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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Mateuš Conrad Nov 2016
.i. if Kant could have his von Kleist... well... who else to juggle juggernauts if not me? as a task of redeeming that poor soul who succumbed to the terminator of all poetic ambitions, with his systematisation off-the-page, as eccentric and punctual as a sunset on a sundial at 16:11... and in case either the spring of sunrise, or the autumn of sunset... but so many hours after exacting a sunset... that gluttony of the eyes to stare at it... 16:11 is the zenith of a sunset in november the 15th... much prolonged when warmer... supersized sun when setting in summer, and all that whiskey-copper wiring for the eyes to stare at it: oh for goodness sake, who really cares for Ikea likened assembling of words... we're not putting together a coffee table, we're looking for Darwinistic entrapment, we're scared of the aeons and yawns... we're trying to create a Darwinistic entrapment saying what segregates us from apes! that's how anti-Darwinism works - if they can easily call you a poet and a technophobe... then that hardly makes you a merchant with a Quran... to encapsulate the language of our modernity we're doing everything against writing the onomatopoeia of our beginning... monkey ooo! monkey ooo ah ah! or a gorilla grunting and then snorkeling... we're encapsulating our language more and more... because beginning with ape and then looking at history, and then looking at the consensus of the contemporary: Darwinism's greatest enemy is not theology... it's history... Darwinism and history are not compatible... oddly enough Darwinism and theology are compatible, simply because they are dynamically equal for the case of furthering both arguments in debate... but Darwinism is an odd starting point to argue, given that physicists argue from the perspective of prior to dinosaurs, prior to all things formed.

how can i begin this? it will leave me having to
write it for two days,
the anti-narrative sketch first, then filling in
the gaps sober... just to get second opinions...
i might have to cook a quasi-Hungarian borscht
and fry up a few potato flattenings to a crispy
yum... first the narrator comes in to describe what's
in store, a bit like a translator comes in and says
of Joyce: that's Irish... well, yeah.
               hence the italic preface...
as some would say, the person who wrote these
sketches worked quicker that an algorithm in asking
and also quicker to copy & paste the required
atomic encoding... e.g. ч and ch
                   э and euro and epsilon...
      once upon a time there was nothing prior
to Copernicus, then the somersaults came,
    h ч y        what coordinates where?
    well of course perfecting the encoding of something,
if things weren't stated awry there would be
no optometrists either...
                  it's not hard to read, it's hard to
remember how to read, given that being literate reached
the omnipresent velocity, the new powers had to
include some new power struggle...
mingling Latin and Runes, Greek and Cyrillic...
     and the proto-Latin of additional diacritical marks...
they exposed the entirety of humanity to literacy
within the framework of post-industrial society,
after hitchhiking a ride on the 19th century donkeys
they suddenly had to reveal their power-secret of
being literate, and by the account of women:
corset bound and bored in salons...
      but something else appeared that didn't really fascinate
them: that over-complication of Latin with
punctuation marks above letters: or diacritical
distinction, crowns over letters, subatomic particularisation
of once favoured: universal applicability...
as a narrator? i have to make a complicated
introduction, the sketch lends itself to do so,
it suggests that not all writing can be as simple as
a nursery rhyme, not all writing can actually
    **** memory, not all writing desires being remembered,
not all writing can be remembered,
                in the mediation of the two chiral opposites
there's fiction, which is suspended in an armchair of
pleasurability... but on the opposite side of a nursery rhyme
or a well versed poem? writing akin to arithmetic...
  something truly painful for those competent with
lettering, but not really competent with ten digits...
      as a narrator who has already read the sketch,
i'm trying to not write a "filling in the gaps" to the sketch
like an art-critic might do to a painting deviating from:
brushstrokes were employed. well... d'uh!
variation of italics as in transcending the pause that
implies a condescending variation of taking a pause,
also excluded are: dot, comma, hyphen, semicolon
and colon.                         dot-dot-dot is not joining up
the dots: it implies a variation of how to anticipate
a punchline: drummed: tu-dum wet snare!
     i am actually a narrator who is trying to find
that other part of me that might digest this sketch properly,
     and return fully competent to pick up another
sketch... if ever there was a narrator in this sketch,
it has to be me, after the sketch has been scripted,
and i am left to suggest a need for a dot-dot-dot connectivity
of the strokes of the pen...
i warned myself: do not overdo the introduction in italics,
you know how picky people are...
whether pickled pineapple of cucumber...
i swear Turks invented pickling chillies...
         oh look! an inflatable gazebo filled with helium!
no one's laughing: only because i didn't mention vegina.
narrative puritanism? you get distracted a lot...
but this sketch is really a thesis for narration,
all i have to do is find the antithesis of narration in it:
an actual narrative!          it stretches for ~30 pages...
   well that's me turned archaeologist with a Grecian urn
with a snap of the finger... because that's how this
sketch looks like: ancient -
                         but understandably modern.
              so .  ,  - and ;
        were racing... out came the world record
             9.58(0)         the full-stop is the bracket-bound
0... i.e. it actually happened: hence the pinpoint...
or in Formula 1 a timed nonsense of ave. m/ph
     noted to three decimal points: 130.703...
                                    or chicane cha chicane cha cha!
as said, this is an actual representation of a narrator
encountering this sketch: so before you lose your head...
i've lost mine!
  look at the correlation though!
we've gone way past atoms with the atomic bomb
and encountered subatomic particles...
    we're not going to get beyond subatomic particles
because we're going to encounter the already apparent
reality of obatomic particle: namely our bodies,
   the perceived ******* (ob- is the antonym
                                                  prefixation of sub-):
             that's were the microscope adventure ends,
    and this is parallel to cutting up a second with
three decimal points, as the safetynet suggests:
                                                              π / 3.14;
yep, the obstructive - hence we can't spontaneously
combust... but then again Goethe's Werther did:
  out of love... down the spiral: you sweet little *******.

~ii. i'm actually too lazy to write the sketch and fill
in the blanks... so i'm going to fill in the blanks as i go along,
  or that's what's called the rebellious stance of narrator: mmm,
work in progress, could you see that coming?


ii. a beer in between glugs of whiskey - runes
combined in the ******* / sigma, variant of agliz or
the rune-zeta extended toward a dark shadow of the rebirth
of Ishrael: zoological enclosure; sigma *******
sigma ******* sigma *******, sigma *******...
rune-zeta... we cannot say there are ******
mathematicians and poets akin,
not then one optic encoding states
     a b c d e
         another states f u þ a r
yet another а б (ρ) в г
  α β γ δ:
for worth of gamma into a trill only because of
   a wave, that's ~ approx. on the side of the letter
   e.g. г & r.
   or rho upside down? what the ****?
did Voltaire write this? reading Candide,
i hope he ****** did!
you the problem is pixelated paper? if you know
how you enter a deciphering mode...
                    but you require a personal library to boot,
all that dos formatting,
                       well there's formatting in the humanity
outstretch of this white medium too...
after it isn't all ******* white when all the psychiatric
pills are white too... i have really found something better
than the Bermuda Δ...
       Greek, Latin, Cyrillic and Runes...
i could say neo or proto otherwise,
but i still haven't unearthed the sketch, that
is probably puzzling the Danes, with Cnut on the forefront...
                    but the arrangement of numbers is universal,
but it's not universal, given the particularity of
how language is encoded and why some people are
richer than others...
            but it's still a beer between glugs of whiskey that
makes more sense...
i said, retype the sketch and go to bed...
and i figured: that's probably the wisest of all possible
events stemming from this...
    that's ~27 pages of notes to retype... and i'm already
in a disclosure mode as to expect what's to be jargoned...


p. 1        cкεтч       /      σкεтχ
   necessity of                        (acute
a-       -the           (ism)
is that of language structure,
          only from the use of one's language does
a deity present itself: from within the noumenon
ground work, not the reverse, as in from
(pp. 2, 3)
                 a phenomenological exercise in
the use of language: Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, (etc.)...
       e.g. Islam is a phenomenon,
  it's not a noumenon: or a thing-in-itself...
  for the Islamic god to emerge from Islam's-in-itself
Islam will have to prevent itself from being-outside-itself...
or overpowering other in-itself contentions
but still: to no apparent success narrative of true intention
as satisfactory appropriation and hence lending itself
to a widespread nod of approval.
  challenging space: word compounding, or the space
between conjunctional deficiencies: nod-of-approval (e.g.).

p. 2    concussion (great film, Alec and Will, 2015, NFL)
concussion... Blitzkrieg Alzheimer's....
brain is fat.... dementia = attacking proteins...
  steroids... the noumenological use of language:
e.g. that ****** is an enigma,
therefore his views will not go viral,
and he'll not become fashion trendy...
it's not individualistic idealism, it's reality.
as will die sonne satan - orbis reach more than 5K
views... so... clap clap... clap, clap.
           what i meant about the a-     and -the
and the ism is following a sentence that sort of
does away with conjunctional fluidity,
apart from the big words, i treat all minor words as
categorically conunctional... and, the, a, is, to, too...
given the sentence: brain fatty *****,
brian organic giraffe wall... ******* hieroglyphic...
           stood above the rest, rest assured.
  dementia: invading protein cells
   (bulging prune of the opportune: purely
digestion?) no thought to eat or eat itself like,
cannibalistically. the brain is fatty...
not fat in muscle for mmm, schmile and flex
for the selfie. how about a protein inhibitor?
(by now, rewriting the sketch, i've lost the page count,
it's actually p. 5 of note paged toward 27).
how about the explanation that we're living in
times of post-industrialisation and thanksgiving
feminism? to me post-industrialisation has created
a class of meaningless white-collar workers
and no blues... it's what the Chinese blues call
the Amazonian nomads: ******* happy...
no amount of crosswords or sudoku will exert
your body to do things for others...
   no amount of mind games will actually tell your
brain to be equipped with: a bunch of hyenas... run!
dementia is a result of creating too many
white-collar jobs (thanks to feminism)
and exporting the blues to China (thanks to feminism
and: oh i broke a nail, can i get a Ching plumber to
fix my heating while i get a ****** to **** me up my
****?!) - maybe i'm just dreaming...
it's great to censor dreaming, i mean: you stop dreaming,
you get to see reality, and you don't even need to
read Proust on a ricochet.
  - so we have brain as fat, and invader cells as protein...
protein digests fat... and creates cucumbers out
of people... where do the carbohydrates come into play?
it can't be at the point of a.d.h.d., can it?
     i'm blaming post-industrialisation, the complete
disappearance of the blues (formerly known as the reds,
in the east) for the whites...
or that old chestnut of: my god you're goon'ah luv it!
   to till for worth from the sweat of yer brow -
funny funny funny... to earn your loaf of bread
you will toil...
                   and toil until you are physically assured
that not ghostly / mental life can enter your world /
books... that went well... didn't it?
   i should be tilling a potato plateau rather than
be bound to be writing this epic (by modern standards)
poem...
             but that's the curse of exporting all the blue
collar jobs to China, then importing mindless
white collar jobs to the west, what the hell do you think
would happen, not the pandemic of dementia?
if you do not exert the body, and then you do not
exert / exhaust the mind... do you think
you can secure a narrative with a post-industrial
westerner on the premise of that person simply being
able to solve a crossword? well... i believe in santa
claus too... but i don't believe in him giving out
presents... because to me, in my oh-so-called maturity
that's called an anagram of satan's clause: which is a legal
term for: i can turn civilisation into shrapnel
of what's said and what's to be said: and what's not to be
said. people can't expect to turn honest labour
for the recreational run on the treadmill in a gym...
and they can't expect photocopying in an office space
to replace Newton's curiosity, and then compensate
all this distraction with mind-games...
          can they? well... they did!

poets are gagged by writers of prose,
no wonder they write so sparingly,
      they are gagged in the sense that they write
as if asphyxiated: they need breathing room.


well sure, if he can revive the Polish steel industry
and i can go back to steel plates and pillars,
then the rust belt will get a polishing also.

or what's called: shrapnel before the waterfall of
narration: darting eyes, and poncy **** all the way through...

     muse... muse...

        well, how about we take the fluidity out of language?
declassify certain words into one grammatical broth,
say words like i and they
                              a  and the    are all conjunctions?
how about that? let's strip it bare, after all: what categories
of words exist for us to primarily speak (let alone think)?
     nouns, verbs, adjectives... adverbs?
       but all those words in between are so jungly classified
into a tangle that i'm about to sprout a handshake
          of a Japanese vine grip: and never let go...

an actual extract from the sketch:

      https that doesn't recognise UCS
                   and insists on IPA cannot be deemed
       encyclopaedic


              i need runes for this! i need runes for this idea!
i don't need transliteration right now...
                but hey! that's an idea, etymological transliteration...
bugly term, sure, but the previous night i was thinking
  of transcendental etymology, as you do, likened to
carbohydrates... so it was transliteration after all...
but a dead end when it comes to geometry and Pythagoras...
      
    three words... and they are computerised (i guess you
have to buy a decent book to decode this), a bit like
buying paint in a d.i.y. shop...
       16DE (dagaz / d) 16DC (ingwaz / ŋ / grapheme of n & j)
                  16DF (ōþala / Valhalla / o / ō = oo),
in total d'njoo / d'nyoo - even i concede the fact that this
is a ******* mind-******... it's a ****** congregation of
four optic encodings of phonos... i moved away from
the ancient greek fetish for the logos... i'm looking at
the phonos... not the logos with Heraclitus et al.
               φº θ þ фª f

ªgreek
  ºcyrillic                ever see a prettier pentagram?
                      i haven't.

