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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
howard brace Feb 2012
Inconspicuous, his presence noted only by the obscurity and the ever growing number of spent cigarette stubs that littered the ground.  It had been a long day and the rain, relentless in its tenacity had little intention of stopping, baleful clouds still  hung heavy, dominating the lateness of the afternoon sky, a rain laden skyline broken only by smoke filled chimney pots and the tangled snarl of corroded television aerials.

     The once busy street was fast emptying now, the lure of shop windows no longer enticed the casual browser as local traders closed their premises to the oncoming night, solitary lampposts curved hazily into the distance, casting little more than insipid pools mirrored in the gutter below, only the occasional stranger scurrying home on a bleak, rain swept afternoon, the hurried slap of wet leather soles on the pavement, the sightless umbrellas, the infrequent rumble of a half filled bus, hell-bent on its way to oblivion.

     In the near distance as the working day ended, a sudden emergence of factory workers told Beamish it was 5-o'clock, most would be hurrying home to a hot meal, while others, for a quick drink perhaps before making the same old sorry excuse... for Jack, the greasy spoon would be closing about now, denying him the comfort of a badly needed cuppa' and stale cheese sandwich.  A subtle legacy of lunchtime fish and chips still lingered in the air, Jack's stomach rumbled, there was little chance of a fish supper for Beamish tonight, it protested again... louder.

     From beneath the eaves of the building opposite several pigeons broke cover, startled by the rattle as a shopkeeper struggled to close the canvas awning above his shop window.  Narrowly missing Beamish they flew anxiously over the rooftops, memories of the blitz sprang to mind as Jack stepped smartly to one side, he stamped his feet... it dashed a little of the weather from his raincoat, just as the rain dashed a little of the pigeons' anxiety from the pavement... the day couldn't get much worse if it tried.  Shielding his face, Jack struck the Ronson one more time and cupped the freshly lit cigarette between his hands, it was the only source of heat to be had that day... and still it rained.

     'By Appointment to Certain Personages...' the letter heading rang out loudly... 'Jack Beamish ~ Private Investigator...' a throat choking mouthful by any stretch of the imagination, thought Jack and shot every vestige of credulity plummeting straight through the office window and amidst a fanfare of trumpet voluntary, nominate itself for a prodigious award in the New Year Honours list.   Having formally served in a professional capacity for a well known purveyor of pickled condiments, who  incidentally, brandished the same patronage emblazoned upon their extensive range of relish as the one Jack had more recently purloined from them... a paid commission no less, which by Jack's certain understanding had made him, albeit fleeting in nature, a professional consultant of said company... and consequently, if they could flaunt the auspicious emblem, then according to Jack's infallible logic, so could Jack.  

     The recently appropriated letterhead possessed certain distinction... in much the same way, Jack reasoned, that a blank piece of paper did not... and whereas correspondence bearing the heading 'By Appointment' may not exactly strike terror into the hearts of man... unlike a really strong pickled onion, it nevertheless made people think twice before playing him for the fool, which sadly, Jack had to concede, they still invariably did... and he would often catch them wagging an accusing finger or two in his direction with such platitudes as... "watch where you put your foot", they'd whisper, "that Jack's a right Shamus...", and when you'd misplaced your footing as many times as Jack had, then he reasoned, that by default the celebrated Shamus must have landed himself in more piles of indiscretion than he would readily care to admit, but that wouldn't be quite accurate either, in Jack's line of work it was the malefactor that actually dropped him in them more often than not.

     A cold shiver suddenly ran down his spine, another quickly followed as a spurt of icy water from a broken rain spout spattered across the back of his neck, he grimaced... Jack's expression spoke volumes as he took one final pull from his half soaked cigarette and flicked it, amid an eruption of sparks against the adjacent brick wall.  Sinking further into the shadow he tipped his fedora against the oncoming rain, then, digging both hands deep within his pockets, he huddled behind the upturned collar of his gabardine... watching.

     It was times such as these when Jack's mind would slip back, in much the same way you might slip back on a discarded banana peel, when a matter of some consequence, or in particular this case the pavement, would suddenly leap up from behind and give the back of Jack's head a resoundingly good slapping and tell him to "stop loafing around in office hours... or else", then drag him, albeit kicking and screaming back into the 20th century.  This intellectual assault and battery re-focused Jack's mind wonderfully as he whiled away the long weary hours until his next cigarette; cup of tea, or the last bus home, his capacity to endure such mind boggling tedium called for nothing less than sheer ******-mindedness and very little else... Beamish had long suspected that he possessed all the necessary qualifications.  

     Jack had come a long way since the early days, it had been a long haul but he'd finally arrived there in the end... and managed to pick up quite a few ***** looks along the way.  Whilst he was with the Police Constabulary... and it was only fair to stress the word 'with', as opposed to the word 'in'... although the more Jack considered, he had been 'with' the arresting officer, held 'in' the local Bridewell... detained at Her Majesties pleasure while assisting the boys in blue with their enquiries over a minor infringement of some local by-law that currently had quite slipped his mind at that moment.  Throughout this enforced leisure period he'd managed to read the entire abridged editions of Kilroy and other expansive works of graffiti exhibited in what passed locally as the next best thing to the Tate Gallery, whereupon it hadn't taken Jack very long to realise that it was always a good place to start if you wanted free breakfast, in fact the weeks bill of fare was tastefully displayed in vivid, polychromatic colour on the wall opposite... you just had to be au-fait with braille.
                            
     No matter how industrious Beamish laboured to rake the dirt there always appeared to be a dire shortage of gullible clients for Jack to squeeze, what would roughly translate as an honest crust out of, and although his financial retainer was highly competitive he understood that potential clients found it bewildering when grappling with the unplumbed depths of his monthly expense account, which would tend to fluctuate with the same unpredictability as the British weather, the rest of Jack's agenda revolved around a little shady moonlighting... in fact he'd happily consider anything to offset the remotest possibility of financial delinquency... short of extortion... which by the strangest twist was the very word prospective clients would cry while Jack beavered around the office with dust-pan and brush sweeping any concerns they may have had frantically under the carpet regarding all culpability of his extra-curricular monthly stipend... and they should remain assured at all times... as they dug deep and fished for their cheque books, and simply look upon it as kneading dough, which eerily enough was exactly the thick wedge of buttered granary that Jack had every intention of carving.

     Were there ever the slightest possibility that a day could be so utterly wretched, then today was that day, Jack felt a certain empathy as he merged with his surroundings... at one with nature as it were.  The rain, a timpani on the metal dustbin lids, by the side of which Beamish had taken up vigil, also taking up vigil and in search of a morsel was the stray mongrel, this was the third time now that he'd returned, the same apprehensive wag, yet still the same hopeful look of expectation in his eyes, a brief but friendly companion who paid more attention to Jack's left trouser leg than anything that could be had from nosing around the dustbins that day... some days you're the dog, scowled Beamish as he shook his trouser leg... and some days the lamppost, Jack's foot swung out playfully, keeping his new friend's incontinence at a safe distance, feigning indignance  the scruffy mongrel shook himself defiantly from nose to tail, a distinct odour of wet dog filled the air as an abundance of spent rainwater flew in all directions.   Pricking one ear he looked accusingly at Jack before turning and snuffled off, his nose resolutely to the pavement and diligently, picking out the few diluted scents still remaining, the poor little stalwart renewed its search for scraps, or making his way perhaps to some dry seclusion known only to itself.
  
     Two hours later and... SPLOSH, a puddle poured itself through the front door of the nearest Public House... SPLOSH, the puddle squelched over to the payphone... SPLOSH, then, fumbling for small change dialled and pressed button 'A'..., then button 'B'... then started all over again amid a flurry of precipitation... SPLASH.  The puddle floundered to the bar and ordered itself a drink, then ebbed back to the payphone again... the local taxi company doggedly refused to answer... finally, wallowing over to the window the puddle drifted up against a warm radiator amidst a cloud of humidity and came to rest... flotsam, cast upon the shore of contentment, the puddle sighed contentedly... the Landlady watched this anomaly... suspiciously.

     The puddle's finely tuned perception soon got to grips with the unhurried banter and muffled gossip drifting along the bar, having little else to loose, other than what could still be wrung from his clothing... Beamish, working on the principle that a little eavesdropping was his stock-in-trade engaged instinct into overdrive and casually rippled in their general direction...  They were clearly regulars by the way one of them belched in a well rehearsed, taken-a-back sort of way as Jack took stock of the situation and was now at some pains to ingratiate himself into their exclusive midst and attempt several friendly, yet relevant questions pertinent to his enquiries... all of which were skillfully deflected with more than friendly, yet totally irrelevant answers pertinent to theirs'... and would Jack care for a game of dominoes', they enquired... if so, would he be good enough to pay the refundable deposit, as by common consent it just so happened to be his turn...  Jack graciously declined this generous offer, as the obliging Landlady, just as graciously, cancelled the one shilling returnable deposit from the cash register, such was the flow of light conversation that evening... they didn't call him Lucky Jack for nothing... discouraged, Beamish turned back to the bar and reached for his glass... to which one of his recent companions, and yet again just as graciously, had taken the trouble to drink for him... the Landlady gave Jack a knowing look, Beamish returned the heartfelt sentiment and ordered one more pint.

     From the licenced premises opposite, a myriad of jostling customers plied through the door, business was picking up... the sudden influx of punters rapidly persuaded Beamish to retire from the bar and find a vacant table.  Sitting, he removed several discarded crisp packets from the centre of the table only to discover a freshly vacated ashtray below... by sleight of hand Jack's Ronson appeared... as he lit the cigarette the fragile smoke curled blue as it rose... influenced by subtle caprice, it joined others and formed a horizontal curtain dividing the room, a delicate, undulating layer held between two conflicting forces.

     The possibility of a free drink soon attracted the attention of a local bar fly, who, hovering in the near vicinity promptly landed in Jack's beer, Beamish declined this generous offer as being far too nutritious and with the corner of yesterdays beer mat, flipped the offending organism from the top of his glass, carefully inspecting his drink for debris as he did so.

     A sudden draught and clip of stiletto heels as the side door opened caused Beamish to turn as a double shadow slipped discreetly into the friendly Snug... a little adulterous intimacy on an otherwise cheerless evening.  The faceless man, concealed beneath a fedora and the upturned collar of his overcoat, the surreptitious lady friend, decked out in damp cony, cheap perfume and a surfeit of bling proclaimed a not too infrequent assignation, he'd seen it all before... the over attentive manner and the band of white, Sun-starved skin recently hidden behind a now absent wedding token, ordinarily it was the sort of assignment Jack didn't much care for... the discreet tail, the candid snapshot through half drawn curtains... and the all too familiar steak tartare... for the all too familiar black eye.

     To the untrained eye, the prospect of Jack's long anticipated supper was rapidly dwindling, when it suddenly focused with renewed vigour upon the contents of a pickled egg jar he'd observed earlier that evening, lurking on the back counter, his enthusiasm swiftly diminished however as the belching customer procured the final two specimens from the jar and proceeded to demolish them.  Who, Jack reflected, after being stood out in the rain all day, had egg all over his face now... and who, he reflected deeper, still had an empty stomach.  Disillusioned, Jack tipped back his glass and considered a further sortie with the taxicab company.

     "FIVE-BOB"!!! Jack screamed... you could have shredded the air with a cheese grater... hurtling into the kerb like a fairground attraction came flying past the chequered flag at a record breaking 99 in Jack's top 100 most not wanted list of things to do that day... and that the cabby should think himself fortunate they weren't both stretched flat on a marble slab, "exploding tyres" Jack spluttered, dribbling down his chin, were enough to give anyone a coronary... further broadsides of neurotic ambiance filled the cab as the driver, miffed at the prospect of missing snooker night out with the lads, considered charging extra for the additional space Jack's profanity was taking...

     And what part of 'Drive-Carefully', fumed Beamish, did the cabby simply not understand, that pavements were there to be bypassed, 'Nay Circumvented', preferably on the left... and not veered into, wildly on the front axle... an eerie premonition of 'jemais-vu' perched and ready to strike like a disembodied Jiminy Cricket on Jack's left shoulder, looking to stick its own two-penny worth in at the 'Standing-Room-Only' arrangements in the overcrowded cab... and at what further point, Jack shrieked, eyes leaping from his head as he lurched forward, shaking his fist through the sliding glass partition, had the cabbie failed to grasp the importance of the word 'Steering-Wheel...' someone wanted horse whipping, and as far as Beamish was concerned the sole contender was the cab driver...

