake.

Bill O
is next.
Posturing,
arm wrestles
with the Prez,
shadow boxes
with the Big O.

"Muslim Brotherhoods
Rendition
Mubarack goes off the reservation
knows where the bodies are buried"
***!
***!

(Do we really need a dose of Fox Fear?
Is there no escape from the pernicious harangue?
Don't they know its Super Bowl Sunday?)

Bill O's drive by continues,
"Obamacare,
why do Americans hate you?"
Great journalism by this Fox ****.

Bill O is
haughty,
arrogant,
disrespectful
a despicable bully
and a self serving blow hard.

(My bladder is busting.
Its a great time to take a ****.)

We escape to
the freshness
of Owen Wilson's
smiling face,
playing two hand touch.

His bent nose
shining
he trots about
Jerry's field
carefree as a child.
(Is this a pitch, pass and punt
contest for A Listers?)

Other stars
join the light fun;
goose cheerleaders
give the cabana boys
hand-jobs
and themselves
a well earned blow-job.

Its an **** of photo ops
product placement
a sizzling collection
of dancing brands
prancing on the gridiron
of the New Cowboy field.

Ashton Kutcher
peeks over the shoulder
of a tweeting W.
I'm impressed
W knew
how to use
his thumbs.

Mrs. W's
permanent smile
was clearly visible
from the stadiums
cheapest seats.

Condie sat
way to the right
quietly stewing
lamenting
lost opportunities
of a gig as NFL
Commissioner.

On the stadiums floor
the frenetic dancing
of the
bumping
brands
fast
approaches
ecstatic elation.

Hollywood's version of
Whirling Dervishes; is
immediately stilled
as the solemn portion
of the program
commences.

The Declaration of Independence
is read by a bright galaxy of stars
accompanying armed service personnel
and other diligent American's.

"We hold these truths
to be self evident"

"United colonies
levee war,
dissolve bounds,
our day of allegiance
lives, fortunes and sacred honor
freedom is common sense,
free, equal, united"

CEO's
imprisoned
in Jerry's
luxury boxes
overcome
with
emotion
pound fists
on the glass
smearing
cocktail sauce
on the windows
of the suites.

Illegal
Chicano's
bravely
step forward
with rolls
of Bravo
and Windex
to wipe
it clean.

The focal point
of festivities
seismically
shifts like a
tectonic plate
almost as large
as Jerry's Stadium.

The stampede
of cheers
thunder like
canon shots,
the patriotic
ramparts of
militant
free market
capitalism
supplants the
shallow frivolity
of consumer slavery.

We are
compelled
to kneel
to celebrate a
Eucharist of
nationalism.

My partner explodes,
"Can't watch a football game
and view it for what it is,
a ******* football game."

The Fox
broadcasters
dedicate
this segment
of the show
to our military.

I squirm in my seat.
Sorry,
but the declaration is about
free people in free societies
not militarism.

Next up
dis old cowboy
Sam Elliot.
He knows
how to speak
the language
of real football fans.
Finally, a man of the people.

Sam introduced the cities.
He starts with Pittsburgh.

"Built on steel
a place where
terrible is good
these are the
enduring qualities
of this great American City."

The Steelers
make a timely entrance
onto the floor of the stadium,
as millionaires erupt
shaking their terrible towels.

Sam's
fuax
folkism
for
Fox Sports
continued.

"Green Bay is Title Town
the people never quit.
Crafty veterans are winners
exhorting all to greatness"

Images
of Lombardi's
toothy grin
fills my 72 inch screen.
A visitation by
America's Saint,
the sanctifier
of all competition
anoints the proceeding,
the quest to claim
the trophy named
for the games
very own
Archangel
of the
Gridiron.

The extended gig of
Lombardi's ghost
has haunted America
for over half a century;
has reportedly been seen
stalking the stage
on Broadway.

The anointed
Packers sprint
onto the field and
millionaire cheese heads
taking big bites out of life
erupt in cheers.

My hi def wide screen
made by Sharp reports
Battle of Los Angeles
opens 3/11/11.
The Chicago Code
premiers on Fox
sometime in March.

Walter Payton
Man of The Year Award
is presented
to an NFL Player
watching the game
with the troops
in Iraq.

The millionaires
don't cheer,
but the Fox announcers
are verklempt
overcome with patriotism.

Michelle Lee,
star
of Fox'***** show
Glee,
poses in front of a
sanitized choir
in blue uniforms to sing
America the Beautiful.

The beautiful song
is but an opening act
for the musical centerpiece
Star Spangled Banner.

The cameras cut
to a smiling W.
He can't get into Switzerland
but ******, he won't be turned out
of JJ's OK Corral.

