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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
DJ Thomas Jul 2010
Dead sold souls herd us
Lost mindless finger puppets
Vapid witless words

A large meat fed dog *OR
a bicycle riding Meathead
ARE more harmful to the environment THAN
a Vegan driving a four-by-four

Eating meat means death
more suffering then grieving.
Suicidal Meatheads
contracting breast cancer,
China’s rich women’s disease

Linked male disease
includes prostate cancer.
Early doddering
old age of the mind and body
Meathead fat minds and body flesh .

Grumbling guts of a -
selfish and cruel industry.
Cleaving and feeding
Meatheads taste for flesh and fat.
Growing numbers of pet dogs.

They, their butchering -
suppliers and the linked
blind politicians.
Hands ****** with world ecology
and mankind’s nearing suicide.

Barbecuing flesh
Burn’t species in rainforests.
Slash and burn farming
Busy Meathead industry
Gross greedy blood dripping heart

Detail is in the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s
REPORT Livestock’s Long Shadow

Hot warming dry world.
Slaughtered environment.
Acid rain is falling
in livestock’s long dead shadow.
Desertification breath.

Trumpeting slaughter
Our children, each child’s children
Dangerous future
Meatheads dead with Treehuggers
Planets species murdered

Meatheads, THEIR suppliers and producers of live and
cleaved flesh AND their greedy lawyer-ed politicians ARE
the primary cause of harmful greenhouse gasses

Growing and processing
Feeding livestock flatulence.
Living flesh movement
Frozen slaughtered cut flesh
Transported, sold chilled packs.

Land taken for grazing and feeding cattle flesh IS
destroying our rainforests, CAUSING desertification,
KILLING or DISPLACING millions of wild animals,
DRIVING species into extinction

A plant-based diet
efficiently providing
our nutrient need.
Land feeding just two Meatheads
will feed twenty four with grain.

Or more than sixty with soya - BUT bioengineering has targeted
AND taken control of soya, BY doing so they might purposely
be destroying the bees - THIS another long sad story

The flesh producers -
cause most the world’s pollution.
Consuming most our WATER.
Legislating against meat
New green taxation controls

A worldwide plant-based diet WOULD require less than a
quarter of the present agricultural land and COULD
feed the millions who currently live in starvation!

Bees disapearing
Biodiversity sold
Rainforest cinders


It would allow us to SHARE our planet with the other SPECIES
that are struggling to survive OUR greed and stupidity
and HELP our own possible survival

Fat shopaholics,
a deadly consumerism.
Cancers meat to eat


Meat consumption is increasing, USING-UP a sea of potable water,
burning forests & species... MEANING there has never been
a more urgent time to reconsider OUR eating habits!

Enculturation
Our sad indoctrination
Globalization
  

So MEATHEADS, are burgers, bangers and steak worth
the personal risk, YOUR children’s live’s AND the
approaching environmental catastrophe?*”
copyright©DJThomas@inbox.com 2010
Today I saw a frog, dried up from the heat
close by I saw another, cracked upon the street
I counted thirty four in all, mummified and dry
Fifty feet from a dried out pond, I took some time to cry

The pond was once so vibrant, full of turtles and of frogs
But with the drought now here, you could count all of the logs
A stench so strong, it burned your eyes, if you chose to get near
Decomposing life, is all that's left, the pond is dead I fear

The pond, another victim of the crippling, hellish heat
Without the rain, it is just a monster we can't beat
The farmers put a spin on, give a positive sort of line
While they have to put their livestock down, their harvest die-ing on the vine

The fields are bare, the ground is dust, no life from it will come
You see the farmers trying everything, while we just stand there numb
Fans are running in the barns to keep the livestock cool
But the heat, it just gets stronger, you can't even use the pools

You could say they've dropped the middle man, as they grow dehydrated meals
The kiddie park and water park, have no water for their seals
You see the livestock out in the fields, looking for some grass to munch on
But, with the heat taking it all away, their field of grass has now gone

The cows, no longer vibrant, a leather coat on skin and bones
The farmers losing money, they're defaulting on their loans
The barnyards running empty, you can't even see a turkey
The cows themselves are so dried up, that the butcher calls them jerky

A break might come, the tv said, with a cold front moving through
But the grounds too hard to take the rain, what extra damage will it do?
The end result is prices will go up on all we eat
It's this ******* global warming, the creator of this heat

Look around at where you live, go and check your ponds and streams
Take note if they are die-ing, this is real, not in your dreams
Take action where it's needed, conserve water where you can
This is not a local problem, it affects the whole **** land

I saw a frog this morning...he was dead...it made me cry.......
CharlesC Aug 2013
ancient advice
for meal consumption..
tending livestock first
will bid well..
subdue their hunger
that part
of our soul..
food then satiates
tasted by senses
with flavor sublime
in pineal unity...
JP Mantler May 2014
A Crop of Lies irrigate farmland
Deception grows and dies
Its corpse sustains
A cycle refrains

Cold, this night is
Cracks open the ground
Revealing a sight
Seeping through with light

Regions were found
To be taken and conquered
Sailors sailed to eat sailors
And they as well ate bread

Sounds of paranormal had
Guided every boat, then plane
Then spaceship, to the inside
Of a toy box they made

“These Crops dictate Truth”
Says Man (or monster)
Every night is cold; cracked
These Crops are impure

Livestock tell stories of their leader
It’s more of saying really
Because they’re ******* livestock
The Truth cannot tell nor talk

Reason slips off their skin
Like water off oil
Harder and harder it is
For Man to let joy soak in






Journeys of discovery
Travel through the television
Crisps, colas, pies, and cakes
Is what ******* does it

Beef pulp, French toast, tomato paste
Is what ******* does it
All we consume is ****
Crying fat morons decompose

“I really like the rain”
Says ****** with pudding stain
And her body melts and pours
As the rain does inexcusably

Great big dogs soak up in the rain
Unlike Man with his walking cane
They are all dying as they retreat
Underneath a roof of sin to replace

Emotional politicians claim they’re drug-free
As they smoke cigs and drink alcohol
Infant babies were torn apart in shopping malls
Did the World set them free?

Man (or monster) propose
To have a war on anything
Must any more children die?
Or can they get high; watch television?
What the **** is wrong with an aspect
Of harmless self-discovery
Can Man wager livestock’s epiphany?
Is it o.k. to live in a subdivision?

Or on a farm, or in the television?
Do these Crops have to dictate
Which victim we choose to mate?
To dictate our truth?

Can the fake astronaut admit?
He got ******* high; watched sitcoms
Ate potato chips, ate cereal out of the box
Never told a soul it was a hoax

Crops soak in the sweet rain
As the political Man weeps
These Crops become true
Dying Men no longer retreat

A Crop of Lies
Become so true
This wisdom is beauty
What we see now
Is as clear as day
George Krokos Dec 2010
Aborigines and kangaroos
boomerangs and didjeridoos.
Leafy gum tree branch and koala bear
black stump in the middle of nowhere.
Jolly swagman camped by a billabong
in 'Waltzing Matilda' a favourite song.
The wild brumbies roaming free in the outback
a scruffy hobo living alone in a country shack.
Aboriginal myths called their dreamtime
the native Australians regard as sublime.
Ring-tailed possum and wombat
aussie bloke wearing akubra hat.
Alice Springs and Ayers Rock
outback stations and livestock.
Ned Kelly bushranger and his law brushes
the Eureka stockade during the gold rushes.
Laughing kookaburra and old man emu
platypus swimming in underwater view.
Banjo Patterson’s poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’
who went riding down mountain side without a quiver.
Surfers paradise and the Great Barrier reef
sixties rock ‘n roll legend: Johnny O’Keefe.
Anzac marches and the land of the Southern cross
old Cobb & Co. stagecoach used to travel across.
Glorious summer sunshine and winter rains
severe country drought and the desert plains.
Eucalyptus scent and Tea-tree oil
good health remedies from the soil.
Fresh water yabbies and the witchety grub
all make good tucker in the bush or scrub.
Crocodiles in the Kakadu national park
Burrumundi and the great white shark.
Sydney harbour bridge and the Opera House
Daintree rain forest and the kangaroo mouse.
Sheep wool farming and old shearing sheds
Melbourne Cup horse race for thoroughbreds.
Riverboat cruising up and down the Murray
passing border country towns not in a hurry.
Cradle mountain and the Tasmanian Devil
saying ‘fair dinkum’ means it’s on the level.
AFL rules football and big crowds at the MCG
playing one day cricket there is exciting to see.
The Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook’s cottage
are there for all to see as symbols of our heritage.
The Twelve Apostles standing along a rugged stretch of coast
a Ninety-Mile beach is something about which we can also boast.
The Glass House mountains are a sight to see and even to climb
by those who consider themselves fit enough and in their prime.
The great Australian Bight and the road on the Nullarbor plain
is a great feat to drive across and be able to come back again.
The local native wild dog known by name as the Dingo
has nothing to do with a game people play called Bingo.
There’s also a game called two-up that some people play
by which they gamble most of their weeks wages away.
Luna Park in St.Kilda and the annual Royal Melbourne Show
are places where you can take the kids to have fun people know.
There’s the local pub where you can go and have a drink with your mates
and is what many do all day long having a few too many in all the States.
This great southern land of Australia has so much to see and to offer
it would be a ****** shame if one didn’t give a **** or was a scoffer.
_________
Private Collection - written in 2002
Don Bouchard Jun 2015
Observing these old men sitting at the stockyard cafe,
Suspendered bellies hanging above huge buckles
And button-crotched Levi's tucked tight  over leather boots,
Legs grown bowed and thin, but carrying  them to the sale, still,
To hear the auctioneer, talking fast to work the buying crowd,
And get their fill of cattle, shoved indoors,
Sold beneath the steady cracking whips,
A spectacle to burn its way into my minds's forever eye:
The skidding steers, the rolling eyes, the frantic scramble to find cover,
While buyers gave their quiet signs:
A tilted cap, a winking eye, a thumb or index finger up or at a side,
To purchase cow or bull or horse, in living flesh...
Then out again, through the other door,
And turn our heads to wait for more, and read the scrolling numbers:
How many head, how much per pound, perhaps a buyer's name,
And then the swinging sound of other cattle coming in to start again.

So, here these old boys sit again,
Slurping coffee through their yellowed teeth,
Remembering days  of indoor cigarettes and harried waitresses,
The smell of cow manure and jingling spurs,
Though now the smokeless ring seems tame, more civilized,
I see the glory days reflecting in the old men's eyes.....

I was just a boy back in those good old days,
My memory is a little hazed, but I can recall
When smoking was allowed and sawdust covered the filthy floor,
A Coca-Cola cost a dime, and the cattle sale with Dad was the big time;
Quaking as we treaded light on the catwalks above the pens,
Looked for our calves, or cows Dad culled to bring to sale,
Then going down and in to see them sell.

