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there is always somebody or something
waiting for you,
something stronger, more intelligent,
more evil, more kind, more durable,
something bigger, something better,
something worse, something with
eyes like the tiger, jaws like the shark,
something crazier than crazy,
saner than sane,
there is always something or somebody
waiting for you
as you put on your shoes
or as you sleep
or as you empty a garbage can
or pet your cat
or brush your teeth
or celebrate a holiday
there is always somebody or something
waiting for you.

keep this fully in mind
so that when it happens
you will be as ready as possible.

meanwhile, a good day to
you
if you are still there.
I think that I am---
I just burnt my fingers on
this
cigarette.
Bo Burnham Apr 2015
I want to kiss you all day.
I want to start at dawn.
I want our mouths to dry out by breakfast.
I want our jaws to start cramping by noon.
I want us to question our decision to kiss all day by hour five.
I want to have *** really quickly then seriously stop all this kissing ******* because you need your personal space, apparently.
Toni Seychelle Feb 2013
The ground beneath the stiff leaves is frozen. The cold, brisk air invades my lungs, I exhale, my breath visible. I step over fallen branches and tugged by thorny vines. A red tail hawk screeches overhead, this is a sign of good luck. There is no path, no trail to mark our way, just an old, flat railroad bed surrounded by walls of shale, blown up for the path of the train so long ago. The only ties to remind of the rail are the rotting, moss covered ties that once were a part of a bridge that would have carried the train over a small creek between two steep hills. I see a fox burrow, and it's escape hatch is one of the hollowed railroad ties. I want to be a fox... The trek down this hill is not easy, thorny blackberry bushes and fallen trees impede progress. At the bottom, the small, bubbly creek is frozen at the edges, traveling under rocks and continuing its ancient path. I look up the hill that I just descended, and wonder how the return will go. Keep moving. The next hill will be easier, there are no thorny tangles, just treacherous leaf litter that will give under my feet if I don't find the right footing. The trick is to dig my boots into the ground as if I'm on steps. These hills are steep. Finally at the top, I look back at this little spring valley, I'm not that high up, but what view. Here, there is a dilapidated tree stand, falling apart from years of neglect and weather. Surrounded by deep leaf litter, there is a patch of rich dark earth, a buck has marked his spot, his round pellets are nearby. The saplings catch my hair as I walk by, and at these moments I am thankful for this cold snap that took care of the ticks. A creepy feeling takes over me, so thankful for this snap. A few feet further, as I watch where I am walking, another tussled bit of earth and I notice some interesting ****. It's furry and light grey; I poke it with my stick and find a small skull when I turn a piece over. Owl. I continue my walk, I didn't come here to play with poo. The last time I took this hike was three years ago, on a similar frigid day. It was a lot easier to make it through the shale valleys. Last summer, a wind storm felled trees and took out power for two weeks. The evidence of that derecho is clear here in this untouched forest. I remembered a tree, which now is a fallen giant, that had lost it's bark. The bark had separated and laid around this tree like a woman's skirt around her ankles. Now the tree lies with it's bark. I pass another tree I recognize whose branch extends out but zig zags up and down, as if it had three elbows. The tree signifies my next move, to descend from the flat railroad bed, down to a creek that flows through the tunnel that would have carried the train. The creek is considerably larger than the last creek I could step across. Descending towards the creek leads me over moss covered rocks and limbs, still bearing snow. Outside the tunnel, the hill walls are large stones, covered in a thick layer of moss, some of which has started to fall off due to heaviness. There's a sort of ice shelf in the creek, it's three layers thick and can support my one hundred and twenty pounds. Laying across the creek is another derecho-felled tree. Some sort of critter has crawled on this, using it to avoid the water below and as a short cut up the hill. His claw marks are covering the the limb, a few are more clear, it looks as if the creature almost slipped off. His claw marks show a desperate cling. I walk through the tunnel, in the mud and water; the creek echoes inside. I look above. There are drainage holes lining the ceiling, one is clogged by a giant icicle. I imagine the train that used to ride over this tunnel, I pretend to hear it and feel the rumbling. The last time we were here, we found cow skeletons. We placed a few heads on branches and one over the tunnel. We stuck a jaw, complete with herbivore teeth, into the mossy wall and a hip bone on a sapling. The hip bone reminded us of Predator's mask in the movie. All these bones are turning green. When I was here before, there was a bone half submerged in the creek; I had taken a picture of it but today, it isn't here. I'm sure it was washed away. After our exploration of the previous visit, we turned back. We are cold again, can't stay in one place too long. I climb through the deep leaf litter and over the rocks back to the railroad bed. Passing all the things I've already seen and spotting things I missed. I find two more fox burrows. They utilized the shale rock and burrowed underneath the jutting formations. Hidden coming from the south, the gaping openings seem welcoming from the north. My friends, the spelunkers and climber, want to descend into the darkness but I remind them, it is an hour to sundown, our trek is hard enough with overcast daylight. Wisdom prevails. We pass a tree, we didn't notice before, that was struck by lightening. The cedar tree was split in two and fell down the shale wall. I see the evidence of the burn and a smoldered residue at the base. Nature has a cruel way of recycling. The downed tree still has snow on it and the path of a raccoon is visible, I like the paws of *****. Though the way is flat, the walls of shale tower above us, limiting routes. At one point I can't see through the fallen trees I have to pass through. I have to crab walk under, crawl over, duck again and find my way around the thorny collections of bare black berry bushes. Finally into a clearing, still surrounded by sharp shale, there is another wall covered in inches of thick, healthy moss. I place my hand, taking time to stroke the furry wall. My hand leaves an imprint. I wonder how long that will last.. Back down the steep hill up and up the thorny tangle. I know I'm on the right path up, I see the fox's hole through the railroad tie, and his entrance burrow up the hill. Going down was definitely easier. The summit is literally overgrown with thorns, there is no clear path through. It is, again, impossible to see through the tangle of limbs and saplings and more thorns. Somehow we make it through. We are close to breaking off this path. We know this by the remains of a cow skeleton that more than likely fell from the top of the shale cliff. Femurs and ribs and jaws abound. On the last trip, we placed a hip bone in the "Y" of a sapling. The young tree has claimed it, growing around it. We add a piece of jaw to the tree's ornamentation and move on. We climb down from the railroad bed to our car - parked on the side of the road with a white towel in the window so that no one suspects a group of people walking through private property, past faded NO TRESPASSING signs.

When I undress for bed later, there are many small scratches up and down my legs from those ****** thorny vines. I'm okay with that, it's better than searching for ticks in my head.
I couldn't write a 'poem' about this hike. It was too full of nature.
Adam Childs Jul 2014
Living freely in this world
My vulnerability, feels so lost
As it seeks the skies to escape all
Perched high away and hiding
My heart forsaken
For my vulnerability
Has left

The little bird has flown

My retreating heart lives behind
Many layers of frozen ice
The warm waters of my heart
Have all frozen over

Come back, come back little bird

A teardrop falls
For I see the loss of potential
In this frozen pond
Where waters should be warm
My heart should sing
Great rich jungles, it should bring

My pride wounded by this world
I stare into my murky depths
My standing in this world falling
As my legs are taken
By the jaws of a giant beast

Far away a bird twitches

My stomach twists and turns
Absorbed I am into the belly
Of a great giant crocodile
I begin to feel my vulnerability
In these dangerous warm acidic waters
As I merge into a crocodile
And high above a bird leaves his perch
As the ice layers break
With the force of my tail

New eyes see the self importance in people
Of this earth, with all their arrogance
I will bring you back to earth
For I am the last living dinosaur
Born from a time when T.rex reigned
And even the birds had teeth
For I still live in waters
Where Piranha's seek to
Frenzy on living flesh
And I am to be scared of you

I warn all of those who wish to disturb
My open and most precious heart
That rests in silence over my pond
For your flesh will quiver
With the sound of my ancient growl
And your eyes will panic
With the sight of my jaw

A quiet bird flutters closer

Bring your bitterness and all your sourness
For I am hungry and love rotten meat
And your disregard feeds my fury
Circle my pond
Where my heart rests softly
With rich and green waters
Bursting and growing in love
For I am not scared to feel

And I will lounge and grab
As a tonne of me, slaps itself
Bang, ******* this earth
For I am here to feel it
And not escape it
But you will be blind
And lost in my depths
I will turn you over and
Your arrogance will feed me
As I grow stronger
You will be ripped limb from limb  

A little bird comes closer

My heart free from noise
A silence nestles in me
And all innocence is seen
Beautiful souls float freely
Butterflies dance and play
And my beautiful vulnerability
returns in sweet song
And rests softly in my jaw

A strange paradox becomes so very clear
With a little bird we hold so dear
Trying to answer a questions of how do we remain sensitive but also strong ,
I just thought i would chuck it up , I think the middle needs more work
Seven nations stood with their hands on the jaws of death.
It was the first week in August, Nineteen Hundred Fourteen.
I was listening, you were listening, the whole world was
     listening,
And all of us heard a Voice murmuring:
               "I am the way and the light,
               He that believeth on me
               Shall not perish
               But shall have everlasting life."
Seven nations listening heard the Voice and answered:
               "O Hell!"
The jaws of death began clicking and they go on clicking.
               "O Hell !"
Jeff Gaines Mar 2018
OK Reader, I'm going to tell you a tale … with great trepidation. You see, this tale, well, it's kind of like telling someone that you've seen a UFO. They want to believe you, but … it's never really been proven scientifically. Not to mention the fact that most folks who believe in such things are often the tin-hat wearing types, written off as … lets be nice and call them “odd”. And, of course, the more you swear to it, the crazier you appear. It's an epic tale, spanning 30 years of my crazy life.

  But, It's a story I want to tell, because it happened to me. I can barely understand it myself, let alone explain it. So … I'm just going to launch into it and you take it any way you wish.

*  *  
Where Can You Be?

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I'll search with gazes and I'll search with cars,
I'll search the cities and I'll search the stars, well …
I'm gonna find you, oh, wherever you are,
I'm gonna find you baby …  near or far, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I thought I'd found ya, but she wasn't you,
that girl she left alone and blue, well …
I know that's something that you'd never do,
your love has always been strong and true, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

If you must settle for some other man
and deviate from our immortal plan, well …
I hope you realize I will understand
and I'll try and do the best that I can, but …

Where will I be?
Where will I be, my love?
Hoping the next life sees …
our destiny!


Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

~Wednesday, April 1st, 1987
10:30 P.M.



  I was singing in a band back in those days and, as it happened, this was the last song I'd ever write for it. Just after this, as it does, it all came crashing down and the band was finished. But in those last days, they pondered this song, with great puzzlement. You see, it was unlike anything I'd brought them before. It wasn't rock … It wasn't a ballad … it wasn't even structured like a “normal” 80's rock song.
  
  No bridge, no solo, no loud grinding guitars, etc. It even had bits where I hummed, yes hummed, the melody, like a lullaby. As they read the lyrics and I described how it went, they all looked at me like I had three heads and asked where this had come from. It was nothing like anything I'd written before. I could only tell them when and where I'd written it, but had no explanation of what inspired it. It had just came to me, so I wrote it down. They didn't know what to make of it, or even what to do with it.

  One of them said it sounded like a late 70's or early 80's adult contemporary song or even in the vein of The Eagles. Another asked if it was about reincarnation … And I honestly, until that moment, hadn't thought of it that way, I didn't think like that at 24 … but then, one of them said it was “Haunting” …

  “Haunting”?

  “Wow”, I thought, I'd never had anything I'd written described as that before. When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that it was haunting to think that this poor guy is desperately seeking a girl, that may or may not even know that he exists … in a world with billions of people in it. To top that off, he fears that she may off and marry someone else if he doesn't find her in time.

  This, along with the suggestion of it being about reincarnation made me rethink and rewrite the song. Well, a few lines in the last verse and chorus anyways. It actually made the song flow better and seem more complete. In a way, it actually made the song make more sense … to me and them. Sadly, we never did anything with it. There wouldn't be time. Ha … Time … how ironic. Over 10 years later, came this …


For Someone I've Never Met

Please save a place for me,
deep inside your heart.
Always know that I think of you,
as we both practice our arts.

Our worlds are full of temptations,
so very hard to resist …
and the good Lord knows
we're both far from,
sixteen and never been kissed.

Wealthy men with jaws divine …
Temptresses with looks so fine …
Paths that lead our hearts away …
Paths that surely lead astray …

They'll lead us there every time.
They'll leave us there … so  unkind.
Our hearts must shine,
night and day.
Through any darkness … they'll light our way.

If you never touch my face …
If I never look into your eyes …
We'll always have the comfort of sharing
the same
big, blue sky.

If I never smell your hair …
If you never kiss my lips …
Always know the search for your smile
has launched a thousand ships.

So, I hope you save a place for me
in your heart so sweet and kind.
Please, save a place for me …
Heaven knows you've one in mine.

~Thursday, September 9th, 1999
9 A.M.



“For Someone I've Never Met ” poured out of me in the midst of another breakup from the second, and last, girl that I wanted to marry. That emotion, never found me again. I looked at it on my computer screen and smiled, seeing “Where Can You Be”, in my mind, on my tattered old note pad that I called my “Song Book”. The memory of me writing it while sitting in my Z-28, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico as a beautiful heat lighting storm sent bolts across the sky, came flooding back; as did the debate of reincarnation I'd had with my pals in the rehearsal room all those years before. Here I was, again, writing about “someone” that I sensed, for lack of a better term, was out there … somewhere.

  Well Reader, do you believe in reincarnation? I was never really certain, but, as you can see, I had twice written pieces to someone I wasn't completely sure existed. I had always “sensed” someone out there beginning with the period after I wrote “Where Can You Be?” and thereafter. So, there they were, each written after losing someone I was deeply in love with. Each came out of nowhere, as they usually do. By the time I was in my 40's, I began to think I was either imagining it all (a side effect of being a hopeless romantic) or that I had just somehow missed this person and our “moment”.

  And then …



Epiphany

There was a place.
There was a time …
There, I stood … still unknowing
and everything seemed fine.

But there in that place …
at that moment in time …
the moment I saw the eyes,
I'd never believed I'd find.

Well, what could I say?
What could I do?
In a world filled with billions …
and there … was a you.

I'd always known you were out there …
even written of something amiss.
I never, ever stopped looking for you …
because my heart always said you exist.

My breezy Fall became harshest Winter.
My crazy life left my health running out.
I'd resigned myself that our moment had passed …
but this moment … it removed all doubt.

Well, what could I say?
Tell me, what could I do?
There we stood, staring … alone … in a city of millions …
yes, there … there was a you.

Oh, that mistress fate, she is just so cruel.
Frustration, a curse to be mine.
   I'd searched for you my entire life …
but now … my clock … knows a limit of time.

You see, I would never venture a love with you,
while knowing I'd have to leave you … hurt and alone.
I could only admire from afar … stoic and aloof …
while turning my heart into stone.

Nothing I could ever say and nothing I could ever do …
But now, at long last … at least I finally knew.

There, you stood … green seas, gazing up … into skies of blue.
My long-awaited revelation … become sorrow-laced realization.
There really is … a you.

~August 12th, 2009
  

  Typical of my life-long Charlie Brown syndrome … After being told in 2005 that I had “the lungs of an eighty-year-old man” and that I had “Six to Ten years” to live, I made a conscious decision in that Doctor's parking lot that I could never have another girlfriend and that I must face this alone. I don't see woman as objects. They are glorious creatures that are here to be our partners and friends and to make our lives amazing. I could never, ever knowingly let a woman fall in love with me, all the while knowing I was going to die and leave her. It's not in me to do such a thing, lonely or not.

  Yes, I'm still alive, I'm stubborn like that. But, some days are better than others and my new doctors say that they don't give people “time limits” anymore … because of people like me. I can't afford the lung transplant. So, as Bono so aptly put in one of his songs: “The rich stay healthy, while the sick stay poor”. It is what it is … and like the energizer bunny, I'm still going. Good for me.

  In the moment that I met her, the morning that followed, and the amazing speed of our nexus over the next several months combined with a string of synchronicities (Coincidences? Did I mention that she too, was a poet and writer?) that not only came after I met her on the sidewalk in front of the publisher we shared, but in those pieces I had written before and in several after; I was pretty much convinced I had actually found her. I have NEVER experienced anything like this, or her, in my entire life.

  So, after all this time, here she was … and there wasn't a **** thing that I could do about it. Besides, she was much younger than I and it probably would never have worked anyways. ****, the universe is rotten sometimes, huh? Maybe, if I'm lucky, things will balance out better in the next life. I can only hope. But I'm reminded, worryingly so, of the **** The Alarm song: “Collide”:

“All of these thoughts pounding in my head …
with the words I've wrote, in the letters I've never sent.
The distance in our lives may change …
Times that you can never erase …
But will our worlds collide?
Will our worlds collide, the next time?”



  Only time will tell.