Christina Aguilera
takes center stage.
She mounts
the silver football
crowning the
Holy Logo of the NFL
to sing the hallowed
Star Spangled Banner.

She fumbles her lines!
She forgot the rockets red glare!
The Steelers are crying.
The Packers are angry.
Ice melts from the stadiums roof.
The foundations of Jerry Jones
new stadium shakes.

A fly over of 4 fighters in formation
appears to be unaffected by the flub.
The planes do not crash.
They stay in formation.

The pilots spare Christina
a strafing and drone strike.
The republic remains
secure for now.

An unfamiliar announcer
addresses TV land.
He offers an apology to the fans
who cannot be seated.

The fire marshals
have revoked
Jerry's seating plan.
Greed got the better
of this man of the people.
Cowboy Stadium
is overbooked!

What is happening?
Is this America?
An ATT commercial
arrives just in time.

ATT has a new plan for America.
They encourage us to live social
with the new ATT AG.
Free market solutions
always work best.

Michael Douglas
reads another
patriotic exhortation.

"United we,
see the journey
of Acme Packers
as our journey."

"We see the resolve
of US Steel
as our resolve.
Big dreams
believe the best
journeys are
celebrated together."
(I'm down with that.
Whats good for Jerry Jones
is still good for me.
Right On! Check this stadium.
Power to the people!
It may not apply to the people who
will not be seated but tough nuggies.
This is America ******. Everybody
can't be seated at the table.
Even if they paid for their seat.
This ain't Red China.)

Neon Dion and other inductees
into the Football Hall of Fame
tosses the coin.
Steelers' call tails.
Heads it is.

At half time
The Black Eyed Peas
descend from
an upper Valhalla.

Still attired in
black fascist threads
The Righteous Peas
start wailing as
white metallic minions
dressed as
Imperial Storm Troopers
gallop to surround
their idols.

Precise formations
goose steppin bops
choreographic steps
the visceral *****
perfect counter-point
to swabbles of wiggling Peas.

Slash,
Guns and Roses
guitar hero
gunslinger
strode on stage
winging
this gal of mine
in choreographed
unison with
the leggy
Fergie.

Pumping it louder
the spectacle incites
the dancing
Imperial minions
quick steppin
and fetchin it
as Usher descends
in white unison
to leap and dance
over nasty
black peas.

The Gods
are descending
upon us.
Their words
have become
flesh.

The BEP's bleat
"kids are dying
wheres the love?"
Art does mirror life.

The neon hearts
of cheap
glow sticks
light up
the time
of our lives.

We are
cubed box heads
happily dancing along
the 50 yard line
answering China's
resounding drum
of frantic proletarians
bashing away
neocolonial disgrace
during the opening
ceremony of the worlds
greatest Olympian
display of
the pounding will
of an emerging nation
arriving on the world stage
with urgent insistence.

In America
we party on
every night
swiping
revoked
credit cards
for express lane
exits at the
local Walmart.

We are proud
highly personal
bar codes!

We refuse to be
marked down and flung
into discount bins at a
Tupelo Dollar Store.

Our light of life
flashes across screens
directing the trading pits
at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Each Super Bowl Sunday
souper bowl beggars
collect canned soup
for hungry Americans
at the local Shop and Drop

begging for larmen
boxes of Kraft
freeze dried noodles
and cans of Progresso
the feast of kings

A triumph
of the
Will I Am
BOOM BOOM
Says
Will I Am

I finish my bag of
Cool Ranch Doritos
and lick my partners
fingers clean.

Music Selection
Steve Miller,
Livin in the USA


2/7/11
Oakland
jbm
(WIP)
Ariel Good May 2013
She said to me, walking in trees on a cold night,
Boy, I want chocolate after your raw tongue.
Lather me with mounds, melting like hot peaches,
In the juicy spring.

I’ll turn the tree into a sweet Sunday pole.
Dance like a sweaty, delirious goddess.
Together we’ll watch the storm with bitter moans,
Forbidden whispers.