Fondly now, I can recall the restaurant at the ring
Where  I hoped for a slice of lemon pie from behind chill-fogged glass,
Saw cowmen wearing spurs and neckerchiefs and chaps...
Dreamed of growing up to be a cowboy.
Reflecting on  boyhood experiences, Sidney Livestock Market, Sidney., MT, 1963 -  2015....
Don Bouchard Feb 2019
It's June, 1967.
Nature, still lying through
Parsley green teeth,
Breathes the last of spring,
Hints early summer warmth,
Pre-July's cicada whine,
August's heat and wind.

Crops, still tender green
Quiver beneath a humid sky,
Under a glowing sun.

Bicycles amuse our early lust
To soar untraveled ground,
Entering lazy summer's ennui,
We scan a hawk riding drafts
On the edge of our hill.

Dust, drifting up the graveled road,
Five miles below us,
Piques our interest,
Causes the dog to raise his head.
He ***** an ear
Toward a sound we cannot hear.

We hear gravel slapping rocker panels
Before the traveler's roof rises into view,
Catch our breath as the engine slows,
Start running for the house.

A stranger's arrived,
A traveling salesman,
Better than an aunt
Only stopping in for tea
And woman talk.

Dad keeps his welding helmet down,
Repairing broken things.
The hired man inhales his cigarette,
Acts disinterested.

My memories linger on the past....

Salesmen brought the latest farming gadgets:
Additives for fuel and oil,
Battery life extenders,
Grain elevators and fencing tools,
Produce and livestock products,
Lightning rods and roofing,
Chrome-edged cultivator shovels,
Insurance for everything:
Fire, water, wind, hail.

Pitches came without exception:

"Top o' the morning! Looks like you're busy.
Don't want to take your time."

"Looks like you could use some welding rod,
And I have something new for you to try."

"Have you used chromium additive in you livestock salt?
Guaranteed to put on weight and protect from bovine
Tuberculosis!"

"Say, have you heard about the effectiveness of a new
Insecticide called DDT? I've got a sample gallon here
For you to try. Works better than Malathion!"

Dad, eventually intrigued, began the slow dance
Of dickering, haggling over this thing or that.
Most salesmen, closing in for a ****,
Hadn't grappled with my father.

At noon, deals still in the air,
My mother called the men,
And we all trudged in to wash,
Waiting in line at the tub,
Scrubbing with powdered Tide
To remove the grime and grease,
Drying on the darkening towel,
Finding a seat at the table.

The salesmen expected the meal
As though it were their right,
A standing invitation:
Stop in at noon,
Make your pitch,
Sit at table,
Close the deal after.

We boys sat and listened
To man talk.
Eyes wide, we marveled
At gadgets,
Wondered at Dad's parleying,
Winced at the deals he drove,
Commiserated with squirming salesmen
Surely made destitute by Dad's hard bargaining.

In retrospect,
I know the game was played
On two sides,
That the battery additives
Bought for five dollars a packet,
Even with the two Dad finagled free,
Cost about five dollars for everything,
Returned forty-five and change
To the smirking, full-bellied salesman
Who left a cloud of dust on his way
To supper a few miles down the road.
We don't see traveling salesmen anymore at the ranches in Montana. I guess internet sales did them in.
JC Lucas Jan 2014
Last night I dreamt I cohabitated with
Two beasts, both loved.
The one, a young lioness
The other a spry lamb
I had raised the both from infancy
But the lioness, who was then entering her adulthood began to size up the lamb.
And it occurred to me that in order to
save
the lamb from the lioness
That I must **** and eat it myself

It is the inescapable nature of a lion to
Hunt and ****
livestock
So while there was no scruple or problem for me to have these two animals,
They could not abide one another.
So I did it.
I slaughtered the lamb and cut it's flank and got at its tender meat
And I cooked it and served it with Marsala sauce and that night the lioness and I dined on the flesh of our old friend.

And I became aware eventually,
Between my ravenous gnawings at the meat
That the lioness was not eating.
She was
Staring fixedly
Directly at me.

She did not blink.

And I stopped feasting on the lamb.
And as I did I saw her eyes dilate
And she pounced across the table
And she gored me with her great claws
And split my gut and spilled my innards
And she ate me bit by bit still screaming
Still covered in Marsala sauce.

Before it was over I had but a breath in me and I cried,
"But why?!"
And I realized that it is the inescapable nature of the lion
To hunt and to ****.
Not just livestock, not just lambs.

She had hunted and killed us both.
sugar plumb Jan 2013
We had dreams
about the crystal sun
the juniper wind, apple
blossoms and glowing evenings
comfort and quietude
We had dreams
lollipops and no one crying
no pain-and love if not
everlasting
solid and smiling every day
We had dreams
about great ships sailing
wind filling all speed ahead
never becalmed, no one dead,
no rotting bodies on the deck
no witness to inexplicable agony
We had dreams
garlands from gardens
nobody had to tend
ice cream cones piling
sidewalks high
shade for the asking
from every uncomfortable
ray of sun
water enough for everything
lawns and trees
flowers and livestock
children running in sprinklers
water for the taking
every day
We had dreams
soft conversations in
the lamplight, hands to hold
slim and strong whenever
we needed, voices filled
with understanding and strength
for every fear
and every tear dried
by gentle caring touch
We had dreams
that did not include random bullets
sudden death and no clouds
exploding to rain death
on helpless heads
We dreamed we would never be helpless
we had dreams
we bought on time
amortization forever
and no one would ever
have to pay the bills
We had dreams
someone would always save us
mother always did
even when she didn’t want to
even when we made her mad
even when we broke her china
and her heart
We had dreams
laughing and crying
talking into loud speakers
shouting our claims
and never thought how
to make them come true
We had dreams
of glory and taking
down every flag from every
highest hill
and no one would ever be found
face down in two inches of water
drowned on ***** and disaster
We had dreams
that did not include spit
on the sidewalk, in the gutters,
but only clean skies
and apple pie, organically sweet
every day
and endlessly billowing
wheat, and sailing ships
and all the pure water
we could drink for free
and play in
We had dreams
that we could demand pain away consequences
and guilt and the necessary play
of our dreams that mothers would
if we dreamed hard enough
and played hard enough
and the nasty old piper
never called for his fee
We had dreams
and when they didn’t come true
we had curses
We cursed the lollipops
we cursed the ice cream
we cursed the wheat
the cornucopia
the great sailing ships
and the sea
the mother
the sidewalks
the highest hills
and the trickling ditch
we cursed the livestock
and the stereos
the loudspeakers and the glory
and we cursed crying and apple pie
we cursed suffering and anguish
the pipers who demanded to be paid
the ones who paid and complained
about the mess we made
we cursed fine china plates
filled with hard-earned harvests
we cursed love and freedom
we cursed crystal sun
and shade.
Valsa George Aug 2018
Dark clouds loomed over the horizon
They broke loose in unprecedented force
Nature’s wrath, sudden violence acquired
It rained down as if unleashing all her fury
It was a downpour without one equal

The heavens let down dark misery for days on end,
Water bodies swelled and hollows filled,
Land mass slipped and trees fell,
Rivers were in spate and dams were full
Waves surfed and waters roared,

Like mountains they rose over the land,
Men in throngs were evicted from their homes,
Hundreds died and livestock perished
Such violence, never ever imagined
Helter-skelter, people fled for life.

Lands inundated and folks marooned,
Homes washed away with all belongings
Power failed and life has come to a halt
Rescue operations go on in full swing
Still many, stranded and crying for help

“Water, water everywhere, nor even a drop to drink”
As Nature thus plays her perfidious trick,
We shall stay united and pool all our might,
To regain for our land what we have lost
When the Deluge chants the dirge of dying souls!
Kerala, the state where I live is hit by a severe flood of horrendous magnitude! We are all in great shock over what has happened in recent days. Though the rain has abated and water level is receding, thousands of people are still in relief camps. Many still stay stranded without being able to be air lifted or rescued by boats. It will take months for life to come back to normalcy. The trail of destruction caused is alarming. Rescue operations from all side, are so commendable. Forgetting all differences, men rally forth for helping the needy. Fortunately we are safe. But for four days, we didn’t have power supply. Hope we will be able to tide over this disaster soon!
Derek Yohn Sep 2013
The brambles in the emo forest
grow sharper with the passing days.
Three months deeper into the oatmeal
on the heels of the turtle goddess
and i am compelled to ignore the trees.
i have never been crazy about shrubbery,
being that the majority of my experience
has ended badly for the plant.

**** it.
It would appear that my green thumb *****.

My pillow is a poor substitute
for the warmth of sweatpants
or the comfort of your arms,
but i am locked into the devices
of another two year paper binge.
i would greatly prefer to be
static in my global positioning
as long as i can lose myself
swimming into the recesses of
your vibrant blue Oceania.
i want to hand you my eyes
so you can see my fixation on
the perspectives of action
and identify with my analysis
on the frailty of beauty,
intangible though it may be.

When i was weaker,
i appraised the value of
a man to be intrinsically
linked to the relation
between time and pride.
Driving a parallel path
to the stars, there is
only one thought:
Reality is like a dissected
frog: i poke and ****
and pull and poke and
probe and stare and ****
and pull but i still
can't figure out what all
those little tissues do
when they are turned on.

What if i want to taste the fruits of serendipitous fortune
or walk the garden path of chivalric sunshine?

If i could liquefy my soul,
i would pour you honey-laced
shots of my longing so that
when the darkness of the mid-week
slanders me you can touch
the sea spray of a wave
i have sent to wash away
the fears of circular evolution.

i want to build the hearth
where we can light the fire
of roundabout destiny and cook
the flesh from the slaughter
of our angry cows and bulls
so that we can incorporate
our weaknesses into our strengths.

i want to shape a necklace
out of my scar tissue
and wear it loudly so
that you can see the pain
that enables me to feel yours.

i want to finish my marathon
with my bag of bricks
because it is impossible to
truly win without the
burdens of justice and morality.

i've collected the screams
of my travels in a glass jar.
One day when the sun
struggles over the distant
cold horizon, i
plan to exact revenge
on the container and
make a concerted effort
to buy American.

In the hills above the
languishing sticks
i appear to have
dislodged a rock slide.
In my estimation,
the carnage will be
exquisite and swift.
If i survive the
judgement of guilt,
i can visit the friends
already lost to the
perpetual fires of the
sanctioning underbelly.

Why can't i take the
burgeoning petals of the
dark rose and elevate myself
above the sickness i have
seen in the eyes of my
accusers and those who would
trample the silly notions that
are all i have ever owned?

i feel that in the life i have witnessed
there are innate weaknesses in the
system i have supported.

In the instance given,
i have allowed myself
to be collared and
pent up by unspoken
deeds and words.
When my candles flicker
and reform, at least
i will be able to stand up
and clarify the point with
the authority inherently
granted to an elder whom
most ignore or ridicule in
the comfort of a happy living room.

i have seen hints of the futility of
nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs,
prepositions, and conjunctions
because they cannot begin to
express the vertigo i am cursed with
or the gravity that will not allow me to
escape unscathed.

i'm afraid that one day
my ink well will run dry
and my fingers will fuse
together and conspire to
undermine my sanity.

i fear the ticking of
my watch when i can
feel its echo deep inside
the canyons between
my synapses.

i cower and whimper
under the auspices of jest
when my soul is overrun
with desires that cannot
be slaked with water.

i want to detach my
aorta so that i will not
be bothered by the
binding of my skin
to the dry earth.

i need to hum the
melodies of aquatic repose
and bathe my wounded
feet in the streams that
flow to the cliff's edge.

