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I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
Em Glass Apr 2013
it wasn't snowing yet, but they'd told us it would.
probably I said something infantile, about how
I could smell it, the frostiness of snowflakes in the
air, because you smiled that knowing smile of yours,
like you were an adult and i was a child and you
didn't have the heart to take my innocence away.

that look always made my heart smile, sadly, and
it also drove me up a wall, partly because it made
me want to hug you close and pity you the
burden of assumed moral superiority, and whisper
that you, too were a child. but mostly because you
were right— I clung to my naiveté while you, you
had already had the good sense to push it away.
it followed you around with sad puppy eyes, but
you knew it and you kept it at arm's length.
you brave, brave soul.

when it did start to snow I wasn't surprised. you
were. you didn't say anything. we were in
a deserted school hallway, listening, removed
from the other kids' cries. we were
delighted too, but the others wanted to run home
early, and we knew the definition
of home better than they. and I can speak only for
myself but it seemed we both wanted only to stay
forever side by side, tucked away in our corner,
me reveling in the softness of love and friendship
and winter, you trying to be there with me but having
trouble leaving your mind, where that sad-eyed
puppy snapped at your heels. it whimpered
but you held your own.

and slowly, we built up moments like this one.
we wallowed in each other and in the coziness
of cloudy days. we read good poetry and
heard good music and took photographs as we
discussed life from our  softer world.
there were moments of such pure white happiness
that they came full circle to being sad,
simply because I knew I would never be that
happy again, and I was not wrong, and I didn't
want to be. and we had
sad moments, too, never ever think I am not
happy to be sad with you.

and slowly, too, your innocence knew its
defeat, and sat obediently at your feet,
and we shared things.
but I was a child, and a weak one at that, and
God knew I was not as strong as you so she
gave me no great suffering to speak of, to
share with you. no way to reciprocate the
vulnerability you gave, and that in
itself was suffering for me.

I regret that I was not good at saying things.
that while
you had to be your own adult and push childhood
away, I clung hopelessly to mine as
I discovered me and watched it slip
from my small hands.

among the plethora of reasons I can give for
bitterly hating sunny days is the
way the sun slanted through the window and lit
up your eyes and swilled particles around
your face like fairy dust on the day you reached
out and pulled my lanyard over your own neck.
look, you said, content. almost proud.
I'm wearing a bit of you around my
neck,
and you wove it through your
sunlit fingers, eyes bright. you tugged on it,
lightly. that's what love does, it strangles
you. and we all want it.


and I gasped at the way that word sounded,
so harsh in such beautiful sunlight on such
a soft face. but I don't want to strangle
you
. I said that. thoughtlessly,
instinctively. I regret it every day. in that regard,
you gave me a strength, but it's no german shepherd—
you are so **** strong.

when your ache tugged and tugged at you,
tore you from reality, or brought you closer to it,
it slipped its finger into that lanyard knot. loosened it.
I could have reached out right then, as you had when you
pulled the sun-soaked string over your head, and
tightened it. tightened us. been a friend.

I didn't tug the knot. if you run.
when you run,
I know that two grown dogs
will follow after you, blocked
from the sun by your receding shadow.
Duke Thompson Nov 2014
Sitting in white shirt
(Loosened yuppie Windsor knot)
Armchair laughing
Having realized the grand joke of life

Satisfied little Sanskrit honey
Is it a bohdi tree or burning bush
(When really are one and same)
Don't think too hard

Suburban white boy dreams of trap houses
With tie over shoulder
As the tv says it prevents
***** on tie

Little air planes
Round and white
Hard pressed (to explain)
Make one fly at high speed
Get it? (never mind inside joke laughing)

Talks like a gang banger
Can't take it seriously
Little big boy equals not shook
Drinking rot gut tallboys

Days after and minutes away
Zehaf-Bibeau war memorial
Winchester repeater in hand
Supposed ideological threat needed
Expand the police state
ConnectHook Feb 2016
by John Greenleaf Whittier  (1807 – 1892)

“As the Spirits of Darkness be stronger in the dark, so Good Spirits which be Angels of Light are augmented not only by the Divine Light of the Sun, but also by our common Wood fire: and as the celestial Fire drives away dark spirits, so also this our Fire of Wood doth the same.”

COR. AGRIPPA, Occult Philosophy, Book I. chap. v.

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow; and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.”


EMERSON

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, —
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The **** his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingàd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below, —
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa’s leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: “Boys, a path!”
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin’s wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp’s supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse ****** his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The **** his ***** greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt’s Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, —
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art

The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks’ heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: “Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea.”

The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where’er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat’s dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger’s seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons’ straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October’s wood.

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change! — with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now, —
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.

We tread the paths their feet have worn,
We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!

We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
“The Chief of Gambia’s golden shore.”
How often since, when all the land
Was clay in Slavery’s shaping hand,
As if a far-blown trumpet stirred
Dame Mercy Warren’s rousing word:
“Does not the voice of reason cry,
Claim the first right which Nature gave,
From the red scourge of ******* to fly,
Nor deign to live a burdened slave!”
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog’s wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper’s hut and Indian camp;
Lived o’er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François’ hemlock-trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away.
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury’s level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar’s Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the ***.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundelow
And idle lay the useless oars.

Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Concheco town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways,)
The story of her early days, —
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon’s weird laughter far away;
We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay,
The ducks’ black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild-geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.
Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel’s ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley’s Journal, old and quaint, —
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! —
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-**** and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,

Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
“Take, eat,” he said, “and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham.”
Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature’s unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature’s heart so near
v That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne’s loving view, —
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle’s eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i’ the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gay,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason’s trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.

Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear, —
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love’s unselfishness,
And welcome wheresoe’er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home, —
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dries so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The ****** fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who hath for such but thought of scorn.
There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.

O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee, — rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one’s blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!

As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Against the household ***** lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
Now bathed in the unfading green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
Or from the shade of saintly palms,
Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago: —
The chill weight of the winter snow
For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where’er I went
With dark eyes full of love’s content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June’s unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss in all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life’s late afternoon,
Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
The welcome of thy beckoning hand?

Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place,
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle’s hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth’s college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar’s gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation’s reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater’s keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man’s-buff,
And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,

Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame’s winding-yarn,
Or mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
‘Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.

A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainëd thought and lore of book.
Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he
Shall Freedom’s young apostles be,
Who, following in War’s ****** trail,
Shall every lingering wrong assail;
All chains from limb and spirit strike,
Uplift the black and white alike;
Scatter before their swift advance
The darkness and the ignorance,
The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth,
Which nurtured Treason’s monstrous growth,
Made ****** pastime, and the hell
Of prison-torture possible;
The cruel lie of caste refute,
Old forms remould, and substitute
For Slavery’s lash the freeman’s will,
For blind routine, wise-handed skill;
A school-house plant on every hill,
Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence
The quick wires of intelligence;
Till North and South together brought
Shall own the same electric thought,
In peace a common flag salute,
And, side by side in labor’s free
And unresentful rivalry,
Harvest the fields wherein they fought.

Another guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,

Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will’s majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and drooped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
Presaging ill to him whom Fate
Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The ***** and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
The temper of Petruchio’s Kate,
The raptures of Siena’s saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath’s surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.

Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna’s plague-hushed thoroughfares,
Up sea-set Malta’s rocky stairs,
Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
With hope each day renewed and fresh,
The Lord’s quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!
Where’er her troubled path may be,
The Lord’s sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul’s debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!

At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull’s-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love’s contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O’er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.

Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O’er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature’s subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defence
Against the snow-ball’s compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells’ sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty’s call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother’s aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer’s sight
The Quaker matron’s inward light,
The Doctor’s mail of Calvin’s creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!

So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o’er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood’s meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
A   nd daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica’s everglades.
And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti’s Mainote Greeks,
A Turk’s head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death:
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!

Clasp, Angel of the backword look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that ***** to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands’ incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century’s aloe flowers to-day!

Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling’s eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends — the few
Who yet remain — shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.

Written in  1865
In its day, 'twas a best-seller and earned significant income for Whittier
Cné Sep 2018

Each body part
sizzled in pure pleasure
in the blissed wake
of your oral efforts
brought forth the waves
of rapturous delight...

                                       Spurs poetic inspiration
                                        in equal liberation
                                        of desires to please.
                                        Bodies transpose
                                        in fluid motion
                                        as brazen eyes meet.

        Savor the voluptuous image before you.
        Indulge your eyes in my carnal halo
        before they roll to the back of your head.

On all fours
knees between your thighs
tips of swollen breast
caress your chest
tasting fresh honey
upon lips in a kiss.

                                        Ripples of ardor
                                         hover
                                         by wet trails
                                         of sensual kisses
                                         suckling towards
                                         the apex.

Breathe in
the slow motion pace
that pulsates eagerness
to the fore tumescing bulge
leaking with anticipation
of viscous lava.

        Tickles of silken hair
        against flesh edges closer.

Emerging subtle grumbles
in deep resonance
betray your impatience .
Hands tightly twine
in tangled hair
to maneuver
the treasure hunt.

                                         Licked lips pause
                                         at the sight of fire
                                         burning in
                                         glazed gazes
                                         before engulfing
                                         the throbbing member.

Plump ruby lips
greet velvety texture
in a slow deep dive.
Tongue curls around
the flavor
in a dulcet embrace.

                                         Moans release
                                         as grip tightens
                                         in my hair
                                         settles the
                                         rhythmic pace
                                         to taste in an
                                         oscillating dance.

        The masculine aroma of heady musk
        lingering there, arouses my appetite.

With my enthusiasm
attuned to
your preferred rhythm
suckling, slurping
surface and dive
in measured unison.

                                          Break of breath
                                          allows tongue
                                          freedom to roam below,
                                          licking, soft kissing
                                          the tender hammock
                                          of testicles.

        Tongue and lips escalate higher
        to mount another assaulting dive
        deeper in the depths
        of the cusp in cavity.

Wetted fingers
probe even lower
circling superficially
as gasp escapes
your heavy breath;
flaming eyes lock.

                                          Finger dips in
                                          with expert finesse
                                          gorging hardened growth
                                          within a wrapped hand.

Thighs tighten
with rocking grip.
Head thrusts onward,
drilling forward
in each dive.

        Salvia slips
        fingers grip
        lips dip

Engorged swell, flesh tightens in an intensity
of volcanic eruption ...

        HALTS
        assault

Pace retracts.
Loosened lips kiss tip.

“Soon sweetheart, your time will ***
inside me as we surrender to synergy."

Inspired by Multi Sumus' love...................................lust (act I) with my reciprocation in collaboration.

https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2678968/lovelust-act-i/
zebra Feb 2019
scarlet haught
queen of mirth
dog ****
drooling jewelry red splits
pulled by a chariot  
of six hundred million house cats
dissembling for freaky insertions
of scarlet bud flowers uterine tube

breath of spit
while ballet toes kiss fingers and tongues
glazing thickly tides sweat
bamming greased ****

Christ *****
"once upon a never more"
bi-sexed up
**** twitch glistening holes
drizzle fish
in red tents overturned
for fabulous *******
and angelic *****'s
flirty dance the come **** me  

her throat a never ending squealed gullet
sublime Madonna of Oor
bare thighed and pulpy spread
scissor strokes and stride
wagging tongue for rosy oleo sticks
and **** pastry rectums pulled tight
in lop sided temples of split flesh

another ambulance to the emergency **** ward
in a dreamland of leggy nurses

sacred fig of Freyja
Goddess to **** toys
and pretty pretty who go that way
hocus opus poke and stir
freckle face **** mouth
a lapping menagerie

i gird my ***** and follow her
into a cologned room; of dark rim box butter
***** yelping for
a slow grind in a belly of clams

red and velvet pageant
she nests in the heart
a midwife disturbia
to pregnant lust
being pushed down and worked up
till loosened in thick ****
and black whip afterbirth
like flowers of curves and blood

her banquet; a platter of wet orifice
trilling vibratos ******
and anxious kisses crawling through her mouth
like fallen angels flying
dire sister of knock out *******
pleading goth nuns for lesbian heated
Satan loving veiled Christian crotch
and a thousand delicious gaped
******* **** poundings
and mouth ***** **** plunge

crucifix of wrack and *****
****** and beaten senseless
instructions from the  book of night
of **** and spite
written by
Abrahams primitive nations
arms of the cross she is nailed to
sweet ***** waifs beaten dead
in a tillage of brokenness

mans club
shore of incinerated witches and tortured justice
shut up when your talkin to me
clan of honor
duo troupe
almanac of hell
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
I still have flashbacks, horrifying and spectral: of conference meetings, projectors and efficiency meetings...corporate metrics, acronymic value cards that read like a Masonic Temple's pledge.. ...honesty, commitment, sacrifice, the dutiful worship of mercury and saltpeter; also customer satisfaction.
           Those flashbacks frequent my mind alot--especially when I am ramming my co-workers into the trash compactor with the blades of the fork truck. They say " ooooh" and " ahhhhh" as if they are getting a massage. They dull my blades with their dull heads.
          I have to ram them with the blades of the fork-trucks, or they will scramble out. They still say things like, " make sure that has a tag,".....and " wear your safety goggles," making chills run down my spine. I haven't put all the workers from the " Do-Wee depot" in the compactor only corporate cadavers and not zombies.
          But I have to forewarn, the zombies are not a threat, it is a few cadavers and the "consumers" that pose a threat to me and what I have built. The zombies are producers, even only if it is moans and putrefaction, but they are good sports, and my only friends.
         Some co-workers, who I was friends with before, I have spared from the compactor--owing mostly to that the part of their brain that was corporate, either fell out on the floor, or was gnawed on by a fellow zombie rendering them good sports and not cadavers.
        I use the building material section to chain them to their previous aisles. Jose, was my best friend, he was shaped like a slug, with a huge lower lip, and slicked back greasy hair, he always cheered me up, how busy it was and how slow he remained. Him and I worked together in the ' outside-lawn-and-garden' section. Even his zombie self has kept his lisp.
          I chain him to the outside lawn and garden section, where he likes to water the flowers. He lunges at me sometimes, but the chain is thick, and Jose is still a cool zombie.
Angry Joe is out there too. He is chained to the 'reach' truck. He is always mumbling about overtime.....or " Im not staying late."
         I have disabled the riding engine, so he just stands on it and runs the fork blades all the way up then all the way down, beeping the horn the whole while. He is the only one I kept, that has some vestige of corporacy in his brain, for the reason that he watches the back gate. The consumers are constantly probing this outside metal fence gate, and Joe has eaten all of them. Don't get me wrong, Joe can be a good sport, when he is not drooling about 'overtime' or ' I havn't took a lunch yet.' He can be quite funny.
          He banters with Ryan from inside 'lawn-and-garden' all the time. Ryan is alot younger, alittle younger than me. He has a mullet(what I call a mullet and he say's a hockey cut) and verily is--before he become a zombie-- the laziest person ever, and now that he is a zombie, well let's just say, I don't have to chain him anywhere, I know where to find him.....at the back gate smoking a ciqerette backwards with his mullet on fire or in the break room. He had the most squeeky voice when he was a human, but now odd fully enough, he sounds like Tom Jones.
         " You ate my cosumer Ryan," drools Angry Joe, " No I didn't Joe, you ate your own consumer," Ryan rejoins in his acapella voice ( I like hearing Ryan's deep zombie voice).
There are others, in the various departments of the Do-Wee Store, but this journal is to relate the first most pressing concern, two cadavers have escaped the compactor.
             The store manager Joyce and her minion(the assistant manager Damien) have escaped. They were ******* humans, and remained so in corporate cadaver form. They hide from me, as I plow through the aisles with the inside forklift. I have used wire from the fencing aisle to reinforce my forklifts. Sometimes a cadaver co-worker will jump out with a price gun, drooling " where is your spootterrrr...."( a safety regulation in the store).....I run them over with great gladness, but then wishing I heeded their advice of safety glasses."Splat."
            I have my theories, on how everyone turned to zombies. It started with over-ocurring routine, which my a.d.d could have been impervious to. But I couldn't have been the only one in the store with a.d.d? But that seems the case. The first day when I showed up to ' outside-lawn-and-garden' it took me six hours before I noticed everyone was zombies. I didn't notice they were zombies until I noticed them in good spirits.
               But the first day of the zombies, was concurrent with the rise of the consumers--ever more dangerous, greedy, and audacious are the consumers. They consume everything in their path, they consume good conversation, good manners, and replace with their mark, which is this....your life with the current moment is to be sacrificed to get them what they need to continue resuming their lives. They do not enjoy shopping, but enjoy holding you in place, consuming you and your values into their value, which has no value at all, since their mind has consigned the present moment that has you and not them, to a number that always has too much value, and they will bring you and it down while you are subject to time and they are not.  
             They turned my friends into prisoners of arbitrary time; and like putting a rabbit in a dank dark basement, with plenty of food and treats and space, it will slowly get diarrhea and die.  Everyday I marked the sunrise, and I would always pay thanks to it, no matter if I was on break or not.  The nine hour day could not ruin me, but my friends being ruined, that started to ruin me.
                       And that is what I believed started all this, nature has no room for two kingdoms of Consumers. So the producers(zombies) were created from the routine of being divested of life, and from nothing they came to produce: producing gases, vile ****** smiles, human  cannibalism, hearty conversation, practical jokes, moaning questions to the infinite sky.... they were created human again, given value, and most of all, I have my friends back, and they are happy again. But, the corporate cadavers that escaped the compactor , put my creation in risk, they look to let in the consumers again, they are up to something...
             But presently with the corporate cadavers gone, and the consumers held at bay, I have my Depot of Eden, I can grow anything, make anything, and soon will be able to ferment everything, especially fuel.   Now monday morning conferences that threaten you to pick it up because there are alot of people out there that want your job( iterated by the frizzy headed gangly Joyce) are replaced with 'zombie dance parties'.  
            " Zombies, what is the first rule of zombie dance party," they reply to me, " dohmp talk bout damp party," then we make a music video.  I let loose a couple of cat's in the break room, and presto, an agile cat make's flesh eating zombies look like Micheal Jackson.  Even I get busy with them, I feel so comfortable with them; dancing to Juvenile "back that *** up,".the best dancer gets to eat the cat...sure beat's listening Joyce's depressing morning pep talks about quotas while I am watching a bird outside the front glass trying to eat a dragonfly, " Keith you paying attention."  I just want to say, " No I am not you frizzy headed gangly walking skeleton key(she is skinnier than the gang of keys jingling on her belt)."    I will find her and put a roofing nail in her temple and her plans.
                The sound of zombies walking in here is music to my ears, like gypsys walking barefoot on a strawberry patch.  I don't know what that has to do with anything, but I like it, and don't care who knows.

            I fortified the outside of the store with everything within the store. I grew a garden, with all the fertilizers, and acids and alkilines of outside garden. I also use the garden chemicals to sprinkle on the brains of my co-worker zombies to change their acidity(almost like a hyrdrangea shrub). The purpose to get them somewhat coherent to play poker and darts in the breakroom. I figured out how to make explosives, with the nitrogen fertilizer and pool cleaning acid, well actually HeyZues did, he always eats both, and one day he moaned really loud  " BLOOOONDEEE " ( his nickname for me from The Good The Bad And The Ugly) and  gestured his expanding stomach, he blew up and gave me my first wound, he destroyed my dart board.   I took his head and posted it on the back loading dock, I know there are consumers trying to infiltrate when he sounds off with " BLOOONDEEEE..."  resounding through the whole store (almost like when he was a human).   I created another dartboard, I can create anything here, sometimes I think, that feeling is what........
                But the point of this journal is the two who escaped the trash compactor, Joyce and Damien. They haunted me before and haunt me still. When I leave to venture outside for gasoline for the generators(the only thing I need, not for long hopefully) they run amok. I will see new ' sale signs' in zombie penmanship, and I can see that they have hidden co-workers to have cadaver meetings, where they talk about ' customer satisfaction.'  I can sometimes hear keys jangle, it has to be Joyce, for the sound is to the cadence of her John Wayne walk, like she has been on horseback her whole life.
            Outside is very dangerous. There are many consumers out there.
                 I was outisde in the parking lot, where consumers still wallow around when a consumer asked "which product is better." I had to drop a cinder block pallet on him with the forklift; they are more adacious then my zombie co-workers. Even after a pallet of concrete is forklifted on them, they wave fliers with sale advertisments from underneath.
            Well, this particular trip, I returned inside and was startled by the loudspeaker, it was Damien's voice, the same as before, paging the hardware department. I jumped on the fast slim forklift to hunt for him. There are phone terminals everywhere, and he could be in the upper level offices. I saw Joyce's shape through the window once.
          They are up to something.
Everytime I ventured outside, the store became altered. I even saw a consumer waiting in line with the cashier machine now on. I sent the consumer to Angry Joe, who was due for a lunch break.
          There is a gap in my wire somewhere, I know it.
            I was at the gas station, getting propane and gas, when a consumer was scowling " where is the gas attendant, is everyone stupid or what?" while he was trying to figure out how to pump gas. I disabled the safety pumps, they do not shut off, and do not coincide with numbers, you hold the handle it pumps out as much as you need.
              He was pacing around like a little kid denied recess and suffering from sounds of frolic and kickball--dragging his feet due to the fact he had to pump his own gas, I heard a scraping metallic clicking noise. My eyes were caught by a bright glare on his shoe tread, I gripped my nail gun..... then he dropped the hose and walked back to his car with gasoline gushing as his wake. I saw what it was on his tread, I had no time to flee....it was a push button grill ignitor with the orange tint of a " Do-Wee" label on it......" ****."
              The last thing I registered was the consumer saying " ahhh don't touch me," apparently talking to flames. I woke up in a ditch, the big fork truck and my gas station destroyed.
I limped back to the " Do-Wee" store, and utter horror greeted my singed and surprised eyebrows.
              " Grand Re-Opening, 50% off everything." I squeezed the trigger of the nail gun, the nail harmlessly echoed off the parking pavement at which it was aimed. "They set me up at the gas station. "
               They had to do better than that to separate me from my zombies.