Live in the purple-breasted apparatus.
And drool over your tiny repulsive head,
As you lay beneath the frantic symphony
Of the black forest.
I have not been feeling right lately
getting up so tight so easily
I wonder if I'm going mad
when everyday I feel so sad

I don't know if I am frantic
or maybe a mixed up romantic
I just don't want to waste my life

When I wake you in the morning
I really don't feel like yawning
I hear birds singing songs
I know that one day they'll be gone

Should I really think like this
that man has given his dying kiss
to every living creature he has found
I'm so frantic

I watch TV in the evening
see the facts of dying and screaming
is this a part of a sick past
or a ****** future cold and streaming

Should I really think like this
that man has given his dying kiss


By Christos Andreas Kourtis aka NeonSolaris
Rayven Rae Aug 2018
i hate the feeling
electricity zapping
panic rising up

elephant sitting
when you have to breathe to live
but breathing kills you

frantic brightness fills
my eyes become not my own
this rollercoaster

the ride is rising
imminent crescendo comes
makes my brain explode

frantic morphs into
the manic part takes over
breath is optional

heart racing pumps blood
this is my brain not on drugs
**** this high on life

is this how he felt?
fragmented thoughts shooting pain
in constant motion

he was bi-polar
only 26-years-old
manic made him shoot

powder burns gaping
bullet isn’t only a word
it’s self-inflicted

is this how he felt?
ghosts collide with memories
make sense make sense again

is this how he felt?
i can’t get out of my head
south polar-trapped north

reality shifts
welcome to my Upside-Down
make this go away

perspective shifted
shattered doesn’t begin to
put name to sorrow

i miss him so much
every breath i take is laced
knowledge of absence

i welcome the pain
i feel him trapped inside me
can i do this life?

my world has shattered
i will never be the same
**** this time and place
Mike Hauser Jun 2016
I see you drive your frantic life
Much like you do your car
Jostling for position
To get beyond the point of where you are

Running through the cautions
Not knowing when to stop
Giving all that you have
Beyond all that you've got

Each day is faced with fits of rage
As things don't go according to plan
Could it be your low self esteem
That is too high in demand

And yet you drive faster and faster
As if this is a race
But when the checkered flag is dropped
Which ever after will be your final resting place

Move fast from out the fast lane
To get beyond the point of where you are
And stop driving your frantic life
Much like you do your car
Noel Billiter Sep 2018
Mr. handsome stranger
He’s coming after
Desperate like a last request
Frantic delusional lunatic
Unhinged fragile losing what’s left
Self serving sadomasochistic
Easy on the eyes but doesn’t quite fit in
Playing it cool in social situations
His intelligent banter he claims as his own
With somewhat smart comebacks he practiced at home

Trying so hard that the sweat beads down
Onto his stressed wrinkled furrowed brow
the stories he skillfully misdirected  
Carefully darting  unwanted questions
Mr. Indiscreet can’t blow his cover
Disarm the girl of his unrealistic dreams
How quite average and normal he can be

Mr. Stalker walks over to the Girl
works up the courage and talks to her
Strikes up a witty conversation
With his movie star smile and education
Using the words that he pre rehearsed
Says all the right things and compliments her
Looking past his rather peculiar behavior
And when politely asked gives up her number

He rings her up the very next day
With a romantic scenic picnic date
Under the shade of a lush green tree
Upon a blanket with wine and cheese
Playing the part of the handsome boyfriend
Gains her full trust and faith in him

Joking in a effort to make her laugh
To put her at ease and follow his plan
Jealous of her ex boyfriends
Knowing their names and full address
And when he drops her off at home
Tracks and follows her every move
Knows all her weekly kept routines
Threatens and blackmails all her friends
Studies everyday mundane errands
Unaware of his decent into madness
lluvia de abril Jan 2016
I don’t know if you know
I carry you
in an involuntary sigh
in a constant exodus of yearning
and in the frantic deepness of all
nostalgic thought, shaking time and distance
to place me near you
in the closeness of your warmth
remembered

I carry you in sorrow
precipitated
in the absence of your voice
and in the memory of your rib cage molded
in the shape of ardent weakness
my embrace

I carry you, the braille at the tip of my fingers
life drawn in lines on my left palm
and in the carcass of calm interrupted
by the pounding of a heart’s ill-time

I don't know if you know, but
I carry you in the crown of memories consoled
and in the spine of excess
where I fall, between involuntary sighs
defeated
in your skin remembered
from the confines
of the heart
On a night...just a night.
Audrey Aug 2014
I am Christian. I believe in the
Trinity of the Holy God, The Son, and The Spirit,
I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of mankind
I own more than three Bibles
I teach Sunday School every week and
I pray every night.
I am Christian,
And as such I
Hate queer....

