Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
loisa fenichell Jan 2014
My mother used to keep Lupines
in the cracks of her favorite book.
They bloomed into oblivion, and they bloomed
into the book, because they didn’t know any better, which is how
it is with all flowers, and not just Lupines (I think), and which
is like how I don’t know any better
than to whisper gratitude to strangers
I’ve seen a million times over sitting on the curbs
of sidewalks that run along every surface of the earth. It is one of my only
redeeming qualities, and it makes up for all of the times when
I’ve been petulant, even though
Little Brother tells me that I’m too sorry too often. My mother says that I’m just
“being (too) polite”  —
my mother has never known any better than to defend me
even when I should not be defended (which is always).
Instead of gullible, my mother calls me trusting, even though I didn’t trust

Billy The Neighbor on the other side of the street (in East of Eden)
when he told me he saw an alien, and the alien’s name
was Fred, and he was a nice enough alien, and he
was the size of a fingernail with pink and yellow skin. Aliens are what I cannot believe, because my mother said that before I was born,
I was an alien. I guess she just doesn’t know that the only alien is

Billy The Neighbor, and that when he said he saw an alien,
what he really meant was that he saw himself.
Billy The Neighbor has long skin, and short hair, and tall eyes
that I don’t like to watch. Once, he called me a ghost, and maybe he’s right
(I believe in ghosts, even though I don’t – can’t – believe in aliens, unless you are
Billy The Neighbor): my skin is always too pale,
and my arms are always too far away, and I can stick my hand
through my cold leg, which I guess is not very normal. Sometimes,

I wish I could be the largest sea turtle in the world instead of being a ghost,
because I like being in water, even though I don’t like to drink it
(I only like fat-free milk, and on every other Sunday, I like orange juice). Also, it might be nice to have salty tears – mine
are usually too fresh (which is odd, because my tears should be salty,
even if I am not a turtle), but here’s a story for you: my eyes have never
actually drooped, except for when Billy The Neighbor told me I
was ***** after I finished loving his brother. So,

maybe it doesn’t matter how fresh my tears are. Or maybe I would
cry more if my tears were saltier, and maybe my crying
would be more fragile than it is now. I saw Billy The Neighbor’s brother

cry, because he had loved his dog too much. Also, I
saw his collarbones, and I guess Billy The Neighbor called me *****
soon after that. Billy The Neighbor’s brother once told me I
became too attached too easily, but there’s another word for it –
I just like people who are loyal, and who can be as loyal as I am. Also,
I like people who are like Billy The Neighbor’s brother, and who can
cry over everything, because when I was little I did cry, just not anymore.
When I was little, I fainted, because someone was talking about ****.
My mother called me sensitive, but everybody else called me
“mentally disturbed.” I started seeing a therapist after that. My therapist
told me to sing. She had a torn poster of Don McLean on her wall, and she
wanted to be his therapist. Or,
she wanted to sing dirges in the dark with him. I guess I was the next best thing,
but I didn’t know how to sing a dirge for her, and I
apologized to her for it – she didn’t know that I was actually

just too lonely to do so. Then I stopped crying, even though
my body still housed more tears.
Billy The Neighbor’s brother once cried over steeped tea,
and I wish I had, too, but I didn’t. Yesterday, Little Brother
cried tears of amethyst, and he stained the floor velvet. Nobody came
to clean the floor, or to lick the color away, so now the floors are velvet,
which is sad, but mother says it’s beautiful. Whenever she says “beautiful,” I want
to throw up, because that is the worst word. I’m sorry for that. I wish I could
call people beautiful, but I’m too kind to do so.
Kaitlin Frost Nov 2012
Now once upon a midnight dreary
A young fellow once did ponder weak and weary
Not like anything one has heard before,
But this time is was something more.
As he slumped in evening chair,
Ah too much to have care.
The world around him caved in and saw,
His duties were beckoning him with their claw.
Arose from the chair pondering and pondering,
Out the door he came wandering and wandering.
Down the lowly corners and streets set light,
For he could not understand where we was try as he might.
Pulling and puzzling at his own thoughts jumbled,
Came the swift of his feet towards the soft thunder's rumble.
"What great spirit has led me to this? Upon my neighbor's door,
What such a dream, 'tis this and nothing more."
Without reason or thought upon his mind,
What strange power has caused this ill time?
Upon the chime of the midnight hour,
Stood this man at the door of the neighbor's tower.
Why he was there, that we may never know,
But surely the neighbor heard the commotion below.
A rapping came onto the neighbor's door,
"This is only a dream," the man thought to himself,
"'Tis a dream and nothing more."
He felt the pull of his hand as he tapped his neighbors door,
The force of an entity he never felt before.
Why he was there, we may never know,
But the neighbor did hear the commotion below.
As silent as the grave, the man stood waiting.
Patiently and quietly without hesitating.
Till at once his neighbor shook open the door,
And looked out at the man he had never seen before.
They each stared blankly at one another,
Until the man could no longer stutter.
"No reason here for my being at your door,
Just curious as to the man who lived here before."
The neighbor stared blankly at the man he'd never seen,
Pondering if he himself should scream.
"No sir, you must be mistaken tonight,
I am the only resident here for the years spite."
The man stood coldly, very shaken with hate,
And felt his hands squeeze against the neighbor's weight.
The neighbor's neck at once had snapped,
And he fell to the floor with one fall rapt.
Walking silent as the cold winter despair,
the man came back into his evening chair.
Why he came to the neighbor's house,
We may never know,
But he sat pondering and pondering to and fro.
A rapping came onto the man's door,
"This is only a dream," the man thought to himself,
"'Tis a dream and nothing more."
Charlie Chirico May 2013
Home Depot: Aisle Four: Shelves & Brackets.