  “Colors”, and a few others, were written about/for her. But, I could never show them to her. I would never endanger my friendship with her. I just wanted to keep her in my life. That, and that alone, was the only motive I'd ever had with her. I looked forward to seeing her marry, hearing her stories of her three kid's adventures; Hubby, all greasy, working on the car in the driveway, rabbits in her garden at night, eating her precious organic veggies or even about her new curtains. Just to know that she was alive, happy and doing well. I found a solace in her voice I could never describe and I was completely content to just have her in my life and watch hers unfold. Only I could end up in this odd position.

  I feared that she might get weird-ed out because I'd never displayed any romantic inklings toward her, so, to suddenly read these might make her feel a bit, lets say: uncomfortable. Actually, I didn't write them with any romantic intentions, per se; I just did what I always do … write what comes out. Still, there's no denying that they come across romantic. Again, so, so Charlie Brown. (long sigh)
  
  It is what it is. I also have to ponder the fact that maybe all those Charlie Brown moments in my life were preparing me for this one big, painful one. That does makes sense … ******' Universe.


Colors

Well when you're Green, I'll be your Brown.
Like the earth that loves the flowers,
I'll will be your solid ground.

And I'll be your Azure, when you are Verdigris.
We'll be thee most beautiful ocean
that eyes have ever seen.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
Mixing all of the colors … I'll make everything alright.

Now when you're Blue, I'll be you're Red.
If something should make you wanna cry,
I will feel your pain instead.

And I'll be your Orange, whenever you are Pink.
We'll be thee most amazing sunset,
that the sky could ever ink.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … and make everything alright.

Should you be Violet, I will be your Beige.
Like a sleepy moonlit desert,
pasteled in dunes and sage.

And when you're Grey, I will be your Rainbow.
We'll be thee most soothing rainstorm
the world has ever known.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … yes, I'll make everything alright.

With love on my palette, painting a glorious sunrise …
I'll color all your mornings with a smile and brighten up your skies.
If you should find yourself in sorrow from someones hate or lies …
I'll take the stars down from the heavens … and paint them in your eyes.

So whenever you are Black, I will always be your White.
I'll mix all your colors with a promise … everything will be alright.

Yes, I'll mix all of your colors with a promise … Everything's gonna be alright.

~  Winter 2012



  I wrote this after she had rang me up one afternoon lamenting about her life at the moment, troubled that her latest novel hadn't done as well as she'd hoped and now she had to be waitressing to make ends meet. I tried my best to cheer her up and assured her that she was strong enough to handle anything and that she must keep chasing her dreams. I wrote it as a poem, but I can't help but notice it looks like a song, though I've never heard music for it. Those repeated verses look just like choruses to me.

  Earlier in the day, I had been looking at a booklet of paint swatches. I guess, up there on my roof looking at the Manhattan skyline, her sadness and me looking at all those colors melted together somehow and, as happens, out came this piece. Even this, became another synchronicity as she would name her next novel “Show Me All Your Colors”. I remember seeing it in the bookstore and looking straight up … shaking my head at the sky. Was this the universe telling me to show and tell her all this?

  Well, if it was, I stuck with my gut and kept it to myself. My God, if you only knew how many of these synchronicities there were between her and I. It simply boggles my mind. I wanted to call them “coincidences”, but there were just so **** many of them … Each so unique, they just couldn't be called that. I don't want to tell them all here, because like I said, the more you swear to it, the crazier you sound. And I'm sure your questioning my sanity by now, aren't you? (Smirk)


  OK, OK … this one is definitely romantic. I wrote it one night, drunk to the bejeezus. I'd done what we called “The Crosstown Crawl” with my pal Tristan and a gaggle of assorted waitresses we knew. This involved starting at Brass Monkey on the west side highway in the Gansevoort District and ending at my favorite hookah bar, Karma, on the Lower East Side … Drinking in, and often being “asked to leave” (Read: Kicked out of) every bar that took our interest as we walked (Read: staggered) west to east, staying below 14th St.

  On my way home from the city on the J train, I thought about all the phone conversations we'd had while I was on this train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. Being drunk, I guess, I caught a bout of sadness that I'd never get to tell her any of this or even how I felt about it all. Before I hit my elevator, this piece was swimming in my head. It's about as mushy a piece as I've ever written … if not thee most! Not the norm for me, but this is, after all, a lot to keep pent up inside you. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone.


For My Little Red-Haired Girl …


You …

My Love.
My Queen.
This Shining Light in my eyes.

My Laughs.
My Dreams.
My Soft, Contented Sighs.

My *****.
My Lavender.
My Dew Covered Rose.

My Smile.
My Cinnamon.
The Joy in my heart … ever inspiring my prose.

My Best Friend.
My Co-Star.
My Fearless Partner in Crime.

My Breath.
My Cohort.
My Side-kick throughout time.

My Snow-capped Mountain.
The Wind caressing my face.
My Vast Green Field.

The Ivy Covered Wall
that harbors my soul … ever refusing to yield.

In a different time ...

You … would have been my Life.

You … would have been my World.

You … would have been my Everything

and I will always love you for my own special reasons.

It is just a shame … and I'm so, so sorry … that you … must never, ever know.

Maybe next time.


~Charlie Brown




   When I came-to in the morning and read what I had wrote, I had to laugh a bit. It is borderline corny, very beautiful, very telling and very sad … all at once. I shook my head, laughing and told myself :

  “*******, Sam … yer losin' it. Get your **** together, will ya?”

  I guess in my stupor, I was imagining what it would have been like to write something for her. I don't know … There it was and I was stuck with it. I almost deleted it, but, my finger wouldn't press the key. As I told you before … I'd NEVER show this to her. She'd probably never speak to me again.

   As a sadder epilogue, that eventually happened. I still don't know why, but we haven't spoken in years. Maybe she sensed this emotion in me and ran away. Or maybe, just maybe … she thought I'd pushed her away somehow … but for whatever reason, we drifted apart. I guess I'll never know.  As you can see by reading this, that was never my intention. But, like I keep reiterating … It is what it is.

  One day, I called her number to catch up and shoot the breeze. I hadn't spoken to her in a few months as she'd been busy promoting her new novel and I didn't want to pester her. But … it was disconnected … I checked my emails … nothing. I'd never been so confused, she just closed me out. I didn't want to bother her. I was sure she had her reasons and if she wanted to reach out to me again, she would. She had my email and my phone number. But, for now … she was gone … and that was that.

  So, what do you think, Reader? Do I get the Tin hat … or a Badge of courage? Am I bat-**** crazy … or just eccentric? I'll leave it up to you to decide, because as I said, this all happened to me and there isn't a thing I can do about any of it. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thanks for letting me vent.

  Wherever she is … she will always mean the world to me. I can see her green eyes if I close my mine and look for them. Sometimes, on occasion, her face haunts my sleep. Still, I like to picture her, kids playing in a sprinkler behind her, digging in her garden, wearing gloves too big for her hands and a smudge of fresh dirt on her cheek … it makes me smile.


-Sam Webster
Brooklyn, New York
2013
OK, you can stop scratching your head. I'm sorry if you feel like I tricked you or was playing a prank … That was not my intention. This piece is experimental writing, of sorts. If you are wondering, it's titled “Somewhere … Out There”. But I didn't want to put a title at the head of the page, as that might have clued you in too early.

I also confess that “Sam” the narrator is, on no uncertain terms, based loosely on myself. But hey, what better way to string you along? Besides, as Stephen King said, you “Write what you know”. As far as I 'm aware, using poetry within a short story like this, or in this manner, has never been done before. Welcome to the future!

It really belongs in my “From Thee Edge” Collection with the rest of my Twilight-Zone-esque short stories. (You can now read some of these fiction short stories here, posted in my "NoPo@HePo" posts, along with some non-fiction essays. I hope you enjoy them.) But, because I pieced together several of my poems to not only tell the story, but as a vehicle to carry it along as part of it; I wanted to put it here on Hello Poetry just to see if I could convince you long enough to get you through the story … while having you believe it was me speaking to you and that it was all very real to me. Thus, making it feel real to you as you read it.

Was I having you along right up until it was signed by someone else? Or, at least until the narrator addressed himself as “Sam”?

If so, then I accomplished my mission. I'd love to hear your comments on it. If you've been reading any of my other posts, I'm sure you've figured out that I like to run wildly outside of the box sometimes. This was just, as I said, an experiment in a different way to tell a story … fiction or otherwise. As always, I hope that I took you on a journey and, more importantly, that you enjoyed it.

~Jeff Gaines
L.A.
(Lower Alabama)
2015
Big Virge Sep 2014
YES .... !!!!!!
  
I am ... The Dark Knight  
of a ... "DIFFERENT" ... Type !!!!!
  
Who .... still fights crime !  
No Nines' ..... just rhymes  
  
Rhymes designed .....
like .... "Spidey" .... Webs  
to .... Mess with heads ....
who .... bring distress ....  
when they should be at HOME ....
Sleeping ..... in beds ..... !!!!!!
  
No friend of ... Feds ... !!!!!  
whose work ... defends ...  
THOSE ... Gangster Sects ...  
who ... deal in ... Death  
  
A HERooooo .... !!!!!!

whose flows ....  

dish out .... dem' blows ....  
that have ... "Bad Man"  
UP - Onnnn .... dem' toes .... !!!!!
  
I work at ... night ...  
but ... When I ... RISE ... !!! ...
It's time for guys  
to .... Recognise .... !!!  
their crime designs ....
become .... " Benign " ....  
when THIS .... " Dark Knight " ....  
shines like .... STARLIGHT .... !!!!!!  
  
because my vibe ....
is down with .... Right .... !!!  
and ... down with ... Wrong ... !!!!!  
when wrong belongs ...  
inside the strong ...
who don't prolong ...
the use of wrong ...
  
Hammerin' ... Jaws ... !!!!!  
but .... I ain't Thor .... !!!  
  
My style of war ...  
is ... Lyrically ... PURE ... !!!!!  
PURE like .... My Cause ....  
Ta Capture ..... " SAW " ..... !!!!!!!
  
Did you catch that rhyme ?
cos that was ... RAW ...  
I now ... Implore ....  
crime lords ta ..............................
  
  
....... " Pause " ................
  
  
before I draw ....
their cards of ... War ...
and ... **** fa Headz ... !!!  
like Beavis's ... friend ... !!!  
  
See .....
When nights are ... DARK ... !!!  
I hear the .... HARK .... !!!!!  
of those inclined ...  
to fight with ... " Stark " ...  
  
" Tony " ... of course ... !!!!!!  
So ... i'm down with Thor ...  
when Avenging ... Fa SURE ... !!!!!  
  
but ... " Justice is " ...  
The League ... i'm IN ... !!!!!
  
Green Lantern ... Dimmm ... ?  
  
Not when tings ... Grim-(m)... !!!!!  
  
No calling for ... "The Thing" ...  
when ... WE BE ... CLOBBERIN' ... !!!!!!!  
  
cos' we stand together ...  
Bredrin .... Forever .... !!!!!!  
but me ... i'm ... " Clever " ...  
So ... DON'T get ... Tied ... !!!
most ties I ... Sever ... !!!
cos' a lot of crime fighters  
be down fa' ... Whatever ... !!?!!  
  
So me ... I box ... Clever  
as if my name ... was ...  

" Floyd Mayweather ... !!!!!  
  
Pugilistic ... Endeavours ...  
that ... Create ... Pressure ... !!!!!  
and ... Inflict ... PAIN ...  
that defeats the ... INSANE ... !!!!!!  
  
Bane ... ain't got game ... !!!
to mess with the ... "Strain" ...  
that my brain ... " Retains " ...  
  
Personal .... PAIN .... !!!!!  
loss that ...
  
.........  " Remains " ........ !!!!!!
  
Kind of like ... Cain ... !?!?!  
Not Abel ..... to refrain ..... !!!!  
from doing what's ... Wrong ...  
cos it feels ... So ... " Strong " ... !!!!!  
  
The will to ... Fight ... !!!!!  
The will to ... " Die ' ... !!!  
for what ... " I Believe " ...  
in my heart ...  
to be ..... " Right " .....  !!!
  
Meantime .....  
On the ... side ...  
I got girls who look ... FLY ...  
  
trying to get time  
to roll with ... The Dark Knight ... !!!  
  
but me ... like I say ...  
am a ... " Different " ... Type ...  
who ... FOOPS ... like Sup's
when dem' bodies dem' ........
  
.......... TIGHT ............ !!!!!!!!!
  
YES ........ !!!!!!!
Lois Lane knows
cos' once I hit Metropolis
she knew ..............
  
Sup's had to ... Gooooooo !!!!!!!!
  
A Kryptonite ... type flow ... !!!
that proves my prose ...
makes the ladies wanna roll ....
  
But ... Like I said  
  
Befoooooooour ... !!!!!!!
  
I'm a ... Different type ...
of ....... Knight ...... !!!!!!
  
whose essence is to ...  
  
......... " Fight " ...........  
  
Fight .... The Crimes ...  
of ...... Criminal Minds ......  
  
whose lust for ... Strife ...  
leaves them ... Resigned ...
to .... miss .... THE SIGNS ....  
and see .... " The Light " .....  
  
The Light ... that ... SHINES ...  
on Knights like .......... I ..........  
  
Who ... STAND for MORE
than being ... "LORDS OF WAR" ... !!!!!!  
  
We stand for ... A CAUSE ...  
that says to ... Y'all ...  
  
WE CAN ... do ... MORE  
than be ... Forlorn ...  
because of crimes ...
that take ... "Innocent lives" ... !!!!!!
  
YES ... I'm THAT Guy ... !!!!!!!!
who has ...... NO TIME .......  
for ... " Nonsense Fights " ... !!!  
or .... Joining .... Tribes ....  
because ..... My Life .....  
has a ..... " Singular Vibe " ....  
  
because .... I am ....  
  
"The Dark Knight ....  
.......... of ...........  
.......... A ...........
Different Type !!!!!"
Inspired by, The Dark Knight, trilogy of movies, amongst much that is superhero related ....
CK Baker Mar 2017
the walls of inside passage
look the same
from sound to straight
tugs and plugs
dot the coastline
as the quartermaster rolls
giving time for evening glare  

pods are in sequence
as the high tail smashes
and jaws at the krill
white bellies and sea cows
bob and weave
as bow heads glide
over haida gwaii  

northern lights dance
and tlingit chant
as the tide settles softly
on savory shores
their getting hungry in hoonah
as the blue back and beating drums
mark the life blood of the sea  

driftwood nets
and sitka spruce
surround the cook house
ravens and tinhorns
man the scullery
kerosene lamps flicker
as clam shells roast
on open flames  

villagers stroll
on pebbled sand
in the harbor of souls
where ships set sail
on might and mass
into the steady winds
of the golden skies


ice fields (to the north)
of kryptonite blue
cutting hills at
a glacial pace
knuckle clouds
above the snowline
where warlocks
craft a hidden trade  

trappers, skinners
muscle shoals
grizzly feasts
in kodiak bowl
determined pilgrims
on a dead horse trail
in search of gold
the holy grail
CK Baker Mar 2017
its amazing what we’re capable of when pressed;
lunar launches
and shaman healing
hail marys
and fortunes of gold
heavy hauls
and broken borders
war, compassion
and treaties of peace

all those wild and lofty regressions from the mean;
soul re-settings
(from deadly deeds)
scores and scriptures
liberty and peace
walls, asylums
(in the jaws of defeat)
channeled spirits
of warmth
and love
and connection

and sometimes, it’s just a little fodder;
pyramids and viaducts
aqua-lines and chunnels
spider climbs
and deep dives
base jumps near the high wire
gardens and divine art
and even water boards
(for beauty is in the eye of the beholder!)
have a look around
and let gratitude be your guide
Alyssa Underwood Oct 2017
"...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
~ Romans 3:23

"...people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..."
~ Hebrews 9:27

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord."
~ Romans 6:23

"'Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake:
some to everlasting life,
others to shame and everlasting contempt.'"
~ Daniel 12:2

"For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil."
~ Ecclesiastes 12:14

"This will take place on the day
when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ..."
~ Romans 2:16

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him
to whom we must give account."
~ Hebrews 4:13

"For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  
It is written:
'"As surely as I live," says the Lord,
"every knee will bow before Me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God."'
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."
~ Romans 14:10b-12

"'For He has set a day when He will judge the world
with justice by the man He has appointed.
He has given proof of this to everyone
by raising Him from the dead.'"
~ Acts 17:31

"'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of His glory.'"
~ Isaiah 6:3b

"...God’s judgment is right...
God is just..."
~ 2 Thessalonians 1:5-6

"He is the Rock, His works are perfect,
    and all His ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is He...
'See now that I Myself am He!
    There is no god besides Me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
    I have wounded and I will heal,
    and no one can deliver out of My hand.
I lift My hand to heaven and solemnly swear:
    As surely as I live forever,
when I sharpen My flashing sword
    and My hand grasps it in judgment,
I will take vengeance on My adversaries
    and repay those who hate Me.'"
~ Deuteronomy 32:4,39-41

"'Therefore Death expands its jaws,
    opening wide its mouth;
into it will descend their nobles and masses
    with all their brawlers and revelers.
So people will be brought low
    and everyone humbled,
    the eyes of the arrogant humbled.
But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by His justice,
    and the holy God will be proved holy by His righteous acts...
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
    and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
    and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty
    and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.'"
~ Isaiah 5:14-16,24