Phobia. I can not stand intolerance
And I cry at hatred,
Blood running in the streets,
Fear running in veins,
Running away from the truth.
I am Christian, yet
There are bloodstains in my Bible
And the prayers on my lips
Are for forgiveness for who I am.
The entire story of ***** is
Crossed out, blacked out angrily
In the dead of night
In all 4 versions,
Leviticus is blurred,
Wrinkled with my tears,
Soaked with my pain.
I am Christian
And I am not homophobic.
I know my church won't recognize
Non cis-het marriages,
Leaving entire worlds of rainbows in the dark
The higher-ups insist
Weddings are white, shiny, husband-and-wife, happily-ever-after affairs
That shove me and my friends, my  family, my lovers,
Into closets of heavenly wrath and
Fire and brimstone sermons,
Locked into personal hells of shame
And confusion.
I am Christian
And I am not straight.
My God doesn't hate me for who I love,
He loves me because I try not to hate.
So to the homophobic Christians, I ask:
Who is your God?
Who is your God that supposedly condemns people He has created in his own image?
Your rainbow picket signs are nothing but a cruel mockery of a covenant
Not truly shared by you.
Your tongues are no better than the viper's who called Adam and Eve to sin,
You are the vipers of my world.
Do you think you avoid judgement
When trans teens are killed
By the bullets you spit with your words?
Who is your God,
That tells you to picket the funerals
Of those you hate?
Who is your God,
That refuses to let you open your heart to differentness?
I am Christian,
And I don't need your permission to
Love my God.
Take my scars and tear-stained Bibles,
Listen to my fervent prayers,
Watch my lips tremble when
I listen to my pastor.
I don't need your permission
To love who I want,
In fact I don't want it.
Take my midnight screaming and fear of coming out,
Listen to my frantic pleading for a hand to hold,
Watch my eyes linger on her chest.
I am Christian.
My God doesn't hate me for who I love,
He hates you who refuse to love
While you carry His name, if
Not his blessing.
So I ask again
Who is your God?
Because mine loves all of me,
All 5'6" of queer pride.
Who is your God?
ENDYMION.

A Poetic Romance.

"THE STRETCHED METRE OF AN AN ANTIQUE SONG."
INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS CHATTERTON.

Book I

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

  Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast,
They alway must be with us, or we die.

  Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own vallies: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end.
And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and ****.

  Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread
A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed
So plenteously all ****-hidden roots
Into o'er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.
And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,
Where no man went; and if from shepherd's keep
A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens,
Never again saw he the happy pens
Whither his brethren, bleating with content,
Over the hills at every nightfall went.
Among the shepherds, 'twas believed ever,
That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever
From the white flock, but pass'd unworried
By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,
Until it came to some unfooted plains
Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains
Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,
Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,
And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly
To a wide lawn, whence one could only see
Stems thronging all around between the swell
Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell
The freshness of the space of heaven above,
Edg'd round with dark tree tops? through which a dove
Would often beat its wings, and often too
A little cloud would move across the blue.

  Full in the middle of this pleasantness
There stood a marble altar, with a tress
Of flowers budded newly; and the dew
Had taken fairy phantasies to strew
Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,
And so the dawned light in pomp receive.
For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire
Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
Of brightness so unsullied, that therein
A melancholy spirit well might win
Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine
Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
Man's voice was on the mountains; and the mass
Of nature's lives and wonders puls'd tenfold,
To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.

  Now while the silent workings of the dawn
Were busiest, into that self-same lawn
All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped
A troop of little children garlanded;
Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry
Earnestly round as wishing to espy
Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited
For many moments, ere their ears were sated
With a faint breath of music, which ev'n then
Fill'd out its voice, and died away again.
Within a little space again it gave
Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,
To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking
Through copse-clad vallies,--ere their death, oer-taking
The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.

  And now, as deep into the wood as we
Might mark a lynx's eye, there glimmered light
Fair faces and a rush of garments white,
Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last
Into the widest alley they all past,
Making directly for the woodland altar.
O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter
In telling of this goodly company,
Of their old piety, and of their glee:
But let a portion of ethereal dew
Fall on my head, and presently unmew
My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,
To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.

  Leading the way, young damsels danced along,
Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;
Each having a white wicker over brimm'd
With April's tender younglings: next, well trimm'd,
A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks
As may be read of in Arcadian books;
Such as sat listening round Apollo's pipe,
When the great deity, for earth too ripe,
Let his divinity o'er-flowing die
In music, through the vales of Thessaly:
Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground,
And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound
With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,
Now coming from beneath the forest trees,
A venerable priest full soberly,
Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye
Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,
And after him his sacred vestments swept.
From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,
Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;
And in his left he held a basket full
Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:
Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
Than Leda's love, and cresses from the rill.
His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,
Seem'd like a poll of ivy in the teeth
Of winter ****. Then came another crowd
Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud
Their share of the ditty. After them appear'd,
Up-followed by a multitude that rear'd
Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,
Easily rolling so as scarce to mar
The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:
Who stood therein did seem of great renown
Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,
Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown;
And, for those simple times, his garments were
A chieftain king's: beneath his breast, half bare,
Was hung a silver bugle, and between
His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.
A smile was on his countenance; he seem'd,
To common lookers on, like one who dream'd
Of idleness in groves Elysian:
But there were some who feelingly could scan
A lurking trouble in his nether lip,
And see that oftentimes the reins would slip
Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,
And think of yellow leaves, of owlets cry,
Of logs piled solemnly.--Ah, well-a-day,
Why should our young Endymion pine away!