Screws should be in the toolbox at home.
Toolbox...yes, in the garage, next to the miter saw, and
my old skates, the four-wheeled skates, not the inline,
never in line because of a rebellious nature.
A leather jacket kind of resistance.
A motorbike brilliance.
Now riding lawnmower equipment.
Dad's don't walk, we're brazen.

The ancient toolbox next to
an ancient cardboard box.
Scribbled on the front, the marking of youth,
my name, my print. Such ugly handwriting.
For God's sake.

But as for keepsakes:
The only objects that hold more merit
have more and most accumulative dust.
Yearbooks, pictured peers, so many memories
and faces. So many faces in this book.

The trophies. Number three. MVP.
A wipe of the thumb revealed the number.
And the rhyme is new.
Wit came with later age, I suppose.

Sports in adolescence, the physicality, the egotism,
it clouds critical thinking, or maybe wry remarks, too.
"Gay" and "*******" become some of the favorites.
And now this leads to an obligatory pun.
Grass stained knees. Sacking. The loser is gay.

How paradoxical!

Other contents of the box are various marks.
Grades; graduations; girls.
Three G's that I've
always evaded because of laziness.
Because **** dignity, right?
At least at that age integrity is as foreign
as the idea of it even being instilled.

How can you know if you're being raised
in the wrong?

Well, you've come to the right place.

I'm sure two examples is sufficient.

It's usually the acquaintance my son
brings home that opens my refrigerator door
before saying hello.

Or sometimes it's his friend,
our neighbor's youngest son, who boasts about his parent's
material possessions, while his parents ask
my wife and I if he can stay at our home for the night,
as they argue in the dark because the electric bill
is overdue, and their credit is scored
by the proverbial scissors.  

Not ones used to cut red ribbons, but
the ones you're told not to run with.

"Of course he can. I'm sure they'll love a sleepover," I answer passively.

"Thanks, we owe you one," he responds abruptly before disconnecting.

I could have said that owing people one
got them into their predicament.
But, like they say in the Good Book,
(The book I've always let collect dust,
not to be confused with the dust
on the box in the garage.)
Love Thy Neighbor.

And sometimes you never know
when you'll need a cup of sugar.
Thankfully I know there is sugar in the cupboard.
Milk and eggs in the refrigerator.
But no shelves or brackets.

Aisle four, Home Depot, no help.
I figure any will do, and at home
I'm *******, I mean I have screws.
I'll ask my son to help me hang them,
somewhat for the company,
also because they're for his belongings.

The neighbor's son will talk about the
elaborate woodwork on the rare chestnut
shelves his dad owns.
Surely it's perception, something
mood lighting can fix,
which his parents are arguing over,
well the lack of  lighting,
seeing as how their mood is already set.

My boy and I will place his
trophies on the shelves,
as I tell my boy I was number three.
Once an MVP.
And the neighbor's son
will tell me
his father was
number four.
Ahsaki G Jun 2017
My neighbor and I don’t speak
We wave a friendly wave, call out each other’s name then retreat to our respective homes
My neighbor and I don’t speak
We smile sweetly and sometimes greet with a kiss
My neighbor and I don’t speak
We share soul food…Colombian Ajiaco for me and American Pistachio Cake for her
My neighbor and I don’t speak
Maneuvering the 2 languages takes too much energy and time
My neighbor and I don’t speak
We love with our actions, sentiments, and eyes
Test Ting Won To Tree
By
Charles Fleischer







