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Nagging

from everyone

it makes you seen less
less of a person
less of a friend
less of a human being

where is the magic in nagging?
where is the love in nagging?
there is no patience in it.
there is only annoyance.

theres only dropping
           only regret
           only you

                    and your nagging...
Keda Kanye May 2017
Whenever you're around
I feel like something's nagging me
Like a mosquito in my ear
I try to focus
On me
On what I'm doing
In this exact moment
On my power
And my unity
And my soul
But all the while
You keep nagging
Nagging
Making me all too aware of your presence
I feel your stares
And I sense your frustration
With me
That I'm not with you
Next to you
Just chilling


Perhaps it's my fault
Perhaps you don't care
Or you're not thinking
About me


But that's worse


Oh that's so much worse


Because then.
The nagging
Is just me
My inner thoughts
Wanting desperately
For you to want me
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Joe Wilson Oct 2014
To be free of this nagging doubt
Oh to be free of this pain
I know that I'll never miss her
I don't want to see her again.

Why beat myself then I wonder
Could it be there is still a spark
She was cruel and she hurt me on purpose
And yet...

I don't know now, I loved her so deeply
The days pass much slower now she's gone
Even now I still can't forget her
Till I do I'll never move on.

If I go to our old haunts I'll see her
I wonder if she'll still be with him
I can't bear to think of or to go there
But the chances I won't are so slim.

I'll just watch some telly and forget her
I'm sure there's some pointless tat on
But the nagging doubts are driving me crazy
I give in, my coat's already on...



©Joe Wilson - ...nagging doubts...2014
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA






Or A Reflection on Ourselves


Ayad Izzet Gharbawi










2008














Table of Contents



Chapter 1: An Awakening. Page: 3.
Chapter 2: University. Page 12.
Chapter 3: Being an Activist. Page 23.
Chapter 4:  The Hallowed Purification Programme. Page: 32.
Chapter 5: The Party Self Destructs. Page: 55.
Chapter 6: Confusion after the Collapse of my Icon. Page: 64.
Chapter 7 Getting a Job as a Psychiatrist. Page 69.
Chapter 8: Afim: Sick or ‘Normal’? Page: 84.
Chapter 9: Having Children. Page 105.
Chapter 10: Omar Again. Page: 109.
Chapter 11: The Meaningless Existence of My Husband. Page 121.
Chapter 12: My Daughter: Lara. Page 127.
Chapter 13: Getting to the Top in my Job. Page: 131.
Chapter 14: Success & Emptiness. Page 142.
Chapter 15: The Shock. Page: 148.
Chapter 16: The Trap. Page: 153.
Chapter 17: The Punishment. Page 162.
Chapter 18: The Barmaid and the Alcoholic Conversation. Page: 166.
Chapter 19: Old Age. Page: 180.
Chapter 20: Seeing My Son: Noor. Page: 184.
Chapter 21: The Unexpected Visitor. Page: 191.
Chapter 22: Conversation with my Social Worker. Page: 195.
Chapter 23: My Visitor Returns. Page: 206.
Chapter 24: Isolation. Page: 210.

















THE STORY OF SARA



– OR, A REFLECTION ON OURSELVES



CHAPTER ONE:  AN AWAKENING



  
            Sara is my name.
  I feel the need to write down the words, or rather, the connected and the unconnected stories, of my life.
  I wish to say straightaway, that I am not an important person; on the opposite.
  I am, in fact, a no one.
  I achieved nothing meaningful in my life, and I was never famous.

  So, why you may think, should anyone read about my life, considering that I am a nobody?
  Well, I think, that precisely because I am a nobody, people should read about my life!
  Why?
  Because, since most of us are nobodies, therefore, I must be a reflection for a significant number of people.
  I am a mirror that most of us do not see; after all, who wants to see what they really look like?

  You see, if I were famous, then I would be in the minority of the population, and, as a consequence, I would reflect the lives of just a small fraction of the people.
  In other words, if I were rich, and if I were to write about my life as a rich woman, then most readers would have absolutely nothing to relate to such a story.
  But then again, to tell you the truth, I am plagued by insecurities and self doubt.
Why am I plagued by insecurities and self doubts?
  Because life itself is full of doubts and insecurities!
  Everyday there are so many events that happen that you do not fully understand - and so they have no certainty.
There are so many thoughts that come across your mind that you cannot believe in with certainty - in other words, you have doubts!
  Life is made up of events, people and thoughts that are themselves uncertain, vague, indefinite, unclear, ambiguous and ultimately blurred.
  That is why, for me, I found no certainty in my life, no sense of definiteness – and the end result is that my image of my personal reality was a blurred vision.

  I could never see an accurate view of my own reality - because I had far too many flawed characteristics.
  I am extremely temperamental.
  I am extremely impulsive; I speak, behave and act without thinking in a sober, rational, deliberate manner.
  I am not a very good judge of character when it comes to people. I often evaluate people wrongly. I misread who they really are.
  I am often very cold with other human beings; I am unable to sympathise and be compassionate to other people.
  I am not a good listener.
  I am a slave to my irrational passions, my dark urges and my undesirable needs.
  Now I am not saying that I have these characteristics all the time – but I confess that I do have them far too often.

  And all these awful characteristics make me quite unable to focus on myself in a logical, coherent and rational manner.
  I am unable to see my real Self; I cannot see where my rational mind tells me where I need to go with my life, rather than where my dark passions tell myself where to go.
  So, maybe my story isn’t worth telling at all.
  Should I write the story of my life or not?
  Will anyone read it?


  I am a member of the weak and the unknown and the unheard class.
  I am a member of the invisible classes, of what they call 'Humanity'.
  Even though, I don’t know what ‘Humanity’ actually means any more.
  I am one non-entity amidst this ocean of Humanity.
  I am a nothing.
  So, what’s the point of my existence and, more importantly, the story of my existence!?


  Actually, sometimes, when I’m in a good mood, I think, yes, come, do not be timid or afraid, and take a serious gaze at my own face, and I hope you will see yourselves – yes, you, the majority of the people out there, this night; for when you see yourselves in my face, you may learn so much about yourselves, and it seems to me, after I have been living and experiencing so long, you may learn from my mistakes.
  It seems to me, that one of the problems so many of us people out there are facing, is that nobody seems to want to take a serious, unbiased way that they really look like – and this is because of fear.


  But what is this ‘fear’?  
  I know that this fear is one reason that causes a nagging and persisting unhappiness.
  This fear is because we are scared to look at ourselves and find a picture that is severely deformed and far too horrible to behold.
  Do you believe that looking at your own face is an easy task?
  I hear you tell me: Oh Sara, all you have to do is to look at the mirror and you see yourself.
  How easy!
  But, I’m afraid, you are wrong.
  Because when you say to me, that all you have to do is to see your face in the mirror, that is not accurate.


  And that is, because the face you are seeing in the mirror is an image.
  That is not your face!
  That’s an image of your face!
  And an image is only one degree of reality.
  An image is never and can never be the whole reality.
  So, you say, why is it that I am seeing an image of my face in the mirror and not the whole reality of my face?
  Because you yourself are scared to scrutinize and stare so deeply at your own face.
  Fear is restraining you from seeing your own reality.
  You may see your real face and it may be a face that is far too ugly to see!



  Now, when I am in a bad, bleak, hopeless mood, I really believe in the depths of my angry heart, that it is utterly pointless to write anything, precisely, because I feel that my entire life is completely worthless.
  Emptiness.
  I feel my life is filled with emptiness.
  Ha!
  How can you ‘fill’ anything with emptiness!
  You know, I feel like ripping to shreds everything I’ve written, and yes, reader, I’ve done that many times – and, then I start all over again.
  And how dare I presume that anyone out there in the world would be in any way interested to read the life of an empty woman who happens to be called Sara?
  You see, at times like these, I have self hate.
  I confess.
  I hate every single thing about myself.
  And that includes my pointless story.


  And so many times, especially at night, when I’m able to write my story, I think, what if no one is reading these words?
  How frightful!
  Could I possibly be that empty?
  Could I – Sara - possibly be so utterly meaningless as a human being, to the extent that no one could possibly be interested, to give me more than a few precious moments of their time, from their important lives?
  Well, for all you people out there whose lives are brimming with happiness; for all those of you people whose lives are so full and busy, so they never experience the utter tedium of boredom; for all those of you people who never face an inner emptiness, a loneliness within their hearts and minds; for all those of you people who have no fears, no anxieties, and no insecurities – then I can honestly tell you to hurl this book away!

  And, yet, I would like to believe that - in the depths of my shaky beliefs and my uncertain certainties - that I have at least one listener with me!
  You know why?
  Because it gives me so much comfort and peace of mind to think that I have one human who is interested to know me!
  The most horrible thing to me is to live in total isolation.
  And to ease that unique kind of emotional pain, is to know that someone, somewhere in this planet actually cares for you.

  I was born in the City, in a middle to low class neighbourhood, where families tended to help each other.
  It was a closely knit community. You knew everyone, and everyone knew you and so, when there was any problem, people would help each other out. You see, in this way, problems became less heavy than they would have been otherwise, because when more people come to help you, the problem weighs less, as opposed to if each family had to cope with their problems all on their own.
  It was a happy childhood; I adored my parents and I thought no one could be better than them.
  They were my icons.
  As a child, they were good to me, and I could see nothing wrong with them.
  But how long did that last?
  By the time my mind was waking up, so to speak, by eleven or twelve, I began to notice, that what I saw wasn't all that rosy at all. My parents used to argue a lot; Dad would scream and Mother would howl.
  And what were the causes of these clashes?

  Both were guilty of countless faults.
  Dad drank too much; Mom didn't pay enough attention to housekeeping and so our house was rather *****; neither parent paid any attention to us; Dad would always invite his 'friends', and they would be rather ****** in their behaviour and with their jokes (or what they thought were 'jokes'); Mom would go for hours on end to her 'friends' houses, and leave us children alone; so, when they were in the mood to fight, good God, both sides of the trenches had lots of reasons, or excuses, to use as ammunition!
  And what battles do we young children witness!
  Dad would scream: "What kind of Mother are you when you do nothing for the house; you don't cook, and so we never have homemade cooking; you don't clean, and so the house stinks and is always in a terrible mess; and then you disappear for hours to God knows where, leaving us all behind! How much time do you even spend with our children? I’ll tell you how long – you don’t spend any time with our children! Children need love, attention and time spent with them; how do you think that affects our children? Do you think that makes then happy?"