"The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
    the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The LORD takes vengeance on His foes
    and vents His wrath against His enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power;
    the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished...
Who can withstand His indignation?
    Who can endure His fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
    the rocks are shattered before Him.
The LORD is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in Him,
     but with an overwhelming flood
He will make an end of the adversaries;
    He will pursue His foes into the realm of darkness."
~ Nahum 1:2-3,6-8

"...'Yes, Lord God Almighty,
    true and just are Your judgments.'"
~ Revelation 16:7b

"'Do not be afraid of those
who **** the body but cannot **** the soul.
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy
both soul and body in hell.'"
~ Matthew 10:28

"The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:56

"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge,
the one who is able to save and destroy."
~ James 4:12a

"For the LORD is our judge,
    the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
    it is He who will save us."
~ Isaiah 33:22

"The law of the LORD is perfect...
    The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy...
    The precepts of the LORD are right...
    The commands of the LORD are radiant...
  The decrees of the LORD are firm,
    and all of them are righteous."
~ Psalm 19:7-9

"So then, the law is holy,
and the commandment is holy, righteous and good...
the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin."
~ Romans 7:12,14

"Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins."
~ Ecclesiastes 7:20

"...it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue
to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'"
~ Galatians 3:10b

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles
at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
~ James 2:10

"'For I tell you that unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law,
you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
~ Matthew 5:20

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden His face from you...
We look for light, but all is darkness;
    for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we ***** along the wall,
    feeling our way like people without eyes...
For our offenses are many in Your sight,
    and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us...
rebellion and treachery against the LORD,
    turning our backs on our God..."
~ Isaiah 59:2,9b-10a,12,13a

"...alienated from God and...enemies in your minds
because of your evil behavior."
~ Colossians 1:21

"...separated from the life of God..."
~ Ephesians 4:18

"...dead in your transgressions and sins...
gratifying the cravings of our flesh
and following its desires and thoughts.
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath."
~ Ephesians 2:1b,3b

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven
against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them. For since
the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
His eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse."
~ Romans 1:18-20

"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away."
~ Isaiah 64:6

"...sin entered the world through one man,
and death through sin, and in this way
death came to all people, because all sinned..."
~ Romans 5:12

"As it is written:
'There is no one righteous, not even one;
     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.'...
Therefore no one will be
declared righteous in God’s sight
by the works of the law;
rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."
~ Romans 3:10-12,20

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
~ Romans 5:8

"This is how God showed His love among us:
He sent His one and only Son into the world
that we might live through Him.
This is love: not that we loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
~ 1 John 4:9-10

"But God raised Him from the dead,
freeing Him from the agony of death,
because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him...
He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead,
nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life..."
~ Acts 2:24,31b-32a

"...He raised Christ from the dead
and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
and every name that is invoked,
not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under His feet
and appointed Him to be head over everything
for the church, which is His body,
the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way."
~ Ephesians 1:20b-23

"For there is one God
and one mediator between God and mankind,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people..."
~ 1 Timothy 2:5-6a

"...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...
He was buried...He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures..."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4

"...God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:19a

"'Do not think that I have come to abolish
the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.'"
~ Matthew 5:17

"Christ is the culmination of the law so that
there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."
~ Romans 10:4

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—
not the realities themselves."
~ Hebrews 10:1a

"These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ."
~ Colossians 2:17

"...Christ is the mediator of a new covenant,
that those who are called may receive the promised
eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom
to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
~ Hebrews 9:15

"'Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that
through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin,
a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.'"
~ Acts 13:38-39

"...because by the works of the law no one will be justified."
~ Galatians 2:16b

"...all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse...
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us..."
~ Galatians 3:10a,13a

"Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation
for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience
of the one man the many will be made righteous."
~ Romans 5:18-19

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive...
The first man was of the dust of the earth;
the second man is of heaven."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:22,47

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things were made; without Him
nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life,
and that life was the light of all mankind...
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ...
'...the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
~ John 1:1-4,14,17,29b

"The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
and the exact representation of His being,
sustaining all things by His powerful word.
After He had provided purification for sins,
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
~ Hebrews 1:3

"...Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge...
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity
lives in ****** form...
He is the head over every power and authority."
~ Colossians 2:2b-3,9,10b

"...Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
~ Hebrews 12:2

"The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For in Him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything He might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."
~ Colossians 1:15-20

"'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'"
~ Luke 19:10

"...when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to redeem those under the law,
that we might receive adoption to sonship."
~ Galatians 4:4-5

"For this reason He had to be made like them,
fully human in every way, in order that He might become
a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,
and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted,
He is able to help those who are being tempted."
~ Hebrews 2:17-18

"For we do not have a high priest who is
unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are—yet He did not sin.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need."
~ Hebrews 4:15-16

"...Christ Jesus who died—
more than that, who was raised to life—
is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."
~ Romans 8:34b

"...because Jesus lives forever,
He has a permanent priesthood.
Therefore He is able to save completely
those who come to God through Him,
because He always lives to intercede for them.
Such a high priest truly meets our need—
one who is holy, blameless, pure,
set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
Unlike the other high priests,
He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day,
first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people.
He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered Himself."
~ Hebrews 7:24-27

"...He appeared so that He might take away our sins.
And in Him is no sin."
~ 1 John 3:5

"...Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
~ 1 Peter 1:19b

"God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,
through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith.
He did this to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in His forbearance He had left
the sins committed beforehand unpunished—
He did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time,
so as to be just and the one who justifies
those who have faith in Jesus."
~ Romans 3:25-26

"In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace..."
~ Ephesians 1:7

"For the life...is in the blood,
and I have given it to you to make atonement...
it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life."
~ Leviticus 17:11

"...and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness...
Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many..."
~ Hebrews 9:22b,28a

"'All the prophets testify about Him
that everyone who believes in Him
receives forgiveness of sins through His name.'"
~ Acts 10:43

"For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy."
~ Hebrews 10:14

"'He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in His mouth.'...
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness..."
~ 1 Peter 2:22,24a

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
~ 1 Peter 3:18a

"Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor,
but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance.'"
~ Luke 5:31-32

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness."
~ 1 John 1:8-9

"God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

"...For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7b

"Surely He took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God,
    stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
    the iniquity of us all."
~ Isaiah 53:4-6

"And He died for all, that those who live
should no longer live for themselves but for Him
who died for them and was raised again."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:15

"For sin shall no longer be your master,
because you are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not
under the law but under grace? By no means!...
You have been set free from sin and have become
slaves to righteousness."
~ Romans 6:14-15,18

"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,
just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"
~ Romans 1:17

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him
is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned
already because they have not believed in the name of God’s
one and only Son... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God’s wrath remains on them."
~ John 3:16-18,36

"God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
Whoever has the Son has life;
whoever does not have the Son of God
does not have life."
~ 1 John 5:11b-12

"He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification."
~ Romans 4:25

"...Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:20

"...just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
~ Romans 6:4b

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade..."
~ 1 Peter 1:3-4a

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation:
The old has gone, the new has come!"
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

"...to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God— children born
not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God."
~ John 1:12-13

"Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you,
no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'...
'Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless they are born of water and the Spirit.'"
~ John 3:3,5

"...born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable,
through the living and enduring word of God."
~ 1 Peter 1:23

"...birth through the word of truth..."
~ James 1:18

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
~ Romans 10:17

"...to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies
the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness."
~ Romans 4:5

"...not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ—
the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."
~ Philippians 3:9

"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe."
~ Romans 3:22a

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under
heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
~ Acts 4:12

"...'Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promise is for you and your children
and for all who are far off—
for all whom the Lord our God will call.'"
~ Acts 2:38-29

"'Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord...'"
~ Acts 3:19

"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,'
and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you
believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth
that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says,
'Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—
the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him,
for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
~ Romans 10:9-13

"'I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart
of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to
follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.'"
~ Ezekiel 36:25-27

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces
contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed
into His image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
~ 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

"...if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."
~ Galatians 5:18

"...we have been released from the law
so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit,
and not in the old way of the written code."
~ Romans 7:6b

"'I will put My law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be My people...
For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.'"
~ Jeremiah 31:33b,34b

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus
the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free
from the law of sin and death. For what the law was
powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature
God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man
to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man,
in order that the righteous requirements of the law
might be fully met in us, who do not live according
to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit...
And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead
is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies
because of His Spirit who lives in you."
~ Romans 8:1-4,11

"Since we have now been justified by His blood,
how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through
the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through His life!"
~ Romans 5:9-10

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."
~ Ephesians 2:8-9

"...He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body
through death to present you holy in His sight,
without blemish and free from accusation—
if you continue in your faith, established and firm,
and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed..."
~ Colossians 1:22-23a

"...Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
'The time has come,' He said. 'The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!'"
~ Mark 1:14-15

"...Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,
'Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink.
Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said,
rivers of living water will flow from within them.'
By this He meant the Spirit..."
~ John 7:37-39

"'...whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water
welling up to eternal life.'"
~ John 4:14

"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will
never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty."
~ John 6:35

"When Jesus spoke again to the people,
He said, 'I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.'"
~ John 8:12

"'Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'"
~ Matthew 11:28-30

"'I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and **** and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…
No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.
I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.
This command I received from My Father.'"
~ John 10:9-11,18

"'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.'"
~ John 15:5

"...Jesus said, 'If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"
~ John 8:31b-32

"Then He said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be My disciple must
deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for Me will save it.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world,
and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of them
when He comes in His glory and in
the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.'"
~ Luke 9:23-26

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"
~ John 14:6

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die;
and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.
Do you believe this?'"
~ John 11:25-26

"For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son
and believes in Him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise them up at the last day.”
~ John 6:40

"'...Because I live, you also will live.'"
~ John 14:19b

"And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:49

"'Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.'"
~ John 17:3

"Since the children have flesh and blood,
He too shared in their humanity so that by His death
He might break the power of him who holds the power of
death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives
were held in slavery by their fear of death."
~ Hebrews 2:14-15

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision
of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us
all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,
which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away,
nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
~ Colossians 2:13-15

"...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work."
~ 1 John 3:8

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am
the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me,
the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as
an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.  
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
~ 1 Timothy 1:14-17

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!’
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes,
let him take the free gift of the water of life."
~ Revelation 22:17

"'Come now, let us settle the matter,
    says the LORD.
'Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.'"
~ Isaiah 1:18

"'I am the Living One; I was dead,
and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'...
'...So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person,
and they with Me.'"
~ Revelation 1:18;3:19b-20

"Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD."
~ Isaiah 2:5
Holy Bible, New International Version