Rifleman decal water is to Tiny basket liners as Strained yo-yo string is to?
Dark wool glowing is to Oldest lost oddity as First genetic engine is to?
Black quail taint is to Nut curdled paint as Hemp biscuit dominoes are to?
Steam traced paper is to Lemon ash vapor as Digital ****** wig is to?
Eccentric brine mimes are to Electric silk slacks as Spark formed lava is to?
Sunchoked black hornets are to as Rescued orphan doves as Retold cat jokes are to?
Hand traced videos are to Braided rubber spines as Opal rain dancers are to?
Halogen anchor gong is to Annoying bread portraits as Soft bracelet lockers are to?
Old troll bios are to Select cherub echoes as Broken matchstick parasols are to?
Dome nine chariots are to Frayed lunar remnants as Fuming honey flasks are to?
Bluing assault operas is to Beading fluted flowers as Magnetic lawn tweezers are to?
Converted flea sponges are to Floating dog murals as Frozen Archie comics are to?
Molded road pads are to Crusty gumdrop thread as Straw ribbed pelicans are to?
Inflatable diamond vowel is to Single gender raffle as Groovy desert coffee is to?
Temporary solution radiation is to Idiotic witness mumble as Motorized marshmallow kit is to?
Panoramic utopian paranoia is to Aggravated **** silhouettes as Unhinged gun sellers are to?
Homesick ghost pajamas is to Virtuous fly fungus as Royal sandpaper gloves are to?
Gangster hayride tickets are to Deer milk Oreos as Turnip fairy maps are to?
Glue gun **** is to Nocturnal cabin mice as Cab fare corn is to?
Speckled fish nickels are to Under water bric-a-brac as Epic snakeskin paisley is to?
******* bungalow pranks are to Drowsy vapid oafs as Quantized cavern fish are to?
Raunchy snail kimono is to Coiled time dice as Smeared equator malt is to?
Metallic centaur franchise is to Transparent cheese chess as Spotted glacial remnants is to?
Sky fused pong is to Rustic mothers brattle as Granulated canister ointment is to?
Overgrown maze mule is to Mated smugglers hugging as Floating thesaurus exam is to?
Sliding coed sprinkler is to Soapy whitefish rebate as Precious lamb diaper is to?
Mushy acorn luster is to Lilac protein rings as Slapstick wrestler dialect is to?
Freaky plankton bells is to Rolling horse divorce as Morphing morphine lips are to?
Sticky razor sparkle is to Emerald muscle spasm as Glaring cat cipher is to?
Peppy unisex mustache is to Pelican fighter syndrome as Clumping night grumble is to?
Scanning paired pearls are to Ruby rubbed roaches as Satanic sailor flotsam  are to?
Glowing asteroid solder is to Ideal shark data as Failed frail doilies are to?
Numb nuts boredom is to Fantastic icy phantoms as Sporadic silk creations is to?
Crooks crow chow is to Loading spackled bonder as Gargled snowdrop blasters are to?
Outdid myself today is to Outside myself again as Outlived myself controls is to?
Venting shuttlecock upset is to Texting badminton kitten as Settler tested motels are to?
Prepare paired vents is to Prefer paid events as Pretender predicts fiction is to
Crunchy mental fender is to Catching mentor menace as Poorly seasoned lettuce is to?
Outside sidewalk inside is to Seaside outcast input as Sideways landslide victory is to?  
Compile fake password is to Compost world poo as Compose village anthem is to?
Crooked crotch blunder is to Loud crowd thunder as Divine vine finder is to?
Chucks’ wooden truck is to Bucks good luck as Sticky ducks tucked is to?  
Overhaul underway overseas is to Overturned downsized pickup as Underground onramp overloaded is to?
I’ll bite there is to Aisle byte their as Isle bight there is to?
Gnat gnawed wrist is to ***** show beans as See through putty is to?
Flapping floppy guppies are to Buzzing zipped dozers as Muddy ****** strippers are to?
Dark diagonal dialogue is to Diabolical dihedral die as Interesting circadian exposition is to?
Experimental flossing expectations are to Waxed dental traps as Permanent impermanence resolution is to?  
Outran ringside intrigue is to Sidetracked onboard boatload as Loaded firearm topside is to?
Phony ****** phone is to Chewy ego honey as Yogi Mama’s dada is to?
Nimble teardrop squiggle is to Humble cage curtains as Loyal truckstop morals are to?
Torching curled elastic is to Sonic neighbor clamor as Golden droplet integers are to?
Duplex pupil scanners are to Nacreous cloud clocks as Shrouded flute shops are to?
Lawn rocket tendrils are to Finding surreal borders as Sheep monarchs children is to?
Gloating ungloved squires are to Busting double doubters as Pushing woeful doctors are to?
Tricking snowbelt firedogs is to Panmixing blackened haywires as Unclothed shameful leaders are to?
Malicious ranch ritual is to Internal puppet bubble as Ornate underworld masquerade is to?
Rustic debonair Eskimos are to Mindless sassy elves as Gorgeous somber acrobats are to?
Learned earthy pimps are to Fearless sneaky Queens as Somber gentle vagrants are to?
Shocking horse wear is to Glossy sled fluid as Damaged chipmunk tongue is to?
Traditional agony chart is to Damp voodoo motel as Backwoods museum quote is to?
Magical cat cabin is to Dapper porpoise humor as Malicious graveyard foam is to?
Therapeutic gazelle cushion is to Stored alibi equipment as Stunning tempo light is to?
Fantastic rascal art is to Wasted prune dust as Jupiter’s ****** law is to?
Little nut razor is to Gigantic hyena shield as Hourglass pillow fever is to?
Coiled rain clouds are to Dizzy tycoon clowns as Lime eating cowards are to?
Possessive epicurean demonstrators are to Faded eavesdropping giants as Determined swanky drunks are to?
Aquatic preview pocket is to Soggy judicial topiary as Finicky hamster fabric is to?
Enlarged fruit cuff is to Obedient mumbling orchestra as Dark tenant tariff is to?
Recycled flash thermometer is to Botched temptation probe as Pet glider grid is to?
Seriously shy idols are to Costly driving perfumes as Ferryboat chapel wine is to?
Winged jalopy details are to Faithful spectral fathers as Sprinkled mint rainbows are to?
Spelling unneeded words is to Sprouting donut ***** as Blaming mellow mallrats are to?
Eroding loom keepsake is to Magnificent accordion canoe as ***** bongo fumes are to?
Souring violet ink is to Juvenile insult park as Periodic ferret envy is to?
Obedient boyfriend aroma is to Sanitized fat lozenges as Dramatic jailer garb is to?
Mysterious patrol group is to Dynamic maiden discharge as Captured hurricane ratio is to?
Lackadaisical bigot bingo is to Oblong care merchant as Expensive swamp shampoo is to?
Petite orifice worship is to Atomic barge pet as Plucked hair exhibit is to?
Elite officer wallop is to Automatic yard rake as Healing ****** glitter is to?
Needless swan costume is to Giant jungle goat as Organic picnic napkin is to?
Leaky jet steam is to Innovative fascist whistle as Enchanting idol evidence is to?
Plastic mascara seduction is to Greasy thermal ointment as Attractive muskrat crease is to?
Lucky camel pills are to White coral Torah as Eternal stage clutter is to?
Roasted oat **** is to Sloppy *** glue as Nylon table debt is to?
Steep nook catastrophe is to Empty dome damage as Pulsing breeze powder is to?
Empty sack power is to Hitched buck stroke as Red claw warning is to?
Ultra brief slogan is to Yummy lab mutant as Pathetic ball armor is to?
Nauseating fish splatter is to Obstinate ****** twitch as Strained ***** coffee is to?
Mezzanine intermission fossil is to Proven **** apathy as Golden duck shroud is to?
Civil tutors torment is to Thor’s posted theory as Yellow melon rain is to?
Immense olive raft is to Exploding kangaroo buffet as Ethereal witness index is to?  
Marching dark speeders are to Searing scribble fighters as **** tripping sinners are to?
Seeping viral angst is to Aged hermit tea as Murky bowl nibble is to?
Condensed blister guzzle is to Pink dorsal pie as Lavish speckled runt is to?
Needy insult poet is to Sedated acorn trader as Dry honey zoo is to?
Veiled trust flicker is to Deranged poser fashion as Flat sizzle tangent is to?
Purified diet spray is to Nebulous wishing target as Thrilling screen dope is to?
Majestic ribbon astronomy is to Bizarre formation sector as Rebel bell gimmick is to?
Sealed dart whisper is to Green silk draft as Cold vacuum varnish is to?
Clumsy raven power is to Insect island circus as Minted mink drapes are to?
Curved map ruler is to Tiny lethal radio as Blue fused metal is to?
Inverted laser invasion is to Damp sheep dump as Puffy gown smoke is to?
Saucy Channel blazer is to Leather goat filament as Starched locomotive hat is to?
Broken jumper leads are to Disgraced mini exorcists as Designer shamrock caulk is to?
Tweaked poachers smokes are to Assorted sulfur pathways as Collected bedlamp trickle is to?
******* bungalow pranks are to Drowsy vapid oafs as Quantized cavern fish are to?
Crawling battle worms are to Vibrating metal pedals as Mentholated matrix wax is to?
Missing meshed rafts are to Liquid rock pipes as Crinkled bean bikinis are to?
Tithing **** joggers are to Perforated buck fronds as Leather zither picks are to?
Fearing truthful cowards is to Rambling preachers mumble as Gazebo ambulance gasoline is to?
Shelving elder’s whiskers is to Poaching goalies pesto as Radical tricycle angst is to?
Mucky gunboat polymer is to Primeval maypole flameout as Cathedral greenhouse intercom is to?
Diaphanous safety prize is to Unleashed saucer lion as Dorky blonde ropewalker is to?
Tapered spring meter is to Silver silo mythology as Misguided judges medallions are to?
Alligator x-ray money is to Cherry unicorn water as Coyote cactus toy is to?
Cowardly dorm scrooge is to Atomized pewter script as Flattened spore smoothies are to?
Trash can yodel is to Flashing wired spam as Exploding chocolate pudding is to?
Sonar blasted bushings are to Threading ruined wheels as Forty shifting boxes are to?
Tiny balloon rebellion is to Softened square cleanser as Iconic soul sucker is to?
Harmony night light is to Spanish nitrogen desire as Squirrel cavern iodine is to?