             I entered through the store in a nun-plussed state. I woke out of my unbelieving stupor with the sound of Jose's voice. " Welcome to Doooooo-Weeee....can I eat your...."
            "Jose it's me, who chained you to the entrance?"
         " Dammian, Keeeeeth, they are waiiiting....here's a newsletter...." --he smacked me across the face with the newsletter.
        " I don't want that ****.....' as I clutched the newspaper the loudspeaker went off in Dammians annoyingly over-polite and late-night-voice.
       " Attention shoooppers. all prices are feeeefty percent off, ask our associate Keeeeeth for a 80% discount, he is the skinny deleeecious looking kid with spicy skin, and a boston red sox hat on."
Hundreds of consumers pivoted their heads to my direction. " Hey, that kid has a Boston Yankees hat on."
         " Run Keeeth," zombie-lisped Jose.
           Fifty million imbecilic questions assailed me at once......" can I return this sprinkler for a jacuzzi.....can I get 120% off.....can you come to my house and fix my television for free"-- it was unabashed audacity, survial of the most annoying and repetitious; and the corporate cadavers have let this consuming flood in on me and my poor zombies.
           I needed to find my steed, my inside forklift. It was not where I left it near the entrance.            
        Surely they have sabotaged it. " the riding mowers," the thought uplifted my fading resolve. I darted past wallowing consumers before they could get my scent. I heard a consumer, " you obviously don't know what Im talking about," talking to zombie George, who was munching roofing nails.
         The consumer grabbed me, and said "here he is, this is Keith, he is wearing a Phoenix red sox cap"--panic bit into my brain, this consumers grip was implaccable. The grip that holds the steering wheel tightly driving nowhere fast, with anything in that interstice of commuting, not worthy of manners and the least of which being a friendly wave to 'go ahead.'
           They formed a wall of uttering stupidity, escape was cut off. They scratched at me, hissed, tore at my flesh and screamed demonistically in my ears. I caved and and called the hoard m'am and sir, they choked me, and loosened their grip only so I could tell them " Im sorry, sorry for your inconvenience, take my life and personality as tribute, take my imagination rendered prostrate by these sceptic corporate words that this mouth emits, betraying my personal form, the human element to this lifeless purposeless machine....destroy me, for finding the infinity between letters of corporate law and none between nature's laws......"
        I was almost unconscious, giving a speech to imagined hooded phantoms......" destroy me, for valuing friendship and imagination, and seeing infinity, in the shadow of a letter, eternity in the numeral of a number, and for defying the order to see things as others do....."...." destroy me, for seeing that people are unhappy and trying to uplift people for the sake of seeing them smile....destroy me, destroy my smirk, and add a lifeless smile to my corpse."
              I heard a horn, the riding floor mopper/buffer, it was Ryan, he commandeered the machine with precision-like drunkenness. He knocked down the consumers like twenty pin bowling. " What's up ***** cat," he possibly said, and I climbed to my feet.
         I walked to the riding mowers, and turned the key on the floor model. I sped the main aisle, with caresses of consumers that would be deep clawings at a slower speed. I dodged stupid question, and swerved from unabashed frugality. I turned up the tool aisle, grabbed a battery nail gun.
              " It says batteries are included, but are they included?" I answered with a 12 gauge nail, and resumed my course to the upper offices, that for too long looked down on me and my friends. I climbed the stairs and entered. The office was abuzz in corporate banalities. " Hello, this is Damian how may I help you.....oh helloooooo keeeeeth, one minute.......sir hold one second thaaaanx."
                I aimed the nail gun muzzle at his ugly overly polite mug." I finally found you, I will get the store back in shape Damian...."
          He cut me off, " no yoou woonn't, they are pouring in, we will meet our quota for the year...."
        " Me and my friends
Dorothy A Jun 2012
With great recollection, there were a few things in life that Ivy Jankauskas would always remember—always.

She would never forget where she was when 9/11 happened; she was in her algebra class, doodling a picture on a piece of notebook paper of her dog, Zoey—bored out of her mind by Mr. Zabbo’s lecture—when she first heard the shocking news. Certainly, she could remember when she first properly fell in love; she was fresh into college when she knew that she loved Trevor Littlefield—the day after they agreed to get back together, right after the day they decided to split up—after she finally realized that she really loved him, much more than she ever, really, consciously thought. She would forever remember when her parents first took her to Disneyland; she was seven and got her picture taken with Snow White and Mickey Mouse, and she instantly decided that she wanted to become a professional Tinkerbelle when she grew up.

And, like it or not, she could remember her very first kiss. She had just turned five, and it was at her birthday party. How could she ever forget those silly paper hats, and all her little playmates wearing them? They were a good sized group of children, mostly from the neighborhood and her kindergarten class, which watched her open present after present. Ivy remembered her cherry cake, with white frosting, and the stain she had when she dropped a piece on her pretty, new dress that her mother had bought her just for the occasion.  

It was later that day, behind her garage, that Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third, a boy her same age, planted one on her. It was a strange sensation, she recalled—icky, wet and sloppy, and Gordon nearly missed her mouth. Not expecting it, Ivy made a face, puckering up her lips—but not for another kiss—as if she had just ****** on a spoiled lemon. Ever since then, it was the beginning of the dislike she had for Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third. She didn’t exactly know why—there was just something about him that bugged her from then on.

There grew to be several reasons why Ivy knew that Gordon was a ****, something she first sensed at her birthday party behind the garage. Since about third grade, children picked on Ivy’s name, teasing her by calling her “Poison Ivy”.  And the one who seemed to be the loudest and most obnoxious of the name callers, chiming in with the other bullies, was Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third.  Ivy was proud of her name up until then, but the taunts made her self conscious. Her mother told her to be proud of her name, for it was unique and different, as she was unique and an individual. Still, Ivy felt uncomfortable with her name for quite a while. Only in adulthood, did she feel somewhat better about it.

A bit of a tomboy back then in school, she would have loved to punch Gordon right in the nose. If only she could get away with it! What a joke! Who would name their child Gordon anyway? She had thought it was far worse than hers.

So to counter his verbal assaults to her name, Ivy called Gordon, “Flash Gordon”, after the science fiction hero from TV and the comics. But Gordon was no hero to her. He was more of a villain, creepy, vile, and just plain mean!

Soon, new name of him caught on, and other kids were joining her. She had a smug sense of satisfaction that Gordon grew furious of the title, for it stuck to him like glue.

Gordon’s family lived right around the block, just minutes away from where Ivy lived. Ivy’s mom, Gail, and Gordon’s mom, Lucy, both went to the same Lithuanian club, and both encouraged their children to take up Lithuanian folk dancing. Ivy remembered she was eight-years-old when she began dancing. It was three years of Hell, she had thought, wearing those costumes, with long, flowery skirts, frilly blouses, aprons, caps and laced vests, and performing for all the parents and families in attendance. Worst of all, she often had to dance with Gordon, and he was one of only three boys that was dragged into taking up folk dancing by their mothers. Probably all of those boys went into it kicking and screaming, so Ivy had thought.

Many years have came and gone since those days. Ivy was now a lovely, young woman, tall and dark blonde, and with a Master’s degree in sociology, working as a social worker in the prison system. Ivy’s parents would never have imagined that she would work in a field, in such places, but she found it quite rewarding, helping those who often wished for or were in need of redemption.    

When Ivy came over to visit her mom one day, her mother had told her some news. “Gordon Durand’s mother passed away”, Gail announced. It was quite disturbing.

“What? When?” Ivy replied, her face full of shock.

“Well, it must have been a few days ago. I saw the obituary in the paper, and a couple of people from the Lithuanian club called me to tell me. The funeral will be Friday. Why, I didn’t even know she was sick! She must have hid from just about everyone. If only I knew, I would have gone to see her and make sure she know I cared”.

It had been a long time since Ivy saw Gordon, ever since high school. Now, they were both twenty-six-years-old. It never occurred to her to ever think of Gordon, to have him fixed in her mind like a fond memory from the past.

“Could of, would of, should of—don’t beat yourself up, Mom” Ivy told her "I guess I should go pay my respects”. But Ivy was not sure if she really should do it, or really if she wanted to do it. “Mrs. Durand was a nice lady. Sometimes, it is the nice ones that die young. What did she die of anyway?”

Ivy’s mom was pouring herself and her daughter a cup of coffee. “I believe it was leukemia. In the obituary, it asks for donations to be made to the Leukemia Society of America”.

Ivy shook her head in disbelief.  As she was sitting down with her mother at the kitchen table, drinking her coffee, her mom shocked her even more. Gail said, “Only twenty-six, same as you, and now Gordon has no mother or father! How tragic to lose your parents at such a young age! It breaks my heart to think of him without his parents, even though he is a grown up man now!”

“What?!” Ivy shouted in disbelief. “When did Gordon’s dad die?!”

Gail sipped on her coffee mug. “Oh, a few years ago, I believe. Time sure flies, so maybe it was longer than I think”. Gail had a far away look on her face like she was earnestly calculating the time in her mind.

“He died? You never told me that! How come you never told me?”

Under normal circumstances, the thought of Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third, would almost want to make Ivy cringe. But now Ivy was feeling very sad for him.  

“I did!” Gail defended herself. “You just don’t remember, or you weren’t listening. I am sure I told you!”

Gail was a round faced woman, with light, crystal blue eyes that always seemed warm in spite of their icy color. Ivy was quite close to her mother, her parents’ only child. She was grateful that her dad, Max, was still around, too, unlike the thought of Gordon’s dad dying. She felt that she could not have asked for better parents. They loved her and built her up to be who she was, and she felt that they could be proud of how she turned out, not the stereotypically spoiled, only child, not entitled to have everything, but one who was willing to do her share in life.  

“I would have remembered, Mom!” Ivy insisted. “I would remember a thing like that! What happened to him? Did you go to the funeral home?”

“I think he had a heart attack”, Gail replied, tapping her finger on her temple to indicate that she remembered. “I did go…oh, wait a minute. You were in Europe with your friends. It was the year after you graduated from high school, I believe. You couldn’t possibly have gone to the funeral home at that time”.

Since Gail did not want to go to Daytona Beach, in Florida, for her senior trip, her parents saved up the money for her to go to Germany and Italy. Ivy wasn’t into being a bikini clad sun goddess, nor was she thrilled by the rowdy behavior of crowds of *** craved teens—a choice that her parents were quite grateful that she chose, level headed as she was.

Since she was a little girl, Ivy dreamed of going to Europe. Her parents, both grandchildren of Lithuanian immigrants, would have loved for her to go to Lithuania, but Ivy and two of her friends had found a safe, escorted trip to go elsewhere,  on to where Ivy always dreamed of going—to see the Sistine Chapel and to visit her pen pal of eleven years, Ursula Friedrich, in Munich.  

Now, Ivy was available to visit the funeral home for Gordon’s mother, and she had decided to go with her mother. Not seeing Gordon in years, Ivy had her misgivings, not knowing what to expect when encountering him. Perhaps, he would be different now, but maybe he would prove to be quite the ****.

As she came, she noticed Gordon’s sister, Deirdre, and she gave her a hug. “I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. She was so nice”, Ivy told Deirdre. She felt uncomfortable talking to Deirdre, for she did not know what to say other than the usual, I am sorry for your loss. It was “sympathy card” talk, and Ivy felt like she was quoting something contrived from a Hallmark store.    

Deirdre was two years older than Gordon. She slightly smiled at Ivy and sighed. She must have said just about the same thing all day long, “It is good of you to come. Thank you for your kind support. Mom would appreciate it”.

Ivy looked around the room. There were many flowers, in vases and baskets, and people surrounding the casket. Ivy could not see Mrs. Durand in the coffin, for people were in the way, her mother included. She was glad she couldn’t see the body from her view.

Funeral homes gave her the creeps, ever since she was thirteen years old and her grandmother died, her father’s mother, and she had to stay at the funeral home all day long. Even a whiff of some, certain flowers was not pleasant to smell. They reminded her of being at a place like this, certainly not evoking thoughts of joy.          

Ivy looked around the room. “Where is Gordon?” she asked Deirdre.

Deirdre sighed again. “Gordon cannot handle death very well”, she admitted. “Go outside and look. He has been hanging around the building outside, getting some fresh air and insisting he needs a big break from all this.”

Ivy shook her head and smirked. “That sounds like Gordon, I must say”  

“Yeah”, Deirdre agreed, as she looked like Gordon’s help to her was a lost cause. “And he’s leaving me to do all the important work—talking to people who come in while he goes away and escapes from reality”.

Ivy went outside to search for Gordon. Sure enough, she found him by the side of the building, under a broad, shady tree. He was having a cigarette, standing all by himself, when he saw her approach.

Gordon looked the same—wavy brown hair and freckles, but much more grown up and sophisticated, his suit jacked off and his tie loosened up. Ivy knew that he always hated wearing ties. She knew that when both her mom and his mom convinced them to go out with each other—a huge twist of their arms—to the Fall Fest Dance in ninth grade and in junior high school. Gordon’s mom bribed him to go with her by promising to double his allowance for the month, and Ivy actually had a silly crush on Gordon’s cousin, Ben, hoping that she might get to talk to him if she went with Gordon to the dance.

Ivy glanced at Gordon’s cigarette, and he noticed. “Been trying to quit”, Gordon told her as she approached. He dropped it on the sidewalk and stepped on it to put it out. His face was somber as he added without any emotion, as if parroting his own voice, “Ivy Jankauskas—how the hell have you been?” It sounded like he had just seen her in a matter of months instead of years.

Well, at least he had no problem identifying her or remembering her name. She must not have changed that drastically—and hopefully for the better.

Ivy stood there before him, as he looked her down from head to toe. Same old Gordon! She thought he was probably giving her “the inspection”. She thought he almost looked handsome in his brown suit vest and pants—almost—with a sharp look of sophistication that Gordon probably wasn’t accustomed to. Surely, Ivy had no real respect for him.

“I’m well”, she responded. “But the question is more like…how are you doing?” Ivy studied Gordon’s blank expression. “No—really. I’d like to know how you are coping”.

Gordon stood there looking at the ground, his hands in his pants pockets, like he never heard her. “Come on. Let’s go for a walk”

“Here? Now?”

“Just a short work, around the block”, he told her. He already started walking, and Ivy contemplated what to do before she decided to follow up with him to join him.

They walked together in silence for a while. From anyone passing by, they surely would have looked like a couple, a well-paired couple that truly enjoyed each other’s company. Ivy could not believe she was actually walking with him. Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third? Of all people!

“You haven’t answered my question”, Ivy said. “How are you coping? You know I really liked your mom a lot. She always was pleasant to me”.

She wanted to add, “Unlike you”, but it certainly was not the right time or the right place. She felt a twinge of guilt for thinking such a thing. Under more pleasant circumstances, she would have jabbed him a little. That was just how they always communicated, not necessarily in a mean-spirited way, but in a brotherly and sisterly way that involved plenty of teasing.

Gordon thought a moment before he answered. “Yeah, it’s hard. But what can I do? I lost my dad. I lost my mom. Period. End of discussion. I’m too old to be an orphan…but I kind of feel like one anyhow. That’s my answer, in a nutshell”.

“And I wish I knew about your dad”, Ivy said, with a great tone of remorse. “I was in Europe at the time, and I couldn’t have possibly gone to the funeral”.

“Europe? Wow! Aren’t you the jet setter? Who else gets to do that kind of stuff but you, Ivy?”

Now that was the Gordon she always knew! It did not take long for the true Gordon to come forth and show himself.

“No! I don’t have all kinds of money!” she quickly defended herself. “I actually helped pay for some of that trip by working all summer after we graduated from high school. Plus, it was the trip of a lifetime. I may never get the chance to go again on a trip like that again”.  

Ivy was a bit perturbed that Gordon seemed to imply that she was pampered by her parents. He accused her of that before, just because she was an only child.

Autumn was approaching, but summer was still in the air. It was Ivy’s favorite time of year, with the late summer and early autumn, all at the same time.  The trees were just starting to turn colors, but the sun felt nice and warm upon her as Ivy walked along. It was surely an Indian summer day, one that wouldn’t last forever. She wore a light sweater over her sleeveless, cotton dress, and took it off to experience more of the sun.

“It has been ages since I’ve seen you”, Gordon admitted. “Since high school. So what became of you? Did you ever go to college?”

“I did and I work as a social worker…I work in various prisons”

Gordon laughed out loud, and Ivy gave him a stern look. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

“I just can’t picture you going in the slammer, even if you aren’t wearing an orange suit”, he said in between laughing. He looked at Ivy, and she had quite a frown on her face. He changed his tune. “I was only joking, Ivy. I think you’d probably do good work at your job”.  

“And where do you work?” she asked, a devilish expression on her face. “At the circus?”

Ivy caught herself becoming snarky to Gordon. It did not take long. She opened her mouth to apologize, but Gordon, sensing her need to be sorry, stopped her.

Laughing even more, he said, “Good one! You are sharp and fast on your feet! You always have been! I work for an insurance agency. I work for Triple A”.

“Oh, really? Do you like your job?” Ivy asked. Her interest was genuine.

“It pays the bills. But, hey! I am going back to college in January. I just have an Associate’s degree right now. I am not sure what I want to take up, but I want to go back and at least get a Bachelor’s”.

“That’s great!” Ivy exclaimed. “I think you should keep on learning and keep on moving forward. That is a great goa
Petal pie Aug 2014
His name purred on her lips; 
She loved the way it
Rolled around on her tongue,
Loosened her vocal chords 

Every time she said 
his name aloud,
It felt as though she were 
Becoming more and more
Well versed in him; 
His character,
His very being
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound
except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember
whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve
nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky
that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in
the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays
resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her
son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland,
though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we
waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they
would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and
moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their
eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever
since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or,
if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar
cat. But soon the voice grew louder.
"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring
out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier
in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the
house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a
newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and
smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.
"There won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas."
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his
slipper as though he were conducting.
"Do something," he said. And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke - I think we missed Mr. Prothero - and
ran out of the house to the telephone box.
"Let's call the police as well," Jim said. "And the ambulance." "And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose
into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier
Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's Aunt,
Miss. Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would
say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets,
standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, "Would you like anything to read?"

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel
petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt
like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the
English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the
daft and happy hills *******, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I
made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it
came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow
grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and
settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"
"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and
mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."
"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"
"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."
"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."
"There were church bells, too."
"Inside them?"
"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings
over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It
seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our
fence."

"Get back to the postmen"
"They were just ordinary postmen, found of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the
doors with blue knuckles ...."
"Ours has got a black knocker...."
"And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making
ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."
"And then the presents?"
"And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled
down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on
fishmonger's slabs.
"He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's ****, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was
gone."

"Get back to the Presents."
"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths;
zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-
shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking
tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you
wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now,
alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not
to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp,
except why."

"Go on the Useless Presents."
"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and
a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a
little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that
an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the
trees, the sea and the animals any colour I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the
red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches,
cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who,
if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for
Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to
wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall.
And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited
for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And
then it was breakfast under the balloons."

"Were there Uncles like in our house?"
"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle
and sugar ****, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird
by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and
women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles
their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all
the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in
their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling
pokers. Some few large men sat in the front parlors, without their collars, Uncles almost certainly, trying
their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms' length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then
holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts, not wanted in the
kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edge of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to
break, like faded cups and saucers."

Not many those mornings trod the piling streets: an old man always, fawn-bowlered, yellow-gloved and, at this
time of year, with spats of snow, would take his constitutional to the white bowling green and back, as he
would take it wet or fire on Christmas Day or Doomsday; sometimes two hale young men, with big pipes blazing,
no overcoats and wind blown scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn sea, to work up an appetite,
to blow away the fumes, who knows, to walk into the waves until nothing of them was left but the two furling
smoke clouds of their inextinguishable briars. Then I would be slap-dashing home, the gravy smell of the
dinners of others, the bird smell, the brandy, the pudding and mince, coiling up to my nostrils, when out of a
snow-clogged side lane would come a boy the spit of myself, with a pink-tipped cigarette and the violet past of
a black eye, cocky as a bullfinch, leering all to himself.

I hated him on sight and sound, and would be about to put my dog whistle to my lips and blow him off the face
of Christmas when suddenly he, with a violet wink, put his whistle to his lips and blew so stridently, so high,
so exquisitely loud, that gobbling faces, their cheeks bulged with goose, would press against their tinsled
windows, the whole length of the white echoing street. For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after
dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch
chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie
Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some
elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port,
stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to
see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In
the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among
festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions
for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim
and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.
"I bet people will think there's been hippos."
"What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?"
"I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I'd tickle him
under the ear and he'd wag his tail."
"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr.
Daniel's house.
"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box."
"Let's write things in the snow."
"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn."
Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"

The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills,
and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks round their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying "Excelsior." We
returned home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with bare red fingers in the wheel-
rutted snow and cat-called after us, their voices fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock
birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay. And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly;
and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave. Auntie Hannah laced her tea with ***,
because it was only once a year.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like
owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the
stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving
of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we
stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand
in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant
and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. "What shall we give them?
Hark the Herald?"
"No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three." One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high
and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood
close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen ... And then a small,
dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry,
eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped
running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-
gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said.
"Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.
"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another
uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip
wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a
Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out
into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other
houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas
down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.
emptiness May 2014
Do you see her
oh skies,

..where ever she may be,
these blessed fingers; hold fast,
swiftly they bring my curse;

once cherishing they're touch,
here they rip your heart from afar..

they run through your hair,
you've no need for a brush,
they divert your attention,

the moonlight used to
bring me news of
your brilliant reflections,

distance has loosened my grip

now im left to look above,
clouds....
darkness their covering;

i am all but left to play charades...

(...I wait for those darks clouds to one day turn white again...)



....
1235

Like Rain it sounded till it curved
And then I new ’twas Wind—
It walked as wet as any Wave
But swept as dry as sand—
When it had pushed itself away
To some remotest Plain
A coming as of Hosts was heard
It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools
It warbled in the Road—
It pulled the spigot from the Hills
And let the Floods abroad—
It loosened acres, lifted seas
The sites of Centres stirred
Then like Elijah rode away
Upon a Wheel of Cloud.
Path Humble Jul 2018
Poems on a Mirror

~for Glenn Currier~

you don’t know me
I don’t know you;
poems on a mirror I ken
truly well

poems on the mirror saved, and then,
comme the seasoning of leave-falling,
poems dropping and drained...the post-it glue loosened by
the daily heat of watery tears,
making a space for
this one, for you...

there are poems and they arrive with fresh arrogance,
each an arrow demanding your all as a target regardless  
of what the shooter really thinks or wants, other than
obedient acknowledgment and their self-loving flattery

but some render where no rendering should be allowed

those are the ones affixed - ones you chose to join the chosen,
slapped onto mirrors - so many that they almost
cover complete your image from presentation

almost only because these poems are yours, you,
they’re the truly accurate reflection even if not your words,
indeed especially because they’re not yours

but they start your day as a poem should
and in doing so,
become you

What a Hall of Fame, to be a poem on Glenn’s Hall of Mirrors

go pick the plums...
“Glenn Currier  to Valerie Burroughs

“So true. So beautifully put. This is one I will add to Poems on my Mirror. Literally. I am going to copy and paste it or just write it on a post-it note and put on my mirror as a reminder of what poetry should be. Thank you.”
Timothy Sep 2012
By Alfred Noyes 1880—1958**

PART ONE

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.  
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.  
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,  
And the highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,  
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.  
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.  
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there  
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.  
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,  
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,  
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;  
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

PART TWO

He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;  
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,  
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,  
A red-coat troop came marching—
         Marching—marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.  
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!  
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!  
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.  
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.  
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;  
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;  
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!  
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,  
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood  
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!  
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear  
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

.       .       .