For more on the first man's sin, see Genesis 2 & 3.
For more on the law, see Exodus 20, Leviticus & Deuteronomy,
then Hebrews 7-10, Matthew 5:21-30 and Matthew 22:36-40.
For more about Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, see
Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24 and John 18-21,
the 4 books which also give the accounts of His life.
For more about the blessings of salvation given
to all who believe the gospel of Jesus, see
the books of Ephesians and Romans.

~~~
Leah Rae Apr 2015
This poem is for the *******.
The ice princesses.

Solid and frozen.
Hearts carved from arctic stone.
Jaw lines so sharp they could *cut
you.
Girls so bitter, *they bite.


Leave your mouth aching.

This is for the evil stepsisters,
The Ursulas,
The Queens of Broken Hearts -

I’ll tell you.
They are deadly beautiful.

They are the bossy, and the terribly too honest.
Mouths on fire,
jaws snapping,
man eaters,
sirens of the sea,
they will swallow you whole.

When the boys ask -
Tell them, no, I don’t need saving.

**** being a princess.
Be the dragon.

Be fire breathing, and pmsing.
Be angry, girl.

Cause you got **** to be angry about.

Every cat call –
Every glass ceiling you will shatter with your bare hands –
Every time you say the word no and mean it –
Every time they make you feel like you anything less than powerful.

You tell them –
You are eternal.

That you carry a generation in your belly -
That it all begins and ends here, inside you.

That you can bleed for seven days straight and come back with teeth sharpened for war.

Remind them that that when something is taken from you, you will do everything you can to get it back.

You will destroy what destroys you.
Eating fire and spitting brimstone.
And never, ever saying sorry.

They will call you crazy.
They will call you over emotional.
They will call you loud mouth.

They will ask for your smile, pretty girl.
Give it to them with poison ivy lips and a razor blade between your teeth.

What no body knew was that Ursula was King Triton’s sister.
A perfect storm.
Banished from the palace -
When a loud, powerful woman gets out of hand, we don’t call it leadership.
We call her dog.
*****.
Bossy.
Fangs out and snarling, we don’t battle, we cat fight.
**** kitten gone wrong, when she learns to leave scars.

A dog, no not a dog, a wolf in heat.
Domestication is a ***** word.

***** is to know your worth, and take it.

To carry it in your esophagus.
A war cry.
Feeding your enemies to your children, and coming back starving for seconds.

Doing anything to stay alive.

Because you were raised by a mother who fed you fear for supper.
Packed your backpack with mace, and brass knuckles.
She told you to turn your body into a weapon.
She knew there would be men who would try to cover your mouth.
So she taught you to bite.

This is how you protect yourself.
A mouth full of *****, and a bark to match.
“Beware of dog” sign around your throat.

This is how you keep them away.
This is how you warn them.

Because the villain was not always the villain.

She was made that way.
You were made this way.

You’ve got brands still healing, still smoking, skin still searing.
You’ve got a trauma written in your blood.
You’ve got a ribcage holding onto your heart too tightly.

You are chasing down a revenge so sweet it could rot your teeth.
A heart attack romance asleep in your chest.

You will come back home limping after this war.

And you will tell all the other girls -

It ain’t all about the love story.
**It’s about the “being in love with yourself” story.
This is originally a slam poem, I am open to all feedback :)
zebra Jun 2016
she came to me one day
the *****
beautiful like a girls choir
singing Latina L'Amour
moving her bottom
like a metronome

her ******* a cascade of kindness
that break the hearts of men
they die
for those
blouse muffins
her smooth legs and feet
made for *** art
lickity splits and ****** contortions
while her wiggly *** and ****
tell you
what heaven would be like
hips that sway  traffic
causing pile ups
and fender benders
and make good boys
hopeful about being chosen
perhaps anointed
and judged worthy
but alas  
turn good boys into
chronic *******-rs
in dim midnight closets
or trawling *** criminals

at the very sight of her
my soul buckled
i wanted her
like darkness
needs a lantern
like blood
needs cells

she looked at me
with ****** in her eyes
it would make my **** wet to hurt you
she said with a soft tremor
ill **** yours for hours
tongue toy
losange
gullets prey
girl food

will you earn your suffering
adore my goddess ***
and lick it **** and span
kiss my beautiful feet
with tender devotion
pray for cruel ***** abuse
be consumed
by ******* jaws
thrill me
love me
flood me
with blood
and ****
die for me
my love

as i looked into
her hollowed
desperate soul
so eager
and felt deeply her need
and loved her to tears
to broken hearts mend

to struggle with
the dark angle
unrequited love
to expunge
years of vacant stares
of nameless women
and empty beds
to forget foreboding
bath cabinets bereft
of girly things
like
lolly pop pink lipstick
cherry sherbet nail polish
lacquered hardened coats  
aerated perfumed clouds
of vanilla candies
and fashionable
demonic party masks
over black brooding mascara
on almond eyes
hiding hot embers
cool and staring hungry

while wrenched obsessive
for the feminine
that drag my soul
through long coffin
hollow gullies
that drive me
to invocations
of Hecate
sacrificial blood rituals
voodoo trances
god forms
and black art astrologers
who have the power
to move planets
through space
and change fates

oh so wrong
yet i must
for loves sake
say yes to her
yes to her for pleasures sake
even if in the end
i am left to moan
to howl at a blood moon
with in the confines
of her dark edged
appetite
ascending in sin
as she ***** me
like she hates me

yes my beloved
to vanquish numbness

she consoles
my willingness  
excites
i felt her adoration

be brave for me
she murmured
sadists are cowards
teach me surrender
you are glorious
in my clutches

i made my self ready
positioned my self
as per her instructions
face down
legs apart
on a bed of nails
happy in my pit
as she played
a whole lotta love
by led zeppelin
blood swollen ****
oozy
for her tender kisses
and brutal schemes

the masochists tao

to denigrate oneself
to kiss your goddess feet
to lick your perfect ****
to adore your prim rose ****
to taste your lips of fire
to tangle in your silky locks
to see your eyes a blaze
to drink your saliva nectar
to eat your crumbs
to lick your *** clean
to be beaten
to your satisfaction
to drown in your *******
to hold you close
to take pleasure
in your cruelty
to suffer for your delight
to be
the sacrificial lamb
to be a victim
in an ****** dream
with jaws and teeth

she took me inside
smiled  like a feral
lust twisted child
took out a
scalped handled knife
brushed it across
my tummy and *****
terror brewed
excitement struck
my **** got so hard
she grinned
and salivated
like a Satanic Cheshire
in bloom

she devoured ***** warm butter
as it poured in waves
into her black lipsticked
pink wet mouth temple

oh she said
i like it a lot
do you mind a small incision
my darling

mommy needs
a little taste of hell

her face shape shifted
into a warbled shadow
as she licked her lips
and tickled
her *******
with gooed fingers

cut me i implore
im in the mood
you sweet savage

she opened me slow
o o o o ooow
ooh the sting
don't stop i begged
loving her
voluptuous greed
as she covered me
with heavens kisses
eyes desperate
devouring
drenched through ******
and bestowed
upon me
eager  licks
that swoon
and savage wounds

she took charge
with curvilinear cutlery
she gave it to me hard
oooofff
then good again
aaahhh
then deep and threw
like a spoon through Crisco
a surgeon from hell house
oh so fun she said
she licked my ****
fingered my ***
****** my *****
frenetic
then stuck me with a fork
giggling
not done yet she mused
and then
required of me
that my tongue
obediently pay homage
to her naked mouth ****

i was the pig for slaughter
needles and knives
burned *******
bruised ****
a bleeding torn
pin cushion
eyes teared
back arched
torso writhing
cherry cheeks
blood gusher
her *******
and belly ****
soaked in my blood
commanded me to lick
my own pools
of red plush
for her amusement

a couple at play
in Satan's temple of lust
her face turned to mischief
in a demons trance
her soul
like hyenas
and clawed weasels
all trapped villeins

im done ****** around
with you she quipped
her **** on fire
like a burning house
she plunged a blade deep in my gut
her eyes wide and glaring
like blazing head lights
possessed by hell bats

oh my goddess
for you
over the summit
as i shuddered
arching in torment
curling into a ball
squirming
like a severed worm

her face contorted
with horrors fun
her **** pored forth
tremulous quivers
and hells
brimstone gasms
ecstatic

oh she drank my blood
****** my ****
with kaleidoscopic tongue
like a devils bride banshee
licked my *** clean
filthy *****
defaced me with a drooling ****
and brooding ****
strangled me with nylons
until my lips ran numb
until my tongue dragged
like a corpse in a car wreck
she  whimpered and cooed
suffocated me with her **** ***

stepped on my face
with feet i adore
chewed off my *****
a black mambas kisses
filled my mouth
with hot rocks
that melted my skull
oh cry to heaven
wheres Jesus
as i scummed
up-leaping

the  last words
i ever heard
*** you sure to kick a lot
im cu cu cu cu cu cu *******
for you blood boy
dead dead dead
floppy floppy head
**** like cherry pie
Adam Childs Aug 2014
Living freely in this world
My vulnerability, feels so lost
As it seeks the skies to escape all
Perched high away and hiding
My heart forsaken
For her vulnerability
Has left her

The little bird has flown

My warm retreating heart lives behind
Many layers of frozen ice
A teardrop falls
As I see the loss potential
Where here my heart should sing
Great jungles it should bring

Come back, come back little bird

I stare into my murky depths
My legs are taken by giant jaws
I twist and turn as he swallows me whole
My standing in the world taken
I merge with this crocodile

Far away a bird twitches

I look out into the outside world
And see the disregard and arrogance
Which fuels my anger like oil on a fire
As they disturb the peace on my pond
May their flesh quiver
With my ancient growl

high above a bird leaves her perch

I am the last living dinosaur
Born from a time when, T.rex ruled
And birds with teeth reigned overhead
And I still live in waters
Where Piranhas seek to
Frenzy on living flesh
Am I to be scared of you

A quiet bird flutters closer

Bring me your contempt
For I am hungry and love rotten meat
And your disregard feeds my fury
so please circle my pond
Where my heart rests softly
With rich and green waters
Bursting and growing in love

A little bird tweets overhead

I will lounge and grab
And you will be blind
And lost in my depths
I will turn you over and
Your arrogance will feed me
Yummy yummy
I slip away from the beast

A little bird perches on his head
Still mistrusting him
For he carries a triumphant smile
As though injected with poison
The little bird says
You know I love you crocodile
But I am still not safe

Disgruntled he returns to his depths
On the inner side of the pond
Faraway he finds me again
Staring into dark waters
As though it could speak
Many times has he watched
Arrogant mammals reach and fall
Coming back consumed with
Pain, rejection and failure
Both looking and hiding from the truth

A bird tweets I LOVE YOU

With both a ferocity and compassion
He pulls me down as a tonne of flesh
Slaps itself ******* this earth
I twist and turn as I struggle
With my own truth
As he rips my pride off the bone
Be aware of my tongue for it is
Possessed by a crocodile's lashing tail

I really Love you the bird cries

The beast feasts on my bitter truth
And sour reality, I am not
Strong enough to take
And spits out the sweet lies
That keep me from myself
As he pulls me down into my own depths
Such a beautiful beast
For he feels no need to evolve
Perfect as I am he says
As it fills me with his power
To be exactly who I am
How I love this Crocodile

A bird approaches

My heart free from noise
Inside and out
A silence nestles in me
And all innocence is seen
Beautiful souls float freely
Butterflies dance and play
As all is gentle around me
And especially in me

And my beautiful vulnerability
Now returns in sweet song
As the bird rests softly in my jaw
A strange paradox becomes so very clear
With a little bird we hold so dear
This is my second effort as soon as I wrote the first one I was not happy with it as it was not clear enough what was dealing with the subjective and the objective hopefully there is greater balance in this attempt . Let me know if it works
H W Erellson Aug 2014
It’s true, death has jaws.
Ten nations wide,
Snarling like
Tomes torn in utter tedium
Like stars rising and falling through the millennia.

But life has arms.
Strong and weather-tanned,
A village builders, heaving bricks and stone into heaven.
Soft as thou mothers breast,
Caressed by your fathers hands,
Suckled in infancy.

Be embraced by these arms, and in the culmination of solemnity,
Set your lips to the beauteous jaws.
live and die; need it be complicated?
Alyssa Underwood Nov 2017
"To run and work the law commands,
But gives us neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings."

~ John Bunyan (1628-1688)



"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
~ Romans 3:23

"...people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..."
~ Hebrews 9:27

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord."
~ Romans 6:23

"'Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake:
some to everlasting life,
others to shame and everlasting contempt.'"
~ Daniel 12:2

"For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil."
~ Ecclesiastes 12:14

"This will take place on the day
when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ..."
~ Romans 2:16

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him
to whom we must give account."
~ Hebrews 4:13

"For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  
It is written:
'"As surely as I live," says the Lord,
"every knee will bow before Me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God."'
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."
~ Romans 14:10b-12

"'For He has set a day when He will judge the world
with justice by the man He has appointed.
He has given proof of this to everyone
by raising Him from the dead.'"
~ Acts 17:31

"'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of His glory.'"
~ Isaiah 6:3b

"...God’s judgment is right...
God is just..."
~ 2 Thessalonians 1:5-6

"He is the Rock, His works are perfect,
    and all His ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is He...
'See now that I Myself am He!
    There is no god besides Me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
    I have wounded and I will heal,
    and no one can deliver out of My hand.
I lift My hand to heaven and solemnly swear:
    As surely as I live forever,
when I sharpen My flashing sword
    and My hand grasps it in judgment,
I will take vengeance on My adversaries
    and repay those who hate Me.'"
~ Deuteronomy 32:4,39-41

"'Therefore Death expands its jaws,
    opening wide its mouth;
into it will descend their nobles and masses
    with all their brawlers and revelers.
So people will be brought low
    and everyone humbled,
    the eyes of the arrogant humbled.
But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by His justice,
    and the holy God will be proved holy by His righteous acts...
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
    and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
    and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty
    and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.'"
~ Isaiah 5:14-16,24

"The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
    the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The LORD takes vengeance on His foes
    and vents His wrath against His enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power;
    the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished...
Who can withstand His indignation?
    Who can endure His fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
    the rocks are shattered before Him.
The LORD is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in Him,
     but with an overwhelming flood
He will make an end of the adversaries;
    He will pursue His foes into the realm of darkness."
~ Nahum 1:2-3,6-8

"...'Yes, Lord God Almighty,
    true and just are Your judgments.'"
~ Revelation 16:7b

"'Do not be afraid of those
who **** the body but cannot **** the soul.
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy
both soul and body in hell.'"
~ Matthew 10:28

"The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:56

"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge,
the one who is able to save and destroy."
~ James 4:12a

"For the LORD is our judge,
    the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
    it is He who will save us."
~ Isaiah 33:22

"The law of the LORD is perfect...
    The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy...
    The precepts of the LORD are right...
    The commands of the LORD are radiant...
  The decrees of the LORD are firm,
    and all of them are righteous."
~ Psalm 19:7-9

"So then, the law is holy,
and the commandment is holy, righteous and good...
the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin."
~ Romans 7:12,14

"Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins."
~ Ecclesiastes 7:20

"...it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue
to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'"
~ Galatians 3:10b

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles
at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
~ James 2:10

"'For I tell you that unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law,
you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
~ Matthew 5:20

"But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden His face from you...
We look for light, but all is darkness;
    for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we ***** along the wall,
    feeling our way like people without eyes...
For our offenses are many in Your sight,
    and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us...
rebellion and treachery against the LORD,
    turning our backs on our God..."
~ Isaiah 59:2,9b-10a,12,13a

"...alienated from God and...enemies in your minds
because of your evil behavior."
~ Colossians 1:21

"...separated from the life of God..."
~ Ephesians 4:18

"...dead in your transgressions and sins...
gratifying the cravings of our flesh
and following its desires and thoughts.
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath."
~ Ephesians 2:1b,3b

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven
against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them. For since
the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
His eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse."
~ Romans 1:18-20

"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away."
~ Isaiah 64:6

"...sin entered the world through one man,
and death through sin, and in this way
death came to all people, because all sinned..."
~ Romans 5:12

"As it is written:
'There is no one righteous, not even one;
     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.'...
Therefore no one will be
declared righteous in God’s sight
by the works of the law;
rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."
~ Romans 3:10-12,20

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
~ Romans 5:8

"This is how God showed His love among us:
He sent His one and only Son into the world
that we might live through Him.
This is love: not that we loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
~ 1 John 4:9-10

"But God raised Him from the dead,
freeing Him from the agony of death,
because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him...
He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead,
nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life..."
~ Acts 2:24,31b-32a

"...He raised Christ from the dead
and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
and every name that is invoked,
not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under His feet
and appointed Him to be head over everything
for the church, which is His body,
the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way."
~ Ephesians 1:20b-23

"For there is one God
and one mediator between God and mankind,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people..."
~ 1 Timothy 2:5-6a

"...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...
He was buried...He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures..."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:3b-4

"...God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:19a

"'Do not think that I have come to abolish
the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.'"
~ Matthew 5:17

"Christ is the culmination of the law so that
there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."
~ Romans 10:4

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—
not the realities themselves."
~ Hebrews 10:1a

"These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ."
~ Colossians 2:17

"...Christ is the mediator of a new covenant,
that those who are called may receive the promised
eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom
to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
~ Hebrews 9:15

"'Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that
through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin,
a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.'"
~ Acts 13:38-39

"...because by the works of the law no one will be justified."
~ Galatians 2:16b

"...all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse...
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us..."
~ Galatians 3:10a,13a

"Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation
for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience
of the one man the many will be made righteous."
~ Romans 5:18-19

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive...
The first man was of the dust of the earth;
the second man is of heaven."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:22,47

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things were made; without Him
nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life,
and that life was the light of all mankind...
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ...
'...the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
~ John 1:1-4,14,17,29b

"The Son is the radiance of God’s glory
and the exact representation of His being,
sustaining all things by His powerful word.
After He had provided purification for sins,
He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
~ Hebrews 1:3

"...Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge...
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity
lives in ****** form...
He is the head over every power and authority."
~ Colossians 2:2b-3,9,10b

"...Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
~ Hebrews 12:2

"The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For in Him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything He might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."
~ Colossians 1:15-20

"'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'"
~ Luke 19:10

"...when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to redeem those under the law,
that we might receive adoption to sonship."
~ Galatians 4:4-5

"For this reason He had to be made like them,
fully human in every way, in order that He might become
a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,
and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted,
He is able to help those who are being tempted."
~ Hebrews 2:17-18

"For we do not have a high priest who is
unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are—yet He did not sin.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need."
~ Hebrews 4:15-16

"...Christ Jesus who died—
more than that, who was raised to life—
is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."
~ Romans 8:34b

"...because Jesus lives forever,
He has a permanent priesthood.
Therefore He is able to save completely
those who come to God through Him,
because He always lives to intercede for them.
Such a high priest truly meets our need—
one who is holy, blameless, pure,
set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
Unlike the other high priests,
He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day,
first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people.
He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered Himself."
~ Hebrews 7:24-27

"...He appeared so that He might take away our sins.
And in Him is no sin."
~ 1 John 3:5

"...Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
~ 1 Peter 1:19b

"God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,
through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith.
He did this to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in His forbearance He had left
the sins committed beforehand unpunished—
He did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time,
so as to be just and the one who justifies
those who have faith in Jesus."
~ Romans 3:25-26

"In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace..."
~ Ephesians 1:7

"For the life...is in the blood,
and I have given it to you to make atonement...
it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life."
~ Leviticus 17:11

"...and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness...
Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many..."
~ Hebrews 9:22b,28a

"'All the prophets testify about Him
that everyone who believes in Him
receives forgiveness of sins through His name.'"
~ Acts 10:43

"For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever
those who are being made holy."
~ Hebrews 10:14

"'He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in His mouth.'...
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness..."
~ 1 Peter 2:22,24a

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
~ 1 Peter 3:18a

"Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor,
but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance.'"
~ Luke 5:31-32

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness."
~ 1 John 1:8-9

"God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

"...For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7b

"Surely He took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God,
    stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
    the iniquity of us all."
~ Isaiah 53:4-6

"And He died for all, that those who live
should no longer live for themselves but for Him
who died for them and was raised again."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:15

"For sin shall no longer be your master,
because you are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not
under the law but under grace? By no means!...
You have been set free from sin and have become
slaves to righteousness."
~ Romans 6:14-15,18

"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—
a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,
just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"
~ Romans 1:17

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him
is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned
already because they have not believed in the name of God’s
one and only Son... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God’s wrath remains on them."
~ John 3:16-18,36

"God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
Whoever has the Son has life;
whoever does not have the Son of God
does not have life."
~ 1 John 5:11b-12

"He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification."
~ Romans 4:25

"...Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:20

"...just as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
~ Romans 6:4b

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade..."
~ 1 Peter 1:3-4a

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation:
The old has gone, the new has come!"
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

"...to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God— children born
not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will,
but born of God."
~ John 1:12-13

"Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you,
no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'...
'Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God
unless they are born of water and the Spirit.'"
~ John 3:3,5

"...born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable,
through the living and enduring word of God."
~ 1 Peter 1:23

"...birth through the word of truth..."
~ James 1:18

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
~ Romans 10:17

"...to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies
the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness."
~ Romans 4:5

"...not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ—
the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."
~ Philippians 3:9

"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe."
~ Romans 3:22a

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under
heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
~ Acts 4:12

"...'Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promise is for you and your children
and for all who are far off—
for all whom the Lord our God will call.'"
~ Acts 2:38-29

"'Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord...'"
~ Acts 3:19

"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,'
and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you
believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth
that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says,
'Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—
the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him,
for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
~ Romans 10:9-13

"'I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart
of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to
follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.'"
~ Ezekiel 36:25-27

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces
contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed
into His image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
~ 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

"...if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."
~ Galatians 5:18

"...we have been released from the law
so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit,
and not in the old way of the written code."
~ Romans 7:6b

"'I will put My law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be My people...
For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.'"
~ Jeremiah 31:33b,34b

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus
the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free
from the law of sin and death. For what the law was
powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature
God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man
to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man,
in order that the righteous requirements of the law
might be fully met in us, who do not live according
to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit...
And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead
is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead
will also give life to your mortal bodies
because of His Spirit who lives in you."
~ Romans 8:1-4,11

"Since we have now been justified by His blood,
how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through
the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through His life!"
~ Romans 5:9-10

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."
~ Ephesians 2:8-9

"...He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body
through death to present you holy in His sight,
without blemish and free from accusation—
if you continue in your faith, established and firm,
and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed..."
~ Colossians 1:22-23a

"...Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
'The time has come,' He said. 'The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!'"
~ Mark 1:14-15

"...Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,
'Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink.
Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said,
rivers of living water will flow from within them.'
By this He meant the Spirit..."
~ John 7:37-39

"'...whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water
welling up to eternal life.'"
~ John 4:14

"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will
never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty."
~ John 6:35

"When Jesus spoke again to the people,
He said, 'I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.'"
~ John 8:12

"'Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.'"
~ Matthew 11:28-30

"'I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and **** and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…
No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.
I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.
This command I received from My Father.'"
~ John 10:9-11,18

"'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.'"
~ John 15:5

"...Jesus said, 'If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"
~ John 8:31b-32

"Then He said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be My disciple must
deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for Me will save it.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world,
and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of them
when He comes in His glory and in
the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.'"
~ Luke 9:23-26

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"
~ John 14:6

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die;
and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.
Do you believe this?'"
~ John 11:25-26

"For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son
and believes in Him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise them up at the last day.”
~ John 6:40

"'...Because I live, you also will live.'"
~ John 14:19b

"And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man."
~ 1 Corinthians 15:49

"'Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.'"
~ John 17:3

"Since the children have flesh and blood,
He too shared in their humanity so that by His death
He might break the power of him who holds the power of
death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives
were held in slavery by their fear of death."
~ Hebrews 2:14-15

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision
of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us
all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,
which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away,
nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
~ Colossians 2:13-15

"...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work."
~ 1 John 3:8

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am
the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me,
the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as
an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.  
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
~ 1 Timothy 1:14-17

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!’
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes,
let him take the free gift of the water of life."
~ Revelation 22:17

"'Come now, let us settle the matter,
    says the LORD.
'Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.'"
~ Isaiah 1:18

"'I am the Living One; I was dead,
and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'...
'...So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person,
and they with Me.'"
~ Revelation 1:18;3:19b-20

"Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD."
~ Isaiah 2:5
Holy Bible, New International Version

For more on the first man's sin, see Genesis 2 & 3.
For more on the law, see Exodus 20, Leviticus & Deuteronomy,
then Hebrews 7-10, Matthew 5:21-30 and Matthew 22:36-40.
For more about Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, see
Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24 and John 18-21,
the 4 books which also give the accounts of His life.
For more about the blessings of salvation given
to all who believe the gospel of Jesus, see
the books of Ephesians and Romans.