When the time comes
for my foray
into the sublime,
i can fade away into
the arbor mist and
not feel the piercing gaze
i have become accustomed
to during this.

And for so long,
i have fed the horses
and watered the hedges
for everyone,
only to find that
all my livestock
dies within the
fences i have built
to protect the few
things left after
my tornado.

Approaching six full, and
i'm camped outside the
city gates and starving.

i puked when the moon
cycle shifted this time.

i thought that if i
sacrificed fuchsia to the
demon he would mistake
it for acquiescence, but
when the clock struck twelve
my pumpkin only rotted.

Why did you want to see the water?

i'm not going to buy
the dumb tourist act.
You knew the sand
was poisoned.

Nevertheless,
i am 3/5 of a man
when engulfed in
purple madness for
your affection.

the bells have fallen silent,
and i have seen your persuasion,
like an old silent movie.

What of your petty elucidations?
Can you teach me about destiny?
Do you have any watermelons?
If not, why not, or, even better,
who cares?

i don't think you have
seen my rose garden,
the thicket i entered
once to reenter time
and again, lonely and
bleeding, twisting and
turning, with no
right-hand-rule
to guide...

but this isn't your story anymore.
this is an old poem, but i like the narrative...i apologize for its length, i hope it is an easy read.  it was written over a twelve month period, and the course of my life dictated the course of the poem.  I will let the reader draw their own conclusions about that year....
rogue May 2015
lightning flashes and thunder roars.
people scatter like livestock.
it’s hard to forget who rules the sky.

waves reach their crescendo
and crash onto the rocks by the beach.
it’s hard to forget who rules the sea.

the riverman guides souls across styx for a price.
weeping souls and anguished cries.
it’s hard to forget who rules the underworld.
Brian Carson Sep 2014
I am lost, in my back yard
flailing my fists, boxing with god
I want to know why I am content
with living in a private box
knowing I could very well be buried in one
when my thirst for life stops
I live as if I am already dead
instead of growing, I rot
I should be describing ink blots
in a gown wearing sandals and socks
because I am about as understood
as the circles in the corn crops
I am a mushroom growing from
what the bovine creature drops
while people around me seem like livestock

my body is spent
I lay in the grass
and it feels like pavement
I cannot change this
or do anything to prevent it
stress comes and stress goes
my heart is the entrance
and my brain is the outlet

I filter everything
and I am a conduit, a vessel at float
touched by the waves and the breeze
carrying me towards the suns glorious beams
like Icarus with delicate waxed wings
I am sure to fall short and drown in the sea
until then I will learn to appreciate
the commodity of breathing
BazzaroODST127 Dec 2014
No more than a rumor
Or a legend spoken in whispers
Mischievous folklore
Foretold around campfires

About a man
Skin black, birthed under an Eclipse
Who stalks the dark forces
Casting his might over them

Fending off the evil
Which festers across the land
Bleeding gold ink
That soils the crop and livestock

Wherever life thrives
Evil musters its footprints
But wherever it may be
He is there

Baffling their kin
Striking like thunder
Swift and silent
Like the humming katana

Making clean kills
And fading back into thin air
Being seen as a ghost
When more is known of him

For he is flesh
Great in heart
And vibrant in sight
As the father of judgment

Carrying out his given cases
That are closed by his steel hands
Hey Human! I am your Sibling.

Queen bee wings are Ripped,
bee niblings are Smoked
For Your Honey Sweet.
Hey human! Listen your Sibling’s Buzz.

Tiger lost bones for Medicine,
Fox lost fur for Fashion,
Sharks lost fins for Soup.
Hey human! Do Not Butcher Siblings.

Simba’s life is not your Trophy,
Jumbo’s tusks are not Decors,
Helmets of Hornbills are not jewels.
Hey human! Do Not Reap Siblings.

Emperors of ice continent lost land,
Economics is making Amazon less,
Logging makes Orangutans homeless.
Hey human! Do Not Invade Siblings.

Warm oceans bleach corals,
Water depleted in cities,
We ingest plastic regularly.
Hey human! Do Not Desert the Earth.

Overfishing is holocaust of aquatic life,
Livestock levitates toxic emissions.
Hey human! Do Not Prey on Siblings.

Lichens stunned by pollution,
Symbionts are disintegrating,
Biodiversity is declining.
Hey human! Be Together with Siblings.

Hey Human! We are Offsprings of Mother Nature.
Monera, Animalia, Fungi, Plantae, Protista
all have common roots.
We are branches of the one Phylogenetic Tree
rooting Common Ancestry unto LUCA.

Hey Human! We are Siblings.
Hey Human! Recall your Siblings.
Hey Human! Revive your Siblings.
Fraternity eliminates exploitation.By developing kinship with animals and other life forms we can pave way for sustainability.

This poem says how humans are exploiting various life forms of Earth and attempts to inculcate fraternity with them.

It deals with trophy hunting, ivory smuggling, animal skin trade, glaciers melting - Antarctica - Emperor penguins, deforestation, coral bleaching, endangered microorganisms, loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution, over-fishing, ill effects of animal husbandry, traditional medicine.
There is nothing here
Not the façade of a façade
Can’t you see our idea fading?
We thought we were Hobbes’ Leviathan
The modern alchemists of state
We’re nothing more than rodents!
Scurrilous, maladapted membranes
Spewing from democracy forth
Ought they to encapsulate us?
They must needs encapsulate the naïve!
Whiling away at the trough as though livestock
I’m to be ground on the wheel regardless;
Nay, stretched on the rack of modernity!
By the comforts of progress and superficiality
Sought after as if vital
By the people, “We the people!”
Rallying cry for throngs, imprisoning themselves
With society, a subtle hocus pocus
The trite, aged argument
Of those who’d force you build your very tenement
Paying rent to breathe,
Countless yet believe
Tripartite consumer, greed and slavery
Surrounding you and me
Separating ignorance from squalor
In a ghetto of the mind
You're right, we're alright
Cecil Miller Dec 2015
It was All Hollow's Eve.  

From all around people were coming to the south eastern seaboard to pay homage to the full moon, and beseech the moon to bless them in the upcoming harvest season.

As was customary, the people brought their bongos to attract the attention of the moon. The drummers settled across the length of the beach in many little groups and began drumming their rituals. They drummed for many reasons.

To this ceremony came a young boy.
He was a quiet boy from a tribe of very meager means. He did not have with him a bongo, ornate and with a bold resounding rhythmic thump. All he had to bring to the ceremony was a single tiny bell and a sounding rod with which to strike it. The bell, when struck, would render a soft, high pitched ring.

The boy knew it was a drum circle and not a bell circle, but he wanted to be a part of the evenings events.

The sun was beginning to set and the drummers had begun.

The boy with the bell joined a group of drummers who drummed to ask the moon that the breeze would be cool and gentle, instead of savage and destructive. The boy was feeling the rhythm, and when he felt he was found the place, struck the bell with the sounding rod.

The drummers stopped drumming. One of the drummers, an older boy around the outside of the circle shooed the young boy with the bell away from the group.

The young boy felt sorry. He hoped he had not been to much of a disturbance to the circle. He walked down the beach a little way. The faintest sparkling of a few stars could begin to be noticed in the sky. The sun had nearly set.

Another circle of drummers drummed so that the moon would intercede with the vast ocean and ask that the tide be gentle instead of large and destructive to the crops in the field.

The small boy liked the rhythm made by the various hands rapping on the tight skins and the sides of the bongos. He could hear in his mind how his bell might fit in with this rhythm. He was patient. He waited. When he felt it was just the right place, the boy struck his bell with the sounding rod.

The drumming ceased. Many drummers scowled at the young boy with the bell from a far off village. One of the drummers waved for the boy to go away from this circle. He pouted a little and left.

The boy did not mean to cause a disturbance. He had only wanted to join the ceremony.

The sun had long since set. The moon and stars illuminated the sky like a silvery blanket. The boy felt the love that was on the beach deep in his chest. He began to smile.

The boy was drawn in by the rhythms of another circle of drummers who were drumming to ask the moon that the crops be plentiful with fruit, the goats to yield plenty of milk, and the chickens many eggs.

The boy thought he might try one last time to find a place for his soft, highly pitched bell tone. He was hopeful because a few of the drummers were rapping and shaking beaded pottery. Surely this circle would be open enough to allow the boy with the bell to join in and help beseech the moon.

He waited and listened. When he felt that he had found the right place in this rhythm, the young boy struck the bell with the sounding rod.

Once again, the drummers stopped. A man wearing a frown pointed sternly with an outstretched muscled arm and sent the boy further down the beach where there were no more circles of drummers.

His head hung low, and with nobody around to see, the young boy with the bell who had been sent away from all the drumming circles on the beach let heavy and hot tears roll down his face and drip from his round cheeks.

"Do not cry, Young One, " the boy heard a soft voice say.

The boy took a breath and the raised his head. Standing before him was a woman in silver robes fettered with strands of fiber shimmered like stardust. A soft mist surrounded her.

"The tone of your bell was most pleasing to me because it was possessed of a sincere gentleness and simplicity that was unique among a multitude of sounds that all bore a similarity to each other. By the time they reach the heavens, they are all the same.

Because your bell was different, it got my attention.

Because you rang your bell with the first circle of drummers, the wind will be gentle. Because you rang your bell with the second circle of drummers, the ocean will be calm. Because you rang your bell at the third circle of drummers, the crops and livestock will produce a plentitude."

The young boy could barely believe what the beautiful woman had said. She seemed to be cloudy through his lingering tears. The boy brought his palms to his face to wipe them from his eyes. When he looked back up to see her clearly, she was gone.