     In having a somewhat sedate and unruffled disposition it had fallen to Beamish... as befalls all great leaders in times of adversity, to single handedly take the bull by the horns, so to speak and at great personal cost, alert the unwary passing motorist...  Waving his arms about like a man possessed whilst performing acrobatic evolutions in the centre of the road as the cabby changed the wheel came whizzing around the corner at a back breaking 98 on Jack's ever growing list... and why, Jack puzzled, why had they all lowered their side windows and gestured back at him in semaphore..?  Rallying to its aid, Jack's head and shoulders now joined his shaking fist through the sliding glass partition and into the cabby's face, "Who" Beamish screeched with renewed vigour ,"Who Was The Man", Jack wanted to know... *"a
Tommy Johnson Dec 2013
You can hear the voices of our peers being silenced, ignored, shunned and distorted.
Staggering out of their bedroom doorways to the street corner to score a dime bag.
Bright, insightful millennials freezing in search of warmth from something to believe in that will encourage them to look forward to see another day.
Where our economy has made financial prudence clear when talking about education, yet price tags of university tuition's skyrocket.
The refused, the ones with hope but no money or scholarships; tread the streets with the echoes of electro house pulsing in their skulls.
Those who strip themselves down and shred their own morals to scraps just to find themselves and to see their own limitations.
Searching for answers to the unknown, to ascertain what they are, who they are and why.
Timid in high school, pushed along with nothing and no one to put their creative vigor into.
The squeakiest wheels that were never even considered to be given a good greasing.
Faculties giving them lethargic hellos on the first day of school, bestowing celebrated goodbyes to them on graduation day, diplomas in hand.
Now are the ones slumped over in a lackadaisical position contemplating how they can afford an education.
They work eight to ten at seven twenty five an hour Monday to Friday; and weekends staying in as not to blow their earnings.
Those who commute to university and balance a job with it, I applaud you.
The bewilderment of adulthood, the overabundance of pressure and responsibility.
Awakened from nightmares of lost opportunities, missed trains and lost contacts.
To step out of bed and splash water onto a severely distressed face and staring into a mirror with a despairing look.
Then hoping a bus to Garfield to bring back weight for all the embryonic smokers not yet at the point of make or break, just save up enough to pave my own way.
Gazing at the town on a roof top, chugging down the tenth…no…twelfth beer of the night wondering how this all happened.
Wild sensations of kissing an attractive stranger, the rush of touching on things never felt, tasting pleasures only the lucky have known.
The passionate, yet dissolute yearning for that ever eluding ******* adrenaline. Pounding, Pounding, Pounding until the culmination of energy has come.
Flip sided to those dizzying, tear jerking thoughts of suicide, annihilation of ones being, the contradictions of their faith in themselves and the people around them.
Unexplainable waves of anxiety crashing onto the shore of a diminutive island of optimism
Striving to look past the panic, the gloominess and fury that may or may not be present. But to remain composed and press forward to what awaits them.
Coffee keeps them going. Cup after cup, late night cramming every bit they can; into their caffeine driven psyches until the indisputable crash and failure.
Packs and packs of menthol cigarettes to calm their rattling nerves but at the same time killing them slowly. Their lives will seem shorter than the time it took to finish one bogey when death is near.
Marijuana induced ventures to run down burger shacks, laughing hysterical in the car ride, eyes heavy with a most ridiculous elastic grin extending from ear to ear. While inside millions of thoughts and realizations of consciously simple speculations and troubles become clear and unproblematic. So the joy is mirrored outside in.
LSD trips in Petruska dancing and singing in the rain! Making music, making love; playing pretend and creating art. Becoming a family while kicking back under the warmth of an illuminated tree on a cool fall night.
MDMA streaming through the body, everything is as it should be
Beautiful, lovely to touch, wondrous to stroke, marvelous to move.
To contact and connect, converse and converge with the dwelling desire to share what you feel with everyone for it would be selfish and unpleasant to keep it in.
Mushrooms oh the emotional overflow I need not say more but ****.
Then there are over the counter candies, Oxycontin, ******, Adderall and Xanax, painkillers and antidepressants. Ups, downs, side ways and backwards.
Selling addiction and dependency legally to kids. Making heroine, ******* and speed easily obtainable to them. Changing the names and giving out prescriptions so the parents can feel like they're actually helping their children but are subconsciously making it easier on themselves because they cannot handle the way their offsprings actually are. Some parents a feel it is the only way, I wish it wasn't so. Becoming zombies, mindless addicts before they even start to mature into puberty. I've seen it, firsthand front row.
Oh, the monotonous, mundane rituals and agendas of our lives. School, work, sleep eat, the sluggish schedules and repetitions of yesterday's conversations and redundancy of itineraries we had plotted months prior.
Same people, the constant faces of boredom that groan in apathy and hold the fear of complacency.
We talk about how hum drum out lives have become and what we could to put some color in our world but don’t.
We speak of how unfair the system is but ultimately confuse ourselves and everyone else due to lack or organization and dedication so nothing is changed.
We speak of breath taking women we want to share ****** fantasies with but can’t even muster enough courage to send a trivial friend request.
Texting away for hours trying to court those who now occupy our minds and possess our hearts hoping they may allow us to acquire their attention and affection. Calling them only to receive futile dial tones and know we are being evaded.
Weeping on and on for seemingly endless time frames of a dilapidated relationship that was so strained that a miniscule breeze could cause it to collapse but still clinging to every memory as if they were vital hieroglyphics depicting your very essence.
Brilliant theories blurted out in a drunken stupor.
Ingenious hypothesis shrouded in marijuana smoked out room.
Remembrance of friends long gone.
The marines, the navy.
The casualties of drug addiction.
The conquerors or their afflictions.
The scholars.
The insane locked away on the flight deck never to be seen again.
Teenage mothers unsure of themselves, abandoned by their families for they believe that they brought fictional shame upon the family’s name. The fate of the child is unclear but the mother’s everlasting love shines through any obscurities in its way.
Dear mother of the new born winter’s moon may the aura of life protect you and your baby.
The father gone without a trace.
He will never know his daughter.
And it will haunt him forever.
Parents bringing up their kids with values and morals, The Holy Bible, mantras and meditation, the Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads. Islamic anecdotes and Jewish parables.
The names all different
The message the same
The stories unlike
Goals equivalent
Faith
Kabala, Scientology and Wicca
Amish and Mormons
All separate paths that intertwine and runoff each other then pool into the plateau of eternal life.
But do we have faith in our country, our government?
They do not have faith in us. Cameras on every street corner, FBI agents stalking social media, recordings of our personal lives and police brutality. 4th amendment where have you gone?
We say farewell to Oresko the last veteran of the last great war. And revisit the Arab spring, Al-Assad’s soldiers opening fire on innocent protesters, one hundred fifteen thousand lay dead. Bin laden dead, Hussein hanged, Gaddafi receiving every ounce of his comeuppance. War, terrorism, the fear of being attacked or is it an excuse to secure our nation's investments across the sea? Throwing trillions of dollars to keep the ****** machine cranking away, taxes, pensions, credit scores, insurance and annuities all cogs in the convoluted contraptions plight.
My dear friend contemplates this every night laying in bed, fetal position; the anxiety if having to be a part of this.
Falling apart on the inside but on the outside, an Adonis, *******, Casanova wanna be. Who worshiped the almighty dollar, gripping it so tightly until it made change, drank until he had his fill falling face first into the snow. The guy who lead on legions of clueless girls wearing their hearts on their sleeves not knowing he had a girlfriend the entire time. Arranging secret meetings in hidden gardens, streaking into the early morning. Driving to Ewing in his yellow Mustang to woo a sado masochistic girl. The chains and whips do nothing to him he is already numbed by the thrill. Then he comes home, lays in bed until one, with no job and having people pay for his meals.
He knows what he does and who he is wrong. He recites and regurgitates excuses endlessly. He cries because he knows he is weak, he knows he must fix himself. I sit on the edge of myself with my fingers crossed hoping maybe, maybe he will set himself straight.
My chum who can talk his way out of any confrontation and into a woman’s *******. Multitudes of amorous affairs in backrooms, backseats, front rows of movies theaters. Selfish, boastful and ignorant, yet woman fling themselves at him like catapulted boulders over a medieval battle field just to say hello. These girls blind to see what going on, for their eyes were taken by low self esteem. A need to be accepted, to feel wanted even only for fifteen minutes. Poor self image, daddy issues, anorexic razor blade slicing sirens screaming on about counted calories and social status. Their uncontrollable mental breakdowns and emotional collapse. Their uncles who ***** them, their parents who split up and confusing their definition of love and loyalty for the rest of their lives. Broken homes, domestic abuse and raised voices, sending jolts of fright into the young girl’s fragile minds. I send my sorrows to you ladies, to see such beautiful creatures suffer then be used and thrown away with the ****** that was just ****** deep into their *****.
Then I see women and men of marvelous stature, romantic in the streets holding everyone and everything in high regards. Finding beauty in anything and anyone. Enjoying every second as if the rapture was over head eating exotic foods from unheard of countries and cultures. Bouncing to the sound of whimsical , reverb ricochets and sense stimulating music. Huffing inspiration to create something out of thin air. Dancing to retired jazz and swing albums as if no time had past since their conception. Wearing bold colors and patterns, thrifty leather shoes or suede.
Dawning pre-owned blazers because why spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes just to look good but feel uncomfortable with a hole in your pocket. Dressing up but dressing down, so class yet urban I love it, chinos, pea coats and flannels so simple but chic.
At night they go to underground dens, sweaty bodies, loud music and freedom. Expressive manifestations glowing fueled with MDMA and other substances to further their enjoyment of the dark glorious occasion. Kandi kids sporting colorful bracelets, not watches for time is of no concern to them, they have all eternity they know that.
Going to book stores, coffee shops just to have some peace of mind and a moment of silence to themselves so that can weave the tapestry of imaginative innovation. Writing their own versions of the same story, endless doors of perception, reading news papers and taking it with a grain of salt. Watching the news on TV with a hand full of salt. Searching for the real story so they can know if the world they all live in is actually safe.
She who made her own way breaking hearts, rolling blunts and making deals. The flower child of the modern age, left the rainy days in search of radiant sunshine, idealistic. Reality was subjective, purple dyed hair, multicolored sweater with sandals on her feet. A ten inch bowl with bud from California packed in tightly. Coming from Dumont to Bergenfeild then on to Philly to Mount Vernon. Off to Astoria and the Heights. Now to Sweden laying in the grassy plains below the mountains. Good for you my friend whom I have loved, may fortunes of unsullied joy come to you and all you meet.
Since you’ve left I have encountered drunken burly firemen just trying to have a good time. Pounding down Pabst Blue Ribbon as if it were water; as if it were good tasting beer. But heroes none the less.
EMT's, young eighteen years old high school graduates, saving lives reviving people who are a mere inch close to death.
Sport stars getting scholarships thanks to their superior skills and strength.
Striking beauty school students who are into making the people of this world a little bit more beautiful on the outside.
All these people, successful, doing things. Departing to their desired destinations. I see inside them, they carry baggage, loneliness and insecurities. I can feel their guilt slowing them down. All have their loads but it’s the way they carry them that shows who they really are. And to me their all gems.
Not far in Paterson I watch the junkies limping across busy winding street, perusing a severely needed fix. “Diesel!” they shout beneath flickering streetlights, asking for spare change and if bold enough a ride to some shady sketchy place. I give them a dollar and politely decline. They’ll die without it. Vomiting up bile and blood, twitches and shivers are all you feel when it’s not in you. They cannot stop, they need help. Why not help them instead of “assisting” those who are homosexual? Cleansing so they can be granted entry to the kingdom of God. Looking down on people who have found love and understanding and a deep attraction to others who just so happen to share alike genitals.
Narrow minded uproars about the spread of AIDS, nonsense! The puritanical onslaught of those who want nothing more than the rest of us, love. "Gay", "****", "******", "queer", how about "kind", "funny", "genuine human being"? The right to be married and divorced should be an option for everyone to enjoy. The strains and hardships of matrimony are yours if you want them. If you don’t agree don’t hate or harm just allow them to be peacefully. Same goes for anything for that matter, Jehovah's going door to door, Mormons from Burbank. New ideas are never a bad thing, they’re not a waste of time. On average you have about eighty years to mull over your options.
Some people don’t live long enough to do so, cancer is rampant, blood diseases, ****** diseases, natural disasters coming right out of left field and blindsiding the innocent bystanders of both hemispheres. Some go through life handicapped, autism is apparent these days. Schizophrenia, Asperburgers, ADD and ADHD. Some lose their golden memories of their many valuable years walking down Alzheimer's Lane, not being able to remember whatever transpired only a few moments ago but revisiting gold nuggets from from fifty-some-odd years ago with ease. Some go through life delusional or bipolar. Some can't even sleep at night but they still carry on. And if assistance is needed it is our job as a race to help our brothers and sisters, no one deserves to be excluded from the gala of life. Or be denied by society and pumped with brightly colored pills from doctors promising a cure but prescribing a crutch.
Finding solace in sincerity.
The serendipity of it all hasn’t been uncovered and that keeps me going.
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world above, below and across. Unhindered without ill will without enmity.” Oh Buddha the truth as it ever was.
Who is he who keeps these thoughts from the conscious minds of the population?
Who is it that distracts us from the humbling beauty and overwhelming devastation of this place of existence we’re in?
It’s they who do under the table parlor trick behind our backs.
Those who broadcast mind numbing so called reality TV shows without an underlying value or meaning.
Those who produce music, proclaiming extravagance to be the end all be all gluttonous goal we all should aim to achieve.
And those who turn noble causes into money making scams and defile pure ideas.
And of course those who give false promises of easily obtained  bright futures, those who don’t care, those who steal, ****, curse, bad mouth and lie. But still manage to get elected into positions that more or less decide out fates. Monsters, demons, banshees howling inconsequential worries and leaving us deaf to hear the real issues.
The
jonni inferno Jul 2018
i met her    
in a waking dream    
as i walked beside    
the sylvar stream    
whose chattering laughter    
shifted suddenly    
into a sylvar pool    
of enchanted silence    
a mirrored glaze    
in muted    
misty
dawning rays    
    
her cascading mane    
a crimson flare    
sea-green eyes    
alluring stare    
my heart stopped    
to see her there    
reposed    
'pon a verdant garden lee 
beside    
the misting sylvar mere    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
dahlia lips    
whispering desire    
vermilion plunder splayed    
spellbound 
by her charms    
heart pounding    
thundering    
captured    
i stay    
an' wi' faire
lithesome beauty lay    
'pon a lush an' vibrant field    
beside    
the misting sylvar mere    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
we lay there    
lost in time    
locked    
in the silence 
of kindred minds    
an' i knew her name    
tho she spoke it not    
sipped i then
the misty morning dew    
from precious lips
that from me drew    
all that i    
ever thought    
or felt    
or knew
'pon the grasses lush and green    
beside    
the softly glowing mere    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
soft sings    
the whippoorwill    
the meadowlark    
an' mourning dove    
their voices weaving spells    
for lover's yearning hearts    
in the meadow    
by the way    
where my love an' i    
do lay    
entwined  
'pon the gleaming sylvan shore    
beside    
the shining crystal lake    
'neath
the weeping willow trees    
    
alas    
the dawning days    
were passing
when came malevolence    
within
a thund'ring tempest    
lightnings flashed
in ragged gashes
'cross the heaven's    
stygian passes
an' from those
gnawing caverns
spewed
a raging
howling
demon's brood
an' down flew they
by the sylvar stream
where my love
and i
entranced
did lay
beside
the mystic sylvar lake
'neath
the weeping willow trees
    
then from my arms    
vile creatures tore    
my lifesong    
my heart's blood    
my one    
and only love
her scintillating form    
they ripped    
her silent
piercing cries    
bleeding    
thru my soul
an' took her they  
far from this    
battered    
desert shore    
as her soundless    
painful    
chorus fades    
an' leaves me
here alone    
to lay    
'pon these shifting lifeless sands    
beside    
this sylvar lake of tears    
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
the meadowlark    
her spellsong sings    
thru ebon winter's    
weathering    
the silver stream    
her laughter froze    
this heart    
once fire    
a soulless stone    
    
so now this raven
winged    
doth fly
to scour the bruised    
an' shadowed skies    
to find my dove    
an' bring her home    
to lay
'pon these frozen brittle stones
beside
the darkened sylvar tarn
'neath    
the weeping willow trees    
    
thru timeless age    
an' dangerous realms    
i followed    
her silent    
morbid    
ravenings    
as her grisly    
mewling pleas    
hollowed out my soul    
'til at last    
i found her    
chained an' bound    
lost    
deep within    
peculiar planes    
an' baneful realms    
far from    
the laughing sylvar stream    
far from    
the weeping willow trees    
    
her lament    
of bitter tears    
an' fear    
sliced    
thru my defenses    
a doomed    
pernicious heart    
she was    
wandering    
thru deepest depths    
where madness reigns    
all hope destroyed    
hell's minions    
reveled
unconstrained    
    
my dove    
called i    
my love    
'tis i    
once more    
thrice more  
time  
and time again    
till finally    
she hearkened    
to my voice    
    
true love    
recall us    
you and i    
dancing    
thru ageless realms    
consider us    
twirling    
under heaven's wings    
she
spinning
at my fingertips

an' i  
drew her then    
breathless    
into my arms    
ambrosia lips    
her sweet alms    
from her dark pain    
i did drink    
of her    
malignant sorrow    
i did partake  
my questing    
thirsting hunger    
willingly  
did i sate  
gathering all    
her shattered pieces    
from those altered    
blighted    
reaches
    
chains    
now broken    
i carried her
'pon wings    
of true love's    
sylvar light    
far from    
these darksworn legions    
into    
the dawning night's    
farthest regions    
    
an' there    
close by    
the laughing    
whispering    
sylvar stream    
lay her gently    
'pon the verdant flowing shore    
beside
our gleaming slyvar mere    
'neath    
our weeping willow trees    
    
under glimmering    
starlit heavens    
sing    
the whippoorwill    
the meadowlark    
an' mourning dove    
whose soulful songs    
compose    
for yearning lovers    
charms of hope    
where pools    
the laughing    
sylvar stream    
whose mirrored gaze    
draws us deep within    
celestial    
starlit    
wanderings    
  
as the wind    
whispering
sighs    
thru our hearts  
as we lay entwined    
'pon a verdant garden lee    
beside  
our misting sylvar mere    
'neath  
our silent    
weeping  
willow trees    
      
p j upchurch
Jasmine Luna Apr 2014
who knew that in about
4 years time,
or maybe
10,000 years lost in
10,000 multi hued tears,
id be on the same trip-
dancing to the same
shimmering inner grove as before-
braiding fresh cut
flowers-
delicate genital-hands, unfolding in prayer
into my subconscious mind
or perhaps into my hair-
saving colored prism fragments
of knowledge or nonsense-
digesting intoxicating
incense smoke into the
deep throated green streaked
laughter chasms
that are my lungs-
spinning vinyl, spun mind
unwinding, undulating
through string music-
contemplating the sunset's sweet
immaculate form, reoccuring
and balancing itself right outside my window-
dressing in shells, bones,
and beads; kaleidoscope fabric dripping from
the ******* like mother Kali in a Fellini
flick-
peeping out at heads slinking down
the ****** pavement streets-
my hairy angelic form grooving
intensely, spastic-
body flung, strung out in
hot patterns of
mirrored arms and legs-
brain brew bubbling; wicked, fantastic-
limbs waving and grabbing at
tangible tasty morsels,
smelling strongly of indigo
and patchouli-
the East smiling on me and
my intrepid journey to the ocean city-
head thrown back in
tranquil madness-
pipe smoke curling like
ancient hound howls from the corners
of my lips-
smiles spread like insanity, a wicked disease
lost in the forgotten finger painted
confounds of creamy
****** milk consciousness-
basking in lamplight
of the golden glistening
                                  Now.
Shofi Ahmed Jul 2018
On the very edge the living earth
dared to replicate Queen Fathima
The Queen of Heaven’s footstep.
That way is blessed bedewed
is the destination de jour
graced by thousands of prophets of God!

In the name of Allah she descended
on the Night of Ascension.
From the Night of Measures unlike the rest
none can enumerate it yet an unnumbered zone
in the perfect geometrised transcended location.  

The earth steps in the gap making way for her:
The only asymmetric golden ratio
slips out to the symmetric prophet flock!
Sequenced in symmetric phi she moves on
in the veil, reveals her unique divine relation,
the front burner for sure is ever closer to God!

So pretty classy she is the paragon work of art
the sunrise amidst the eternal night.
Her beauty in her shadow is burning fire
she is 'Zahra' pure light the luminary dynamo
the only one woman had no shadow!

The great women flocked and mirrored the earth
treading across every atom on that angle
perfectly aligned down the Moon.
Until those beneath the skin atoms
bang, explode, on approaching the behemoth,
the vibration beneath Fathima’s foot!

The ocean billows up
feels life on the high
floating on the clouds.
Choreographed like a little dew
hanging low on the rose.
Just to drop down on that hot spot
like a cool honey drop.

Even the Moon on the horizon
fancies to sip from this drop.
Ah, the lunar punter is rowing down.
The sleeping beauty wakes up
eyes are on the moonlight silver dance.
Eying on every star in the night
the Moon is floating down.
The seven seas sing out in the dark
bubbling with exuberant fireflies
that would gleefully rock the moonlight boat
over to the cup of this pretty little drop.  

Poetry in motion is a sea on the ground
the same is known as the Moon in the sky!
The storylines jump ever more
on that way over the shady grove.
Painting the colour of the winds
the sky rains down on that spot
singing the sweetest title song.  

Never was a woman prophet of God
to the one primitive woman, the leading lady
'Sayeedatun Nessa' Queen Fathima
heaven is no secret, it is an open mirror!
For her heaven is made an open book
the first batch of houris came to be
tuning into mellifluous sounds of her toes.
The earth in its primitive water first moved on
bang, Big Bang, soon she drops in it her hair lock.
She's the hidden gem in the secret end of God!

For the planetary ebb and flow on the way heaven
the planet earth is the only stepping stone.
No matter how many times it tries on
there will still be an unturned stone.
Until the very one the original woman,
the Queen Fathima steps on.

Her presence connects the dots
the nadir and zenith perfectly line up
intersect into one grand perfect circle.
She will close it with the pi once for all
without a gap spilling new decimal.
Putting it all on the map ‘as above, so below’,
all in all, like it's in pure scientia scenario.