(false original title:
škic / cкэтч / φº θ þ фª f: thespian pandemic - pending)

looking at the phonos is painful, actually painful,
it's like reading a book with a myopic pair of glasses:
a ******* aquarium blurry right there, befor...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

'e'? were you: was i, looking for an 'e'?

i can say this much...
what do you get when you mix a shot
of whiskey with a shot of bourbon:
i'm moving between bottles...
it's nearing christmas eve and i'm a ripe
taoist... i.e. i better this world:
by not having the world mind me...
on the odd occasion: oh... you're still here?!

yeah... i'm still here... i have glued-to-fascination
with my shadow... i'm just waiting
for the atom bomb to relieve me of a body
but ensuring my shadow is kept intact...
as if it were a Monet signature on a wall...

but i lament... the momentum has vanished...
i don't even know why i'm so idiotic as
to presume that: from the hour 22:00GMT
to the hours 00:00 circa 00:30GMT...
something will land into my lap,
my lisp... my cranium the oyster shell
my tongue the oyster...

it will not... i can't simply **** anything into
an existence that doesn't want to exist...
perhaps lurking in a canvas of:
"lost luggage" in an airport...
perhaps "there"...
i could be excused my... lethargy...

when was this written? back in 2018?
so i was thinking about teasing cyrillic even then?
wasn't i?
sketch cкэтч or?

what do you get when you mix a shot of whiskey
with some bourbon?
a Burguandian whisker...
i am not going to sound witty...
Ron's key...

that's still a cyrillic "or"... isn't it?
шкиц: škic...

i'm... deflated... nothing "new" has come my way...
i would have thought that...
reading some Knausgård would have /
could have... invigorated me:
reading him was supposed to be my:
dialysis my transfusion!
my zombie-go-to-literature...
it has proven an exhaustive enterprise
to begin writing again:
i became too comfortable
in reading - i almost forgot
the agony of writing...

alas... a contemporary of mine...
and someone well adjusted to prose...

notably: who would have thought
that death in june - the calling (MK II)
was something to be recorded in 1985...
for one: i wouldn't...

but i did begin: back in november 2016...
begin what? to tickle the cyrillic alphabet...
which is way before i discovered my reply
to the runes... to the ancient greek...
and this... "ancient", ahem... still in use...
latin script...

that script that went into the molloch couldron
of being invested in to code...
pristine as the hebrews cited:
how many holes in it?
to write onto a canvas of 0?
q Q R O o p P A a D d g b B...
which leaves...
W E T Y U I S F H J K L
Z X C V N and M "out of the equation"...

škic / cкэтч / φº θ þ фª f: thespian pandemic (pending):
i better rename it as... circa 2016...
that's way before i even acknowledged
the cyrillic text applying diacritical markers...
i thought them too crude at the time...

beside borrowing outright from greek...
the already at hand oddities of glagolitic,
notably: Ⱎ...Ⱋ...

it's only a single word i'm using...
i have abandoned all notions of metaphysics
in favor for orthography...
i'm not going to burden myself
with: what's after the physics...
i'm after: what's now...
in the respective tongues...
2 tongue deviations from
the original latin and greek...

what came with the runes and what
came with the glagolitic scripts...
what was ****** and had to succumb
to inter-breeding...

come 2020... i will have one clarification
to base my existence on...
pronouncing the growth of my ****** hair...
i will hope to aim at a length of beard
that will forever hide the neck...
i will aim at... somewhere to the level
of my heart... when i will then manage
to turn my beard into an orchestra's
nieche of violins when i procrastinate with it...

since 2016...
i have identified russian in ******...
i've seen it... finally!
зъaрт... i.e. żart
and the "hard sign" becoming a "soft sign"
in źrenica: зьрeницa...

i still think the russian orthography
is... as... primitive as the western slavic...

after all... зъ = ż...
зь = ź...
the balkan slavs have a caron...
which is neither a hard or a soft sign / acute...

their caron is... ч (č) or cz...
CHeaper in english...
and their caron is ш (š) or sz...
SHeep...
or the two together...
and always шч (šč): szczekam...
i'm barking...

pu-shch-air... a rare example in english
of the puщair...
but then lookie lookie 'ere:

CZACHA... skull...
ЧAХA...

perhaps this is my "revenge ****" on russia?
hey! boris the kremlin mascoot...
come and 'ave a look...
with how i disect your orthography
on the / with the language that asks
too many metaphysical questions and no
orthographic curiosities!

i'll meet you in Warsaw... given that you're
probably moving from Novosibirsk...
and i'm either in Stockholm...
Edinburgh or the outskirts of London:
Warsaw will be halfway for both of us...
you don't have to like Warsaw...
i only like it when the Ukrainian smugglers
and the Mongols appear
in the West Warsaw coach station...

smart as who? i am discovering this for
the first time myself...
i was only teasing it back in 2016...
way before i found the right sort of accents
in mother russian...

i do know that that crescent oddity:
above the ja: йa... is what it is...
if you only cut off the head in english... ȷ...
again: it's я given that most russians
are pulled toward an anglophile world-view...
they all see the window to europe...
the baltic and st. petersburg is somehow...
London... and the atlantic...
like hell it is...

i guess i feel it was a waste of time to
have re(a)d Kant, simply because:
i'm not here for the schematics...
i want to know how my thought my labyrinth
building architecture is coming along...
but with no one to talk to about it?

i found the categorical imperative most
dissatisfying... i didn't want to abide by universal laws...
poetry is already shoved out of waiting room
of the republic...
if my "poetry" is not a categorical imperative...
and it's not quiet a a hypothetical imperative...
it needs to be sharpened on a thesaurus
and some grammar...

categorical (adjective)... imperative (adjective)...
well two adjectives never imply much
if there's no noun involved...
and i'm pretty sure that... if i sharpen
the next word i'll compound with categorical-
in that hyphen construct that's only
allowed in oxford dictionary english:
since it's not: propergermannonhyphenfaustian:
i.e. carboxylic (carbo-xylic) acidity...

poetry doesn't belong in either
the categorical imperative focus...
nor the hypothetical imperative focus...

i.e. i must write a poem... to feel better...
i must write a poem... to organise my thoughts...
no! a poem is not a maxim is not a categorical
imperative! a language of poetry is not
a language of morality: it's a language
of experience - or a lack / a lackey's "sentiment"...

i need a... categorical: impetus!
it's not enough to have read kant's critique of pure
reason... it must also involved
having re(a)d the: groundwork of
the metaphysics of morals...
but i'm a democratic reader...
i need to hear the other voices...
i can't be a kantian scholar...
a snippet 'ere, a snippet v'ere (funny how
THETA disappears when making the posit:
THERE - ver!)

who needs metaphysical absolutes...
when orthography (or a lack of it)
in english... spreads open its legs...
and the tongue remembers its tongue-brain-phallus
stage of co-existence in the oyster?!

i'm pretty sure that a categorical imperative
is by no means a categorical impetus...
this had to be written,
but it had to be written in order to disregard
anything a priori... prior to it...
a poem is a shady concern for action or inaction...
it's a deviation from the cartesian crux:
res cogitans (thinking thing)...
into the cartesian levy (res extensa)...
it's an action of inactivity...
as much as it's an inactive activity...
"the rest"...

impetus is not an imperative...
an impetus sources its meaning in a per se
investement... of itself - in itself - for itself...
an imperative?
in pronouns... impetus: i want... i will...
imperative? you want... you will...

an impetus is self-dictative...
an imperative is: indicative...
someone would rightly claim...
those that mourn indicatively...
will don the right garments for the process
of mourning...
which is indicative and devoid of
the per se manifestation of mourning...
it is an imperative when compared to
the impetus to mourn -
which is self-dictative...
which does now shallow itself in
grief by making a socially agreed to fiasco
of a very specific choice of wardrobe...

basically: however you like it...
an IMPERATIVE ≠ IMPETUS...
the year is almost over and i want to break-off
the dust from the thoughts that fudge-packed themselves
as worthy of occupying the minor instance
of having to count a depth of:
not dead within the year of being written.
Poetry by MAN Dec 2013
Wet
I just wanna make you wet
Rub my **** on your **** till that ***** fire is lit
Feel my breath on your skin as we begin
I am sin I will win
Passion spills from within
Let me fill
I am real my hard **** will thrill
Undo your seal with my drill..inhibitions I ****
Let us ****..It is what we were created to do
Me and you..feel my ***** when I'm inside of you
Kiss your lips
Lick your neck
**** positioned and set
Slide deep inside wetness my guide
As we pound..love the sound..grunting while I wiggle it around
Find your spot..make it hot...squirming from my ****
Let it go from your soul..lose total control
Feel you gush..As I crush your ******* rush
I am lust you can trust..till I turn to dust
Created to ****..to ******* I must....
12-29-13 M.A.N Here is my second ****** poem enjoy! What can I say I'm a ****** Scorpio.♏
Picasso
you give us things
which
bulge:grunting lungs pumped full of sharp thick mind

you make us shrill
presents always
shut in the sumptuous screech of
simplicity

(out of the
black unbunged
Something gushes vaguely a squeak of planes
or

between squeals of
Nothing grabbed with circular shrieking tightness
solid screams whispers.)
Lumberman of the Distinct

your brain’s
axe only chops hugest inherent
Trees of Ego,from
whose living and biggest

bodies lopped
of every
prettiness

you hew form truly
Edna Sweetlove Mar 2015
To **** or not to ****, that’s the ******* question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the bowels to suffer
The twists and turns of outrageous rumblings
Or to take action against a bellyful of gas,
And by farting pump one out? To strain, to bloat
No more; and by a mighty outburst we’ll end
The gut’s ache, and the thousand natural stenches
That the **** is heir to, 'tis a resolution
Right devoutly to be wish'd. To ****, to ****!
But perchance to ****, there's the ******* problem;
For in that mighty **** of doom what turds may come,
When we have let the little beauty out from mortal tail,
Must give us pause; there's the danger
That makes calamity of the farter’s life;
For who would bear the sneers and mocks of men,
The neighbour’s shock, the lover’s curling lip,
The pangs of horrid stench, the *******’ o’erflowing,
The leaking **** orifice, and the drips,
Impatient strainings that the tragic farter makes,
When he himself might sweet easance make
With a careful prodding finger? Who would a ****-plug wear,
Grunting and sweating with noisome convulsions,
But that the dread of solids after air-release,
The undiscover'd oozings, from whose delivery
No toilet visitor recovers, puzzles the will,
And makes us bear the bellyache we have
Than fly to others we know not of?
Thus indigestion does make cowards of us all;
And then the native heave of constipation
Is sicklied o'er with the pale fear of defecation;
And enterprises of both ******* and crapping
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of exciting toilet action.
Terry O'Leary May 2013
AWAKENING