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,  
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,  
A highwayman comes riding—
         Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.  
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there  
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
Taru M Jan 2014
Insanity

I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y

Insanity- doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results


The First Time...ended in downpour
a shower of sorts
self-inflicted and long
she rolled off my body like water
her name rolled from my mouth
actually, her name was never in my mouth
I did not swallow it
   or rinse with it
it was not exchanged
it just dropped
   ...like the water


The First Time...started with a call
with nerves
she was all conservative sweater
her clothing did not betray her
sunken in couch
I was all of 16
my words betrayed me
No, maybe I betrayed my words
or maybe my mind betrayed us both
or maybe all betrayed all
   each of my personalities lost within another
I was all of 16, pre-downpour

The First Time...was the worst time
sunken in couch to sunken in bed
I was all of 16, I was all of betrayal
She...was all LIBERAL
They say,
in the weakest of moments, the spirit is loosened from the body - a detachment of sorts
in my most sensual of moments, my body was loosened from my spirit
     a weakness I guess

the first time ended with me
   in a ******
       in a trashcan
            in a bathroom that was not mine
the first time ended in downpour

~6 years~

The Second Time
#post downpour/ pre-tempest

The Second Time...started with nerves
   with a call
       with an itch that needed scratching
I already knew the ending
-happy
...then downpour
I was all of grown boy
sunken in couch was a different chapter
sunken in bed was a different chapter
this time, I was the author

...the rest is still unwritten...
send me a message if you're interested in the story behind the poem...there is a story...
vircapio gale Jul 2012
she is my nihilistic god;

i am a stag leap.
the fainter wind-caress
felt deep in trunks and boulder bed.
i am delight for loosened thorns
that piercing underfoot will spur to run
my naked body's open-air embrace
atop the callus of my seasoned fun,
skirring flora shadow-dancing bright
descending mountainside of noon
in blurrs refracting sightful bones.
i am the sense of
transtemporal glacial moans,

the heartbeat of the soil breath
to puff from feasted log a mycophile's awe
or want for all placental webs in view
for naming earth a seeping sorrows tithe:
my consciousness of things alive.

the stinging lungs atop the path
are emblems of a winging truth
to overcome her nearing death.
i am the lingham of creations' race.
i am the sensate reeling blow by empty blow.
the gravity of light and dark;
gray theopolis of fists and falls.
envelopment of massive meanings filled
in nether-branchings' net
and mediatrix scorn: the wider world absorbs my self as ~ all~
~. .all. . ~
prating some nepenthean law
to sour our poetic hate
and deeply bury seismic seeds she wants to sow, like
ancient clues of metagender fact:
hermaphroditic **** to 'normal' eyes.
icecaps to resize and singing moralize;
a dolphin midwife toning yoni love
for labor certain nuns call "gift"
as crown of pleasure heights
on par with mysteries;
regrowing infant fingertips,
to pi recited over days,
to vaster mindscapes drawn in ways
'beyond the genius of the sea'

why wait for ease of shame?
thin veils of culture lift
and family bonds anew to tow
the peace from out irratic weight of nation rifts;
instantiations burst beyond the tunnel course~
rhythmic doomsday yearnings line the halls of humantime:
prophetic visions of a sea to come,
Utnapishtim keeps himself alive
to garden with his wife a thriving mortal line.
Quetzalcohuatl finds himself *****
to bloodlet savior sexuality,
his heart a morning star, a Mayan Venus shine.

i see the standing trees
entwine slow-love to sky
so i can swing and heave
my universe above the words,
to carry thorns as well as petals, doves.
the vision ends. the new begins
to filter dyad lies through
inter-
corporeal lens.
embodied ivy climbs the tree of death
to rewind love and deepen love,
to bound the loss with goddess wisdom ends and other ends
of ouroboros shedding clear
of limits insight thrives to near.
sunglance peeking is the hovering of me,
steady comfort crosses floating lotus feet.
the softest rock has melded under thee
to join a forest pausing here.
a berry soaks itself of all i am
while nutty chipmunks chirp in whirls;
the clouds are girls you've been,
Nephelae to tease in quenching gowns
the verdant book of men we've known, who leaf
the air to taste another form of fairness lent.
silver is the sun in times of stillness overached.
sifted tensions drift to lie awake, but
drowning in a stream of glowing calm,
i am the woody balm.
the scent of bark unnestled dry
and leaves remembrance when
the breathing stops, the final
fleshing in of nowhere, never then.
you are transcendent of transcending
pure. end, endure and lucid ending live again
in empty worship ringing plenum om.
Harriet Cleve Jan 2019

A Skeleton gunslinger, takes on the Unholy of Hell and wages war against his nemesis Hatchet, as a portal to Hell threatens to unleash the putrid, rancid, Unholy hordes onto a desolate planet. "


The bringer of Death arrived in Dakota. Custer's Seventh lay dying on the Powder river and the Ancients had sent him to walk the Earth and help the Ghost-walkers to hold their land. In his mortal days, he carried a torch for Serela, an outcast from the Mind seekers.That's what got him killed in the first place. The saloon was full that night, and he was called out.
He pulled his gun first and knew he would die. His death was foretold in the ancient scriptures of truth. 'The bone that liveth shall slay the flesh and the flesh will become liveth bone'.
Justice will walk the plains and avenge the truth'.
Serela had looked on as a bullet pierced the gunslinger's skull.The spirit of the ancients swept through her soul then, as she watch his head explode, filtering its entrance into the new receptacle of justice.

No one saw the killer shadow draw or witnessed it's departure but John Bitumen's body lay dead, the blood flowing from a hole in his forehead. Even as he died, he was reborn.
The Skull of Death in search of a gunfight, Deathbringer, Cleanser of Evil.


Hatchet looked at his mangy horse, a wasted beast worn out and at the end of it's road.Two years it carried his weight and the saddle dug deep.Whippings were constant and the calloused cruel fists of Hatchet rained down on it's neck if it slowed any.The nearest town was a mile down the road and it was late in the day.
That was all it took to set the anger in motion.Hatchet took five paces away from his horse and hurled his razor sharp hatchet with violence. The horse's head was split in two.
He hauled his saddle, and wrestled his ****** weapon from the dead horse, then walked into the dusk. All the time, Serela had observed from the Spirit's eye, an artefact of the Ancients, entrusted to the Mind Seekers. Hatchet would pay for his offence against Nature's pure beast, for it was written' All Creatures will walk the Earth and all will be held Holy.Swift will be Divine retribution against those who slay the pure beast'.
Hatchet wasn't one to read the ancient scriptures and could not know that the Skull of Death would search him out in the next town.The Ancients had called forth their Gunslinger and a skeletal hand rested on the sacred Gun of Abe. Hatchet would be called out and a Gunfight would settle scores. A chill in the air unnerved him and he took comfort in carresing his ivory handled pistols.


Darkness fell on the land and the half moon shone on the dead horse.The night crawlers made to cut it's remains and scavenge it's carcass. Two hands were raised to the sky, pleading for forgiveness. Horsemeat was forbidden and a desecration of sacred laws.
A knife was produced and held to the beast's throat. In that moment, all became aware of the onlooker.A tall figure in a drab grey longcoat, black spurred boots, an old black stetson. The Sacred Gun of Abe was in his hands. The Skull of Death, the Ancients Gunslinger, walked the Plains once more.
All seven night crawlers stared in disbelief. Their last minutes of life ebbing from them as the eyes of the Ancients warrior scanned their souls and cremated their bodies.Seven figures suddenly engulfed in flames under the incessant stare of the Skull's empty sockets. Amongst the embers, the Gunslinger knelt beside the horse. In his mortal days, this beast was his closest companion.Hatchet had stolen his possession and the sight of it's remains stirred an anguished scream for the horrific end which befell his steed.

Gently the Gun of Abe was placed on the horse's neck. A small bottle of holy oil was rubbed in it's wounds.' Though death may stalk the pure, truly I say to you that righteousness will prevail and the dead will rise'. Even as the words were uttered, a ball of blue flame enveloped the horse. The light illuminated the darkness and from the light the skeleton of a horse emerged, raising itself up on its hind legs, in defiance of death. Approaching the Gunslinger, it nuzzled it's head to his skull, the brilliance of it's chalk white bones radiating a supernatural hue. Mounting his steed, he galloped into the night.Vengeance was coming.Death on a horse was looking for Hatchet!


Raihna woke suddenly and locked eyes withHatchet. She had been ordered to sleep with him, against her wishes. 'Something wrong with me, *****? Hatchet snarled when he'd paid his ten dollars to the House Madam.
'You better be worth it *****! He had roughed her up before falling into a drunken slumber. Now he was standing in his ragged long johns, at the end of the four poster bed.
A manic look was in his beady eyes, as he swigged his liquor jar. Unkempt rank hair covered his weasel like features. Reeking of horse and trail sweat, an ugly belly adorning his uglier frame, he leered for the longest time.Raihna took it all in, especially the hatchet in his right hand. 'Think you're mighty purdy, don't ya! he sneered. ' Let's see what you look like with a hair cut'!
Raihna noticed then that he had pinned her pigtails to the wooden headboard. Realising a scream would be the end of her, she stared back and waited. Hatchet hurled his weapon and it sliced into the headboard, shorning her hair.From the table, he grabbed his bowie knife and aimed for the other pigtail, slicing it off and nicking her neck. 'Well lookee now' he laughed as a trace of blood ran down her neck. 'Ain't you gonna scream, *****?


An eerie blue glow filtered into the room just then and the whinny and snortin' of a horse filled the air. 'What in Hell's name? muttered Hatchet. Looking out of the curtains, he saw the chalk white Skeleton of a horse and a skeleton rider brandishing a pistol. A fiery blue-red low glow radiated from their eyes and it seemed both rider and steed were on fire. Hatchet shouted out ' You one of them Resurrectionists?!' suddenly remembering the old shaman he had killed back in Piebald.
Hatchet had stolen his runes and kept them for trading with the Mindseekers. He thought now that maybe this was him come looking for him from the afterworld. Hot ***** trickled down his leg and he felt scared and sick to his stomach.

The gallows await !' It was almost a whisper as the ancients gunslinger raised his head towards the window. Hatchet grabbed Raihna and tried to shield himself from the spectre below. His mind raced as he hesitated, panic flooding his brain. 'Take them! We be even! he gambled as he threw the runes at the gunslinger. Even as he did so, they were grabbed instantaneously by a skeletal hand and placed around the gunslinger's neck. For these were the runes of time and in the coming trials would decide the balance of power between the Unholy and the Just.


Hatchet had thrown away his trump card and even as he loaded his gun, he was destined to die. 'Pearls before swine' whispered into the room and Hatchet descended the stairs, with Raihna in front. His pistol was cocked and he would shoot it out. If Hell was waiting, he wasn't going on his own. His hatchet lay in his side belt and he made his way onto the street.
The hallway was pitch black and Hatchet cautiously approached the parlour door hoping to get out the back street. He held a vice-like grip on Raihna's arm as he pushed her along. 'You keep your mouth shut ***** and open that door easy' he whispered, his voice betraying his inner terror. Suddenly and unexpectedly, he felt the cold muzzle of a revolver pressed hard to the back of his head. 'You take your claws offa my girl, Hatchet 'less you wants your **** brains spilled where you stand!
Hatchet knew Charlotte, the House madam, wasn't bluffing. He'd seen her do it too, back in Abilene, when China Jack beat up one of her girls. She'd shot him straight through his throat and followed up with a clean shot to his manhood. It hurt Hatchet even now just thinking about it'. Jesus! he thought as he cursed his situation. Things were moving too fast and nothing was going his way.
Hatchet loosened his grip, carefully holstering his gun.As she moved away, Raihna spat on his face and kneed him in the groin. ****! he bellowed and went to strike Raihna. His hearing saved her, as Charlotte cocked the gun and stopped him where he stood. 'Think I'd sleep easy with you on the premises, Hatchet? Take me for a fool? I don't know what the Hell is out on that street but it wants you!' By Christ, you're going out the front door to face it too!. 'Always were a cowardly *******, now move you lousy **** head!
Raihna had gotten hold of a shotgun and had it trained on Hatchet. 'Drop that hatchet right now, she said. ' You're facing that creature with your gun and nothing else! God knows you don't deserve even that much. Hatchet dropped his hatchet. 'Now kick it over here!' He did so and as Raihna picked it up, she hurled it back immediately into his right thigh, gashing him like a pig for the slaughter. Hatchet screamed in agony and Charlotte pulled it out of his thigh as the room sprayed with the red bloom of imminent death. Now move you *******!


Charlotte and Raihna ushered him towards the front door and kicked him into the dark dusty side street. 'You got it coming, Hatchet!, they shouted and there waiting for him was the Ancients Gunslinger. He had dismounted from his steed and now faced Hatchet.The look of death was in the Skull's eerie sockets and it was all Hatchet could do to stop his hands shaking. He threw up and finally faced the spectre before him.

'For those who have suffered, shall be avenged. The Righteous Light will shine on the Unholy and all dark souls shall be driven from the Plains. Fear will walk amongst them and even the shadows shall despise their ways.'
Thus it had been written and now was coming to pass.


Hatchet went for his gun, and time slowed down as his eyes scanned the scene. A chalk, pure white, skeletal hand reached for a gun and the fluid movement captured his attention. Hatchet knew he had been outdrawn and could see the gunslinger's bullet leave the smoking barrell, pristine, crafted by a master gunsmith. He noticed the leather holster, worn and faded, almost an antiquity, strapped to a dark trousered leg.
The long coat, ghastly grey, adorning the bones of the undead. Empty eyes stared him down, as he heard his own gun's sharp report and watched his bullet sail towards the spectre. Just before the gunslingers bullet blew his brains out, he finally noticed the spectre of the horse and instinctively knew this was the brutalised beast he had so callously slain. Blood and bone exploded violently and the mortal remains of Hatchet dropped to the ground.
Hatchet didn't know it then but he too was about to be reborn; for the Unholy were about to unleash the Scourge of Hossana and the Ancients Gunslinger stood in their way. Hatchet would be forged in the cauldron of Hell and in the coming trials would once again face the Sacred Gun of Abe.


Hatchet became conscious, and felt as ill as a cow in a slaughter house. The smell of death was rancid and his vision seemed out of focus. A nauseating, sickly stench permeated his nostrils and he winced as the pungent odour inflated his lungs. He was aware his whole body was bitter cold and he shivered uncontrollably. If this was a hangover, then it was the worst he'd ever been. Terrifyingly, he noticed that he was manacled, face down, to a massive ice block.
Encased within the block was a dead horse, it's head split in two, exposing brain matter, decayed pulped flesh, and grizzled bone. It's mouth was fixed in a ghastly grimace with it's eyes looking back into Hatchet's, it's gory mane matted in dirt.
His screams were hideous to hear and were lost in the din of the thousands of screams echoing within the air.The sound was deafening and burst his ears as the terror built up within him. Hatchet knew then he was in Hell, amongst the thousands of fallen souls now in the possesion of the Unholy.
His whole being was perished with unbearable, intense cold yet he could see flames, blazing blue and orange, feet away from him taunting him with intense glow.
Still the shrieks and squeals of thousands around him assailed his ears! The amplified volume resonated in his brain as his own screams built to a crescendo!
Yet, no light radiated from the flames and the pitch black illuminated only the horse within the ice block and the grimace which would be eternal. Still Hatchet screamed till he felt his throat would explode and his mind begged for deliverance! It was then that his shoulders and back ignited with agonising pain as he felt the sting of a whip.
Again and again the whip found it's mark and his flesh was pulverised. He cried out for forgiveness and begged to be spared and still he was lashed.He prayed to pass out and knew he never would ! For he was in Hell and the blackest deeds were now held to account.
A voice bellowed at him'Welcome Brother Hatchet! We will have a purpose for you soon! Enjoy the interim! Many more punishments await you yet until you are ready'. The eerie voice trailed off as Hatchet continued to be whipped. His agonising screams drowned the air and was unheard amongst the thousand others. Still the horse fixed it's empty eyes and stared at Hatchet and its grimace took pleasure in his suffering.

Seven days passed since Hatchet was despatched to Hell, and darkness fell on the Plains like a widows veil. No light illuminated the Earth and the Lakota knew this was the sign of the coming trials. The Ghost-walkers had appealed to the Great Spirit and no one who witnessed their victory at the Powder River could deny their courage.Truly this was evidence of the Spirit's intervention in their way of life. Reports had come in to Chief Red Cloud of a figure of flame riding amongst the Buffalo. A Skeleton on fire, riding the Skeleton of a horse at full charge. It seemed the very ground they rode upon was a torch of lightning, and the figure was at one with the Buffalo. Red Cloud rode out to witness it himself and noticed the blue-orange glow, like an aura of defiance, surrounding the figure. In it's hand was a gun, and Red Cloud recognised it as the Sacred Gun of Abe.
Many tales had been passed down from his ancestors, and Red Cloud knew this figure was sacred to his tribe.The Ancients Gunslinger would play a role in the destiny of his People.The Whiteman would pay a heavy price for the desecration of the traditions and way of life of those under the protection of the Great Spirit. He knew too that an enemy would arise which would destroy the Whiteman, and all the Earth's inhabitants. Only the Native American would take the battle to the Enemy, aided by the Ancients and the Mind Seekers.
Red Cloud knew his people looked to him for leadership, and he would provide it.They would hear how Red Cloud rode with the Ghost Rider and take pride in his courage. His fate was tied to the Ancients Gunslinger, and this had been preordained in the ancient Scriptures. Red Cloud looked down at the flaming figure and dug his knees into his horse. Charging down the hill, he shouted out a proud battle cry, and rode like the wind to the side of the Ghost Rider.In their trail the Buffalo followed.The trials ahead would be met and the Unholy would do battle with their most dangerous enemy.



**** it Charlotte! 'It don't make sense!
Hatchet weren't killed by no ghost, for Christ sake! Marshall John Lancaster was tired and couldn't believe the events which occurred in his absence. He had just brought in Ned Marlow.Got two of his men killed doing it, and suffered a leg wound himself in the shoot out. Marlow had been holed up in Tinkers Creek and came out unexpectedly with his guns blazing as the posse approached the log cabin. It had suddenly turned pitch dark, and all the horses got spooked, causing confusion amongst the lawman's officers.
Ned Marlow knew Hatchet; had lost an eye in a bar brawl to him once.It was said Hatchet carried the eye around with him ever since.
Ned was closing in on Hatchet, bent on revenge, and swore he'd see him dead. Suddenly a shot rang out, and startled Lancaster.
Ned had headbutted the Marshall's deputy as he was being placed in the holding cell.He had grabbed the deputy's gun then and blown a hole clean through him. Carelessness, or tiredness, maybe both, had cost him his life. Ned didn't give no quarter when his own life was on the line. He weren't going to no hangman's noose neither. He burst into the Marshall's office then and fired off two shots catching Lancaster in the left arm wounding him badly. The Marshall got off one reactive shot catching Ned's left ear.The sound deafened him and he put a slug through the Marshall's head.The fragrance of gunpowder filled the room and Charlotte could only look on.'You're coming with me, Honey!'bellowed Marlow as he grabbed her hair, pulling her close, and made his way onto the streets. A gun was held to Charlotte's head and Ned was figuring his next move.


He was too busy watching the streets but if he'd looked up, he would have seen a hatchet hurtling towards him with violent intent. The hatchet caught his gun hand and severed it clean off his wrist. Ned now had the indignity of losing his right hand.He screamed in agony as blood squirted from his severed wrist, spraying Charlotte in a plume of lifes red wine. Ned looked to the ground and his own hand lay there, holding his pistol, it's finger still on the trigger. Legend would record the severed hand fired off a shot moments after it's horrific amputation. Ned Marlow didn't know it then, but he too would play a role in the coming trials. The Unholy knew it only too well for it had been written 'The Deaf shall hear, the Blind shall see, and the hand of the sinner will turn on the Unholy'.


There the severed hand lay. A ghastly, grotesque, weather worn obscenity.
The gun had been removed from it's grasp since it's horrific amputatation from Ned Marlow. Three days had passed since the incident and no one dared to remove it from the street.cOminously, no decay had festered to spoil that monstrosity;for life still lingered within it's ghoulish flesh. Mangy street dogs looked at it with curiosity, yet kept a tentative distance. The little finger still wore a silver ring, set with a black stone. Once it had belonged to an ancient Pagan High King, who had been slaughtered in battle. An artefact from a distant time, carried across Europe into the America's. Evil had tainted it's properties and the Sons of the Unholy had sought it since. The ring now sought a new owner as the severed hand, an abomination of creation, crawled, like a filthy worm in the dirt. Slowly, laboriously, with uncanny certainty, the wretched hand made it's way towards the room of the one who had hurled the hatchet.


Raihna sat alone in her bedroom.The hatchet lay across her lap and it was emitting a low hum, almost inaudible, but she had heard it. At first she thought madness was setting in, but she realised that the voices communicating with her were real; the Mind Seekers had chosen her.
Her mind and body became a telepathic conduit and she was absorbed in receiving the messages. The Ancients were channelling through her and a deep trance held her almost comatose.
Slowly, sickening slow, the hand crawled it's way towards her., Grubby, thick, fingers inching themselves stealthily, dangerously close, while Raihna was immersed in the communication.
Her eyes were closed in the deep state between the conscious and the unconscious, so she could not witness the fingers wrap themselves around the handle of the Hatchet. Both hand and clasped hatchet lifted silently from her lap. As the hand moved to distance the weapon from her, the ring glowed a greenish hue, emanating the presence of the Unholy. Suddenly the hand lunged at Raihna's throat!
Raihna's life was ebbing into eternity.The possessed, filthy, unholy amputation squeezed her windpipe with the vengence of perpetual hostility. The ring on the severed hand's finger glowed brighter, as her life force lay on the threshold of destruction. It seemed as though the light of a thousand burning suns illuminated that room. A portal to Hell had been created and Raihna was pulled into that abyss. She was neither dead nor alive, for the Unholy had need of a pawn.The hatchet too was ****** into that void as it was destined to be reunited with Hatchet.The light was blinding and it seemed the very Earth could have been swallowed; as though the Gods had abandoned all of Creation!
Yet there he stood! A blazing figure astride a blazing horse.The chalk white bones of a skeleton horse carrying the Ancients Gunslinger towards the entrance to Hell! The ancient scriptures had written ' The Liveth Bone shall ride into Hell, and the Unholy shall cower'.
The Sacred Gun of Abe shall wield the vengeance of the Ages and the Earth and Heavens shall shake'. Thus it had been written and was now coming to pass.
A portal to Hell had opened and the Gunslinger charged into that cesspool of abomination. No Horse ever galloped with such energy and the Unholy prepared for the skirmish.The Gunslinger was possessed with a relentless rage for Justice. Hell quaked as both rider and horse fearlessly charged into the bowels of Evil's pestilent abode.
Furious at this brazen affront, the Unholy now made to close that portal. Even as they did so, Hatchet was resurrected from his tormented existence. His hatchet was reunited with him as he prepared to once again face the Gunslinger.Raihna must be rescued; for her destiny was tied to the Earth's salvation. For now, she lay in a corner of Hell watched over by a severed hand. The screams and anguished cries of all the lost souls in Hell echoed in the stagnant air. Still the Rider charged furiously as he sought to gather Raihna to his arms. A ****** hatchet sailed towards him and Hell looked on.