Heaven will open its grand door
where the queen will stand on.
No more reverse engineering physically
the original, God willing Fathima will step on,
on the last turned stone.
From the one great woman
paradise starts from here on
from beneath the mother’s foot!
onlylovepoetry Mar 2018
Friday night immodesty

theater on East 4th street @ 8:00pm,
so the girlie stuff commences on schedule
90 minuets a-priori and the medley music
(adele+amy+alicia+ pink bach for some zing)
a harbinger, a pioneer Greek heralding of
Friday night immodesty

the clothes laid out upon the bed, the shoes,
pumps selected and already on,
(always a puzzler to me,)
the subdued lower east side jewelry possibilities,
on the dresser drawer,
indifferently hoping for selection, but
casually beaming quietly,
like those kids waiting for interviews in the waiting room
of the college Admissions Dean’s office,
all with serious smiles
and tiny tearing eyes

aside:
helloooooo, I am in a poetry polo with my best jeans ready to go
2 hours before the curtain calls out,
hellooooooo

she sits at the makeup mirrored desk,
clad in only her underneath garments of varying utility,
when I sweep in imperially
and with one hand twist gentle her hair upwards,
betraying
her neck nape which is again
the sujet of a poem aborning

lips,
like a Greek lyre strings, pluck, the tiny hid hairs never seen,
her instant moans at the never fully expected motion poem,
beg more mercy but no quarter given despite repeated cries
of you’ll mess my makeup,
the best defense known to a lady!

god gave men two thumbs to lift up,
simultaneously stimulating,
slide down each of the thin black brasserie strap invitations,
upon each, a writ,
upon her flesh colored shoulders,
stating
“what was she thinking!”

my lips,
now polar explorers, those power (filled) poles side by side,
(east/west for the designer was a smart
bipolar guy-person);
the lips play silent night progressive jazz,
tinkling with higher noted keys,
nape to shoulders moving down to the back’s prefrontal lobe,
the small of her back, the body’s quivering,
a con-federate flag of surrender

her last defense swept aside, we drink honey and milk,
celebrate the week’s mellifluous finish with immodest touching,
the lower east side will belong tonite
to only the hipsters, the millennials,
as our hips are milling and  otherwise
pre-theater and post, occupado

some hours later, watching TV and eating delivered Chinese,
she laterally and literally arm punches my arm
intensely to mark her discontent,
still annoyed,
for I

1) messed up her makeup,
2) best blouse to the dry cleaner and
3) the tickets wasted, and worse,
hits me again!

after I laugh and giggle upon proffering
most modestly, most assuredly,
seconds of
onlylovepoetry

9.21am Saturday
thank you all who liked this tale of
the poetry in the details
of our lives.
olp
codenameDust Mar 2016
Oh, look at the mirrored boy,

A selfreflection destroyed
Got rid of the distorted
Omitted the fractured

I took another avenue
The time was due
To direct me to truth

Another mirrored boy
I eluded,
Circomvented

A deception
Of the opposing persona
Mirrored in a boy
Falsely identified
As a must-be
Piece of me
Jack Jenkins Apr 2016
My mind is a maze
Mirrored walls
Sloped floors
I can't find my way out of it

Like a circus freak show
My mind freaks me out
Terrorizing me in the night
Invading my resting dreams

But in these times I'm lost
Although I'm scared and alone
There is peace in these halls
Of my mazed mirrored mind
//On anxiety//
I do suffer from PTSD, due to trauma growing up. I've never been in the military or overseas.
Karijinbba Jul 2018
The night under the mirror
went through a revolving door.
~~~~
Eventually I did put a face
to  your loving cues your emails
It had been so long since your destiny had asked you my King
to marry her
that hunting jealous day that began much earlier under a 1975 degree celcious and did burn us to a crisp
Nothing would have given me more assurance more pleasure  such a gracious challenge to a  mysterious
proposition to dig my heart
for the final blow
one queen for his other
prior queen bee me
Karijinbba
and a winner I would have been
all night with my King
under the mirror!
to obliterate her wedding band
from his hand
how loving of you cupid of mine
always digging at my heart
for my heart of gold
then came cause and effect of karma blowing up our plans
another King Brad appeared with roses and diamond ring
in hand he had no mask just an hidden agenda
he took my children to his Mom
to make his other queenjealous and I took the bate
for just one hour both my King and Brad
had chosen he same photo E-mailed among several
to both single men seeking bride at Kiss com.
my lovely picture was the same summer dress I wore with the king I loved
as someone something from above and beyond
mirrored the scene in my life a kind of cause and effect
it showed my
old beloved a simple approach to a woman's heart
and me that the woman he married giving her a diamond ring taking her and son to his Mom was more to make
me jealous too fight for his love
an invisible revolving door had opened up
both to win my lover back
or to lose both Knights
fate life karma G**
had bid the greatest game
of love and twin souls
remained split bleeding
both men found a way to another
woman playing their game  

I was sent to worship my Lord Jesus Christ mocking me
beware of Karma
or THINK and get rich and happy
to catch a true king FOCUS
don't take bates, don't settle for new when the heart is taken 
by a true love not followed.

My king was found by his mate
and I returned Brads diamond
lesson played leasson learned

Then came the clock ticking
tax collector King Mr Time
he took my hand
paper INK and pen
to script a new
poem
its Winter he said,
HOW DO YOU
WANT ME TO KISS YOU?
and a new revolving door
appeared here at H.P.
~~~~~~
By: Karijinbba
Copy Rights
ASG/BBA -revised 6/2020.
How do you think a and how do we feel about the one we truly love a nail can't take another out its the heart that will break and the loss is an unsurmountable abyss beware open your eyes FOCUS one single thought two hearts that beat as one cannot distract nor settle and never take a new lover if our heart loves another
Sean Hastings Apr 2015
Were both the same
Competitive to the death
The most stubborn around
Extremely caring, a hidden
Sense to help others
A mystical ability to always
Be there for people at the
Moment they need it

We’ve been friends and
Like most friends argue
Like no tomorrow, but
Were mirrored halves
Saying were nothing
Alike but almost the
Same person on the
Inside

Mirrored halves, they
Reflect the same and
Sometimes look the same
But arnt always the right
Thing, people say your
Suppose to find your
Other half….

But does a mirrored half
Of you the same do the same
As the other half?
CK Baker Nov 2017
mirrored fly-glass
and polished chrome
are tinted
in the blood orange dawn
running dogs of lummi
hush quiet
on this celestial
summer morn

clubman bars
and tan saddles
strapped to
the lowered hind
skull caps
and fitted chaps
for the open flow
and rich peripheral scene

concessions at the peace arch
(from the blue-coat fuzz)
black *****
and maples
cake the bow hill
and chuckanut

choppers launch
at edison
(with their metal fleck
and tuft)
a half moon rises
on the concho
and interstellar cross

cinnamon gulls
and ravens
scour the netted docks
warlock driftwood
and row homes
spot the winding
coastal roads

rumbling sounds
at the packer slew ~
with the redolence
of briny bay
alive
on the overlook
at fairhaven
Spent a couple days in late September on a motorcycle trip with my brother...weaving through the small towns and villages of the Pacific Northwest.  Magnificent!
ryn Aug 2014
Weepy is my heart as it mourns hard this day
Muddled is my head with thoughts all amuck
Muffled is my voice with the words I try to say
Stifled are my screams as they try but all seem stuck.

Tense are my shoulders with the load that I bear
Wet are my eyes seeing everything so blurry
Heavy is my chest as it sighs and draws its air
Tired is this body with so much it attempts to carry.

Weak is my strength, fending off oh so feebly
Uncertain are my hopes to see the light at the end
Outstretched are my arms reaching and grabbing constantly
Tested is my resolve, how much further can it bend.

Lonely is my soul yearning greatly for it's other pair
Drunken are my senses, almost losing all control
Desperate is my being wanting love that's not here but there
Clouded is my future, totally obscured is my goal.

Two-sided are the fallen words I have listed before
Strained is my mind as I try to view the good
Mirrored are these feelings, they bear so much more
Enlightened is my will, I shan't mope and brood.

Relieved is my heart when I think of the other that beats
Serene is my head when I separate fear from fear
Loud is my voice as it clears for the love it greets
Redundant are my screams for I don't need them here.

Relaxed are my shoulders, still fueled to continue
Wide are my eyes for the sight they can't always see
Lifted is my chest for the love it wants to pursue
Upright is this body, to get to where it wants to be.

Rejuvenated is my strength when I accept that I am strong
Restored are my hopes, I'd still keep them alive
Faithful are my arms, still reaching for what they long
Strengthened is my resolve with plans it'll contrive.

Contented is my soul for the mate it has found
Heightened are my senses, embraced by feelings so keen
Centred is my being, keep my bearings on the ground
Bright is my future, in my dreams they have been.

Empty are the words for I won't let them linger
Focused is my mind; on my prize no matter how far
Embraced are these feelings for they only make me stronger
Steeled is my will; to be one with my love, angel and star...
Eternal consciousness
in the Void
(makes trial & jail seem almost
friendly)

a Kiss in the Storm

(Madman at the wheel
gun at the neck
space populous & arching
coolly)

A barn
a cabin attic

Your own face
stationary
in the mirrored window

fear of restroom’s
Tragic cold
neon

I’m freezing

animals
dead

white wings of
rabbits

grey velvet deer

The Canyon

The car a craft
in wretched
SPACE

Sudden movements

& your past
to warm you
in Spiritless
Night

The Lonely HWY
Cold hiker

Afraid of Wolves
& his own
Shadow
~~~

The Wolf,
who lives under the rock
has invited me
to drink of his cool
Water.
Not to splash or bathe
But leave the sun
& know the dead desert
night
& the cold men
who play there.
~~~

a ha
Come on, now
luring the Traveller
Mighty Voyager
Curious, into its dark womb
The graves grinning
Indians of night
The eyes of night
Westward luring
into the brothel, into the blood bath
into the Dream
The dark Dream of conquest
& Voyage
into night, Westward into Night
Terry O'Leary Sep 2013
NOTE TO THE READER – Once Apun a Time

This yarn is a flossy fabric woven of several earlier warped works, lightly laced together, adorned with fur-ther braided tails of human frailty. The looms were loosed, purling frantically this febrile fable...

Some pearls may be found wanting – unwanted or unwonted – piled or hanging loose, dangling free within a fuzzy flight of fancy...

The threads of this untethered tissue may be fastened, or be forgotten, or else be stranded by the readers and left unravelling in the knotted corners of their minds...

'twill be perchance that some may  laugh or loll in loopy stitches, else be torn or ripped apart, while others might just simply say “ ’tis made of hole cloth”, “sew what” or “cant seam to get the needle point”...,

yes, a proper disentanglement may take you for a spin on twisted twines of any strings you feel might need attaching or detaching…

picking knits, some may think that
    such strange things ‘have Never happened in our Land’,
    such quaint things ‘could Never happen in our Land’’,
    such murky things ‘will Never happen in our Land’’…

and this may all be true, if credence be dis-carded…

such is that gooey gossamer which vails the human mind...

and thus was born the teasing title of this fabricated Fantasy...

                                NEVER LAND

An ancient man named Peter Pan, disguised but from the past,
with feathered cap and tunic wrap and sabre’s sailed his last.
Though fully grown, on dust he’s flown and perched upon a mast
atop the Walls around the sprawls, unvisited and vast -
and all the while with bitter smile he’s watching us aghast.

As day begins, a spindle spins, it weaves a wanton web;
like puckered prunes, like midday moons, like yesterday’s celebs,
we scrape and *****, we seldom hope - he watches while we ebb:

    The ***** grinder preaches fine on Sunday afternoons -
    he quotes from books but overlooks the Secrets Carved in Runes:
    “You’ve tried and toyed, but can’t avoid or shun the pale monsoons,
    it’s sink or swim as echoed dim in swinging door saloons”.
    The laughingstocks are flinging rocks at ball-and-chained baboons.

    While ghetto boys are looting toys preparing for their doom
    and Mademoiselles are weaving shells on tapestries with looms,
    Cathedral cats and rafter rats are peering in the room,
    where ragged strangers stoop for change, for coppers in the gloom,
    whose thoughts are more upon the doors of crypts in Christmas bloom,
    and gold doubloons and silver spoons that tempt beyond the tomb.

    Mid *** shots from vacant lots, that strike and ricochet
    a painted girl with flaxen curl (named Wendy)’s on her way
    to tantalise with half-clad thighs, to trick again today;
    and indiscreet upon the street she gives her pride away
    to any guy who’s passing by with time and cash to pay.
    (In concert halls beyond the Walls, unjaded girls ballet,
    with flowered thoughts of Camelot and dreams of cabarets.)

    Though rip-off shops and crooked cops are paid not once but thrice,
    the painted girl with flaxen curl is paring down her price
    and loosely tempts cold hands unkempt to touch the merchandise.
    A crazy guy cries “where am I”, a ****** titters twice,
    and double quick a lunatic affects a fight with lice.

    The alleyways within the maze are paved with rats and mice.
    Evangelists with moneyed fists collect the sacrifice
    from losers scorned and rubes reborn, and promise paradise,
    while in the back they cook some crack, inhale, and roll the dice.

    A *** called Boe has stubbed his toe, he’s stumbled in the gutter;
    with broken neck, he looks a wreck, the sparrows all aflutter,
    the passers-by, they close an eye, and turn their heads and mutter:
    “Let’s pray for rains to wash the lanes, to clear away the clutter.”
    A river slows neath mountain snows, and leaves begin to shudder.

    The jungle teems, a siren screams, the air is filled with ****.
    The Reverent Priest and nuns unleash the Holy Shibboleth.
    And Righteous Jane who is insane, as well as Sister Beth,
    while telling tales to no avail of everlasting death,
    at least imbrue Hagg Avenue with whisky on their breath.

    The Reverent Priest combats the Beast, they’re kneeling down to prey,
    to fight the truth with fang and tooth, to toil for yesterday,
    to etch their mark within the dark, to paint their résumé
    on shrouds and sheets which then completes the devil’s dossier.

    Old Dan, he’s drunk and in a funk, all mired in the mud.
    A Monk begins to wash Dan’s sins, and asks “How are you, Bud?”
    “I’m feeling pain and crying rain and flailing in the flood
    and no god’s there inclined to care I’m always coughing blood.”
    The Monk, he turns, Dan’s words he spurns and lets the bible thud.

    Well, Banjo Boy, he will annoy with jangled rhymes that fray:
    “The clanging bells of carousels lead blind men’s minds astray
    to rings of gold they’ll never hold in fingers made of clay.
    But crest and crown will crumble down, when withered roots decay.”

    A pregnant lass with eyes of glass has never learned to cope.
    Once set adrift her fall was swift, she slid a slipp’ry ***** -
    she casts the Curse, the Holy Verse, and shoots a shot of dope,
    then stalks discreet Asylum Street her daily horoscope -
    the stray was struck by random truck which was her only hope.

    So Banjo Boy, with little joy, he strums her life entire:
    “The wayward waif was never safe; her stars were dark and dire.
    Born midst the rues and avenues where lack and want aspire
    where no one heeds the childish needs that little ones require;
    where faith survives in tempest lives, a swirl within the briar,
    Infinity grinds as time unwinds, until the winds expire.
    Her last caprice? The final peace that no one could deny her -
    whipped by the flood, stray beads of blood cling, splattered on the spire;
    though beads of sweat are cool and wet, cold clotted blood is dryer.”

    Though broken there, she’s fled the snare with dying thoughts serene.
    And now she’s dead, the rumours spread: her age? a sweet 16,
    with child, *****, her soul dyed red, her body so unclean.
    A place is sought where she can rot, avoiding churchyard scenes,
    in limey pits, as well befits, behind forbidding screens;
    and all the while a dirge is styled on tattered tambourines
    which echo through the human zoo in valleys of the Queens.

    Without rejoice, in hissing voice, near soil that’s seldom trod
    “In pious role, God bless my soul”, was mouthed with mitred nod,
    neath scarlet trim with black, and grim, behind a robed facade -
    “She’ll burn in hell and sulphur smell”, spat Priest and man of god.

    Well, angels sweet with cloven feet, they sing in girl’s attire,
    but Banjo Boy, he’s playing coy while chanting in the choir:
    “The clueless search within the church to find what they desire,
    but near the nave or gravelled grave, there is no Rectifier.”
    And when he’s through, without ado, he stacks some stones nearby her.

The eyes behind the head inclined reflect a universe
of shanty towns and kings in crowns and parties in a hearse,
of heaping mounds of coffee grounds and pennies in a purse,
of heart attacks in shoddy shacks, of motion in reverse,
of reasons why pale kids must die, quite trite and curtly terse,
of puppet people at the steeple, kneeling down averse,
of ****** tones and megaphones with empty words and worse,
of life’s begin’ in utter sin and other things perverse,
of lewd taboos and residues contained within the Curse,
while poets blind, in gallows’ rind, carve epitaphs in verse.

    A sodden dreg with wooden leg is dancing for a dime
    to sacred psalms and other balms, all ticking with the time.
    He’s 22, he’s almost through, he’s melted in his prime,
    his bane is firm, the canker worm dissolves his brain to slime.
    With slanted scales and twisted jails, his life’s his only crime.

    A beggar clump beside a dump has pencil box in hand.
    With sightless eyes upon the skies he’s lying there unmanned,
    with no relief and bitter grief too dark to understand.
    The backyard blight is hid from sight, it’s covered up and bland,
    and Robin Hood and Brother Hood lie buried in the sand.

    While all night queens carve figurines in gelatine and jade,
    behind a door and on the floor a deal is finally made;
    the painted girl with flaxen curl has plied again her trade
    and now the care within her stare has turned a darker shade.
    Her lack of guile and parting smile are cutting like a blade.

    Some boys with cheek play hide and seek within a house condemned,
    their faces gaunt reflecting want that’s hard to comprehend.
    With no excuse an old recluse is waiting to descend.
    His eyes despair behind the stare, he’s never had a friend
    to talk about his hidden doubt of how the world will end -
    to die alone on empty throne and other Fates impend.

    And soon the boys chase phantom joys and, presto when they’re gone,
    the old recluse, with nimble noose and ****** features drawn,
    no longer waits upon the Fates but yawns his final yawn
    - like Tinker Bell, he spins a spell, in fairy dust chiffon -
    with twisted brow, he’s tranquil now, he’s floating like a swan
    and as he fades from life’s charades, the night awaits the dawn.

    A boomerang with ebon fang is soaring through the air
    to pierce and breach the heart of each and then is called despair.
    And as it grows it will oppose and fester everywhere.
    And yet the crop that’s at the top will still be unaware.

    A lad is stopped by roving cops, who shoot in disregard.
    His face is black, he’s on his back, a breeze is breathing hard,
    he bleeds and dies, his mama cries, the screaming sky is scarred,
    the sheriff and his squad at hand are laughing in the yard.