Sleep and slumber, dreams of wonder... weaving,
morning’s vacuum broke the spell
Pitted pillow, note of parting... leaving,
“from your friend, a fond farewell”
Sunrise throbbing, twilight aching... grieving,
daydreams, flashbacks, nightmares knell
Pale phantasms, visions sneaking... thieving,
plot to fill the empty shell

12 DELIRIA

1st Delirium: COLLAPSES

Fractured sky bolts, billows bursting... rumbling,
heavens tighten, turn the vise
Horsemen saddle shafts of lightning... tumbling,
jagged highways must suffice
Ruptured skyways, hailstones crackling... crumbling,
naked pearls of paradise
Toxic tongues of laughter stinging... stumbling,
ocean buckets choked with ice
Droplets drumming, thunder muzzled... mumbling,
washed out whispers pay the price
Smothered blazes, cinders smoking... humbling,
ashes shaped in sacrifice

2nd Delirium: DESCENTS

Asphalt alleys, ashen faces... frowning,
blowing bubbles, chewing gum
Drinking ale from tavern tankards... downing,
moonlit beads of painted ***
Stony stars and sea misshapen... drowning,
humble rivers’ rhythms hum
Apparitions aspirating... clowning,
diamonds dying , minstrels strum
Incandescent candles conquered... crowning,
vacant vapours, cold and numb

3rd Delirium: FATES

Tempest turmoil, tapered turrets... holding,
dungeons, dragons, chains and racks
Wheels of fortune, Tarot temptress... molding,
Hangmen, Towers, One Eyed Jacks
Sand dune castles, cryptic candles... folding,
warping walls of liquid wax
Idols colder, combed and coddled... scolding,
hide in fissures, peek through cracks

4th Delirium: LOST SOULS

Sunken cities, pilgrims peering... gawking,
squinting eyeballs, blazing sun
Janus facing, shepherds chasing... stalking,
friends embrace before they shun
Tearooms steaming, tumult teeming... talking,
lovers listen, poets pun
Broken stones unanchored, quaking... rocking,
slipping, falling, one by one
Beaten pathways, footsteps marking... mocking,
wedged in webs which spiders spun
Circus shelters, big tops tumbling... locking,
people pacing, soon they’re none
Numbered exits, zeros numbing... knocking,
midnight daylight’s days undone
Moon blood shackles, shivers shaming... shocking,
starlight striders streaking, stun
Hushed but harried hermits waiting... walking,
restless rainbows on the run
Pixies, elves, and echoes bouncing... balking,
fading fast when dawn’s begun
Bantum butterflies are flitting... flocking
sometimes conquered, overrun
Hocus pokus, seers focus... squawking,
voodoo wavered, witchcraft won

5th Delirium: INTROSPECTION

Sundown furnace, fires fading... coughing,
dusky dew drops drain the air
Empty chalice, sipped in silence... quaffing,
thirsting shadows unaware
Looking glass and lattice scorning... scoffing,
local loser gapes and stares
Faces covered, dancing naked... doffing,
peering inside, hope despairs

6th Delirium: THE VOID

Tales of taboos, mystic mythos... missing,
windows shuttered, bolted door
Kindled candles, tongues and anvils... hissing,
heavy hammers, echoes roar
Dark deceivers, raven charmers... kissing,
draging demons from the shore
Hopeless hollows filled with doubters... dissing
standing empty - nevermore

7th Delirium: SEARCHING

Martyred monks haunt runic ruins ... waiting,
banging broken bells below
Vaulted hallways, voided voices... grating,
churning Chinese chimes aglow
Granite graveyards, spectres spooking... skating,
blackened bushes, roses grow
****** dwarfs seek mutant migrants... mating,
packing parcels, ice and snow

8th Delirium: NIGHTTIME

Throbbing drumheads, fingers blazing... steaming,
coins of copper, beggars plea
Rusty residues of resin... streaming,
opal amber filigree
Orphan shades in shallow shadows... teeming,
steeping twigs in twilight tea
Cloister doorsteps, Prophets gaming... scheming,
tracing tracks of destiny
Blacksmiths blanching, horseshoes glowing... gleaming,
partially sheathed in black debris
Phantoms feigning, nightmares scathing... screaming,
dusty dreamers drifting free

9th Delerium: EMPTYNESS

Water wheels in wastelands... turning,
drowning relics in the slum
Rumpled rags of fashioned burlap... burning,
lit by bandits blind and dumb
Pastured prisons, ponies bridled ... yearning,
forest fairies under thumb
Sounds inside of cauldrons coughing... churning,
blaring bugles, tattooed drum

10th Delirium: ALIENATION

Rain unravelling, wistfully weeping... falling,
treacle trickling, fickle sky
Mushrooms sprinkled, visions sprouting... sprawling,
seagulls drowning, dolphins die
Rabble gasping, spirits broken... crawling,
lonely lonesome swallows cry
Babbling brooks and breakers ebbing... bawling
puppies paddle, puppets sigh
People passing ripple past me... calling,
rainbow colours, collars high
Chaos seething, lepers looting... stalling,
stealing stallions on the sly
Pencils pausing, scholars scrambling... scrawling,
scratching scribbles, asking why

11th Delirium: JETSAM

Silver sails sway pallid pirates... prowling,
Jolly Rogers, wind and sound
Parrots perching, tattered feathers... fouling,
tethered talons, tied and bound
Shipwrecked foghorns, trumpets stranded... howling,
spiral springs of time unwound
Magic moonlight, shimmers shaking... scowling,
burnt out matchsticks washed aground
Prairie wolfs, coyotes calling... yowling,
witching hours, midnight hounds
Tightrope walkers, grizzlies grunting... growling,
seeking islands, lost and found

12th Delirium: RELIEF

Slumber shattered, vapours captive... haunting,
chained in mirrors, breaking free
Scarlet skylines, daylight dawning... daunting,
rivers rushing to the sea
Silence softens, sandmen whisper... wanting,
piercing rafters, turning keys
Shadows shudder, notions fluster... flaunting,
moonbeam bullets meant for me
Mind in migraine, meadows trembling... taunting,
sparrows speak in harmony

REAWAKENING

Pitter patter, teardrops paling... pearling,
salting scarves in secret drawers
Mist amongst us, smoke rings rising... curling,
climbing from the ocean floors
See-saw circles, senses swerving... swirling,
swept away with silver oars
Courtyard jesters, sceptres twisting... twirling,
push the past to foreign shores
Passing pangs of passions heaving... hurling,
burning bridges, closing doors
Roses wither, icons waning... whirling,
time decays and time restores
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck'd cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;--
All ripe together
In summer weather,--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.-"

               Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bow'd her head to hear,
Lizzie veil'd her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
"Lie close,-" Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
"We must not look at goblin men,
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?-"
"Come buy,-" call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.

"Oh,-" cried Lizzie, "Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.-"
Lizzie cover'd up her eyes,
Cover'd close lest they should look;
Laura rear'd her glossy head,
And whisper'd like the restless brook:
"Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen ***** little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.-"
"No,-" said Lizzie, "No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.-"
She ****** a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One whisk'd a tail,
One *****'d at a rat's pace,
One crawl'd like a snail,
One like a wombat prowl'd obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

               Laura stretch'd her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
When its last restraint is gone.

               Backwards up the mossy glen
Turn'd and troop'd the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
"Come buy, come buy.-"
When they reach'd where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heav'd the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
"Come buy, come buy,-" was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Long'd but had no money:
The whisk-tail'd merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr'd,
The rat-faced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
Cried "Pretty Goblin-" still for "Pretty Polly;-"--
One whistled like a bird.

               But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.-"
"You have much gold upon your head,-"
They answer'd all together:
"Buy from us with a golden curl.-"
She clipp'd a precious golden lock,
She dropp'd a tear more rare than pearl,
Then ****'d their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flow'd that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She ****'d and ****'d and ****'d the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She ****'d until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gather'd up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turn'd home alone.

               Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
"Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Pluck'd from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so.-"
"Nay, hush,-" said Laura:
"Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more;-" and kiss'd her:
"Have done with sorrow;
I'll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap.-"

               Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down in their curtain'd bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall'n snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipp'd with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gaz'd in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Not a bat flapp'd to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Lock'd together in one nest.

               Early in the morning
When the first **** crow'd his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetch'd in honey, milk'd the cows,
Air'd and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churn'd butter, whipp'd up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sew'd;
Talk'd as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.

               At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie pluck'd purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: "The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags.
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.-"
But Laura loiter'd still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.

               And said the hour was early still
The dew not fall'n, the wind not chill;
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
"Come buy, come buy,-"
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to ***** along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

               Till Lizzie urged, "O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glowworm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark:
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?-"

               Laura turn'd cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
"Come buy our fruits, come buy.-"
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life droop'd from the root:
She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;
But peering thro' the dimness, nought discerning,
Trudg'd home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnash'd her teeth for baulk'd desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

               Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
"Come buy, come buy;-"--
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon wax'd bright
Her hair grew thin and grey;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away.

               One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dew'd it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watch'd for a waxing shoot,
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dream'd of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crown'd trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

               She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetch'd honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook

               Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy;-"--
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the ***** of goblin men,
The yoke and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Long'd to buy fruit to comfort her,
But fear'd to pay too dear.
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter time
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter time.

               Till Laura dwindling
Seem'd knocking at Death's door:
Then Lizzie weigh'd no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kiss'd Laura, cross'd the heath with clumps of furze.
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

               Laugh'd every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter skelter, hurry skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,--
Hugg'd her and kiss'd her:
Squeez'd and caress'd her:
Stretch'd up their dishes,
Panniers, and plates:
"Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and **** them,
Pomegranates, figs.-"--

               "Good folk,-" said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie:
"Give me much and many: --
Held out her apron,
Toss'd them her penny.
"Nay, take a seat with us,
Honour and eat with us,-"
They answer'd grinning:
"Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry:
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavour would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.-"--
"Thank you,-" said Lizzie: "But one waits
So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I toss'd you for a fee.-"--
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One call'd her proud,
Cross-grain'd, uncivil;
Their tones wax'd loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
Elbow'd and jostled her,
Claw'd with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil'd her stocking,
Twitch'd her hair out by the roots,
Stamp'd upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez'd their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

               White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,--
Like a rock of blue-vein'd stone
Lash'd by tides obstreperously,--
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,--
Like a fruit-crown'd orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,--
Like a royal ****** town
Topp'd with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguer'd by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.

               One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuff'd and caught her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratch'd her, pinch'd her black as ink,
Kick'd and knock'd her,
Maul'd and mock'd her,
Lizzie utter'd not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laugh'd in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupp'd all her face,
And lodg'd in dimples of her chin,
And streak'd her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kick'd their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
Some writh'd into the ground,
Some ***'d into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanish'd in the distance.

               In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore thro' the furze,
Threaded copse and ******,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse,--
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she fear'd some goblin man
Dogg'd her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin scurried after,
Nor was she *****'d by fear;
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

               She cried, "Laura,-" up the garden,
"Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, **** my juices
Squeez'd from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.-"

               Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutch'd her hair:
"Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruin'd in my ruin,
Thirsty, canker'd, goblin-ridden?-"--
She clung about her sister,
Kiss'd and kiss'd and kiss'd her:
Tears once again
Refresh'd her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kiss'd and kiss'd her with a hungry mouth.