Hatchet charged from the cage of demons, his face etched with the pain of perpetual torment. His emaciated form like a malignant Phoenix rising from the ashes of Hell. The pitiful creature carrying his burden reared from his weight. A wretched carcass of a decayed horse which had been ressurected for battle. That same horse which had been encased within the ice block;whose ****** head Hatchet had split open when both were mortals on the Earth. Man and beast now tools for the Unholy; possessed by the collective evil of all who now suffered in Hell.cTheir dark energy would now be harnessed for the coming trials. A gruesome grimace was fixed on the horse's face and it's empty eyes stared ahead as Hatchet charged towards the Gunslinger. His violent countenace expressed the deadly intentions which would be borne down upon his enemy.
He had hurled his weapon and watched as it made it's deadly trajectory towards the Gunslinger. As the hatchet spun and revolved through the air, Hatchet emmitted the scream of the demented. The Gunslinger had lowered in his saddle and the hatchet narrowly missed it's target. Continuing on it's course, it landed in the back of one of the screaming forgotten whose souls were doomed to eternal agony.
Both riders now crashed headlong into one another and Hatchet fell from his horse. The Sacred Gun of Abe was now in the Gunslinger's hand and a skeletal finger pulled the trigger.
Once again, Hatchet would witness a bullet discharge from it's revolving chamber. His head exploded as the bullet entered his brain, exiting in one piece and landing in the dank soil of Hell.The blessed relic purified the soil and the Unholy recoiled with revulsion.
The dead cannot die and Hatchet struggled back to his feet. Grabbing the Gunslinger's reins, he attempted to pull him down. It was then that the runes around the Gunslinger's neck pierced the air with a deafening incantation.
The Unholy screamed as the Holy words of the Ancient Scriptures filtered into the bowels of iniquity and shook the foundations of Hell.
Hatchet reeled back and grabbed his hatchet from the spine of the forgotten sinner. He looked up then and witnessed a warrior's lance sail through the air.It violently struck and impaled the severed hand guarding Raihna.
Red Cloud had accompanied the Gunslinger in his charge into Hell!
Tammy M Darby Feb 2014
I am a sculpture
Of life' beautiful scars
Frightening when viewed too close
Perhaps better glimpsed at from afar

Twisting wounds
Healed over scratches
The heart entombed by loves hand
Blood covered latches

Oh masterpiece
Of  intentional cuts and scrapes
Purple raised blue bruises
Hidden carefully from the world
  I employ delicate spiderweb curtains
And my sleight of hand illusion's

It is only the bearer who understands
Where the deepest wounds are hidden
Bitter tears in a deep bottomless chasm
The unforgettable kiss of affections contusions 
 
These shadows must never be loosened
Forever restrained even by deception
Guarded by spiderweb curtains
And sleight of hand illusion's



All Rights Reserved@ Tammy M. Darby  Jan.13, 2013
Lillian Harris Mar 2015
I used to make fun of
Those naïve, lovesick girls
That stared out windows
Daydreaming of the boys
Who they'd been silly enough
To give their hearts to

I swore that I would never be
So foolish as to fall,
For with falling comes feeling
The crushing pain of loss
When it all undoubtedly
Hits the ground

But how could I predict
The sensation that would come
When you so suddenly
Found your way behind these
Walls I'd built so high?
You with those eyes and that smile.

How easily you persuaded me
Out of my cynicism.
My firm grip loosened
When I heard you sing that night
And I felt myself begin to fall,
Not knowing if you'd catch me.

Now I am that lovesick girl
Who stares out windows
Daydreaming of the beautiful boy
Who holds her heart
So carefully in his hands,
Silently hoping
That he'll decide to keep it.
D Conors Sep 2010
today you took me by surprise,
bright smile, dancing eyes,
loosened the noose on yet another lonely day,
wherein the depths of these shadows I do lay,
again, you came a-light,
golden skin, heart a-flight,
taking the time to share some of your life with me,
the very essence of your softly sweet vitality,
beauty, you breathe the skies,
today you took me by surprise
D. Conors
September 2010
I weep for Adonais—he is dead!
O, weep for Adonais! though our tears
Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!
And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years
To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,
And teach them thine own sorrow, say: “With me
Died Adonais; till the Future dares
Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
An echo and a light unto eternity!”

Where wert thou, mighty Mother, when he lay,
When thy Son lay, pierced by the shaft which flies
In darkness? where was lorn Urania
When Adonais died? With veiled eyes,
Mid listening Echoes, in her Paradise
She sate, while one, with soft enamoured breath,
Rekindled all the fading melodies
With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath,
He had adorned and hid the coming bulk of death.

O, weep for Adonais—he is dead!
Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep!
Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed
Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep
Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep;
For he is gone, where all things wise and fair
Descend;—oh, dream not that the amorous Deep
Will yet restore him to the vital air;
Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair.

Most musical of mourners, weep again!
Lament anew, Urania!—He died,
Who was the Sire of an immortal strain,
Blind, old, and lonely, when his country’s pride,
The priest, the slave, and the liberticide
Trampled and mocked with many a loathed rite
Of lust and blood; he went, unterrified,
Into the gulf of death; but his clear Sprite
Yet reigns o’er earth; the third among the sons of light.

Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
Not all to that bright station dared to climb;
And happier they their happiness who knew,
Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time
In which suns perished; others more sublime,
Struck by the envious wrath of man or god,
Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime;
And some yet live, treading the thorny road
Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame’s serene abode.

But now, thy youngest, dearest one, has perished—
The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew,
Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished,
And fed with true-love tears, instead of dew;
Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,
The bloom, whose petals nipped before they blew
Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste;
The broken lily lies—the storm is overpast.

To that high Capital, where kingly Death
Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,
He came; and bought, with price of purest breath,
A grave among the eternal.—Come away!
Haste, while the vault of blue Italian day
Is yet his fitting charnel-roof! while still
He lies, as if in dewy sleep he lay;
Awake him not! surely he takes his fill
Of deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill.

He will awake no more, oh, never more!—
Within the twilight chamber spreads apace
The shadow of white Death, and at the door
Invisible Corruption waits to trace
His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place;
The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe
Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface
So fair a prey, till darkness, and the law
Of change, shall o’er his sleep the mortal curtain draw.

O, weep for Adonais!—The quick Dreams,
The passion-winged Ministers of thought,
Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams
Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught
The love which was its music, wander not,—
Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,
But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot
Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,
They ne’er will gather strength, or find a home again.

And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head,
And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries,
“Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead;
See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes,
Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies
A tear some Dream has loosened from his brain.”
Lost Angel of a ruined Paradise!
She knew not ’twas her own; as with no stain
She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain.

One from a lucid urn of starry dew
Washed his light limbs as if embalming them;
Another clipped her profuse locks, and threw
The wreath upon him, like an anadem,
Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;
Another in her wilful grief would break
Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem
A greater loss with one which was more weak;
And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek.

Another Splendour on his mouth alit,
That mouth, whence it was wont to draw the breath
Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit,
And pass into the panting heart beneath
With lightning and with music: the damp death
Quenched its caress upon his icy lips;
And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath
Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips,
It flushed through his pale limbs, and passed to its eclipse.

And others came… Desires and Adorations,
Winged Persuasions and veiled Destinies,
Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations
Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies;
And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,
And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam
Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,
Came in slow pomp;—the moving pomp might seem
Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream.

All he had loved, and moulded into thought,
From shape, and hue, and odour, and sweet sound,
Lamented Adonais. Morning sought
Her eastern watch-tower, and her hair unbound,
Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground,
Dimmed the aereal eyes that kindle day;
Afar the melancholy thunder moaned,
Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay,
And the wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay.

Lost Echo sits amid the voiceless mountains,
And feeds her grief with his remembered lay,
And will no more reply to winds or fountains,
Or amorous birds perched on the young green spray,
Or herdsman’s horn, or bell at closing day;
Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear
Than those for whose disdain she pined away
Into a shadow of all sounds:—a drear
Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen hear.

Grief made the young Spring wild, and she threw down
Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were,
Or they dead leaves; since her delight is flown,
For whom should she have waked the sullen year?
To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear
Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both
Thou, Adonais: wan they stand and sere
Amid the faint companions of their youth,
With dew all turned to tears; odour, to sighing ruth.

Thy spirit’s sister, the lorn nightingale
Mourns not her mate with such melodious pain;
Not so the eagle, who like thee could scale
Heaven, and could nourish in the sun’s domain
Her mighty youth with morning, doth complain,
Soaring and screaming round her empty nest,
As Albion wails for thee: the curse of Cain
Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,
And scared the angel soul that was its earthly guest!

Ah, woe is me! Winter is come and gone,
But grief returns with the revolving year;
The airs and streams renew their joyous tone;
The ants, the bees, the swallows reappear;
Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Season’s bier;
The amorous birds now pair in every brake,
And build their mossy homes in field and brere;
And the green lizard, and the golden snake,
Like unimprisoned flames, out of their trance awake.

Through wood and stream and field and hill and Ocean
A quickening life from the Earth’s heart has burst
As it has ever done, with change and motion,
From the great morning of the world when first
God dawned on Chaos; in its stream immersed,
The lamps of Heaven flash with a softer light;
All baser things pant with life’s sacred thirst;
Diffuse themselves; and spend in love’s delight
The beauty and the joy of their renewed might.

The leprous corpse, touched by this spirit tender,
Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath;
Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour
Is changed to fragrance, they illumine death
And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath;
Nought we know, dies. Shall that alone which knows
Be as a sword consumed before the sheath
By sightless lightning?—the intense atom glows
A moment, then is quenched in a most cold repose.

Alas! that all we loved of him should be,
But for our grief, as if it had not been,
And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me!
Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene
The actors or spectators? Great and mean
Meet massed in death, who lends what life must borrow.
As long as skies are blue, and fields are green,
Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow,
Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.

He will awake no more, oh, never more!
“Wake thou,” cried Misery, “childless Mother, rise
Out of thy sleep, and slake, in thy heart’s core,
A wound more fierce than his with tears and sighs.”
And all the Dreams that watched Urania’s eyes,
And all the Echoes whom their sister’s song
Had held in holy silence, cried: “Arise!”
Swift as a Thought by the snake Memory stung,
From her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung.

She rose like an autumnal Night, that springs
Our of the East, and follows wild and drear
The golden Day, which, on eternal wings,
Even as a ghost abandoning a bier,
Had left the Earth a corpse. Sorrow and fear
So struck, so roused, so rapt Urania;
So saddened round her like an atmosphere
Of stormy mist; so swept her on her way
Even to the mournful place where Adonais lay.

Our of her secret Paradise she sped,
Through camps and cities rough with stone, and steel,
And human hearts, which to her aery tread
Yielding not, wounded the invisible
Palms of her tender feet where’er they fell:
And barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they,
Rent the soft Form they never could repel,
Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May,
Paved with eternal flowers that undeserving way.

In the death-chamber for a moment Death,
Shamed by the presence of that living Might,
Blushed to annihilation, and the breath
Revisited those lips, and Life’s pale light
Flashed through those limbs, so late her dear delight.
“Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless,
As silent lightning leaves the starless night!
Leave me not!” cried Urania: her distress
Roused Death: Death rose and smiled, and met her vain caress.

“‘Stay yet awhile! speak to me once again;
Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live;
And in my heartless breast and burning brain
That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive,
With food of saddest memory kept alive,
Now thou art dead, as if it were a part
Of thee, my Adonais! I would give
All that I am to be as thou now art!
But I am chained to Time, and cannot thence depart!

“O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
Dare the unpastured dragon in his den?
Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then
Wisdom the mirrored shield, or scorn the spear?
Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when
Thy spirit should have filled its crescent sphere,
The monsters of life’s waste had fled from thee like deer.

“The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
The obscene ravens, clamorous o’er the dead;
The vultures to the conqueror’s banner true
Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
And whose wings rain contagion;—how they fled,
When, like Apollo, from his golden bow
The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
And smiled!—The spoilers tempt no second blow,
They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.

“The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn;
He sets, and each ephemeral insect then
Is gathered into death without a dawn,
And the immortal stars awake again;
So is it in the world of living men:
A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight
Making earth bare and veiling heaven, and when
It sinks, the swarms that dimmed or shared its light
Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit’s awful night.”

Thus ceased she: and the mountain shepherds came,
Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent;
The Pilgrim of Eternity, whose fame
Over his living head like Heaven is bent,
An early but enduring monument,
Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song
In sorrow; from her wilds Irene sent
The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong,
And Love taught Grief to fall like music from his tongue.

Midst others of less note, came one frail Form,
A phantom among men; companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm
Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
Had gazed on Nature’s naked loveliness,
Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray
With feeble steps o’er the world’s wilderness,
And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,
Pursued, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.

A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swift—
A Love in desolation masked;—a Power
Girt round with weakness;—it can scarce uplift
The weight of the superincumbent hour;
It is a dying lamp, a falling shower,
A breaking billow;—even whilst we speak
Is it not broken? On the withering flower
The killing sun smiles brightly: on a cheek
The life can burn in blood, even while the heart may break.

His head was bound with pansies overblown,
And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue;
And a light spear topped with a cypress cone,
Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew
Yet dripping with the forest’s noonday dew,
Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart
Shook the weak hand that grasped it; of that crew
He came the last, neglected and apart;
A herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter’s dart.

All stood aloof, and at his partial moan
Smiled through their tears; well knew that gentle band
Who in another’s fate now wept his own,
As in the accents of an unknown land
He sung new sorrow; sad Urania scanned
The Stranger’s mien, and murmured: “Who art thou?”
He answered not, but with a sudden hand
Made bare his branded and ensanguined brow,
Which was like Cain’s or Christ’s—oh! that it should be so!

What softer voice is hushed over the dead?
Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown?
What form leans sadly o’er the white death-bed,
In mockery of monumental stone,
The heavy heart heaving without a moan?
If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise,
Taught, soothed, loved, honoured the departed one,
Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,
The silence of that heart’s accepted sacrifice.

Our Adonais has drunk poison—oh!
What deaf and viperous murderer could crown
Life’s early cup with such a draught of woe?
The nameless worm would now itself disown:
It felt, yet could escape, the magic tone
Whose prelude held all envy, hate, and wrong,
But what was howling in one breast alone,
Silent with expectation of the song,
Whose master’s hand is cold, whose silver lyre unstrung.

Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame!
Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me,
Thou noteless blot on a remembered name!
But be thyself, and know thyself to be!
And ever at thy season be thou free
To spill the venom when thy fangs o’erflow:
Remorse and Self-contempt shall cling to thee;
Hot Shame shall burn upon thy secret brow,
And like a beaten hound tremble thou shalt—as now.

Nor let us weep that our delight is fled
Far from these carrion kites that scream below;
He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead;
Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now—
Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow
Back to the burning fountain whence it came,
A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
Through time and change, unquenchably the same,
Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep—
He hath awakened from the dream of life—
’Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings.—We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world’s slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain;
Nor, when the spirit’s self has ceased to burn,
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.

He lives, he wakes—’tis Death is dead, not he;
Mourn not for Adonais.—Thou young Dawn,
Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!
Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air
Which like a mourning veil
He was a Grecian lad, who coming home
With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
Stood at his galley’s prow, and let the foam
Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously,
And holding wave and wind in boy’s despite
Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and stormy night.

Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear
Like a thin thread of gold against the sky,
And hoisted sail, and strained the creaking gear,
And bade the pilot head her lustily
Against the nor’west gale, and all day long
Held on his way, and marked the rowers’ time with measured song.

And when the faint Corinthian hills were red
Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head,
And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray,
And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold
Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals brazen-soled,

And a rich robe stained with the fishers’ juice
Which of some swarthy trader he had bought
Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought,
And by the questioning merchants made his way
Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the labouring day

Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud,
Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling

The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang
His studded crook against the temple wall
To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall;
And then the clear-voiced maidens ‘gan to sing,
And to the altar each man brought some goodly offering,

A beechen cup brimming with milky foam,
A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery
Of hounds in chase, a waxen honey-comb
Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee
Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil
Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce and white-tusked
spoil

Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid
To please Athena, and the dappled hide
Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade
Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried,
And from the pillared precinct one by one
Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their simple vows had
done.

And the old priest put out the waning fires
Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed
For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres
Came fainter on the wind, as down the road
In joyous dance these country folk did pass,
And with stout hands the warder closed the gates of polished brass.

Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe,
And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine,
And the rose-petals falling from the wreath
As the night breezes wandered through the shrine,
And seemed to be in some entranced swoon
Till through the open roof above the full and brimming moon

Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor,
When from his nook up leapt the venturous lad,
And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared

Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
The Gorgon’s head its leaden eyeballs rolled,
And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield,
And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold
In passion impotent, while with blind gaze
The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill amaze.

The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp
Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
The net for tunnies, heard a brazen *****
Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast
Divide the folded curtains of the night,
And knelt upon the little ****, and prayed in holy fright.

And guilty lovers in their venery
Forgat a little while their stolen sweets,
Deeming they heard dread Dian’s bitter cry;
And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats
Ran to their shields in haste precipitate,
Or strained black-bearded throats across the dusky parapet.

For round the temple rolled the clang of arms,
And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear,
And the air quaked with dissonant alarums
Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear,
And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed,
And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the cavalcade.

Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
And well content at such a price to see
That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood,
The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
Since Troy’s young shepherd prince had seen so wonderful a sight.

Ready for death he stood, but lo! the air
Grew silent, and the horses ceased to neigh,
And off his brow he tossed the clustering hair,
And from his limbs he throw the cloak away;
For whom would not such love make desperate?
And nigher came, and touched her throat, and with hands violate

Undid the cuirass, and the crocus gown,
And bared the ******* of polished ivory,
Till from the waist the peplos falling down
Left visible the secret mystery
Which to no lover will Athena show,
The grand cool flanks, the crescent thighs, the bossy hills of
snow.

Those who have never known a lover’s sin
Let them not read my ditty, it will be
To their dull ears so musicless and thin
That they will have no joy of it, but ye
To whose wan cheeks now creeps the lingering smile,
Ye who have learned who Eros is,—O listen yet awhile.

A little space he let his greedy eyes
Rest on the burnished image, till mere sight
Half swooned for surfeit of such luxuries,
And then his lips in hungering delight
Fed on her lips, and round the towered neck
He flung his arms, nor cared at all his passion’s will to check.

Never I ween did lover hold such tryst,
For all night long he murmured honeyed word,
And saw her sweet unravished limbs, and kissed
Her pale and argent body undisturbed,
And paddled with the polished throat, and pressed
His hot and beating heart upon her chill and icy breast.

It was as if Numidian javelins
Pierced through and through his wild and whirling brain,
And his nerves thrilled like throbbing violins
In exquisite pulsation, and the pain
Was such sweet anguish that he never drew
His lips from hers till overhead the lark of warning flew.

They who have never seen the daylight peer
Into a darkened room, and drawn the curtain,
And with dull eyes and wearied from some dear
And worshipped body risen, they for certain
Will never know of what I try to sing,
How long the last kiss was, how fond and late his lingering.

The moon was girdled with a crystal rim,
The sign which shipmen say is ominous
Of wrath in heaven, the wan stars were dim,
And the low lightening east was tremulous
With the faint fluttering wings of flying dawn,
Ere from the silent sombre shrine his lover had withdrawn.

Down the steep rock with hurried feet and fast
Clomb the brave lad, and reached the cave of Pan,
And heard the goat-foot snoring as he passed,
And leapt upon a grassy knoll and ran
Like a young fawn unto an olive wood
Which in a shady valley by the well-built city stood;

And sought a little stream, which well he knew,
For oftentimes with boyish careless shout
The green and crested grebe he would pursue,
Or snare in woven net the silver trout,
And down amid the startled reeds he lay
Panting in breathless sweet affright, and waited for the day.

On the green bank he lay, and let one hand
Dip in the cool dark eddies listlessly,
And soon the breath of morning came and fanned
His hot flushed cheeks, or lifted wantonly
The tangled curls from off his forehead, while
He on the running water gazed with strange and secret smile.

And soon the shepherd in rough woollen cloak
With his long crook undid the wattled cotes,
And from the stack a thin blue wreath of smoke
Curled through the air across the ripening oats,
And on the hill the yellow house-dog bayed
As through the crisp and rustling fern the heavy cattle strayed.

And when the light-foot mower went afield
Across the meadows laced with threaded dew,
And the sheep bleated on the misty weald,
And from its nest the waking corncrake flew,
Some woodmen saw him lying by the stream
And marvelled much that any lad so beautiful could seem,

Nor deemed him born of mortals, and one said,
‘It is young Hylas, that false runaway
Who with a Naiad now would make his bed
Forgetting Herakles,’ but others, ‘Nay,
It is Narcissus, his own paramour,
Those are the fond and crimson lips no woman can allure.’

And when they nearer came a third one cried,
‘It is young Dionysos who has hid
His spear and fawnskin by the river side
Weary of hunting with the Bassarid,
And wise indeed were we away to fly:
They live not long who on the gods immortal come to spy.’

So turned they back, and feared to look behind,
And told the timid swain how they had seen
Amid the reeds some woodland god reclined,
And no man dared to cross the open green,
And on that day no olive-tree was slain,
Nor rushes cut, but all deserted was the fair domain,

Save when the neat-herd’s lad, his empty pail
Well slung upon his back, with leap and bound
Raced on the other side, and stopped to hail,
Hoping that he some comrade new had found,
And gat no answer, and then half afraid
Passed on his simple way, or down the still and silent glade

A little girl ran laughing from the farm,
Not thinking of love’s secret mysteries,
And when she saw the white and gleaming arm
And all his manlihood, with longing eyes
Whose passion mocked her sweet virginity
Watched him awhile, and then stole back sadly and wearily.