    Now Railroad Bob’s done lost his job, he’s got no place for working,
    His wife, she cries with desperate eyes, their baby’s head’s a’ jerking.
    The union man don’t give a ****, Big Brother lies a’ lurking,
    the boss’ in cabs are picking scabs, they count their money, smirking.

    Bob walks the streets and begs for eats or little jobs for trying
    “the answer’s no, you ought to know, no use for you applying,
    and don’t be sad, it aint that bad, it’s soon your time for dying.”
    The air is thick, his baby’s sick, the cries are multiplying.

    Bob’s wife’s in town, she’s broken down, she’s ranting with a fury,
    their baby coughs, the doctor scoffs, the snow flies all a’ flurry.
    Hard work’s the sin that’s done them in, they skirmish, scrimp and scurry,
    and midnight dreams abound with screams. Bob knows he needs to hurry.
    It’s getting late, Bob’s tempting fate, his choices cruel and blurry;
    he chooses gas, they breathe their last, there’s no more cause to worry.

    Per protocols near ivied walls arrayed in sage festoons,
    the Countess quips, while giving tips, to crimson caped buffoons:
    “To rise from mass to upper class, like twirly bird tycoons,
    you stretch the treat you always eat, with tiny tablespoons”

    A learned leach begins to teach (with songs upon a liar):
    “Within the thrall of Satan’s call to yield to dim desire
    lie wicked lies that tantalize the flesh and blood Vampire;
    abiding souls with self-control in everyday Hellfire
    will rest assured, when once interred, in afterlife’s Empire”.
    These words reweave the make believe, while slugs in salt expire,
    baptised in tears and rampant fears, all mirrored in the mire.

    It’s getting hot on private yachts, though far from desert plains -
    “Well, come to think, we’ll have a drink”, Sir Captain Hook ordains.
    Beyond the blame and pit of shame, outside the Walled domains,
    they pet their pups and raise their cups, take sips of pale champagnes
    to touch the tips of languid lips with pearls of purple rains.

    Well, Gypsy Guy would rather die than hunker down in chains,
    be ridden south with bit in mouth, or heed the hold of reins.
    The ruling lot are in a spot, the boss man he complains:
    “The gypsies’ soul, I can’t control, my patience wears and wanes;
    they will not cede to common greed, which conquers far domains
    and furtive spies and news that lies have barely baked their brains.
    But in the court of last resort the final fix remains:
    in boxcar bins with violins we’ll freight them out in trains
    and in the bogs, they’ll die like dogs, and everybody gains
    (should one ask why, a quick reply: ‘It’s that which God ordains!’)”

    Arrayed in shawls with crystal *****, and gazing at the moons,
    wiled women tease with melodies and spooky loony tunes
    while making toasts to holey ghosts on rainy day lagoons:
    “Well, here’s to you and others too, embedded in the dunes,
Brandon Halsey May 2012
We sat together in your bedroom
Watching lesbian ****
You salivated at the grotesque display
Of the spread channel from which you were born

You once told me you were disgusted
By the male physique
You showered with your eyes closed
Or risked gagging over the bathroom sink

Among the girls you were popular
They stared at you to pass their day
Your mind was filled with their numbers
My mind filled with words I couldn't say

Senior prom snuck up on us
But you found a beautiful date, indeed
I asked an ugly girl to accompany me
And out of pity she agreed

We danced in the converted gym
Under a gaudy mirrored ball
I was stuck between you and her
With my back up against the wall

Afterwards we went to your house
Your parents were away
And their unlocked liquor cabinet
Only heightened our desire to play

Our dates removed their prom gowns
Then helped us get undressed
We drank till we couldn't stand
And fell to the floor in a heap of flesh

I finally saw you naked
A beauty my eyes could hardly see
You were a God among mere mortals
And even lesser men like me

My date's eyes were filled with lust
And I smelled the alcohol on her breath
I performed the perfunctory motions
And sank into her depths

As your date's head bobbed under the blanket
Your moans of pleasure steadily increased
I was energized by your proximity
Which was the sole reason for my release

We left our dates to sleep
Within their sated bliss
Already you wanted another girl
You could ***** and then dismiss

In the kitchen we finished the bottle
And talked of our recent conquests
Together we shared crude jokes
Made at the expense of the opposite ***

An awkward pause followed
And you gazed into my eyes
I felt the alcohol take effect
And placed my hand upon your thigh

Your mouth then met mine
And our tongues were lost within
Your hands trembled as they explored my chest
You didn't know where to begin

In a mirror you caught your reflection
And fell from my embrace
You said I was disgusting
And spit right in my face

In anger you pushed me away
Asking for forgiveness I dropped to my knees
You said that soon everyone would know about me
Because in this town gossip spread just like disease

At home it hit the hardest
I was my mother's boy no more
My father called me a disgrace
And kicked me out the door

Rejected by friends and family
I have no reason to stay
I'll buy a ticket to another town
Somewhere I can keep my memories at bay

I'll rent out an apartment
And decorate my pastel painted walls
I’ll furnish my new life with a phone
That I know you'll never call

I'll find myself a new group of friends
Someone who understands
The exquisite pain of being
Of falling in love with an ignorant man

I wish that my dreams
Weren't haunted by your face
I wish that I could fall asleep
Without clutching a pillow in your place

I'll listen to bitter love songs
Because on pain I can rely
I'll learn to hide my emotions
And laugh when I really want to cry
Elisabeth Sep 2018
A mirror reflects harsher words than I’ve ever heard,
Even if they’re slurred.

These words say they won’t grieve,
Won’t care if I leave.

I go after my veins looking to bleed
Maybe then I can be freed.

These voices continue to come in a flood-
Maybe I can escape with my blood.

I can hear them no matter how much I scream and shout
Maybe another sting will draw them out

Another sting and I’ll feel something else.
Maybe then I’ll feel my pulse.

Another sting and maybe it will mask the sting of my own words...
Her eyes look like a mirror, mirrors to the soul
they spoke of things so very hard to share
some things that held within a stare
did anyone possess to fill her time
of reassignment so hard to bear.....

Yet somehow their tomorrows bloomed from there
with cracks that go far and wide ....

She heard the dreams with a smile
and a whisper yearning
for all the promised paths
she danced upon...

She shared her dreams with the stars that would light her day...

Remembering the garden of each song
each note played her melody she gazed upon
forever into his longing eyes the mirrors to her soul..

His eyes mirrored hers cracks and all
and then they seem to fade away....

A pathway made of letters
that reached their lives of love
that faced with a forever trust....

Eyes mirrored eyes,
felt love eyes that trusted
that saw too much,
that loved anyway.....*

Debbie Brooks 2014
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
She said, ‘You are funny, the way you set yourself up the moment we arrive. You look into every room to see if it’s suitable as a place to work. Is there a table? Where are the plugs? Is there a good chair at the right height? If there isn’t, are there cushions to make it so? You are funny.’
 
He countered this, but his excuse didn’t sound very convincing. He knew exactly what she meant, but it hurt him a little that she should think it ‘funny’. There’s nothing funny about trying to compose music, he thought. It’s not ‘radio in the head’ you know – this was a favourite expression he’d once heard an American composer use. You don’t just turn a switch and the music’s playing, waiting for you to write it down. You have to find it – though he believed it was usually there, somewhere, waiting to be found. But it’s elusive. You have to work hard to detect what might be there, there in the silence of your imagination.
 
Later over their first meal in this large cottage she said, ‘How do you stop hearing all those settings of the Mass that you must have heard or sung since childhood?’ She’d been rehearsing Verdi’s Requiem recently and was full of snippets of this stirring piece. He was a) writing a Mass to celebrate a cathedral’s reordering after a year as a building site, and b) he’d been a boy chorister and the form and order of the Mass was deeply engrained in his aural memory. He only had to hear the plainsong introduction Gloria in Excelsis Deo to be back in the Queen’s chapel singing Palestrina, or Byrd or Poulenc.
 
His ‘found’ corner was in the living room. The table wasn’t a table but a long cabinet she’d kindly covered with a tablecloth. You couldn’t get your feet under the thing, but with his little portable drawing board there was space to sit properly because the board jutted out beyond the cabinet’s top. It was the right length and its depth was OK, enough space for the board and, next to it, his laptop computer. On the floor beside his chair he placed a few of his reference scores and a box of necessary ‘bits’.
 
The room had two large sofas, an equally large television, some unexplainable and instantly dismissible items of decoration, a standard lamp, and a wood burning stove. The stove was wonderful, and on their second evening in the cottage, when clear skies and a stiff breeze promised a cold night, she’d lit it and, as the evening progressed, they basked in its warmth, she filling envelopes with her cards, he struggling with sleep over a book.
 
Despite and because this was a new, though temporary, location he had got up at 5.0am. This is a usual time for composers who need their daily fix of absolute quiet. And here, in this cottage set amidst autumn fields, within sight of a river estuary, under vast, panoramic uninterrupted skies, there was the distinct possibility of silence – all day. The double-glazing made doubly sure of that.
 
He had sat with a mug of tea at 5.10 and contemplated the silence, or rather what infiltrated the stillness of the cottage as sound. In the kitchen the clock ticked, the refrigerator seemed to need a period of machine noise once its door had been opened. At 6.0am the central heating fired up for a while. Outside, the small fruit trees in the garden moved vigorously in the wind, but he couldn’t hear either the wind or a rustle of leaves.  A car droned past on the nearby road. The clear sky began to lighten promising a fine day. This would certainly do for silence.
 
His thoughts returned to her question of the previous evening, and his answer. He was about to face up to his explanation. ‘I empty myself of all musical sound’, he’d said, ‘I imagine an empty space into which I might bring a single note, a long held drone of a note, a ‘d’ above middle ‘c’ on a chamber ***** (seeing it’s a Mass I’m writing).  Harrison Birtwistle always starts on an ‘e’. A ‘d’ to me seems older and kinder. An ‘e’ is too modern and progressive, slightly brash and noisy.’
 
He can see she is quizzical with this anecdotal stuff. Is he having me on? But no, he is not having her on. Such choices are important. Without them progress would be difficult when the thinking and planning has to stop and the composing has to begin. His notebook, sitting on his drawing board with some first sketches, plays testament to that. In this book glimpses of music appear in rhythmic abstracts, though rarely any pitches, and there are pages of written description. He likes to imagine what a new work is, and what it is not. This he writes down. Composer Paul Hindemith reckoned you had first to address the ‘conditions of performance’. That meant thinking about the performers, the location, above all the context. A Mass can be, for a composer, so many things. There were certainly requirements and constraints. The commission had to fulfil a number of criteria, some imposed by circumstance, some self-imposed by desire. All this goes into the melting ***, or rather the notebook. And after the notebook, he takes a large piece of A3 paper and clarifies this thinking and planning onto (if possible) a single sheet.
 
And so, to the task in hand. His objective, he had decided, is to focus on the whole rather than the particular. Don’t think about the Kyrie on its own, but consider how it lies with the Gloria. And so with the Sanctus & Benedictus. How do they connect to the Agnus Dei. He begins on the A3 sheet of plain paper ‘making a map of connections’. Kyrie to Gloria, Gloria to Credo and so on. Then what about Agnus Dei and the Gloria? Is there going to be any commonality – in rhythm, pace and tempo (we’ll leave melody and harmony for now)? Steady, he finds himself saying, aren’t we going back over old ground? His notebook has pages of attempts at rhythmizing the text. There are just so many ways to do this. Each rhythmic solution begets a different slant of meaning.
 
This is to be a congregational Mass, but one that has a role for a 4-part choir and ***** and a ‘jazz instrument’. Impatient to see notes on paper, he composes a new introduction to a Kyrie as a rhythmic sketch, then, experimentally, adds pitches. He scores it fully, just 10 bars or so, but it is barely finished before his critical inner voice says, ‘What’s this for? Do you all need this? This is showing off.’ So the filled-out sketch drops to the floor and he examines this element of ‘beginning’ the incipit.
 
He remembers how a meditation on that word inhabits the opening chapter of George Steiner’s great book Grammars of Creation. He sees in his mind’s eye the complex, colourful and ornate letter that begins the Lindesfarne Gospels. His beginnings for each movement, he decides, might be two chords, one overlaying the other: two ‘simple’ diatonic chords when sounded separately, but complex and with a measure of mystery when played together. The Mass is often described as a mystery. It is that ritual of a meal undertaken by a community of people who in the breaking of bread and wine wish to bring God’s presence amongst them. So it is a mystery. And so, he tells himself, his music will aim to hold something of mystery. It should not be a comment on that mystery, but be a mystery itself. It should not be homely and comfortable; it should be as minimal and sparing of musical commentary as possible.
 
When, as a teenager, he first began to set words to music he quickly experienced the need (it seemed) to fashion accompaniments that were commentaries on the text the voice was singing. These accompaniments did not underpin the words so much as add a commentary upon them. What lay beneath the words was his reaction, indeed imaginative extension of the words. He eschewed then both melisma and repetition. He sought an extreme independence between word and music, even though the word became the scenario of the music. Any musical setting was derived from the composition of the vocal line.  It was all about finding the ‘key’ to a song, what unlocked the door to the room of life it occupied. The music was the room where the poem’s utterance lived.
 
With a Mass you were in trouble for the outset. There was a poetry of sorts, but poetry that, in the countless versions of the vernacular, had lost (perhaps had never had) the resonance of the Latin. He thought suddenly of the supposed words of William Byrd, ‘He who sings prays twice’. Yes, such commonplace words are intercessional, but when sung become more than they are. But he knew he had to be careful here.
 
Why do we sing the words of the Mass he asks himself? Do we need to sing these words of the Mass? Are they the words that Christ spoke as he broke bread and poured wine to his friends and disciples at his last supper? The answer is no. Certainly these words of the Mass we usually sing surround the most intimate words of that final meal, words only the priest in Christ’s name may articulate.
 
Write out the words of the Mass that represent its collective worship and what do you have? Rather non-descript poetry? A kind of formula for collective incantation during worship? Can we read these words and not hear a surrounding music? He thinks for a moment of being asked to put new music to words of The Beatles. All you need is love. Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Oh bla dee oh bla da life goes on. Now, now this is silliness, his Critical Voice complains. And yet it’s not. When you compose a popular song the gap between some words scribbled on the back of an envelope and the hook of chords and melody developed in an accidental moment (that becomes a way of clothing such words) is often minimal. Apart, words and music seem like orphans in a storm. Together they are home and dry.
 
He realises, and not for the first time, that he is seeking a total musical solution to the whole of the setting of those words collectively given voice to by those participating in the Mass.
 
And so: to the task in hand. His objective: to focus on the whole rather than the particular.  Where had he heard that thought before? - when he had sat down at his drawing board an hour and half previously. He’d gone in a circle of thought, and with his sketch on the floor at his feet, nothing to show for all that effort.
 
Meanwhile the sun had risen. He could hear her moving about in the bathroom. He went to the kitchen and laid out what they would need to breakfast together. As he poured milk into a jug, primed the toaster, filled the kettle, the business of what might constitute a whole solution to this setting of the Mass followed him around the kitchen and breakfast room like a demanding child. He knew all about demanding children. How often had he come home from his studio to prepare breakfast and see small people to school? - more often than he cared to remember. And when he remembered he became sad that it was no more.  His children had so often provided a welcome buffer from sessions of intense thought and activity. He loved the walk to school, the first quarter of a mile through the park, a long avenue of chestnut trees. It was always the end of April and pink and white blossoms were appearing, or it was September and there were conkers everywhere. It was under these trees his daughter would skip and even his sons would hold hands with him; he would feel their warmth, their livingness.
 
But now, preparing breakfast, his Critical Voice was that demanding child and he realised when she appeared in the kitchen he spoke to her with a voice of an artist in conversation with his critics, not the voice of the man who had the previous night lost himself to joy in her dear embrace. And he was ashamed it was so.
 
How he loved her gentle manner as she negotiated his ‘coming too’ after those two hours of concentration and inner dialogue. Gradually, by the second cup of coffee he felt a right person, and the hours ahead did not seem too impossible.
 
When she’d gone off to her work, silence reasserted itself. He played his viola for half an hour, just scales and exercises and a few folk songs he was learning by heart. This gathering habit was, he would say if asked, to reassert his musicianship, the link between his body and making sound musically. That the viola seemed to resonate throughout his whole body gave him pleasure. He liked the ****** movement required to produce a flowing sequence of bow strokes. The trick at the end of this daily practice was to put the instrument in its case and move immediately to his desk. No pause to check email – that blight on a morning’s work. No pause to look at today’s list. Back to the work in hand: the Mass.
 
But instead his mind and intention seemed to slip sideways and almost unconsciously he found himself sketching (on the few remaining staves of a vocal experiment) what appeared to be a piano piece. The rhythmic flow of it seemed to dance across the page to be halted only when the few empty staves were filled. He knew this was one of those pieces that addressed the pianist, not the listener. He sat back in his chair and imagined a scenario of a pianist opening this music and after a few minutes’ reflection and reading through allowing her hands to move very slowly and silently a few millimetres over the keys.  Such imagining led him to hear possible harmonic simultaneities, dynamics and articulations, though he knew such things would probably be lost or reinvented on a second imagined ‘performance’. No matter. Now his make-believe pianist sounded the first bar out. It had a depth and a richness that surprised him – it was a fine piano. He was touched by its affect. He felt the possibilities of extending what he’d written. So he did. And for the next half an hour lived in the pastures of good continuation, those rich luxuriant meadows reached by a rickerty rackerty bridge and guarded by a troll who today was nowhere to be seen.
 
It was a curious piece. It came to a halt on an enigmatic, go-nowhere / go-anywhere chord after what seemed a short declamatory coda (he later added the marking deliberamente). Then, after a few minutes reflection he wrote a rising arpeggio, a broken chord in which the consonant elements gradually acquired a rising sequence of dissonance pitches until halted by a repetition. As he wrote this ending he realised that the repeated note, an ‘a’ flat, was a kind of fulcrum around which the whole of the music moved. It held an enigmatic presence in the harmony, being sometimes a g# sometimes an ‘a’ flat, and its function often different. It made the music take on a wistful quality.
 