The round full moon was brightly shining in the midnight sky.
This is an original short story. I got the idea on my first night I moved to Miami on South Beach in 1999. There was a young adult latin male who kept going to the different circles and sounding a bell, trying to find his place in the various rhythms ,but getting scowled at by some people, so that part is mostly true. The rest is from my imagination. The bell and the sounding rod are metaphores for the boy's love and hope. It is prose, rather than verse. I wanted to capture a feel kind of like The Velveteen Rabbit, my favorite children's story. I hope you enjoy it. Many of the elements are mystical and poetic. I retain the ownership and all legal rights to this story. Written on 12-15-2015
Zero the Lyric Feb 2013
Galaxies, solar satellites, the very Earth and its plates.
Whatever matter spins the reality, each one rotates.
Every unique universe growing its own ebb and flow,
Same as an ocean shall pummel shores then pull undertow.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Backwater cementing a new variant of tributary,
Friends become fish in this river of machinery.
The roiling rubber current proves to combust with currency.
Success succumbs to numbers as the economist counts me.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Gingko trees employed rats until society's reaction
Assimilated this lineage and reset its traction.
A different dispersal mechanism does not merit lament,
The managed are mute within the worker's woeful testament.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Sometimes a quest of faith begets a set from a cartomancer,
What good would it do to bribe the tarot and fake her answer?
For doctrine to deprive a man of god's hero in himself,
To trial and tribute his death to ascend on our caste shelf.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Your cards at hand, as is any fact of fortune, are from you.
All around are landmarks to map your light, vibration, and hue.
A presence is an action amongst quintessential stage props,
Weathered roles rehearse their sonorous loves watching ripples drop.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Turbid fury has no footholds on the great movement in your mind,
Gears that we hear were once a pursuit to prosper as mankind.
To disarm the victim's rights and loosen all nooses may seem odd,
Yet Devil deviates design and is forgiven by God.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Cities yearn to scrape skies built on products at the world's splendor.
Though trinkets become trite as we glorify a greedy vendor.
How could one commend such a clear farce for the multitude?
Selling milk to children's bones while our livestock store false fortitude.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Lifespans expand within this ****** twilight of barbarism.
History obscures so we light turned pages with euphemism.
Often forgotten is that our memory is amorphous,
Generating our boldest fears and cheers to those beyond us.
When its the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Pessimism or optimism; are not rivals of ones structure
Secular submission denies despair's innate rupture
It is built by the hopeful to share love after given grace
To construct a profound unity above pride's titled race
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

We are taught to worry for unruly folk until weary.
Doctors like leaders treat symptoms not seeing sickness clearly.
They stress the distressed to disseminate imminent spines,
Shattering that last vestige of a will searching between lines.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

The commandments should have demanded there always be one more,
As truth evolves in jollies or follies, being rich or poor.
Always a witness to your lemons that could squeeze a profit.
Limits can be more than second hands surpassing the minute.
When is the time? Are you a counter of clockwork?

Thus old cogs and smog of our familiar faculties rest
On the zealous peals of those who know at the hour of our best.
It is not easy to lift volition past sadness so steep.
As each day would raise a mile, we may grow to smile when we sleep
Now is the time, are you a counter or clockwise?
Edna Sweetlove Sep 2015
Pastor Grovell writes as follows.....

I am often asked to interpret the Ten Commandments as they seem sometimes a bit out of date and irrelevant (and hard to understand by some of the more ********
folks). So here goes with the update we use in our own godly congregation. These are my revised and corrected commandments.  The originals are in the beloved King James version but where that is unclear I quote a more modern version too to assist those of you who are more or less illiterate. In the bible, the commandments are unaccompaned by the punishments you will get if you disobey them so I have updated that too, according to STRICT biblical scholarship.

===================================================­=================

1st Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". This seems quite unequivocal to me but of course it was written BEFORE Jesus came to save us so here is the new version:

PG's NEW NUMBER 1: WORSHIP ONLY GOD (INCLUDING JESUS WHO IS PART OF GOD ANYWAY) & DO IT FREQUENTLY OR GOD WILL CRUSH YOU!

=========================================================­===========

2nd Commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

That seems a bit wordy to me and there is a bit of overlap with Number 1! In any case, it's a bit out of date as not many people worship idols, giant earthworms or fish these days. Perhaps a modern update would include not worshipping the TV set!

PG's NEW NUMBER 2: DO NOT WORSHIP THE TV SET OR ANYTHING SIMILAR OR GOD WILL BE VERY ANNOYED INDEED AND WILL PUNISH YOU AND ALL YOUR DESCENDANTS & THEIR DESCENDANTS TOO SO WATCH OUT ALL YOU HEATHEN COUCH POTATOES!

====================================================­================

3rd Commandment: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Again a bit long-winded, and the vain bit will confuse some people.

PG's NEW NUMBER 3: DO NOT BLASPHEME OR GOD WILL CRUSH YOU IN AN INCREDIBLY PAINFUL WAY & SLOWLY AS WELL!

========================================================­============

4th Commandment: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."

This is a difficult one to observe nowadays, what with Sunday opening at the shopping mall. The solution seems to be that non-Christians, Jews and Muslims can work to serve us whilst we go shopping. It shows why God created heathens and other infidels so they can sell godly people bibles, hymnals and religious artefacts on the Sabbath, even though they will probably go to Hell themselves as a result. And the bit about animals not working on Sundays seems pointless today so we'll skip that section.

PG's NEW NUMBER 4: WORK HARD FOR SIX DAYS A WEEK INCLUDING SATURDAYS AND THEN HAVE A NICE REST ON SUNDAYS BUT GET IN A LOT OF PRAYING ON SUNDAY OR YOU WILL BE PUNISHED IMMENSELY BY GOD!

=========================================================­===========

5th Commandment: "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Seems clear enough; particular the 2nd bit which people forget. This is particularly important as people live much longer nowadays and often old folks have to be put into a home which can be expensive, but God wants us to do it. Also, do not skimp on the private facilities - do you really want your old wizened parents to share a bathroom with other incontinents? No I don't think you do. Also, one must remember that a lot of people are ******* and don't have the vaguest idea who their father was. Often the mother has no idea either, filthy ****.

PG's NEW NUMBER 5: RESPECT YOUR PARENTS NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT COSTS OR GOD WILL SHORTEN YOUR OWN LIFE AS A PUNISHMENT & YOU WILL SUFFER A LOT! IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHO YOUR PARENTS ARE, YOU ARE A ******* AND WILL GO TO HELL.

========================================================­============

6th Commandment: "Thou shalt not ****." This one is a real problem for so many of us! What should we do if a mugger comes and tries to rob us? What should we do if someone threatens to **** and **** our womenfolk? What if heathens attack our nation? What about the inalienable American right to bear arms and **** unarmed protesters? What about the British right to rule over inferior races and shoot rebels? I think God was insufficiently insightful here, so my version is quite a radical improvement.

PG's NEW NUMBER 6: DO NOT **** PEOPLE UNLESS IT IS NECESSARY OR IF THEY ARE BURGLING *******!

====================================================­================


7th Commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."This is OK as far as it goes but it is totally inadequate to deal with the amount of ***-SIN which is about the place in the modern world, so I have expanded this to deal with the problem. Also remember that King James was a rampant and blatant sodomite and pervert and so maybe had this one censored in his version of the GOOD BOOK to cover his own back, so to speak.

PG's NEW NUMBER 7: DO NOT COMMIT ANY ***-SINS INCLUDING UNMARRIED FORNICATION, EXCESSIVE FRENCH KISSING, HEAVY PETTING, ******* (MUTUAL AND/OR SOLITARY), ADULTERY, *******, BUGGERY, ******, HOMOSEXUAL ACTS OF ALL TYPES INCLUDING LESBIANISM OF ANY SORT, *******-READING OR THINKING FILTHY ***-THOUGHTS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OR YOU WILL BURN IN HELLFIRE FOR EVER AND EVER WITH THE MOST AWFUL AGONIES, AND ALSO MINIMIZE ALL LEGAL MARITAL *** TO OCCASIONS WHEN YOU WISH TO PROPAGATE AND KEEP IT BRIEF & IN THE DARK EVEN THEN!

========================================================­============

8th Commandment: "Thou shalt not steal." This one seems OK to me, with a bit of modernization.

PG's NEW NUMBER 8: YOU MUST NOT STEAL OR MUG OR ROB OR BURGLARIZE OR YOU WILL BE PUNISHED UTTERLY & VERY EXTENSIVELY BY GOD IN ALL HIS MIGHTY POWER!

=======================================================­=============

9th Commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." This is a bit too narrow as I think non-neighbours and maybe even foreigners should be included as well. Also there needs to be a reminder of the dreadful punishment liars and falsifiers face.

PG's NEW NUMBER 9: DO NOT ACCUSE ANYONE AT ALL FALSELY AND DON'T TELL ANY LIES EITHER OR GOD WILL PUNISH YOU REALLY APPALLINGLY & YOU WILL SHRIEK IN AGONY FOR EVER!

========================================================­============

10th Commandment: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ***, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." This one really is totally out-of-date and inadequate. It should apply to everyone and not just neighbours. Also, how many people can afford servants or keep oxen? And the "***" bit is open to obscene ***-SIN misinterpretation and blasphemous sneering by wicked ***-SINNERS. So this needs a complete re-write to bring it into the 21st century and to guide godly people into the way of righteousness. And some of the modern translations of the Bible are even worse, e.g. "Do not desire another man's house; do not desire his wife, his slaves, his cattle, his donkeys, or anything else that he owns." How about if you wish to sell your own house and move to a nicer one - what is wrong with that? How about if you wish to sell your low-grade animals and buy better ones? What is this ******* obsession with donkeys and ***** - sheep can be equally tempting to s degenerate ******* ***-SINNER. So I go for a nice simple revision which covers most eventualities:

PG's NEW NUMBER 10: DON'T BE JEALOUS OF OTHER PEOPLE'S BETTER FORTUNE, MAYBE THEY DESERVE IT & YOU ARE INFERIOR; STICK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE NO MATTER HOW GROTTY IT IS OR GOD WILL PUNISH YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE! AND KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THE LIVESTOCK OR YOU WILL SUFFER APPALLINGLY IN DEEPEST HELL WITH RED HOT POKERS UP YOUR ****** FOR ETERNITY.

====================================================­================

So there you have it: Pastor Peter Grovell's recommendations for a life without sin. But remember to pray every single day to Jesus and under no circumstances confuse the wooden images of Jesus which the Catholics use with the real living invisible Jesus. If you fail to do what God wants, he will be left with no option but to condemn you to eternal Hellfire.

And a final point: God did not hand down to Moses any instructions about alcohol. Did He say, "Thou shalt not have a pint of beer!" NO! Did He say, "Thou shalt not have a bottle of wine!" NO! Did He even rule out a shot or two of gin, whisky, ***, brandy or any other alcoholic refreshments? NO He did not! He even transformed water into wine on several occasions, which shows he liked a glass or two down his local Jewish "pub". So there is no harm in drinking alcohol but only if it does not lead you to do ***-SIN, ******, ****, THEFT, BUGGERY, ***-COVETING or IDOL-WORSHIP!

Pastor Peter Grovell D.D., C.S.M.F.,
Founder, Ultra-Strict Reformed Church of Jesus.
SG Holter May 2014
The sound of swallows
Thrusting diving
Whistling
My first
Childhood home

House already then old
Even older barn smelled
Like livestock of
Distant times

Fell asleep between walls
Soaked in centuries
An infant

But the house and barn
Are gone -I remember-
And the swallows
With them
Raymond Walker Apr 2012
The Dawn.



The sails hang large,
upon the sundered crew,
His father had not looked
on him with pleasure.
Poseidon’s son, and king,
of the Athenian dream,
he lands upon distant shore
in disrepair and lean.
a mighty voyage undertaken,
to gain iron for Athens might
but tide and storm wracked seas
has built upon this plight.

They land for food,
upon an endless plain
succour wanted, nay required,
lest all have been in vain.
Approach is made
by women strong in might
proud horses they sit and watch
before the sun, a glorious sight.
Amazons he knows of
they are too watched with fear
they are stronger than men he knows and watches as they near

















War queen she sits
upon her horse and awaits
these men that dare to land
But give them sanctuary she states.
her lover and second
looks in awe to the queen
these men given succour by amazons
this never has she seen







Antiope queen of all,
the plains for leagues around
Knows not a men, allows them not
but for trade on holy ground
Eluthera, freedom her name,
her second and lover same
wonders of this tall man, slim waisted,
lean, and asks his name.