Lazy winter secret is to Slow airport widget as Silly mustard binder is to?
Elephants raising raisins are to Microscopic lamb planet as Purple hay puppets are to?
Caribou venom vaccine is to Electronic lemonade choir as Demonic princess massage is to?
Beet coated bridge is to Fattened needle point as Mylar monkey spine is to?
Ashy ink dust is to Youngest rabbi planet as Orange cartoon geometry is to?
Cold green chalk is to Cobalt ladder farce as ***** river filters are to?
Sublime sheep master is to Sleeping past rapture as Subliminal bliss jelly is to?
Ocean crust slippers are to Twigged germ radar as Popping sharpie scope is to?
Zen wrapped beep is to Oak foamed code as Wicked flashing sizzle is to?
Dew eyed sleigh is to Say I do as Act as me is to?
Humpback on hammock is to Ham hocking hummer as Hunchback with knapsack is to?
Corned flag jelly is to Draped wing chewers as Tripping swan acid is to?
Futuristic Rembrandt chant is to Almond likened meadows as Asian timber blue is to?
Nap in sack is to Flap on Jack as Ducks dig crack is to?
Flowing flavored lava is to Gleaming optic layers as Enhanced goose gibberish is to?      
Flag tied pajamas are to Saline checker choir as Speed reading quotas is to?
Whipped spam spasms are to Misted shaman scripture as Testing pitched bells is to?
Cave aged eggs are to Crowded tiger cages as ****** wagon pegs are to?
Pigeon towed car is to a Man toad art as Wolf whisker wish is to?
Second hand clothes are to Minute hand gestures as Final hour prayer is to?
Slick wicked shavers are to Tricky watch boxes as Sprouting pine tattoos are to?
Waxed stick ravens are to Match stick foxes as Narrowed thermal towers are to?
Ice cave rice is to Laced face lice as Gourmet pet **** is to?
Diamond lane anniversary is to Space age appropriate as Time travel agency is to?
Lime bark violin is to Lemon twig guitar as Lunar sky waffles are to?
Fake rat **** is to Smart cake batter as Rugged fur tax is to?
Tarred raft fluff is to Flaked rafter dust as Lined liquor flask is to?
Flakes will fall is to Take Bills call as Broken maze compass is to?
First faked voter is to Entombed cartoon honey as Smallest aching smurf is to?
Fancy bared ******* are to Flaky fairy treats as Kings amp filter is to?
Bone window folio is to Whittled fake pillow as Little fitted jackets are to?
Nine nuts brittle is to Ate pear pie as Six packed poppers are to?
Incandescent playground pencil is to Elastic hand worm as Perfumed piano ink is to?
Opal shifting anode is to a Windup lion decoy as Pale paisley trolley is to?
Stacked black boxes are to Old packed tracks as a Throwing micron hammers is to?
Apricot bark furnace is to Merry Orchid Choir as an Ivory rinsing funnel is to?  
Narcotic honey nuts are to Slick flag toffees as Silk fig sugar is to?
Orange coin raisins are to Low note candies as Smelling balled roses is to?
Pocket packed monotints are to Tragic ladder hayracks as Ravishing speed traders are to?
Crayon spider resin is to Coral squirrel forceps as Wolf tumbled loaf is to?  
Silver wheat flies are to Width shifting wheels as Golden blister blankets are to?
Really tiny hippopotamus is to Masked fat podiatrist as a Sad sack psychiatrist is to?
Miniature Mesopotamian monuments are to Apple minted elephants as Raising wise ravens is to?
Lathered nymph nacre is to Sonic ion constellations as Concealed iron craft is to?  
Epic gene toy is to Ladies bubble sled as Jagged data bowl is to?
Bugged dagger bag is to Pop sliced meld as Atom bending moonlight to?  
Rural madam’s deed is to Dyed dew dipper as Eight sprayed dukes are to?
Jiffy grand puffer is to Floating altar myth as Vintage dark mirth is to?
Undercover overnight underwear is to Overpaid undertaker overdosing as Overheard understudy freebasing is to?