  Soon the assembly, in a circle rang'd,
Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang'd
To sudden veneration: women meek
Beckon'd their sons to silence; while each cheek
Of ****** bloom paled gently for slight fear.
Endymion too, without a forest peer,
Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,
Among his brothers of the mountain chase.
In midst of all, the venerable priest
Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,
And, after lifting up his aged hands,
Thus spake he: "Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!
Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:
Whether descended from beneath the rocks
That overtop your mountains; whether come
From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;
Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs
Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze
Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge
Nibble their fill at ocean's very marge,
Whose mellow reeds are touch'd with sounds forlorn
By the dim echoes of old Triton's horn:
Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare
The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;
And all ye gentle girls who foster up
Udderless lambs, and in a little cup
Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:
Yea, every one attend! for in good truth
Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.
Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than
Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains
Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains
Green'd over April's lap? No howling sad
Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had
Great bounty from Endymion our lord.
The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour'd
His early song against yon breezy sky,
That spreads so clear o'er our solemnity."

  Thus ending, on the shrine he heap'd a spire
Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;
Anon he stain'd the thick and spongy sod
With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.
Now while the earth was drinking it, and while
Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,
And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright
'Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light
Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:

  "O THOU, whose mighty palace roof doth hang
From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth
Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death
Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;
Who lov'st to see the hamadryads dress
Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;
And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken
The dreary melody of bedded reeds--
In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds
The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;
Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth
Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx--do thou now,
By thy love's milky brow!
By all the trembling mazes that she ran,
Hear us, great Pan!

  "O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles
Passion their voices cooingly '**** myrtles,
What time thou wanderest at eventide
Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side
Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom
Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom
Their ripen'd fruitage; yellow girted bees
Their golden honeycombs; our village leas
Their fairest-blossom'd beans and poppied corn;
The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,
To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries
Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies
Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year
All its completions--be quickly near,
By every wind that nods the mountain pine,
O forester divine!

  "Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies
For willing service; whether to surprise
The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;
Or upward ragged precipices flit
To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw;
Or by mysterious enticement draw
Bewildered shepherds to their path again;
Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,
And gather up all fancifullest shells
For thee to tumble into Naiads' cells,
And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;
Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,
The while they pelt each other on the crown
With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown--
By all the echoes that about thee ring,
Hear us, O satyr king!

  "O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,
While ever and anon to his shorn peers
A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,
When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn
Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms,
To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:
Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,
That come a swooning over hollow grounds,
And wither drearily on barren moors:
Dread opener of the mysterious doors
Leading to universal knowledge--see,
Great son of Dryope,
The many that are come to pay their vows
With leaves about their brows!

  Be still the unimaginable lodge
For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
Gives it a touch ethereal--a new birth:
Be still a symbol of immensity;
A firmament reflected in a sea;
An element filling the space between;
An unknown--but no more: we humbly screen
With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,
And giving out a shout most heaven rending,
Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean,
Upon thy Mount Lycean!