At that point he thought of her little artists’ book series she had titled Tide Marks. Many of these were made of a concertina of folded pages revealing - as your eyes moved through its pages - something akin to the tide’s longitudinal mark. This centred on the page and spread away both upwards and downwards, just like those mirror images of coloured glass seen in a child’s kaleidoscope. No moment of view was ever quite the same, but there were commonalities born of the conditions of a certain day and time.  His ‘Tide Mark’ was just like that. He’d followed a mark made in his imagination from one point to another point a little distant. The musical working out also had a reflection mechanism: what started in one hand became mirrored in the other. He had unexpectedly supplied an ending, this arpegiated gesture of finality that wasn’t properly final but faded away. When he thought further about the role of the ending, he added a few more notes to the arpeggio, but notes that were not be sounded but ghosted, the player miming a press of the keys.
 
He looked at the clock. Nearly five o’clock. The afternoon had all but disappeared. Time had retreated into glorious silence . There had been three whole hours of it. How wonderful that was after months of battling with the incessant and draining turbulence of sound that was ever present in his city life. To be here in this quiet cottage he could now get thoroughly lost – in silence. Even when she was here he could be a few rooms apart, and find silence.
 
A week more of this, a fortnight even . . . but he knew he might only manage a few days before visitors arrived and his long day would be squeezed into the early morning hours and occasional uncertain periods when people were out and about.
 
When she returned, very soon now, she would make tea and cut cake, and they’d sit (like old people they wer
Hal Loyd Denton Apr 2013
Not funny but this was written on 4-15-12 exactly a year to the day


I re-post this for our last battel field Boston these words are nothing but as you read you will find the one who lives in them and He is everything all the comfort and hope we can ever want


Sorry if this seems at first confusing all my friends on facebook and Redbubble will get it right away as
I asked them to use their love and caring to pray for my hurting distraught friend at her time of great
Loss if you are hurting it will help to at least a degree or it will help at times of future loss

Well dear sweet precious Addy this brutal day is at an end I hope you sleep well I prayed for you and
Kathleen’s son way into the night at first I was terrified you weren’t going to get my post and you would
Enter as I told my wife you would enter the lion’s den the lions all have familiar names pain sorrow
Grief and many others and they maul with cruelty without pity I didn’t want either of you to take those
Fatal steps without your armor not to be to descriptive but reality waited with a blast I tried to diffuse the
Coffin the grave and headstone never could I do it immeasurably my fight for you could only be in the
Smallest victories comfort mined at times like these is like uranium white silver metallic with almost
A power that can’t be harnessed the same as loss of a love one what blow back again the same as a
Nuclear test one problem you don’t get the protection of a bunker no just suffer the blast in your
Body mind and heart you are stepping into the shoes the same as young woman who lost her father
That as she described him he was the light of her life our paths crossed on line when I thought she
Was a classmate’s wife her story of her dad touched me deeply I’m going to add that piece here plus
The comfort I tried to write for my friend that was more like my brother when his mother died I will
Include a small background so it wail make more sense let me add those here the first was Fathers story
What you read here is her hearts knowing and the undying love that it created and that continues.
His precious hands were removed from earthly things. A great and gentle man his greatest possessions his family. I only knew him from his business and the fact that one of his beautiful daughters married a classmate of mine. Then much later by error I made acquaintance with another of his daughters you can tell a lot about a person from the actions of his children. She told me that he passed away and that he was the light of her life. With God’s help I would like to pay tribute to him.
A light did shine it was magnified by the eyes of a daughters love. He took his journey he went above his ship was the care they shared he the captain made the course straight and true he didn’t slow her run until heaven was in plain view they would have cheered but it hard to see through eyes filled with tears. All the wonderful years seemed to be eclipsed by the sickness that came it seemed an angry wind from their lives this stalwart precious soul it did rend. It left the greatest empty hole it took the longest time to fill and then with the sweetest cooing the grand babies made the hole enlivened not the terrible twisted knot that had the family bound but without being able to speak a word grampaw was found. If you looked in their faces his smile is bound to bundles only heaven can design. I’m not saying they asked him how to work these miracles yet this is true he watched with intense interest and was happiest since his departure he knew that back through time and space healing was for all time secured. Their stoic acceptance could now be laid aside the family could run in softer climes know the sweetest of times that were thought to be forever gone.
Love spills down from heights distance is only on a map in peoples heart its no farther than the end of your finger tips. Images are so strong not because we have great minds it’s easy to make these rich finds when your love and its power shake the foundation of the universe is it not said that love is the greatest power. Oh how so many in dark shadows cower when they possess the power to ignite the world on fire. From heart to heart it does dart the wildness of the spirit is told blotting out all of the cold. Yes there is winter but also the spring. The light spoken of is no longer beholden to earth and so the family is free by love he joins his light to the Christ the all glowing light
Life force by haldenton
To all who have lost heroes
This was written to Eva’s son Bill to help him at her passing. With this writing I took him back thirty years when he was in the truck wreck that killed his dad his recovery saved his mother I hoped by him being reminded of that now it would help him the same way.
Tribute to Eva Wafford Life force
For all who lost heroes
In your soul freshly the wind of death did blow.
Cold eerie shadows marched against your tender broken heart.
What defense could this onslaught repel agony’s volcanic flow.
Ominous well filled with grief from this weight no relief.
The child the grim reaper did spare.
Only after leaving the body bruised and in despair.
From this broken body drops of mercy started to make the mother well.
I held your trembling frame today this memory rings sweet as a bell.
Streets and houses without number fill the land.
I can’t help when I look to recall memories grand.
Now they are but dreams that ache in the night.
Images that over ride the present in their glory I take flight.
Brush aside caution raise your voice as a trumpet.
They live only in yesterdays even so indelibly they wrote their stories.
We hold our children we cling only a moment as mist on the summit.
Your life Eva continues to build the next generation.
Your voice is heard in the breath of your grandchildren.
Wonders they spin from golden thread, now that you have gone ahead.
Your spirit glows in the fire that warms the house against winter.
Summer’s cool breeze not sent by chance she doe’s tenderly incite.
Death silently said what I already knew.
To me you were always immortal you were bigger than life
Many were the days when the wind of storms blew
those who know us feel the calm; this is only your life on review

One more
Simply Jim
Old Abe said it right ‘It is right and fitting that we speak these words here to honor these lives so honorably lived. I can say that about Jim and this also he was a prince among men if I do this right the words will convince you.
He had a gentle way and nature he spoke softly but a softness that flowed to you like ribbons that bounced in a little girl’s hair how delightful. He should have been a doctor his hands his mannerism was ideal for that job. I guess thats what made him stand out so strongly like a gentle calm breeze if you came in a panic his soul would float down around you like a parachute first it safely brings you from great anxiety and exaltation to a graceful landing then gently envelops you in its silken embrace. I had this privilege of watching him inter act with his wife as I said and truly he was a prince and I was the beggar that benefitted richly from the sidelines God knew my needs.
He was called from this life but all the days he filled before his home going are the sustaining force noticeably seen felt with keen awareness you know that a gentleman passed this way. In the lives left behind there is a blend of sadness and astonishment you realize you are looking at the work of a master workman who left behind a tightly and perfectly fitted family this unfortunately is sadly rare in this society that boast of its accomplishments.
As a friend his breadth and depth was sufficient you weren’t a burden he had a way of dispelling trouble making you understand with wisdom and unerring judgment then with ease you could extricate yourself from the problem. His heavenly father filled him with tenderness it stood him and others well in a somewhat crabby world. If you’re pressed and anxious about life take from this life expressed. A portion of the good will you need use it as a defense Jim couldn’t be everywhere but God saw fit to make an original that you can duplicate benefit from and be a part of his ongoing legacy. Thanks friend for a life lived well

Well hurting one in the earlier part of a writing I said I am God’s battle field reporter and medic
These writings are my bandages and gauze God gave me great big hands and I fill them with
Salve with all the love I know I gently apply it to your broken hurting wounds mingle it with
Tears that are not always mine alone but His mixes with mine one day He will abolish all tears
Until then this is our duty your heart we hear and we can do no other God bless you Addy and
Your nephew and all others who find this helpful

Mirrored Pool


Wonder for all the hurts

First I knelt just to see my reflection then the depths started to reveal first the flowing thoughts were
Restrained and then a bubbling seemed to dislodge from greater depths hard truths churned with
Violent twisting but the motion made it impossible to turn away there were great large white clouds
From depths then even above the pool they rose fourteen stories high the sensation was you were
Standing outside clear air intoxicating views the pulse of many were throbbing in your ears their
Thoughts and dreams were known and their sorrows were weights that pulled you from the heights
It was a colossal game of tag and you were it first reaction fear then the appearance of bundled gifts
Broke down the fear it was promise in different sizes that met the required needs it was like a divine
Warehouse had just made a delivery there were cards with names and writing gave clarification tears
And smiles intermingled then the outer knowing postulated the difficulty the puzzle an enormous
Streaming that was now congested and it was beginning a vortex all was understood now human thought
With doubts was pulling the answer into this destructive hole where was one to find the lever to stop
This action that would disallow was the answer to touch the water bring the finger to my lips possibly
A blazing thought would occur that would strike the mind no all that brought was words that had the
Letters jumbled they made no sense unless there is a special book that is alive in it the letters and words
Are already set but they cover every act in the human condition the broken can pour over the pages
You won’t find thorns to repel your efforts there are thorns but they will speak and assuage your hurts
At the most basic and needed levels the points of your hurts will begin to dissolve from your eyes to
Your mind this inward rush and power will dislodge even spears driven deep by enemies carried for
Years you searched in vain over sad and lonely paths and days now you journey is at an end thorns of
Suffering for another produces profound power and mercy go in peace beloved one another bears your
Burden now maybe words cut you at depths you can’t even identify what if there is an antidote in a
Book you pick it up with trembling hands your body tingles from the knowledge that this is ancient texts
It will have a revival of appreciation in this world of texting but with gentle fingers and eyes that glow
With respect as you see the wisdom and the love cannot be denied you leave the world you know and
With total abandonment you swim in this sea of words until the your tears spill on this rich world of
Words those cruel barbed words that pierced tender skin and have bled internally all of these years
Begin to dissolve with stories and accounts of betrayals then the swells love and mercy you read about
Restoration not always found after apologies are given but the teaching of forgiveness strikes a cord
You have been made free from your prison the tangles of life are great as a great black cloud it hangs
Over head many are its troubles this isn’t mild but the disruptive made to strike and pierce deep the
Hidden that steals the morning blessing while other feast your hunger and unrest only enlarges a
Tormenting unquenchable fire a slow burn this is a forest being burned at the thermal level the hidden
Roots a slow process destructive but not so visible agony torture I have seen men crawl in war or fire
Fighting that where all else is lost you will know greater thrills than any other living soul with the
Desperate and those heavy burdened unable to stand a word will flow it puts out fires and gives
The luxurious buoyancy heaviness changed to joy the bouncy laughter every outward blast attack
The enemy launches is within its pages they are repelled overwhelmed by love you suffer unduly
If you don’t hold this fortress this informative book of stratagems that have made everyone a victor
Who has ever found themselves at their wits end no place on earth has a contingency plan though it
Will make the greatest claims all is just empty air when life as it too often does ***** the very air of life
Out we practically are unconscious but this help this rescue is activated by one name it’s not just a book
But the word is a person what a pool you will find what a reflection will engage you beyond your hope
To imagine just say Jesus all will be total peace your heart will know no more sorrow peace will surpass
Sorrow love will disallow the specter that was once a constant it will disappear it will return to the
Darkness from which it came stand in this newness totally free abide by still waters as the good
Sheppard stands by bless you



Disgrace

This land void of devotion gone is the church steeples.
Replaced by voices and shadows of drug dealers on each corner.
Now they are the keepers, lost cities, death stalks its peoples.
Nothing is sacred in this polluted and diffused land.

No longer hallowed be thy name, it’s as if he never came.
Forgotten is any standard of moral excellence.
The once high ideals only represent a fool’s parlance.
Man declares I throw off these restraints only to find darker chains.

The book that once guided this great land.
We now betray with each waking day.
Our hearts and mind it did ignite, now it’s word we can’t stand.
Powerless and feeble we stumble, anxious ever moment.

Just to remember is not enough, best confess our pride.
Make sacrifice with our lips, to burn on altars on high.
There is a short season for all to make amends to regain our stride.
March on to glory with it burning on the inside.

You don’t have to be astute in business to see the sound investment.
Bring your poverty of spirit leave with the riches of his last testament.
It offers the greatest rate of exchange.
Light for darkness, life for death, selfless love for selfishness.


Streaks of Jefferson


In freedom’s blessed glorified sky through streaks of immortal gold his visage we behold
He looks upon the fields of liberty that he and the founding fathers sowed he sees the

Richness America has become he also beheld her struggles catastrophic wars abroad
And the most painful the one that divided the nation marred it with southern and northern

Blood saw the affable the sad giant Lincoln take the reins of discontent hold them by
Shear will and with uncommon sagacity guided it back in line to fulfill its destiny as the

Powerful fount that would always pour forth waters of freedom for all of earths peoples
Total unconditional acceptance of liberty and all the fruit it bears to establish a

Government like no other this golden grain has waved under bluest skies and brightest
Sun light its rich harvest has gone to darkest prison cells Mandela was sustained by it

For twenty nine years and by its moral purity it fed the lives of those that over threw
Apartied and Mandela finally freed by principals it avows rose from prison clothes

To wear the mantle of president of his country and the honor of the man instilled
Quality that transcended political office Jefferson not to be disrespectful to his progeny

Whispers today’s politicians could do well to look on this African model of good
Stewardship of public trust with that Jefferson faded back into the mist pray that’s
Not the fate of this country






--------------------------------------------------------------­------------------
I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and
     sat down under the huge shade of a Southern
     Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the
     box house hills and cry.
Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron
     pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts
     of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, sur-
     rounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of
     machinery.
The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun
     sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that
     stream, no hermit in those mounts, just our-
     selves rheumy-eyed and hungover like old bums
     on the riverbank, tired and wily.
Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray
     shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting
     dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust--
--I rushed up enchanted--it was my first sunflower,
     memories of Blake--my visions--Harlem
and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes
     Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black
     treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the
     poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel
     knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck
     and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the
     past--
and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset,
     crackly bleak and dusty with the **** and smog
     and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye--
corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like
     a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face,
     soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sun-
     rays obliterated on its hairy head like a dried
     wire spiderweb,
leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures
     from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster
     fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,
Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O
     my soul, I loved you then!
The grime was no man's grime but death and human
     locomotives,
all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad
     skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black
     mis'ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuber-
     ance of artificial worse-than-dirt--industrial--
     modern--all that civilization spotting your
     crazy golden crown--
and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless
     eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the
     home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar
     bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards
     of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely
     tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what
     more could I name, the smoked ashes of some
     **** cigar, the ***** of wheelbarrows and the
     milky ******* of cars, wornout ***** out of chairs
     & sphincters of dynamos--all these
entangled in your mummied roots--and you there
     standing before me in the sunset, all your glory
     in your form!
A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent
     lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye
     to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited
     grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden
     monthly breeze!
How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your
     grime, while you cursed the heavens of the rail-
     road and your flower soul?
Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a
     flower? when did you look at your skin and
     decide you were an impotent ***** old locomo-
     tive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and
     shade of a once powerful mad American locomo-
     tive?
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a
     sunflower!
And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me
     not!
So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck
     it at my side like a scepter,
and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack's soul
     too, and anyone who'll listen,
--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread
     bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all
     beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're bles-
     sed by our own seed & golden hairy naked ac-
     complishment-bodies growing into mad black
     formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our
     eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive
     riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sit-
     down vision.

                              Berkeley, 1955
Alyssa Underwood Jul 2016
He sat by a furnace of seven-fold heat,
As He watched by the precious ore.
And closer He bent with a searching gaze,
As He heated it more and more.

He knew He had ore that could stand the test
And He wanted the finest gold,
To mold as a crown, for the king to wear,
Set with gems of price untold.

So He laid our gold in the burning fire,
Tho’ we fain would say Him "nay."
And watched the dross that we had not seen
As it melted and passed away.

And the gold grew brighter and yet more bright,
But our eyes were dim with tears,
We saw but the fire, not the Master’s hand,
And questioned with anxious fears.

Yet our gold shone out with a richer glow
As it mirrored a form above,
That bent o’er the fire, though unseen by us
With a look of ineffable love.

Can we think it pleases His loving heart
To cause us a moment's pain?
Ah, no! But He sees through the present cross
The bliss of eternal gain.

So He waited there with a watchful eye,
With a love that is strong and sure.
And His gold did not suffer a bit more heat
Than was needed to make it pure.