Black grape crackle is to Red cactus ruffle as Installing padded pets are to?
Snide snobs sniffing are to Sneaky snails snoring as Snared snipes sneezing are to?
Exploring explosive exits is to Explaining expansive exports as Expecting expert exchange is to?
Shrewd logic ledger is to Puppets dropping cupcakes as Placated topaz octopi are to?
Door roof tools are to Cool wool boots as Wood cooked root is to?
Bright fight light is to Night flight fright as Mites bite site is to?
Floor flood fluid is to Wooden door Druid as Nasty **** broom is to?
Accurate police photography is to Intelligent microbe geography as Condensed aerosol biography is to?
Cowardly cowboy grime is to Corpulent corporate crime as Bosnian dwarf necromancer is to?
Jell-O clearing shaker is to Brillo cleaning shiner as Cheerios bowling shields are to?
Mumbled mindless hokey is to Fumbled found money as Humming kinder bunny is to?
Daisy’s clock setter is to Lilly’s boxer toxin as Poodles rose paddle is to?
Watch Bozo Copernicus is to Hire Clarabelle Newton as Find ***-wee Einstein is to?
Amethyst thistle whistles is to Lapis pistol whip as Diamond bomb scar is to?
Dandelion seahorse rescue is to Crabapple dogwood farm as Faux foxglove lover is to?    
Optical poppy stopper is to Polar halo lens as Day-Glo rainbow sticker is to?
Savanna leopard spotted is to Eskimo lassos kisses as Alligator lemonade standard is to?
Bill of Rights is to Will of left as Thrill of night is to?
Baptize floozies quickly is to Useless outsized nozzles as Puzzled wizard wanders is to?        
Chaps wearing chaps are to Chaps contesting contests as Consoling concealed consoles is to?
Quiet squirming squirrels are to Aeon beauty queens as Queasy greasy luaus is to?
Knew new gnu is to Sense scents cents as We’ll wheal wheel is to?
Blazing zingers ringing are to Wheezing singers flinging as Freezing finger number are to?
Lamb tomb jogger is to Dumb numb **** as Thumbed crumb bug is to?