Far off he heard the city’s hum and noise,
And now and then the shriller laughter where
The passionate purity of brown-limbed boys
Wrestled or raced in the clear healthful air,
And now and then a little tinkling bell
As the shorn wether led the sheep down to the mossy well.

Through the grey willows danced the fretful gnat,
The grasshopper chirped idly from the tree,
In sleek and oily coat the water-rat
Breasting the little ripples manfully
Made for the wild-duck’s nest, from bough to bough
Hopped the shy finch, and the huge tortoise crept across the
slough.

On the faint wind floated the silky seeds
As the bright scythe swept through the waving grass,
The ouzel-**** splashed circles in the reeds
And flecked with silver whorls the forest’s glass,
Which scarce had caught again its imagery
Ere from its bed the dusky tench leapt at the dragon-fly.

But little care had he for any thing
Though up and down the beech the squirrel played,
And from the copse the linnet ‘gan to sing
To its brown mate its sweetest serenade;
Ah! little care indeed, for he had seen
The ******* of Pallas and the naked wonder of the Queen.

But when the herdsman called his straggling goats
With whistling pipe across the rocky road,
And the shard-beetle with its trumpet-notes
Boomed through the darkening woods, and seemed to bode
Of coming storm, and the belated crane
Passed homeward like a shadow, and the dull big drops of rain

Fell on the pattering fig-leaves, up he rose,
And from the gloomy forest went his way
Past sombre homestead and wet orchard-close,
And came at last unto a little quay,
And called his mates aboard, and took his seat
On the high ****, and pushed from land, and loosed the dripping
sheet,

And steered across the bay, and when nine suns
Passed down the long and laddered way of gold,
And nine pale moons had breathed their orisons
To the chaste stars their confessors, or told
Their dearest secret to the downy moth
That will not fly at noonday, through the foam and surging froth

Came a great owl with yellow sulphurous eyes
And lit upon the ship, whose timbers creaked
As though the lading of three argosies
Were in the hold, and flapped its wings and shrieked,
And darkness straightway stole across the deep,
Sheathed was Orion’s sword, dread Mars himself fled down the steep,

And the moon hid behind a tawny mask
Of drifting cloud, and from the ocean’s marge
Rose the red plume, the huge and horned casque,
The seven-cubit spear, the brazen targe!
And clad in bright and burnished panoply
Athena strode across the stretch of sick and shivering sea!

To the dull sailors’ sight her loosened looks
Seemed like the jagged storm-rack, and her feet
Only the spume that floats on hidden rocks,
And, marking how the rising waters beat
Against the rolling ship, the pilot cried
To the young helmsman at the stern to luff to windward side

But he, the overbold adulterer,
A dear profaner of great mysteries,
An ardent amorous idolater,
When he beheld those grand relentless eyes
Laughed loud for joy, and crying out ‘I come’
Leapt from the lofty **** into the chill and churning foam.

Then fell from the high heaven one bright star,
One dancer left the circling galaxy,
And back to Athens on her clattering car
In all the pride of venged divinity
Pale Pallas swept with shrill and steely clank,
And a few gurgling bubbles rose where her boy lover sank.

And the mast shuddered as the gaunt owl flew
With mocking hoots after the wrathful Queen,
And the old pilot bade the trembling crew
Hoist the big sail, and told how he had seen
Close to the stern a dim and giant form,
And like a dipping swallow the stout ship dashed through the storm.

And no man dared to speak of Charmides
Deeming that he some evil thing had wrought,
And when they reached the strait Symplegades
They beached their galley on the shore, and sought
The toll-gate of the city hastily,
And in the market showed their brown and pictured pottery.
Dennis Meeker Dec 2012
As I watched the stars in the night sky,
I couldn't help but want to fly.
It was much better than wanting to die.
I had a real smile and I didn't know why.

I often wonder who else is looking up at the same stars as me.
Staring into the moonlight.
Who else wants to take flight?
I often get intrigued and want higher so I sit in a tree.

I sometimes sit until the morning.
Until the sun shines up high.
Making it a bright crimson sky.
It's so peaceful and there's no warning.

I can be malleable at times.
I listen to the wind and it's word.
I hear the chirping of the morning birds.
My conscience can be sold with just dimes.

When I finally go to sleep I have dreams.
They turn terrible though.
It brings memories from so long ago.
My nightmares have me breaking at my seams.

I don't even know what reality is anymore.
My head gets so heavy.
The stream of thoughts break through my levee.
My nightmares ruin even those that I adore.

Everything so great seems an illusion.
I can't figure it out.
I feel so stout.
My body finally goes through a reperfusion.
But some good Triton-god had ruth, and bare
The boy’s drowned body back to Grecian land,
And mermaids combed his dank and dripping hair
And smoothed his brow, and loosed his clenching hand;
Some brought sweet spices from far Araby,
And others bade the halcyon sing her softest lullaby.

And when he neared his old Athenian home,
A mighty billow rose up suddenly
Upon whose oily back the clotted foam
Lay diapered in some strange fantasy,
And clasping him unto its glassy breast
Swept landward, like a white-maned steed upon a venturous quest!

Now where Colonos leans unto the sea
There lies a long and level stretch of lawn;
The rabbit knows it, and the mountain bee
For it deserts Hymettus, and the Faun
Is not afraid, for never through the day
Comes a cry ruder than the shout of shepherd lads at play.

But often from the thorny labyrinth
And tangled branches of the circling wood
The stealthy hunter sees young Hyacinth
Hurling the polished disk, and draws his hood
Over his guilty gaze, and creeps away,
Nor dares to wind his horn, or—else at the first break of day

The Dryads come and throw the leathern ball
Along the reedy shore, and circumvent
Some goat-eared Pan to be their seneschal
For fear of bold Poseidon’s ravishment,
And loose their girdles, with shy timorous eyes,
Lest from the surf his azure arms and purple beard should rise.

On this side and on that a rocky cave,
Hung with the yellow-belled laburnum, stands
Smooth is the beach, save where some ebbing wave
Leaves its faint outline etched upon the sands,
As though it feared to be too soon forgot
By the green rush, its playfellow,—and yet, it is a spot

So small, that the inconstant butterfly
Could steal the hoarded money from each flower
Ere it was noon, and still not satisfy
Its over-greedy love,—within an hour
A sailor boy, were he but rude enow
To land and pluck a garland for his galley’s painted prow,

Would almost leave the little meadow bare,
For it knows nothing of great pageantry,
Only a few narcissi here and there
Stand separate in sweet austerity,
Dotting the unmown grass with silver stars,
And here and there a daffodil waves tiny scimitars.

Hither the billow brought him, and was glad
Of such dear servitude, and where the land
Was ****** of all waters laid the lad
Upon the golden margent of the strand,
And like a lingering lover oft returned
To kiss those pallid limbs which once with intense fire burned,

Ere the wet seas had quenched that holocaust,
That self-fed flame, that passionate lustihead,
Ere grisly death with chill and nipping frost
Had withered up those lilies white and red
Which, while the boy would through the forest range,
Answered each other in a sweet antiphonal counter-change.

And when at dawn the wood-nymphs, hand-in-hand,
Threaded the bosky dell, their satyr spied
The boy’s pale body stretched upon the sand,
And feared Poseidon’s treachery, and cried,
And like bright sunbeams flitting through a glade
Each startled Dryad sought some safe and leafy ambuscade.

Save one white girl, who deemed it would not be
So dread a thing to feel a sea-god’s arms
Crushing her ******* in amorous tyranny,
And longed to listen to those subtle charms
Insidious lovers weave when they would win
Some fenced fortress, and stole back again, nor thought it sin

To yield her treasure unto one so fair,
And lay beside him, thirsty with love’s drouth,
Called him soft names, played with his tangled hair,
And with hot lips made havoc of his mouth
Afraid he might not wake, and then afraid
Lest he might wake too soon, fled back, and then, fond renegade,

Returned to fresh assault, and all day long
Sat at his side, and laughed at her new toy,
And held his hand, and sang her sweetest song,
Then frowned to see how froward was the boy
Who would not with her maidenhood entwine,
Nor knew that three days since his eyes had looked on Proserpine;

Nor knew what sacrilege his lips had done,
But said, ‘He will awake, I know him well,
He will awake at evening when the sun
Hangs his red shield on Corinth’s citadel;
This sleep is but a cruel treachery
To make me love him more, and in some cavern of the sea

Deeper than ever falls the fisher’s line
Already a huge Triton blows his horn,
And weaves a garland from the crystalline
And drifting ocean-tendrils to adorn
The emerald pillars of our bridal bed,
For sphered in foaming silver, and with coral crowned head,

We two will sit upon a throne of pearl,
And a blue wave will be our canopy,
And at our feet the water-snakes will curl
In all their amethystine panoply
Of diamonded mail, and we will mark
The mullets swimming by the mast of some storm-foundered bark,

Vermilion-finned with eyes of bossy gold
Like flakes of crimson light, and the great deep
His glassy-portaled chamber will unfold,
And we will see the painted dolphins sleep
Cradled by murmuring halcyons on the rocks
Where Proteus in quaint suit of green pastures his monstrous
flocks.

And tremulous opal-hued anemones
Will wave their purple fringes where we tread
Upon the mirrored floor, and argosies
Of fishes flecked with tawny scales will thread
The drifting cordage of the shattered wreck,
And honey-coloured amber beads our twining limbs will deck.’

But when that baffled Lord of War the Sun
With gaudy pennon flying passed away
Into his brazen House, and one by one
The little yellow stars began to stray
Across the field of heaven, ah! then indeed
She feared his lips upon her lips would never care to feed,

And cried, ‘Awake, already the pale moon
Washes the trees with silver, and the wave
Creeps grey and chilly up this sandy dune,
The croaking frogs are out, and from the cave
The nightjar shrieks, the fluttering bats repass,
And the brown stoat with hollow flanks creeps through the dusky
grass.

Nay, though thou art a god, be not so coy,
For in yon stream there is a little reed
That often whispers how a lovely boy
Lay with her once upon a grassy mead,
Who when his cruel pleasure he had done
Spread wings of rustling gold and soared aloft into the sun.

Be not so coy, the laurel trembles still
With great Apollo’s kisses, and the fir
Whose clustering sisters fringe the seaward hill
Hath many a tale of that bold ravisher
Whom men call Boreas, and I have seen
The mocking eyes of Hermes through the poplar’s silvery sheen.

Even the jealous Naiads call me fair,
And every morn a young and ruddy swain
Woos me with apples and with locks of hair,
And seeks to soothe my virginal disdain
By all the gifts the gentle wood-nymphs love;
But yesterday he brought to me an iris-plumaged dove

With little crimson feet, which with its store
Of seven spotted eggs the cruel lad
Had stolen from the lofty sycamore
At daybreak, when her amorous comrade had
Flown off in search of berried juniper
Which most they love; the fretful wasp, that earliest vintager

Of the blue grapes, hath not persistency
So constant as this simple shepherd-boy
For my poor lips, his joyous purity
And laughing sunny eyes might well decoy
A Dryad from her oath to Artemis;
For very beautiful is he, his mouth was made to kiss;

His argent forehead, like a rising moon
Over the dusky hills of meeting brows,
Is crescent shaped, the hot and Tyrian noon
Leads from the myrtle-grove no goodlier spouse
For Cytheraea, the first silky down
Fringes his blushing cheeks, and his young limbs are strong and
brown;

And he is rich, and fat and fleecy herds
Of bleating sheep upon his meadows lie,
And many an earthen bowl of yellow curds
Is in his homestead for the thievish fly
To swim and drown in, the pink clover mead
Keeps its sweet store for him, and he can pipe on oaten reed.

And yet I love him not; it was for thee
I kept my love; I knew that thou would’st come
To rid me of this pallid chastity,
Thou fairest flower of the flowerless foam
Of all the wide AEgean, brightest star
Of ocean’s azure heavens where the mirrored planets are!

I knew that thou would’st come, for when at first
The dry wood burgeoned, and the sap of spring
Swelled in my green and tender bark or burst
To myriad multitudinous blossoming
Which mocked the midnight with its mimic moons
That did not dread the dawn, and first the thrushes’ rapturous
tunes

Startled the squirrel from its granary,
And cuckoo flowers fringed the narrow lane,
Through my young leaves a sensuous ecstasy
Crept like new wine, and every mossy vein
Throbbed with the fitful pulse of amorous blood,
And the wild winds of passion shook my slim stem’s maidenhood.

The trooping fawns at evening came and laid
Their cool black noses on my lowest boughs,
And on my topmost branch the blackbird made
A little nest of grasses for his spouse,
And now and then a twittering wren would light
On a thin twig which hardly bare the weight of such delight.

I was the Attic shepherd’s trysting place,
Beneath my shadow Amaryllis lay,
And round my trunk would laughing Daphnis chase
The timorous girl, till tired out with play
She felt his hot breath stir her tangled hair,
And turned, and looked, and fled no more from such delightful
snare.

Then come away unto my ambuscade
Where clustering woodbine weaves a canopy
For amorous pleasaunce, and the rustling shade
Of Paphian myrtles seems to sanctify
The dearest rites of love; there in the cool
And green recesses of its farthest depth there is pool,

The ouzel’s haunt, the wild bee’s pasturage,
For round its rim great creamy lilies float
Through their flat leaves in verdant anchorage,
Each cup a white-sailed golden-laden boat
Steered by a dragon-fly,—be not afraid
To leave this wan and wave-kissed shore, surely the place was made

For lovers such as we; the Cyprian Queen,
One arm around her boyish paramour,
Strays often there at eve, and I have seen
The moon strip off her misty vestiture
For young Endymion’s eyes; be not afraid,
The panther feet of Dian never tread that secret glade.

Nay if thou will’st, back to the beating brine,
Back to the boisterous billow let us go,
And walk all day beneath the hyaline
Huge vault of Neptune’s watery portico,
And watch the purple monsters of the deep
Sport in ungainly play, and from his lair keen Xiphias leap.

For if my mistress find me lying here
She will not ruth or gentle pity show,
But lay her boar-spear down, and with austere
Relentless fingers string the cornel bow,
And draw the feathered notch against her breast,
And loose the arched cord; aye, even now upon the quest

I hear her hurrying feet,—awake, awake,
Thou laggard in love’s battle! once at least
Let me drink deep of passion’s wine, and slake
My parched being with the nectarous feast
Which even gods affect!  O come, Love, come,
Still we have time to reach the cavern of thine azure home.’

Scarce had she spoken when the shuddering trees
Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
Grew conscious of a god, and the grey seas
Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
Blew from some tasselled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed,
And like a flame a barbed reed flew whizzing down the glade.

And where the little flowers of her breast
Just brake into their milky blossoming,
This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
And ploughed a ****** furrow with its dart,
And dug a long red road, and cleft with winged death her heart.

Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry
On the boy’s body fell the Dryad maid,
Sobbing for incomplete virginity,
And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead,
And all the pain of things unsatisfied,
And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her throbbing
side.

Ah! pitiful it was to hear her moan,
And very pitiful to see her die
Ere she had yielded up her sweets, or known
The joy of passion, that dread mystery
Which not to know is not to live at all,
And yet to know is to be held in death’s most deadly thrall.

But as it hapt the Queen of Cythere,
Who with Adonis all night long had lain
Within some shepherd’s hut in Arcady,
On team of silver doves and gilded wain
Was journeying Paphos-ward, high up afar
From mortal ken between the mountains and the morning star,

And when low down she spied the hapless pair,
And heard the Oread’s faint despairing cry,
Whose cadence seemed to play upon the air
As though it were a viol, hastily
She bade her pigeons fold each straining plume,
And dropt to earth, and reached the strand, and saw their dolorous
doom.

For as a gardener turning back his head
To catch the last notes of the linnet, mows
With careless scythe too near some flower bed,
And cuts the thorny pillar of the rose,
And with the flower’s loosened loneliness
Strews the brown mould; or as some shepherd lad in wantonness

Driving his little flock along the mead
Treads down two daffodils, which side by aide
Have lured the lady-bird with yellow brede
And made the gaudy moth forget its pride,
Treads down their brimming golden chalices
Under light feet which were not made for such rude ravages;

Or as a schoolboy tired of his book
Flings himself down upon the reedy grass
And plucks two water-lilies from the brook,
And for a time forgets the hour glass,
Then wearies of their sweets, and goes his way,
And lets the hot sun **** them, even go these lovers lay.

And Venus cried, ‘It is dread Artemis
Whose bitter hand hath wrought this cruelty,
Or else that mightier maid whose care it is
To guard her strong and stainless majesty
Upon the hill Athenian,—alas!
That they who loved so well unloved into Death’s house should
pass.’

So with soft hands she laid the boy and girl
In the great golden waggon tenderly
(Her white throat whiter than a moony pearl
Just threaded with a blue vein’s tapestry
Had not yet ceased to throb, and still her breast
Swayed like a wind-stirred lily in ambiguous unrest)

And then each pigeon spread its milky van,
The bright car soared into the dawning sky,
And like a cloud the aerial caravan
Passed over the AEgean silently,
Till the faint air was troubled with the song
From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long.

But when the doves had reached their wonted goal
Where the wide stair of orbed marble dips
Its snows into the sea, her fluttering soul
Just shook the trembling petals of her lips
And passed into the void, and Venus knew
That one fair maid the less would walk amid her retinue,

And bade her servants carve a cedar chest
With all the wonder of this history,
Within whose scented womb their limbs should rest
Where olive-trees make tender the blue sky
On the low hills of Paphos, and the Faun
Pipes in the noonday, and the nightingale sings on till dawn.

Nor failed they to obey her hest, and ere
The morning bee had stung the daffodil
With tiny fretful spear, or from its lair
The waking stag had leapt across the rill
And roused the ouzel, or the lizard crept
Athwart the sunny rock, beneath the grass their bodies slept.