~~~
Julie Grenness May 2016
In our world technological,
Here's how to talk to gadgets digital,
"Now, listen up, keyboard and router,
Not to mention dysfunctional mouser...
Are you listening to me carefully?
(I am talking to them, but silently),
I do have replacements for each of thee,
I see a future ahead of you three,
Tossed into the gaping jaws of a bin,
off to the council tip, repository of sin,
Did you hear that? Listening in,
Stop trying to do my head in!"
Now they're behaving dutifully,
Technology responding beautifully,
"I'm warning each one of thee,
No more messing around with me!"
Yes, how to talk to technology!
(But make sure you do it silently!)
A whimsy. Feedback welcome.
Pagan Paul May 2017
I slip the straps and release the clasp
of your over-the-shoulder boulder holder.
Gravity asserts itself, and you sigh as
I wonder if I should get even bolder

because

The jaws of love masquerade
as petals of a flower

so

Just say if you want me to stop.
We are, after all, in the middle of a shop.
I was attracted when I saw you smile.
As we passed in the frozen food aisle.
Now people are staring though the window.
Shocked at my nonchalant innuendo.
And if your purse metaphor extends to this.
We can go to the Bank for a little kiss

though

I may not be able to afford
nine feather mattresses and a golden pea.
But if you could make do
with a lilo and a marble
then …
You've pulled Princess.

© Pagan Paul (30/05/17)
.
Prequel to Even Poets ***** Up A Date (Mar 31)
The 3rd, Even Poets ***** Up A Night Of ***, to be published at some point.
.
M Eastman Nov 2014
The deer are buried up to their necks
in the sandy soil
the struggle for purchase
frees them
into a pack of black wolves jaws
he snaps his barbed jaws made of thin sticks— you know
the kind that
SNAP and CRACK ominously underfoot when the woods have grown too
quiet, too calm, for all to be well
teeth gnashing— this the sound of dead leaves skittering against pavement and river rocks at dusk (that time when you need to settle down and get a fire started, but you’re not quite sure of where you are)
              homeless
wandering the woods in search for something he will never find
hysterical, eternally lost his

eyes

are the dim, barely there glow of camp fires that go out too early
fingers the cold that creeps around the base of your sleeping bag and along your neck
cheek bones the sun-bleached sides of mountains
his voice is the unrecognizable call from some animal you cannot identify in the depths of the woods, but not so deep that you cannot imagine it coming towards you. not so deep that the sound doesn’t make your hair stand on end.

his feet are bound with the ghost skins of snakes that lurk under rocks, darting out only when you have one foot precariously balanced on its side.

he travels — howling and yowling like some hell cat out of deep
mountain lore— starved, half crazed, ravenous
fever hot and parched
his mouth a voracious, vacuous, vorpal cave
that leads down into his river stomach— that part of the river you thought was deep, but revealed its true nature with the electric sting of broken legs after jumping.
his howl is the pounding of the wind at your tent
angry hands running broken glass claws against your skin as you walk against it.

he is jealous of those who wonder the wood for he has no true home.
his ribs the skeletons of eerie, too thick mountain laurel trees and the hollow shells of long fallen oaks.
the light of the moon burns his moth-wing skin on nights when the forest is full of her radiance. so he yowls, furious and powerless
rattling and shaking his bones — the dead arms of trees that stretch out over too steep mountains, acid burnt and raw

his name could have been pestilence to the christians
but only the Natives know his name and only whisper it lowly
and on nights when the wind is calm and he cannot hear their summons—
Windigo.

his only purpose is that he has none.
his motivation is endless hunger
that is older than the mountain itself-
or maybe it was born with the mountain…
he in his rabid madness has long forgotten the origin of his emptiness.
he is hungry, and you are in his wood.
written at the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
Benjamin Jul 2018
I was six, then—
six or seven—
on a swing set in
September, and
I’m beginning to
remember
how alone I was
that day:

the clouds were dull
eraser shavings,
the wind a hollow
“Hallelujah.”
I pumped my legs, and
at the apex,
I gained an angel-eye
perspective:

the jaws of autumn
clenched their teeth in-
to my sternum,
popped a hole and
stole the summer from
my bloodline,
left a chill inside
my soul;

I’m taking all of this
for granted.
I spell disaster
with my left hand,
I sign “Messiah” with
my right;

and in the arrogance of
twenties, I think
the loneliness has left me,
I think we all don’t
grow up empty,
I think the future
could be bright.
Emilie Mar 2014
The habitual breaking of jaws
Will be our undoing
When the heart of this heavy earth thaws
We’ll find seeds worth sowing
But until the dawn depicts the nature of the crimes we’ll commit
We’ll sit and sit and sit and sit
If there were a language for walls,

It would mumble,
Per broken jaws.
The sun would shine through fragmented holes,

A windows' lone goal?
To magnify heat,
Til' all was engulfed.

With confirmed dead inside,
None knock, as they've read inscribed:

"Family tree,
Difficulty,
Unavailable."

"Family business,
Buy one,
One comes free,
Fire wood sale."
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

“As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm”
Prayer is better than sleep

Rising from the torment of another restless night, Bouazizi wiped the sleep from his droopy eyes as his feet touched the cold stone floor.

Throughout the frigid night, the devilish jinn did their work, eagerly jabbing away at Bouazizi with pointed sticks, tormenting his troubled conscience with the worry of his nagging indebtedness. All night the face of the man Bouazizi owed money to haunted him. Bouazizi could see the man’s greasy lips and brown teeth jawing away, inches from his face. He imagined chubby caffeine stained fingers reaching toward him to grab some dinars from Bouazizi’s money box.

Bouazizi turned all night like he was sleeping on a board of spikes. His prayers for a restful night again went unanswered. The pall of a blue fatigue would shadow Bouazizi for most of the day.

Bouazizi’s weariness was compounded by a gnawing hunger. By force of habit, he grudgingly opened the food cupboard with the foreknowledge that it was almost bare. Bouazizi’s premonition proved correct as he surveyed a meager handful of chickpeas, some eggs and a few sparse loaves. It was just enough to feed his dependant family; younger brothers and sisters, cousins and a terminally disabled uncle. That left nothing for Bouazizi but a quick jab to his empty gut. He would start this day without breakfast.

Bouazizi made a living as a street vendor. He hustles to survive. Bouazizi’s father died in a construction accident in Libya when he was three. Since the age of 10, Bouazizi had pushed a cart through the streets of Sidi Bouzid; selling fruit at the public market just a few blocks from the home that he has lived in for almost his entire life.

At 27 years of age, Bouazizi has wrestled the beast of deprivation since his birth. To date, he has bravely fought it to a standstill; but day after day the multi-headed hydra of life has snapped at him. He has squarely met the eyes of the beast with fortitude and resolve; but the sharp fangs of a hardscrabble life has sunken deep into Bouazizi’s spleen. The unjust rules of society are powerful claws that slash away at his flesh, bleeding him dry: while the spiked tendrils of poverty wrap Bouazizi’s neck, seeking to strangle him.

Bouazizi is a workingman hero; a skilled warrior in the fight for daily bread. He is accustomed to living a life of scarcity. His daily deliverance is the grace of another day of labor and the blessed wages of subsistence.

Though Allah has blessed this man with fortitude the acuteness of terminal want and the constant struggle to survive has its limits for any man; even for strong champions like Bouazizi.

This morning as Bouazizi washed he peered into a mirror, closely examining new wrinkles on his stubble strewn face. He fingered his deep black curls dashed with growing streaks of gray. He studied them through the gaze of heavy bloodshot eyes. He looked upward as if to implore Allah to salve the bruises of daily life.

Bouazizi braced himself with the splash of a cold water slap to his face. He wiped his cheeks clean with the tail of his shirt. He dipped his toothbrush into a box of baking powder and scoured an aching back molar in need of a root canal. Bouazizi should see a dentist but it is a luxury he cannot afford so he packed an aspirin on top of the infected tooth. The dissolving aspirin invaded his mouth coating his tongue with a bitter effervescence.

Bouazizi liked the taste and was grateful for the expectation of a dulled pain. He smiled into the mirror to check his chipped front tooth while pinching a cigarette **** from an ashtray. The roach had one hit left in it. He lit it with a long hard drag that consumed a good part of the filter. Bouazizi’s first smoke of the day was more filter then tobacco but it shocked his lungs into the coughing flow of another day.

Bouazizi put on his jacket, slipped into his knockoff NB sneakers and reached for a green apple on a nearby table. He took a big bite and began to chew away the pain of his toothache.

Bouazizi stepped into the street to catch the sun rising over the rooftops. He believed that seeing the sunrise was a good omen that augured well for that day’s business. A sunbeam braking over a far distant wall bathed Bouazizi in a golden light and illumined the alley where he parked his cart holding his remaining stock of week old apples. He lifted the handles and backed his cart out into the street being extra mindful of the cracks in the cobblestone road. Bouazizi sprained his ankle a week ago and it was still tender. Bouazizi had to be careful not to aggravate it with a careless step. Having successfully navigated his cart into the road, Bouazizi made a skillful U Turn and headed up the street limping toward the market.

A winter chill gripped Bouazizi prompting him to zip his jacket up to his neck. The zipper pinched his Adam’s Apple and a few droplets of blood stained his green corduroy jacket. Though it was cold, Bouazizi sensed that spring would arrive early this year triggering a replay of a recurring daydream. Bouazizi imagined himself behind the wheel of a new van on his way to the market. Fresh air and sunshine pouring through the open windows with the cargo space overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits.

It was a lifelong ambition of Bouazizi to own a van. He dreamed of buying a six cylinder Dodge Caravan. It would be painted red and he would call it The Red Flame. The Red Flame would be fast and powerful and sport chrome spinners. The Red Flame would be filled with music from a Blaupunkt sound system with kick *** speakers. Power windows, air conditioning, leather seats, a moonroof and plenty of space in the back for his produce would complete Bouazizi’s ride.

The Red Flame would be the vehicle Bouazizi required to expand his business beyond the market square. Bouazizi would sell his produce out of the back of the van, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. No longer would he have to wait for customers to come to his stand in the market. Bouazizi would go to his customers. Bouazizi and the Red Flame would be known in all the neighborhoods throughout the district. Bouazizi shook his head and smiled thinking about all the girls who would like to take rides in the Red Flame. Bouazizi and his Red Flame would be a sight to be noticed and a force to be reckoned with.

“EEEEEYOWWW” a Mercedes horn angrily honked; jarring Bouazizi from the reverie of his daydream. A guy whipping around the corner like a silver streak stuck his head out the window blasting with music yelling, “Hey Mnayek, watch where you push that *******.”

The music faded as the Mercedes roared away. “Barra nikk okhtek” Bouazizi yelled, raising his ******* in the direction of the vanished car. “The big guys in the fancy cars think the road belongs to them”, Bouazizi mumbled to himself.

The insult ****** Bouazizi off, but he was accustomed to them and as he limped along pushing his cart he distracted himself with the amusement of the ascending sun chasing the fleeting shadows of the night, sending them scurrying down narrow alleyways.

Bouazizi imaged himself a character from his favorite movie. He was a giant Transformer, chasing the black shadows of evil away from the city into the desert. After battling evil and conquering the bad guys, he would transform himself back into the regular Bouazizi; selling his produce to the people as he patrolled the highways of Tunisia in the Red Flame, the music blasting out the windows, the chrome spinners flashing in the sunlight. Bouazizi would remain vigilant, always ready to transform the Red Flame to fight the evil doers.

The bumps and potholes in the road jostled Bouazizi’s load of apples. A few fell out of the wooden baskets and were rolling around in the open spaces of the cart. Bouazizi didn’t want to risk bruising them. Damaged merchandise can’t be sold so he was careful to secure his goods and arrange his cart to appeal to women customers. He made sure to display his prized electronic scale in the corner of the cart for all to see.

Bouazizi had a reputation as a fair and generous dealer who always gave good value to his customers. Bouazizi was also known for his kindness. He would give apples to hungry children and families who could not pay. Bouazizi knew the pain of hunger and it brought him great satisfaction to be able to alleviate it in others.

As a man who valued fairness, Bouazizi was particularly proud of his electronic scale. Bouazizi was certain the new measuring device assured all customers that Bouazizi sold just and correct portions. The electronic scale was Bouazizi’s shining lamp. He trusted it. He hung it from the corner post of his cart like it was the beacon of a lighthouse guiding shoppers through the treachery of an unscrupulous market. It would attract all customers who valued fairness to the safe harbor of Bouazizi’s cart.

The electronic scale is Bouazizi’s assurance to his customers that the weights and measures of electronic calculation layed beyond any cloud of doubt. It is a fair, impartial and objective arbiter for any dispute.

Bouazizi believed that the fairness of his scale would distinguish his stand from other produce vendors. Though its purchase put Bouazizi into deep debt, the scale was a source of pride for Bouazizi who believed that it would help his profits to increase and help him to achieve his goal of buying the Red Flame.

As Bouazizi pushed his cart toward the market, he mulled his plan over in his mind for the millionth time. He wasn't great in math but he was able to calculate his financial situation with a degree of precision. His estimations triggered worries that his growing debt to money lenders may be difficult to payoff.

Indebtedness pressed down on Bouazizi’s chest like a mounting pile of stones. It was the source of an ever present fear coercing Bouazizi to live in a constant state of anxiety. His business needed to grow for Bouazizi to get a measure of relief and ultimately prosper from all his hard work. Bouazizi was driven by urgency.

The morning roil of the street was coming alive. Bouazizi quickened his step to secure a good location for his cart at the market. Car horns, the spewing diesel from clunking trucks, the flatulent roar of accelerating buses mixed with the laughs and shrieks of children heading to school composed the rising crescendo of the city square.

As he pushed through the market, Bouazizi inhaled the aromatic eddies of roasting coffee floating on the air. It was a pleasantry Bouazizi looked forward to each morning. The delicious wafts of coffee mingling with the crisp aroma of baking bread instigated a growl from Bouazizi’s empty stomach. He needed to get something to eat. After he got money from his first sale he would by a coffee and some fried dough.

Activity in the market was vigorous, punctuated by the usual arguments of petty territorial disputes between vendors. The disagreements were always amicably resolved, burned away in rising billows of roasting meats and vegetables, the exchange of cigarettes and the plumes of tobacco smoke rising as emanations of peace.

Bouazizi skillfully maneuvered his cart through the market commotion. He slid into his usual space between Aaban and Aameen. His good friend Aaban sold candles, incense, oils and sometimes his wife would make cakes to sell. Aameen was the markets most notorious jokester. He sold hardware and just about anything else he could get his hands on.

Aaban was already burning a few sticks of jasmine incense. It helped to attract customers. The aroma defined the immediate space with the pleasant bouquet of a spring garden. Bouazizi liked the smell and appreciated the increased traffic it brought to his apple cart.

“Hey Basboosa#, do you have any cigarettes?“, Aameen asked as he pulled out a lighter. Bouazizi shook the tip of a Kent from an almost empty pack. Aameen grabbed the cigarette with his lips.

“That's three cartons of Kents you owe me, you cheap *******.” Bouazizi answered half jokingly. Aameen mumbled a laugh through a grin tightly gripping the **** as he exhaled smoke from his nose like a fire breathing dragon. Bouazizi also took out a cigarette for himself.

“Aameem, give me a light”, Bouazizi asked.

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

“Keep it Basboosa. I got others.” Aameen smiled as he showed off a newly opened box of disposable lighters to sell on his stand.

“Made in China, Basboosa. They make everything cheap and colorful. I can make some money with these.”

Bouazizi lit his next to last cigarette. He inhaled deeply. The smoke chased away the cool air in Bouazizi’s lungs with a shot of a hot nicotine rush.