     &nb
THERE is a wolf in me ... fangs pointed for tearing gashes ... a red tongue for raw meat ... and the hot lapping of blood-I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me ... a silver-gray fox ... I sniff and guess ... I pick things out of the wind and air ... I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers ... I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me ... a snout and a belly ... a machinery for eating and grunting ... a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun-I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me ... I know I came from saltblue water-gates ... I scurried with shoals of herring ... I blew waterspouts with porpoises ... before land was ... before the water went down ... before Noah ... before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me ... clambering-clawed ... dog-faced ... yawping a galoot's hunger ... hairy under the armpits ... here are the hawk-eyed hankering men ... here are the blond and blue-eyed women ... here they hide curled asleep waiting ... ready to snarl and **** ... ready to sing and give milk ... waiting-I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird ... and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want ... and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes-And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart-and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where-For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and **** and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.
Stephen E Yocum Oct 2014
Fifteen years old and thinking I was older.
'Assistant Maintenance Man' at a Public School
Summer Camp. Billy Deitz had just graduated
High School, I thought him the coolest guy
I knew. The first week was ended, the little
kids gone home, a new batch in two days time.

We did our work, cleaned and swept, sweated
in the summer sun. Took the old surplus Jeep
over to the creek and plunged ourselves in.
Deitz had some beer in an Ice chest, I drank
one, my first ever. We shot his .22 for a while
and ate PBJs in the shade. Then we heard it.

A train horn in the mountains is a haunting
call. It does not seem to belong there among
evergreen trees and massive granite boulders.
We drove the hell out of the Jeep and found
our way to the down grade tracks. And there
she was maybe 50 cars long, snaking her way
from the summit of the Sierras out of California
into Nevada. Through the Pass over a hairpin
filled course hugging the skirts of the rock face
mountains, slowly rolling her massive load
pushing her four engines, breaks a screeching
in protest. "Click Clack, Click Clack", her steel
wheels clanging upon the rails, a rhythm like
her train heart beating.

Deitz grabbed his coat and tied it round his waist,
looped a canteen over his head, "Lets go kid!"
I did what he said, and then we were running
along beside the box cars, more a trot than a run,
"Do what I do!" Deitz yelled over his shoulder.
A flat car with some machinery approached and
He grabbed on to it and pulled himself aboard,
I copied his moves and he helped pull me up
and then there we stood on the deck of that
moving, mountain ship, with her grunting and
shaking under our feet. We could feel all her
massive weight and power vibrating up through
that wooden plank deck of the flat bed car,
entering our legs and spines. . . It was thrilling!

I had not had time to think all this through,
"Now what?" I asked some what perplexed
"Reno Kid." Deitz yelled with a grin.  

We climbed atop a Box Car, our rail bound
ship crawled out of the upper pass and we
started to descend towards Donner Lake far
below.

Looking behind and ahead it was hard to
understand how they had cut those tracks
out of solid granite rock and how the rails
maintained their frail finger tip grip on the
sheer mountain side.

We ducked nearly flat going through the snow
tunnels, the clearance was tight and it seemed
that a guy could lose his head. The diesel thick
air made us cover mouth and nose with our shirts.
Two tunnels in we noticed our faces getting
smoke blackened. We laughed at the joke.
Soot faced on a boxcar in a tunnel of wood.
Two city kids playing Hobo.

We reached the lower valley, passed the place
where the Donner Party met their grisly end.

Truckee was next and the highway grew close.
We got back down onto the flat car, hunkered
down by machine cargo, more or less out of sight.

I thought of all the down on their luck men that
had ridden those rails, not on a some lark. That
whole Grapes Of Wrath, Woody Guthrie period
of no joke, for real ****. Pushed by poverty and hope.

I must admit at that moment, I felt more alive than
at any other time in my life. I felt grown up, like a man.
Until my belly began to rumble, the speed increased
and the wind began to chill. The Click Clacks of the
wheels quickened and grew irritatingly redundant.
The loud wailing of the engine horn no longer exciting.
Now only hurt my ears.

It was dark by the time we hit Reno, we jumped off
before the train yard. Walked into town with its
bright lights calling the casino gamers to unholy service
and nightly prayer. Proceeded over by hard-bitten
dealers in communal black, with cigarettes dangling
from their unsmiling lips, possessing the empty
dead eyes of the badly used up and down-trodden.
Through the ***** windows, the people there seemed
to possess no joy in their sluggish endeavors.
Both players and dealers all losers, merely Automatons
of those despairing games of chance.

Reno was still rough-hewn in those days, a hard
scrabble place full of cigarette smoke, ******,
card tables, slot machines and not much else.
It seemed to reek of lonely desperation.

Having seen our soot ***** faces in the
window reflection, we washed up in the
cold river that runs through town.

We walked around, ate hot dogs,
Downed a Doctor Pepper.
"Now what Deitz?"
"**** I don't know kid,
first time I ever did anything like this."

"What?" My world collapsed right then,
I thought he was much more than
he turned out to be. Maybe everyone is.
I even started to get a little scared.
No money, no place to stay and apparently,
like most of the denizens there, **** out ah'
luck. I'd never felt that way before, from
mountain high to valley low in two hours.
All that excitement turned to Dread.

We hitched a ride with a long haired
guy of questionable gender, who kept
staring at me in the rearview mirror.
West, to a Truck Stop on the edge of town.
Found a trucker willing to give us a lift
back up to the summit.  Jumped in his rig
happy to find, that his cab heater worked.

Badly judged our get out spot, searched
and stumbled around in the shadowy dark,
dim moonlight looking for that **** jeep,
all that friggin' night.

When the guy that ran the camp returned
and found us sleeping at half past two,
in the afternoon in our tent, to say the least,
He was not amused.

Need I say, I felt much older that next day
and a little wiser too.
I wrote this memory for my kids.
may they never jump a freight train
out of ignorant curiosity.
db cooper Jan 2015
I stopped by for a cigarette and to hear a story
He always told the tale of one eyed molly
She lost her eye
In a fight with a dog
The moral of the story was
Never trust something
Just because it may look harmless,
Even act harmless
But this day he told me another tale
The one of old Lumberjack Dale*

He was large like an ogre
Chopped too many trees to know of

Was stupid according to my uncle
This gave me quite a chuckle

He left off, on a normal morning
Hiked up the mountain
To where the clear dirt’s mourning

Held his axe and began to swing
The trees didn't have a prayer
He thought he was king

One fell down
He yelled "TIMBER"
Another smacked the ground
He Yelled "TIMBER"
Then another
and
Another

Birds were scattering
Squirrels were flying
The sounds were of a madman grunting through fire

"TIMBER"
The fifth hit the ground
The lumberjack ogre
Had to sit down

He swung one too many times, on this here day
The mountain swung back with a black bear, ok?

Protecting her cubs she wrestled the big man
Teeth in his arm and his axe in his hand

He squinted his eyes and flung the weapon
Missing the giant bear standing about 6' 11"

The mountain whispered to the lumberjack
"Leave and never come back"
He had ****** his pants and ran for the shack

"TIMBER"

The old black bear followed
Protecting her land
And the ones she adored
Alyre Collette Jan 2013
Piggies dancing, floating along narrow passages towards what they hope is their ends. Their means have been stolen and packaged and sold by big suited, corporate, handy-handy machines. They eat piggies every day and love it, love it, love it down their gullet.
They are not worth a mention yet they get it, they want nothing but your attention, they don’t need it yet they get it. Their appetites are insatiable and contagious, they use it against us by showing us how we are nothing but what they are     and we are fools enough to take it as Truth.
                                                          ­                                                                 ­                                      Shame.
We have shame because they debase us and hence debase themselves.
We have shame because we see their debasement and yet powerlessness is in our bones.
We have shame because all we want is not all we get and nowhere near all we deserve,
-it measures much lower.
   It is irrelevant, it is biased, it is useless, IT is un-real-(UnRealistic, UnRelated, UnTrue)
                                                                ­                                                                 ­                          Lie.

If my breath stinks or my hair is greasy or my cloths *****, my teeth yellowed, my feet smelly, my nails long, my social life quiet and solicitous-   will you discern a negativity in my human-ness? We are no villains. We hate only those who would have us believe that we must hate ourselves and each other. They are no beasts like us. The animal within, encased by a carapace of Humanity glued and mortared by self-centered ideologies gets too thick and you must break it by looking at yourself. ******* and ******* and spitting and grunting and moaning in ecstasy and pain.
Repeat after me and say it loud with beastly yell “ I am a ******* beautiful Animal!”
ZacharyBaca Jun 2017
I'm alone and I'm feeling stuck I feel the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest and  the pressure is unbearable. I'm in a different place but I feel like I see the same faces. I feel like somebody is after me and wants to **** me but I feel like that person lives inside of me. My stomach hurts because the pressure is building so I let out a yell from the very bottom of it. I can feel a hot rush to my eyeballs as my brain decompresses. I can feel the pressure agai Yelling is the only thing that helps. Still, I grab the first thing that I see and I throw it, it just happened to be a backpack through a windshield with a laptop in it. I want to hurt everyone who's ever hurt me and then I realize it was me hurting myself this whole time so I inflict another wound upon myself.



How did I wake up in prison again today when in last nights dream I got so far away. I love running away in my dreams because though I know I should be tired I never run out of breath so I'm able to cover quite a bit of ground when I run away from this place in my dreams. I also like to  breathe underwater. Right before I went to prison I was still flying freely in my dreams I could literally run and jump and fly from place to place but after three years in, I can't seem to get off of the ground. I'm wondering if it's some subconscious thing going on.



The guards yells "stand by for chow!" With elongated syllables and his voice travels down the run with purpose. This old prison has the classic looking Steele prison bars you see in cartoons and movies growing up, it's actually quite eerie. I throw my sheet over my bed and tuck the blanket into the edges so it sits tightly around the mattress and fits snugly in the 6 foot steel soap container type mattress frame that is attached to the wall in a way that you can for this frame up and ******* to make your 6' x 9' space a little bit bigger . I only do this after I put my books in a stack at the end of it because they were spread out with no organization like sub group of war refugees. I turn off the TV, click the desk lamp,  press stop on my tape player, but I let the fan still run. I fold up the drawing I was working on into my dictionary of symbols along with a couple of the poems that were simultaneously being worked on - it's like I have to work on 10 different things at a time to keep my mind occupied. I'm stuck in the cell 23-24 hours a day with ADHD and I was the type of kid to wonder the city for 16 hours on my bike.  I like it because I feel like I'm getting good at 10 different things at once and though I know i it's pretty much impossible to focus on more than one thing at a time I set aside small focuses for each thing in bits and pieces and then go to the next thing, it's quite refreshing to be honest.



I throw some water on my face brush my teeth and I comb my hair back  after I put on a fresh T-shirt, some new pants and my new shoes . Even though I'm wearing all orange I want to look the best I can because it makes me feel good. On the walk to the chow hall we have to go down the stairs and central unit in Florence, Arizona. We all squeeze shoulder to shoulder on the tight run of cells and have to walk Down five flights of stairs and everybody is in a rush but still acting like there just walking casual it's pretty funny to see people do casual speed walks. Everybody's cracking jokes and excited because   Tonight we get pizza and we only get it a couple times every six weeks for they have the menu on a six week schedule. It might taste a little bit cardboardy but who cares it's been years since we've actually had a real slice.  And if you bring some salsa with a little bit of your own cheese you can actually fix the pizza up to where it's quite delectable.  