And Mom would scream, at the same time: "What kind of Father are you? You're always drunk, and you're always socialising with drunk, ****** idiots. How do you think our children are reacting when they see their Father interacting with the most lewd, disgusting people? You're lazy in your job – and that is when you keep a job more than a few weeks – and, not surprisingly, you don't bring in enough money, and so we live a miserable lifestyle. And, you dare to ask me why I leave this house for so many hours? Of course, I want to leave this house – it's because I cannot stand the repulsive sight of you! And then, you have the nerve to ask me, ‘how long do I spend with our children’? You **** hypocrite! How long do you spend with our children? Not one minute!"


  I would usually rush off to my room, and hide my body and soul in my pillow.
  And as I grew into a teenager, my parents were fighting against each other even more.
  Who was right and who was wrong?
  Sometimes I felt for sure, that Dad was wrong; and, at other times, I felt that Mom was to blame; while at other times, I felt both were to blame; and then again, at other times, I would be so confused that I just gave up thinking about the whole mess, and just wish they never brought me to this world.
  How could I judge them?
  I could never really tell, because I didn't have the facts, did I? Who knows if Dad really was lazy at his job, and if that was the case, why he didn't he realize that we needed him to work harder, in order for us to have a better quality of life? Or, maybe he wasn't making enough money, simple because his job was a low paying one, and so it wasn't his fault that he brought such meagre wages.


  Who knows why Mom didn't take care of the house?
  Maybe she was depressed?
  And who knows why she went off to her friends' house for hours on end?
  Put simply, when you don't have the facts, how can you possibly judge in a reasonable manner?
  But then, maybe, you, my dear reader, will say I am wrong, because one ought to judge the situation by using one's emotions and not just 'facts'.
  To be honest, when I think of those wretched days, maybe they were both 'right' and wrong'; but in what measures – don't ask me!
  What I do know for sure was this: the fact that both Mom and Dad never spent any time with me really hurt me and made feel insecure. I really needed their company when I was a child and right through to my adolescent years, but, unfortunately, they were never, ever interested to sit with me and talk to me – not even for a minute.

  In my teenage years, I clearly remember that I felt that I needed Mom and Dad, because I remember feeling frightened for the first time in my life.
  Why did I feel ‘afraid’?
  I honestly don’t know.
  Strangely enough, before the age of thirteen, all my parents' fighting did not leave me scared; no, my response was one of sadness only.
  
  So, I tried to talk with Mom and Dad, issues that were bothering me, but I found out, to my horror, that they could not answer any of my questions.
    I would ask my parents endless questions like:
"Should I continue studying in school and go on to university, or should I leave and get a menial job?"
"At what age should I get married?"
“Is marriage worth it or not?"
"Should I smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol – or, are these things wrong?"
  “What characteristics should I look for, when I make friends? In other words, what are the good attributes versus the bad attributes in the character of any person?”
  “What is morality?”
  I remember that my parents were themselves confused by my questions, and at the same time they were irritated.
And, at other times, they were increasingly bored with my unending questions.


  Strange combination, isn't it – to be both 'confused’, irritated' and 'bored' with someone nagging at you all the time!?
  I know why they were 'bored'; that's the easy part – it was because, they gradually found me to be a nuisance or an irritant with my questions.
  They were 'confused and irritated', because they felt stuck as to how they could best answer my questions.
You see, they were, themselves, doing all the wrong things, so how could they advice me to do what was supposed to be 'good'?!
  For example, 'Can I smoke and drink alcohol?'
Good question, Sara, but a question that you shouldn’t really ask your parents, when you recall, that both were heavy smokers and drinkers!
  And, when I asked them: 'Should I get married?' How can they answer that one
Diamond Dahl Nov 2012
What is giving? In a relationship sense, giving goes beyond basic human consideration or being a good roommate. Beyond taking someone else's plate when they've finished dinner, or hanging up his or her jackets when they've dropped it on the floor. It's sharing thoughts, and feelings, and being genuinely interested in hearing another's. It's surprising someone with a key lime pie. Or finally going to the stupid guy movie because, though not a fan of guy movies, his company will be more enjoyable than the movie will be unenjoyable. Giving is, even though you don't really want to go for a walk down to the park, it will make her happy. Giving is putting another's happiness before your own, because causing them joy brings you joy. Just as causing them pain brings you pain. Giving is also being grateful, and acknowledging, when someone has done a household chore you weren't looking forward to doing. And saying thank you every single time someone drops you off for work, every day. Giving is finding a safer spot for your significant other's prized possessions -- antique works of Shakespeare, or reptiles. It's having someone's clothes packed for an emergency trip before they can even ask. Giving is a dozen attempts to hang the TV properly. Giving is being willing to run around Disney with her and her crazy sister, 21 and 15 respectively, for a princess and pirate party. Giving is sitting on the trunk of your car at 2:30 in the morning cause you read she was crying on her kitchen floor with no where to sleep, debating on telling her you're outside if she wants to talk (albeit a little stalkerish). Giving is trying melatonin, with little hope of it working, cause you know she loves you and worries about Tylenol PM. Giving is nagging her (them) to go to bed after she's (they've) fallen asleep on the couch, to the point of frustration, but you just want her (them) to be more comfortable in the bed. It's also knowing that being asleep on the couch, near you, is sometimes more important than being in the comfy bed, away from you. Giving is the harder stuff too, taking is too easy. Giving is sometimes realizing that yes, you do need to stew for a bit. But anything more than an hour is detrimental to fixing the problem. And sometimes you also need to yell (10 minutes, TOPS). Then you act like an adult and deal with it. Sometimes giving is telling yourself you're overreacting, to take a deep breath, and go get a kiss instead of continuing to stew. And sometimes it's swallowing the lump in your throat and saying, "I'm struggling." Or "this has been bothering me," or "I'm sorry." Giving is also adding to "I'm sorry," "this is how I'll try to be better." Giving is accepting certain things, or people, for what or who they are. Giving is indeed standing strong and saying, "you picked me, this is who I am," because no one can change you, but realizing that some suggestions of change are for the better. Giving may also mean coming to the end of your nagging and saying, "that change will come when he/she is ready to," making it that much sweeter. Giving is not "I'm going to do what I want, when I want." Giving is realizing someone is depending on you, or thinking about you, or holding dinner for you. Giving is knowing that someone just needs to see your face to feel better, so you put on the sweetest, most comforting, most supportive expression for when they do. Giving is sharing your plans, for 10 years from now, for next summer, and for this evening. And to speak about those plans in an inclusive manner, like you can see that person there with you.
Written Sept. 2011
This is Not poetry.
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
kelly solanum Aug 2013
sullen
black
darkness
im crazy
im not sure.
laugh alot.
pretend its okay
soak up the sun
soak up the tears.
make it winter
drown in tears.
while in the streets.
they sing festive cheers.
sanity.
sanity.
sanity silence.
   vanity violence.


i m still confused.
since when.
everyday.
i dress my wounds
a little more.
a little more fancier.
i hide the scars.
where no one can find them.
maybe only me.
deleting words i type.
why? out of shame?
what is right. what is wrong.
painted
images come in my mind.
is this a cry for help.
i wonder.
am i going crazy.
what is crazy.
maybe i'll try to explain me.
and maybe you'll be the judge.
fast
incredibly fast.
is there a therapist in the house.
i dont trust them.
they are boring.


are girls really illogical.
that makes me angry!
i dont want to be illogical.
i hate myself.
im scared of worms.
i like dark colours.
i think alot about accquiring stuff.
distracting myself from actually thinking.
by thinking of other stuff.
like how to be pretty.
have dreams and ambitions.
but im just building stuff up.
inside, im confused.
cos this dreams and ambitions are shallow.

and nothing makes enough sense.

tell myself repeatedly,
wash the clothes. wash the clothes.
it sits there. 4 days i think.
soaking in the water.
why do i never do that.

touching water. i rather be sleeping.
i rather be writing.
i rather be doing anything but cleaning.

but it keeps bothering me.

clean the room. clean the room.

why?

for whom?

i like it this way.

nobody visits me.
im a mess.
my room is in a mess.
keeping it clean will be pretentious.

should i put on a front.
people will like me better that way.

stop nagging me i say to myself.
and i start nagging myself to stop nagging myself.

so many different thoughts.
**** yourself.
laugh harder.
jump off the building.

magic dont exist.
im a non-believer.

funny amazing.

why do i like so much
to laugh.
why.
why.

why do i almost cry when i laugh.

why do i secretly wish i could cry my feelings out.

and stab myself.

pull my hair.
scream.
lean back. stare at the ceiling.
silently.
i get tired.
shhhh...

sit on a rocking chair.
to and fro.

make creepy voices and laugh.
why is that funny.
laugh very hard.
refuse to think hard.
im just writing whatever.
i need some help.
i want some help.

does normal exist.

i hear you.
i just heard you.

laughing.
ice cream over your face and hair.
how come i remembered.
i wasnt telling myself to.
i wasnt saying oh this is fun. i had fun.
i just do.
i didnt write then.
i didnt need to.

you smiled at me. i smiled back.
we were kids.
we were free.

and slowly time eradicated your smile.
or mine.
it holds too many secrets inside.
my mind.
and weird how time is.
it feels like a drag yet looking back, its all gone
in a puff.

now your smile is tainted.
complicated you know.
one does not always smile cos one is happy.
there could be alternate reasons.
its not straightforward.
how are you? a question asked one too many.
can we really know?
ask and you shall receive?
receive the deception?
they say they are fine.

if that seems enough questioning to convince you.
you must be a fool.
either from choice or not.

i dont like people.
i like them.
but maybe not always.

my friends are great but i keep secrets from them.
so it tortures me to be with them.

its a self-inflicted torture.

its a tainted smile on my face.
its the lonely night like this that
im writing this.

its the out loud wondering.

what's going on.

its a need for some explanation.

what am i doing.

im losing my mind.

there is no coherence.

im not losing my mind.

i still make sense.

complexities.

like a bee to honey.

i wrap myself around them.

like they keep an illusion around me.

an illusion of depth.

whereas,

lies in me a masked reality

denied so many times.

i keep doubting the presence of it.

the presence of the absence.

i say my life is not empty.

i say it is over-flowing.

i believe it.

but is this my one true belief.

or a self-inflicted one.

a choice i made just to be happier.

out of convenience.

but really deeply questioning myself.

i dont know why i think my life is great.

am i giving up.

am i slowly eroding.

and i think alot of myself.

narcissitic.

i cant get enough of myself.

and i want attention.

and i want to control people.

why?

i do things to get desired outcomes from people.

follow ur heart they say sometimes.

i dont have a heart.

i follow my sins.

my greed.

i torture people.

the ones in my head.

im scared to hurt people in real life.

i want to see them happy.

i want them far away from me.

and my evil intentions.

its something i fight everyday.

i do what i think is right.

but sometimes

i go against my very own principles.

this confuses me.

do i not like my principles?

then why do i make them my principles?

do i try too much not to fit in to my own boundaries.

that i run to and fro from one conclusion to another.

do i throw away all my life just for a moment of peace.

ants in my screen for real.

my life is a mess.

im buried.

deep in the chaos around me.

and im helpless against my own.

she needs to change.

something has to give.

and im afraid of a life without her.

the me i want to change.

and by change i mean get rid of.

will i still be me if i change.

will i still be me.

me.

i am.

confused.
Noah Ducane Mar 2015
The nagging sleep claws into pink flesh begging it's death-like manner into a call to action

Biting cold with the death dream, fickle imagination setting fire to decency

And the little dreams dance about in your head, mad children lurking, orphaned-

Then the rattling of the rafters with the years behind,
Their black mess still lingering-
Feeding off the disease cast aside

Poor dream,
The ugly nightscape has been sobered up
The pangs were left in poverty

No I do not need your fetishes..
And the parasites flee
KatsaNovari Aug 2014
I am a Forget-Me-Not,
budding into spring.
I am shy in my shady place;
I still wish to dream.
My petals will remain around me,
Until I feel safe.