“Merci Aameen” Bouazizi answered. He put the lighter into the almost empty cigarette pack and put it into his hip pocket. The lighter would protect his last cigarette from being crushed.

The laughter and shouts of the bazaar, the harangue of radio voices shouting anxious verses of Imam’s exhorting the masses to submit and the piecing ramble of nondescript AM music flinging piercing unintelligible static surrounded Bouazizi and his cart as he waited for his first customers of the day.

Bouazizi sensed a nervous commotion rise along the line of vendors. A crowd of tourists and locals milling about parted as if to avoid a slithering asp making its way through their midst. The hoots of vendors and the cackle of the crowd made its way to Bouazizi’s knowing ear. He knew what was coming. It was nothing more then another shakedown by city officials acting as bagmen for petty municipal bureaucrats. They claim to be checking vendor licences but they’re just making the rounds collecting protection money from the vendors. Pocketing bribes and payoffs is the municipal authorities idea of good government. They are skilled at using the power of their office to extort tribute from the working poor.

Bouazizi made the mistake of making eye contact with Madame Hamdi. As the municipal authority in charge of vendors and taxis Madame Hamdi held sway over the lives of the street vendors. She relished the power she had over the men who make a meager living selling goods in the square; and this morning she was moving through the market like a bloodhound hot on the trail of an escaped convict. Two burly henchmen lead the way before her. Bouazizi knew Madame Hamdi’s hounds were coming for him.

Bouazizi knew he was ******. Having just made a payment to his money lender, Bouazizi had no extra dinars to grease the palm of Madame Hamdi. He grabbed the handle bars of his cart to make an escape; but Madame Hamdi cut him off and got right into into Bouazizi’s face.

“Ah little Basboosa where are you going? she asked with the tone of playful contempt.

“I suppose you still have no license to sell, ah Basboosa?” Madame Hamdi questioned with the air of a soulless inquisitor.

“You know Madame Hamdi, cart vendors do not need a license.” Bouazizi feebly protested, not daring to look into her eyes.

“Basboosa, you know we can overlook your violations with a small fine for your laxity” a dismissive Madame Hamdi offered.

Bouazizi’s sense of guilt would not permit him to lift his eyes. His head remained bowed. Bouazizi stood convicted of being one of the impoverished.

“I have no spare dinars to offer Madame Hamdi, My pockets are empty, full of holes. My money falls into everyone’s palm but my own. I’m sorry Madame Hamdi. I’ll take my cart home”. He lifted the handlebars in an attempt to escape. One of Madame Hamdi’s henchmen stepped in front of his cart while the other pushed Bouazizi away from it.

“Either you pay me a vendor tax for a license or I will confiscate your goods Basboosa”, Madame Hamdi warned as she lifted Bouazizi’s scale off its hook.

“This will be the first to go”, she said grinning as she examined the scale. “We’ll just keep this.”
Like a mother lion protecting a defenseless cub from the snapping jaws of a pack of ravenous hyenas, Bouazizi lunged to retrieve his prized scale from the clutches of Madame Hamdi. Reaching for it, he touched the scale with his fingertips just as Madame Hamdi delivered a vicious slap to Bouazizi’s cheek. It halted him like a thunderbolt from Zeus.

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
howard brace Jan 2013
Despite repeatedly shaking her pincer... much as a sprightly pensioner might brandish a furled umbrella at a grappling contestant, currently being boo'd at in the red corner... the baby crab stamped her foot in annoyance as she glowered at every passing wave that rolled along the shoreline.  In absolving herself of any guilt she may have felt over her prolonged excursion, she had become, even further marooned by a failure to catch a succession of tides back home, an oversight she later confessed, to observe local tide-tables in 'Old More's Almanac...' on sale in all discerning book shops and selected High Street newsagents, priced 10/6d... for unless fluent in the Russian vernacular, it was just about as articulate to the little crab as a map of the Moscow Metro during a blackout, only to have the Rouble finally drop with a throat gagging 'Gaaargh...' clunk, that you were currently standing on the down-line platform, when you should've been stood on the up... as the last train lurched unsteadily out of the station whistling a jubilant entente cordiale... 'wish me luck as you wave me dasvidaniya'.

     Still stamping her foot, only now in strict rotation with the other seven, the baby crustacean peered out from beneath the shade of the large pebble, rearing its bulk out of the rockpool like a lollypop-lady's 'STOP'!!! sign, her beady eyes twitching independently, first this way, then the other, cut withering swathes through every cardinal point of the compass that didn't duck quite fast enough, was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the rock-pool in which she found herself tapping her foot in today, would be no less aquatic as any other rockpool that she may find herself still tapping a foot in tomorrow and that the best course of action was simply to stay-put and take the matter up with the local town council, then petition for additional fare-stages to be implemented... and with the cost of shoe leather at current prices... well, with eight legs to consider it would make savings that weren't to be sneezed at.  

     It wasn't everyday of the week that a young and upwardly mobile baby crustacean had occasion to move both up-market and down the beach, all in the same mouthful... and into what could only be regarded as a desirable, detached beachfront property, a rock-pool of distinction with all available mod-cons.  She felt relieved that apart from the occasional day-tripper, who invariably dropped litter wherever they went, that a baby crab of distinction such as herself, was certain to be accepted socially and hob-*** with a new and discerning circle of acquaintances... you only had to take that nice lady earlier in the week, they both seemed to have so much in common... then she would roll up her sleeves and really show the neighbourhood what knitting was all about...  

     With as much enthusiasm as that of a three year old screaming for an ice-cream in the middle of an heat-wave, Red marched up the beach and as far from his wife's waspish tongue as a lame excuse would carry him, heading back towards the growing crush of holidaymaking fathers who were only there presumably, for the sake of their own children, laying siege to the mobile vendor... only this time, having already stood in the same queue ten minutes earlier, now had a sufficiency of funds to purchase that which he'd unsuccessfully queued for the first time.

      After an unspecified time which by his wife's reckoning was grounds for divorce... Red, now laden down with the iced confectionary picked his way through the same throng of fathers who moments earlier had been happily chatting in the queue together, were now enjoying the same berating as the one Red was looking forward to as he made his way back towards the rock pool, juggling more ice-cream than two manly hands could intelligently control... while in a bid for freedom, the rapidly thawing confectionary were hatching plans of their own, ones quite independent from those intended as they embarked upon their meandering exodus, known only to iced creamy desserts on hot sunny days... and into the unknown, roaming across Red's hands and trusting their fate to a far higher authority.

     "Did I mention that I was on a diet" snapped his significant other, as she sat licking pistachios from the melting cornet... "don't you ever listen," secretly smiling to herself... "and you did remember to bring Sockeye's water this morning.. didn't you..!" she continued "someone with half as much sense would've stood it in the rockpool to keep cool, I'm sure the little crab wouldn't have objected..!"   At the mention of his name, Sockeye with ears far too free-lance to ever consider gainful employment of their own, needed no further persuasion and charged straight through the rock-pool to his mistress's side, walloping the thermos flask for a tail whopping six... bringing his personal batting average so far this holiday to a self congratulatory forty not out... and found the baby crab spluttering flat on her back and having second thoughts on any immediate savings in shoe leather were she to stay. 

     Generous to a fault, Sockeye now thought to shower everyone's ice cream with liberal helpings of the seashore as several parasitic irritations had Sockeye hard at work serving eviction notices on some of the more exotic zoology that only a patent Bob Martin's would dare to muscle up to... the local wildlife, by the look on his face were having the time of their lives bivouacked behind his left ear, throwing wild parties and disturbing the peace.  Cross-eyed, it was only while launching a double pronged assault on the latest settlement of interlopers that Sockeye finally succumbed to his injuries and surrendered to a neighbouring sandcastle... it really didn't do to mention a certain name too loudly at times like these, especially when you just happened to be on the receiving end.

     For some strange reason he was undoubtedly in the dog house... they'd shouted at him, which made him sad, all except his little master who had pushed him away... which left him bereft.  Sockeye sat down on dads beach-towel and had a long, thoughtful scratch... where had all the fuss gone? he searched for appreciation their faces... his tail gave one disheartened thump before it stopped... and all those little pieces of ice-cream dipped wafer, which up until now had always appeared as if by magic.  

     Catching sight of one such treat, undoubtedly forgotten by the rock pool, a marauding seagull pulled out of a rolling dive and swooped, at the same instant as two gaping jaws launched themselves skywards... canine jowls quivering bravely in the light sea airs... and not too dissimilar to a heat seeking missile, rose gracefully from the ground to meet it... 'well intercepted..!' as both ears applauded in mid-air... no aerial freeloader was about to skip town with Sockeye's ice cream wafer without paying... leaving one solitary wing flapping its willingness to pay up.

     At least it kept her husband in useful employment Tina decided... and mercifully out from under her feet, as she brushed a fragment of affectionate pistachio from her bikini top... she'd have to  make sure he went for the ices in future... and without the means to pay for them... a mischievous smile turned the corners of her mouth as she leant towards the beach-bag and invested herself with several more juicy grapes... that everyone who fell within her sphere of influence had been warned well away from... under threat of dire consequence... and it would take a brave man indeed, or a very foolish one... she gave her husband who was sitting well within arms reach a caustic glance... and Tina's particular variety of justice had a very long arm indeed.

                                                        ­           ...   ...   ...**

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1297
Skaidrum Jun 2015
.
Ancient games
tell tales of dust.  |||   A story drawn
from the lips of two poets.



~~~~~


It's the wits that ****, not Queens of ivory or ink. *
Charged with
coal strokes, scraping up the lies.
Pawns & Knights slip between the grasp of the sun, leaking into
   lion jaws of Leo.
Shifting these granite plates, ignoring the Rooks common price of aslant.
Here we have slain kin, crescent traitors that backstab the night and battlefield.
Closed doors and trap floors, trade me a tie, swindling your tactic ruts.
Reality never got the noose around our necks, check turned into manslaughter, and kingdoms ripped asunder by the roar of Jupiter
Get up, get up, get away from these liars, they can't have your rank or your fire.
Peak a notion, this match is spared by a luft.
Toss away the pride buried 'neath your dusty skin, it don't matter no more if   death has you by the lips.
Silence is a language too in our eyes of earth.
Take my hand, knott your soul into this downfall, and brace yourself for the wreckage in our bones.
The Sword of Sorrows will fall 'pon your shoulders, not to slay thee, but to dub thee a new day.
The drums of war will knit the lyrics in the sky,
singing:
"The mighty sharpen their fangs, the weak sharpen their wisdom"
~~~~~
I'm tired of your wishbones, and golden scales, give me the hard-earned truth.
Hot coals of honesty may you tread upon, shadow-bitten remorseful may you be, don't stray off the course of Ursa major.
The North star isn't the one I follow
It's the moon with all of it's phases,
Eclipsing and crescent, tipping the sky with it's beauty.
Now let this sink further than any soul has ever sunk,
no man could ever
rule the moon.
~~~~~~
Shoot on command,
C
h    
      e
c  
      k
m
a
t      
e

~~~~
You could drag me to hell and back and those words wouldn't mean anything.
Let this downfall become a *downfell,

Because last I checked
"Wolves worship the moon"
and I have broke it's reflection in the water
Just
by
throwing
s                    
t          
o
         n
                 e
                              s
                               ­        .

.
A collab between
The Dragon Prince & Skaidrum.

I'll give most credit to
Kalum here.

© Copywrite The Dragon Prince & Skaidrum
Cedric McClester Apr 2015
By: Cedric McClester

Great people live or die
For a simple cause
We remember their names
Who will remember yours
Some of ‘em even had to
Defy existing laws
But that’s how it was then
And how it always was

Now’s the time to think about it
I’m not just flappin’ my jaws
We will remember their names
Who will remember yours

Tell the world and me
What will you leave behind
As a lasting legacy
Right now and for all time
Why can’t it be you
Who sets the paradigm
For others to follow your footsteps
Straight to the finish line

Now’s the time to think about it
I’m not just flapping my jaws
We will remember their names
Who will remember yours

Many are the takers
And so few of us give
We don’t know when we’ll die
But we decide how we’re gonna live
Time are like grains of sand
Being forced through a sieve
That vanishes real quickly
Once it starts to give

Make your contributions
Start speaking for you now
You may be a novice
But let your voice be clear and loud
Try to make a difference
I know you can somehow
Cos you can’t reap a harvest
That you haven’t plowed

Now’s the time to think about it
I’m not just flappin’ my jaws
We will remember their names
Who will remember yours

Now’s the time to think about it
I’m not just flappin’ my jaws
We will remember their names
Who will remember yours

Now’s the time to think about it
I’m not just flappin’ my jaws
We will remember their names
Who will remember yours




(c) Copyright 2015, Cedric McClester.  All rights reserved.
Dahlia Jun 2014
I used to think that sadness was beautiful,
But what is the point of it all? We're supposed to be youthful!
They said time and time over that it would pass, but to be truthful:
The feeling and expressing pain or sorrow for sins, it's all we feel: ruthful

So in the end, what is the point of life at all?
When all we do is sit around and bawl,
"I just wanted to be pretty Cristi, just like a doll!"
But isn't it more important to be happy, above all?

All I have been feeling for the past couple of years is pain,
Even though all I have wrapped around my neck is a golden chain
Rather than his clenched fingers restricting against my jugular vein,
With a voice in the back of my mind reminding me of my engraved Mark of Cain,
It begs and exclaims, and it can't seem to remain restrained,
But to ease me of my pain, they'd say: "Here, have a glass of Champagne."

Can't you see what this mystery is doing to me?
I can't seem to break the shackles that would set me free,
All I'm reminded of is of my unfinished Master's Degree.
"Is that all that matters to you?!" I dare to plea,
"But what about my happiness, or my hemophilia b?!"

Their expressions are forever carved in my mind: dropped jaws and widened eyes,
"If it is such a sin to be happy, can't one consider the act of decriminalize?!"
They'd all put up such a convincing and eerie disguise
As if it would turn back the clock to avoid their end, their demise
But I could tell by their silenced, hushed lips and snake eyes:
My inquiry deserved a Nobel prize

What was it about my question that turned my loved ones against me?
They wouldn't dare turn their heads my way, they'd continue to sip on their black tea
As if I were a ghost, or some sort of banshee
The loss of my sanity is what they could foresee

-
Mark of Cain: the mark that God set upon Cain now refers to a person's sinful nature

hemophilia b: a clotting disorder similar to hemophilia A but caused by a congenital deficiency of factor IX

banshee: (Irish folklore) a female spirit who wails to warn of impending death
Julian Oct 2016
Afflatus screams in mellifluous moonlight by a placid pond
Disturbed slightly by a miracle on ice deloused at a heavy price
Pantechnicons swarm as ghosts maraud around the outskirts of the forest
Suddenly the resurrected memories of renegades become conscientious
Angels swarm with fluttered wings invisible to the albatross of opprobrium
They concert themselves with chirpy dreams, itinerant crumples of amnesia creams
Marigolds are miracles at the most opportune time to be called a hysteria
Asserting the divinity of trinkets applauded that litter history with euphoria
Flinch my core, drunk on the travesty of stodgy moralism unfurled zero kelvin cold
But Salt Lake City towers above my contemplations and UFOs make themselves known
Every city this big is well in eternity and maternity very well known
Shelter not from husbandry, for Babylon is no longer idolatry
Stemwinders and poltroons with prisons crooned
Tyrannosaurus Rex still terrorizes aliens and humans alike on a stranded dark side of the moon
Pink is the ****** of Mayweather and Mayflower, so rigid in rock-a-by-baby tunes
Now is "Never" but TV time "When The Music’s Over" is Bang Bane rather than Boom
Hostage tickets of English hecklers proclaiming my royalty serenade the forest green
I hear their laments of the rumors ballyhoo obscene
Imagine a forest bright, trepidation of unlikely marauders of Viking spite
Spates of jinx own the tanks, sharks (jaws of these aliens in time "Thriller") evanesce as fluttered cameras blink
Marigolds are really miracles as euphoria that plangent has never been so bold
It owned the night and owed nothing of fright to hear aliens chirp ******* penetrated so tight
To hear the orchestra of God’s minions applaud my albatross receding in plight
The swiftest musketeer aims his gun at an AIMed pun
The renegade blackmail is the rut of a guttural wedding of a none and a nun
How sad that she waits, as a ragamuffin of eternal wraiths
That speak to her dreams specifically as a barnacle waif
Genius eludes the moment of sinking eternity and Van Gogh alpenglow
Cracked screens reap grime and grim preachers that reap what they sow
Accentuated stature of imposture clutters legends urbane with glowing silt
Rigmarole of laughingstock circus with the strangest 25-year old days of a dead man Wilt
It was the steward of a day too strange to forget
It was the Newark of a Jersey of Gretzky #99, a hard-won bet
Histrionic of history, an underappreciated music is a well-worn divinity
The best music ever is the best music of time-traveled complicity
Sadly lost on inferior ears is the plangent flow of sonorous pantheons
Lost on an island of good taste in a world that prizes prosaic mellow eons
Rather than delicate paeans with hummingbird simplicity
I resent how rare my taste is in an olfactory of waste
How rare a smell is that yegg harder to lambaste
Don’t gibber the jibe of jive-talking stalk
The scarecrow in Back to the Future is a ******* heckler hawk
Rarefied abduction of stolen keys of NYPD sprees
To drivel the wharf of piedmont rifts in Heaven’s eternal leaves
Time to step back from the sidewinder missive
Time to crack the gravy epistle so dismissive
Non-linear experiments in time and memory crave recognition
Finally I learn that house arrest is a Home Alone good enough for a virtual reality prison
Searle May 2014
Jaws of steel
Fangs of a cobra
Sharp as razors
Glint in the dim light

Under his control
Viciously they rip
The staples out
As he sorts his papers
Anatidaephobic para siesta,
on the park bench w/ the child molesters:

eyeballs eyevory as Arctic detergent,
amid shingle by De Beers are REMurgent.