Theseus he calls himself,
states his intentions and past
Antiope sits and listens and wonders
the seeds of fate are cast.
Eluthera watches Theseus’  face
and knows there is love there born
Though she believes it not,
from her home by love is Antiope torn
boats repaired and sail set
Theseus sets sail for home.
Antiope returns with him, they marry,
she is never more to roam.












Theseus song.

This woman of the plains, Amazon.
She sits her horse, sweet and proud yet strong.
She protects my honour, though tis' not her due
and speaks with eloquence no savage she.
Never before have I met my equal, in all things, man
or woman.
She is this and more
I can feel love from under her mein
This I know was destined
this even I without peer they say.
this even I understood.
yet here she stands, and walks and runs,
and here love awaits.














Elutheras song.

Here I have lived with the horse
and the sky,
who is god.
My name is freedom
and that is what I have
what can civilisation give us?
that we do not already have
what can walls provide,
that we, do not already know.
God, the sky. The horse, these our walls are.
He speaks well this Athenian, but what is speech
he looks well, but what can he give her.
She has all that there is.
and love she has, love of her sisters,
in her bed, and in our heart,
what can he give her.

Antiope's song.

To her I owe honour,
to him I give love.
what will become of this?
to her I owe love
to him i give honour,
what will become of this?
he is everything
she is everything
the plains are everything
the horse is all
yet I will betray my sisters
I know that now.
I will betray this life
I know that now
he is my equal in all
she in war I betray my people.
for love.































Part2

The tears of Eluthera.

Dripping
Burning
Hating
Loving
She must be returned
Rising
Loving
Lying
Hating
She must be returned
Rising
Rising
RISING
RISING
She must be returned
RISING
She must be returned
To her people
She must be returned
To her horses
Her gods
And me

RISING

She must be returned
They have taken her
She must be returned
She has not left













RISING

She must be returned
For they have taken her
Kidnapped, stolen her
He has taken her
Loved her
***** her
She must be returned
She is ours
She is our queen
She is
My love

RISING

Arise, sisters, arise
And let us take back what is ours
Arise, sisters, arise,
Let Athens quake at our power
Arise sisters arise
We will take back our queen
Arise sisters arise
That the might of Amazonian be seen.

We will raise an army
The greatest ever seen
To Athens and battle
For bloodshed keen
Unite the plains
And march and ride
And no quarter
Given either side.

Masii geti and copperhead
Scyths,Thracians, tower builders and
Copperhead Scyths
Dardanians, and all
The three tribes of ty kyrte ride
For Athens and revenge
To Athens and revenge.











Antiope’s song(2)

I stand here, beside pillars of stone
I watch from the acropolis
And wait
Theseus works with his people
He rules not by might
Of arms
But by deference
He holds his rule
With love
I hold the babe and watch
I can feel fate
Drawing near
I hear the thunder
Of hooves from the plains
And wait
I know he will prevail
This man I love
And wait And so I know
I will wear armour
Again
Before the end.
Before the end    
























Part 3
The battle.

Athens

We waited
We awaited their coming
Rumours formed
Rumours grew
Of a foe so strong
You can hear thunder
In their passing they say

Arm the cooks
Arm the carpenters
Athens will fall
Arm the viniers
Arm the boys
Athens will fall
The plains tribes
United they say
Athens will fall
Impossible I know They hate each other
More than us
They say

Thunder in the distance
And smoke fills the air
The dust of advance
Reaches our lair



Was that the flash of lightning?
Or glint of sun on a spear
Amazed we stand and watch
As they draw near
The lion of Athens will
Hunt now from its lair
To contend with the
War-horses baleful stare











One hundred and fifty thousand you say
One hundred and fifty thousand
One hundred and fifty thousand
Against 20 starts this day.

We arm the cooks
The carpenters,
the old men
And small boys Barely out of swaddling
Not yet finished
With their toys

We surge and struggle in the press
And surge again
Shields locked
And helms down

We surge and struggle, and they gain
And surge again
And retreat
And die
And die

Our own archers and artillery
They fire on us now
There’s no escape
There’s no escape
But forward to the press
To surge and struggle
Forward to press
Back to die
Forward to death and back
And we die
We die
We surge and struggle
Ever backwards
Ever backwards
We surge and struggle and we die
And we die










We surge and struggle
And widows are born
We surge and struggle
Like children forlorn
Ever backwards
Ever backwards
And we die
And we die

The toll is paid

We surge and struggle
But Athens will fall
Now wounded all
And dying
We surge and struggle
But hope has fled
Ever backwards
And to death

The advance of ty kyrte

We hold the field
But at great cost
We hold the field
Many horses lost

We are at the gates
But with great cost
We hold the town,
Many sisters lost

One more push sisters
One more charge
We are at the gates
Athens is lost









Back we were pushed
And back we fled
Through the town
The city streets
And fortress
Back we were pushed and back we fled




With shout and moan
Curse and groan
Clash of shield
We did yield
Every yard
With scream and yell
Fay and fell
Warriors now
We did yield
Every yard
































For every step
They paid
Like us
In blood
For every inch
They died
Like us
In mud






Horses skittered
Legs and bones broken
For every step and token
Move, every surge
And repulse
Until we stopped
Until we stopped
We could not see
We could not tell
But there was no
Where else to go
We stopped






















PART 4
The end

No where else to go,
No further back to fall
No retreat
No quarter
We stood
The battered
The bruised
The wounded and dying
We stood
For there was no choice










A commotion to the left
A horse rides out
On it rides death
And beauty
On it rides hell
And hope
On it rides Antiope
Armoured, and armed
Dressed
For death


Heroes she slew
Theseus behind her
Glauke, grey eyes
Queen was first
We advanced and slew









Kings she killed
Theseus behind her
Saduces of Thrace
Fell there, as his son
We advanced and killed.

How many heroes fell?
To her axe and bow
To many here to tell
Whispered word
Silence fell.
As Eluthera took the field
The fighting stopped
And silence grew
The battle decided here

The fate of Athens on the scales









Antiope rode for higher ground
Eluthera the lower
Antiope charged and threw
Javelin with all her power
Three times they charged
Three times they threw
And both wounded waited
A final charge, for death
They knew, the outcome fated.

There Antiope fell
By her lovers hand
Unarmed
And seeking death








Eluthera sat atop
Her steed and keened
Victor
With victory lost

Theseus faced her now
On foot and sword drawn
Deplete
And cursing fate





Theseus king no more
But husband bereft only
Maddened
Down  on her bore
There Eluthera fell.
































Twenty Years have past
fleeting,
Twenty, tears been shed
Weeping,
Twenty, lives lost,
mourning,
twenty hopes, die
burning,

The people, return,
Zeus smiles
rich in livestock
and strength.

Twenty years ago
the titans clashed.
Twenty years ago
the winds of fate lashed.
Twenty years ago
lovers died.
Twenty years ago
The Scyths lied.

Theseus, in memory,
plans sacrifice,
for his lost love,
once his wife.






Antiopes shrine
is sundered as Poseidon
shivers,
earthshaker.













And on the plains
the battle rages,
deplete,
bereft,
Eluthera, whole again,
freedom once more,
leads,
the charge,
the last charge,
of the Amazon
against the Scyths.


The End
I am kind of sorry for adding this for i wrote it years ago and well you can see for yourself it needs some work, but i do likle the idea of the classical poem
Bus Poet Stop Jul 2017
months since last eye writ, your eyes most likely have never crossed mine.  still inhabit the buststops, now called bus shelters though they are not a "shelter in place" place, but a crossroads where the poor and rich, the youthful and the nearer-to-god-than-thee sit bearer nearer to each other when they reside in the equality of the moments that are globally know as
    "waiting for the bus"
or as
     "waiting for Godot".

eyes have seen buses in Rio and Delhi that carried livestock and more humans on the exterior than the interior.  

but mine eyes are in a slow fade away mode, dimming in a final
sun setting  so u are needed.  
give me your bus stories yearning to he free and I will give you
my imagined ones
for are not all bustop poems are imaginary?
Andrew Maitland Oct 2018
I watched the water rise. Creeping down the muddy street. As if a divine force was attempting a stealthy act of insurrection. I didn't have the heart to fight it. Had I only known.

I watched Hell's Half Acre silently succumb to the whimsical (however so pleasantly devastating) path of Gaea. Through this empowering incident I felt redemption like I never had before.

I jumped down from the platform of the livestock pen to personally welcome the satisfying force of nature's purification. The water lashed out and grabbed my leg. At that moment my jubilate spirit spoiled to uncontaminated terror. It was not a redemptive Spirit winding its way through the rail tracks but the serpent Lucifer. Had I only known.

And so in the West Bottoms Tavern I found myself under the ***** shoe of The Machine. A wayward phantom rising from our precarious Kansas River. It drifts through the sweet Midwest like the coal black locomotive smoke that paints a suffocating thick haze above the Stockyards.

A welcome slate of provision. A shelter covering us from the racial tension and poverty smothering the outside world. To those in the Bottoms with unruly desires, a saviour. To those at City Hall with loose morals, the messiah.

And it was at 1908, I nervously pulled the covers over my vulnerable body and sealed Satan's foul kiss with a diabolical red scrawl. We skipped hand in hand through the freshly paved streets of our "wide open" town. I always tried my best to look the other way but I knew full well that I travelled with a gang of thieves.

Nonetheless, everyone votes in our town. A brutal party whip keeps the Jackson County Democrats in line and "Charlie the ***" prevents any Rabbits from multiplying.

But I've been working from within the belly of a "whale" for years and I fear we've now run out of ocean. Our arranged marriage has robbed my capacity for faithful navigation. I'm seeking a radical divorce from The Beast, the cost has become inconsequential to me.