And when day brake, within that silver shrine
Fed by the flames of cressets tremulous,
Queen Venus knelt and prayed to Proserpine
That she whose beauty made Death amorous
Should beg a guerdon from her pallid Lord,
And let Desire pass across dread Charon’s icy ford.
Mitchell Duran May 2014
We took the back road to the house. The shade from the trees made the road feel like tunnel. Not a shred of light came in. We'd have to drive slow. The road wasn't made of concrete: it was made of dirt, rock, and dead leaves. Sometimes we could see the worms come up out of the dirt in the headlights, their pink stretching bodies like weird little fingers. Carrie never looked. She said it was too scary. The rest of us would look and watch them dance around like that. Sometimes we'd have to run them over. Of course, we'd feel bad about it, but we needed to get back to the house. There were things to be done. Nothing planned, but nonetheless, things to be done.
Englend reversed the car up to the front door. The liquor, the food, and the beer was in the back and would make it easier to get it from there. Patty and Carrie (the one scared of the worms) ran straight to the bathroom. They'd been complaining about how we never stopped at a gas station to ***. Englend said we didn't have the time and I just didn't care. Denny was in the same mindset as me. We usually were. Kat was looking out the window, thinking about something she didn't wish to share when we started to unload. She offered to help after she'd finished her thought, but the three of us said we had it. We didn't really, but we let her have her thought while we carried the bags. There weren't that many to complain about anyway.
When everyone was inside unpacking their things, I hung back and smoked a cigarette. I looked down at the river. It was full and rushing. The trees were full with bright, lime green leaves. The branches were tanned auburn from the sun. They looked the forearms of the Mexican girls at my high school: smooth, everlasting, stretching to a place I was never allowed to touch or look at. I ashed my cigarette into a pile of leaves and immediately worried that I was going to start a fire. I kicked it out, thrusting my boot heel into where I thought the ember had went.
"What the hell are you doing?" Englend screamed from the front porch, a handle of whiskey underneath his arm, a glass with ice in the other.
"Ashed into the leaves," I told him, "Trying to take it out." I kicked the leaves a few more times, then walked towards Englend.
"Let me get a hit of that," I said, pointing at the handle.
He spun the top and it rolled off the tread. The cap rolled off the deck and Englend chased after it, handing me the bottle first.
"Take this. Where'd the hell it go?"
"Down there somewhere," I said, pulling the bottle back. The sweetness of the whiskey hit my nostrils first, then the bite of the liquor. I coughed, feeling my eyes begin to water. The first one was always the hardest. After that, they got easier.
June had just ended. July was just arriving. The third was tomorrow and the next day was the fourth.
I took another pull from the handle. I placed on the decks railing and left Englend with it. He was still looking around for the bottle cap.
"I thought I saw it roll under the deck," I told him.
"*******," he moaned. He looked up at me, "Come and help me. It'll be faster with two."
"Can't. Gotta' check on Carrie and get ourselves a room."
"*******," he moaned again, reaching under the deck.
"Don't get your hand bit by a possum or rat or something!" I yelled behind me, going inside. "Carrie!" I screamed, "Where'd you go?"
"Upstairs getting our room ready!" I heard her scream from the 2nd floor, "Come and help me put the sheets on."
I went into the kitchen. Denny was stocking the fridge with the beer and the meat. I reached over his shoulder and grabbed a Budweiser. He had an open one in between his knees. The light stuff was on the bottom to the far left, the heavy stuff in the middle, and the expensive IPA, hoppy stuff to the far right. The top shelf was for food, mixer, and whatever else the girls had decided to get at the store. Fruit and things. I opened up the freezer. There were two handles of Smirnoff resting on three large bags of ice. We would need more ice. I closed the freezer and ran my fingers of the labels of two more handles of Cazadorés tequila and Bulleit bourbon. Overall, I thought we were fairly stocked for the four day weekend, but one could never be to sure. People came out of the wood work for the 4th of July. No telling who would show up at our front door.
I went upstairs to see what Carrie was doing. She was laying on the bed with the sheets resting on the dresser. The light was off. The room was cast in that light grey pigment that happens when the bedroom light isn't there. It was nice. The sun had been straining my eyes the whole time even though I had been driving in the backseat. Carrie was laying face down on the bed. She was wearing a skirt, so I slowly laid down on the bed and inched her dress up. She didn't flinch or move, so I pulled it up until I saw her burgundy lace *******. They looked pressed or ironed or something they looked so clean.
"What're you doing?" Carrie asked me, her face down into the mattress.
"Just looking," I said.
"At what?"
"At your ****."
"Why?"
"Cause' it's nice."
"Close the door."
I got up, closed the door, and laid back down.
"Lets put the sheets on the bed first."
"OK," I said.
We put the sheets on the bed, but couldn't wait for the pillows and the rest of the blankets. We tried to be quiet, but knew we weren't. After, we took a shower together. I rubbed Carrie's shoulders while the hot water rained down on us. She said it was better to get a massage in the shower because the hot water loosened up the muscles. I didn't know if that was true or not, but I did it anyway. I watched her as she unpacked her bag. Her hair was wet and it swung back and forth, wetting her back. She was wrapped in her favorite pink towel. Water dripped from her body down to the floor. I waited to put my things away. I had brought up very little. Mostly *****. Carrie took up most of the dresser. I had one drawer by the time we were finished.
We took a nap. After we were done sleeping, we looked outside and saw the sun had been replaced with the night. The stars and the light coming from inside of the cabin streaked out into the forest like a splash of golden florescent paint. Carrie and I poked our heads outside to listen to the creaking trees and the rustling of animals through the bush. Someone downstairs was lightly clattering dishes as they cleaned them while the smell of red maple firewood burning in the fireplace came up to our room. I took out my phone from my pocket and looked at the time.
"****," I said, "It's already 10 o'clock."
"I'm starving."
"I'm starving and need a drink."
"Let's go downstairs and see what they made."
I slipped on my 501's while Carrie straightened up her hair. We went downstairs and saw two plates with hamburgers and fries on them. Patty was at the sink cleaning the pots and pans. She was staring down into the soapy froth, humming a song to herself I couldn't understand. She hadn't heard us come down. Denny, Englend, and Kat weren't in the living room.
"Where is everybody?" I asked.
"Oh!" Patty burst. She swung around, a soaped up frying pan in her hands. "You scared the **** out of me!"
I put my hands up, "Gotcha!" I said smiling.
"They went for a walk somewhere and left all the dishes for me."
"Leave'em," Carrie said, taking Patty's hands and wiping the soap away with a rag, "Van and I will take care of them."
"I only have a few more..."
"I insist!" Carrie took Patty's arm and lead her to the couch and laid her down. I took a cup from the pantry, filled it with ice, and poured Bulliet half-way up. I handed the glass to Carrie and she brought it to Patty.
"Look at that," Patty smiled, "Full-service."
"What you get when you come up to the Dangerson cabin."
"**** right!" I exclaimed through a bite of hamburger, "Only the best here."
Patty leaned her head back after taking a long sip of the whiskey. She exhaled and closed her eyes. I watched her as her chest heaved up and down. She kicked off her shoes and let her hair fall over the armrest of the couch.
"You said they went into the woods, Patty?"
Carrie took her burger and went and sat next to Patty.
"Lift your legs up," Carrie said, "Let me sit with you."
"Yeah. They went into the woods an hour or so ago. Probably a little less."
I opened the fridge and grabbed another beer.
"What were they going out there for?"
"I have no idea."
"Probably to get firewood or something," Carrie said, "Can you grab me one of those."
"Sure," I said, tossing her one.
"Wait," She yelled, throwing her hands in the air. The beer landed right in one of her flailing hands.
"Nice catch," I laughed, opening the fridge and grabbing another.
"You're such a ****!"
I smiled and walked out onto the deck.
"He really is," I heard Carrie tell Patty.
"I heard that!"
"You were meant to!" she called back to me, laughing.
I shook my head and opened the can of beer. Why did they decide to go get firewood now? We had plenty of wood here already. Patty probably didn't know what she was talking about. That happened often. I strained my eyes to see through the darkness, maybe see if I could spot a flashlight or the round end of a lit cigarette, but the forest was just a wash of thick blackness. Even the stars had grown faint.
"Englend!" I shouted.
Nothing. Not a peep. They were far out there.
"Englend!" I shouted again.
"What the hell are you shouting at?" a voice said from the trees. I couldn't tell who it was, but it was someone I knew.
"Who the hell is that?"
"Well who the hell do you think it is?" It was Englend. He came out of the trees like a wild boar. He had a handle of whiskey in one hand with a pile of small twigs and firewood in the other. What came to mind first was a mix between a drunken Brawny guy and a pinecone.
"What's all the screaming about?" Kat asked, trailing behind Englend. Denny followed behind. They all had armfuls of wood. From what I saw, little would be useful, but I kept that to myself.
Englend came up the deck and handed me the handle. I took a long pull. As I drank, I looked up into the stars, which were now out and shining brighter than they were before. A cloud had moved, wavered off somewhere, presenting the gifts that were behind it. I lowered the bottle and watched Denny and Kat walk up the stairs. They were smiling.
"What are you two so happy about?" I asked, handing Denny the whiskey.
"Gimme' that!" Kat snagged it out of my hand, laughing. She took a long pull. Denny, Englend, and I watched, amazed that little hippy Kat could take such a heavy shot.
"Good God," I murmured.
"She drinks like a pirate," said Denny.
"A ****** pirate," added Englend.
Kat was especially small. Not a small person small, but petite. She also had a great *** and could out drink, out party, and out do the rest of us in debaucherous shenanigans. She had never heard of the word or feeling of shame either and did, really, whatever the hell she felt like.
"I heard that you *******," she said, exhaling, blinking her eyes wildly.
"That was a biggun'," Denny said, taking the bottle and pulling it.
"Needed it. Englend had us wandering around the ******* forest for firewood the minute we got here."
"Do we even need any?" I asked.
"Course we do!" Englend exclaimed, "Gotta' keep our ladies warm!"
He put his arm around Kat and shook her.
"Gross..." Kat frowned, her face pickling while she squirmed out of his arms.
"You love it Kat...where's Patty? Where's my babe!?" Englend thundered off into the house.
"I'm right here," Patty squealed. She was still on the couch with Carrie. She kicked her feet crazily as Englend jumped on her. Carrie jumped off just before he cannon balled onto the couch.
"You guys are SICK!" Carrie screamed.
"You love it," they both said in unison. The two of them play wrestled until Patty finally got Englend by the ***** and kissed him.
Denny handed Kat the bottle," You want another?" he asked.
"I'm good, Denny," she said.
"Hank?" He asked me.
"I'll take one, yeah," I said. I pulled it back as Kat went inside. I exhaled and looked at Denny, "So, you and Kat are the only two legitimate single people here. How you feel about that?"
"Hopeful," he said.
"That's good to hear. I'll see what Carrie can do."
"Sweet," he said nervously.
"Let's get inside. Patty made some burgers."
"Thank God," Denny sighed, shaking his head, "I'm ******* starving. Englend had us walking for ******' miles.
"No idea why. We have plenty of wood downstairs."
"Seriously?"
"Yeah. Lots of it. I cut a bunch the last time I was here."
"******," he laughed, "Englend told us were out."
"He doesn't know what he's talking about," I said. We walked into the kitchen. I put the bottle down next to Carrie, who had made her way from the couch back into the kitchen. She looked at the bottle, then at me.
"What you drinking there?" she asked me looking at the bottle.
"Whiskey," I told her.
"Can you not drink so much?" she whispered so no one could hear her.
"I'm good," I said, taking her hand, "I just drank a little bit outside while I was waiting for Englend. They went on a wild goose chase for firewood."
"Good."
"Denny was telling me they went all over for the stuff."
"Why?" she smiled, "We have so much from the last time we were up."
"That's what I was telling Englend, but he didn't care. Guy gets antsy."
"Who's antsy?" Englend called from the couch. Patty was wrapped up in his eyes, looking drunk from the single shot Carrie and I had given her. Kat was on the couch with a beer. Denny was hovering by the door, rocking back and forth on his heels still holding an armful of fire wood.
"Why don't you just leave that by the door?" I told Denny, "Take a seat. Stay a while."
He dropped the firewood by the side of the front door and took a seat on the floor in front of the fireplace by Kat. He looked up at her and smiled, but she didn't notice. She was sipping her beer, rummaging around in her pocket for something.
"What I was saying was that you guys didn't need to get anymore firewood or kindling or whatever the hell you guys got because we have a lot from the last time Carrie and I were up."
"I saw those logs," said Englend, "And they're ******* twigs compared to what we got!"
Everyone laughed.
"Well," I said, opening the fridge for another beer (I wasn't sure where my other one had gone to), "I'm not taking the **** down."
"All good, we'll take it down."
"You'll take it down," said Kat, "We had to walk through half of the ******* forest to get to your secret wood spot, then walk back. I'm finished with wood for now."
"Fine," Englend moaned, "I'll take it down in the morning."
"I'll help you," Denny added.
"Good! We got two big guys to do it. It'll be done in no time."
I turned around and opened up the cabinet that was filled with shot glasses. I took six out, put them on the table, and filled them with whiskey.
"Let's take a group shot before we all start getting snuggly and sleepy."
"Great idea!" Englend shouted, popping up from the couch.
"For America!" Patty giggled, following Englend.
Kat helped Denny from the floor and walked over to the counter. They parted hands when Denny was on his feet, but I could tell he wouldn't mind holding her hand for the duration of the trip.
"I'm glad to have you all here," I said, "Glad we could do this."
Everyone nodded, smiling, holding their golden brown shots in the air.
"For America," I said.
"For America!" the rest of them yelled. We soaked in the glory of fine whiskey and hazy conversation for the rest of the night.
Everyone was moving slow in the morning. Englend seemed to be the most up out of everyone. I walked into the kitchen to him whipping 12 eggs, grating cheese, pan frying potatoes, bubbling coffee, and pouring orange juice into mimosa flutes. The champagne was already out. I thought, a little alcohol will probably do me some good. It did. After my third glass, I kissed Carrie when she groggily walked into the living room. She preceded to slump onto the couch. I brought her a cup coffee and some Advil. She smiled meekly into my glazed over, blood shot eyes. I could tell she was hurting, but she would be right in a couple hours. Once we got into the river, all would be right.
"Jesus," said Carrie, "You guys are already drinking?"
"Of course!" Englend laughed, "It's the fourth and it's already noon. We're behind if anything."
"And Englend made breakfast," I said.
"I can see th
Now when Jove had thus brought Hector and the Trojans to the
ships, he left them to their never-ending toil, and turned his keen
eyes away, looking elsewhither towards the horse-breeders of Thrace,
the Mysians, fighters at close quarters, the noble Hippemolgi, who
live on milk, and the Abians, justest of mankind. He no longer
turned so much as a glance towards Troy, for he did not think that any
of the immortals would go and help either Trojans or Danaans.
  But King Neptune had kept no blind look-out; he had been looking
admiringly on the battle from his seat on the topmost crests of wooded
Samothrace, whence he could see all Ida, with the city of Priam and
the ships of the Achaeans. He had come from under the sea and taken
his place here, for he pitied the Achaeans who were being overcome
by the Trojans; and he was furiously angry with Jove.
  Presently he came down from his post on the mountain top, and as
he strode swiftly onwards the high hills and the forest quaked beneath
the tread of his immortal feet. Three strides he took, and with the
fourth he reached his goal—Aegae, where is his glittering golden
palace, imperishable, in the depths of the sea. When he got there,
he yoked his fleet brazen-footed steeds with their manes of gold all
flying in the wind; he clothed himself in raiment of gold, grasped his
gold whip, and took his stand upon his chariot. As he went his way
over the waves the sea-monsters left their lairs, for they knew
their lord, and came gambolling round him from every quarter of the
deep, while the sea in her gladness opened a path before his
chariot. So lightly did the horses fly that the bronze axle of the car
was not even wet beneath it; and thus his bounding steeds took him
to the ships of the Achaeans.
  Now there is a certain huge cavern in the depths of the sea midway
between Tenedos and rocky Imbrus; here Neptune lord of the
earthquake stayed his horses, unyoked them, and set before them
their ambrosial forage. He hobbled their feet with hobbles of gold
which none could either unloose or break, so that they might stay
there in that place until their lord should return. This done he
went his way to the host of the Achaeans.
  Now the Trojans followed Hector son of Priam in close array like a
storm-cloud or flame of fire, fighting with might and main and raising
the cry battle; for they deemed that they should take the ships of the
Achaeans and **** all their chiefest heroes then and there.
Meanwhile earth-encircling Neptune lord of the earthquake cheered on
the Argives, for he had come up out of the sea and had assumed the
form and voice of Calchas.
  First he spoke to the two Ajaxes, who were doing their best already,
and said, “Ajaxes, you two can be the saving of the Achaeans if you
will put out all your strength and not let yourselves be daunted. I am
not afraid that the Trojans, who have got over the wall in force, will
be victorious in any other part, for the Achaeans can hold all of them
in check, but I much fear that some evil will befall us here where
furious Hector, who boasts himself the son of great Jove himself, is
leading them on like a pillar of flame. May some god, then, put it
into your hearts to make a firm stand here, and to incite others to do
the like. In this case you will drive him from the ships even though
he be inspired by Jove himself.”
  As he spoke the earth-encircling lord of the earthquake struck
both of them with his sceptre and filled their hearts with daring.
He made their legs light and active, as also their hands and their
feet. Then, as the soaring falcon poises on the wing high above some
sheer rock, and presently swoops down to chase some bird over the
plain, even so did Neptune lord of the earthquake wing his flight into
the air and leave them. Of the two, swift Ajax son of Oileus was the
first to know who it was that had been speaking with them, and said to
Ajax son of Telamon, “Ajax, this is one of the gods that dwell on
Olympus, who in the likeness of the prophet is bidding us fight hard
by our ships. It was not Calchas the seer and diviner of omens; I knew
him at once by his feet and knees as he turned away, for the gods
are soon recognised. Moreover I feel the lust of battle burn more
fiercely within me, while my hands and my feet under me are more eager
for the fray.”
  And Ajax son of Telamon answered, “I too feel my hands grasp my
spear more firmly; my strength is greater, and my feet more nimble;
I long, moreover, to meet furious Hector son of Priam, even in
single combat.”
  Thus did they converse, exulting in the hunger after battle with
which the god had filled them. Meanwhile the earth-encircler roused
the Achaeans, who were resting in the rear by the ships overcome at
once by hard fighting and by grief at seeing that the Trojans had
got over the wall in force. Tears began falling from their eyes as
they beheld them, for they made sure that they should not escape
destruction; but the lord of the earthquake passed lightly about among
them and urged their battalions to the front.
  First he went up to Teucer and Leitus, the hero Peneleos, and
Thoas and Deipyrus; Meriones also and Antilochus, valiant warriors;
all did he exhort. “Shame on you young Argives,” he cried, “it was
on your prowess I relied for the saving of our ships; if you fight not
with might and main, this very day will see us overcome by the
Trojans. Of a truth my eyes behold a great and terrible portent
which I had never thought to see—the Trojans at our ships—they,
who were heretofore like panic-stricken hinds, the prey of jackals and
wolves in a forest, with no strength but in flight for they cannot
defend themselves. Hitherto the Trojans dared not for one moment
face the attack of the Achaeans, but now they have sallied far from
their city and are fighting at our very ships through the cowardice of
our leader and the disaffection of the people themselves, who in their
discontent care not to fight in defence of the ships but are being
slaughtered near them. True, King Agamemnon son of Atreus is the cause
of our disaster by having insulted the son of Peleus, still this is no
reason why we should leave off fighting. Let us be quick to heal,
for the hearts of the brave heal quickly. You do ill to be thus
remiss, you, who are the finest soldiers in our whole army. I blame no
man for keeping out of battle if he is a weakling, but I am
indignant with such men as you are. My good friends, matters will soon
become even worse through this slackness; think, each one of you, of
his own honour and credit, for the hazard of the fight is extreme.
Great Hector is now fighting at our ships; he has broken through the
gates and the strong bolt that held them.”
  Thus did the earth-encircler address the Achaeans and urge them
on. Thereon round the two Ajaxes there gathered strong bands of men,
of whom not even Mars nor Minerva, marshaller of hosts could make
light if they went among them, for they were the picked men of all
those who were now awaiting the onset of Hector and the Trojans.
They made a living fence, spear to spear, shield to shield, buckler to
buckler, helmet to helmet, and man to man. The horse-hair crests on
their gleaming helmets touched one another as they nodded forward,
so closely seffied were they; the spears they brandished in their
strong hands were interlaced, and their hearts were set on battle.
  The Trojans advanced in a dense body, with Hector at their head
pressing right on as a rock that comes thundering down the side of
some mountain from whose brow the winter torrents have torn it; the
foundations of the dull thing have been loosened by floods of rain,
and as it bounds headlong on its way it sets the whole forest in an
uproar; it swerves neither to right nor left till it reaches level
ground, but then for all its fury it can go no further—even so easily
did Hector for a while seem as though he would career through the
tents and ships of the Achaeans till he had reached the sea in his
murderous course; but the closely serried battalions stayed him when
he reached them, for the sons of the Achaeans ****** at him with
swords and spears pointed at both ends, and drove him from them so
that he staggered and gave ground; thereon he shouted to the
Trojans, “Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanians, fighters in close
combat, stand firm: the Achaeans have set themselves as a wall against
me, but they will not check me for long; they will give ground
before me if the mightiest of the gods, the thundering spouse of Juno,
has indeed inspired my onset.”
  With these words he put heart and soul into them all. Deiphobus
son of Priam went about among them intent on deeds of daring with
his round shield before him, under cover of which he strode quickly
forward. Meriones took aim at him with a spear, nor did he fail to hit
the broad orb of ox-hide; but he was far from piercing it for the
spear broke in two pieces long ere he could do so; moreover
Deiphobus had seen it coming and had held his shield well away from
him. Meriones drew back under cover of his comrades, angry alike at
having failed to vanquish Deiphobus, and having broken his spear. He
turned therefore towards the ships and tents to fetch a spear which he
had left behind in his tent.
  The others continued fighting, and the cry of battle rose up into
the heavens. Teucer son of Telamon was the first to **** his man, to
wit, the warrior Imbrius son of Mentor rich in horses. Until the
Achaeans came he had lived in Pedaeum, and had married Medesicaste a
******* daughter of Priam; but on the arrival of the Danaan fleet he
had gone back to Ilius, and was a great man among the Trojans,
dwelling near Priam himself, who gave him like honour with his own
sons. The son of Telamon now struck him under the ear with a spear
which he then drew back again, and Imbrius fell headlong as an
ash-tree when it is felled on the crest of some high mountain
beacon, and its delicate green foliage comes toppling down to the
ground. Thus did he fall with his bronze-dight armour ringing
harshly round him, and Teucer sprang forward with intent to strip
him of his armour; but as he was doing so, Hector took aim at him with
a spear. Teucer saw the spear coming and swerved aside, whereon it hit
Amphimachus, son of Cteatus son of Actor, in the chest as he was
coming into battle, and his armour rang rattling round him as he
fell heavily to the ground. Hector sprang forward to take
Amphimachus’s helmet from off his temples, and in a moment Ajax
threw a spear at him, but did not wound him, for he was encased all
over in his terrible armour; nevertheless the spear struck the boss of
his shield with such force as to drive him back from the two
corpses, which the Achaeans then drew off. Stichius and Menestheus,
captains of the Athenians, bore away Amphimachus to the host of the
Achaeans, while the two brave and impetuous Ajaxes did the like by
Imbrius. As two lions ****** a goat from the hounds that have it in
their fangs, and bear it through thick brushwood high above the ground
in their jaws, thus did the Ajaxes bear aloft the body of Imbrius, and
strip it of its armour. Then the son of Oileus severed the head from
the neck in revenge for the death of Amphimachus, and sent it whirling
over the crowd as though it had been a ball, till fell in the dust
at Hector’s feet.
  Neptune was exceedingly angry that his grandson Amphimachus should
have fallen; he therefore went to the tents and ships of the
Achaeans to urge the Danaans still further, and to devise evil for the
Trojans. Idomeneus met him, as he was taking leave of a comrade, who
had just come to him from the fight, wounded in the knee. His
fellow-soldiers bore him off the field, and Idomeneus having given
orders to the physicians went on to his tent, for he was still
thirsting for battle. Neptune spoke in the likeness and with the voice
of Thoas son of Andraemon who ruled the Aetolians of all Pleuron and
high Calydon, and was honoured among his people as though he were a
god. “Idomeneus,” said he, “lawgiver to the Cretans, what has now
become of the threats with which the sons of the Achaeans used to
threaten the Trojans?”
  And Idomeneus chief among the Cretans answered, “Thoas, no one, so
far as I know, is in fault, for we can all fight. None are held back
neither by fear nor slackness, but it seems to be the of almighty Jove
that the Achaeans should perish ingloriously here far from Argos: you,
Thoas, have been always staunch, and you keep others in heart if you
see any fail in duty; be not then remiss now, but exhort all to do
their utmost.”
  To this Neptune lord of the earthquake made answer, “Idomeneus,
may he never return from Troy, but remain here for dogs to batten
upon, who is this day wilfully slack in fighting. Get your armour
and go, we must make all haste together if we may be of any use,
though we are only two. Even cowards gain courage from
companionship, and we two can hold our own with the bravest.”
  Therewith the god went back into the thick of the fight, and
Idomeneus when he had reached his tent donned his armour, grasped
his two spears, and sallied forth. As the lightning which the son of
Saturn brandishes from bright Olympus when he would show a sign to
mortals, and its gleam flashes far and wide—even so did his armour
gleam about him as he ran. Meriones his sturdy squire met him while he
was still near his tent (for he was going to fetch his spear) and
Idomeneus said
  “Meriones, fleet son of Molus, best of comrades, why have you left
the field? Are you wounded, and is the point of the weapon hurting
you? or have you been sent to fetch me? I want no fetching; I had
far rather fight than stay in my tent.”
  “Idomeneus,” answered Meriones, “I come for a spear, if I can find
one in my tent; I have broken the one I had, in throwing it at the
shield of Deiphobus.”
  And Idomeneus captain of the Cretans answered, “You will find one
spear, or twenty if you so please, standing up against the end wall of
my tent. I have taken them from Trojans whom I have killed, for I am
not one to keep my enemy at arm’s length; therefore I have spears,
bossed shields, helmets, and burnished corslets.”
  Then Meriones said, “I too in my tent and at my ship have spoils
taken from the Trojans, but they are not at hand. I have been at all
times valorous, and wherever there has been hard fighting have held my
own among the foremost. There may be those among the Achaeans who do
not know how I fight, but you know it well enough yourself.”
  Idomeneus answered, “I know you for a brave man: you need not tell
me. If the best men at the ships were being chosen to go on an ambush-
and there is nothing like this for showing what a man is made of; it
comes out then who is cowardly and who brave; the coward will change
colour at every touch and turn; he is full of fears, and keeps
shifting his weight first on one knee and then on the other; his heart
beats fast as he thinks of death, and one can hear the chattering of
his teeth; whereas the brave man will not change colour nor be on
finding himself in ambush, but is all the time longing to go into
action—if the best men were being chosen for such a service, no one
could make light of your courage nor feats of arms. If you were struck
by a dart or smitten in close combat, it would not be from behind,
in your neck nor back, but the weapon would hit you in the chest or
belly as you were pressing forward to a place in the front ranks.
But let us no longer stay here talking like children, lest we be ill
spoken of; go, fetch your spear from the tent at once.”
  On this Meriones, peer of Mars, went to the tent and got himself a
spear of bronze. He then followed after Idomeneus, big with great
deeds of valour. As when baneful Mars sallies forth to battle, and his
son Panic so strong and dauntless goes with him, to strike terror even
into the heart of a hero—the pair have gone from Thrace to arm
themselves among the Ephyri or the brave Phlegyans, but they will
not listen to both the contending hosts, and will give victory to
one side or to the other—even so did Meriones and Idomeneus, captains
of m
Marshal Gebbie Nov 2009
Ancient people, ancient ways
Protracting back through time,
The culture of the Chinese race
Far predates Roman line.
Before the Huns and Visigoths
Cascaded forth to burn,
Confucian bred conformity
Did budding scholars learn.
Astronomy, anatomy,
Philosophy and law,
The ancients sought the knowledge path
Wide open lay the door
To secrets, mystic and arcane,
They plied their trade craft well
...Then broke into another age
Of red chaos and hell.