You've planted me, watched me grow.
You've whispered words of encouragement, promising me I'll be so much more.
I reach out, as far as I can, my feet have taken root into the soil.
My leaves want to reach you, but you've turned away.
My courage falters, I retreat back to security.
Forget-Me-Not.  

You've returned. My heart flutters with joy.
It's okay, I want to tell you. I understand.
I am not the only flower in this bed. Of course you have more.
Many require your attention more than I do.
It'd be selfish of me to consider otherwise.
Just Forget-Me-Not.

I can feel my petals unfurling. Soon I will be beautiful.
But I'm slow.
My brothers and sisters are ahead of me. Why won't I grow?
I want to ask you, but you're so busy. I shan't disturb you. It'd be wrong of me.
I can do it myself, I know I can. They have, why can't I?
Please Leave-Me-Not.

I can feel the taunts now, the humored jeers.
I thought they were funny at first, but now they're spoken too often.
I can no longer deny them.
They came from my fellow peers first, it was all in good fun.
Yet things have changed, and each uttered word is a jab of pain.
Stop. Hurt-Me-Not.

I was one of the first you've sown, yet I have not grown.
I feel the youngest, my siblings tower over me.
I want to join them, to show what I can do.
But my confidence is gone. I wish to hide in their shadow.
If I am not noticed, I cannot be made fun of. I won't be criticized.
I'm still here, Forget-Me-Not.

Tell me the words again. Tell me what I'm capable of.
I need your voice, your reassurance. But I dare not ask.
I am not weak. You've said so yourself. So why am I still a bud?
Can you hear me? Do you see?
In this mass of plants you tend to, in this bed of problems presented, I am buried beneath, my own only my own.
As small as me, but please, Forget-Me-Not.

I'm dying. I thirst, but no water graces my face. It does not soften the soil the petals of my family block.
It's the survival of the fittest, my only chance my silence.
I must stay hidden, not draw attention to myself. But you notice me. Sometimes you do.
Your presence draws me always, it's the only thing I reach for. I'll stretch until I'm nearly pass the other flowers.
Just let me have the sun for five minutes, I implore you. Ignore-Me-Not.

Your smile makes me want to, but then you laugh.
I've made a mistake. I've shown how stupid I could be.
I try. I really do. I try my best, but when I attempt anything, I make things worse.
I cower back to my place, wrapping my petals around me, my only solace.
My siblings stand tall around me, and whether it's honor or arrogance, I wish I had it.
Ask-Me-Not.

Regardless of my shortcomings, I don't blame you. They're my own fault.
Because of them I cannot grow, I hold myself back.
There are times you try to help. You urge me to grow stronger, and I want to oblige.
But you push. You push too hard, too harshly. My instinct is to withdraw into myself,
But I've made you sad. You think I hate you. And that makes me sad, and angry.
I want to tell you: Force-Me-Not.

You have your own difficulties. It's selfish of me to ever think of a bad thought of you. It's not your fault.
I want to help, but your own experiences have made me cautious.
There's no such thing as love. It's always one-sided.
Even as the bees buzz around, I keep myself hidden. No matter how friendly they seem, what promise the wind brings,
I know the truth. I've seen it happen to you. I don't want to endure that heartbreak, that stupidity.
Love-Me-Not.

Despite my own consolation, my own redemption to your faults, I feel the anger burn within me.
Always the nagging inside my head, the jab of rage when I can't do something right.
Your words always echoing in my mind: You're grown. You're not stupid. Figure it out. I know you can.
Then why can't I ******* do it?! What am I doing wrong?!
I need you to teach me; my teacher, my sensei. You've taught every single one of them. What about me?
Remember-Me-Not?

Each time I think you'll turn to me, each time I feel that you care,
Your attention averts elsewhere. Always someone before me, always someone else who needs you.
Like someone cheated, I am plagued by jealousy. I disgust myself with my petty emotions,
What right do I have? What do I have that makes me more important?
But would it **** to have five minutes where I'm the center of attention?
Hear-Me-Not?

It's a battle inside,
Logic against Pride.
I feel alone,
Though I know I'm not.
Do you see me in this garden
You've reaped and sown?
Can you hear my voice over your own?
Take on the world, I know you're able.
But do not forget what's beneath your feet,
I am not a fable.
In this unbearable heat,
I am still here.

Tend to your children, to those brokenhearted. To the confused and betrodden you save.
Those with no home find it within you. But don't I live here too?
Save,
Give,
Provide,
Love,
Care...
Do all of these things, give it all you've got.
But please... Please....
Forget-Me-Not.
First poem I'm putting on here due to a suggestion from someone I know. She encouraged me to join this site, so I'm a little new, but hopefully not for long!
Mike Hauser Apr 2013
There's a colonel in most every town
And chicken he does know
But the youth of today are not finger licking
They're licking of the toads

When they run out of their drugs
They must run out of their minds
When the toad lickers come a licking
Best to run and hide

Yes, they've found a brand new high
When their *** is running low
The poppy fields have all run dry
And the cow patty mushroom is no mo

The city kids head to the swamps
Just hopping at the thrill
Grabbing at amphibians
And licking them at will

With every tantalizing lick
Trippy little colors do they see
Pass around the froggy
For another lick if you please

But who am I to judge
As crazy as it looks
Could it be as bad as crack
With one lick and you're hooked

I have this nagging question though
That bothers me to this day
Who was the first to lick the toad
And say this taste okay
        
~ribbit~
Deep inside,
down in the dark,
they stir.
As if to say,
you can't see us but,
we're here.
You know they are,
but you try to ignore.
The stirring,
the nagging in your mind.
Deep inside,
down in the dark,
they hide.
The demons of my past,
really of my present,                                          
because they're still there,
stirring, nagging,
desperate to escape.
But I keep them locked up tight,
down in the dark,
deep inside.
Nobody Aug 2018
What an appalling desire,
your heart beats so fast.
An unsettling ritual,
which refuses to pass.
A nagging numb need,
you must feel something;
go make yourself bleed.
Get it out, act now.
You wait for the great release.
One slice turns into more,
and you need it to hurt.
No one must notice,
hence the morbid allure.
You can’t stop the impulse,
once the fuse is lit.
You tremble with sickly delight,
after every slit.
You’re almost done,
carving your skin.
The pain seems gone,
but it won't be for long;
still for one moment,
you heard that sweet song.
You can't just jump into other equations expecting the most. Now I can't make the most of this because it wasn't expected. Women nag, yes. But beyond the nagging isn't nagging. It's love. It's unappreciated love. Nagging being the misconstrued cries for love, honesty, affection. So to be told I've changed hurts because I wasn't in love then. I couldn't nag because I didn't care.
zumee Jul 2018
A is for Alpha
B is for Barbie
C is for Couple
D is for Destiny
E is for Engagement
F is for Fancy
G is for Gullible
H is for Happy
I is for Illusion
J is for Jealous
K is for Kingdom
L is for Lonely
M is for Mistress
N is for Nagging
O is for Often
P is for Pregnant
Q is for Question
R is for Rejecting
S is for Suicide
T is for Traumatize
U is for Understand
V is for Vaguely
W is for Whisky
X is for Xanax
Y is for Yesterday
Z is for Zombie.
Nexus Aug 2019
Salitang sayo ko narinig
Pero kung iisipin, napakarami nating pwedeng matatagpuan at masusumpungan pero bakit nga ba tayo pa ang naging mag kakaibigan


Tayo'y pinagtagpo lang pala
at hindi itinadhana
Tayong dalaway patuloy na umaasa
Ngunit ngayon sabay na nasasaktan at
nag hahanap ng pag asa

Ang salitang
SANA
ngayoy  kaakibat sa bawat buntong hininga
Sana naghintay lang ako,
Sana mas nagging matapang akong mahalin ka at
harapin ang bukas ng walang pag aalinlangan,
Sana ikay pinaghawakan at ipinaglaban sa
tadhanang naghahamon
at
sa pagkakataong hindi nakiki ayon

Ginamit kong salita ay parang kalasag
Bilang pansalag sa naka umang katotohanan.
Isinulat ko ito upang pagmukhain akong matapang
Na mistulang  lumalaban ng walang pag aalilangan.


Tangapin na natin
hindi sa lahat ng panahon
ang mga bagay sa atin ay naaayon
sa kung paano natin gusto
ito’y ating matatamo.

Kaya mahal paalam........
Äŧül Oct 2018
6:30 PM 15/10/18 slam poem
"What's her name?" An excited voice whispered.
My benchmate asked me,
Just as the new girl entered,
With all her glowing ebony beauty.

I thought about something,
Ignored him and simply so,
Continuing my reading of the drama.

He prodded on like a nagging child,
"Tell me, Atul, what's her name?
Who's that **** girl?"


His whisper was loud enough now,
The girl heard it as she climbed,
Climbed higher on the back seats and how.

I glared at my benchmate,
In disappointment & disgust,
It was him who I had befriended.

'Him! I befriended him!! Out of them all!!!'
I thought about my vulnerability in our society,
But I did not react to him out of that anger.