Whitsands of some incroyable Bermuda
(white man even his own intruder,

upon cetocephalic theta depths,
that whistle crystal Dixie, seahorses for clefts).

'Peas have great individuality,'
but peristerite is this sea,

not peagreen.  A pickpoctopus of preag
(pre-peag more offshore than 64,000 leagues),

klepto Neptune mudlarks the silica,
into his limelylit hypothermia

sleeves shells, like the desirable hermitcrab Earth
of my astrally orarian self.

My gaze stolen by tealeaf tides:
samphire, sapphire, squid's suckereyed .

Under the sea, there is no CCTV.
But guilt is a silk meat to the nee-

dleeyed nostrils of PC Jaws;
feefifofumes slip faded scabs' pores.

He's not a panoptopus catching your tentacle in your mouth,
but squaloid cop whose own gob's a ganch.

Phaser intangible thru verdantique,
Policeshark! does davyjonestowns deek.

On a fishing expedition in shipwreck slums,
whose 19 new tenants are pinklewickers from Morecambe,

but they're innocent as God's goslings, so Policeshark!
capriciously octocuffed a gangster's mollusc

- by 'octocuffed', I meant crunched the suspect's stu-
diously nonevolved backbone in his beartrap bazoo.

After flossing the caries of noble cause corruption,
moody maccarelics had snubsnouted selachian

policesharkraid! an octopus's gardengate,
& half a McCalf, knee, did he confiscate

- minus the 'confisc'.
His beat is wide & his beat is deep, from Frisc-

o to Portalprints,
Constantlynubile  (Instantbeau) to Pawsmith,

from pertly lisped Perth to hellsmiled imorteen's
imaginary Miami, styrofoam unicorn shoreline.

& traversing isthmus now wasthmus, Lemuria,
where  the wreck of the Sargassoworks lies similar-

ly submerged, sunk by Cap'n Sanforisedbeard,
nautical vagabond who thought he'd blagged a pond,

but was wonking all the angles on the sextant,
till mainsail was mainly flailing like an introvert

among many reprikates of Rik Mayall. Policeshark! swam
thru turquoise ****** of amino acids, liquid farm-

yards of forms not yet strangely familiar enough,
where plankton are those new clear vitals' scurf,

or Creation's intelligent designer stubble.
& Creation's archeozoic goosepimples are bubbles.

For around Policeshark!, waves may turn time-
twiddlingly wavy: Zeit's gristle to the Sein-

shark, the Aardshark, the Wailsnark, the Sharchetype
worrying my liminal jugular like a vamp-

ire scarf. In the blink of the eye of the
Policesharknado!, Policeshark! the merciless mer-

monitor has done his bloodhound rounds,
reset his primordial aura dial, outswam Ground

Zerocean brane, that damp original,
even aquathreshed the 'bi.ven.' in that bilateral

venture 'tween surf 'n' turf, Sinbad the Flavour.
So as to spyhop above cursive of rips & rollers

to stake out this shorehugger, whose Shutter Island discs
sirenade not of Portalsmith, Bizzyhandyman or Frisc-

o, but of a more prosaic 'mare where sharks go quack.
So rage, Ol' Cuntsea, Thalassa you ****!

Big blue wobbly ****, Red Label Sea
of my unconscious! It is mens rea

for which Policesharks! frenze, pinprick of shame,
but the dreaming animal's meat is not game.

I am Ruestungminister in his Argentine cabana!
I am God in His Gondola!

& the Policesharkcage! is the cordon sanitaire
of my not really being there. Or here.

I'm Shore Ryder splittin' for a sun-Ken-
tucky, para siesta passing for a con-

tent Tuesday come to pass like the rainbands
that wore Ray Bans were disbanded by whitsands

fresh-CV-not-cream-scroll-brill, yet
inadmissible as Icarus giblets

or a mohican of gills' nullity.
O Policesharkbait! paltry

as dismembered Freudianism of carnal lagan!
Less catabasis & more embasan.

A dreampoet about to jump the Policeshark!,
awoke to the trope of a Savileville park.

Was it a dream within a dream within...
TL; DR, Policesharkfin!!
'embasan'  (Filipino)- to wear clothes in the bath
1
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body
were not the soul, what is the soul?

2
The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself
     balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of
     his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
     and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
     folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the
     contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through
     the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls
     silently to and from the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the
     horse-man in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open
     dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in the garden or
     cow-yard,
The young fellow hosing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six
     horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, *****,
     good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown
     after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
     muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes
     suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d
     neck and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s
     breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
     the firemen, and pause, listen, count.

3
I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons,
And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.

This man was a wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person,
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
     beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness
     and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also,
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were
     massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him,
They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal
     love,
He drank water only, the blood show’d like scarlet through the
     clear-brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail’d his boat himself, he
     had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had
     fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
     you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
     the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit
     by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.

4
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round
     his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I
     swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
     and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

5
This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor,
     all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what
     was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response
     likewise ungovernable,
Hair, *****, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all
     diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling
     and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
     love, white-blow and delirious nice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the
     prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.

This the nucleus—after the child is born of woman, man is born
     of woman,
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the
     outlet again.

Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
     exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.

The female contains all qualities and tempers them,
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil’d, she is both passive and active,
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as
     daughters.

As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness,
     sanity, beauty,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.

6
The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well,
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is
     utmost become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to
     the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes
     soundings at last only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)

The man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred—is it the meanest one in the
     laborers’ gang?
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as
     much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.

(All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)

Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has
     no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and
     the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her?

7
A man’s body at auction,
(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)
I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.

Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll’d.

In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the makings of heroes.

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized
     arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings,
     aspirations,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express’d in
     parlors and lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers
     in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.

How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
     through the centuries?
(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace
     back through the centuries?)

8
A woman’s body at auction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and
     times all over the earth?

If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful
     than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
     that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.

9
O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
     nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
     soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and
     that they are my poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s,
     father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or
     sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the
     jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
    ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
     finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-*****, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body
     or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, *******, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
     love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
     tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
     meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
     toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
     marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of
     the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
I have never taken a blade to my wrist
These thoughts cut me deeper than any knife
Lately I can’t shake this feeling that I’ll never get anything right
So what is the point when you don’t believe in yourself?
If you can’t, how can anyone else?
I've been staring at the same walls for three years
I can’t seem to overcome this fear
That my best is not good enough
Can you be too ***** to love?
When others shine so bright
How could anyone choose my light?
Happiness comes but it always leaves so soon
I’d rather stay in
Lock myself in this room
Stare at the ceiling
And think of you
You’re so ******* good and I want to be good too
But I am just a cliché
With too many flaws
You deserve porcelain skin and delicate jaws
So should I push away or fade away
Blend into shades of black and grey
Slow down time
Slip from my mind
Yet always you remain
Even when the last wisp of smoke escapes my lungs
I can still taste your name on my tongue
To Paint a Water Lily

A green level of lily leaves
Roofs the pond's chamber and paves

The flies' furious arena: study
These, the two minds of this lady.

First observe the air's dragonfly
That eats meat, that bullets by

Or stands in space to take aim;
Others as dangerous comb the hum

Under the trees.  There are battle-shouts
And death-cries everywhere hereabouts

But inaudible, so the eyes praise
To see the colours of these flies

Rainbow their arcs, spark, or settle
Cooling like beads of molten metal

Through the spectrum.  Think what worse
is the pond-bed's matter of course;

Prehistoric bedragoned times
Crawl that darkness with Latin names,

Have evolved no improvements there,
Jaws for heads, the set stare,

Ignorant of age as of hour—
Now paint the long-necked lily-flower

Which, deep in both worlds, can be still
As a painting, trembling hardly at all

Though the dragonfly alight,
Whatever horror nudge her root.
Kiernan Norman Jan 2015
I picture them in a balmy hallway,
far-corner huddled; quietly, urgently
comparing their notes on ways I have loved.

They'll laugh at lame jokes and avoid eye contact,
each surprised by their own awkwardness.
One of them will quip the term
'eskimo brother'
and immediately wish he hadn't.
The rest will kindly ignore it.
The moment will pass.

They will slowly shed their discomfort.
They will remove their coats.
Sweat will bloom at collars
and trace knotty bumps of spine before
pooling into the space between
boxers and belt.

They won't openly discuss the
strange comradery
that accompanies the lazy river evenings spent drifting down the same mind-
but the tension pulling across
each of their jaws
will announce loud and clear
how frustrating it has
been to be cropped,
tucked in, paper fortune teller folded
and wrapped up into someone else’s idea of poetry.


Casually
then all at once,
they will get started.
Printed pages will uncoil from backpacks,
phones will emerge from pockets
and fingers slightly shaking
will chase the letters
of my name through search engines.

My sticky poems will fan out across floorboards.
They will lower their bodies carefully, not quite kneeling,
(and without mention of the bad knees they happen to share.)
They'll hover above each piece of evidence
and their eyes will crash along titles and memories-
they'll read with raised
eyebrows and pretend as if
they don't already know
each poem, each quick dig, by heart.

When they start claiming
and denying pieces
they will do so lightly
and without judgment.
'This piece is about you and the dry, delicate
tissue-shell of skin
she held out for you after you told
her to shed.
But this piece- this piece is about me
and the messy ointment
that ruined her clothes and
stained her blankets.
A doctor instructed she
apply the ointment to her hands
twice a day to treat
the burns my silence left
across her arms and throat.'

They will share a bit of rage,
A bit of regret.
A bit of shame, perhaps.
They will either miss me intensely
or not at all.
They will either own up
to the poems they begat
or begin refuting.
They don’t want any of
this chilly weight on their soul.
I understand.

They didn’t sign up for this, I know that.
They didn’t set out to rock me,
nor to dig down deep and get to my China.
I was happy to share, to whisper and recite blurry
morning confessions and epiphanies.
I was right behind them running toward the sand dunes,
waving a shovel and pail.
But I can’t feel bad either.
You all must have known:

If you happen to fall for a girl
who writes you must realize
that every smile you put on her face,
every stray hair you’ve pushed back from her eyes,
and quick habit she starts to crave
is fair game.

If a girl who writes happens to fall for you too--
forget it.
You will find echoes of the way your souls fit and fought
together until she has nothing left to feel on the subject;
(and you must be well aware
she's tidal, her feelings are icecaps,
they are melting but will trickle fresh
and renewed for centuries to come.)
Scott M Reamer Apr 2013
Man life know just set eyes way like young world soul day hunger space mouth earth thoughts ignorance blind things mind knew final moment human creation kind creatures souls high forgotten dream love spoke self existence face holy deep bound think home void say surrender ear forever called held ephemeral red state end shall heed hope edge living waking fall sea wake garden need February thought past wanderer got men page colored tepid terrible **** proudly untitled features point painted faceless box forgot render wild spring splendor  handfuls looking half brain lost torn ancestral  unseen vision inner summer honor mister owned banner save today fear groans wasn't smoke  street fable strange year contrast black years  able pain body spoken word known motion  palpitate reeling nature culture disclaimers  cancer beg attentive frames ****** base profound double remember wholly finger death token  cries continue folk oh fishing form broken true  divides spread ah twas away breathe wait warning hallowed wish closer lens turn eye live  constant current author hung theory dangle  bramble chemical new force changes adderall  anymore giving beneath possess pardon commentaries eternity internal walk reason  long change does idea glimpse consciousness  wandering simply wonder physical dreams war  sleep told rest benign prior begging truth little  2012 born tale crow bowels allegory animal rule  exasperate making horse curse hands ones read  rearrange capture doing command fail awake  aperture seedlings shift steely sir nap spead ****** demons slits clever telling loud spits la-la-di-dah killing slip game reflected nameless ask  lovers rabid bear salivate plunder shameless  famously savior mint rides menthol bully fate traded melodies play misunderstand mammals gentle witless fine utterly savage silt tongue-less  dirt dilutes pure non-sensory taste briefly ravage dismember it''ll shedding ruined curtain  knots offers plot fulfills munificent two-act  relegates boxz bug altruistic wintergreen tossing  callously guise grovels one's singers treachery ashes mid-life mutter fashion parading  ambiguity separatist liars staple steeping neath  guidelines scoffing stitch moans civil wrote  Fictitious undoing fables table effigies serve  sonnets staged remark psalm swoll praise harken  beggar verse bread lines heavily electricity detection snow sack-happy preaching credit  spotted wicked best gravity gun campaign owe  barge choir revelry celebratory satiated sinking  headline pack hound persistently propaganda  gentlemen excluding diminished ******* run idles  occupied levies wolfishly honestly misinformation cuba vehemently dumb grace spectator erasing  toned sage crowded secrets inter-connectivity  loaned prayer hymns grave mistaken magnified  vandals selective jump leak escapes says minister  buckle mass honesty shut tar children's hats  monument doping long-lived electrical ladle  exaggerated cartoons address seconds cool cradle bleak yang's mind-framed hypnotic  walker caps folly treble claim streaks mixtures  swelled interstate elapse teasing spoon mobile  succulent witchcraft borderline fatal 99 temple stacks sups plastics creeps neurotic ills tossed  meek sipping old crack interlock wax alleyway  coughing blown freak clock birthdays societies  slow flashing viscous candy argument toothless  pills cerebral rapt wall bisect lives wheezing  photo kid starter foiled pair saturated self-castrating pre-packed naked uncertainly pill  used came chaos coated reprisal fells wrack  irreverent mirth sickly disinherited proudest  collate wheeze appearance palette disharmony  discontented bastardized emotive bio inhale diction beat spoiled reclamation loudest tempo  totally disembodied matte imperfect shells flat  struck sounding imparts flak origin severance remarked bone walls snared leaflets mocking  hot scripting adjective noun agape seemingly  resistant gawk calamity passage paintings wind  trashcans signings sits cheap makers poetry persist scrap slipping individual talk wonders  leaving questions fold actor fancy parchment  fates engenders flown jaws stripped longer music  sacrifice fakers book boldly frown sigh atop patient hang trade occupation blows spectacular  whispers worthy backward waving certainty danced suppose needn't ‘drawkcab’ second-guessing  boys forget marched motto heads tightly lies two-tone earthbound harp twice turns goodnight  lying ***** internally indiscriminate nickname  drunk convictions myth steep  in-consumption  fitting artist **** universal sick expressions bad  du spell melody big siphon proud learn sprawls song spastic something temperaments utter check  fissures stomp totality blend definitely thrall sing rug voice shade pestilence ties commiserate round devil steady brains emotional certain gate  suckling gates dearth decay weight bounce pound  carrier pangs glass startle contest earthen web  tug pressed air patience flush amassed guest gone apprehension staring empathize captain believe fading in-perceivable deathbed guarder makes surrounds scatter drooling ebb blink cob tome  venom near door lair derision draws host stairs scent parts curiosities spider webbing surprise wares tips stepping ascetics starkness realize picture surroundings dictations grand pillars  deaf limited comparisons greet visual residents  personal settings dismiss alien law stability common earthly shiftless places prelude  understanding mosaic keen trifling embodiments  geared inception whisper visible jowls kiss murky  puddle rank dawn dichotomy single faithful fraying pays tailor veil climb mores pence whim  breath wellspring samara god stony pear  shadows fruiting forebodes moonlit looming  shown passed bog gold wracked faint tongues  noble preachers mirror shifting layered depth  threads jungle narcissus bemused seamstress self-worshiping architect's wore slumber anomalous  opened barren seam lip caustic scene coupled brick gardener's clenches -with forms idle breed  embodied lore starving empathy design illusion  tree coat fabricate lucid mason scatter-all  narrative seeking imbued 16th shivering chemicals 17th 15thrisk improperly dare  deliberate plan purge try brought chapter speed  aide utmost spirit leading intervention felt  recall recent advent sincerity times diary  lackluster piously lasting happy holding hear  stem tasteless whimpers wet spine monstrosity  dripping causes position quite softly claws pallet  answer digging tearing beast satiating circle breaks skips redwoods beckoning rotted hushed  gray lapsing monoliths deities creborus  imbuement hand stroll paradigm rendered chorus shy whispering forest residual tension  surrenders tolerance lull anew sentenced  bearing tide birds dirge divergent rim joined  cogs wood hesitant mist emergent towering offer  awareness confinement inverted faultier stowed  plane sanctified blanketing trusting memory fossil flash twists laden self-indulgent fleeting invitation agony grip shore impetus lingering  crows promise gift union swallowing endless floor supposed ecstasy sensory intent  psychotropic cradling placement interned  jagged connectivity exchange congenial begun  summons singular spiral assumes ambient reciprocates re-entry fruition reached aggregate lifetime limbs birthed instinct  frightening tarry proper entire light  boundaries innocence pursuit ago discover left  youth's unknowing sacred time place meager  simple fact cast ceaseless wide-eyed literal  apparent coincidence create boldness morphed  crooked kempt mere stumble buried shutter fairy  pivotal definitive months worth shear ambition sound required journeyed self-reflections title  facets vague restless intimation gut wanderer's  leap motivate path account boy soon bears faith  question tripped reasons uproot awaited confronted days step heal provocations wisps crushing transcend chronicles instance  directness raw drove occurrence objective-less  real enters slightest confident nondescript  typify  foreshortened interment paradox bitter heart  devoid jeopardy angry sensation confidential guilty arrogance mercy compliance reprieve  vincent deadening factual sign emotion awe  inhibition shackled butterflies absence actual sciences acknowledgement violent stagnant  spiritual American doors roots lack matted fore  gestures society cause streams intensity hair impossible discord lonely hearts resounding  jest  what's flavored pains closed toxic contented  happenstance scientific knowledge yeah  wizardry shaking stifled withdrawn bloom  jitter dreads settle asocial hulton make  predisposed figurative reflections demeanors  wondered affect hulton's projected sense  morning industry arrays ghosts feeling  certainly endomorphic where's partially wrath  passer mornings jovial unease advertized asking  trash onward wished tempers media mentality connect pasts sharp-toothed scramble great colours trial test salvation continually lent  degree secretly subjection social waned  disconnected colors grimly intellectual civilization cash trading baffling particular  digest myths monumental ending seasons winter  repetition introducing agent everlasting  shoulders delivered honestly-- possession funny  continence history unsightly function suffering propulsion profession divulge familiar tugs era  importance capability perpetuation spite inventory words entirety leveling fray insight  date record continues writer getting evermore fellow tongue possessions identical proof accuracy education similar sack admittance  favor unravel conveyance guilt gives beginnings  predicting audacity definition bobby heady eaters frameless learned release stone grandeur sang  speak molds sleeps split built seats people folded  sheer pour evoked playhouse liquid boring  tellers frayed stark walked reality pleas doth  preformed shows beak pride squawks opinions  greatest bold stunning sightings he'd loudly slain  sunk watch legend precipice theater deeper compound commentator civility justly silly sin  reverent seen prophetic moral confounds notion  lacking explain attempt prolific viral estrange proclivity scorn hide blur pious strung eden's  horror cut skin arch cruel twig mother vile  pass lend woods peach shrunken trail man's canopy worn 434 eat warm limb familiar father delete.