~ A.F. Ingler
~~~
This English Thames is holier far than Rome,
Those harebells like a sudden flush of sea
Breaking across the woodland, with the foam
Of meadow-sweet and white anemone
To fleck their blue waves,—God is likelier there
Than hidden in that crystal-hearted star the pale monks bear!

Those violet-gleaming butterflies that take
Yon creamy lily for their pavilion
Are monsignores, and where the rushes shake
A lazy pike lies basking in the sun,
His eyes half shut,—he is some mitred old
Bishop in partibus! look at those gaudy scales all green and gold.

The wind the restless prisoner of the trees
Does well for Palaestrina, one would say
The mighty master’s hands were on the keys
Of the Maria *****, which they play
When early on some sapphire Easter morn
In a high litter red as blood or sin the Pope is borne

From his dark House out to the Balcony
Above the bronze gates and the crowded square,
Whose very fountains seem for ecstasy
To toss their silver lances in the air,
And stretching out weak hands to East and West
In vain sends peace to peaceless lands, to restless nations rest.

Is not yon lingering orange after-glow
That stays to vex the moon more fair than all
Rome’s lordliest pageants! strange, a year ago
I knelt before some crimson Cardinal
Who bare the Host across the Esquiline,
And now—those common poppies in the wheat seem twice as fine.

The blue-green beanfields yonder, tremulous
With the last shower, sweeter perfume bring
Through this cool evening than the odorous
Flame-jewelled censers the young deacons swing,
When the grey priest unlocks the curtained shrine,
And makes God’s body from the common fruit of corn and vine.

Poor Fra Giovanni bawling at the mass
Were out of tune now, for a small brown bird
Sings overhead, and through the long cool grass
I see that throbbing throat which once I heard
On starlit hills of flower-starred Arcady,
Once where the white and crescent sand of Salamis meets sea.

Sweet is the swallow twittering on the eaves
At daybreak, when the mower whets his scythe,
And stock-doves murmur, and the milkmaid leaves
Her little lonely bed, and carols blithe
To see the heavy-lowing cattle wait
Stretching their huge and dripping mouths across the farmyard gate.

And sweet the hops upon the Kentish leas,
And sweet the wind that lifts the new-mown hay,
And sweet the fretful swarms of grumbling bees
That round and round the linden blossoms play;
And sweet the heifer breathing in the stall,
And the green bursting figs that hang upon the red-brick wall,

And sweet to hear the cuckoo mock the spring
While the last violet loiters by the well,
And sweet to hear the shepherd Daphnis sing
The song of Linus through a sunny dell
Of warm Arcadia where the corn is gold
And the slight lithe-limbed reapers dance about the wattled fold.

And sweet with young Lycoris to recline
In some Illyrian valley far away,
Where canopied on herbs amaracine
We too might waste the summer-tranced day
Matching our reeds in sportive rivalry,
While far beneath us frets the troubled purple of the sea.

But sweeter far if silver-sandalled foot
Of some long-hidden God should ever tread
The Nuneham meadows, if with reeded flute
Pressed to his lips some Faun might raise his head
By the green water-flags, ah! sweet indeed
To see the heavenly herdsman call his white-fleeced flock to feed.

Then sing to me thou tuneful chorister,
Though what thou sing’st be thine own requiem!
Tell me thy tale thou hapless chronicler
Of thine own tragedies! do not contemn
These unfamiliar haunts, this English field,
For many a lovely coronal our northern isle can yield

Which Grecian meadows know not, many a rose
Which all day long in vales AEolian
A lad might seek in vain for over-grows
Our hedges like a wanton courtesan
Unthrifty of its beauty; lilies too
Ilissos never mirrored star our streams, and cockles blue

Dot the green wheat which, though they are the signs
For swallows going south, would never spread
Their azure tents between the Attic vines;
Even that little **** of ragged red,
Which bids the robin pipe, in Arcady
Would be a trespasser, and many an unsung elegy

Sleeps in the reeds that fringe our winding Thames
Which to awake were sweeter ravishment
Than ever Syrinx wept for; diadems
Of brown bee-studded orchids which were meant
For Cytheraea’s brows are hidden here
Unknown to Cytheraea, and by yonder pasturing steer

There is a tiny yellow daffodil,
The butterfly can see it from afar,
Although one summer evening’s dew could fill
Its little cup twice over ere the star
Had called the lazy shepherd to his fold
And be no prodigal; each leaf is flecked with spotted gold

As if Jove’s gorgeous leman Danae
Hot from his gilded arms had stooped to kiss
The trembling petals, or young Mercury
Low-flying to the dusky ford of Dis
Had with one feather of his pinions
Just brushed them! the slight stem which bears the burden of its suns

Is hardly thicker than the gossamer,
Or poor Arachne’s silver tapestry,—
Men say it bloomed upon the sepulchre
Of One I sometime worshipped, but to me
It seems to bring diviner memories
Of faun-loved Heliconian glades and blue nymph-haunted seas,

Of an untrodden vale at Tempe where
On the clear river’s marge Narcissus lies,
The tangle of the forest in his hair,
The silence of the woodland in his eyes,
Wooing that drifting imagery which is
No sooner kissed than broken; memories of Salmacis

Who is not boy nor girl and yet is both,
Fed by two fires and unsatisfied
Through their excess, each passion being loth
For love’s own sake to leave the other’s side
Yet killing love by staying; memories
Of Oreads peeping through the leaves of silent moonlit trees,

Of lonely Ariadne on the wharf
At Naxos, when she saw the treacherous crew
Far out at sea, and waved her crimson scarf
And called false Theseus back again nor knew
That Dionysos on an amber pard
Was close behind her; memories of what Maeonia’s bard

With sightless eyes beheld, the wall of Troy,
Queen Helen lying in the ivory room,
And at her side an amorous red-lipped boy
Trimming with dainty hand his helmet’s plume,
And far away the moil, the shout, the groan,
As Hector shielded off the spear and Ajax hurled the stone;

Of winged Perseus with his flawless sword
Cleaving the snaky tresses of the witch,
And all those tales imperishably stored
In little Grecian urns, freightage more rich
Than any gaudy galleon of Spain
Bare from the Indies ever! these at least bring back again,

For well I know they are not dead at all,
The ancient Gods of Grecian poesy:
They are asleep, and when they hear thee call
Will wake and think ‘t is very Thessaly,
This Thames the Daulian waters, this cool glade
The yellow-irised mead where once young Itys laughed and played.

If it was thou dear jasmine-cradled bird
Who from the leafy stillness of thy throne
Sang to the wondrous boy, until he heard
The horn of Atalanta faintly blown
Across the Cumnor hills, and wandering
Through Bagley wood at evening found the Attic poets’ spring,—

Ah! tiny sober-suited advocate
That pleadest for the moon against the day!
If thou didst make the shepherd seek his mate
On that sweet questing, when Proserpina
Forgot it was not Sicily and leant
Across the mossy Sandford stile in ravished wonderment,—

Light-winged and bright-eyed miracle of the wood!
If ever thou didst soothe with melody
One of that little clan, that brotherhood
Which loved the morning-star of Tuscany
More than the perfect sun of Raphael
And is immortal, sing to me! for I too love thee well.

Sing on! sing on! let the dull world grow young,
Let elemental things take form again,
And the old shapes of Beauty walk among
The simple garths and open crofts, as when
The son of Leto bare the willow rod,
And the soft sheep and shaggy goats followed the boyish God.

Sing on! sing on! and Bacchus will be here
Astride upon his gorgeous Indian throne,
And over whimpering tigers shake the spear
With yellow ivy crowned and gummy cone,
While at his side the wanton Bassarid
Will throw the lion by the mane and catch the mountain kid!

Sing on! and I will wear the leopard skin,
And steal the mooned wings of Ashtaroth,
Upon whose icy chariot we could win
Cithaeron in an hour ere the froth
Has over-brimmed the wine-vat or the Faun
Ceased from the treading! ay, before the flickering lamp of dawn

Has scared the hooting owlet to its nest,
And warned the bat to close its filmy vans,
Some Maenad girl with vine-leaves on her breast
Will filch their beech-nuts from the sleeping Pans
So softly that the little nested thrush
Will never wake, and then with shrilly laugh and leap will rush

Down the green valley where the fallen dew
Lies thick beneath the elm and count her store,
Till the brown Satyrs in a jolly crew
Trample the loosestrife down along the shore,
And where their horned master sits in state
Bring strawberries and bloomy plums upon a wicker crate!

Sing on! and soon with passion-wearied face
Through the cool leaves Apollo’s lad will come,
The Tyrian prince his bristled boar will chase
Adown the chestnut-copses all a-bloom,
And ivory-limbed, grey-eyed, with look of pride,
After yon velvet-coated deer the ****** maid will ride.

Sing on! and I the dying boy will see
Stain with his purple blood the waxen bell
That overweighs the jacinth, and to me
The wretched Cyprian her woe will tell,
And I will kiss her mouth and streaming eyes,
And lead her to the myrtle-hidden grove where Adon lies!

Cry out aloud on Itys! memory
That foster-brother of remorse and pain
Drops poison in mine ear,—O to be free,
To burn one’s old ships! and to launch again
Into the white-plumed battle of the waves
And fight old Proteus for the spoil of coral-flowered caves!

O for Medea with her poppied spell!
O for the secret of the Colchian shrine!
O for one leaf of that pale asphodel
Which binds the tired brows of Proserpine,
And sheds such wondrous dews at eve that she
Dreams of the fields of Enna, by the far Sicilian sea,

Where oft the golden-girdled bee she chased
From lily to lily on the level mead,
Ere yet her sombre Lord had bid her taste
The deadly fruit of that pomegranate seed,
Ere the black steeds had harried her away
Down to the faint and flowerless land, the sick and sunless day.

O for one midnight and as paramour
The Venus of the little Melian farm!
O that some antique statue for one hour
Might wake to passion, and that I could charm
The Dawn at Florence from its dumb despair,
Mix with those mighty limbs and make that giant breast my lair!

Sing on! sing on!  I would be drunk with life,
Drunk with the trampled vintage of my youth,
I would forget the wearying wasted strife,
The riven veil, the Gorgon eyes of Truth,
The prayerless vigil and the cry for prayer,
The barren gifts, the lifted arms, the dull insensate air!

Sing on! sing on!  O feathered Niobe,
Thou canst make sorrow beautiful, and steal
From joy its sweetest music, not as we
Who by dead voiceless silence strive to heal
Our too untented wounds, and do but keep
Pain barricadoed in our hearts, and ****** pillowed sleep.

Sing louder yet, why must I still behold
The wan white face of that deserted Christ,
Whose bleeding hands my hands did once enfold,
Whose smitten lips my lips so oft have kissed,
And now in mute and marble misery
Sits in his lone dishonoured House and weeps, perchance for me?

O Memory cast down thy wreathed shell!
Break thy hoarse lute O sad Melpomene!
O Sorrow, Sorrow keep thy cloistered cell
Nor dim with tears this limpid Castaly!
Cease, Philomel, thou dost the forest wrong
To vex its sylvan quiet with such wild impassioned song!

Cease, cease, or if ‘t is anguish to be dumb
Take from the pastoral thrush her simpler air,
Whose jocund carelessness doth more become
This English woodland than thy keen despair,
Ah! cease and let the north wind bear thy lay
Back to the rocky hills of Thrace, the stormy Daulian bay.

A moment more, the startled leaves had stirred,
Endymion would have passed across the mead
Moonstruck with love, and this still Thames had heard
Pan plash and paddle groping for some reed
To lure from her blue cave that Naiad maid
Who for such piping listens half in joy and half afraid.

A moment more, the waking dove had cooed,
The silver daughter of the silver sea
With the fond gyves of clinging hands had wooed
Her wanton from the chase, and Dryope
Had ****** aside the branches of her oak
To see the ***** gold-haired lad rein in his snorting yoke.

A moment more, the trees had stooped to kiss
Pale Daphne just awakening from the swoon
Of tremulous laurels, lonely Salmacis
Had bared his barren beauty to the moon,
And through the vale with sad voluptuous smile
Antinous had wandered, the red lotus of the Nile

Down leaning from his black and clustering hair,
To shade those slumberous eyelids’ caverned bliss,
Or else on yonder grassy ***** with bare
High-tuniced limbs unravished Artemis
Had bade her hounds give tongue, and roused the deer
From his green ambuscade with shrill halloo and pricking spear.

Lie still, lie still, O passionate heart, lie still!
O Melancholy, fold thy raven wing!
O sobbing Dryad, from thy hollow hill
Come not with such despondent answering!
No more thou winged Marsyas complain,
Apollo loveth not to hear such troubled songs of pain!

It was a dream, the glade is tenantless,
No soft Ionian laughter moves the air,
The Thames creeps on in sluggish leadenness,
And from the copse left desolate and bare
Fled is young Bacchus with his revelry,
Yet still from Nuneham wood there comes that thrilling melody

So sad, that one might think a human heart
Brake in each separate note, a quality
Which music sometimes has, being the Art
Which is most nigh to tears and memory;
Poor mourning Philomel, what dost thou fear?
Thy sister doth not haunt these fields, Pandion is not here,

Here is no cruel Lord with murderous blade,
No woven web of ****** heraldries,
But mossy dells for roving comrades made,
Warm valleys where the tired student lies
With half-shut book, and many a winding walk
Where rustic lovers stray at eve in happy simple talk.

The harmless rabbit gambols with its young
Across the trampled towing-path, where late
A troop of laughing boys in jostling throng
Cheered with their noisy cries the racing eight;
The gossamer, with ravelled silver threads,
Works at its little loom, and from the dusky red-eaved sheds

Of the lone Farm a flickering light shines out
Where the swinked shepherd drives his bleating flock
Back to their wattled sheep-cotes, a faint shout
Comes from some Oxford boat at Sandford lock,
And starts the moor-hen from the sedgy rill,
And the dim lengthening shadows flit like swallows up the hill.

The heron passes homeward to the mere,
The blue mist creeps among the shivering trees,
Gold world by world the silent stars appear,
And like a blossom blown before the breeze
A white moon drifts across the shimmering sky,
Mute arbitress of all thy sad, thy rapturous threnody.

She does not heed thee, wherefore should she heed,
She knows Endymion is not far away;
’Tis I, ’tis I, whose soul is as the reed
Which has no message of its own to play,
So pipes another’s bidding, it is I,
Drifting with every wind on the wide sea of misery.

Ah! the brown bird has ceased:  one exquisite trill
About the sombre woodland seems to cling
Dying in music, else the air is still,
So still that one might hear the bat’s small wing
Wander and wheel above the pines, or tell
Each tiny dew-drop dripping from the bluebell’s brimming cell.

And far away across the lengthening wold,
Across the willowy flats and thickets brown,
Magdalen’s tall tower tipped with tremulous gold
Marks the long High Street of the little town,
And warns me to return; I must not wait,
Hark! ’Tis the curfew booming from the bell at Christ Church gate.
Patrick Sunday Jan 2014
"Like Wilted Roses, My Soul Is Torn/
From My Despair, My Emotions Lost!"
"Suddenly, Amidst These Lies, My Death I Can See/
My Dreams Slain, And Thus No Future Left For Me!"
"Engravings Of Love, Tarnished - Lie, All Day Long/
Once Trust - Now Fades, Forever, Like Desert's Dust!"
"All Those Plots, Before My Eyes, Now Flashes/
My Love, Where Once, Would Lust, Now Blown Away Like Leafs!"
"Mirrored Scythe Of Love, Bred The Roots Of Lie/
Blossoms In The Air, And All That Inhale's, Are Sure To Die!"
Lyn-Purcell Aug 2018
~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
After days of long studies comes the
days of rest. My violet dreams were
slumber-soft filled with lucent lilies
of curling flames born of ever colour
known and unknown. And I stood
in awe of them as my fears fall back
and cower in the shades of my mind.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
I muse at how quickly my body
relaxed. Due to my marjoram'd
pillows and sheets of pure silk
and eiderdown? Or due to the
sips of the lavender tea in my in
my teacup decorated with a
butterfly motif?

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
I remember the sips in fours as
I blew the steam from my cup;
The first sip balmed my lips.
The second soothed my throat.
The third lulled my thoughts.
The fourth stilled my soul.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Though the tea, the pillow and
sheets were had a hand in my nightly
rest, the real answer is on my brow -
for it was when the night's cool air
blew, and where you placed your
sweet Morphean kiss.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
With a smile, I wake.
Sat on my golden summer throne
located in my marble gazebo; a
jewel in my private garden. With
thin caryatid pillars, draped in
fine doric chitons encircling me.
Their sculpted limbs hold up the
frieze carved with acanthus
that has a stained glass top of
peacocks and stargazers.

~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
The sheer curtains billow when
the eastern winds blow. By me, a
gold side table with a mirrored top
supported by three Greek key legs.
A pewter quill pen with a steel nib
and violet feather rests by its clay
inkpot; both beside a silver sinuous
nouveau vase and a small stack of
poetry books of black leather and
gilt.
~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Part one of my Jasmine Pearls free verse!
(Been having issues with it so I decided to break it down
and make it a collection! ^-^)
A poem dedicated to 'Jasmine Pearl' tea. Inspired y Queen Kim's wonderful 'Golden Hour' and 'Dream Child' poems. I'm very particular about herbal teas, but Jasmine is one of the many few that never fails to relax me when needed. I'm glad I met a fellow Jasmine tea lover in Queen Kim! ^-^
It was rather challenging but I overcame it! Haven't written something
like this since my university days, but I did it!
I really hope you enjoy reading it as I enjoyed writing it!
Anyone else a tea enthusiast?
Do let me know what you think!
Queen Lyn ***
~ ⚘ ⚪ ⚘ ~
Another Bad Poem Mar 2018
she says
she's not a poet
but i find her poems
to have more meaning
more beauty, more heart
to them than mine
and the way
she uses her words
can change how a person is feeling
from sad to happy
just with a couple of phrases
knitted together

she says
she's not a good writer
but those early morning
last minute essays
of pure adrenaline and
half-awake thoughts
present ideas
in such a way
that it's impossible
to find them anything
but perfect

she says
she's not sure
what her future will bring
but i know her
she's smart
and she's
so wonderfully stubborn
that wherever she may end up
she will go farther
than anyone could have ever imagined
including me
i can't predict exactly where she'll be
in 4 months
or 4 years
but i know her path will go
down the most bountiful roads
and in the end
she'll be happy
and all will be worth it

she says
she's not grateful
but almost everything she does
she does for others
she loves her parents
and hurts when they hurt
she realizes what they do
for her, and wants to make them
the proudest parents on earth
she loves her friends
and tries to make them better

she says
she's a relationship whisperer
and i guess she's right
because with a few choice words
gentle nudges and an onslaught
of appreciated suggestions
she whispered us together

she says
that the dark spots on the sun
can bring shadow
to the most brilliant light
but not even
the dark of endless night
can dim her brightness
or hide her from those
who see her for who she is
who see her potential

she doubts herself
sometimes she thinks