I just said, "What's in a name?"
He raised his eyebrows and moaned, "Huh?"
I said with mirth, "Yes! Someone like you will get her renamed!"
7:00 PM
15/10/18
6:30 PM
Half-an-hour slam poem I wrote in the Literary Club at my PhD college.
A tribute to Nirbhaya and women safety all around the globe.
7:00 PM

My HP Poem #1724
©Atul Kaushal
Cunning Linguist Dec 2013
Why shan't thou answer to me?
Emburse yourself until wholly submerged in my unholy divergence
Poor form tormented soul
Roll your pain in a j dipped in chloroform
Embrace my urges to purge the remnants of sanity
Spilling and screaming profanities at humanity

Confuddling all posers with my bastardized prose
Please, continue badgering and nagging me
with your buttfucking menagerie of trivial drudgery
I'm in misery go ahead and bludgeon me
Square in the noggin
So I can jog it while juggling nails from my coffin

Cancer-ridden addler babbling mad adages
Scoffing jealous skeptics -
Contort your faces in ghastly panic
As I unleash these dastardly antics
of pandemic proportions
and ******* you

Candid, my penchance enchants
Heavy-handedly inanimate
in suspended animation
Supplant reality augmentation
Machinations of my imagination
Implicating **** ransacking  
and seafaring through crab infestations
Wreaking havoc and bequeathing vengeance
I'm a fire breathing grim reaper reaking of ******

- Off is the nearest direction in which to ****
Dissect my ******* with your tongue
Turnt up ******* plumpies in the ****
Just for the fun of it until I erupt
Remember i'm avid for dismembering appendages
I expect you're exceptional at accepting a barrage of septic bombardment
Chance of success: logistics analysis zero percentage
(Cos I done *******. On those *******.)

Superbly superlative and speculative
So fast on adderal I make Mad Hatter's head spin
Quicker than you can snap
Giving your family heart attacks
Smack you in the face
While fapping my fabulous lap rocket
Thunderously plundering under covers
Springloaded with faux pas' so hot
Make your mother's ***** pop out and say "hello"
like Jack-in-the-Box

& Those foxy grandmas be jaxing off my **** -
Bingo wings beckoning me
More *******; ******* head explodes
Slathered with double entendres
-Staggering!
My passages smooth as laxatives
Brain grinding like acid
Bombastic fat ******* making my **** go flaccid

Valuable, disparaging these **** butts malleable as putty
Barbarically barrel rolling into dat ***
rip it to shreds like confetti
Power Pole extend
Face pressed into your *******
Inhaling the wafting aromatic stenches
of distant French fish factories

Clearly getting dome from your dearly betrothed
Now she bridal and my seeds spiraling virally
Vital signs finalizing
Bounce that *** like jello
Swell; I'm in your hair like gel
Now swallow my jollies and don't bother
Unless you hollerin and giving me dollars
Zealots idol my harlotry

If nose goes go slow grow low
Throwing those yoloing hoes out windows
This ***** simply bonkers
I conquer fear me

***** DON'T HARSH MY MELLOW
SWEAR I'LL MARSH YOUR MALLOWS
Chitra Nair Mar 2015
There are so many voices,
Telling me about their choices,
Their words echo in my ear,
Only intensifying the future's fear;

I'm reaching the top of the mountain called childhood,
I'm growing up and life,
Begins its own complications;
People start nagging me,
Through their loud voices,
To make my choices;

This or that?
Go to college or stay at school?
Am I really smart or a brainless fool?
Oh God, this is so not cool!

People urge me to choose,
"Darling," they say, "What is there to lose?"
Oh God, I don't want to be forced upon!
Oh God, the childhood days are really far gone!"

There are so many voices,
Telling me about my choices,
I don't listen to them,
Instead, I follow my own voice,
In making my life-changing choice...
I wrote this poem three years ago and somehow, I'm still pretty happy with it because I could somehow write what I genuinely felt strongly about and I could somehow put my emotions into words. Hope you like it! :D
Let me just say,
I'm sorry for all of this:
The lack of appreciation and the disrespect.
All the times I put my tongue in my cheek,
or my head up my ***.
I never looked in the mirror and saw
someone I didn't like...until now.
I see weakness in my eyes.
My bones feel paper thin.
I may not be perfect but, baby I was trying!
It hurts more than you know,
to come to our empty home..
and sit down all alone.
Yet I did this to myself?
I just ******* miss you.
If I abused anything, ****,
it was calling you mine.
I said it like I knew you'd never leave me.
and it didn't change a thing.
You walked away like I was nothing.
I watched the videos of us,
printed the pictures.
Torturing myself for no reason.
A moment of happiness has slipped.
through my fingers. Or has it?
I'm confused about life,
about who I am.
Without you I'm nothing,
I'm not who I want to be.
I keep telling myself I don't need you.
I don't, okay? I don't.
I wanted to grow old with you.
Never lose those precious butterflies.
You always gave me butterflies.
Sometimes I miss the constant attention,
nagging, screaming, cursing..?
I regret the arguments and I never
wanted to hurt you.
But I did. I did and I understand I
Can never take it back but at least,
can you forgive me?
I'm terribly sorry.
For all the nights I slammed doors,
pushed you out of the room, screamed back.
I'm sorry for crying so much and nagging.
I hate myself when I look back,
I still cant believe I said some of the things
I screamed at you.
I just needed you to hear me.
I loved the way you laugh,
disappear for 30 minutes,
even that stupid ******* smacking
of stupid ******* peanut butter.
I would rather hear you smacking,
than the silence that is now my life.
Does that hurt?
How could you be so dumb?
I just wanna come home, slip off my shoes
Play Diablo 3 with you.
But **** it, I don't ******* need you.
All those nights I waited for you to come home,
Every time I called and got your voicemail,
Every ******* inaudible voicemail I left.
Had I known, ******. Had I only know.
You were never alone.
You were just a ******* L I A R.
And you'll never be any better.
Everytime I woke you up because I
had thought you had slept long enough
just because I missed you that much.
How could you be so dumb?
I loved you like no one else ever will.
I thought that was bad, this is worse.
You are a *******.
How did I love you so ******* much?
I must be missing something here.
And  mean literally.
I'm missing my other half.
Or am I really? Maybe,
just maybe..you're missing me.
Missing the all night phone calls,
the chats over lunches, smoke breaks
and texts back and forth.
The cute pictures we would take,
I'm sorry for always being so specific.
I remember how much you hated
my selfies with you. I'm so sorry
I wanted to show the world that I was yours.
You made so many arguments and it kills me now.
How could I be so dumb?
I know I can change and, I was trying.
But it wasn't going anywhere. Yet.
And it didn't need to. I was good for you.
Still, I know I can make a difference in myself.
Maybe..be someone you would like.
Someone you could truly love.
But I'm good how I am.
You always said I tried to change you,
yet it was you always picking at my flaws.
Oh, am I not the same?
Not that 17 year old with pink hair.
Goofy, care free, college bound.
Not that young, quiet, shy girl from 1300 miles away.
No. I became the loud, nagging wife you lived with everyday.
Have you ever thought it was because of you?
You stole my young heart, took me from my home,
showed me what a man's love was and then,
you just ripped my ******* heart from my chest.
And I will never, ever change. Not for you.
I'm sick of thinking, sick of feeling.
Away from you, my mind is reeling.
Remember?

It's because I'm finally seeing that you,
you are the one at fault here.
Mateuš Conrad Oct 2016
and with the high street long gone, they keep nagging that
only lunatics use the internet,
me? i treat the internet as a serious medium,
it's almost despotic to treat it otherwise,
after all... internet banking, amazon,
why should Beelzebub's pixel vision
in that new medium be lesser?
it isn't, here's the big ******* F
                                                                U
to the establishment - and i too thought
that the mystery if lawlessness
                  was with Philippe Petit -
you got to admit, that's more spectacular
than that thing at Golgotha...
you even have an accent of stigmata riddling
the mystery - oh sure, i'm into esoteric
*******, because i'm about to become
a shopper -
                        people don't seem to go
into merchandise streets to buy things,
all it is is: clothes, shoes and mobile phone
outlets -
                     anyway, they walk the promenades
to be seen...
                            not to necessarily buy
and keep the economy well oiled...
            they go and do the catwalk pretence...
so that's me: a Heidegger book worth £30...
mad, ain't it? spending £30 on a book...
                  and an album by cage the elephant,
i should really buy another copy of
tool's aenima or steve wynn's album with
cindy it was always you -
                                      maybe a pair of socks
to match...                  next thing you know
they'll call it shamanism - well, any literature
coming from Eastern Europe can almost be
deemed as such...
                               and the next best thing
to fame is enforced anonymity -
                                        because fame just
= interviews.... and mostly moths / journalists.
                     nagging aunties and uncles
of the scene.
                                   oh sure, take all you can,
i don't mind... if it gives you rubies and
diamonds i don't mind... a conker
signature of mahogany print is worth more
than a table to sit about with your
******* / orthodox disciples -
                fame?          i've seen what it does...
i rather have the chance to do small talk
at the supermarket and say: well, yeah,
i write poetry, no biggie,
                                           does it rhyme?
does it have to / would it help?
                             i left Cheltenham earlier
than planned because of my left hand -
that's the deal with the industrialisation of
writing, with that quill you get to be one-sided,
i know for a fact that my hand can grip
the quill better, i left the festival early because
i felt sick with my left hand not being
encouraged, lame, not using the keyboard -
i hate leaving body parts about the place
not being used,
                            and, obviously,
when someone starts reading philosophy and
utilises the medium of poetry: he's not one
to entertain...
                           at least i learnt a valuable lesson
after seeing spoken word event -
              i couldn't entertain -
my life might be ****-up, but it's not ****-up enough
to vocalise it with some sort of
                                redemptive analogue -
i couldn't entertain people even if i wanted to:
i read philosophy, without tutoring by established
lecturers -              it's enough i studied chemistry
and thought that dabbling in philosophy would
make me seem more "human": that famous
abhorrence of scientific studies and what humanities
shun in terms of adequate perspective -
               i simply cannot entertain -
                                     maybe because i'm
entertaining myself more,
                               the shadow and glad to be one...
but they keep nagging internet opinions...
     narratives...
                          yes, i'm gullible enough to believe
all of them...
                         if the internet managed to desecrate
the high street shopping experience, and people
bank using the internet...
                         i believe every word...
      lies have short legs anyway,
        and assuredly a Samson moment comes
somewhere on the timeline with the blind hulk
pulling the temple down...
                       i just never used the internet to
use comment forums...
                                 my experience of trolls is minimal...
                  the terrible has already happened,
   i just filter any agony and transform
certain one-liners into an antibiotic:
       your writing is ****!
i.e.      pronoun noun verb noun
                                              problem solved -
and too many young people took their own lives
because no one taught them to use this barrier,
these white cliffs of Dover, this natural barricade
and the ultimate defence -
                              put the hate into a grammar
filter - apply the anaesthetic - desensitise -
                                             that's practically what
your subconscious does anyway,
                               some part of you if wholly grammatical,
meaning that you're understood,
                                 point being:
journalists have become annoying -
                         the printed press is a bit scared,
          primarily because they're offended by
our expression of democracy, they think that whatever
is written on the internet is bogus...
                      so i guess internet shopping is bogus
as if internet banking... bogus too...
                        if the internet wasn't all-encompassing
i'd agree...
                                but as usual, people have to
******* something silly rather than make love to it...
sure, i have my wild opinions,
                                       but i have them because
they are actually dialectical cul de sacs -
                                     yep, dialectical dead-ends -
           i write them but do not actually adhere to
them -
                                pretty much conversation
killers -
                          post-Nietzsche? more than
killing god... we killed dialectics -
                                     since Socrates we've been
putting god and dialectics back into the box
to prescribe civilisation innovations of how to
construct "polite" societies -
                                              the sort of "politeness"
that masquerades and is the dung-heap
                    where mushrooms like Isis sprouts from.
but sure enough: read philosophy
                              and stop pretending to be
an entertainer -
                                 i couldn't entertain people
for the love of anything worth mentioning -
                     entertaining would mean disrupting
the continuum -
                                  the very accurate biographic
sketches -
                                  well... what would you expect,
we're living in a parallel society,
                                a society where a gardener on
television becomes a chat-show host
                                  and gets a publishing deal...
               we're bypassing that...
                                            if we're living in a democracy
we're living in a badly represented formatting of the idea...
              and that great ponce of the idea of books:
more than bricks...
             i open a book, enter it, and i'm already
walking into a building of some sort...
                     few books i enter are actually left
undisturbed - i make my own feng shui alterations -
            but i wonder:
                   is eternity the place where you actually
live inside your own head?
                              &nbsp
Samiha Oct 2014
My beautiful blue skein of yarn,
Here in my bag you sit,
I'd love to pick you up to knit,
If only for a bit.