So I found genuine redemption. Finally. I closed the driver side door to my sedan and walked out to the edge of the bridge. The water below seemed whimsical (and so pleasantly devastating) in nature, much the same as it had 36 years ago. I pinned this note to the window, and with a Ready-Mixed Concrete block tied around my waist I watched the water rise.
Jared Eli Dec 2013
They say when water drops hit your head
They help to inspire thoughts
I suppose that's why
When I took a shower
I found myself thinking about her
About how she makes me feel
I stood there, letting
The steaming drops
That had once been the tears of clouds
Bring me back to such great heights
To every cliché that falls under the category
Of that one, single deadly word
The balloon inflates
I fly away
And I'm trying to convey the feeling
By making senseless analogies
About the barter system

"Imagine a time before we got rid of
The barter system
Imagine the biggest herd
Of livestock
Every single cow in the world
All compiled together
Imagine all those potential burgers
And the sheer size of
That herd
And that is about a fraction
Of what I feel"

The Brother's Grimm had a statement
About how much infinity is
They spoke of an enormous mountain
Made entirely of glass
And that every hundred years
A hummingbird would
Sharpen its beak
Against the mountain
And when the mountain had finally
Been whittled away to nothing
The first second in infinity
Had passed

If I could make an analogy
Equivocal to that
To describe how she makes me feel
I would
The closest I got was the cows

I can't aim when I kiss her
And I can't stop smiling
For very long
And I can't help giggling
When she raises her eyebrows
In that adorable way of hers

I used to be satisfied
With not feeling terrible
My scale of happiness
Stopped at ten
And ten was labeled
"Not terrible"
But now, I realize
That there is a whole universe
Of happiness
Beyond ten

It's like being shown
How to fly
You never believe it until it's happening
And your arms are outspread
And behind them, sprouted from your shoulders
Are your wings, pumping away
Pushing the air back toward Earth
Pummeling gravity in a defiance
That only flying can

And it doesn't matter about the end
If it ends well, if it ends terribly
It doesn't matter
Because I have been shown
The other side of
"Not terrible"
I have something, if nothing else
To believe
A big scary word
A big cliché
A belief worthy of Westley
Is worthy of me
Because she. . .
She is worth being treated
Like Buttercup

The one phrase that broke my heart
Could very well break it again
But if it does, I can always mend it
"I can live without love"
It gets me every time
But I can stitch every cut
Can overlook every scar
That shows up on my heart
Suture self, and I can

She has lifted me up to such great heights
And I'll inadvertently do what Billy Joel says
And tell her about it
Because the least I can do
For the woman who has opened my eyes
Has enlarged my heart
Has befuddled my mind
Has ******* my tongue
Is let her know
Just how spectacular she makes me feel

The steam continues
Long after the drops are gone
And lingering with the steam
Is a giant smile
The like of which
Only she can bring
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKAPXfYSHxw
Third Eye Candy Oct 2012
i knew you had a hard farm, where the livestock was stoic and the hills less harmless.
you had wolves that would breathe down your neck. and weeping willows made of funerals
and ***. U knew you had an old world view of birthmarks, where life is stampede and riddle
and lost art...
i knew you had guns, and an April of dead suns... a humid dementia of lecherous guile and innocence.
a distinct remain.    [ a loose cherub in the Wednesday...]  
a bowl of fruit and tyrants
catching spark.

i knew you meant no harm that a legion of crossed charms could reason to decimate my reckless.
you had rules that had deeds, done in the name of nameless. a thing, pillows dread.

the soul of your soul is the spot spotless; a dowry of feathers and blood

and yes.
Harmony Sapphire Feb 2015
Texas dairy farm killers crushed the skulls of my holy vessels in 2011.
Their animals spirits descended to heaven.
They bludgeoned their heads as many times as 7.

My defenseless, sweet, trusting, innocent babies.
Their fate of their existence shouldn't be a maybe.
Wilbur & Bo Bo .
Should not be Bacon at breakfast with hot cocoa.
To eat what is dead is sickness unsaid.

Cattle **** the serial killers "downstairs".
Televise the video to be seen everywhere.
So caravores will start to care.
They heartlessly murdered my cows.
My cows. Mine now & forever in this time.
A life for a life.

A precious calf's life devalued, abused, disrespected, & used.
Meat has no price tag.
Like a two faced old hunchback sea hag.

A priceless life without tombstones or mourning.
This corrupt caravore world is disturbing & my empathy for the animals is pouring.
Change this mother earth in the next morning.
Father sky watches their animal spirits soaring.
****** is their hobby.
They butcher & dismember a creatures body.
Every animal belongs to me.
They have a spiritual essence I can see.

All species created are mine.
Their ****** is not okay or fine.
The killers need to do time.
I guess justice is something we have to find.
Baby cow is delicate & needs respect & love.
Baby piglet where is mommy spirits above?
Baby Lamb I love you your a baby angel.
The sinners morals are distorted & tangled.
Their bodies should be undamaged & not mangled.
Not on a death pile of other livestock.
Their revenge should be on the farmer's ****.
Protect the living of these farms.
To the livestock bring no harm.
Sadistic butchers disarm.
Stop the slaughter alarm.
These creatures are precious their souls innocent.
The lives priceless & mint.
Meat industries & factory farms get a hint.
Clueless evil attacks as their back is turned.
A blow to their fragile baby head is how hamburgers are made i learned.
The dairy farmers killed my cows.
Unspeakable evil without a why or how.
The slaughter across the lands spread like a flood.
More death in the mud.
They lay on the ground in a pool of blood.
Their life drains from their lifeless bodies.
© Harmony Sapphire . All rights reserved
Victor D López Dec 2018
They also came for you in the middle of the night,
But found that you had gone to Buenos Aires.
The Guardia Civil questioned your wife in her home,
Surrounded by your four young children, in loud but respectful tones.

They waved their machine guns about for a while,
But left no visible scars on your children,
Or on your young wife, whom you
Left behind to raise them alone.

You had been a big fish in a little pond,
A successful entrepreneur who made a very good living,
By buying cattle to be raised by those too poor
To buy their own who would raise them for you.

They would graze them, use them to pull their plows
And sell their milk, or use it to feed their too numerous children.  
When they were ready for sale, you would take them to market,
Obtain a fair price for them, and equally split the gains with those who raised them.

All in all, it was a good system that gave you relative wealth,
And gave the poor the means to feed their families and themselves.
You reputation for unwavering honesty and fair dealing made many
Want to raise cattle for you, and many more sought you out to settle disputes.

On matters of contracts and disputed land boundaries your word was law.
The powerless and the powerful trusted your judgment equally and sought you out
To settle their disputes. Your judgment was always accepted as final because
Your fairness and integrity were beyond question. “If Manuel says it, it is so.”

You would honor a bad deal based on a handshake and would rather lose a
Fortune than break your word, even when dealing with those far less honorable
Than yourself. For you a man was only as good as his word, and you knew that the
Greatest legacy you could leave your children was an unsullied name.  

You were frugal beyond need or reason, perhaps because you did not
Want to flaunt your relative wealth when so many had nothing.
It would have offended your social conscience and belied your politics.
Your one extravagance was a great steed, on which no expense was spared.

Though thoughtful, eloquent and soft-spoken, you were not shy about
Sharing your views and took quiet pride in the fact that others listened
When you spoke.  You were an ardent believer in the young republic and
Left of center in your views. When the war came, you were an easy target.

There was no time to take your entire family out of the country, and
You simply had too much to lose—a significant capital ******* in land and
Livestock. So you decided to go to Argentina, having been in the U.S. while
You were single and preferring self exile in a country with a familiar language.

Your wife and children would be fine, sheltered by your capital and by
The good will you had earned. And you were largely right.
Despite your wife’s inexperience, she continued with your business, with the
Help of your son who had both your eye for buying livestock and your good name.

Long years after you had gone, your teenaged son could buy all the cattle he
Wanted at any regional fair on credit, with just a handshake, simply because
He was your son. And for many years, complete strangers would step up offering a
Stern warning to those they believed were trying to cheat your son at the fairs.

“E o fillo do Café.” (He is the son of the Café, a nickname earned by a
Distant relative for to his habit of offering coffee to anyone who visited his
Office at a time when coffee was a luxury). That was enough to stop anyone
Seeking to gain an unfair advantage from dad’s youth and inexperience.

Once in Buenos Aires, though, you were a small fish in a very big pond,
Or, more accurately, a fish on dry land; nobody was impressed by your name,
Your pedigree, your reputation or your way of doing business. You were probably
Mocked for your Galician accent and few listened or cared when you spoke.

You lived in a small room that shared a patio with a little schoolhouse.
You worked nights as a watchman, and tried to sleep during the day while
Children played noisily next door. You made little money since your trade was
Useless in a modern city where trust was a highly devalued currency.

You were an anachronistic curiosity. And you could not return home.
When your son followed you there, he must have broken your heart;
You had expected that he would run your business until your return; but he
Quit school, tired of being called roxo (red) by his military instructors.

It must have been excruciatingly difficult for you.  Dad never got your pain.
Ironically, I think I do, but much too late. Eventually you returned to Spain to
A wife who had faithfully raised your children alone for more than ten years and was
No longer predisposed to unquestioningly view your will as her duty.

Doubtless, you could no more understand that than dad could understand
You. Too much Pain. Too many dreams deferred, mourned, buried and forgotten.
You returned to your beloved Galicia when it was clear you would not be
Persecuted after Generalisimo Franco had mellowed into a relatively benign tyrant.

People were no longer found shot or beaten to death in ditches by the
Side of the road. So you returned home to live out the remainder of your
Days out of place, a caricature of your former self, resting on the brittle,
Crumbling laurels of your pre Civil War self, not broken, but forever bent.

You found a world very different from the one you had built through your
Decency, cunning, and entrepreneurship. And you learned to look around
Before speaking your mind, and spent your remaining days reined in far more
Closely than your old steed, and with no polished silver bit to bite upon.
from Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011, 2018
Raymond Walker Apr 2012
The Dawn.



The sails hang large,
upon the sundered crew,
His father had not looked
on him with pleasure.
Poseidon’s son, and king,
of the Athenian dream,
he lands upon distant shore
in disrepair and lean.
a mighty voyage undertaken,
to gain iron for Athens might
but tide and storm wracked seas
has built upon this plight.

They land for food,
upon an endless plain
succour wanted, nay required,
lest all have been in vain.
Approach is made
by women strong in might
proud horses they sit and watch
before the sun, a glorious sight.
Amazons he knows of
they are too watched with fear
they are stronger than men he knows and watches as they near

















War queen she sits
upon her horse and awaits
these men that dare to land
But give them sanctuary she states.
her lover and second
looks in awe to the queen
these men given succour by amazons
this never has she seen







Antiope queen of all,
the plains for leagues around
Knows not a men, allows them not
but for trade on holy ground
Eluthera, freedom her name,
her second and lover same
wonders of this tall man, slim waisted,
lean, and asks his name.

Theseus he calls himself,
states his intentions and past
Antiope sits and listens and wonders
the seeds of fate are cast.
Eluthera watches Theseus’  face
and knows there is love there born
Though she believes it not,
from her home by love is Antiope torn
boats repaired and sail set
Theseus sets sail for home.
Antiope returns with him, they marry,
she is never more to roam.












Theseus song.

This woman of the plains, Amazon.
She sits her horse, sweet and proud yet strong.
She protects my honour, though tis' not her due
and speaks with eloquence no savage she.
Never before have I met my equal, in all things, man
or woman.
She is this and more
I can feel love from under her mein
This I know was destined
this even I without peer they say.
this even I understood.
yet here she stands, and walks and runs,
and here love awaits.














Elutheras song.

Here I have lived with the horse
and the sky,
who is god.
My name is freedom
and that is what I have
what can civilisation give us?
that we do not already have
what can walls provide,
that we, do not already know.
God, the sky. The horse, these our walls are.
He speaks well this Athenian, but what is speech
he looks well, but what can he give her.
She has all that there is.
and love she has, love of her sisters,
in her bed, and in our heart,
what can he give her.

Antiope's song.