she won't succeed,
always worried
that what she's done
isn't enough
or that there's too little time
to get everything done
but no matter the odds
no matter what she's up against
she pushes through
she persists, she fights
and she gets what she wants
or as close to what she wants
as is actually possible
sometimes she even achieves the impossible
and it's nothing if not admirable
showing me that anything is possible
proving to me that
"You could rattle the stars
You could do anything
If only you dared"
not by anything i've done
but by everything she's accomplished

she says
she's not beautiful
true, she's not a model
but that doesn't mean she's not perfect
but the way those eyes shine
like earth kissed by spring rain
promising life and happiness,
mirrored by her wide smile
though not often seen,
just one smile from her
is like a ray of sunshine
through grimy windows
bringing light into a place
that knew nothing but darkness,
warm enough to melt the walls
surrounding the coldest of hearts

somehow,
sometimes
she says she's ugly
possibly due to the scars
dotting her arms and her back
scars which started years ago
but on the contrary
i think they just enhance her
they make her more human
each one a reminder
that she's been through
countless things in her life
but instead of giving up
instead of giving in
she's come through,
a lump of carbon
forged by the fires
of her world
and the pressure of
her surroundings
the pressure of life
and came out
the most precious of diamonds
not the biggest
but the most wonderful of all
with small flecks of imperfections
that make it shine all the brighter

i say
she's often right,
but the subject
becomes herself
and she's far from the truth
she's absolutely wonderful
and in my eyes
perfect
a perfect person
and a perfect friend
the most beautiful woman on earth
mentally and physically
and there's nobody else
i'd rather love
quote from Sarah J. Maas
though the loving isn't easy, i still love
with all my heart
i hope this makes you smile when you're down
or helps you see yourself the way i see you
Terry O'Leary Dec 2016
My chamber teems with tensions, taut, that logic can’t withstand,
fragmenting mental masonry with memories unplanned,
as bitter tears from hazel eyes reduce the stone to sand.

Dim shadows cast by candles flit across the haunted room,
beleaguer apparitions, pale, that stalk me through the gloom,
usurping purloined purple forms forgotten ghosts assume.

The tick-tock clock of time rewinds within the mirrored hall
and pendula suspended, pause, while creatures creep and crawl
on images of effigies, through memories that maul.

The madness of the midnight mass! Perchance it interferes
with spiders spinning spiral threads which bridge the chandeliers
when weaving minds' discarded coils to silken souvenirs.

Reflections graced the vacant gaze of idols as they fled!
Their futile, feigned, far-flung farewells now hammer in my head,
marooned like frozen silhouettes in footprints of the dead.

My lovers smile through marbled masks before they turn their backs
(like furnace flames deserting ash or phantoms fleeing cracks)
with faded, painted, wrinkled faces nightmares carve in wax.

Sometimes a gust disturbs the dust and secrets reappear,
which dance in silver slippers through the dusk of yesteryear -
it's not the screams that drown my dreams, but whispers which I fear.

The hangman posts a letter home, his message indiscreet
about the vestal ****** in the café (where we meet
to savour tea and crumpets) down a one-way dead-end street.

The rapping and the tapping at my tattered, time-worn door
repeat reports of migrant myths, of tales of nevermore,
strung far across a sullen sea, most shipwrecked near the shore.

Forget-me-nots, enwrapped in rain the while a wan wind blows,
recall the faintly fickle fates this drifter undergoes –
alone, unknown with tracks interred in teardrop undertows.

My feet, no longer tied or tethered, traipse within a squall
pursuing profiles long forsaken, buried in the sprawl
of spectres spread amongst the dead, some tattooed to the wall.

At times, the belfry towers toll of anarchy and gin,
of smoke and mirrors, rolling dice and other things akin,
impaled on forks down byway roads, and things that might-have-been.

The skies outside, beyond the night with shutters shut and drawn,
begin to glow on shattered shapes escaping ’fore the dawn
as clouds undone beneath the sun release this captive pawn.
Travis Dixon Sep 2012
imagine all the cells that form to
join in your sensation
all the stars that blew your bits together
for proper procreation
being born with every breath and
reaching death through exhalation--
i simply can't exist without you
nor you without i,
and of this we can be sure that
(though the sureness of my i
obscures the many in us all[
mere words to ***** for thoughts we cope with]
)it will rumble beneath
and explode at the surface
to delayed surprise of just reprise
(mistaking inflation as progress)
that libations of dogmas won't change a thing:
when you look at the fibers in the fabric of being
(spun finely by spiders invisibly swift)
and if our knowledge were but a fly
we'd see ourselves trapped by its infinite web,
both victim to its trap and servant to its host
(though this is the nature of matters sticking close[
especially light years away])
just as the lattice of language roots deep
inside double-helix libraries unimaginably tall
filled with books authored by curious protons,
excited electrons and fleeting photons,
composed of sentences by snarky quarks and gluons
lying in -eate groups with unseen companions
(read between the lines) working in union
to fashion a sum greater than summation could do--
an alchemical-calculus of fractal fluidity,
finding contexts for novelty to sing songs
like Earth (though just a planet in other eyes)
to give conscious rise within the cosmic playground
embodied by us, but not encompassed by us;
rather extended through us
as curiosity mirrored.
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
(poems from the Chinese translated by Arthur Waley)

Last night the clouds scattered away;
A thousand leagues, the same moonlight scene.
When dawn came, I dreamt I saw your face;
It must have been that you were thinking of me.
In my dream, I thought I held your hand
And asked you to tell me what your thoughts were.
And you said: ‘I miss you bitterly . . . “

As Helen drifted into sleep the source of that imagined voice in her last conscious moment was waking several hundred miles away. For so long now she was his first and only waking thought. He stretched his hand out to touch her side with his fingertips, not a touch more the lightest brush: he did not wish to wake her. But she was elsewhere. He was alone. His imagination had to bring her to him instead. Sometimes she was so vivid a thought, a presence more like, that he felt her body surround him, her hand stroke the back of his neck, her ******* fall and spread against his chest, her breath kiss his nose and cheek. He felt conscious he had yet to shave, conscious his rough face should not touch her delicate freckled complexion . . . but he was alone and his body ached for her.

It was always like this when they were apart, and particularly so when she was away from home and full to the brim with the variously rich activities and opportunities that made up her life. He knew she might think of him, but there was this feeling he was missing a part of her living he would never see or know. True, she would speak to him on the phone, but sadly he still longed to read her once bright descriptions that had in the past enabled him to enter her solo experiences in a way no image seemed to allow. But he had resolved to put such possible gifts to one side. So instead he would invent such descriptions himself: a good, if time-consuming compromise. He would give himself an hour at his desk; an hour, had he been with her, they might have spent in each other’s arms welcoming the day with such a love-making he could hardly bare to think about: it was always, always more wonderful than he could possibly have imagined.

He had been at a concert the previous evening. He’d taken the train to a nearby town and chosen to hear just one work in the second part. Before the interval there had been a strange confection of Bernstein, Vaughan-Williams and Saint-Saens. He had preferred to listen to *The Symphonie Fantastique
by Hector Berlioz. There was something a little special about attending a concert to hear a single work. You could properly prepare yourself for the experience and take away a clear memory of the music. He had read the score on the train journey, a journey across a once industrial and mining heartland that had become an abandoned wasteland: a river and canal running in tandem, a vast but empty marshalling yard, acres of water-filled gravel pits, factory and mill buildings standing empty and in decay. On this early evening of a thoroughly wet and cold June day he would lift his gaze to the window to observe this sad landscape shrouded in a grey mist tinted with mottled green.

Andrew often considered Berlioz a kind of fellow-traveller on his life’s journey of music. Berlioz too had been a guitarist in his teenage years and had been largely self-taught as a composer. He had been an innovator in his use of the orchestra and developed a body of work that closely mirrored the literature and political mores of his time.  The Symphonie Fantastique was the ultimate love letter: to the adorable Harriet Smithson, the Irish actress. Berlioz had seen her play Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (see above) and immediately imagined her as his muse and life’s partner. He wrote hundreds of letters to her before eventually meeting her to declare his love and admiration in person. A friend took her to hear the Symphonie after it had got about that this radical work was dedicated to her. She was appalled! But, when Berlioz wrote Lélio or The Return to Life, a kind of sequel to his Symphonie, she relented and agreed to meet him. They married in 1833 but parted after a tempestuous seven years. It had surprised Andrew to discover Lélio, about which, until quite recently, he had known nothing. The Berlioz scholar David Cairns had written fully and quite lovingly about the composition, but reading the synopsis in Wikipedia he began to understand it might be a trifle embarrassing to present in a concert.

The programme of Lélio describes the artist wakening from these dreams, musing on Shakespeare, his sad life, and not having a woman. He decides that if he can't put this unrequited love out of his head, he will immerse himself in music. He then leads an orchestra to a successful performance of one of his new compositions and the story ends peacefully.

Lélio consists of six musical pieces presented by an actor who stands on stage in front of a curtain concealing the orchestra. The actor's dramatic monologues explain the meaning of the music in the life of the artist. The work begins and ends with the idée fixe theme, linking Lélio to Symphonie fantastique.


Thoughts of the lovely Harriet brought him to thoughts of his own muse, far away. He had written so many letters to his muse, and now he wrote her little stories instead, often imagining moments in their still separate lives. He had written music for her and about her – a Quintet for piano and winds (after Mozart) based on a poem he’d written about a languorous summer afternoon beside a river in the Yorkshire Dales; a book of songs called Pleasing Myself (his first venture into setting his own words). Strangely enough he had read through those very songs just the other day. How they captured the onset of both his regard and his passion for her! He had written poetic words in her voice, and for her clear voice to sing:

As the light dies
I pace the field edge
to the square pond
enclosed, hedged and treed.
The water,
once revealed,
lies cold
in the still air.

At its bank,
solitary,
I let my thoughts of you
float on the surface.
And like two boats
moored abreast
at the season’s end,
our reflections merge
in one dark form.


His words he felt were true to the model of the Chinese poetry he had loved as a teenager, verse that had helped him fashion his fledgling thoughts in music.

And so it was that while she dined brightly with her team in a Devon country pub, he sat alone in a town hall in West Yorkshire listening to Berlioz’ autobiographical and unrequited work.

A young musician of extraordinary sensibility and abundant imagination, in the depths of despair because of hopeless love, has poisoned himself with *****. The drug is too feeble to **** him but plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by weird visions. His sensations, emotions, and memories, as they pass through his affected mind, are transformed into musical images and ideas. The beloved one herself becomes to him a melody, a recurrent theme [idée fixe] which haunts him continually.

Yes, he could identify with some of that. Reading Berlioz’ own programme note in the orchestral score he remembered the disabling effect of his first love, a slight girl with long hair tied with a simple white scarf. Then he thought of what he knew would be his last love, his only and forever love when he had talked to her, interrupting her concentration, in a college workshop. She had politely dealt with his innocent questions and then, looking at the clock told him she ‘had to get on’. It was only later – as he sat outside in the university gardens - that he realized the affect that brief encounter might have on him. It was as though in those brief minutes he knew nothing of her, but also everything he ever needed to know. Strange how the images of that meeting, the sound of her voice haunted him, would appear unbidden - until two months later a chance meeting in a corridor had jolted him into her presence again  . . . and for always he hoped.

After the music had finished he had remained in the auditorium as the rather slight audience took their leave. The resonance of the music seemed to be a still presence and he had there and then scanned back and forward through the music’s memory. The piece had cheered him, given him a little hope against the prevailing difficulties and problems of his own musical creativity, the long, often empty hours at his desk. He was in a quiet despair about his current work, about his current life if he was honest. He wondered at the way Berlioz’ musical material seemed of such a piece with its orchestration. The conception of the music itself was full of rough edges; it had none of that exemplary finish of a Beethoven symphony so finely chiseled to perfection.  Berlioz’ Symphonie contained inspired and trite elements side by side, bar beside bar. It missed that wholeness Beethoven achieved with his carefully honed and positioned harmonic structures, his relentless editing and rewriting. With Berlioz you reckoned he trusted himself to let what was in his imagination flow onto the page unhindered by technical issues. Andrew had experienced that occasionally, and looking at his past pieces, was often amazed that such music could be, and was, his alone.

Returning to his studio there was a brief text from his muse. He was tempted to phone her. But it was late and he thought she might already be asleep. He sat for a while and imagined her at dinner with the team, more relaxed now than previously. Tired from a long day of looking and talking and thinking and planning and imagining (herself in the near future), she had worn her almost vintage dress and the bright, bright smile with her diligent self-possessed manner. And taking it (the smile) into her hotel bedroom, closing the door on her public self, she had folded it carefully on the chair with her clothes - to be bright and bright for her colleagues at breakfast next day and beyond. She undressed and sitting on the bed in her pajamas imagined for a brief moment being folded in his arms, being gently kissed goodnight. Too tired to read, she brought herself to bed with a mental list of all the things she must and would do in the morning time and when she got home – and slept.

*They came and told me a messenger from Shang-chou
Had brought a letter, - a simple scroll from you!
Up from my pillow I suddenly sprang out of bed,
And threw on my clothes, all topsy-turvey.
I undid the knot and saw the letter within:
A single sheet with thirteen lines of writing.
At the top it told the sorrows of an exile’s heart;
At the bottom it described the pains of separation.
The sorrows and pains took up so much space
There was no room to talk about the weather!
The poems that begin and end Being Awake are translations by Arthur Waley  from One Hundred and Seventy Poems from the Chinese published in 1918.
Shofi Ahmed Jan 2019
Zero is enduring
zero is deathless.
Nothing is up to it
none can mirror it
though forever
it's an open case.
The eyes are yet to
see an open face!

Because like it's
nothing is in perfect shape
purely a perfect circle!
Nothing matches it
as like Fathima is none else!

Ever more sprawling pi decimals
never go unnoticed propelling
to the end surge before her.
Before the original one
Fathima is yet to be mirrored.

All the planets turn circular
before the unseen perfect circle.
Fathima nails it snapped it up
circled it with her hair!
Before the furthest sighted eyes,
the dot at the earth's centre
at its pool of primitive water.

Fathima embeds in a loop of her hair
thus supercharges the water!
It finds the cut, the golden ratio,
constant continuity in her hair's inner flow.
And the Big Bang happened
there, their breakthrough!
The potential worlds to be
from the first drop of water
she gets them all buzzed out.
From down the rock bottom,
from the zero null
Fathima finds and raises the sun!

Nothing is comparable to it on the ground
nor up on the high, we only see the fire
of a heavenly phenomenon is beyond the sight!
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.
Lady Bird Dec 2014
"Tomorrow's Swan"
         
              beautiful and proud
              reflecting on nights water
              is tomorrow's swan

"Motionless"
        
              Gently flowing
              the liquid mirrored quiet
              motionless I cry

"Beautiful Swan"
        
              a beautiful swan
              the river makes no sound
              in a timeless space

"Her Wings"

              whistles of her wings
              slicing through the cool waves
              stillness of the swan

"Swan Attack"

              I watch from the shore
              her struggle to stay afloat
              an attacking swan
Ghazal Jul 2013
Palindromically flowing
Mirrored thoughts
Race back and forth
Forth and back.
That and this,
This and that,
All identical
~Same to same~
Identical all,
That and this,
This and that
Back and forth
Forth and back
Race mirrored thoughts
Flowing palindromically.
Along a path of flowers there lies,
a gleaming lake that mirrors the skies;
In gentle glow from the sun above,
which lights the lilting waters of love.

We sit and watch each portrait shine,
in the forest green of leaves divine;
While glancing azure in shadows cast,
each sparkling sign from seasons past.

Magnificent in its glorious stream,
the lake will wander like a dream;
In curious images' rise and fall,
which dance to heaven's saintly call.

And then enveloped by the night,
the lake provides a glittering sight;
With translucent sheen it wanders far,
leaving mirrored traces of the stars.
Yule Jun 2018
The sound of the pouring rain from the roof woke me up.

I got myself a chair in the patio of our house. I sat there comfortably, sitting in silence for a good whole minute.

I closed my eyes, letting the sound of the pouring rain immerse into me. Imagining myself getting soaked, as if I really am in the middle of the pouring rain, drenched, and laughing carefree in the distance.

"Being outside is nice huh?" I heard a pleasant voice behind me. I let my eyes stay closed for a moment, letting the cold wind meet my face to wake me up. I also welcomed his words, nodding at him with acknowledgement. I was then met with a chocolatey steam; he prepared us two cups of hot cocoa.