But clothes need washing and babes need baths,
And food needs cooking too,
Besides, I'd have a hard time choosing,
What to make of you.

You see, my stitches were not even,
My gauge, no one could guess,
My beautiful blue skein of yarn,
You would not have been impressed.

But oh how I've practiced, how I've improved,  I'm sure you'll find it so,
My stitches fly right off my needles and sit in pretty rows.
My gauge is constant, my edges neat, now I am ready for you,
But still that nagging question comes, what with you will I do?

Maybe I will make of you a felted wooly bonnet,
And everyone would stop and gaze and cast their eyes upon it.
I'll wear you on holiday, we'll march in a parade,
I'll prance so proudly, show you off, and say, "yes, you're handmade".

Maybe I will make of you, a purse, like those I see in Vogue,
I'll put in you my favorite things, and then, we'll hit the rode!
We'll travel round the city, and everyone will see,
How beautiful and remarkable a skein of yarn can be.

Maybe I will make you gloves,
My baby's hands to cover,
And everyone who saw her'd say,
"her mother must really love her".

A hat, a purse, a pair of gloves, your beauty for all to see,
But, only if I stop and knit,
Now look what you've made of me,
Your potential's not all I see...
Catherine Paige May 2010
I have this tingling up my spine
This voice that pleads at me daily
This nagging that won't subside

I hurt myself
Saving you from a hell you created
I'd rather hurt you
Showing you what you deserve

I've made a beast out of myself
Caging things to enjoy the craving
Giving into one sin to make another subside

My hypocrisy sickens me
Yet I revel in it like a fine wine
In the fact that I can do this to myself
In the fact that this can be done to me
In the fact that I hide it so well that no one ever has a clue

I feel myself cracking down the center
Only half of myself can stand to hold back anymore
Only half of me is becoming smaller
Becoming nonexistent and loving it

Our contact is less
Making these voices rush on me like waves
Your face brings the images
Your voice brings the motive
Your actions bring the pain

You are the cactus I cling to
You are the thorn beneath my skin
You are the wound that I let fester
You are the cancer spreading within
This was written on February 17, 2009.
Mateuš Conrad Nov 2018
.like any western, but unlike every western... the true grit... one eyed... it's not called: i'm blinking... it's called... the blink. the English language can never have... what is it... gender neutrality? the words are already gender neutral! the words in the English are neither masculine, or feminine... it's ******* to ask for something that's already in place! you know what obstructs the gentrification of words in the English language? how the sun is not feminine and the moon is not masculine? the articles... the English orientated their language around a-the        slightly missing the -ism... the English didn't create their language with a gender orientation of nouns, but other European languages orientated their nouns around gender inclusiveness... but you can't just... change the ******* grammar... call a triangle a ******* rhombus on a whim that belongs in the asylum... blah blah do ****... is this how civilized language is supposed to disintegrate into?! this is not religion... you can't simply replace grammatical dogma with heretical "protestantism" to gain something counter to 1 + 1 = 2, or a + t + t + e + s +t = attest... yes, confirm... what with that the politicians are doing in Canada... post-nationalism? post-nationalism, ensured with a post-grammatical structure of what should be the post-nationalist playground of the use of language? the two... together?! so... no nationalism, and no grammar... seems about the right time to separate the state from the state... and call the following dynamic: juggle act: catch one if you can! how can you expect to change the grammatical sub-structure of English?! nouns are not gentrified in the equivalent ontology of other, European languages! how can you expect gender neutrality... when the nouns of said language... are already gender neutral!? and that's because English is particular in the definite (the) and the indefinite (a) article articulation... this is the crux... the pivot... as to why nouns are not associated with either femininity or masculinity... which is why i didn't learn French in high-school... i was taught French from the rubric of grammar... i was taught the rules, before i was being taught to speak, and break the rules of speaking English... who the **** requires to learn a language, having to learn the arithmetic of lettering in the encompassing genesis of staging a craft of the linguist with, said grammar?! language is not universal... noun is no surd... verb is no integer... je suis is no 1 + 1 = 2... but like i said before... you're talking about pandering to linguistic retards... they might not be mad enough to enjoy the rainbow plethora of pharmacology... but sure as ****... they're linguistic retards... sorry, the saddest truth is... somehow... the most fun to attest in concurrence; oh right... that western, true grit... well... whether you're John Wayne or Jeff Bridges... one eye still intact? it's not a blinking... it's called the blink... no, and it's not even a blink... see how English is fascinating when singularity and pluralism enters the arena of the direct / indirect articulation? and to think the English wanted to debate a non-existent gender association of nouns that the French, the Polaks can have... but you sorry *******... ain't getting it!

so...

    a juggling act...

(insert a snigger)

   lindsay shepherd's
video: exposing grad school
(my m. a. experience)

and...............

         bon jovi's
blaze of glory

       bon jovi! wooooooooooooo!

god, i'm so stereotypical.
i should have signed up
becoming a side-burner
for some ******* Kentucky
redneck.

p.s. is stereotypical
synonymous
with predictable?
that's actually a genuine question
of, rather than answering the question
itself, answering the per se
curiosity; savvy?

so what is it... Bub "the blue" Clí 'n' Son?
***** needin'
to ****?
watcha gonna do Bub?
               hold up the, "spanker"?!

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

and some days, in england, and it's june,
and 10pm feels like 7pm in some other season
and it reminds me of the white nights
of st. petersburg....
   insomnia and ******* a girl for seven hours...
oh the ******* bit was fun,
don't get me wrong,
   i had to wait 2 weeks before she let me
do it to her in the bath...
****** ready... she was on her period,
but misguided:
  last time i heard...
            ******* on a period eases
the period pains...
      eh... gritty flesh bits on the rubber...
problem? what problem?!

    no wonder then: i hate drinking buddies...
people dumb down upon ingesting
alcohol, i'm talking: 2D objects in 3D space
akin to fern bushes in the 1st tomb raider
(black holes - a paradox,
   a 2D object spinning really fast in
an infinite 3D space... copernican east?
copernican west? i hope the rabbi knows)...

days like this, oh all the days like this...
when you wake up,
jump out of bed... and dance naked in your
room listening to KULT's
          brooklyńska rada Żydów -
two music genres i never got into:
punk and rap...
   well... "mediocre" punk...
   californian, the offspring,
  the usual suspects of the ramones,
*** pistols, stiff little fingers, mainstream *******...
ska... now we're talking...
hip hop contra rap: now we're talking...

such a beautiful day...
    a chestnut mushroom cream sauce with
snippets of turkey, of course the fresh parsley...
bay leaf, one clove, two all-spice buds...

    and... i'm really tired of looking up
h'america's ***...
    i sometimes thank god that i'm not
english for the sole reason that i don't have
to mind the "special relationship",
like i'm being owed or owning someone
for the respects of sharing the same lingo...

you want the other "special relationship"?
it began with Casimir III...
east... well: central europe...
eastern europe without borders,
purely geographic: is situated somewhere
in russia...
          borders condense...
last time i visited the home away from home
i found new music...
pablopavo i ludziki...
             the polonaise and the jews...
how many terrorist attacks in poland
while the islamists were having a funfair
elsewhere? gullible schvabs and swedes...
  (swabians, that's a slang for the ol' deutsche
deutsche back east - kacap ('tss wet snare
on the c) for the russians)...
       0...
                  funny (even)...
the map of recent terrorist attacks...
     and... the map of the spread of the bubonic
plague... a certain region remains
immune...
       even i agreed with my uncle:
better the catholic ******* than islamic
propaganda... mind you...
        sh'ite islam: thumbs up!
always pay due dues to the underdogs...
and if islam truly was a religion
to gobble up all other religions...
      a schism over such a petty affair
including Ali - the son in law of Muhammad
and Muhammad breaking his promise...

    oy vey!
     how else was i going to get out of bed
to dance naked to anything
but the ska song: brooklyńska rada Żydów?
what other option?
      black ox orkestar's bukharian?
                                             oy vey!
funny story from amsterdam...
me and this egyptian were sharing a hostel
room with these two germans,
who wasted 'shrooms on sitting indoors
watching h'american dad...

   we took a different route...
   he smoked, i drank, he had a bottle of
***** with him,
architect, i can't remember his name,
a keen eye for grand doodles in a notebook...
but then i decided to take a ****
after a few beers while he put
headphones into my ears and played
me le trio joubran's - masar...
        i even managed to attract the attention
of a dutch girl who seemed...
rather gobsmacked...
   i literally went into the nod-state
associated with ****** junkies...
but with eyes closed and mouth agape...
feeding off the ****** of the void...
i.e. the ****** of the void?
    when you're not chained to thinking...
the self disintegrates,
              thinking disintegrates...
and with the music: the void became
pulverizing me with vibration after
vibration echoing a chanced comparison
to a heart-beat mingling with
the fuzzy rippling and vibrating effect of
   the eye-sight of some insect...

yes yes... blah blah...
    boasting... boasting my ***...
am i here to feel sorry for myself,
to drown in my take on some perfect love
i could offer?
      no really...
               i've always had the two best
companions to begin with...
my shadow and a blank piece of pixel
paper perfectly coupled to my idle /
itchy finger-tips...
   well, a third: ms. amber...
                         i learned over a year ago
that drinking with familiar people
****** me off... drinking with strangers?
oh sure, great time...
the best times when drinking in public
are with strangers...
"friends" (fwends) are just too nostalgic,
they want to remind you of something,
notably some micro-aggression nonsense
of a past grievance...
                   don't drink with "friends"...
every time i did: i would wake up
the next morning *******...
cursing them, putting on a mocking voice...

me me me... oh poow meeeeeeeeeeee...
   *******...
               so? i learned to adapt in
liking my own company...
it's not much, but sure as **** beats
listening to a bunch of drunken, nagging housewives;
i'm pretty sure a man should have been
in that slot of the space between my
3rd and 4th pint of guinness;
alas! not to be!
Dorothy A Dec 2011
A rose in the middle of December is what I saw outside. Instantly, I connected this odd occurrence with my life. The thought hit my thoughts like a ton of bricks. That is what I am, I had thought to myself. That describes me.