We pass through the old metal doors and you could fill the air blow from above where the door fan is. As I walk into the chow hall, I can feel tension among the other inmates - it feels like when the lowest frequency on a sound scale with a bass comes in really deep at the bottom of your stomach and a high pitch of the top of your ear that is out of tune and doesn't sit well. You can always tell when something is about to happen because everybody gets quiet and you can feel it in your stomach it's almost like the same feeling of fear and anxiety because the guy who's going to get gotten never knows it's him. I give the guard my last name and I get in line to get my pizza. The food trays come out of the hole in the wall  pretty fast -  inmates that work inside of the kitchen have this down to a science and their muscle memory and pattern recognition is that of an expert sous chef.   Pizza corn jello and a cup for the potent artificially sweetened juice they give us. I'm going to sit down in the middle tables because they have the tables sectioned off for people of different color the white boys sit with them white boys the black people sit with the black people usually closest to the door. The paisas (Mexican national)  sit with each other, the Chiefs have their own tables among  the Mexican Americans. I never sit closest to the wall because if you sit at the back table closest to the wall that means you're striving to have prison political ties and that is something that never interested me because though I am doing five years that is still a temporary stay and I did not want to join a prison gang. But when you're on the higher yards like central unit everybody is pretty much down for the cause so sometimes I will sit back there with homies. Once seated I grab my squeeze cheese from my right pocket, bite a  small piece of the corner off the packet and and squeeze it onto my pizza. I  also apply  some hot sauce and I get o have my friends pizza because he owed me from last nights 49ers game with a bet he lost. This story was probably believable up until the point I said the 49ers won.



while all this is happening in the back of my mind I know something is about to pop off because I could feel it in my stomach. once you know you're good then you're good as far as not being the one about to get stabbed or stomped on but there is always a lingering thought in the back of my head like I hope it's not me that they're about to get. I know it wasn't going to be a prison riot because we all would have known we all would've been prepared with knives ready.



I started eating. Yup cardboardy. Now a little bit faster because my gut told me something was about to pop off and about 3/4 through my second piece of pizza I heard it.



Attacks are usually really quiet in prison usually you hear the stomping of feet, grunting and groaning or slamming against walls so you can feel the wall shake. unless the person that is getting attacked by anywhere from 1 to 4 people starts screaming for his life and begging the guards for help.



This particular attack started with hoofbeats feet on the ground and punches landing and struggling breathing heavy and grunting. You never really want to look directly at what's going down because you don't want to draw attention to the situation or yourself if the guards aren't  paying attention. Attacks like this committed in the middle of a chow hall typically indicate that the person being attacked has to go and is no longer allowed to stay in the general population with us.



I'm Going to say which particular race or who was attacking who because specifics can get a little bit sticky if you are journaling your experience I would hate to offend any particular race or be considered a snitch. three men were stopping another man and it happened really quick. I didn't realize that they had knocked him unconscious and he was breathing really heavy and snoring as if he were dreaming of a beautiful place and had a stuffy nose at the same time.



In what seems like is forever or at least a really long time only just a few seconds have gone by before you hear the guards rushing in. four now eight now twelve guards with fire extinguisher sizes Mace cans, Spraying the men on the face both attackers and victim.



It's crazy because when you're in a room and they use those mace canisters on one person in the whole entire room gets clouded with Mace or Pepper spray  and everybody goes down on the ground and  starts clinching their throats and gasping for breath. some men cannot bear it,  though they typically don't die it seems like they're right on the edge of their last ****** breath.



I just felt bad for the person who didn't get their pizza in time because they're  going to be hungry while we're  all locked down until  the situation re-centers itself. then again the other part of me was a bit jealous because I'm sure the Mace served as a hot sauce and they got to enjoy a little bit of that.  



As I lay dying, I put my face in the ground in my arms and take the smallest breaths possible because it feels like I can survive these breaths and when you breathe deep it stings so bad that you can't help but to gasp for air and cough and perpetuate the struggle.



  I drift off to the beach... Here I am with my feet in the sand at the ocean. I hear seagulls flying above overhead and their calls are panning from left to right like the cleanest headphones you've ever heard. I can hear the waves crashing in and I can feel the sea breeze on my face.  it's one of those days when it's not too hot out but you feel good in the sun with the cool wind on your skin just enough to add A balance. Kind a like a sweet and salty sensation. I love this.



I'm really thankful because last time they maced the whole group it was inside of our living space and we had to sit there for 2 hours and cough but it was only the first 45 minutes or so that felt unbearable. The first time I got maced or actually experienced mace in a really bad way it was when they maced my neighbor inside of the shower because he didn't want to get out of the shower and I thought I could be tough and not feel the effects that much and I was eating crackers while I could smell the mace entering my nostrils. A few seconds later I was on the ground holding my throat because I felt like I was going to die and I couldn't even swallow the crackers I was gasping for air and hating God for this pains existence.



Now again we rise  up on our feet moving back to the run  where our cells are located and I can tell that a lot of the people who have been in prison for a long time who are not in the political movement Are really upset by this because they just want to do the rest of their life inside of these bars at peace.
Reece Jan 2013
FIRE! FIRE! BE GONE ****** FIRE, I HATE...

O heavens, I'm sorry... I- hmm. Look, it was only four years and a handful of months ago that we met first. Me taking a thoughtful step from the step of my back door.
That face so delectable and now so distasteful. You broke me, woman, you broke me.
I pondered for so long, the demise of our world. The inevitable freezing of a seemingly indestructible cosmos. The cascade of hellfire from heavens unknown. Oh and the uncivilized beasts from the sky. Wise beyond our years, dangerous in theirs.
You broke me you broke me, ***** of my dreams, you broke me.
Step away from mine, the ****** hands of murderers and devils. Take in yours the safety you dreamed.
For I am but a tyrant in your ethereal presence.
                                                        
These walls close too fast for such a man... I'm no such thing though.
Brother, oh brother quit being dead, incorrigible fool. Rise from your own heaven of concrete and leaden death. Stupid man.
She. She did this. Taking to your arms each night, returning with your scent. WE ARE ANIMALS YOU FOOL! Did you assume..? Never mind.
But still you lay, dead, foolish.
Gasoline, oh gee golly gosh the smell of gasoline. Sweet petroleum of these masters of ours. ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, BP (oh BP you fastidious harlot), BG, Premier and Chevron. I pray you all burn like my dear poor friend/fiend here. I pray to a non-existent God, of course.
Oh sweet embers, the fire, thee fire. *******, the fire. I hate what you have made of me.

A beastly man, bearded and uncouth. My tooth, my tooth.
My tooth it pains me on a daily basis. My gums are that of a ninety year old **** smoker. Black, rotting, stinking. Parallels of my life, I suppose. Teeth,  dreadful, dying, dead, deathlike, decaying, Dickensian, dark, damp, d... d- **** it. Years of poor hygiene, years I focused my full attention on my love, my life, my sweet innocent beautiful flower of the wild world and the wooded wonderland of Whinfell.

Now you have gone, I feel empty. No, I shall cease to make such mistakes in my off handed ramblings. I shall seek my thesaurus...
My dear love, now that you have deserted my soul and destroyed my world and very reason for living. I feel ever so depleted, hollow, cavernous and wanting. Sweet sweet child, I pray to my non-conformist God, that of imagination and speculation. The veritable Frankenstein of philosophical and spiritual distortion; I pray he guides you safely through these stormy nights and past the cliffs of disturbed memories. I pray he holds you close to his chest and reveres your silken thighs without touch.

**** ME, PLEASE GOD ****. ME.
The embers of my kin simmer to a pedestrian crackle. The cackle the cackle, my voice is a cackle and I hate it. Dried remnants and burned ones too. I can't help but smile as I remember running through the fields behind my home, where the thieves and the addicts roamed. Child like fascination of the lurid creatures dwelling within the brothel I called home. Whorish women, my curse, the bane of my something or other. Feeble mind of mine, it continues to let me down. Not too dissimilar to the bunches of balloons that decorated the cars of the local garage, waiting to be sold to prospective family-men and business men and men and men and men. Sweet men. The balloons, of course! I would sit on the deserted field and from a  distance observe the close of trading and the ceremonial cutting of ******* strings that freed the multicolored harlots of the sky, back into the sky. Only to be destroyed by winds, birds, planes, storms and the pressures of the atmosphere. Weak willed *******, the lot of them.

But you dear brother, of no relation. You were kind hearted and I point to where your charred heart lay.
You held me close and called me Elizabeth. Matriarchal dream of mine. You broke the seal of new technology, purchased from store upon the corner.  Multiple windows on my windows, each one a prospective client. You lucky friend, I choose you.
We were madly in lust. Madly in... lust. I cannot bear to bring the 'L' word from my cowardice lips. Lips that pleasure, lips that weave, oh lips you kissed daily. Masculine frame, strong father figure of which I am vacant. Let me lay with you once more, in my pretty dress and high heels. Let me pretend for a day that I am no man. That I, that I am your lady. Let me, let me, please let me sit with my legs crossed and hair dancing in the cool breeze and breath of yours.
Too many years I herd the pleasure through papyrus walls. Mother wailing and cheering for the lord. Grunting and creaking with the pleasure she felt. I enjoyed it so much. For that reason and many others beside, I chose a life.

Life so frail, life so pure
Stepping slowly
From the step of my back door
Closing behind me
and turning the key
I shall be home to you
As your lady.

Please do not govern for I am impure of mind.
Life's little scar ingrained in my skull.
Each and every maddening creature has led me, the narcissist, to this here concrete hell.
In which I shall say my final words,
and breath my final wheezing breath
For I have killed two men and a perfect woman today
And Long may they rest.
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely.  Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green **** hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
Polar Feb 2016
Goblin Market
by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries; -
All ripe together
In summer weather, -
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy."

Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger-tips.
"Lie close," Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
"We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"
"Come buy," call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
"Oh," cried Lizzie, "Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men."
Lizzie covered up her eyes,
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
"Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen ***** little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds' weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes."
"No," said Lizzie: "No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.'
She ****** a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat's face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat's pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry scurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
'Come buy, come buy.'
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
"Come buy, come buy," was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money.
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr'd,
The rat-paced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried "Pretty Goblin" still for "Pretty Polly";
One whistled like a bird.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
"Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
"You have much gold upon your head,"
They answered all together:
"Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then ****** their fruit globes fair or red.
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She ****** and ****** and ****** the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She ****** until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone.

Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
'Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the moonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so."
"Nay, hush," said Laura:
"Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still:
Tomorrow night I will
Buy more;' and kissed her:
"Have done with sorrow;
I'll bring you plums tomorrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap."

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall'n snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forebore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one rest.

Early in the morning
When the first **** crowed his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.

At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep.
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: "The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags.
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.'
But Laura loitered still among the rushes,
And said the bank was steep.

And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fall'n, the wind not chill;
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
"Come buy, come buy,"
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling -
Let alone the herds
That used to ***** along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

Till Lizzie urged, "O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call, but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glow-worm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark:
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?"

Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
"Come buy our fruits, come buy."
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root:
She said not one word in her heart's sore ache:
But peering thro' the dimness, nought discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry,
"Come buy, come buy"; -
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away.

One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none.
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.

Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care,
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:" -
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the ***** of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her,
But feared to pay too dear.
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter time.

Till Laura dwindling
Seemed knocking at Death's door.
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter-skelter, hurry skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes, -
Hugged her and kissed her:
Squeezed and caressed her:
Stretched up their dishes,
Panniers, and plates:
"Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and **** them,
Pomegranates, figs." -

"Good folk," said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie:
"Give me much and many:" -
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
"Nay, take a seat with us,
Honour and eat with us,"
They answered grinning:
"Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavour would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us." -
"Thank you," said Lizzie: "But one waits
At home alone for me:
So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee." -
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood, -
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously, -
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire, -
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee, -
Like a royal ****** town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syruped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.

In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore thro' the furze,
Threaded copse and ******,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse, -
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear;
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

She cried, "Laura," up the garden.
"Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, **** my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men."

Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
"Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruined in my ruin,
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?" -
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.