To her I owe honour,
to him I give love.
what will become of this?
to her I owe love
to him i give honour,
what will become of this?
he is everything
she is everything
the plains are everything
the horse is all
yet I will betray my sisters
I know that now.
I will betray this life
I know that now
he is my equal in all
she in war I betray my people.
for love.































Part2

The tears of Eluthera.

Dripping
Burning
Hating
Loving
She must be returned
Rising
Loving
Lying
Hating
She must be returned
Rising
Rising
RISING
RISING
She must be returned
RISING
She must be returned
To her people
She must be returned
To her horses
Her gods
And me

RISING

She must be returned
They have taken her
She must be returned
She has not left













RISING

She must be returned
For they have taken her
Kidnapped, stolen her
He has taken her
Loved her
***** her
She must be returned
She is ours
She is our queen
She is
My love

RISING

Arise, sisters, arise
And let us take back what is ours
Arise, sisters, arise,
Let Athens quake at our power
Arise sisters arise
We will take back our queen
Arise sisters arise
That the might of Amazonian be seen.

We will raise an army
The greatest ever seen
To Athens and battle
For bloodshed keen
Unite the plains
And march and ride
And no quarter
Given either side.

Masii geti and copperhead
Scyths,Thracians, tower builders and
Copperhead Scyths
Dardanians, and all
The three tribes of ty kyrte ride
For Athens and revenge
To Athens and revenge.











Antiope’s song(2)

I stand here, beside pillars of stone
I watch from the acropolis
And wait
Theseus works with his people
He rules not by might
Of arms
But by deference
He holds his rule
With love
I hold the babe and watch
I can feel fate
Drawing near
I hear the thunder
Of hooves from the plains
And wait
I know he will prevail
This man I love
And wait And so I know
I will wear armour
Again
Before the end.
Before the end    
























Part 3
The battle.

Athens

We waited
We awaited their coming
Rumours formed
Rumours grew
Of a foe so strong
You can hear thunder
In their passing they say

Arm the cooks
Arm the carpenters
Athens will fall
Arm the viniers
Arm the boys
Athens will fall
The plains tribes
United they say
Athens will fall
Impossible I know They hate each other
More than us
They say

Thunder in the distance
And smoke fills the air
The dust of advance
Reaches our lair



Was that the flash of lightning?
Or glint of sun on a spear
Amazed we stand and watch
As they draw near
The lion of Athens will
Hunt now from its lair
To contend with the
War-horses baleful stare











One hundred and fifty thousand you say
One hundred and fifty thousand
One hundred and fifty thousand
Against 20 starts this day.

We arm the cooks
The carpenters,
the old men
And small boys Barely out of swaddling
Not yet finished
With their toys

We surge and struggle in the press
And surge again
Shields locked
And helms down

We surge and struggle, and they gain
And surge again
And retreat
And die
And die

Our own archers and artillery
They fire on us now
There’s no escape
There’s no escape
But forward to the press
To surge and struggle
Forward to press
Back to die
Forward to death and back
And we die
We die
We surge and struggle
Ever backwards
Ever backwards
We surge and struggle and we die
And we die










We surge and struggle
And widows are born
We surge and struggle
Like children forlorn
Ever backwards
Ever backwards
And we die
And we die

The toll is paid

We surge and struggle
But Athens will fall
Now wounded all
And dying
We surge and struggle
But hope has fled
Ever backwards
And to death

The advance of ty kyrte

We hold the field
But at great cost
We hold the field
Many horses lost

We are at the gates
But with great cost
We hold the town,
Many sisters lost

One more push sisters
One more charge
We are at the gates
Athens is lost









Back we were pushed
And back we fled
Through the town
The city streets
And fortress
Back we were pushed and back we fled




With shout and moan
Curse and groan
Clash of shield
We did yield
Every yard
With scream and yell
Fay and fell
Warriors now
We did yield
Every yard
































For every step
They paid
Like us
In blood
For every inch
They died
Like us
In mud






Horses skittered
Legs and bones broken
For every step and token
Move, every surge
And repulse
Until we stopped
Until we stopped
We could not see
We could not tell
But there was no
Where else to go
We stopped






















PART 4
The end

No where else to go,
No further back to fall
No retreat
No quarter
We stood
The battered
The bruised
The wounded and dying
We stood
For there was no choice










A commotion to the left
A horse rides out
On it rides death
And beauty
On it rides hell
And hope
On it rides Antiope
Armoured, and armed
Dressed
For death


Heroes she slew
Theseus behind her
Glauke, grey eyes
Queen was first
We advanced and slew









Kings she killed
Theseus behind her
Saduces of Thrace
Fell there, as his son
We advanced and killed.

How many heroes fell?
To her axe and bow
To many here to tell
Whispered word
Silence fell.
As Eluthera took the field
The fighting stopped
And silence grew
The battle decided here

The fate of Athens on the scales









Antiope rode for higher ground
Eluthera the lower
Antiope charged and threw
Javelin with all her power
Three times they charged
Three times they threw
And both wounded waited
A final charge, for death
They knew, the outcome fated.

There Antiope fell
By her lovers hand
Unarmed
And seeking death








Eluthera sat atop
Her steed and keened
Victor
With victory lost

Theseus faced her now
On foot and sword drawn
Deplete
And cursing fate





Theseus king no more
But husband bereft only
Maddened
Down  on her bore
There Eluthera fell.
































Twenty Years have past
fleeting,
Twenty, tears been shed
Weeping,
Twenty, lives lost,
mourning,
twenty hopes, die
burning,

The people, return,
Zeus smiles
rich in livestock
and strength.

Twenty years ago
the titans clashed.
Twenty years ago
the winds of fate lashed.
Twenty years ago
lovers died.
Twenty years ago
The Scyths lied.

Theseus, in memory,
plans sacrifice,
for his lost love,
once his wife.






Antiopes shrine
is sundered as Poseidon
shivers,
earthshaker.













And on the plains
the battle rages,
deplete,
bereft,
Eluthera, whole again,
freedom once more,
leads,
the charge,
the last charge,
of the Amazon
against the Scyths.


The End
I am kind of sorry for adding this for i wrote it years ago and well you can see for yourself it needs some work, but i do likle the idea of the classical poem
Sam Temple Sep 2015
species massacred for grazing
cows rule the world
the Brazilian rainforest
is now 80 million acres
of open range
supporting our demise
one cheeseburger at a time –
6700 gallons of water
is the cost of a big mac
when you factor in growing grain
giving cattle drinking water
and processing meat
peak water and peak oil
mean nothing when chewing cud –
more than 50% of greenhouse gases
methane from bovine flatus
without a single environmental group
working to stop this plague
instead they openly swallow
government lies about carbon
and the role 300 million United States citizens
have in saving the world of 7 billion
by driving less and recycling –
I laugh uproariously at the idiocy
knowing our karmic retribution
can only be extinction
like so many other species
we’ve killed off to make room
for more livestock agriculture
when everyone knows at this point
we can survive and thrive
off a plant based diet….
I’d write more,
but I am starving for
a bacon double cheeseburger –
Raymond Walker Apr 2012
The Dawn.



The sails hang large,
upon the sundered crew,
His father had not looked
on him with pleasure.
Poseidon’s son, and king,
of the Athenian dream,
he lands upon distant shore
in disrepair and lean.
a mighty voyage undertaken,
to gain iron for Athens might
but tide and storm wracked seas
has built upon this plight.

They land for food,
upon an endless plain
succour wanted, nay required,
lest all have been in vain.
Approach is made
by women strong in might
proud horses they sit and watch
before the sun, a glorious sight.
Amazons he knows of
they are too watched with fear
they are stronger than men he knows and watches as they near

















War queen she sits
upon her horse and awaits
these men that dare to land
But give them sanctuary she states.
her lover and second
looks in awe to the queen
these men given succour by amazons
this never has she seen







Antiope queen of all,
the plains for leagues around
Knows not a men, allows them not
but for trade on holy ground
Eluthera, freedom her name,
her second and lover same
wonders of this tall man, slim waisted,
lean, and asks his name.

Theseus he calls himself,
states his intentions and past
Antiope sits and listens and wonders
the seeds of fate are cast.
Eluthera watches Theseus’  face
and knows there is love there born
Though she believes it not,
from her home by love is Antiope torn
boats repaired and sail set
Theseus sets sail for home.
Antiope returns with him, they marry,
she is never more to roam.












Theseus song.

This woman of the plains, Amazon.
She sits her horse, sweet and proud yet strong.
She protects my honour, though tis' not her due
and speaks with eloquence no savage she.
Never before have I met my equal, in all things, man
or woman.
She is this and more
I can feel love from under her mein
This I know was destined
this even I without peer they say.
this even I understood.
yet here she stands, and walks and runs,
and here love awaits.














Elutheras song.

Here I have lived with the horse
and the sky,
who is god.
My name is freedom
and that is what I have
what can civilisation give us?
that we do not already have
what can walls provide,
that we, do not already know.
God, the sky. The horse, these our walls are.
He speaks well this Athenian, but what is speech
he looks well, but what can he give her.
She has all that there is.
and love she has, love of her sisters,
in her bed, and in our heart,
what can he give her.

Antiope's song.

To her I owe honour,
to him I give love.
what will become of this?
to her I owe love
to him i give honour,
what will become of this?
he is everything
she is everything
the plains are everything
the horse is all
yet I will betray my sisters
I know that now.
I will betray this life
I know that now
he is my equal in all
she in war I betray my people.
for love.































Part2

The tears of Eluthera.

Dripping
Burning
Hating
Loving
She must be returned
Rising
Loving
Lying
Hating
She must be returned
Rising
Rising
RISING
RISING
She must be returned
RISING
She must be returned
To her people
She must be returned
To her horses
Her gods
And me

RISING

She must be returned
They have taken her
She must be returned
She has not left













RISING

She must be returned
For they have taken her
Kidnapped, stolen her
He has taken her
Loved her
***** her
She must be returned
She is ours
She is our queen
She is
My love

RISING

Arise, sisters, arise
And let us take back what is ours
Arise, sisters, arise,
Let Athens quake at our power
Arise sisters arise
We will take back our queen
Arise sisters arise
That the might of Amazonian be seen.

We will raise an army
The greatest ever seen
To Athens and battle
For bloodshed keen
Unite the plains
And march and ride
And no quarter
Given either side.

Masii geti and copperhead
Scyths,Thracians, tower builders and
Copperhead Scyths
Dardanians, and all
The three tribes of ty kyrte ride
For Athens and revenge
To Athens and revenge.











Antiope’s song(2)

I stand here, beside pillars of stone
I watch from the acropolis
And wait
Theseus works with his people
He rules not by might
Of arms
But by deference
He holds his rule
With love
I hold the babe and watch
I can feel fate
Drawing near
I hear the thunder
Of hooves from the plains
And wait
I know he will prevail
This man I love
And wait And so I know
I will wear armour
Again
Before the end.
Before the end    
























Part 3
The battle.