As I looked out my living room window on a sunny, but freezing, Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to see this solitary rose that had bloomed on my mini rose plant.  Providing me with a few salmon colored roses each season of its bloom, without fail this plant regrows again and again in my garden. I first planted it there since forever ago, or so it seems.

Usually, such a flowering occurrence should be no big deal, nothing major or out of the ordinary. Certainly, I would not find this as something really noteworthy to write about. Rose plants do that kind of thing all the time.

But it was frigid cold outside, and the middle of December.

What a strange, yet amazing thing to behold! Maybe there is a proper explanation for it, but I don’t care. The petals were just as colorful as ever when really they should have wilted awy from the cold. All the other flowering plants in my garden surely did! It didn’t really make sense, but its presence was pretty awesome.

I eagerly went to find my camera to take a picture of my sweet, little rose. The grass was dotted with tiny patches of snow to show that-yes indeed-winter is really only days away from its official entrance. Plant activity and growth really should be over. Isn’t that right? I know we have had some warmer days during the previous month, but the icy cold seemed to have come to stay for a while. It surely defies logic to think of blooming flowers on such days.

I often look for “God moments”, as I call them, in which God gives me something to hold onto that reveals His love to me. Not looking for anything earth shattering, I see often see God in the little things, in the details of life. And I don’t even always look for such things, for sometimes I doubt God really cares or really is that effective in my life. You see, that is not uncommon for someone who deals with chronic depression. I learned early on in life that nobody is there for you, not really. I know Christians aren’t supposed to feel this way, but if I can be bold to be honest, I am. Often, I just think I’ll get by on my own. If I can’t get by on my own, I often try to put up with it instead of turning to God for help.  But lately I was feeling desperate.

Suffering with depression all of my life, and with managable anxiety, the thought of the approaching Christmas had been especially difficult for me. I know that people are “supposed to” feel uplifted with the holiday, but I was not. To reveal this is a source of shame to me, and I have learned to mask such uneasy feelings, trying to fake it for the sake of showing the world that I really am OK inside. It is like I expect everyone to look at me and say, “What’s the matter with you, loser!”

I knew I could find two things that would appeal to me—Christmas music and lights. Yet the music that I often love could not do it for me. The lovely Christmas lights, shining in the dark of night, didn’t matter either. I was feeling dejected, and I was growing weary with life—again. When not obligated to go anywhere, I felt like hiding from the world, feeling safer from anxious thoughts by myself. And as safe as I tried to feel in my comfort zone, this was frightening to me. This did not feel like living to me.

Is this how I am going to live out the rest of my pitiful life? This was one of my kinder thoughts.

I usually get through Christmas OK, making the best of it, but my losses often feel bigger than my blessings. In 1998, I lost an estranged brother to suicide. In 2005, I lost a father to Alzheimer’s, a few weeks after Christmas. In 2007, my mother had to spend Christmas in a nursing home recovering from major surgery. That year, I struggled through that season with very hopeless feelings, for my mother was in jeopardy of never walking again. She spent almost half a year in that place—a woman with sever scoliosis, and chronic back pain, who cannot stand for very long. In my hopelessness, I seem to forget the miracles in my life, for my mom’s return home seems like one to me.

I also see my father’s experience and death from Alzheimer’s as something far more than a tragedy. For many years, I avoided my father, wanting really nothing to do with him. Grudges surely seem larger than life over time, and although I wanted to forgive my father and seek reconciliation, fear often stood in the way. Even though my dad grew remorseful for how he raised his children, it took my brother’s suicide for me to find forgiveness for a man I thought never supported me or believed in me. For over two years, while my dad was ill and dying, the bond between us grew into something special. I know from personal experience that even in the difficult times, there are larger purposes involved.
  
No doubt, I have been provided with some huge challenges in life. Thankfully, I always pulled through when I surely felt that I would crumble into pieces. I clung to my faith in God, even when that faith felt like dying embers in a fire, for it seemed to be all that I had. Nothing else worked. Nothing else satisfied for very long. And when it did last, I wanted more and more, like a drug addict looking for his next fix.  

I have often been plagued with self doubt. What is my purpose in this life? Why am I here? I knew I was not alone in this thinking, reminding myself that I am not the most unique person in my suffering. So I searched the internet, a convenient source to turn to when you can’t seem to face people, and the world.  

Not wanting to live or value your own life is a horrible state of mind that I would not wish on anybody. I have relied on a depression medication since my brother died, and still do, but there had to be something more to help me. Deep down inside, I did not want to die, but I didn’t know how to live either. The heart of the matter was that in my worst bouts of depression, I was just so broken inside. I survived enough to go through the motions, but I felt like I was losing the battle—and really did not want to win the war anyhow.

I still remember the “God moment” I had when I was in London, England in August of 2011. At that time, life felt like an adventure as I went on my very first overseas trip to Europe. I have yearned to go to Europe since childhood. It was a Sunday morning in London, and a religious program was on. From what one man was saying on TV about his experiences, my ears perked up and I hurriedly scribbled some things down on a pad of my hotel paper before I forget some of his statements that stood out to me.

During my short stay in London, I was experiencing a cold. I wanted to feel Gods presence as I felt the swallowed up feeling of being a stranger in a faraway place. As intruiged as I was,  in the huge, bustling metropolis, I admit I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I find big cities as places in which people pass others with no concern other than to go about their way. London was fascinating, but I am a suburbanite, for sure!

The things this man was saying on TV really impacted me at the time, and I now carry that scrap of paper around with me in my wallet. Little did I know that a few months later that these statements would help to pull me through from reaching into despair. That despair began a few months after that trip when I was quite sick with the flu, twice in a row, and feeling very isolated and weary.

Sometimes, we have to get into that place where all there is is God.

It is not that I did not believe in God. I did not think God believed in me.

Sometimes, we grow best in hard times.  

All my crooked crutches and phony props, as I call them, weren’t working. If the computer wasn’t taking up much of my free time, television was numbing my senses from the stark reality that life felt empty for me. Where was God? Logically, I knew I had no reason to be bitter, for I knew the answer. I felt so far away from Him, helpless and hopeless—yet I clung to this hope—God never moved at all. I was the one who walked away, but like the prodigal son in the Bible, God would be waiting there for me with a joyful expectation. I truly believe that even though I often wonder how God puts up with me.

It has been a long time—if ever—that I fully trusted in God alone. Yes, I believed in Him, and trusted in Jesus as my savior, but I often held back. I was still so angry and hurt about the past. Why didn’t God rescue me from such a horrible childhood? Why was I bullied in school? Why didn’t I have a better family? Why did loneliness and insecurity plague me as it did? Why wasn’t I beautiful? Why didn’t I have a better life? Why this and why that. Even though I logically knew better, in my hurt and wounded soul, life felt like a big, horrible mistake. God must have not cared about me. I may not have consciously acknowledged it, but my actions proved otherwise.

We live in a world where you got to be stronger, you got to be better; you got to be tougher; you got to be faster; you got to be more successful. The media pounds this into our brains all the time in many different forms. How many of us feel like we can never measure up? I am sure I am not alone in feeling the inadequacy. Yet I could not concentrate on anyone else’s pain when I was so wrapped up in my own.

A rose in the middle of December—I put it all into proper perspective. What a fragile looking thing, but an enduring one! It symbolizes to me the invincible, indelible human soul in the midst of an often perplexing world. When all around seems bleak, when life takes a toll on you, that remains unscathed, untouched by the trails we often have to face.  When we die, I wholeheartedly believe, it will be the only true thing that remains of us. When our bodies decay into dust, our souls will be like that rose, brilliant and beautiful.    

Besides myself, there are two groups of people, near and dear to my heart, which I could compare to that symbolic rose in my garden. My current job is working with special needs students, usually with autistic children and young adults. I worked 19 years in a bland office job, and could not ignore the constant nagging feeling to get the courage and desire up to do something more fulfilling with my life. With fearful, but bold determination I thought: It’s now or never.  Maybe it was not the wisest thing, but it felt so freeing to say to my boss, “I think I quit”, without another job to back me up. I basked in the encouraging applause of many co-workers who wished they had the guts to do the same, but soon the panic set in.

What do I do now? What can I do now?

Never working with children before, I felt a call to work with them, and I absolutely have a greater sense of purpose. Many of these children cannot talk. Many of them cannot walk. Many of them accept people just as they are, for I believe they want the same in return. Their lives teach me what really is important in life—and that is compassion.

Other than children, I also love the elderly, sensing their desperate need for love and compassion. Forcing myself to get my mind off my own troubles, I heeded my pastor’s call to not simply “go to church” but to “be the church”. I knew I had talents. I knew could open my mouth and carry a tune. From what I went through in my life, I knew I had the compassion. After all, I dealt with my dying father in a nursing home. With a nursing home ministry in my church, and a nursing home right across the street, it was obvious—there are others out there that need hope and they need love. So what was my excuse?

In this world that expects you to be stronger, better, tougher, faster or more successful, there are those that live in the world that they don’t fit any of these categories. But yet they are here. They exist. Can they be ignored? The answer is surely, yes, and they often are.  Perhaps, the world is uncomfortable with them, does not know what to do with them. They don’t fit into the false demands for perfection. They don’t fit into push and shove to get ahead of everyone else, but they remind us, sometimes to the point of discomfort, how fragile the human condition often is.  