Swift fire spread through her veins,
knocked at her heart
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like a foam-topped waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?

Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
ok it's long but in my opinion it will always be one of the most awesome poems ever!
Higgs Nov 2012
People often criticise the BBC.
They say it fails to give a balanced view of things.
Well, one day, there was a meeting.
And they decided to try something different.

It started off in the same way as usual
The Six o'clock News.
With that newsreader I like.

She seemed happy enough,
Talking about the day's grisly events,
With a cheery smile.

Predictable headlines.

Gun massacre in America.
Politicians pontificating. (Just like they did after the previous one.)

Civil war in an African country.
Which one? (Who cares. Doesn't affect us.)

Bombing in the Middle East.
"Some people may find these pictures distressing..." (But they showed them anyway.)

Mass ****** at home.
How many corpses so far? (Only two more to go before it's a record!)

Bodies. Bodies. Bodies.
Seen it all before.
Where's the remote?...

But just as I was about to switch
To a different channel,
About half way through the programme,
It was back to her.
In the studio.

"But, on a happier note, here's what's currently going on at an address in London".

Huh?

Picture cuts to the inside of a large Victorian house.
Drawing Room with furniture cleared out of the way.
And in the middle of the room...

AN ****!

Eh?

Fifteen, maybe twenty people.
Difficult to count, because of the positions.
No music. No voice-over. No corny storyline.

Just *******.

And licking. And *******. And panting. And grunting.

And laughter!
Lots of laughter.
All of them having so much fun.
Every shape, size and colour.
Nobody left out. Everybody united
In the blissful pursuit

OF HAPPINESS!

Bodies. Bodies. Bodies.
Never seen anything like it.
Where's the record button on this remote?...

But then, after a few minutes,
It was back to the studio.
There she was again
Smiling
(And looking a little flushed.)
She winked at the camera.
"That's all from us. We'll be back at Ten."


Three million people phoned in to complain
About the ***.

Nobody  complained
About the violence.

What a peculiar world we live in.
Totally fictional!
It's really just a comment on the strange attitudes governing what is shown on British TV. It seems that *** is bad but violence is perfectly OK, even on the news at tea-time. I've never understood why this is the case.
onlylovepoetry Aug 2018
who
would cry
being loved,
when even such tinkling
comes of the loving?


Grasses” by Alfred Kreymborg

<•>
we all make lots of love
in the same way as billions of others

grunting huffing noises of neural tissues torn and reborn

but the notes and noises we make, keep, unique no one else’s

the bored and the low thinkers saying “honey, you just wrong,”

the tinkling sounds are the silent mitosis of cells splitting
and then rejoicing rejoining, definable only as unique

so we both weeping, side by side, only we together can
hear the sounds of our life becoming and being,
no one else quite can be so specific
you could be there and still not hear the heat of our love making


who
would cry
being loved,
by the creative silences we have just written?

we would.  we do.  we are the noisiest lovers ever.  tinkling laughter. creating.

____________
http://academyofamericanpoets.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/y/8D7DB5963FD3CE00/98E58011B0AFF2EF20B193FBA00ED1DB
yellah girl Sep 2017
the circus train comes to town once a year,
carrying Russian ballerinas & corporate America dropouts.
she brings an irresistible bouquet of
caramel apples & greasepaint, of
cotton candy & mechanical smoke.
the circus is a seductive beast, she'll grab your heart
between her teeth & she won't let go, like a
rabid dog.

when the show begins on opening night,
you'll be sure to grab a front row seat, right in the
Grand Stand, among the soccer moms & their sticky-faced toddlers.
you'll feel the childish delight bubble
in your chest when the music swells, when the elephants march
& the clowns tumble out in garish colors.

after the show, you'll stumble to the three rings with the
toddlers & their tired moms, right to the center ring, don't be
shy when the clown dressed in yellow & black,
like a bumblebee, comes towards you, a devilish grin on
his painted coal black lips.
your knees will tremble, you'll turn as red as his big nose, when he pulls your back to his solid chest, & he begins to juggle right in front of you.

"stick around, after closing" he murmurs in your ear, "that's when the real circus begins."

the circus is painted bright, a swirling mass of
red & blue, with sparks of yellow, ribbons of pink.
even when the show is over, the mystery is still
there, the sweet seduction lingers, like an old lover's fingers can trace circles on your skin in the dead of night.

when the bumblebee clown drags you around town that night,
as if he lives there & not you, you'll go along with him,
your heart racing fast, as fast as the girl dressed in
pink spandex flew from the cannon across the circus ceiling,
how could you have forgotten that?

he'll take you to McDonald's, ask you to pay for the meal, he's broke until Thursday at 2. of course. you split a small
fry and a chocolate shake, by then it's midnight,
he performs some simple magic tricks, balancing a
chair on the edge of his chin, snagging a shining quarter
from your brunette curls, watch out, girl, he's reeling you in,
he's as seductive as the circus.

he will walk you back to your college dorm &
he's sure to mention how it's been years since he has
been inside a dormitory, since clown college, yes it's real.
your roommate is gone & you're not ready to say goodbye
just yet, so you'll sign him in & guide him to your third floor
room.

he marvels at your textbooks & cuddles your teddy bear
brought from home, while you drink him in, solid, squat,
a true Texican, his skin is brown as caramel, & you wander
if he will taste just as sweet. he'll notice your blush, & pull
you close, pinch your hips, nuzzle your neck & kiss you hard,
maybe a bit too hard.

he lays you on your back, & you're naked, you're scared,
vulnerable, you watch him dip his head & kiss you, nibble you in that sweet, sweet forbidden spot. there's a black coal
in your chest, in the pit of your stomach, you're disgusted,
you're curious, you taste the circus firsthand, gagging.

the circus will remain in town for
an entire week, & for an entire week you have a
circus clown as a boyfriend.
you take him on adventures around your college campus,
to your favorite burger spot, to the big water balloon fight
& he'll show you the circus world, you'll hug
an elephant, you'll drink your first beer in Clown Alley,
& you'll watch the show a dozen times.

he'll write you a love letter on your skin, caramel drips on
China porcelain, he'll leave bruises in the shapes of hearts,
& you'll cry when he leaves, it's only been a week, but
it's been a lifetime. he'll hold you tight, too tight, and he'll whisper,

"it's only a year, i'll see you in a year."

when the circus train leaves, the asphalt lot will be
conspicuously empty, except for a trampled clown nose,
much like your aching heart. you'll feel numb & blue,
you'll cling to your phone, the clown promised you
he would call.
you fall asleep cradling your phone to your chest, startle awake when he finally calls you, it's 4 in the morning, you have an early class, but that can wait, his voice is on the other line.

you'll lose a lot more than sleep when you fall in love
with a circus clown, you have to conform to his schedule,
you see, he is the one calling the shots, not you, not we.
you'll start to slip up in your classes, all you do is stare at your phone screen, who cares about supply vs. demand, anyway?

you hitch a ride to see the clown half a year later, you could
hardly stand him being an hour away, & you'll fly into his arms
like a trapeze artist, after the show, he'll carry you like a bride
to his coffin
bed & you're naked again, scared, vulnerable, he's all the way
he's grunting and sweating, and you're cowering, numb.

you leave 15 minutes later, with shaky thighs, you're slightly
nauseated, you try to kiss him goodbye, but he pushes you away,
he's got eyes on the concession stand girl, the one with
raven black hair and a Marilyn Monroe piercing. your heart drops as you get into the car, your friend begs you to talk, but you can't,
you're confused, you're scared, you won't see the clown
for some time to come.

you try to focus on your schoolwork, but your As slip to Ds, you
try to go out with your friends, but they want to talk about
the cute guy in psychology, not about a circus clown miles away.
you forgot to do laundry, all you do is lay in bed, your dorm is
smelling moldy, your roommate starts to stay away. you're
falling, sinking into a blue sea, deep, dark, endless.

when you fall in love with a circus clown, you must know
you're just another Rube from another city, nothing special,
you see, he's got girlfriends in Florida and Las Vegas, that
concession stand girl, too, you're nothing special, girl,
not even close. you gave it all up, your love & your
bleeding heart, to a circus clown, you foolish girl, don't
you know, he'll just play you as hard as he plays in the
circus ring?
A fictitious retelling of the very non-fictitious years I spent in love with a real-life circus clown. It's been three years since my heart was broken, and I finally feel like I can tell my tale.
Contemptuous of his home beyond
The village and the village pond,
A large-souled Frog who spurned each byeway,
Hopped along the imperial highway.

Nor grunting pig nor barking dog
Could disconcert so great a frog.
The morning dew was lingering yet
His sides to cool, his tongue to wet;
The night dew when the night should come
A travelled frog would send him home.

Not so, alas! the wayside grass
Sees him no more:--not so, alas!

A broadwheeled waggon unawares
Ran him down, his joys, his cares.
From dying choke one feeble croak
The Frog's perpetual silence broke:
"Ye buoyant Frogs, ye great and small,
Even I am mortal after all.
My road to Fame turns out a wry way:
I perish on this hideous highway,-
Oh for my old familiar byeway!"

The choking Frog sobbed and was gone:
The waggoner strode whistling on.

Unconscious of the carnage done,
Whistling that waggoner strode on,
Whistling (it may have happened so)
"A Froggy would a-wooing go:"
A hypothetic frog trolled he
Obtuse to a reality.

O rich and poor, O great and small,
Such oversights beset us all:
The mangled frog abides incog,
The uninteresting actual frog;
The hypothetic frog alone
Is the one frog we dwell upon.
spysgrandson Jul 2013
he had a third beer
before the hot platters came    
he would have had another, had she not
stared, like she going to ask every question
he did not want to answer…
how did it feel to slap his first wife?    
how did it feel to pull the trigger  
and mow men down like so many weeds?
those were the questions in her eyes  
and had he ever told anyone, what happened that night  
when they came upon a village, where the young ones
slept with the dead, their ancestors
only a few feet away, watching, mute,
beyond the paddies where they planted the rice,
the narrow trails where they hunkered and spoke
the ancient tongue, not adulterated by the romance of the French
or the clumsy amalgam of shredded sounds from the new soldiers  
the giants who ignored them in the steaming light of day
but came one night, bringing strange smells, oiled steel
muzzles pointed at their faces, shoved into their empty ears
grunting and groaning in an even more grotesque tongue  
leaving tears and trembling in their wake,
the torn flesh, the wounded wombs, the silken vessels  
meant to be there for the milky planting of tomorrow’s seeds  
not the greedy groping of the interloper’s devilish deeds  
was she asking about that night, the sounds he recalled
like puppies under heavy foot, or worse, like
the madding moaning of his own sister
when someone ripped her open  
not in the distant killing fields
but in the back seat of her car  
not two miles from where they sat  
where he ordered more beer, and
she asked those questions with her silence,
with her eyes, the questions he would never answer  
not after all the beer, in all the free world,
and he was pitifully glad
they served no sushi, in Kiki’s, though
the sharpened knives were there
ready for his confessional
and the raw slaughter of truth
Kiki's is a renown Mexican restaurant in the southwestern US--they serve only Mexican cuisine
Disclaimer--I did not slap my first wife nor sexually assault any Vietnamese children during my tour there--there are, however, people who have done both and this is their woeful tale
When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole, and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by.
He comes an hears—they let the strongest loose.
The old fox gears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forked stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.

He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where’er they go;
When badgers fight, then everyone’s a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray’
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold,
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through—the drunkard swears and reels

The frighted women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, and awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and crackles, groans, and dies.
The first fight club was just Tyler and I
pounding on each other.

It used to be enough that when I came home angry
and knowing that my life wasn't toeing my five-year plan,
I could clean my condominium or detail my car.
Someday I'd be dead without a scar
and there would be a really nice condo and car.
Really, really nice,
until the dust settled
or the next owner.
Nothing is static.
Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart.
Since fight club, I can wiggle half the teeth in my jaw.

Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer.

Tyler never knew his father.

Maybe self-destruction is the answer.

Tyler and I still go to fight club, together.
Fight club is in the basement of a bar, now,
after the bar closes on Saturday night,
and every week you go
there's more guys there.

Tyler gets under the one light
in the middle of the black concrete basement
and he can see that light flickering
back out of the dark
in a hundred pairs of eyes.
First thing Tyler yells is,
"The first rule about fight club
is you don't talk about fight club.

"The second rule about fight club,"
Tyler yells,
"is you don't talk about fight club."

Me,
I knew my dad for about six years,
but I don't remember anything.
My dad,
he starts a new family
in a new town
about every six years.
This isn't so much a family
as it's like he sets up a franchise.

What you see at fight club
is a generation of men
raised by women.

...

You aren't alive anywhere like you are at fight club.
When its you and one other guy
under that one light
in the middle of all those watching.
Fight club isn't about winning or losing fights.
Fight club isn't about words.
You see a guy come to fight club for the first time,
and his *** is a loaf of white bread.
You see the same guy here six months later,
and he looks carved out of wood.
This guy trusts himself to handle anything.
There's grunting and noise at fight club
like at the gym,
but fight club isn't about looking good.
There's hysterical shouting in tongues
like at church,
and when you wake up Sunday afternoon
you feel saved.
Found poem. From 'Fight Club' by Chuck Palahniuk
whoever Sep 2014
I pride myself on differences,
but know at heart we're all one
I tried to do the dishes,
but only two knives made the cut.
Now I wonder if I can
accomplish more than thought possible
judging dull wounds in grunting cans;
feeling pistol grooves and wrist slitters,
I am at home again.

Lying, mining, dying figure heads
make their way to the foot of my bed,
and ask if they may lull me to sleep
with dreams of pneumonia and epilepsy.
I ask them to politely leave,
but they perch on boasting names of society,
reciting to me, too condescendingly,
"surely, we know better than you."
Now all of their heads fit askew.


Save the money and excuse for material attachment.
Keep running through your doll houses.

I pull on my hair to make it grow.
You pull on heart strings to teach a lesson, I suppose
we're in the same sinking boat.
But you are my vital poison.
My body collapses- a muted a noise and-
each time I awake perfectly poised
at your feet and frozen mouth.
How will I ever make you love me now?

Life's a Hawaii postcard
pleading, "go experience the vibrant colors."
There's more to see beyond the rainbow trees,
but they'll still satisfy most cravings.

Every threaded fiber of my being
keeps me pondering
if cells are just too shy to speak,
or if they've always spoken through me,
whispering, "scratch to win the lottery."

I want to write children's books,
and release doves from hidden cages;
watch awe wipe over next generation;
use my candies as their safe haven.
Away this world that have caused them pain-
I Am its new name.

Affection is a mistress of mine.
I still crave her like sunlight.
stare into her eye until I am blind
She's addicting even after she harms you.

I'll keep my heals neck deep
in anxiously wading water.
til I sing it into deep sleep,
its current pulls me under.
and I am at home again.
high five for that purposefully discordant foot and meter.
Hidden Secrets Jun 2014
Just because you want to feel a tingle in your flesh
You allow him to **** your *******
Pushing and pulling, grunting as he goes
Leaving love bites on your neck
And a fertilized egg in your womb
But you dont know that yet
Youre just having a good time
Thinking youre old enough to grind
On a man thrice your age
Even though you and his youngest son are at the same stage
You think youre grown
A woman in all her glory
But trust me hunny youre gona be sorry
When you realize your menstrual wont come
A few days after your lover came
You are going to regret your mistake
But that was the chance you decided to take
No one but you are responsible for your actions
Because all you cared about was ****** satisfaction
And for that embryo inside of you?
Thats another story
He's another person you will have to tell sorry
But youre grown right?
Im sure youll know what to do
From food to clothes to diapers and all
Im sure a grown woman as yourself has got it under control
The result of having ***, especially at an early age
The Terry Tree Oct 2014
Twenty million years you have existed
Ancient are your ways, carried out for days
Even in birth sixteen to eighteen months consisted

You stand alone in bravery of age
Predators won't cross, footing would be lost
Your power is of one to be amazed

Teaching us that solitary timing
Benefits us too, reminding how you
Spend your days so patiently on dining

The earth is your bed and has been always
Suiting you well, this your story to tell
Free from what man has made building hallways

We learn from you to push through and go on
Leading us through, what is infinite truth
Your soul abounding to bestow upon

Grunting and bellowing your presence known
Boundary protected, patrolled, directed
No one will be found threatening your home

Stand up in for what you truly believe
Too many to fight, find rest day and night
Pull those close to you who will not deceive

We are timeworn and primal like fossils
Daring to care and completely aware
Protection of our love is colossal

Be with us when we must move in a way
That makes us feel scared, feelings should be spared
No panic, no anxiety dismay

Wisdom to move past life's ever obstacles
Our size matters not, for with you we've brought
A strength that to beat is impossible

Remind us to pray to all good things endowed
Spirit gives blessing, heart is confessing
Creating what our free will has allowed

Be with us mighty one when mistaking
May we never forget, we too have yet
A legacy like yours in the making

Though we may not understand why we're here
Holy Spirit's hand, reaches and expands
Guidance walks us on the path to adhere

Brilliant light shines, helping us to get past
The hurt and the pain, learning we sustain
Achieving a great wing span long at last

tHE tERRY tREE
Mateuš Conrad Jul 2018
/             conversation over a bbq dinner
being given the information
over a new M.I. movie..
i really think tom cruise
should have won an oscar for -
        born on the 4th of july...
without bias,
   but given the oscar award for
the grunting and heaving,
and minimal dialogue / monologue
of leonardo's the revenant?
the world is a cul de sac...
  and what remains of it...
is a shitshow worth, of a congested street
with nothing but, paupers /
            window-shoppers to be lined up;
mannequins coming alive
     and taking to disco dancing
the hell out of having donned
       a boney m afro;
                 drunk, squinty eyed...
   looking around, surmising my
                    thought with...            huh?!
it's a good thing i'm this good at
drinking, never having dropped acid.
Geno Cattouse May 2013
Central park Nevuary. 3rd.
There's a noise like I never heard.
Humming and grunting.
Guess Ill go hunting.
trolling they call it.

Candy.apples are bait they tell me .
Lucky I'm stocked up with the caramel kind..
Why?  Don't have a clue.

Creeping on my belly to the clearing ahead.
Therel"s a huge checkered table cloth . Checkered I said
Sir.  Are there more white squares or more red type squares sir.

Trolls sit cross legged in front of a candy apple pile.
Stuffing their faces a minute a mile.
Trolls are a fiction or that is the tale.
These trolls wash down apples with hot ginger ale

I wish I would stop dreaming this dream.every time
I eat mango ice cream.
Sam Greig-Mohns Mar 2013
Sitting in the world’s most uncomfortable chair as I readjust my seat for the sixth time… it seems to be a futile effort.
An overweight man in a grey jogging suit is walking in, his white shoes leave wet foot prints across the faded carpet as he crosses the room and begins taking up the chair opposite me with a heavy sigh as though he has walked a long distance though I can see his car through the half closed blinds.

I think the carpet used to be red, like the long carpets they use in the lineup to see Santa but now it is a muddy color… like the water one might use to rinse paint brushes after it has been used too much.

The woman beside me is wearing a faded floral print dress, she smells like garlic and is snoring softly a rumpled romance novel clutched in one hand as her head nods forward onto her chest.
I watch it rise and fall slowly for a few long moments before finally pulling my eyes away again and look towards the desk where the blonde receptionist is sitting.

Her hair is pulled back into a messy bun and there is a pen stuck in it to keep it in place, the pen is blue… or black I think but there is a red cap on it.
She is wearing those nurses’ scrubs they are a faded purple color with chains of daisies decorating them.  

I look past the blonde receptionist and her messy bun with the blue… or black pen with the red cap sticking out of it to the hallway with its bright lines of light and glossy floors.

Another woman is walking out of one of the doors, I can’t see it but I hear it close loudly in the silence, the woman beside me with the faded floral print dress jumps a little snuffling and grunting her dime store romance novel held up before her like a shield before she realizes it was just a door.

Just like the overweight man in the grey jogging suit as he to tries futilely to get comfortable in one of the world’s most uncomfortable chairs, I don’t think he has ever jogged… maybe he just likes the color.

The woman beside me is slouching a little further down in her chair... in another moment she is snoring again softly, I watch the woman who just came out of the unseen door.

She has a little boy with her, he is wearing black puddle boots and Spiderman pajama pants his coat is blue with black racing stripes down the back… he is tugging at the woman’s hand and saying something in another language.

She hushes him and turns back to the receptionist with the messy blonde bun, I watch as she reaches for the pen that is holding it in place… that one that might be blue or maybe black with the red cap on the end before she stops and picks up a black pen off the desk and writes something on a slip of paper before handing it to the woman.

She looks tired, her black hair is braided loosely and strands are falling into her face.
There are large dark circles under her eyes and she dressed in faded jeans and a grey windbreaker with the crest of a sporting goods store I have never heard of embroidered across the shoulder.

The boy is tugging at her hand again and as she turns to look at him she wearily sweeps her gaze over the rest of the room before she answers him.
Her voice is very soft with a practiced kind of patience most parents have, though I can’t make out her words I am sure they are also in another language that I do not understand.

I watch as they boy runs towards the door and pushes all his weight against it making a great show of his strength as the door slowly swings outwards and he leans back against it digging his boots into the muddy colored carpet as the woman follows him out.

The man in the grey jogging suit that has most likely never jogged before has gotten out of his world’s most uncomfortable chair and is eyeing the other still empty seats around him mentally trying to guess without having to walk over and try them which is the least uncomfortable.

He looks across to the woman beside me in the faded flora dress as she gives another snuffling murmur her fingers slowly letting the rumpled novel slip from them, it slides onto the floor and bounces before landing cover side up. Fields of Passion.

He looks at me and our eyes meet, I roll mine in a dramatic gesture of my opinion of the sleeping woman’s taste in reading... he smiles but says nothing and finally decided on another chair right beside the one he had before and sighs heavily as he settles himself into it.