Athens

We waited
We awaited their coming
Rumours formed
Rumours grew
Of a foe so strong
You can hear thunder
In their passing they say

Arm the cooks
Arm the carpenters
Athens will fall
Arm the viniers
Arm the boys
Athens will fall
The plains tribes
United they say
Athens will fall
Impossible I know They hate each other
More than us
They say

Thunder in the distance
And smoke fills the air
The dust of advance
Reaches our lair



Was that the flash of lightning?
Or glint of sun on a spear
Amazed we stand and watch
As they draw near
The lion of Athens will
Hunt now from its lair
To contend with the
War-horses baleful stare











One hundred and fifty thousand you say
One hundred and fifty thousand
One hundred and fifty thousand
Against 20 starts this day.

We arm the cooks
The carpenters,
the old men
And small boys Barely out of swaddling
Not yet finished
With their toys

We surge and struggle in the press
And surge again
Shields locked
And helms down

We surge and struggle, and they gain
And surge again
And retreat
And die
And die

Our own archers and artillery
They fire on us now
There’s no escape
There’s no escape
But forward to the press
To surge and struggle
Forward to press
Back to die
Forward to death and back
And we die
We die
We surge and struggle
Ever backwards
Ever backwards
We surge and struggle and we die
And we die










We surge and struggle
And widows are born
We surge and struggle
Like children forlorn
Ever backwards
Ever backwards
And we die
And we die

The toll is paid

We surge and struggle
But Athens will fall
Now wounded all
And dying
We surge and struggle
But hope has fled
Ever backwards
And to death

The advance of ty kyrte

We hold the field
But at great cost
We hold the field
Many horses lost

We are at the gates
But with great cost
We hold the town,
Many sisters lost

One more push sisters
One more charge
We are at the gates
Athens is lost









Back we were pushed
And back we fled
Through the town
The city streets
And fortress
Back we were pushed and back we fled




With shout and moan
Curse and groan
Clash of shield
We did yield
Every yard
With scream and yell
Fay and fell
Warriors now
We did yield
Every yard
































For every step
They paid
Like us
In blood
For every inch
They died
Like us
In mud






Horses skittered
Legs and bones broken
For every step and token
Move, every surge
And repulse
Until we stopped
Until we stopped
We could not see
We could not tell
But there was no
Where else to go
We stopped






















PART 4
The end

No where else to go,
No further back to fall
No retreat
No quarter
We stood
The battered
The bruised
The wounded and dying
We stood
For there was no choice










A commotion to the left
A horse rides out
On it rides death
And beauty
On it rides hell
And hope
On it rides Antiope
Armoured, and armed
Dressed
For death


Heroes she slew
Theseus behind her
Glauke, grey eyes
Queen was first
We advanced and slew









Kings she killed
Theseus behind her
Saduces of Thrace
Fell there, as his son
We advanced and killed.

How many heroes fell?
To her axe and bow
To many here to tell
Whispered word
Silence fell.
As Eluthera took the field
The fighting stopped
And silence grew
The battle decided here

The fate of Athens on the scales









Antiope rode for higher ground
Eluthera the lower
Antiope charged and threw
Javelin with all her power
Three times they charged
Three times they threw
And both wounded waited
A final charge, for death
They knew, the outcome fated.

There Antiope fell
By her lovers hand
Unarmed
And seeking death








Eluthera sat atop
Her steed and keened
Victor
With victory lost

Theseus faced her now
On foot and sword drawn
Deplete
And cursing fate





Theseus king no more
But husband bereft only
Maddened
Down  on her bore
There Eluthera fell.
































Twenty Years have past
fleeting,
Twenty, tears been shed
Weeping,
Twenty, lives lost,
mourning,
twenty hopes, die
burning,

The people, return,
Zeus smiles
rich in livestock
and strength.

Twenty years ago
the titans clashed.
Twenty years ago
the winds of fate lashed.
Twenty years ago
lovers died.
Twenty years ago
The Scyths lied.

Theseus, in memory,
plans sacrifice,
for his lost love,
once his wife.






Antiopes shrine
is sundered as Poseidon
shivers,
earthshaker.













And on the plains
the battle rages,
deplete,
bereft,
Eluthera, whole again,
freedom once more,
leads,
the charge,
the last charge,
of the Amazon
against the Scyths.


The End
I am kind of sorry for adding this for i wrote it years ago and well you can see for yourself it needs some work, but i do likle the idea of the classical poem
Martin Narrod May 2014
Hallucinating Bureaucracies and auditory Hallucinations : When the voice in your head speaks when you don't want it to, to head's of State not present. I could snuggle in bed if I wanted to, but I've got to orchestrate and reorganize the Clinton dowry. It started outright with trying on a purple, yellow, and blue button down shirt that had Scabies in the sleeve- and now you're all going to know why Mr. and Mrs. Obama don't want to talk to me about potentially increasing livestock traffic across the Americas. I think could practice will follow from such a manure, I mean maneuver. I pick up 10 or so bottles of plastic single-serve water for consumption in my apartheid room. It's awful in here. The gold disappears from the mines, and even the hands I used to work with are blurring up in the twister, and as much as you call or don't call I have no business managing your intentions- only mine. Some barrge of women over thirty. But still there isn't a problem. The river is beginning to flood, and the fishery's stockpile is running low. Maybe we ought to empty out an African mass grave and fill it with blacklists of co-conspirators and then make a drake or a flume out of the narrow walkways between the cities. Then maybe we'll have water to last us through the dry season.----------------------------------------------------------­--------------------------------- Where in the world is Sam in Hammond, Can Diego? Forklifting pillars, bribing monkeys, playing with his Mickey Mouse and Michelob, catching the taller, eighteen and up crowd catch the last car riding the rapid drop from Space Mountain through, "It's a Small World After All:"  

It's a world of laughter a world of tears, it's a world of hopes and a world of fears. There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware- it's a small world after all."  

And then he takes the biggest gulp of water into his mouth that I've ever seen the man take, and he puts it in a small cooler that's strapped to the back of his calf, and he swears to me that the aeroplanes are going to come loop around, and when they do their glorious water-landing, he and I, or rather, the both of us, will be saved. Saved, hm? I don't even bother sharing insights or my insides. I quickly flash him the most-pod horrific a tryst that irons down a photo of Egon and I back in the Old City, what was it, Chicago, or something that very much sounded like Chicago. Could be totally awesome and I'll chime in that now is the time when we do our work best. That's all. Intrepid,
B Irwin Nov 2016
does hamburger meat stick together because it is still searching for the ghost of it's bones?
in college, i worked in a factory.
i trudged to work every monday morning at five thirty and put on gloves
to plunge into the sticky mess of beef that i weighed and clipped and submerged in.
the meat sticks together and bleeds into the same palm, which is my own.
i am livestock.
i am a nonsensical sticky mass of fat that is being pulled apart by another.
although i am trying to pull myself back together,
the bones i clung to were yours.
ankit nayar Aug 2014
******'s mush and britney's bush-
things that make you cringe.
paul bunyan and ***** hoes-
mouthful of wood.
beieber's twig and a dodo-
nobody has seen them for a long time.
rednecks and squirrels-
store nuts for the long winter.
and **** livestock.
this isnt a poem.this is a slur to all of you that take it up.
Michele M Apr 2013
The smell was gagging her.
She no longer felt the constant agony which was a relief but the smell indicted
A severe infection
Perhaps she would get lucky and cross the veil soon
Her day of execution was coming upon her
She could hear stakes being placed and wagons
Delivering peat, coal, and wood
Oh how she feared the burning
Once as a child she burnt her hand in her father’s smithie
She cried till her mother rubbed a poultice of comfrey upon it
She never forgot the pain of that burn
All  the comfrey in the world was not going ease her pain after tomorrow

She remembered growing up hiding in the hay mound
Watching her father
It fascinated her, turning hot molten metal into something useful
Working the elements her father would say was an honor.
She secretly yearned to do the same but her father said it was ’men’s’ work
So when not in the fields her brothers got to spend time with their father not she

Not that she minded spending time with her grams
Learning the healing arts
Using herbs and precious stones with magical properties
Working the elements but in a more subtle way
But she was more drawn to her fathers work
And look where her grams legacy has gotten her now
If she had been allowed to work with her father and brothers she thought bitterly….

She tried to move and felt an instant stab of pain where her bones had once been
Her right foot was nothing more but dangling rotting flesh
The Malleous Malficarum meant nothing it seemed
The traveling inquisitors did not receive the confession they sought
She refused to confess even under torture
So instead she would burn to purify her soul  
They would get their entertainment
As would her village

She heard moaning coming from the cell next to hers
It was her neighbor old Hatty Beckwith
She had been accused by Ned Higbee of consorting with the devil and killing livestock
The whole village knows Ned wants her land for the water
This was insane
The inquisitors fees for Hatty would come from Hatty’s estate she supposed
She wondered how her father and brothers would manage to pay her fees
She heard the guards talk and say the expenses for torture and burning were great
As were the cost for their food, drink, and their diversions
As if torturing were not enough entertainment

The sound of screaming suddenly pierced her senses
Someone was being pulled on the rack again
She knew that pain too well
Not being able to stand the smell of blood and listen to the screams any longer
She struggled to crawl to the dark corner of the cell
She lost track of time being in the dark for so long
Only seeing slivers of light through the opening of doors
As the guards came and went
But she calculated Samhain would soon arrive
Possibly even this evening

The village would be preparing and celebrating
The ending of the last harvest and the beginning of a new year
Honoring their dead ancestors
Setting a place for them at the table
She wondered if her father and brothers would set a place for her next year
Telling her tale as they have done for her mother and her grandmother before her
About now her brothers would be taking stock of the herds and grains
Deciding which animals to slaughter
Preparing stores of meat, fruits, and vegetables
In order to help them survive the coming winter

A huge bonfire would be lit in the village
And the villagers would extinguish all other fires
Each family lighting their hearth from the common flame
Bonding the families of the village together.
One big happy family she thought with irony
She still knew not who turned her in
But one thing she was sure of and that was fear changed people
Or maybe it only brought out their true selves

She shifted trying to get comfortable and began to drift off into a merciful sleep
When she awoke hours later she sensed a difference in the air
She heard drums keeping time
And she could see and smell old autumn leaves gently swirling in her cell
She thought she saw a gate, opening wide
And from this gate appeared the dark mother in her terrible naked glory

She froze -fear overtaking her
She closed her eyes tightly only to feel a gentle touch
Her mind crossing another’s
And when she found the strength to open her eyes
There stood her mothers mother

Her grandmother’s arms inviting
She stands, pain forgotten
She feels the nights stretching behind the days till
She reaches the darkness where all of her is ancestor
It is who she has been all along
She is ready for this journey, crossing the dark river
Into the country of death

She will join her ancestors and her witch sisters
Breathing freer knowing that her death
Will shed her of her female body
Cleansing her of the sin of being a woman
Who is more than the sum of her part’s
Taking the dark mothers hand, now hearing whispering and laughing
Her grandmother smiles and she sees the moon and stars above her
They cross the veil together, the gate gently closing behind them

She understands clearly now
In Mabs cold womb life will start again
A child of light to begin a new
The wheel continues to spin, the cycle continues
And she will always be a part of it all ~M

— The End —