  Even while they brought the burden to a close,
A shout from the whole multitude arose,
That lingered in the air like dying rolls
Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals
Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.
Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,
Young companies nimbly began dancing
To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.
Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly
To tunes forgotten--out of memory:
Fair creatures! whose young children's children bred
Thermopylæ its heroes--not yet dead,
But in old marbles ever beautiful.
High genitors, unconscious did they cull
Time's sweet first-fruits--they danc'd to weariness,
And then in quiet circles did they press
The hillock turf, and caught the latter end
Of some strange history, potent to send
A young mind from its ****** tenement.
Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
On either side; pitying the sad death
Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
Of Zephyr slew him,--Zephyr penitent,
Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,
Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.
The archers too, upon a wider plain,
Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,
And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft
Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,
Call'd up a thousand thoughts to envelope
Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee
And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,
Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young
Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue
Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,
And very, very deadliness did nip
Her motherly cheeks. Arous'd from this sad mood
By one, who at a distance loud halloo'd,
Uplifting his strong bow into the air,
Many might after brighter visions stare:
After the Argonauts, in blind amaze
Tossing about on Neptune's restless ways,
Until, from the horizon's vaulted side,
There shot a golden splendour far and wide,
Spangling those million poutings of the brine
With quivering ore: 'twas even an awful shine
From the exaltation of Apollo's bow;
A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.
Who thus were ripe for high contemplating,
Might turn their steps towards the sober ring
Where sat Endymion and the aged priest
'**** shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas'd
The silvery setting of their mortal star.
There they discours'd upon the fragile bar
That keeps us from our homes ethereal;
And what our duties there: to nightly call
Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;
To summon all the downiest clouds together
For the sun's purple couch; to emulate
In ministring the potent rule of fate
With speed of fire-tailed exhalations;
To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons
Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,
A world of other unguess'd offices.
Anon they wander'd, by divine converse,
Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse
Each one his own anticipated bliss.
One felt heart-certain that he could not miss
His quick gone love, among fair blossom'd boughs,
Where every zephyr-sigh pouts and endows
Her lips with music for the welcoming.
Another wish'd, mid that eternal spring,
To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,
Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:
Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,
And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;
And, ever after, through those regions be
His messenger, his little
Charles Darkly May 2014
Is there an order?
In there an approximation of pi
circling our first awkward flirtations?
Does a dragon curve lurk hidden as I
caress the curvature of your spine?
Where does Euclidean geometry fit in to the
first time our lips met?
Does the Pythagorean theorem detail our most intimate
love making?
A quadratic formula for the shameful
discarding of punched in picture frames?
Is there a golden ratio that best expresses
hurried apologies and frantic entanglements
between our sheets?
I know for certain there was
a simple subtraction
on the day your tears added up everything
and finally said goodbye.
Some would say there is order in this
chaos disguised as order disguised as
chaos
Continually debating pattern recognition
or butterfly effects
But I’d like to think
We were more subtle than that
Wyatt May 2017
Hush, be quiet.
Let that frantic voice
trail away into a silence.
Wrap your arms around me
and I will do the same.
Your hurt hurts me,
your panic is felt through me.
Please don't walk here alone.
I don't know your hurt
nearly as much as you do,
but just know that I
am here for you now.
Grasp onto me
and cry out every tear
that's built up inside you
over the long, long years.
We will start anew tomorrow
when the morning comes.
I will not go,
I will not leave you.
I am here for you.
Please hush, be quiet.
Those shadows
cannot come near you,
I will protect you.
Let those frantic words
that collect
in your hoarse voice
fall into a silence.
We will hold each other
like this until we can
hold onto this peace.
We will carry
a piece of each other.
I will not let go
throughout the night.
I am here for you.
rage has a way of awakening
the sacred fiery feminine within me
i suppose i should be accepting of flippant
dismissals and easily broken
plans(promises)

after all, it is what is expected of my gender—
to be silently accepting
to be smiling and forever forgiving
to be blind to your *******.

but I’m not that kind of *****.

the waters of many rivers flow in my veins
over the rocks and thorns that are growing inward in my inner darkness
wise and warrior women of my past lives swim in these brackish tides and they
are having none of your **** today

there is a predator that hunts in the base of my skull
that loves to feed on

boys {I would say ‘friends’ but none of you are deserving of that title}
like
you

through heavy breaths and gasps between too hot sobs this creature is released
and it reminds me
with the worst of pain
that i
am stronger than you
that i
am stronger than anything within your petty soul

we’re all made of energy and mine is too bright to be diminished by the likes of you

while i feel worthless and want to destroy myself
{because the easiest way not to feel
is to bring blood,
to bring forth ribs,
and cheek bones, and burns—— for the longest while I thought the fault lied within myself, that I was worthless and disposable, but now I see that I’ve only been attracted to the weaker breed of human because you are easy to manipulate. You were stupid enough to consider my compassion a license to abuse my over giving heart}

this animal keeps me in line, holding my hands within its claw riddled appendages
tight enough to bring blood, holding me still until my cries turn into war songs
my frantic heart beats into the sound of war drums.
my tears become paint streaking my face, readying me for another battle.

the scorpion ever present in me rises, barb dripping with the poison
my tongue would love to lay into your psyche

but you aren’t worth my words.

my words are my livelihood and nothing i could say could
every arouse any interest nor care from such a small minded individual as yourself
whose ambitions are the small fractions of debris beneath my scarred feet.

in this holy and reverent cold I thought I needed the warmth of companions, but I realized I was skinning myself raw to cover others who would only ***** out the flame keeping me alive.
my heart thrives in this harsh season and the skeleton of the scorpion comes alive in solitude.

the warrior woman within me is reborn this night.
she has watched my neglect and has pulled me into her armed embrace
and tells me through stoney and unforgiving eyes

that you were never worthy of my radiance
Erin Finn Apr 2013
My womanhood
is tangy is
crimson
magenta
sienna
over-ripe peach
colored my
womanhood is
blunt and
bright
a little green bird
crashing in flight
my womanhood is
frantic
ecstatic
salty
sour
sweet like
soft ***
my womanhood
belongs to
belly joy
tongues
lungs
raw bottom lip
the movement of hip
that superb sounding rip
my womanhood is better
than cocoa better
than dancing
better than winning
feels like sinning
my womanhood
is shameless.
Daniel Magner Nov 2012
Strangers known
by shared room
Honey voiced , high cheek *****
no less, no more

Licorice words pounding
on a chest
scrambling to wrap fingers
around a single perfumed breath
Two days dragging on
pulled through mud
stuck in fog
seconds are hours too long

Then ringing came
answered by drops of syrup
pouring out a reply, yes!
drinking it in with big gulps.