Blue accordion casket is to Jaded scholar ***** as German mushroom circus is to?
President George Flintstone is to Funny Fred Washington as Abraham Jetson’s dog is to?
Google Desmond Tutu is to Kalamazoo Zoo Park as Zodiac actors Guru is to?
Swamp cradled whisperer is to Cherished drawbridge cello as Bludgeoned prankster outlaws are to?
Dukes pink mittens are to Smeared nest carava
Michael Ryan May 2015
I haven't told anyone--
but I know that my neighbor is dead
because when laying in my bedroom
separated by my wall and his.
I no longer feel him there as I usually did.

He always listened to "Horchata", by vampire weekend
on repeat it played as he slept.
I imagine he wanted to dream of tropical islands
to be back with his wife and child in the Philippines--
every morning it seemed to disappear
at the same moment he could no longer dream his dreams.

Each day making sure to wave to my neighbor
the largest smile I've ever seen was this mans,
with off pigment teeth that speckled in the morning sun
tarnished yellow from all the coffee I brought him;
it was a lovely smile, wish I had it framed to see it still.

As I usually do on Mondays I made my stop
popped open his door bringing his surprise,
some variety of coffee that sits idly on my counter--
inside hung the man I admired,
with a simple note saying "Thank you Young-Man"
and in front of him a scorched photo of his pregnant wife.

placid were his hands in mine--
setting aside the gift, I gave the only thing that I could.
I set the photo in his shirt pocket, "he deserved to be with her"
and putting his cd on repeat as "Horchata" filled the silence
slowly did I depart and head to my own bed.
After calling the police I hoped to fall asleep
and dream of tropical islands of where my neighbor is...
I think this treads the line between only story telling and poetry, all poetry is a story, but not all stories are poetry.  This is my imagining of how someone would feel if they were close to their neighbor and found them 'not with us anymore'.  Honestly it makes me kind of sad to write these poems, and get into the head and feelings of people that go through these things.  I don't know what to title this.
James M Vines Sep 2016
There is a man on the corner with a sign asking for help, is he my neighbor? There is a mother with two small children stranded on the side of the road, is she my neighbor? There is an old couple who live alone and never get any visitors, are they my neighbors? Who is my neighbor, why should I care? Why should I consider anyone of whom I spoke? To remember those who are hopeless and forgotten is to give mercy, which is in turn is to help a neighbor, even though they may be a stranger unto you.
Christ gave the parable of the Samaritan. He said this is your neighbor as he told of the man who helped him. He then commanded us to go and do likewise.
Hales Aug 2018
I have a neighbor upstairs.
He’s always having a bad day,
He’s stomping and yelling,
Which makes me feel sad.
I really don’t know much about him.
I just know he makes my life a lot harder.
He makes me rethink my life when I’m lying in bed.
I hear him walking around, while I dream.

One day he came home really mad.
That day I made a really bad mistake.
I was yelling so loud, I decided to talk to him.
He and I started to get in a huge fight.

Few minutes passed and he and I were still fighting.
We were yelling down each other throats.
I guess we were so loud, my mom came in to check on me.
Little did she know, her worst fear was behind the door?

My mom held her breath and slowly opened the door,
Her mouth dropped open,
She quickly reaches for her phone.
Her daughter is fighting with herself,
Banging her head against a wall,
Yelling “shut up, I just want to sleep”

The EMTs arrive and tie me down,
Even though in my eyes, I’m still yelling with my neighbor
He’s telling me I need to die.                        
I’m the worst neighbor he’s ever had,
The more I think, the more I believe him.
Maybe it is time to die

My neighbor upstairs was actually my depression.
My imagination made a man and put him in my head.
I’ve gone crazy, at least that’s what the doctors say.