I hear my name being called by the blonde receptionist with the messy bun held together by her blue or black pen with the red cap.
This time the snoring woman with the bad taste in novels doesn’t stir, the man in the jogging suit smiled a little as I pass him and I smile back before turning and disappearing down the hallway with the glossy floors and bright lines of light.
A totally dull moment made more interesting through super observance and creative story telling =)
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2017
for all it's worth, this "clear" distinction between subjectivity, and objectivity, well... it has no place in america... america doesn't understand that its "free" speech bias is too ingrained in subjectivity... in emotion... america doesn't know dialectics, simply because it always cites there being a distinction in debate: americans! come on! they're hot-headed cowboys, and not old & senile socrates types! all he really said was: i'm on my way out, why not? you say too much, you end up saying nothing... then again: you say nothing: but then give a look, and ****! a tolstoy novel drops from a frank sinatra song: as carelessly, as a penny.

don't know about you, but this is how i feel,
most of the the time,
having digested a few minutes of
a youtube video...
    might as well **** on me, kick me
a few times, then pour petrol on me,
then **** me with a wine bottle -
while holding a gun to my head,
threatening me: you ****** don't moan:
i'll pull the trigger...
    literally? i find looking at ***** more appealing
than hearing this *******,
i'd rather spend the night with the essex
foxes laughing into the night, all the night
through... or dogs barking...
why? well... i swear to god i'm in
a *thesaurus prison
; esp. coming from h'america;
i'm bored, this verbal diarrhoea is
******* me off: can you please shut up?!
can you please shut up: 'cos i'm trying to think!
i know, i know it's an unfamiliar concept
to you *******, but some of us:
actually do, enjoying this faculty,
   the "non-sense";
i don't see the point of arguing for free speech,
it just end up a thesaurus debate,
wait, better: a thesaurus prison -
  out goes the dictionary -
and yes, the "art" of rhetoric / sophism =
hates the dictionary -
  in all honesty, i'd love for someone to
make the "schoolboy error"
  of asking for a meaning of some obscure word...
i'd love to see it taking place...
    but my prime beef? the spin,
the thesaurus prison of free speech law making:
can't you be content with the freedom to
think, that you have to throw a banana tongue
into the broth?
        i'm a man, so yeah: i sometimes
sound incoherent, perhaps grunting to say
yes, or shrugging my shoulders to say no...
but i don't like this thesaurus prison
of the american dedication to the freedom to speak...
it really does come down to a game of a thesaurus...
look at it as this:
   all this glorification of individualism...
that's celebrated, right?
     the concept of individualism is sat on
a peddle-stool, and glorified...
    the first icon, bowed before, sacrificed for...
but enter this "freedom of speech" *******...
and yes, the thesaurus prison
  of what "free speech" invokes...
  the shittest, most boring game ever allowed
to run the "upper" tier of civilisation:
i'd prefer the freedom to **** in congested
public places...
    you know, it's more painful to have to restrain
a **** on a crowded train than
it is: saying some ******* non-dialectical
prompt?
    the freedom to speak whatever you want,
well, sometimes it doesn't attract dialectics -
and that's crucial...
   if you're not a ****'s worth of a "maxim",
and you don't attract the bothersome
cloud of flies that's dialectics: who, the, ****,
gives a **** what you have to say?
  there's no point in having a freedom
of speech: if it sometimes, only sometimes,
attracts dialectics...
  and who can guarantee that happening
every, single, time?
  +, all this talk of individualism?
   hence the thesaurus prison and a complete
mind-**** to add...
  some american called solipsism
a mental illness...
        oh, right? you sure?
  don't you think the concept of synonyms works?
individual : solo -
           ism : ism -
      not akin?
             if solipsism ≠ individualism:
i'll shave my head, tattoo my *** in hieroglyphs,
and put on a transgender persona
asking people around me to call me
sandy; ****, the bothersome ***** just
became double the bothersome,
and turned into gnats.
   and yes, the only "voice" i like to hear:
is the one that downs a ***** ms. pepsi
sharpshooter...
          what's the point of "free" speech:
you have no dialectical interest in the speech?
might as well wish for
a helium breath rather than a carbon dioxide
breath, and blow up enough balloons
for a girl's birthday, filling up an entire
room with them: to surprise her.
They have become defiled
They have defiled the land

"It's so unfair," she said. "Is this a loving God
Who sanctions genocide?
Who commands His people to slay man, woman and child?
A nation condemned, not the first
An entire planet submerged
Heaven snatched away for disobedience
No, I will not tolerate such a Deity."

In dark caves the Canaanite altars drip with the blood of children
The stench of feces and foul ***** taints the air
Yellow pools glisten in torch light
**** drips from the walls, piles up in mounds scattered on the floor
Animals mill about, sniffing the carcasses of other beasts
Each one kept for a purpose, dead and alive
No golden calves here, only warm flesh unyielding
Worthless for breeding, unneeded
For the Canaanites feed on the carrion of their own battlefields
The meat of their own brothers
Sisters, Fathers, Mothers
The feast devoured, bellies full, sated
The leftovers packed in salt for another day

Night falls, soon the stone that seals the altar tomb
Will be rolled away
The strongest of the peoples will enter the huge cavern
To claim their rightful reward
Until then...

The sounds of grunting women and children
None resisting, none even caring
Most feel nothing
The women should be crying, the children screaming
Only the infants' wails stand out against the cacophony
The noise of mindless rutting, the tears drawn by innocence crushed
Man and woman so desensitized
They barely feel anything anymore
But they remember the sensation
They strive to get it back
The Canaanites have become too ignorant to realize
They never will
So they've turned it into a God
Given it life, passed it on, infecting their enemies
Every bit as lethal as the diseases they've unwittingly cultivated
Passed on to open hearts and open minds
And to their infants and children
A malaise that blossoms into deformity, leprosy or worse

On a dais in the center of the cave
Are seven corpses
The Strong Men know them well

A Canaanite woman squats in a field on the edge of the village
She heaves and groans, face red from effort
With a final push she feels relief
The tiny thud of a newborn hitting the ground distracts her
To her it is nothing more than another form of defecation
She wraps the umbilical cord around her right hand
With her left she grasps the slimy casing
With a quick, purposeful **** she tears it in two
Rips, wanting nothing more to do with the burden she's carried for nine months
A final glance at the condemned child
The sand around it's body blotted with blood and issue
It's airless plea unheeded
She turns and walks away, apathetic
She's done this before
Many, many times before

The cave echoes with an ungodly sound
The Strong Men harness the beasts
The noise is maddening
The Strong Men dominate
Their laughter is insane
The creatures, they believe, are their prize
After all, they are the Strong Men
They are the leaders of the land

Friendship is dead
Compassion is dead
Fear is dead
Hope is dead
Desire is dead
Reason is dead
Logic is dead
Understanding is dead
Joy is dead
Peace is dead
Patience is dead
Kindness is dead
Self-control is dead
Faithfulness is dead
Gentleness is dead
Goodness is dead
Love is dead
Dead as the corpses on the altar
Dumb as the animals in the cages
If those creatures were sentient beings
They would beg for the slaughter
If the Canaanites had not so long been numb
They would pray for the same

The Strong Men
Are ready
Now
For the
Corpses

****

A loving God puts a crippled horse out of it's misery
A loving God buries it deep underground

A loving God does not condemn without reason
Without good reason

A loving God does not sanction genocide
But He will clear a field full of rabid skunks
© 2010 by James Arthur Casey
Marge Redelicia Jan 2014
I kiss the fresh breeze as
The rainforest canopy embraces me.
I still my spirit
And tune my heart
To the natural symphony:

Wind whistling
Brook bubbling
River rushing
Branches creaking
Leaves rustling
Twigs snapping
Owls hooting
Birds singing
Monkeys chattering
Bats screeching
Frogs croaking
Fish blubbing
Deer belling
Snakes hissing
Boars grunting
Crocs roaring
Bees buzzing
Crickets chirping
Beetles humming

And then there is me
Dancing

To the beat and melody
Of the simple
Yet glorious masterpiece.
(How could something so wild
Tame me?)
Listen very closely as
Man and nature
Enjoy each other's
company and
Love one another
In unity.
I thank Wikipedia for educating me about the sounds that animals make yay
DO you not hear me calling, white deer with no horns?
I have been changed to a hound with one red ear;
I have been in the Path of Stones and the Wood of Thorns,
For somebody hid hatred and hope and desire and fear
Under my feet that they follow you night and day.
A man with a hazel wand came without sound;
He changed me suddenly; I was looking another way;
And now my calling is but the calling of a hound;
And Time and Birth and Change are hurrying by.
I would that the Boar without bristles had come from the West
And had rooted the sun and moon and stars out of the sky
And lay in the darkness, grunting, and turning to his rest.
K Balachandran Dec 2012
A woman walking past,
                      grunting in pain, alone
dragging her feet, as if
                        it's her ****** past.
On  immaculate white
                            marble floor,
a big blob of blood
               *
                  *
                        splatter
          ­                             *
                                                   *
                                                

                                  a mutilated hibiscus.
                          Two eyes look on stunned
Cate Mighell Dec 2012
**** them all
I'll wear what I want and my nose ring too
that principal ***** is scared of me anyway
she looks every direction except mine
I try to walk near her in the hall
so she'll see I've busted the dress code
she's good at getting really engrossed in a conversation when I'm near
like the waitress at Applebys that looks right through me when I wanna order
people are so good at looking right through you it's scary
I can't look through anything
I see it all
I see my footprints on the sidewalk
******' followin' me
I see ******' atoms splitting
I see all the colors of light in the air
but sometimes I just see black
I go to fancy department stores
just to pull out clothes and let 'em drop
nobody ******' looks at me
except they're wondering if they'll have to call the police
maybe someday they'll have to call the police
then they'll see me
maybe for the first and last time
**** them all
sometimes I walk behind someone and grunt at 'em
I giggle when it scares 'em
but they always step aside and don't look at me
I just keep walking with those footsteps followin' me
and those colors turned to black in my eyes
I do like the **** who knocked me down that time
instead of steppin' aside
I like him fine
at least he saw me
at least he looked at me when he punched me
even if he did give me a nosebleed
and I lost my ring
tore it right out of my left nostril
and now there's a ******' scar
the janitor bandaged it up for me so I could go to class
I love that janitor dude
he's ******' awesome
he gives us *** and has a black cape hangin' on his wall
we can put on if we're in that kinda mood
it feels good to wear that cape
like Captain ******' Invisible
sometimes it takes the black away
sometimes the *** brings the colors back
I'd rather skip class and smoke *** with the janitor
but we're reading The Metamorphosis
now that's a ******' great book
a ******' nobody who becomes a monstrous vermin overnight
nobody's gonna forget that that's for sure
I wonder if Kafka locked himself in his room
like I do
I could turn into an insect and no one would know
since they don't look at me
well if they do look they don't see me anyway
I guess I am a vermin to them
the principal who doesn't wanna see me
and my sister who pretends she doesn't know me at school
and even my mom who only looks at me
to make sure I'm not wearing profanities on my shirt
**** that
******' big huge vermin ******' creepin' up behind you and grunting
and nobody even sees it comin'
that's a giggle right there
nobody sees it comin'
'cause nobody sees me
nobody sees me at all
For all those lost souls in society that need help before they take out their pain on the world
onlylovepoetry Sep 2017
sometime before sunrise,
when the morn world is
still a dusky daylight, unclassified blue, me slip-slide out
of the communal bed,  where I have been up all night,
draw-drafting poems for manufacture, sale, & gift wrapping,
to await the sunrise, the sunrise, in the famous sunroom,
in a vainglorious attempt to salvage forty winks, full knowing,
that even if I'm successful, the risen eye poking rays of
one the most glorious sights which we earthlings
have been privileged and entrusted,
the sun coming with a clarification of life renewal,
will stab me into consciousness

there I lay with eyes closed, either noisy napping dreaming
like baby wendy, gurgling or emitting contentment noises,
or perfectly still, having slipped a fiver to some tenors,
to entertain me while I slide lie still on the composing continuum

the sun round seven
is maximus glorious and cannot be
looked upon by the audience in direct prayer askance,
so my eyes closed in pleasured servitude, me,
my lumpen proletariat rubenesque carcass corps is

bath burnished in sun glow so warm, so living,
that the warming words are causing a major traffic jam
in the ventricle where the love poems are formed and stored,
but fervency disguised by an unmoving, close lidded human shape

shortly after seven,
the slip soft padding feet of her rumbling noisily,
knowing where to look for him from
much practice, beginning her experimentation to determine
if me-he still among the breathing, or gone to poem heaven

since she aware, the poet in his possess, a
Masters Degree in Pretend Sleeping, must eventually
take drastic measures including kissing my keppy,
then climbing aboard my fetal incongruently angled body
with no warning other than a grunting of deep satisfaction, when,
with all her modest weight in a single swoop, intended to fell,
causing me to emit a volcanic exclamation of

you're killing me*

satisfied, nah, more sated, with a sense of
feminist goddess power ranger satisfaction,
she prepares coffee, grinding the beans, just in case,
I return to my sleep fakery status,
literally, a literary impossibility, as now
the compelling transfusing heat from sun and coffee
impel me to write this pas de deux ballet down in words, a/k/a,
only a love poem

8:32am
p.s. not only a true story,  repeated each week from June thru September,
I have signed confessions frim the serial killer.

— The End —