Mirror reflects practiced hellos
swishing hair put in place
teeth and lips splitting
breaking through stone face

Pacing back and forth
frantic footsteps pounding
crushing carpet in a line
south, north, south, north

No ring, no change
red blushes fad grey
phone silent, gaze up
stare blank



Is the swooshing hair the wrong way?
Is the grin too toothy?
Is the face not constructed right?

Stood up and let down
sailor on a ship
already sunk and drifting
off the starboard bow
Stood up and let drown

by the honey voice
the high cheek bones
Failure in hindsight sighing
“I should have known
I should have known…”
© Daniel Magner 2012
The Moon and Sun shared Ecliptical Longitudes the night They murdered The child.

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

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

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

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

(British Soldiers, she thought)

Foreign words...

        (Drunken and ravenous)

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

        (Touched by the chill of terror)

Her eyes darted madly about the
Darkness.

         (Alone no longer)

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

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

Utter foolishness, old boy, another opined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

         (Her rage now eclipsed by fear)

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

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

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

She released the paddle—

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

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

        (Like a pack of hyenas)

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

             (she felt nothing where the child had been…)    

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

A shrill call to the child—

(a name lost to time)

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

        (like afterthoughts, lost)

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

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

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

(Hope bloomed in her constricted chest)

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

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

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

         (The child, near in her mind, cried)

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

(Deny the river its prize)

A stream of consciousness,
Steadily slipped from her lips.

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

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

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

The river flowed by her electric as if
Its lights descended from a place far
Beyond the black taciturn veil of
Night to reflect the merciless
Tragedies among the wretched souls of
The Maine Woods.
There’s a whisper down the line at 11.39
When the Night Mail’s ready to depart,
Saying “Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can’t start.”
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster’s daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying “Skimble where is Skimble for unless he’s very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can’t go.”
At 11.42 then the signal’s nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man—
Then Skimble will appear and he’ll saunter to the rear:
He’s been busy in the luggage van!

He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
And the signal goes “All Clear!”
And we’re off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!

You may say that by and large it is Skimble who’s in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travellers in the First and the Third;
He establishes control by a regular patrol
And he’d know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it’s certain that he doesn’t approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on the move.
You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
He’s a Cat that cannot be ignored;
So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
When Skimbleshanks is aboard.

Oh, it’s very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there’s not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light-you can make it dark or bright;
There’s a handle that you turn to make a breeze.
There’s a funny little basin you’re supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
“Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?”
But Skimble’s just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won’t let anything go wrong.
And when you creep into your cosy berth
And pull up the counterpane,
You ought to reflect that it’s very nice
To know that you won’t be bothered by mice—
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
The Cat of the Railway Train!

In the watches of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he’s keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he speaks to the police
If there’s anything they ought to know about:
When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait—
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: “I’ll see you again!
You’ll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
The Cat of the Railway Train.”
patty m Nov 2017
Today the sparrow chirps inside my head.  Tiny wings flitter nervously from the hedge darting out for bread newly spread upon the lawn.

I  throw it everyday but still they're nervous and I can't blame them as my own heart beats rapidly in sorrow.

a friendship broken
and still my heart cries in pain
fluttering wingless

Could it be these tiny birds are totem of the sad,
then perhaps butterflies represent new life and hope?  

sage little sparrows
tiny heads peeking through hedge
watching for the hawk

The rabbits are nibbling late summer grass.  Their tiny noses and ears twitch.  Some will fall while others flourish, the world isn't always kind . Gentle furry friend your baby is bigger now and no longer stays close to the hedge but cavorts upon the lawn as all children do; Still she's not quite as knowledgeable as you,  my friend with fur so soft and gentle eyes.  Yet you will both survive this city living, hopping through the spray of sprinklers on lawns, digging holes ever watchful.  Perhaps we all learn to adapt even soft furry creatures.