But one things for sure,
Soon he will be gone and I’ll get a new neighbor.
This is an original
kim bye Feb 2012
a melody of sameness
drains me of color
leaves me as an outlining
a charcoal line smudged on my sheets

and the tv is full volume, cause my neighbor is on full volume, cause his neighbor is on full volume

red faced people are yelling at each other
they are furious for so many reasons
and i don't feel a whole lot

it's monday, or tuesday, and so on - life humming in my ear
the red faced are cut off by breaking news, by massive destruction and devastation
human suffering
and i don't feel a whole lot

my neighbor bangs his fist on my wall, cause his neighbor is banging on his, and i don't know what day it is

there are bombs, rockets blaring through the night. many casualties they say. mostly women and children
i don't know the women, the children, i don't know my neighbor or my neighbors neighbor
the red faced are back on, gesturing and blaming
i don't feel a whole lot

i boil rice, cause i know how to do it, and children get their legs blown off, and women are decapitated
i'm just a crooked charcoal silhouette on my kitchen wall
cook for fifteen minutes over low flame until water has evaporated or rice is soft

**** and kidnappings and slow death. can someone tell me what day it is?

life is humming in my ear
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Raj Arumugam Oct 2010
1
five moons for earth
sometimes I wish
dear moon
sometimes I wish
the earth had five moons
and all so positioned
we can see
one every night and then in twos and in threes
never four (just so for mystery’s sake)
and then all five
all in perfect alignment once a year
just three nights so
and then we’ll all here on earth
go ga ga ga
or moo moo moo looooney
those nights and go crazy
and climb up trees and enact our ape ancestry …

and don’t you be jealous
I asked for four others;
I just want more of you –
just never seem to get enough of you


2
I see you moon
I see you moon
this cool autumn morning
you sing over the river and trees
and you are supported
by your belly-dance troupe of stars




3
ah poor moon
ah poor moon
you're just hanging around
and through no fault of your own
you attract all these weirdos
these lunatics
and the vampires and the blood-******* bats
and the sleep-walkers and murderers
and the flesh-eaters
(the moon made me do it!)
and the lunatics
and the werewolves
and even stock-pickers
and wild women who want to **** Orpheus

O poor moon
you're just about your own radiant business
and all these freaks put it at your doorstep


4
dear moon, you will understand
darling moon
dear moon
do not be offended
we have stripped you
down to rock and a plain face
and we show pictures of you
in black, gray and white;
and though a writer of verse,
in this verse,
I strip you of your romance and aura;
be not angry
for after all,
you will understand,
we are children who come after
Galileo
and Neil Armstrong



5
Li Po, the moon and me
You know
lovely moon
Li Po
was drunk
and he paddled out to you
seeing your reflection
and he jumped in to the lake
embracing you in the waters
and so he drowned;
but,
you know
loving moon,
I will not come to you thus;
instead you know my time
and you will drown
in the lake shadows of my quiet


6
in praise of the moon
I will not sing you a song of praise
O gentle moon
there are too many modern people around
too many enlightened minds tonight
they reckon they don't need your light;
there are too many elect
and too many going to Heaven
and if I sang in praise of you
they will throw their Blessed Books at me
and they will say
'You moon-worshiper, you go to hell!'
(they fancy words like idolator)

O so most divine moon
O godly moon
O most sacred moon
I shall not sing in praise of you;
there are too many bloodthirsty wolves around


7
was it you, mooon?
cold moon
I am sad;
was it you,
distant moon,
who made me so
tonight?


8
you are there moon
you are there moon;
I thought you were not
and I went to sleep
and I sighed: "She will not come, not tonight;
she has some other lover";
and I went to sleep
and then much later now I wake up
and you've come, out there
and your light full within my room
and your fingers on every cell of my being



9
you witness my dying
you witness my dying
as you see my life, my hopes and desires
and all my embarrassments
and my achievements too,
dear moon;
O quiet presence,
O radiant presence all one's life;
and what do you look at these days
in my life
darling moon
what do you see?
you who have seen the child grow old
and you hang out beaming by the window
patiently
to see one more death
to add to the countless you witness
since the day you came

10
M for Man, Money and Moon
M for moon
M for Man
M for Money;
and at last Man has seen the moonlight
and now they know
Man can make Money out of the Moon