You are what your reading lady. Now would you hold this gun?
Ilunga Mutombo May 2018
If a busy gun takes lives
Then silent leaders do worse
They burn lives, hang knuses on the innocent
Voice your pain or get blessed with a curse
Blood shed Schools
We elected fools
Wrong leaders to lead us
Pushing useless agenda’s
While feeding us propaganda
Halls covered red
thousands of innocent people killed
At the expense of gun reform laws
Watching news with dropped jaws
We sit in silence
while the voiceless die for peace
zero Nov 2017
Ashen doves float within the waves,
slinking like silent demons in the night.
They curl around my body,
jaws operating like steel machines,
gnashing at my limbs.
I begin to scream for help,
but they ****** my breath,
they drag me under their tides of black,
unleashing my unremitting fear of water predators.
their teeth, sunken into my flesh,
gnawing at my mind,
painting me my new mortality.

These are my demons,
the sharks in the bath when it comes to hygiene.
the fear of the below and the depths of human mentality,
the untraceable percentage of human worthlessness,
the detestable attraction to the demise of our minds,

I float lower into the aqua,
pressure building,
unforgiving and foreboding
I close my lids, and dream of the sand,
praying it to be underfoot when I open my eyes,
but when my lids open, the doves loom closer.

The irony of a hydrophobe,
dying at the hands of the sharks.
The fear of the ocean is the greatest fear I know.
-Z.xo
Forth upon the Gitche Gumee,
On the shining Big-Sea-Water,
With his fishing-line of cedar,
Of the twisted bark of cedar,
Forth to catch the sturgeon Nahma,
Mishe-Nahma, King of Fishes,
In his birch canoe exulting
All alone went Hiawatha.

  Through the clear, transparent water
He could see the fishes swimming
Far down in the depths below him;
See the yellow perch, the Sahwa,

  Like a sunbeam in the water,
See the Shawgashee, the craw-fish,
Like a spider on the bottom,
On the white and sandy bottom.

  At the stern sat Hiawatha,
With his fishing-line of cedar;
In his plumes the breeze of morning
Played as in the hemlock branches;
On the bows, with tail erected,
Sat the squirrel, Adjidaumo;
In his fur the breeze of morning
Played as in the prairie grasses.

  On the white sand of the bottom
Lay the monster Mishe-Nahma,
Lay the sturgeon, King of Fishes;
Through his gills he breathed the water,
With his fins he fanned and winnowed,
With his tail he swept the sand-floor.

  There he lay in all his armor;
On each side a shield to guard him,
Plates of bone upon his forehead,
Down his sides and back and shoulders
Plates of bone with spines projecting!
Painted was he with his war-paints,
Stripes of yellow, red, and azure,
Spots of brown and spots of sable;
And he lay there on the bottom,
Fanning with his fins of purple,
As above him Hiawatha
In his birch canoe came sailing,
With his fishing-line of cedar.

  “Take my bait!” cried Hiawatha,
Down into the depths beneath him,
“Take my bait, O sturgeon, Nahma!
Come up from below the water,
Let us see which is the stronger!”
And he dropped his line of cedar
Through the clear, transparent water,
Waited vainly for an answer,
Long sat waiting for an answer,
And repeating loud and louder,
“Take my bait, O King of Fishes!”

  Quiet lay the sturgeon, Nahma,
Fanning slowly in the water,
Looking up at Hiawatha,
Listening to his call and clamor,
His unnecessary tumult,
Till he wearied of the shouting;
And he said to the Kenozha,
To the pike, the Maskenozha,
“Take the bait of this rude fellow,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”

  In his fingers Hiawatha
Felt the loose line **** and tighten;
As he drew it in, it tugged so
That the birch canoe stood endwise,
Like a birch log in the water,
With the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Perched and frisking on the summit.

  Full of scorn was Hiawatha
When he saw the fish rise upward,
Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
Coming nearer, nearer to him,
And he shouted through the water,
“Esa! esa! shame upon you!
You are but the pike, Kenozha,
You are not the fish I wanted,
You are not the King of Fishes!”

  Reeling downward to the bottom
Sank the pike in great confusion,
And the mighty sturgeon, Nahma,
Said to Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
To the bream, with scales of crimson,
“Take the bait of this great boaster,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”

  Slowly upward, wavering, gleaming,
Rose the Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
Seized the line of Hiawatha,
Swung with all his weight upon it,
Made a whirlpool in the water,
Whirled the birch canoe in circles,
Round and round in gurgling eddies,
Till the circles in the water
Reached the far-off sandy beaches,
Till the water-flags and rushes
Nodded on the distant margins.

  But when Hiawatha saw him
Slowly rising through the water,
Lifting up his disk refulgent,
Loud he shouted in derision,
“Esa! esa! shame upon you!
You are Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
You are not the fish I wanted,
You are not the King of Fishes!”

  Slowly downward, wavering, gleaming,
Sank the Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
And again the sturgeon, Nahma,
Heard the shout of Hiawatha,
Heard his challenge of defiance,
The unnecessary tumult,
Ringing far across the water.

  From the white sand of the bottom
Up he rose with angry gesture,
Quivering in each nerve and fibre,
Clashing all his plates of armor,
Gleaming bright with all his war-paint;
In his wrath he darted upward,
Flashing leaped into the sunshine,
Opened his great jaws, and swallowed
Both canoe and Hiawatha.

  Down into that darksome cavern
Plunged the headlong Hiawatha,
As a log on some black river,
Shoots and plunges down the rapids,
Found himself in utter darkness,
Groped about in helpless wonder,
Till he felt a great heart beating,
Throbbing in that utter darkness.

  And he smote it in his anger,
With his fist, the heart of Nahma,
Felt the mighty King of Fishes
Shudder through each nerve and fibre,
Heard the water gurgle round him
As he leaped and staggered through it,
Sick at heart, and faint and weary.

  Crosswise then did Hiawatha
Drag his birch-canoe for safety,
Lest from out the jaws of Nahma,
In the turmoil and confusion,
Forth he might be hurled and perish.
And the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Frisked and chattered very gayly,
Toiled and tugged with Hiawatha
Till the labor was completed.

  Then said Hiawatha to him,
“O my little friend, the squirrel,
Bravely have you toiled to help me;
Take the thanks of Hiawatha,
And the name which now he gives you;
For hereafter and forever
Boys shall call you Adjidaumo,
Tail-in-air the boys shall call you!”

  And again the sturgeon, Nahma,
Gasped and quivered in the water,
Then was still, and drifted landward
Till he grated on the pebbles,
Till the listening Hiawatha
Heard him grate upon the margin,
Felt him strand upon the pebbles,
Knew that Nahma, King of Fishes,
Lay there dead upon the margin.

  Then he heard a clang and flapping,
As of many wings assembling,
Heard a screaming and confusion,
As of birds of prey contending,
Saw a gleam of light above him,
Shining through the ribs of Nahma,
Saw the glittering eyes of sea-gulls,
Of Kayoshk, the sea-gulls, peering,
Gazing at him through the opening,
Heard them saying to each other,
“’Tis our brother, Hiawatha!”

  And he shouted from below them,
Cried exulting from the caverns:
“O ye sea-gulls! O my brothers!
I have slain the sturgeon, Nahma;
Make the rifts a little larger,
With your claws the openings widen,
Set me free from this dark prison,
And henceforward and forever
Men shall speak of your achievements,
Calling you Kayoshk, the sea-gulls,
Yes, Kayoshk, the Noble Scratchers!”

  And the wild and clamorous sea-gulls
Toiled with beak and claws together,
Made the rifts and openings wider
In the mighty ribs of Nahma,
And from peril and from prison,
From the body of the sturgeon,
From the peril of the water,
They released my Hiawatha.

  He was standing near his wigwam,
On the margin of the water,
And he called to old Nokomis,
Called and beckoned to Nokomis,
Pointed to the sturgeon, Nahma,
Lying lifeless on the pebbles,
With the sea-gulls feeding on him.

  “I have slain the Mishe-Nahma,
Slain the King of Fishes!” said he;
“Look! the sea-gulls feed upon him,
Yes, my friends Kayoshk, the sea-gulls;
Drive them not away, Nokomis,
They have saved me from great peril
In the body of the sturgeon,
Wait until their meal is ended,
Till their craws are full with feasting,
Till they homeward fly, at sunset,
To their nests among the marshes;
Then bring all your pots and kettles,
And make oil for us in Winter.”

  And she waited till the sun set,
Till the pallid moon, the Night-sun,
Rose above the tranquil water,
Till Kayoshk, the sated sea-gulls,
From their banquet rose with clamor,
And across the fiery sunset
Winged their way to far-off islands,
To their nests among the rushes.

  To his sleep went Hiawatha,
And Nokomis to her labor,
Toiling patient in the moonlight,
Till the sun and moon changed places,
Till the sky was red with sunrise,
And Kayoshk, the hungry sea-gulls,
Came back from the reedy islands,
Clamorous for their morning banquet.

  Three whole days and nights alternate
Old Nokomis and the seagulls
Stripped the oily flesh of Nahma,
Till the waves washed through the rib-bones,
Till the sea-gulls came no longer,
And upon the sands lay nothing
But the skeleton of Nahma.
Pierson Pflieger Apr 2012
A bright light annoys my eyes.    I can’t get away from it- I don’t like it.  
Tired and overwhelmed with obligations and requirements,
I’d rather not complete or even think of-
I’d rather they did not exist.  

What do they prove?  

I am comfortable and lazy.  
I would like to sleep, but the smallest agitations are an unbearable annoyance.  
Obnoxious voices speaking a tongue I don’t know, laughing at my condition-
I’d rather be asleep-
quiet and asleep.  

I want a cigarette.  I hate cigarettes.  
I don’t hate cigarettes; I rather like them, especially with coffee,
but I hate how they manipulate me.  
I want one, but I’d rather sleep.  
I wish I could smoke in bed.  
I should have showered before bed.

Self-confidence comes and goes.  
Sometimes I don’t care what people think; other times it’s all I think about.  
It’s judgmental; it’s worry of acceptance, worry of not belonging, worry of standing out.  
People- including me- want to be individuals, but are not brave enough.  
Society does not accept true individuals, it kills them.  
How can I be unique or allow true self to be and true identity to exist when there is fear?

When I see her, I wonder what might have been.  
There was a connection, or maybe just an attraction.  
We lead different lives.  
She is pure and good in the church sense; I am pure and good in my own way.  
But, these two lifestyles could never intertwine.  
I must admire what she is from a far.  
I should not dwell on it too much because it is unfair to the present.  
We always want to know.  
We want to know the future, but I will get there at my own pace.

Lying in bed, I don’t remember most days.  
I only remember lying in bed the prior night, trying to remember the previous day.  
Sometimes I hate my body- not enough muscle, skinny legs, blah hair.  
Against society's standards I am mediocre.  
They know what a man should look like; I am not him.  
We are all not the portrayed he or she.  
Those people only exist on screens.  

This is the last place I want to be.  
Stuck in a class I couldn’t give a **** about,
listening to a Professor I can’t understand drone on and on in his sing-song,
marbled-mouth accent.  
Occasionally trying my patience with a drawn out, “You noh wah I main?”  
No.
I don’t know what you mean.  
I can’t understand what’s coming out of your mouth.

Apparently, the only way to be a good teacher is to jump through hoops and
dance for the cloudy heads of a department.  
If I play their games, I will have blisters on my lips from having to kiss too much ***.  
I do not need to be validated, approved, passed, accepted, or liked by them to be a good teacher.  
I know I will be a good teacher- they have no influence on that.  
They only have the ability to stall me and help steal my money.

The worst is when the pain sinks into your eyes, dull and deep.  
The pressure tunnels around your temples and tries to bore a whole through your forehead.  
Six Advil cover up the pain- only for an hour.  
Everything within your skull pushes out like a balloon on the brink of bursting.

The worst is the restless anxiety experienced lying in bed right before sleep.  
It is the empty churning of stomach, half shots of adrenaline that tickle your veins,
while the mind races like prey trying to evade predatory jaws.  
Your heart flits, skips, and stops,
as your mind obsesses about the seemingly infinite list of things you have to get done.  
That only adds to the stress- since you’re not sleeping, something could be accomplished.  
The worry heightens, the obsession increases until- sleep.

An instant of eye contact can be rare and intriguing.  
Instants too small to have time, can convey so much.  
Eye line meets eyes, eyes lock- message of vast information conveyed.  
A minute moment, an insignificant second, so monumental.  
This blip exchange ignites an internal fire of emotion or ruins your day.  
The messages that can be exchanged in the smallest,
feasible time frame are vastly unique to each experience.  
Polar and extreme: Love me - I nothing you.  
Eye contact conveys an incredible amount of information, but perhaps to be keen to it-
is to be vulnerable.  

What if it were acceptable to give into every desire or want?  
What would the world be?  
Would it be that much different or would the internal, human morale still enforce invisible boundaries?  
What would we do?  
Would the private become public?  
Would others see our lowest animal drive?  
Humans are the only being capable of acting above or below their nature.  
Rough.
Raw.  
Human animals.

It is ironic when something is built up to high expectations, but turns out anticlimactic.  
Was that it?  
That is what we waited for?  
When something does not meet expectations, it creates hollowness, an emptiness, or unfilled hole.
  
What do you do?  
What can you do?  
You can learn from it or you can let it bring you down.  
It is better to look for the positives
than dwell on and become disheartened by the negatives.  
Learn and Grow.

I am a poor student.  
I have been loaned money I will never be able to pay back.  
I am paying for a degree, to get a job that will never return the favor.  
I am strangling myself financially for a “higher education”, but am I getting it?  
Perhaps it is not the institution’s fault; perhaps, it’s my own?  

so much depends
upon

a green dollar
bill

glazed with American
greed

beside the fabricated
dream

I am poor and will be poor, but I will be happy.  
Everything costs.  Everything has a price.  Life is expensive.  
How can I save?  What can I afford to put away?  
When forty dollars in your bank account is a pleasant surprise-
surprises are cheap.
This is a piece I wrote for a class while in school.  The goal of the assignment was to capture "agitated consciousness" (write the moment you wake up, experience high or low emotions, right before falling asleep).  First thought, best thought.  I recently found this and have only made minor changes.  It is not my favorite piece I have ever written, but there are moments I enjoy.  If you have never tried to write like this, I would encourage it.  It's challenging, fun, frustrating, and revealing.  Thanks for reading.

— The End —