"Figured you're a bit cold." His voice sounded raspy, sleepiness still evident in his tone. I turn to him as he got himself another chair close to mine. He looks up a bit, seeping the rain onto his porcelain-like skin. He doesn't go out that much to get some sunshine as to why.

I hummed absentmindedly, warming up to his presence. There was a small smile across his lips, his eyes warmer than the hot drinks he have at hand.

I mirrored his smile, getting my cup from him.

"I kinda like the cold feeling but I wouldn't want to waste your effort." A chuckle escaped my lips, and his crescent-like smile appeared before me.

He drank from his cup as I sipped on mine, letting the vibe from around me flood my senses.

I love these little instances he would think of me. Slipping a thought into his tasks, gestures that show that he does take effort in remembering things I love. Like how I prefer hot chocolate over tea in rainy days, and how I love seeing his smile on early mornings. Even as he loathes waking up and moving off the bed so early. Oh how I love this man before me.

And we sat there in silence, side by side, letting the sky pour out its rain. Our cups at hand, the aroma of the cocoa steam over our senses, full to little to none, with the cold wind howling a bit in the distance.

This went on for an hour or so; I still couldn’t wrap around the idea of how much I love these instances. I had always found comfort in him between our silences and exchanges of glances. Just in him in general; he’s my blanket, my safety— the personification of home. My umbrella; my shade to my blazing sunny days and cover to cold rainy days. I looked over his broad figure from the back, I sigh in contentment.

And as if he heard the drizzle in my heart, he gave me a faint smile; a radiance just enough to soften the hues all around us. But just enough that he stands out amongst the drizzling rain over the sunlight peeking through the clouds.

I could see the raindrops wash over the dewiness of his skin, and it looks like it's starting to show signs of stopping. But I just want to stay, stay out here a bit longer.
The rain is still pouring hard outside.| 180609; 9:23 am

//  If I were asked what paradise would look like. This would be it.

{nj.b}
Lindsey Durbin Mar 2011
You are nothing but a taste in my mouth
a reflection of myself
mirrored versions of me, me, me
mirrored split personality
mysterious I, Gemini,
keep talking to myself
through the shining in your eyes,
Amber, it's no surprise
we are drawn to each other,
child twin brother,
floating through space
we are kids, chameleons
fickle in our ways
we can't be blamed
it's our nature
to see I in You,
and You in I.
Upon a midnight’s visage airy,
T’was a lake frozen by fairy,
…and weighing on mind’s tonnage bearing?
There for ice’ opaqueness winter’s seized,
…and arms encased in rime; trees.

“Oh my,”

At dark of sky thought the eye of something troubling upon my mind?

And the frosty cloudy glass,
Take to it upon my axe,
…and the sting of shards will pass.
And will I eat at last.

Thusly, thrusting through the skull, wettened, weakened for the cold.

…and burden carry I with me,
So encased in rime is he,
Doth make of fishing’s night a chore,
Something that I do abhor!
…and stare I did into that sea,
…my frory breathe in imagery,
Dismay it did fluster me, when my eye captured by Sea,
...and in whirling thoughts could reflection see?
…and something else came back with me.

Pool with drops, light curves, dark rings; in vapid mind now find nothing...

T’was a misty sheen seen after showers?

A damp muggy place of reflecting hours,
Typhoid strange did make snowing;
The Asteraceae of my wilted flowers,
…and that Wren philosophically sings,
…and at lake a lone be -ing,

Appearing peering my soliloquy, I am therefore I into thee.
…and fixed calm stared back at me,

“What pray tell I Enquiry?”

Did something else look back at me?

...and glaring gaze thus did see, something I had hid from me,
…and gawking in my mind did ogle; a malevolence of thought once frugal...

A gaping, oscillating, pierced Abyss, forced farther back into consciousness...

Deeper in and further still,
Climb atop Old Arthur’s hill,
…and the winged Raven’s nearer, reflected on me in my mirror?
…and time did pass turning frozen dying, icy tears of sadness from my crying,

…so did silent Hume release, all the pain that’s troubling me; whilst frozen frame thus held in peace?

I fell forward and felt submerged,
Both characters, both now have merged.
And that creature which accompanied me?

Found a solace back in wine dark sea.
David Hume and Narcissus.
Wendell A Brown Jul 2014
A red rose is only
a mirror image of
your beauty, which
each day unambiguously
shows its lovely face

Filling the world all
around me, with all of
its grandeur, its majesty
and superb grace

For what is found to be
alive and rare in a special
fashion, only you my love
surely possess

And it will never be
mirrored by any other
living thing, for none
but a rose can compare
to your loveliness.
a romantic poem
ryn Mar 2015
Blue is the boulder overlooking the bay
Loosely pocked by weather-worn stains
Unwavering guardian of all that lay
Enigmatic yet silently screaming its pains

Blue is the reflection dancing playfully
Laid generously by the twilight moon
Upon the vast canvas of the darkened sea
Elated ripples readily accepting such a boon

Blue is the halo encircling the moon
Lavish circlet gifted by the sun
Unnoticed by eyes that slumbered too soon
Evading the sands of time that run

Blue is the silhouette of a lone sailboat
Lurching and bobbing by will of the waves
Unknowingly catching the zephyrs that float
Eluding the fingers from watery graves

Blue is the man; perched upon the boulder
Lapping up the stars mirrored upon the sea
Usurped heart of his had never sung drearier
Ensnared by woeful wonderment...
                                           *
*that man is me...
Newdigate prize poem recited in the Sheldonian Theatre
Oxford June 26th, 1878.

To my friend George Fleming author of ‘The Nile Novel’
and ‘Mirage’

I.

A year ago I breathed the Italian air,—
And yet, methinks this northern Spring is fair,—
These fields made golden with the flower of March,
The throstle singing on the feathered larch,
The cawing rooks, the wood-doves fluttering by,
The little clouds that race across the sky;
And fair the violet’s gentle drooping head,
The primrose, pale for love uncomforted,
The rose that burgeons on the climbing briar,
The crocus-bed, (that seems a moon of fire
Round-girdled with a purple marriage-ring);
And all the flowers of our English Spring,
Fond snowdrops, and the bright-starred daffodil.
Up starts the lark beside the murmuring mill,
And breaks the gossamer-threads of early dew;
And down the river, like a flame of blue,
Keen as an arrow flies the water-king,
While the brown linnets in the greenwood sing.
A year ago!—it seems a little time
Since last I saw that lordly southern clime,
Where flower and fruit to purple radiance blow,
And like bright lamps the fabled apples glow.
Full Spring it was—and by rich flowering vines,
Dark olive-groves and noble forest-pines,
I rode at will; the moist glad air was sweet,
The white road rang beneath my horse’s feet,
And musing on Ravenna’s ancient name,
I watched the day till, marked with wounds of flame,
The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned.

O how my heart with boyish passion burned,
When far away across the sedge and mere
I saw that Holy City rising clear,
Crowned with her crown of towers!—On and on
I galloped, racing with the setting sun,
And ere the crimson after-glow was passed,
I stood within Ravenna’s walls at last!

II.

How strangely still! no sound of life or joy
Startles the air; no laughing shepherd-boy
Pipes on his reed, nor ever through the day
Comes the glad sound of children at their play:
O sad, and sweet, and silent! surely here
A man might dwell apart from troublous fear,
Watching the tide of seasons as they flow
From amorous Spring to Winter’s rain and snow,
And have no thought of sorrow;—here, indeed,
Are Lethe’s waters, and that fatal ****
Which makes a man forget his fatherland.

Ay! amid lotus-meadows dost thou stand,
Like Proserpine, with poppy-laden head,
Guarding the holy ashes of the dead.
For though thy brood of warrior sons hath ceased,
Thy noble dead are with thee!—they at least
Are faithful to thine honour:—guard them well,
O childless city! for a mighty spell,
To wake men’s hearts to dreams of things sublime,
Are the lone tombs where rest the Great of Time.

III.


Yon lonely pillar, rising on the plain,
Marks where the bravest knight of France was slain,—
The Prince of chivalry, the Lord of war,
Gaston de Foix:  for some untimely star
Led him against thy city, and he fell,
As falls some forest-lion fighting well.
Taken from life while life and love were new,
He lies beneath God’s seamless veil of blue;
Tall lance-like reeds wave sadly o’er his head,
And oleanders bloom to deeper red,
Where his bright youth flowed crimson on the ground.

Look farther north unto that broken mound,—
There, prisoned now within a lordly tomb
Raised by a daughter’s hand, in lonely gloom,
Huge-limbed Theodoric, the Gothic king,
Sleeps after all his weary conquering.
Time hath not spared his ruin,—wind and rain
Have broken down his stronghold; and again
We see that Death is mighty lord of all,
And king and clown to ashen dust must fall

Mighty indeed their glory! yet to me
Barbaric king, or knight of chivalry,
Or the great queen herself, were poor and vain,
Beside the grave where Dante rests from pain.
His gilded shrine lies open to the air;
And cunning sculptor’s hands have carven there
The calm white brow, as calm as earliest morn,
The eyes that flashed with passionate love and scorn,
The lips that sang of Heaven and of Hell,
The almond-face which Giotto drew so well,
The weary face of Dante;—to this day,
Here in his place of resting, far away
From Arno’s yellow waters, rushing down
Through the wide bridges of that fairy town,
Where the tall tower of Giotto seems to rise
A marble lily under sapphire skies!

Alas! my Dante! thou hast known the pain
Of meaner lives,—the exile’s galling chain,
How steep the stairs within kings’ houses are,
And all the petty miseries which mar
Man’s nobler nature with the sense of wrong.
Yet this dull world is grateful for thy song;
Our nations do thee homage,—even she,
That cruel queen of vine-clad Tuscany,
Who bound with crown of thorns thy living brow,
Hath decked thine empty tomb with laurels now,
And begs in vain the ashes of her son.

O mightiest exile! all thy grief is done:
Thy soul walks now beside thy Beatrice;
Ravenna guards thine ashes:  sleep in peace.

IV.

How lone this palace is; how grey the walls!
No minstrel now wakes echoes in these halls.
The broken chain lies rusting on the door,
And noisome weeds have split the marble floor:
Here lurks the snake, and here the lizards run
By the stone lions blinking in the sun.
Byron dwelt here in love and revelry
For two long years—a second Anthony,
Who of the world another Actium made!
Yet suffered not his royal soul to fade,
Or lyre to break, or lance to grow less keen,
’Neath any wiles of an Egyptian queen.
For from the East there came a mighty cry,
And Greece stood up to fight for Liberty,
And called him from Ravenna:  never knight
Rode forth more nobly to wild scenes of fight!
None fell more bravely on ensanguined field,
Borne like a Spartan back upon his shield!
O Hellas!  Hellas! in thine hour of pride,
Thy day of might, remember him who died
To wrest from off thy limbs the trammelling chain:
O Salamis!  O lone Plataean plain!
O tossing waves of wild Euboean sea!
O wind-swept heights of lone Thermopylae!
He loved you well—ay, not alone in word,
Who freely gave to thee his lyre and sword,
Like AEschylos at well-fought Marathon:

And England, too, shall glory in her son,
Her warrior-poet, first in song and fight.
No longer now shall Slander’s venomed spite
Crawl like a snake across his perfect name,
Or mar the lordly scutcheon of his fame.

For as the olive-garland of the race,
Which lights with joy each eager runner’s face,
As the red cross which saveth men in war,
As a flame-bearded beacon seen from far
By mariners upon a storm-tossed sea,—
Such was his love for Greece and Liberty!

Byron, thy crowns are ever fresh and green:
Red leaves of rose from Sapphic Mitylene
Shall bind thy brows; the myrtle blooms for thee,
In hidden glades by lonely Castaly;
The laurels wait thy coming:  all are thine,
And round thy head one perfect wreath will twine.

V.

The pine-tops rocked before the evening breeze
With the hoarse murmur of the wintry seas,
And the tall stems were streaked with amber bright;—
I wandered through the wood in wild delight,
Some startled bird, with fluttering wings and fleet,
Made snow of all the blossoms; at my feet,
Like silver crowns, the pale narcissi lay,
And small birds sang on every twining spray.
O waving trees, O forest liberty!
Within your haunts at least a man is free,
And half forgets the weary world of strife:
The blood flows hotter, and a sense of life
Wakes i’ the quickening veins, while once again
The woods are filled with gods we fancied slain.
Long time I watched, and surely hoped to see
Some goat-foot Pan make merry minstrelsy
Amid the reeds! some startled Dryad-maid
In girlish flight! or lurking in the glade,
The soft brown limbs, the wanton treacherous face
Of woodland god! Queen Dian in the chase,
White-limbed and terrible, with look of pride,
And leash of boar-hounds leaping at her side!
Or Hylas mirrored in the perfect stream.

O idle heart!  O fond Hellenic dream!
Ere long, with melancholy rise and swell,
The evening chimes, the convent’s vesper bell,
Struck on mine ears amid the amorous flowers.
Alas! alas! these sweet and honied hours
Had whelmed my heart like some encroaching sea,
And drowned all thoughts of black Gethsemane.

VI.

O lone Ravenna! many a tale is told
Of thy great glories in the days of old:
Two thousand years have passed since thou didst see
Caesar ride forth to royal victory.
Mighty thy name when Rome’s lean eagles flew
From Britain’s isles to far Euphrates blue;
And of the peoples thou wast noble queen,
Till in thy streets the Goth and *** were seen.
Discrowned by man, deserted by the sea,
Thou sleepest, rocked in lonely misery!
No longer now upon thy swelling tide,
Pine-forest-like, thy myriad galleys ride!
For where the brass-beaked ships were wont to float,
The weary shepherd pipes his mournful note;
And the white sheep are free to come and go
Where Adria’s purple waters used to flow.

O fair!  O sad!  O Queen uncomforted!
In ruined loveliness thou liest dead,
Alone of all thy sisters; for at last
Italia’s royal warrior hath passed
Rome’s lordliest entrance, and hath worn his crown
In the high temples of the Eternal Town!
The Palatine hath welcomed back her king,
And with his name the seven mountains ring!

And Naples hath outlived her dream of pain,
And mocks her tyrant!  Venice lives again,
New risen from the waters! and the cry
Of Light and Truth, of Love and Liberty,
Is heard in lordly Genoa, and where
The marble spires of Milan wound the air,
Rings from the Alps to the Sicilian shore,
And Dante’s dream is now a dream no more.

But thou, Ravenna, better loved than all,
Thy ruined palaces are but a pall
That hides thy fallen greatness! and thy name
Burns like a grey and flickering candle-flame
Beneath the noonday splendour of the sun
Of new Italia! for the night is done,
The night of dark oppression, and the day
Hath dawned in passionate splendour:  far away
The Austrian hounds are hunted from the land,
Beyond those ice-crowned citadels which stand
Girdling the plain of royal Lombardy,
From the far West unto the Eastern sea.

I know, indeed, that sons of thine have died
In Lissa’s waters, by the mountain-side
Of Aspromonte, on Novara’s plain,—
Nor have thy children died for thee in vain:
And yet, methinks, thou hast not drunk this wine
From grapes new-crushed of Liberty divine,
Thou hast not followed that immortal Star
Which leads the people forth to deeds of war.
Weary of life, thou liest in silent sleep,
As one who marks the lengthening shadows creep,
Careless of all the hurrying hours that run,
Mourning some day of glory, for the sun
Of Freedom hath not shewn to thee his face,
And thou hast caught no flambeau in the race.

Yet wake not from thy slumbers,—rest thee well,
Amidst thy fields of amber asphodel,
Thy lily-sprinkled meadows,—rest thee there,
To mock all human greatness:  who would dare
To vent the paltry sorrows of his life
Before thy ruins, or to praise the strife
Of kings’ ambition, and the barren pride
Of warring nations! wert not thou the Bride
Of the wild Lord of Adria’s stormy sea!
The Queen of double Empires! and to thee
Were not the nations given as thy prey!
And now—thy gates lie open night and day,
The grass grows green on every tower and hall,
The ghastly fig hath cleft thy bastioned wall;
And where thy mailed warriors stood at rest
The midnight owl hath made her secret nest.
O fallen! fallen! from thy high estate,
O city trammelled in the toils of Fate,
Doth nought remain of all thy glorious days,
But a dull shield, a crown of withered bays!

Yet who beneath this night of wars and fears,
From tranquil tower can watch the coming years;
Who can foretell what joys the day shall bring,
Or why before the dawn the linnets sing?
Thou, even thou, mayst wake, as wakes the rose
To crimson splendour from its grave of snows;
As the rich corn-fields rise to red and gold
From these brown lands, now stiff with Winter’s cold;
As from the storm-rack comes a perfect star!

O much-loved city!  I have wandered far
From the wave-circled islands of my home;
Have seen the gloomy mystery of the Dome
Rise slowly from the drear Campagna’s way,
Clothed in the royal purple of the day:
I from the city of the violet crown
Have watched the sun by Corinth’s hill go down,
And marked the ‘myriad laughter’ of the sea
From starlit hills of flower-starred Arcady;
Yet back to thee returns my perfect love,
As to its forest-nest the evening dove.

O poet’s city! one who scarce has seen
Some twenty summers cast their doublets green
For Autumn’s livery, would seek in vain
To wake his lyre to sing a louder strain,
Or tell thy days of glory;—poor indeed
Is the low murmur of the shepherd’s reed,
Where the loud clarion’s blast should shake the sky,
And flame across the heavens! and to try
Such lofty themes were folly:  yet I know
That never felt my heart a nobler glow
Than when I woke the silence of thy street
With clamorous trampling of my horse’s feet,
And saw the city which now I try to sing,
After long days of weary travelling.

VII.

Adieu, Ravenna! but a year ago,
I stood and watched the crimson sunset glow
From the lone chapel on thy marshy plain:
The sky was as a shield that caught the stain
Of blood and battle from the dying sun,
And in the west the circling clouds had spun
A royal robe, which some great God might wear,
While into ocean-seas of purple air
Sank the gold galley of the Lord of Light.

Yet here the gentle stillness of the night
Brings back the swelling tide of memory,
And wakes again my passionate love for thee:
Now is the Spring of Love, yet soon will come
On meadow and tree the Summer’s lordly bloom;
And soon the grass with brighter flowers will blow,
And send up lilies for some boy to mow.
Then before long the Summer’s conqueror,
Rich Autumn-time, the season’s usurer,
Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees,
And see it scattered by the spendthrift breeze;
And after that the Winter cold and drear.
So runs the perfect cycle of the year.
And so from youth to manhood do we go,
And fall to weary days and locks of snow.
Love only knows no winter; never dies:
Nor cares for frowning storms or leaden skies
And mine for thee shall never pass away,
Though my weak lips may falter in my lay.

Adieu!  Adieu! yon silent evening star,
The night’s ambassador, doth gleam afar,
And bid the shepherd bring his flocks to fold.
Perchance before our inland seas of gold
Are garnered by the reapers into sheaves,
Perchance before I see the Autumn leaves,
I may behold thy city; and lay down
Low at thy feet the poet’s laurel crown.

Adieu!  Adieu! yon silver lamp, the moon,
Which turns our midnight into perfect noon,
Doth surely light thy towers, guarding well
Where Dante sleeps, where Byron loved to dwell.

— The End —