Lately, I have had such a hunger that food cannot satisfy. I yearned for a peace, one that only God can provide me with. I found two uplifting stories on the internet of people who struggle on and whose lives defy the idea of a perfect world. One of them was about an Australian man, Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs. He was picked on at school because he was perceived as a freak, as someone who did not seem to have any real chance at living a normal life. And he was angry that he did not look like, or function like, most everyone else. At about the age of eight he wanted to end it all, thinking he had no purpose in life. He eventually gave his life to Christ, and now lives a full life, reaching out to others with his incredible story of hope and perseverance.

Another woman, Joni Eareckson Tada, continues to amaze me. She is a quadriplegic from a diving accident gone horribly wrong. Her story touches many people with her hopeful attitude and her amazing faith in Christ. She, too, wanted to die when she thought her life had no more meaning. Recently, she has even fought breast cancer and chronic pain that has added to her decades of struggles with immobility.  She touches so many lives with her honesty about her suffering, giving people hope in times that seem hopeless.            

I wanted what these two people had. No, I did not want their afflictions, but I wanted to be able to reach out to others and touch their hearts, as well.  I wanted that faith, desperately, a faith that will not back down in the face of fear, in serious doubts, deep sadness, and pain. These people had little choice but to turn to God. The alternative was utter bleakness, a lack of purpose, and a slow death. But they defied the odds and etched a life out of faith, helping countless others to endure their struggles and to find meaning in life. There were plenty of times when I did not pray to reach out to a God that I gave my heart to many years ago. I bought into the belief that God was as inadequate and ineffective as I was feeling.    

Sometimes, we have to get into that place where all there is is God.

It is not that I did not believe in God. I did not think God believed in me.

Sometimes, we grow best in hard times.  

With plenty of tears, I cried out to God. It was a gut wrenching cry of someone with nothing to give but a broken heart. I wanted that kind of faith, and I meant that with every fiber of my being. Deep inside, my faith wasn’t gone. It never really left me, but only God had the ability to grow it, to prosper it, and to produce “life” back into my life. The battles might have felt overwhelming, at times, but I have always been a survivor. In spite of heartaches, and from what they actually teach me, I can be an encourager to others. Instead of just wanting to make everything go away, I can look forward to new chapters in my life.  

I know there will still be times when I will struggle to want to face another day, yet with my faith in God, I can.

So a rose growing outside may be not a big deal. Writers and poets have seemingly exhausted the topic, hailing it the most precious of flowers, the most perplex, with such lovely fragility, yet sheltered by stinging thorns. My inspiration to write on the same subject may not be unique, but as a rose blooms, and its glorious petals unfold, so does my story. I admit I hesitated to finish writing this, not sure I wanted to expose these things about my life. It takes a lot of guts to admit how imperfect you are in a world that seems to shun or poke fun at such things. But if I can encourage even one person, who has similar struggles, I will gladly try to be an encouragement.    

For almost a week now, existing in a stark contrast of its surroundings, that little rose remains, cold winter weather and all. Every day since, for about a week now, I continue look for it outside and find it going against the grain.  All the other flowers in my dormant garden are long gone. It will be gone eventually, but I am still enjoying my “God
Raj Bhandari Aug 2015
Oh boy today, I am so glad,
No more instructions,
Confesses, my nagging dad!
This is a total liberty,
Freedom my dear,
I am free to do anything,
Without any fear,
At least, for some time,
He will not poke his nose,
I am grown up enough to handle,
The brick-bat or a rose,
I am at a free-will to wear my own hat,
Without instructions manual, Do it this way or that,
He is a good man, best dad, I know,
But I needed my own space,
To breathe and to grow!
He is concerned, will not speak a single word,
But I do know he loves me,
And that is what I heard!!
Mateuš Conrad Jul 2016
just keep nagging about poetry stealing
if not simply invigorating
people's index curriculum vocabulorum
(day-to-day pint of milk
what's the weather like speech) -
keep nagging - it won't make a difference -
i have a grievance all of my own -
one word - slang - or the effective
tool for unprecedented use of misnomers -
slang is, after all, a practice of using
misnomers with social acceptability -
some claim that poetry is incomprehensible -
too difficult - too cult-like -
too whatever it is that people think poetry is -
i'm in it for the long-haul -
i'm looking at the fame of Homer and of
Horace and i see no fame in the modern
definition - the certainty of Nietzsche:
perhaps my true readers haven't been born yet.
i'm that certain of what i write,
capitalism and the short-term effect -
the cure and the same song as stated
on the album ******* -
just keep nagging about what poetry is
and what it isn't - i just spotted an pink elephant
of the easiest of comparisons to nag about too...
urban slang - slang in general - but instead
of a single people being incomprehensible
(like the tweeting format? no? we have an antidote
for that) - i never bothered or knew how
to learn slang, the "cool talk" of being recognised
as a part of a pack of hyenas about to "change the world";
if you explain slang to me i'll explain poetry to you,
some does mature outside the realm
of adolescence - Rimbaud certainly did - and with
him as example i guess we should only write
in our teen years then forget about it,
never age with it - never do a Sistine Chapel pinnacle
with it - poetry is the secondary fashion statement
of the young, the primary fashion statement is
slang - i don't know why i kept it up as i did -
and i don't care much for being too technical
either, Tartar stake for me - i guess the trick
of the novelist is that he knows he can take breaks
in between writing a novel, he can always
come back to it knowing the reader will probably
take days and different yoga positions finishing
his outpouring: as already suggested, poetry as
something that constantly requires a revision of
meaning (esp. in the age of twitter) -
fair enough for the haiku crew - but consider
my deliberate care for a counter haiku: the ensō (zen)-
maximised with the Tao teaching of forgetting
the world and letting the world forget about you -
lethal combination................................
              so this slang debate... can you tell me why
it's so akin to the incomprehensibility of poetry
and why it fizzles out after adolescence of the teen years?
Scot Apr 2019
If Jesus Christ did die for the sins of the world, then for which ones’ did He not?
A story, a story!
(Let it go.  Let it come.)
I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
into this world.
First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
Then dolls
and the devotion to their plactic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight rows of chairs,
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn't work.
Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched-
though touch is all-
but I grew,
like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
still ignorant of Him, my arms, and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I'd say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyebal,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat insdie me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.

As the African says:
This is my tale which I have told,
if it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
take somewhere else and let some return to me.
This story ends with me still rowing.
Trevor Gates May 2013
I’ve been expecting you.
I’ve waited an eternity.
Please sit
Thank you
I will now tell you things

I will tell you things I will do
Things I will do to you

Are you curious to know what they are?
You should be.

As I am curious to know
What compelled you to come here?
Yes

Everything in your conscious told you to stay away.
Yet, you are here.
Your friends warned you
But, you are here
Your nagging doubts, your conflicting reasoning all point to something else
Alas, you are here

And I can’t seem to understand why.
You know what I am.
I am an unconventional socialite of the most diabolic kind

I feed off the likes of you.
The sweet, tangible nectarine of modern serenity
The soft, lavender of incorruptible virtues
The delicate outer skin of savory delectability

My mouth waters at the very thought of you
I salivate with the very presence of you
I can feel my blood rush
My hands shake with anticipation

Let my touch
Caress you
Warm you
You don’t deny it
Because you long for it
You long for me to trace your lips with my fingertips
To suckle the flesh drops of your ears
To familiarize my hands with your supple body
To show you the darker side of forbidden passion
To welcome you into the bounty of vicious coitus
And depraved, animistic *******
And deep recessive *******
And blood constricted battering
With lines and whips
Chains
Belts
Leather and
Nightmares
And masters
And tormentors
And wicked shadows lurking in the room
Watching us as we display the ungodly exhibition
Of your forbidden desires

For me to savor the swelling peach of your ***** fruit.

This is for you.

Even as you proclaim your goodness to others
You have a side of your personality that demands unsuppressed copulation.

And why do you need this?
Why do you need me?

I can see it in your eyes.

It was because people in another world told you to hide your womanhood
To despise you sexuality
For it will make you weak
And vulnerable

What was your story behind your frailty?

It could have been the close-minded parents of the old age, who never tried to think for themselves; only allowing others with higher knowledge to justify their old-fashioned morals.
Or
The life you saw through popular culture and mind-altering media.  The problem with pop cultivation is that is follows the wave lengths of susceptible hosts: the average, everyday citizens that “trust” the outside word; that “trust” what is said to them through dystopian and totalitarian subtleties.  
You didn’t know better.
But you could tell it wasn’t right
How is it that a young child can truly know what is right and what is wrong
More so than the misconceived adults?
Because simplicity is key to filtering the complex

Now what does this have to deal with you sexuality
Because unless you do what is only natural for you to do, others will tell you what you should do.

Now, you embrace your emerging fruition.
As my tongue slithers around your sensitive ****
My fingers stretch and penetrate your wanting *****
Now
Is your chance
Overpower the host before you
It is a test

Your daunting task ahead is to overthrow the embellishment of your submission

Are you up to it?

We shall see.

The shadows on the walls are the ones that maimed you
Scolded you
Accosted you
Abused you
Terrified you
Rectified you
Molested you
Suffocated you
Punished you
Insulted you
Silenced you
***** you

Why?

Because they are:
Afraid of you
Intimated of you
Worried of you
Scared of you
And
Enticed by you
Infuriated by you
Aroused by you
Alarmed by you
Entranced by you
And pleasured by you

Could you be all and none of what I said?
You tell me
Whisper it in my ear
Now bite it
Use your teeth and swear it
Tear it and devour it
My creature of the night
My child of ritual
My servant to flesh
My master to skin
My all to this and none to that
The embodiment of lust
The being of now

And the beginning of the end.
Thank you for coming here tonight my dear.  Send my regards to your fans and loved ones: Johnny Depp, Lucifer, Mammon, Hellraiser, Candyman, egg whites, Wool hats, Epson printers, Derek Riggs, Spider-man, Bruce Willis, Lampshade, Black Holes, Taxi drivers, Durex condoms, Hank Azaria, Simon Pegg, Colonel Sanders, Iron Man, Spike Jones, Spike Lee, Spike Speigel, Eva Green and of course his imperial majesty, David Bowie.

Maybe we’ll see each other again.
Nicholas Fogle Jun 2015
You ever have that little nagging in your ear?
                                                            That­ Consumes everything you hear!