Today a bunny
burrows protecting new life
small carrots my gift

Last night the leopard roamed through my dreams.  I felt the thrill of the hunt, teeth sinking into flesh and I'm not repelled. This is life and the leopard too must eat and yet she only kills to feed her hunger, she's not vindictive and for some reason she grounds me.  To survive one must be strong.  In light of moon she urges me on stilling frantic thoughts and giving me purpose.

essense of fleetness
necessity is living
surviving through pain

As a child I remember the zoo rides on the elephant. What a gorgeous creature she was. A special saddle was set atop her back and little children were placed in a row to ride upon this gentle giant.  I loved to feel her rough hide, and the touch of her inquisitive trunk. Yet even as I felt dwarfed in her presence I saw something so powerfully wondrous in her eyes, a strength of character and wisdom as if life had taught her so much and she wanted someone to understand.  
When I rode atop her I felt light as if I had wings, there was no mistrust or any frightening vibes, just a glorious feeling akin to euphoria.  Once she was sad and I saw tears in her eyes.  I didn't ride her that day just being near her was enough.

mountain of wisdom
the earth quakes beneath your feet
and yet you shed tears
Jordan Rowan Dec 2015
White water dreaming
Behind pale velvet curtains
I sing the same song to you
Sweet summer steaming
As the wind was swirling
Your hair and your tune

Songs from the masters
Of love and laughter
Sung as the record spins 'round
I get lost in the chatter
Of what really matters
It's that I have you around

The types not romantic
Are the types that I meet
Like a lost wanderer in a storm
Before I get frantic
And cry in the street
I've got you to keep me warm

Cool, comfortable breathing
Beside the fire
Silent and perfect and still
I'm barely believing
Of you I will tire
If you want me to, I will
i
i am an animal— should I not delight in this?
Should I not celebrate
                                  bare skin and bared teeth?
Should I not
dance
barefoot in the light of the moon, jubilating in all that I am?

I praise this body that moves me— from the too rough soles of my feet, the hungry churn of my stomach, the burn between my legs. I give thanks to broken skim and bruises; these are the evidence of my life force.

I sit in a Labyrinth, a holy place where my brother & sister stones give me solemn council.
I feel life.
I smell it, I hear it, I taste it on cold air.
Life energies flitting all around me. I soak it up as my skin drinks the sun.

Am I thankful for life in this place?
                                                        No.
But I am happy to greet it. I accept its presence for another day and I move with it, dancing and contorting as I ought. I stretch my muscles and fill my lungs.
And in this moment I feel no fear.

When you do not fear Death how can you fear Life?
How can I fear anything in this life when death—full of the unknowing dark, full of the unblinking darkness, full of that which is unspoken— is known as a friend?

When you welcome death into yourself, you gain and lose life simultaneously.
While you see the day in a different light— more pure, calmer, brighter that you ever could have imagined— this light you are observing doesn’t really
reach you. It doesn’t
wash nor warm you as it
                                          once
                                                     did.
Everything
becomes Colder.
Everything becomes colder, but the cold doesn’t hurt
quite
          as
much.
It’s there, but distant— ebbing at the edges of my nerve endings, but my body doesn’t dispel it nor does it coil away, spitting. Rather, it embraces it. Grows little white flowers in its dark shade and growls merrily from the frozen ground.
        
Let Winter come
and let it awaken the dead-tree creature living within me, somewhere between my
spine
and
my
rib-bones.
Let the cold douse the fire and let that which is pale and hungry roam. Let it breathe its own fire amid the skeletons of Elms and Pine. Let this feverish animal breathe steam into the night air. Let it roam, choking and coughing on a too hot stomach {too much burbon and hot chemical fire}. Let it run itself back into the ground, squirming with the grubs and the centipedes, blind and snuffling, frantic.

You cannot cage your own animal nature.
It will only grow Wilder there. Wilder and hateful— it will turn on that which tried to lock it away. Let it live free, by Bone and by Fire, by Water and by Stone— let it come Alive.

Something made of teeth lives there, breathing shakily, bleeding and slithering in the dark we all try to put away from the light of social normality. Something anthropomorphic and angry. You can’t hide away that which is within you. Maybe it lives at the center of the Labyrinth, waiting on you to stumble upon it. Maybe it only lives at the Labyrinth’s edges— skittering around  outside walls, keeping you fighting within it.
You could drown this creature with bourbon and whiskey, but it will only laugh and dance out of your throat. You could stab this animal, but it will only bleed ink and raven feathers. Ink from words left unwritten and thoughts unsaid.
            I am the snake, the bird, the cat, the wasp, the human.
        The Animal.
I am the mother, the daughter, the grandmother.
                            I am Alive.
There is power in the bones.
May mine rattle in the hollow night, may mine howl, hungry at the moon. May I crave blood, may I hunger for its life as my body hungers for sustenance.

— The End —