Swarming by the millions
And dying by the score,
Brother slaughtered brother
Until Chiang said,"No more!"
To Taiwan's craggy shores he fled,
He fortified it then
And left the Marxist mainland
In the hands of Mao's men.
The red tide swept the nation.
To militarily expand
And the cruelty of a massive force
Descended on the land.

Oh your heart should weep for China
The sensitivity and grace,
Is lost forever in the ******
To revolutionize this place.
The educated strangled,
The policemen didn't care,
And the little children running
With that red book in the air.
Oh your heart should weep for China
With her golden history torn
And her future in the sewer
Where the filthy vermin spawn.

The Chairman died without a God
Praise Allah, let it be.
And Jiang Qing, his willful wife,
Was jailed for treachery.
Deng Xiaoping rose from the dead
An elderly, wise man
Who galvanized the nations will
With a workable great plan.
Gradually, the people breathed,
The terror disappeared,
And hard repression from the top
Was nervously unfeared.
The cogs began to mesh again,
Commerce began to flow
The Red Brigade was over
And NEW CHINA was on show.

In recent years the old men
Still retain the reigns of power.
The Communistic system
Commands to this very hour.
But the rigid hand of commerce
Has loosened up a lot
And the capitalistic system
Allows profits to be got.
And the flow of information
Issues freely from the west
Influencing aspirations,
Putting systems to the test.
And the leaders know with certainty
That just around the bend,
There will be younger challengers
Who plan a different end.

The Olympics are in Beijing
In the coming August moon,
A showcase for the nations best
A demonstration soon
Of advancements that will show the world
Just how well that we have done
And that the hand of friendly comradeship
Is well and truly won.

But there is trouble in Tibet!
The saffron runs with blood.
The monks and soldiers trading blows
Are dying in the mud.
Agitation to be free
Is Tibet's distant call
And the rage of hot embarrassment
Demands the brutal fall
Of the troublemakers...Old men say

The saffron legions die.....

The howling Prayer flags scream their rage
To a lonely, cold, blue sky.





Marshalg
Mangere Bridge
1st April 2008
I

I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
Leaning across the water, I and he;
Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
But touched his lute wherein was audible
The certain secret thing he had to tell:
Only our mirrored eyes met silently
In the low wave; and that sound came to be
The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.

And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
And with his foot and with his wing-feathers
He swept the spring that watered my heart’s drouth.
Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.


II

And now Love sang: but his was such a song,
So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free,
As souls disused in death’s sterility
May sing when the new birthday tarries long.
And I was made aware of a dumb throng
That stood aloof, one form by every tree,
All mournful forms, for each was I or she,
The shades of those our days that had no tongue.

They looked on us, and knew us and were known;
While fast together, alive from the abyss,
Clung the soul-wrung implacable close kiss;
And pity of self through all made broken moan
Which said, ‘For once, for once, for once alone!’
And still Love sang, and what he sang was this:—


III

‘O ye, all ye that walk in Willow-wood,
That walk with hollow faces burning white;
What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood,
What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night,
Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed
Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite
Your lips to that their unforgotten food,
Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light!

Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood,
With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning red:
Alas! if ever such a pillow could
Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were dead,—
Better all life forget her than this thing,
That Willowwood should hold her wandering!’


IV

So sang he: and as meeting rose and rose
Together cling through the wind’s wellaway
Nor change at once, yet near the end of day
The leaves drop loosened where the heart-stain glows,—
So when the song died did the kiss unclose;
And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey
As its grey eyes; and if it ever may
Meet mine again I know not if Love knows.

Only I know that I leaned low and drank
A long draught from the water where she sank,
Her breath and all her tears and all her soul:
And as I leaned, I know I felt Love’s face
Pressed on my neck with moan of pity and grace,
Till both our heads were in his aureole.
David Nelson Apr 2013
Dew Diligence

to reap the rewards of a world of magic
and appreciation of earning
the clouds of doubt and pain
must be experienced
the piper must be payed
the fear of life reconciled
with the acceptance of death
leaving no stone unturned
no path untraveled
the mind set free in observation
the binds loosened in anticipation
maintaining your resilience
the tears must fall
your dew diligence

Gomer LePoet..
nothing comes for free - nothing
Politely, the drunken gentleman
loosened the knots of my dress.
His fingers were spiders and
everywhere they bit, I burned.
Jade M Matelski Nov 2013
Our love was beautifully vapid
The evanescence of it; pure misery
But I could not stop to wait for you
Because you were a ******-the most innocent of the pure
And corruption trickled out my veins
                            it was melted wax



I saw you-holding the unlit cigarette to your mouth-never inhaling
but the temptation
it empaled you like a thorn
Your parents. Your highly respected reputation, will you burn it?
Will you **** her?
Will you **** me?

Can you withstand the allure of the forbidden fruit?


Salvation; you want to be saved
                 You want **** the lust that veils you
And I want to preserve it
But it slips from my grip like a drunken bottle of whiskey

And you return to your savaging chasteness
And I can no longer wait for the day your loosened morals
   Protrude like a needle
Julie Rogers Dec 2018
I realized that your area code
Was the same as one of my friends
Did you know her?
Or were you some stranger on the other side of a swiveling bar stool?
Was it abnormally warm in Cincinnati when you ordered the second beer?
I imagine you remarked about how fast the year was drawing to a close
And pulled the knit cap tighter on your head
And loosened your grip on the beer
The cliché draft you order that doesn’t fit your eyeglasses or your astronomy career
It would be nice if beer was cheaper than water
But it isn’t
And you’re still a stranger on the other side of a swiveling barstool
Joanne Heraghty Jan 2015
As I stood along the path,
I seen the little girl.
She had on a floral dress,
And her hair had flowing curls.

She stood still, all alone,
With a ribbon in her hand.
And above her was a balloon,
tied to it, with a band.

She had fallen away from the crowd,
Just to stand and breathe.
I watched her as she closed her eyes,
And positioned her two feet.

Her hand was held up-right,
To let the balloon dance,
In the wind that would take it further,
If it only got the chance.

After a moment in the silence,
The little girl opened her eyes.
As she done this, she loosened her grip,
And then sent the balloon to the skies.

I considered this symbolic,
And thought of you as my balloon.
Who had danced off with the wind,
And left me way too soon.
15 January 2015

© All Rights Reserved Joanne Heraghty
tloco Jun 2015
Coming to now, the story of life not as a practical lesson in wisdom as such in a parable or teaching only casual experience for individual. Experiencing this wisdom will change your knowledge gained through the events of becoming with the kingdom of heaven. Ways on the tree of life or paths which are ordained or divined in the Lords or spheres build your learned life knowledge. Adapting as a disciple on the natural skill of the soul shows a person whom, the individual is in a pure state of self and exponential in the ***** of the tree of life.
As a child of light I lived happily joined in the union of spirit, my young soul always with the Almighty Father and Creator in the Tenth heaven. From a dream of the past awaking as a watcher of an extremely large craft inside the entire vessel I could see animals each of them were named and had most important characteristics from the Father. From high aloft in Heaven to the boat a watch was taking place omnipotent over the last life within. Many hosts and angels spoke once I was inside the boat but wasn’t as a soul like a spirit invisible I saw and heard. Angels divine in accord to works of commands were at work in heaven whole groups of choirs known as orders were not ever interrupted by my watch. Trumpet sounded heard in the spirits from heaven to the sea and rush gate of the heaven’s upon the earth. The name of angel that sounded and captured fallen in the thirteenth month; Tebae-et, into the stellar order of gates or fallen paradise.
A child of light borne in spirit always with the hosts or different characters in life such as Chanokh (Enokh-Father of Melekhi-Tsedek order), but it was either in dream or warden amongst crowds of souls touring in celestial spheres with paths of light on the tree of life. Walking outside my house the morning after my dream, I felt as if I could float in the air body and soul light as a feather. Surrounding me was Topaz, chrysophrase, jasper, chalcedony, and amber gemstones still transparency like crystalloluminescence. Above me sapphire with alabaster and my soul looked down upon me with white eyes shining light out of them in a robe covered in my names brilliantly shone in gold light in the temple of my soul. My body was in euphoria and I stared into the future and realms of heaven, seeing into the seven seals as celestial wardens. The divine experience was wholesome pure enrichment to my soul each word I had in communion with the throne of supreme majesty firm with glory, order, and unconditional loving care. Differences in the Father; whom was a body of so many names and creations perfect in commands, recordings, gates, cycles of hosts myriads, elementals, migrations of stars, and firmament upon firmament.
The way of the most holy spirits as complete body of the Father the original tree of life, which is known completely in the true names it was created as. The spirits, angels, guardians or incessantly serving hosts help the Father governing of the kingdom of heaven in the four parts of man. The structure I remember is perfection with tongues that fill the heart with everlasting laughter, hope that cheerfully overcomes in a soul victory. The heavenly abode the height of the throne gives the soul countenance of wisdom to the word unto man. Upon a single walk with the Father had taken my body and spirited my being in soul countenance of wisdom so far through the future I had saw unto trumpets of revelation.
Melekhi-Tsedek order the true religion to be proclaimed unto man the creatures such as animals, fallen accursed, the plant life in, promise, orphans, and widows were watched over on the decree or divine ordination from heaven. Ascending up to the throne; I went through the knowledge of the complete day in heaven or paradise recorded then toured the solar spheres, through the knowledge of the spirits or holy hosts that did in accordance to the orders. The process was divined in the Father’s willpower over my essence I had knowledge to what was being experienced in a connection unto every living creation. Completely, opening the mind unto Ratsiel (secret of God), through the third-eye founding of my soul into mysteries of kingdom of heaven. Voices of many named angels were annunciating with pleasant tones and choirs voices of angels by the thousands. Recording archangels kept the things that were occurring in the kingdom of man, while also serving the obligated roles of their natural being as direct personification of God. Organized, synchronized, and in spirit of prophecy patterning so perfected without error moving about in every way structurally sound through commanded orders. Systems of planets were kept sealed in the seven hallways or wards that divide heaven’s celestial nether space from the foundation of firmaments of word and universe unto the highest Lords signs of zodiac places. Above Almighty Father can sit omnipotent as ascending angels, spirits, or orders can go the entire flight focused on the Father’s throne. The orders of body were eminence Seraphim, Cherubim, Wheels (Thrones), Dominions (Authorities), Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangel, and Angels. Although the kingdom in spirit was always changing and becoming according to the cycle of the sun’s orbital sphere into the gates of each day on a 28 year cycle and 7,000 year unto 7 days in heaven the Lord a light-giver and also Lord of completion, Sabbath day.
A fresh gust of wind and a light pure feel was a regular experience while awakening my mind I learned of the Elders of heaven whom had crazy stories like when Samson had the might to slay the lions or tore down the temple of Dagon. I knew the hosts and things that had become in the kingdom of heaven to allow the might shone as a show for the heaven, but also act of the devils in his life. This knowledge was in a book the scripted the entirety of all the acts that take place as a divine act, once a celestial being was in visitation in spirit. The seraph Ratsiel (secret of God) investigated the acts of the temptation of Adam by Chavah and the acts of the archangels in response to the threat. The accord to the acts of everything that exists in the accord to knowledge of the solar is obtainable through this book, the book of knowledge.
Later in another dream I met the minister of death in spirit which as within a myriad where thousands of spirits were at works performing the acts in which is their existence and adapted behavior as a role in realms. Being in one place while still seeing into a complete different world or plane of existence doing as is need or divined in nature. Black darkened pillars came down on me as this space ship shaped like a pyramid with the patterns of natural earth red and black like lava years after a volcano. Around me each pillar stood as a being in realm invisible to my eye except for one being on a throne centered in the myriad the throne of death. Fiery torment in flames along with brimstone flowed in two pooled lakes parallel from one another with a long path going from gate to the another gate leading to Sheol or Hades. A base foundation of the throne is a horizontal shadowed hallway with many smaller pillars which give no support to the throne, while the path is vertically centered. Two stairways go up to the platform of the throne one on each side of the platform decorated with images of Baaliyal in form of a torrent. Death sat upon the throne with darkness like the appearance of black smoke blowing from his mouth a complete skeleton. Skeletal body covered in black cloak with a screeching voice like a woman’s long fingernail’s scratching a chalkboard. Terrified I walk my being over the site of my soul-mate who is on my like side and here with me she is like a dream and become in multiple places at the same time. Beautiful she was consistently becoming in hosts of cherubim changing into many different forms of the adapting natural instincts of animal’s behavior for survival, she is tan Carmel skin color and flesh uncorrupted by any mans thoughts of lusting ruin. Passionate vivid dreams of a                maiden lying in an alien jungle full of plants most like a rainforest but yet close to the planet’s beaches, wearing a purple robe. Dark and warm humid with a damp feel to the observer of the smooth cover of the claylike terrain of the solar sphere. Again I dreamed of her while she was separated from me by the prince of Tyre or the cherub covering the mercy, she ran amongst different hallways while in the tower of Babel and giant nephlim watched with other gods in gold cursed trying to look down on things in spirit. I walked up the stairs and could see myself from outside of myself, seeing my form as a human being in appearance most like Michael or Melekhidael with breastplate of gold without a helmet. Death screeched out at me and I saw an ancient giant of hell also the spirit of Tanhumeth trying to send me into the past. Awakened into a new form I walked through the gate vertical in the chamber beneath death’s ministry. Sopheriael Yahweh took me into the spirit of a seraph Hadaneriael then, into the 10 archangels of punishment over the 10 nations of Babylon the great which took me into the depth to the ninth circle of punishment for a reign in gates of the Phul seal or in Phalek. My soul was the loosened stars of Kesil through Samuil the poisoned messenger a discernment spirit involved in the surfs of the accord of the kingdom of dark princes in paradise, the divine comedy Queen of Angels enchanted songs counted into paradise. Darkness in the kingdom of heaven, with the ability to paralyze minds with seraphim hosts of terror, I walked through the brazen gates of Hades seeing everything on fire but also thousands of thousands of different forms of creations each rarity seen with delightful insight to provoke interests into any living being. The life paths of a multitude of creations would come through Hades and become baptized through spirit’s fire of pure refinement spoken as worth in the golden city, precious daughter of the loom, here in accord to John the Baptist’s   prophecy.
At a young age of 6 years old I began to refuse the world or play directly into the kingdom of heaven which was a lonely elect of self in my family also in the church my family attended. Wicked spirits attacked the gates of my inner ear where and had began to tell me of things that would happen in future then, keep me from being with the Father completely in heaven. My memory started to fade in fear that I would only to struggle if I kept learning. Gradual disillusion way from the throne began while I was only a few years old, the devils were wise in deceit most from the tree of knowledge and future mistakes from which I saw rolling with wheels of heaven. Moments of times in the future I would soul determine things into happening from the spirit of prophecy it was something I kept special between the Father and mines relationship. Constantly I would hated life and wanted to die, feed into temptation, stole, and spoke accursedly cutting my relationship from the Father.
Was not until I was seventeen years of age when I felt an overwhelming feeling like I had just explained something about the firmament of heaven which usually gives me this same feeling like a gust of wind in my person with a prestigious self worth from outside of self comforting to my soul. Looking up into the pitch black night sky, I saw a strange and odd formed constellation of stars above me I raised my arm and pointed at three stars. As if on command or through a governing of the stars each was loosed and fell immediately after pointing to them. Excited as the skin of my body was stinging as hairs stood to the point of super natural acknowledgment of the world’s great mysteries finding depth in the human soul I watched the sky then turned to the east. About to use the marijuana I torched a bowl of green bud then thought in the medium mostly of the kingdom and Father in heaven. In the zephyr region of the sky I saw a light floating, soaring, flashing, and moving faster than anything I had ever seen in life but on movies scenes. Astonished again I watch the spirit jumping around in the sky with multiple purposes and clear intent to do for the Father most high. My only other witness to this was my black minx cat shadoe, whom I looked at and said “I going to have a vision tomorrow” then finished two more hits of the cannabis before leaving to my room in the basement of a two-story house.
Awakening to the day was full of feeling of mystery I didn’t tell any of my experience from the night before. On October eighteenth in the day I smoked some marijuana went to Crook County High School and a blood drive was setup, I planned to give a pint for my first time ever so I went to auditorium where the blood was taken from my arm. Feeling faint and in hope for a high opposed to school I left and was excused from classes. Arriving at the house I stopped my Suzuki Sidekick in front then went in and downstairs to the place after the last step knowing something amazing was about to happening I uttered the name Metatron. Linear thought was tremendous while spirit balanced on a pillar and the first seal Arathron had me in celestial hallway warding the ancient spirits from the night before. Sitting down in a lazyboy recliner chair I first start the satellite television turn it on with remote, the spirits are crazy making grandeur boosts of how I can control everything like that remote but from mind. Flipping through stations I begin to change the channel in accord to how I sense and feel the spirits. Crazy things start occurring watching until I was seeing a celestial vision. Hearing my mind from above it was intriguing and making my pride compulsive like no one living I was experiencing these sights. As a mode of characters in a set ordained function were becoming visible on the tree of life but each were in a different realm not visible to the other. Beautiful alien life most exquisite to the eyes in the planes of other worldly adobes just doing into a set way of commands rare without repetition. Nine characters panther, eagle, falcon, wolf, coyote, Siberian tiger, and one man with blonde hair came into view in a dense rainforest like jungle each was adapting to the environment but they were only one soul becoming the entire time. The forest was no longer and the upper places had new hosting since I had entered and changed things with my thoughts, I became the soul of the characters. Seeing upwardly was a flight to the top of the extreme heights of the Father’s presence through the third seal of Phalek. At the arrival of my being I saw the most adorned and absolutely marvelous splendor of white shine like that of the sun’s rays hitting snow filled fields. The Father’s presence so handsome and gorgeous I have never seen another beauty like it only his eyes were so bright shining when he created my being as a star to his left-hand above a white marble pedestal of wisdom. Father had most elegant white robe shining in purity and sat upon a throne center below seven pillars known as the tabernacle of creation or tabernacle of seven days. In the presence I was pulled back down I felt spirits by the millions entering me, fusing to the dawn star in me finding a place inside me. Possessively filled with spirits till an evil pride overtook me and I felt ever sinful or dark taint of the soul. Lightening fell on the seventh pillar in the tabernacle blue bolts streaked downward as I fell from the presence back to the sphere of Adam’s where I heard two voices speaking. Red clay-like surface with rough igneous and metaphoric rock on the solar planet were a tree had burned to charred pieces. Sin from the Tree of knowledge was present as a spirit she was a young apprentice of the ancient one or Athiquelis. Introducing herself with flaming hair of red orange flames, her eyes shone as big red gemstones of ruby and a body covered with a black dress that faded into the natural darkness of her nature. Waving and floating in the air seducing temptation in her words that spoke into my mind and not from the channel. Soothsaying feminist voice would move me to her place and origin beside a large eleven foot pillar of smooth dark bla
zebra Oct 2017
Here is a primer on the history of poetry

Features of Modernism

To varying extents, writing of the Modernist period exhibits these features:

1. experimentation

belief that previous writing was stereotyped and inadequate
ceaseless technical innovation, sometimes for its own sake
originality: deviation from the norm, or from usual reader expectations
ruthless rejection of the past, even iconoclasm

2. anti-realism

sacralisation of art, which must represent itself, not something beyond preference for allusion (often private) rather than description
world seen through the artist's inner feelings and mental states
themes and vantage points chosen to question the conventional view
use of myth and unconscious forces rather than motivations of conventional plot

3. individualism

promotion of the artist's viewpoint, at the expense of the communal
cultivation of an individual consciousness, which alone is the final arbiter
estrangement from religion, nature, science, economy or social mechanisms
maintenance of a wary intellectual independence
artists and not society should judge the arts: extreme self-consciousness
search for the primary image, devoid of comment: stream of consciousness
exclusiveness, an aristocracy of the avant-garde

4. intellectualism

writing more cerebral than emotional
work is tentative, analytical and fragmentary, more posing questions more than answering them
cool observation: viewpoints and characters detached and depersonalized
open-ended work, not finished, nor aiming at formal perfection
involuted: the subject is often act of writing itself and not the ostensible referent

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Expressionism

Expressionism was a phase of twentieth-century writing that rejected naturalism and romanticism to express important inner truths. The style was generally declamatory or even apocalyptic, endeavoring to awaken the fears and aspirations that belong to all men, and which European civilization had rendered effete or inauthentic. The movement drew on Rimbaud and Nietzsche, and was best represented by German poetry of the 1910-20 period. Benn, Becher, Heym, Lasker-Schüler, Stadler, Stramm, Schnack and Werfel are its characteristic proponents, {1} though Trakl is the best known to English readers. {2} {3}

Like most movements, there was little of a manifesto, or consensus of beliefs and programmes. Many German poets were distrustful of contemporary society — particularly its commercial and capitalist attitudes — though others again saw technology as the escape from a perceived "crisis in the old order". Expressionism was very heterogeneous, touching base with Imagism, Vorticism, Futurism, Dadaism and early Surrealism, many of which crop up in English, French, Russian and Italian poetry of the period. Political attitudes tended to the revolutionary, and technique was overtly experimental. Nonetheless, for all the images of death and destruction, sometimes mixed with messianic utopianism, there was also a tone of resignation, a sadness of "the evening lands" as Spengler called them.

Expressionism also applies to painting, and here the characteristics are more illuminating. The label refers to painting that uses visual gestures to transmit emotions and emotionally charged messages. In the expressive work of Michelangelo and El Greco, for example, the content remains of first importance, but content is overshadowed by technique in such later artists as van Gogh, Ensor and Munch. By the mid twentieth-century even this attenuated content had been replaced by abstract painterly qualities — by the sheer scale and dimensions of the work, by colour and shape, by the verve of the brushwork and other effects.