"Why did you do that?"
                                                          ­                                           "I don't know"
"Do you know anything?"
                                                                ­                                " I know for sure"
"What? "                    
                                                                ­     "You're the banging on my door"
"...Shut up"  
                                         Yet because of that nagging, that noise, that pest.
                                                           ­          You feel like your life is the best.
"Tell me I'm pretty"
                                                         ­                                      "You're beautiful"
"That's not what I said!"
                                                   "I rather give you more than give you less"
"That's not what I want!"
                                                          ­                                               "Me neither"
"So..."
                                                ­                                                              "Wh­at ? "
"Shut up!"
                                                  No matter how much you seem to be down
                                                     That noise can make a smile from a frown
"Wait"
                                                         ­                          "Could you move faster"
"No"
                                                           ­          "Oh my god you're so annoying"
"Thank you"
                   "You just gonna acknowledge and accept you're a nuisance?"
"Yes"
                                                ­                                                          "I hate you"
"No you don't"
                                                                ­                                      "...Your right"
"I know"
                                                           ­                                      "Shut up lets go"
"Ha!"                                                        ­                                
                                               You ever have that little nagging in your ear?
                                                            That­ Consumes everything you hear!
Fun Weight
Kayla Hardy Jan 2019
INFJ - T

I grow exhausted at the exuberance of crowds.
Not able to ignore that nagging voice that whispers the evils of them
Feelings of fear overpower the simple formula of conversation
Jutting into remind me of my appearance compared to theirs -
Too weak to fight against it.

It’s not easy to speak my mind.
Never daring to even introduce myself
Following a very strict line
Just taking each day step by step -
Thinking someday I’ll be able to explain.

Inside, I judge everything.
New situations make the feelings shake
Fear and turbulence expand within
Jaw clenched and sweaty palms -
Thin skin begins to bruise.

Introverted and intuitive
Nervous, yet calm
From day to day
Just a puppet -
To a never-ending nightmare
Raj Arumugam Oct 2010
my story will wander far and wide
(as I myself do in my later life)
in strange lands and strange tongues
though strangeness never surprises me;
and through centuries many will hear my story
and watch an enactment, on stage or in other visual ways,
and perhaps many will dismiss the story
many might find it banal and strange
a tale from a savage and mythic past
and perhaps some will stand on grounds of purity
and wonder that the story of Oedipus should even be remembered;
and perhaps physicians of the mind
might even analyze the symbolism -
but surely, surely
all who hear it will feel a discomfort
an itch,
an echo
a nagging question or two:
*why? what does Oedipus mean?
why is this remembered?
Alan W Jankowski Jan 2014
Moved to Colorado the other day,
Told the wife I needed to get away.
I guess she didn't think that I'd be gone long,
Since all I packed was underwear and a ****.

The decision to move was easy to make,
In fact, it was a piece of cake.
Ten long years with that naggin' *****,
I definitely knew it was time for a switch.

One day I just realized that I had enough,
So I grabbed a bag, and packed my stuff,
Didn't even bother to say 'Goodbye,'
All I could think about was getting high.

I knew I belonged here, it was in my blood,
To live in a state where I can buy premium bud,
Yeah, getting away was really the point,
You might say I traded the wife for a joint.

Just bought me another bag of ****,
Seems I got everything here I need,
Once I smoke me another blunt,
I'll forget all about that evil gal.

Now the smoking be really fine,
The 7-11 is where I dine,
No one to be a constant pain in my ***,
While I'm sitting here smoking up my grass.

It's nice to be here on my own,
Sparking up yet another bone,
On days I don't want to roll,
I can just pack me a bowl.

These days I got a smile on my face,
A huge grin you just can't erase,
No nagging ***** to drive me insane,
Just hangin' here with Mary Jane.

I'd like to sit around and conversate,
But with Mary Jane, I got a date,
And if you happen to run into my ex-wife,
You can tell her I finally got a life.

01-09-14.
Sometimes you just feel the urge to move...I think ya'll know what I mean...
Lisa Benson Nov 2012
Hands clinging to rocks against the mountain side,
strands of hair falling to my face.
Almost to the top, just one more step.
"Pull up your socks!" Everyone below yells, nagging me to do so.
I ignore, focusing to make my way to the peak.
"Pull up your socks!" The repeat, daggering at my toes.
I am anything but a child of theirs.
I continue on.
"Pull up your socks!" They scream again, my eyes rolling.
I arrive to the top.
Circa 1994 Mar 2014
The black cursor pulses with intimidation;
urging you to fill the white blankness with letters that form words and transition into sentences.
The keyboard is my instrument,
usually used for good and occasionally for evil.
An encouraging word or a means to vanquish my enemies.
Elijah Mar 2014
Ambitious Girl:

Consider this my reiteration.
I wanna read your books, and not just your looks.
Knowing what you look like ; I wanna be in your space - but not so much that I interfere with your education.
Let me say this,
Congratulations on being the very best you could ever be.
Putting priorities over everything, Miss couldn't get that coach cause tuition was due.
& sallie was nagging for a payback.
Sallie was nagging for a payback.
And you paid that, plus tax.
Miss made so many friends stepping with the sisters.
whatever it is, I hope you pledge an existence that'll make your existence, persistent.
Forever my queen, say you're listening...

Look, I'm still talking .
You love school but you're sick of Sally maybes .
No *** , you're the lucky one because all your friends have babies.
And you ain't slept , up thinking , tomorrow's that big test .
Few of your friends stripping you don't judge em' though.
You're insecure with your body so you like "forget it yo!"
So, I put you on that pedestal,
Girl I'm just saying your work ethic makes you edible.
Me a freak? That's something that they will never know.
Look, you're something they can never see;
You overpower  anything them other girls could ever be.
Go ahead and prepare for class, hit me when you finish up.
It's never too late, we'll celebrate soon as the grades come.
Shout to them girls in the club with no relations between their professors .
Yes sir, I propose a toast to them girls - that you offer them ones but they never let you.
I love your ambition.

Okay, shout out to them 4.0s and even 2.5s ; who signed up & failed but say "whatever , I tried."
It's nothing to deny for having a strong mind, I'll make sure to keep you in mind.
You're still someone I can ride with; dress up & get fly with.
It's still something you provide , you never hide , that makes me wanna get inside .
Look, ambition will define you, never worry about them hating chicks that wish to be just like you.
My goal is to serenade you everyday with these verses until you no longer insecure, obscure and hurting .
They gon know you;
Chasing your dreams, instead of chasing what's in a dudes' jeans.
And God blessed me with a lot of patience , but I ain't had none in a while - I need your AS(S)pirations .

I love your aspirations!
Ambitious Girl...
Fourth generation.
4th poem in my ambitious girl series. Actually speaks on a woman I know , or once knew . Enjoy :)
Joe Wilson Apr 2014
When I was a boy I really feared nothing
As a teenager I couldn't have feared less
But as a man when I became a loving father
My life took on all kinds of fearful stress.

You think but worry where your little kids are
You know that they’re at school, at least they were
The horrid thoughts that things might happen to them
Causes panic of the sort we all incur.

But they grow up and they manage to stay in one piece
Then they move away and make lives of their own
Then you get a call to say that one is injured
To the other side of the world you then have flown.

Later still you find your other child is ailing
And you do your best to stay so very calm
While your heart is breaking as you reassure them
This brave person that you once held in your palm.

So yes I fear so many things I never used to
Plus concerns about my body as it grows old
And of course they say we might now live to eighty
But I never did believe all I was told.

But these fears are just the things that keep us careful
It wouldn't do to let them get to rule our lives
For it’s fear of fear that takes you to the limit
It’s the very thing on which the panic thrives.

©JRW2014
brooke Aug 2013
My first love was not a first love
because the first thing he was interested in
was being around me with his shirt off so
I could admire how toned he was for a
freshman.

He chose my best friend over me first
and I let him in anyway, he called me a
**** fiend and I took that as a compliment
even though i had no idea what I was doing.

He told me, Brooke, when people love each other
they have ***, and I knew that part of that was true
that I wanted to equate love with making love because
why else would it be called that? But he wasn't my first love
and the first thing he was interested in was eating me out.

Fifteen year olds are too dumb to make any rational decisions
when they have overbearing honey-tongued devils in their lives.
I was so scared but I did want to, so he planned it out and he had
me on bare mattress in his room in broad daylight, no sheets, no blankets
and my socks were still on, I wasn't even sweaty and my hair stayed perfect.
He wasn't my first love because the first thing he thought of was grabbing my
breast under the elementary school awning.

We had no ****, no privacy, no rules. And I gave it to him willingly even though
I was paralyzed right down to my toenails, a cold highway of veins in my jar of
jelly muscle, the mornings were hot and every time he laid on me I felt like a
shower was the only cure to feeling this *****, should I FEEL this d i r t y?

My morals were rupturing like aneurisms, and everyone thought it was
so ridiculous that I was breaking down under their sunlight, burning up
under their words? It shouldn't matter, this much, brooke. It SHOULD NOT
matter this much. His dad, drove me to the jiu jitsu tournament and told me
he didn't understand why my dad thought it was so necessary to keep me
safe why he shouldn't be buying his son condoms because this is
what
teenagers
do.

My incessant nagging drove him away and I have thought this to be my
fault. This was not my fault.  

My second love may have been my first love.
because the first thing he was interested in was waiting
till our friendship bloomed and then I could come over to his house.

He didn't write off his feelings for me when I said I needed time. And maybe
he did go back to his ex, but I needed time and he gave me time. I wasn't sure
if I loved him but I kissed him and the first time he touched me he told me
to ask him to, to make sure it was okay.

I remember what I was wearing, acid wash shorts and a tanktop
that apparently saved darfur.  His breath was warm and the evening was dim
but his desk-light shone over our legs and his worn skinny jeans.

He told me, Brooke, all I want to do is make you breakfast. And I read
that in his diary. And my second love was my first love because the first
thing he wanted to do was draw me while I slept. He did.

Seventeen year olds are swept away easily and refuse to work
on old feelings. They are damaged because of their first loves who
weren't first loves and are afraid to let go because there will never
be anyone better than this.  My second love was my first
love because he never held *** over my head like a trophy
and we rolled over each other in the sheets and my parents
were never worried.

We had no ****, we had privacy, we had rules. I was not scared
after I realized there were no threats. I thawed and was sweet like
a ripe strawberry. He said he loved me and I felt clean, sweaty but
there was no need for a shower, my hair was always frizzy and he
laughed about it.

my morals were tall mortar walls. And I told him there were rules
for wanting to be with me, and my walls loomed over him. He tried and promised
but we were both fools.  I made mistakes twice over and took advantage of his love.

my incessant nagging, indecision, and rudeness drove him away. This was my fault.
This was all of our faults.
(c) Brooke Otto

This is so cliche it hurts.   I've been increasingly inspired by slam poetry. I actually don't like long poems, but the idea of reading it out loud is why I wanted to give it a try.  Sorry if there are any typos.

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