Expressionism often coincided with rapid social change. Germany, after suffering the horrors of the First World War, and ineffectual governments afterwards, fragmented into violently opposed political movements, each with their antagonistic coteries and milieu. The painting of these groups was very variable, but often showed a mixture of aggression and naivety. Understandably unpopular with the establishment  — denounced as degenerate by the Nazis — the style also met with mixed reactions from the picture-buying public. It seemed to question what the middle classes stood for: convention, decency, professional expertise. A great sobbing child had been let loose in the artist's studio, and the results seemed elementally challenging. Perhaps German painting was returning to its Nordic roots, to small communities, apocalyptic visions, monotone starkness and anguished introspection.

What could poetry achieve in its turn? Could it use some equivalent to visual gestures, i.e. concentrate on aspects of the craft of poetry, and to the exclusion of content? Poetry can never be wholly abstract, a pure poetry bereft of content. But clearly there would be a rejection of naturalism. To represent anything faithfully requires considerable skill, and such skill was what the Expressionists were determined to avoid. That would call on traditions that were not Nordic, and that were not sufficiently opposed to bourgeois values for the writer's individuality to escape subversion. Raw power had to tap something deeper and more universal.

Hence the turn inward to private torments. Poets became the judges of poetry, since only they knew the value of originating emotions. Intensity was essential.  Artists had to believe passionately in their responses, and find ways of purifying and deepening those responses — through working practices, lifestyles, and philosophies. Freud was becoming popular, and his investigations into dreams, hallucinations and paranoia offered a rich field of exploration. Artists would have to glory in their isolation, moreover, and turn their anger and frustration at being overlooked into a belief in their own genius. Finally, there would be a need to pull down and start afresh, even though that contributed to a gradual breakdown in the social fabric and the apocalypse of the Second World War.

Expressionism is still with us. Commerce has invaded bohemia, and created an elaborate body of theory to justify, support and overtake what might otherwise appear infantile and irrational. And if traditional art cannot be pure emotional expression, then a new art would have to be forged. Such poetry would not be an intoxication of life (Nietzsche's phrase) and still less its sanctification.  Great strains on the creative process were inevitable, moreover, as they were in Georg Trakl's case, who committed suicide shortly after writing the haunting and beautiful piece given below

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SYMBOLIST POETS
symbolism in poetry

Symbolism in literature was a complex movement that deliberately extended the evocative power of words to express the feelings, sensations and states of mind that lie beyond everyday awareness. The open-ended symbols created by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) brought the invisible into being through the visible, and linked the invisible through other sensory perceptions, notably smell and sound. Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-98), the high priest of the French movement, theorized that symbols were of two types. One was created by the projection of inner feelings onto the world outside. The other existed as nascent words that slowly permeated the consciousness and expressed a state of mind initially unknown to their originator.

None of this came about without cultivation, and indeed dedication. Poets focused on the inner life. They explored strange cults and countries. They wrote in allusive, enigmatic, musical and ambiguous styles. Rimbaud deranged his senses and declared "Je est un autre". Von Hofmannstahl created his own language. Valéry retired from the world as a private secretary, before returning to a mastery of traditional French verse. Rilke renounced wife and human society to be attentive to the message when it came.

Not all were great theoreticians or technicians, but the two interests tended to go together, in Mallarmé most of all. He painstakingly developed his art of suggestion, what he called his "fictions". Rare words were introduced, syntactical intricacies, private associations and baffling images. Metonymy replaced metaphor as symbol, and was in turn replaced by single words which opened in imagination to multiple levels of signification. Time was suspended, and the usual supports of plot and narrative removed. Even the implied poet faded away, and there were then only objects, enigmatically introduced but somehow made right and necessary by verse skill. Music indeed was the condition to which poetry aspired, and Verlaine, Jimenez and Valéry were among many who concentrated efforts to that end.

So appeared a dichotomy between the inner and outer lives. In actuality, poets led humdrum existences, but what they described was rich and often illicit: the festering beauties of courtesans and dance-hall entertainers; far away countries and their native peoples; a world-weariness that came with drugs, isolation, alcohol and bought ***. Much was mixed up in this movement — decadence, aestheticism, romanticism, and the occult — but its isms had a rational purpose, which is still pertinent. In what way are these poets different from our own sixties generation? Or from the young today: clubbing, experimenting with relationships and drugs, backpacking to distant parts? And was the mixing of sensory perceptions so very novel or irrational? Synaesthesia was used by the Greek poets, and indeed has a properly documented basis in brain physiology.

What of the intellectual bases, which are not commonly presented as matters that should engage the contemporary mind, still less the writing poet? Symbolism was built on nebulous and somewhat dubious notions: it inspired beautiful and historically important work: it is now dead: that might be the blunt summary. But Symbolist poetry was not empty of content, indeed expressed matters of great interest to continental philosophers, then and now. The contents of consciousness were the concern of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), and he developed a terminology later employed by Heidegger (1889-1976), the Existentialists and hermeneutics. Current theories on metaphor and brain functioning extend these concepts, and offer a rapprochement between impersonal science and irrational literary theory.

So why has the Symbolism legacy dwindled into its current narrow concepts? Denied influence in the everyday world, poets turned inward, to private thoughts, associations and the unconscious. Like good Marxist intellectuals they policed the area they arrogated to themselves, and sought to correct and purify the language that would evoke its powers. Syntax was rearranged by Mallarmé. Rhythm, rhyme and stanza patterning were loosened or rejected. Words were purged of past associations (Modernism), of non-visual associations (Imagism), of histories of usage (Futurism), of social restraint (Dadaism) and of practical purpose (Surrealism). By a sort of belated Romanticism, poetry was returned to the exploration of the inner lands of the irrational. Even Postmodernism, with its bric-a-brac of received media images and current vulgarisms, ensures that gaps are left for the emerging unconscious to engage our interest

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.
IMAGIST POETRY
imagist poetry

Even by twentieth-century standards, Imagism was soon over. In 1912 Ezra Pound published the Complete Poetical Works of its founder, T.E. Hulme (five short poems) and by 1917 the movement, then overseen by Amy Lowell, had run its course. {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} The output in all amounted to a few score poems, and none of these captured the public's heart. Why the importance?

First there are the personalities involved — notably Ezra Pound, James Joyce, William Carlos Williams {6} {7} {8} {9} — who became famous later. If ever the (continuing) importance to poets of networking, of being involved in movements from their inception, is attested, it is in these early days of post-Victorian revolt.

Then there are the manifestos of the movement, which became the cornerstones of Modernism, responsible for a much taught in universities until recently, and for the difficulties poets still find themselves in. The Imagists stressed clarity, exactness and concreteness of detail. Their aims, briefly set out, were that:

1. Content should be presented directly, through specific images where possible.
2. Every word should be functional, with nothing included that was not essential to the effect intended.
3. Rhythm should be composed by the musical phrase rather than the metronome.

Also understood — if not spelled out, or perhaps fully recognized at the time — was the hope that poems could intensify a sense of objective reality through the immediacy of images.

Imagism itself gave rise to fairly negligible lines like:

You crash over the trees,
You crack the live branch…  (Storm by H.D.)

Nonetheless, the reliance on images provided poets with these types of freedom:

1. Poems could dispense with classical rhetoric, emotion being generated much more directly through what Eliot called an objective correlate: "The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an 'objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked." {10}

2. By being shorn of context or supporting argument, images could appear with fresh interest and power.

3. Thoughts could be treated as images, i.e. as non-discursive elements that added emotional colouring without issues of truth or relevance intruding too mu
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PROSE BASED POETRY
prose based poetry

When free verse lacks rhythmic patterning, appearing as a lineated prose stripped of unnecessary ornament and rhetoric, it becomes the staple of much contemporary work. The focus is on what the words are being used to say, and their authenticity. The language is not heightened, and the poem differs from prose only by being more self-aware, innovative and/or cogent in its exposition.

Nonetheless, what looks normal at first becomes challenging on closer reading — thwarting expectations, and turning back on itself to make us think more deeply about the seemingly innocuous words used. And from there we are compelled to look at the world with sharper eyes, unprotected by commonplace phrases or easy assumptions. Often an awkward and fighting poetry, therefore, not indulging in ceremony or outmoded traditions.
What is Prose?

If we say that contemporary free verse is often built from what was once regarded as mere prose, then we shall have to distinguish prose from poetry, which is not so easy now. Prose was once the lesser vehicle, the medium of everyday thought and conversation, what we used to express facts, opinions, humour, arguments, feelings and the like. And while the better writers developed individual styles, and styles varied according to their purpose and social occasion, prose of some sort could be written by anyone. Beauty was not a requirement, and prose articles could be rephrased without great loss in meaning or effectiveness.

Poetry, though, had grander aims. William Lyon Phelps on Thomas Hardy's work: {1}

"The greatest poetry always transports us, and although I read and reread the Wessex poet with never-lagging attention — I find even the drawings in "Wessex Poems" so fascinating that I wish he had illustrated all his books — I am always conscious of the time and the place. I never get the unmistakable spinal chill. He has too thorough a command of his thoughts; they never possess him, and they never soar away with him. Prose may be controlled, but poetry is a possession. Mr. Hardy is too keenly aware of what he is about. In spite of the fact that he has written verse all his life, he seldom writes unwrinkled song. He is, in the last analysis, a master of prose who has learned the technique of verse, and who now chooses to express his thoughts and his observations in rime and rhythm."

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OPEN FORMS IN POETRY
open forms in poetry

Poets who write in open forms usually insist on the form growing out of the writing process, i.e. the poems follow what the words and phrase suggest during the composition
Anon C Dec 2012
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
And the highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding,
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark innyard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by the moonlight,
Watch for me by the moonlight,
I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way.

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come at the dawning; he did not come at noon,
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching,
Marching, marching
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at the casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement,
The road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"now keep good watch!" And they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say
"Look for me by the moonlight
Watch for me by the moonlight
I'll come to thee by the moonlight, though hell should bar the way!"

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness and the hours crawled by like years!
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it!
The trigger at least was hers!

Tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs were ringing clear
Tlot-tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming!
She stood up straight and still!

Tlot in the frosty silence! Tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment! She drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know she stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it; his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were the spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

Still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon, tossed upon the cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding,
Riding, riding,
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
I keep sharing songs but they are so beautiful I want people to hear them. This one breaks my heart. More Loreena Mckennitt. Originally by Alfred Noyes I did not know! So I must recognize him albeit Loreena sings it majestically!
SJ Stine Jan 2011
Sunshine on bare legs,
feet on the dash.
Wind twisting through opened windows
and newly loosened hair.

Open road with the heat dancing
waves from the black top.
Petty and Mellencamp on the radio
sets the tone for our American adventure.

Let's head to Phoenix or Santa Fe,
anywhere as long as it's with you.

The sun is calling our names,
calling us away from these cold, barren plains.

You don't belong here,
your eyes are screaming for the summer.
Your soul is tires on pavement
creating it's own humming song of freedom.

My feet are planted here,
but it's time to uproot with you.
Mitchell Duran May 2011
Assembly line broke down as the mirrors crashed and cracked.
"Angelina!!!" the crooked boss man yelled.
"Get in herre" the crook socks rang like bells.
Angelina poured sweat of the yellow blouse she had bought two days before for another interview in another office and another profession altogether. The room spun for her even though she would rather have it stay still.
"How much longer till this mechanism shifts and all of this stops altogether. Have their been madder women then me? Has there been madder men then me? Have their been madder times or are the times the same just with different tools and gears and nuts and bolts to tirelessly continue, heaving the corpses through the concrete cracked and littered streets?"
"Angelina!!!"
Another nail gun dropped to the floor, firing twenty rounds into fifty blue collared men's tie clips, deflecting them all to the near by wall which held the coats, the hats, the work shoes which the men were not allowed to wear due to "safety intrusions" and "labor union by lateral horizontal negative dairy laws". Another unfortunate fortune from the cracked mirror case but that, of course, is not the story, our story is...
"Angelina!!!"
Angy hurried up the hungry, empty metal n' holy stairs. She lost her high heels in a crack in the stairs but left them there due to the fear. 2011 had been a good year until she had been forced by her landlord, also her boyfriend, to get a real job rather then stuffing her knitted socks with her poetry and trying to haggle them to new age modern morons of the hip near sighters whom glasses were unintelligible but necessary. The mirrors of the conveyor belts reached the top of the platform but the door was shut. The mirrors bent and shattered leaving the splintered pattern of the world outside of them multiplied by the millions.
Noon was her lunch break and it was noon oh two. Angelina would be late with her lunch and the landlord, Nick, was planning to stop in with some home made sandwiches and home made potato chips.
"Nick will have to wait." Angelina thought to herself. "Nick hates to wait."
Angelina entered to stand in the wake of a shaking, sweating purse wearing, purse lipped boss boss. His hair was tossed to one side, struggling to hide his baldness. The subtelty of their relationship was difficult considering Angelina had slept with boss boss to get tossed this job. The act was actually enjoyable, Angelina thought him a good lay, but boss boss was not a fun person to be around, and he was a much worser boss.
"Angelina!!!"
"Hi."
"Your FIRED!"
"Bye then sir..."
"ANGELINA!!!"
"Yes sir?"
"AREN'T YOU GOING TO ASK WHY YOU WERE JUST SO HASTILY AND VIOLENTLY FIRED?"
"It is not my place to inquire why I was fired sir. If I was not doing my specific duty well enough I trust you, as my superior, to have thought what this subtraction would do to your company. If I had questioned you I would be questioning yourself as a boss and I would never want to do that...sir."
"VERY GOOD. DISMISSED!!!"

---

"So he just fired you, no explanation, nothing?"
"There was nothing really to say after the fact."
"You could have demanded an explanation."
"I was in a hurry to meet you. I know you hate to be late for our dates."
"That's sweet."
"And boss boss shouldn't have to explain himself, he IS a professional."
"He works in mirrors which doesn't make at all make him a ropes course supervisor."
"He's very handsome when He means what He says."
The home made potato chips had been burnt because Nick had fallen asleep while watching old re-runs of run marathons from the 80's. Nick had trained for the Olympics in 83' but while home after training and drinking an OK shake, Nick had stubbed his toe while drinking the OK shake and trying to get to a ringing telephone. Nick had collided so perfectly, so quickly and with such for that his right big toe had bent all the way back, his big toe fingernail touching the hairy patch on the top of his foot. The doctors said amputate the toe and save the foot or chop the entire thing off altogether. Nick, not being a dumb ****, opted for the entire foot. He never raced again.
"Are you going to try and get your job back?
"I don't know"
"Well. It's the 28th tomorrow and I need the rent either way. The insurance agency I'm with has been bugging me about percentages and utilities and...well, you don't want to hear about my worries."
"I don't mind sweety."
"Thanks doll. What're you gonna do?"
"Find more work I guess. I haven't written anything in a while, maybe it's a good time to get back on that train, see what comes up."
"I saw a help wanted sign at the mall nail salon."

---

Baby stroller wheels lined with pink and grey gum were lined up against the overwhelming glass wall enclosing the shops from the streets. Trees reflected green with the sun light lined across the clear wall. Birds flew at the top of the block near the ceiling crop, they wanted to come in but were confused how to do so. Children came through the valley with lollipops and balloon powder and strings lined with meats, they were headed to the capitalistic circus, a wonder land that only brought guilt from lovers and their future children's shame.
Angelina stood outside the electronic moment to moment receivers. She was afraid of not being allowed entry. Everyone entering entered easily, but what of she? Would she be accepted? Clicking her unpainted fingernail atop her leopard print clip purse and what was worse she had no cash to get her orange Julius or perhaps see a film if she couldn't conjure of the courage to stop off at the salon. That was why she had come here, right?
"Where had the salon been?" Angelina said aloud.
The mass of the mall was vibrating with a ferocious congruity. Through the fog of meaty torso's lay blank and content faces. Gripping their wares, their steaming quick food, some of it dropping to their foot only to be kicked around on the dirtied floor. At times a rat would scurry from underneath a traveling underwear salesmen to grab a piece of fried bread, half cooked meat, or small pieces of children's hair which floated softly down to the wet and mud streaked floor. Mall cops waved their sticks to each other, some kind of HAIL or CHEER that they were the one's in charge round' these parts and there wasn't nothing no one was going to do about it.
"Do I really want to work here?"
There was no choice though. Angelina needed to pay the rent or her landlord/boyfriend would kick her out on the street and from there, she had no clue where the blue sky would take her. Her parents, both dead thirteen years ago, would be a terrible place to set up camp, especially in a graveyard. Angelina's brother lived over seas working at a ***** clinic trying and failing to heal the weak and unwanted. He had tried to heal her through voodoo practices he gathered up drunk through his 6 month stay in New Orleans but it had only given her a bright blue and red rash for three to four weeks. She never longer trusted her brother with any kind of healing or "feel better" techniques and was no prepared to make the trek to Europe anytime soon, she was in a relationship at the moment anyway and she had a feeling she might be in love.
Angelina stepped through the glass exchanging doors in unison with a family that was entering at the same time. The door seemed to open for any body but was tentative if it would accept hers, this time, it seemed to.
Inside she made her way up "the miracle marbled stairs" which shined bright and blinded Angelina in certain parts of her eyes. They flashed bright red and greens and whites so visciously and fast Angelina thought she might have some kind of seizure. She planted her feet directly on each step as she walked up the 20 to 30 stairs, going very slow and gripping the handrail. People started to gather around behind her shouting "HURRY UP LADY" and "WE DON"T GOT ALL DAY" and giggling to themselves.
"Were they not seeing these lights?" Angelina thought to herself.
"Do you kind people know where the nail salon is?"
Angelina then realized that what she had just said made no sense. Her eyes were gripped shut, her hand tight around the shiny gold handrail, her feet pointed strictly out like some kind of paralyzed summer penguin. The people which had gathered behind her stood bare, jaw slacked, wondering who would step forth to help this poor helpless creature.
A little girl with red sparkled shoes and a orange bow atop her head stepped forth. She smiled even though she knew Angelina had her eyes tightly shut, maybe she would feel the warmth? The girl's mother reached for her so not to get to close to that "crazy lady" but the little girl pulled away, her father saying "If it's her time to go, it's her time to go".
"Miss lady with the tiger purse, I think the hardware nail pull on is on the 8th floor next to the people that sell bread with meat sticks inside."
The little girl stepped gingerly back as Angelina loosened her grip on the now stained golden handrail. She shook her hair out and ran her fingers through it, straightening herself up as if she were about to perform a song or late night poetry reading. Angelina opened her eyes and peered down at the girl.
"Thank you little girl. What's the best way to get there?"
The girl child said nothing. She pointed to a large metal box shooting up and down the length that looked like a rocket straight to heaven. People were gathered all around its foundation, oooing and ahhhing at the sight of the one's which entered. There was a sign over the line of tubes reading "A Shot at the Void".
"A shot at the Void..." Angelina tentaively breathed to herself.
Angelina stepped up the last couple glittering stairs and made her way through the thick crowd of stale clothes, cheap tricks, obsessed teeny boppers, hardware for wear, shoes with no laces, strips of bacon hanging from mouths, lettuce all shredded, soda cans with their lids torn clean off with small splatters of blood lined on the rim, and a perfectly painted fingernail was drawn on the number eight where the long lines and rows of numbers were there to guide the one's to the shot.
"Number eight. Easy enough"
Angelina pushed the button.

---

Inside the tube there was a slow light hum of jazz transfusion and children breathing. There were three little daughters gripping their mother's hands as they bit into their soda pop straws, ******* up the soda inside the plastic and cardboard cups. All three children stared up at her, maybe wondering what she was wondering, which was exactly what Angelina was wondering, a combination of mistaken telepathy, an accident of consciousness that would be never be talked about between the four of them but most surely existed between them.

Smooth as clay they drifted up the translucent clear glass tube, shooting skyward like a man made rocket shot from a man made gun. They passed shops hocking wears of angelic colors: clear pearl pastels shone through the clear blue glass shining into Angelina's eyes forcing Her to squint, dog barks could be heard through the whistling air begging for treats of black and brown, teriyaki chicken strips and duck heads spun absurdly fast with a rhythm that resembled the wave of a crowd at a baseball game waving wildly like children flying from swings never wanting to land in the sand; all this as the three and one flew higher and higher and higher.

---

Ding.

---

Angelina stepped forward, leaving the three children behind Her to fend for themselves. From the looks of the button they had pushed they were headed East. She gripped her bag and peeled Her eyes, twisted her hair in a tight knot to show her aggression, her vigor, her confidence and stepped into the rabid salmon like crowd.

She saw no signs of the nail salon. She saw only posters of rabbits holding artichoke legs and nail guns firing rockets of ice cream and corn bread. These were the mirrors of the supposed revolution but had nothing to do with her nail salon, she needed the cash and she needed it NOW! How hard were the numbers to acquire? How long must she wait before the envelope is sent and the letter read and thrown out? How long Lord, how long?

Questions for a time when the pay checks were easy coming and Her man was by her side. She passed by a little boy playing William Tell with her sister. An apple on the little tots head and in the boys a small, tight and silver ray gun. The boy pulled the trigger but only a small plume of smoke came from the top making the boy ball over crying and wailing and kicking and screaming, nearly catching Angelina in the shin, what a mess...The little girl stayed still in Her spot though because her brother told her "Now don't move a cinch." Wise move my girl, wise move...

At last! Angelina, reaching Her destination saw the brightly neon colored corner of her beloved Nail Salon. The windows shone with pure red glitter, miniatures of poodles lapping up puddles of ice water, women laying out on the sun to catch rays from the Earth, and husbands shaving their backs all in a circle and row.

"How beautiful..." Angelina breathed out.

She entered the store front. Greeted from every corner were beautiful young cupid like angels faces shining divine but with no torsos, floating heads of angels ***** but crying and smiling. Asking Angelina "What would you like today miss?" or "What are you after?", beckoning for her requests, begging for her touch of vulnerability and lack of knowledge of where she was or what she needed.

"Just an application...I heard you all were hiring?"

"Hiring!!!?" the cupid heads screamed in unison.

"You want to become one of us?"

"Yes, part-time...?" Angelina said hesitantly.

As soon as the words "part" had been uttered from Angelina's wise and brave mouth the many heads of cupid began spinning and spinning around Angelina's body. Faster and faster they spun until Angelina herself was spinning with them, unified in a quadruple hurricane stripping her of her former self and slowly manipulating her body, her hair, her other self into her new self.

As Angelina's torso lay in the corner of the store un-bloodied, clothes tattered as well as some scratches  on her elbows from the toss, Angelina's head was floating in the perfect center of the other three hovering cupid heads.

"How beautiful...how beautiful...how beautiful."

"Isn't it?" the three cupid heads answered.

"Yes, everything here is so beautiful," the four of them whispered.

And as soon as Angelina had entered, she just as soon had left.

END

— The End —