11
Moon, I hear you are moving away
Moon, I hear you are moving away
Why moon, are you moving away?
Don’t you like your neighbor
earth so blue and green
and earthlings so adorable?
Did you not come so near
to get to know your neighbor well?
why then are you moving, moon?
maybe you’ve come to know us well
I hear you’re moving slowly,
so slowly your neighbor doesn’t notice;
how considerate of you
Anyway, I’ll be gone before you
louis rams May 2010
born high in the mountains of Tennessee
With no running water, or electricity.
Living in rags that her father found in the woods
Was her only salvation, her only goods.
They put her in pampers that they had found
***** and filthy and pulled from the ground.
A rock stove and firewood
They would eat when they could.
He did fishing and trapping just to survive.
The closest neighbor was twenty miles away
By the time he walked there he would have to stay.
The neighbor would take all that he trapped
In return give him food, clothing, ammunition and bacon fat.
The neighbor then told him:
This is no way to raise a child.
You’ve been in the mountains quite a while.
Things have changed drastically
In school is where this child should be.
This child must learn how to read and write
What you’re doing to her, just isn’t right.
He packed up his knapsack and up the mountain he fled
Putting her with other children, was something he did dread.
He finally got home where his wife and child awaited
He looked at them and then hesitated.
With gleams in their eyes of the goodies he brought
The child looked in the bag for a doll that she sought.
Not finding the doll in the bag, she turned and walked
Away extremely sad.
She went outside into the woods with
her head hung down and there she stood.
The tears started to form in her eyes
And then just began to cry.
Her father saw this and his heart broke in two
Now he knew what he had to do.
The following morning he went back down the mountain again
To speak to his neighbor, his only friend.
He asked his friend what should I do
My daughter is suffering and feeling blue.
I don’t have the money to buy her things, or send her to school
And living in the mountains is not the right tool.
He said: you are a natural born mountain man
And for you I do have a plan.
How would you like to teach others how to survive
And into your mountains they would climb.
You can teach them how to hunt and fish
This is on a city dwellers wish list.
You will get paid for what you love to do
And to your heart you will be true.
    Looking at his family and the way they lived
An education for his child he had to give.
His friend set up flyers and posted them all over town
And on the internet this mountain man was found.
He brought his child down from the mountain top
And until she had an education he would not stop.
She stayed with this neighbor and friend
And saw all that she had missed
She was in heaven, she was in bliss.
Her father now made enough to continue her education
And to learn those golden rules, now he knew she had the tools.
She grew up with hope in their heart
And her father and neighbor gave her the start.
Now don’t ever think that there is nothing
That you can’t do.
With hope in your heart, you can follow thru.

HOPE IS THE KEY TO SET OURSELVES FREE.
- From stories of hope series
louis rams May 2013
this is the first story of my hope series for your reading pleasure

Stories Of Hope Series #1 living in poverty-the trapper and family


Born high in the mountains of Tennessee
With no running water, or electricity.
Living in rags that her father found in the woods
Was her only salvation, her only goods.
They put her in pampers that they had found
***** and filthy and pulled from the ground.
A rock stove and firewood
They would eat when they could.
He did fishing and trapping just to survive.
The closest neighbor was twenty miles away
By the time he walked there he would have to stay.
The neighbor would take all that he trapped
In return give him food, clothing, ammunition and fat.
The neighbor then told him:
This is no way to raise a child.
You’ve been in the mountains quite a while.
Things have changed drastically
In school is where this child should be.
This child must learn how to read and write
What you’re doing to her, just isn’t right.
He packed up his knapsack and up the mountain he fled
Putting her with other children, was something he did dread.
He finally got home where his wife and child awaited
He looked at them and then hesitated.
With gleams in their eyes of the goodies he brought.
The child looked in the bag for a doll that she sought.
Not finding the doll in the bag, she turned and walked
From the room looking so sad
She went outside deep in the woods
her head hung down and there she stood.
The tears started to form in her eyes
And then she did cry.
Her father saw this and his heart broke in two
Now he knew what he had to do.
The following morning he went back down the mountain again
To speak to his neighbor, his only friend.
He asked his friend what should I do
My daughter is suffering and feeling blue.
I don’t have the money to buy her things, or send her to school
And living in the mountains is not the right tool.
He said: you are a natural born mountain man
And for you I do have a plan.
How would you like to teach others how to survive
And into your mountains they would climb.
You can teach them how to hunt and fish
This is on a city dwellers wish list.
You will get paid for what you love to do
And to your heart you will be true.
Looking at his family and the way they lived
An education for his child he had to give.
His friend set up flyers and posted them all over town
And on the internet this mountain man was found.
He brought his child down from the mountain top
And until she had an education he would not stop.
She stayed with this neighbor and friend
And saw all that she had missed
She was in heaven, she was in bliss.
Her father now made enough to continue her education
And to learn those golden rules, now he knew she had the tools.
She grew up with hope in their heart
And her father and neighbor gave her the start.
Now don’t ever think that there is nothing
That you can’t do.
With hope in your heart, you can follow thru.
HOPE IS THE KEY TO SET OURSELVES FREE.

louis rams
first step

when he looks at a woman he searches for qualities that attract him because he wants to desire her yet this tendency creates an imbalance or disadvantage he is rendered weak to a woman’s beauty or whatever traits he idealizes self-realizing this propensity he looks away from women years of disappointment neglect change him he becomes afraid of women gynophobic

2

when she looks at a man she searches for qualities she is critical of because she wants to be impervious to his power she is suspicious of all men their upper body strength penchant to be in control misperception of women as property misogyny emotional immaturity neediness to be mommyed selfishness insensitivity or over-sensitivity depending she wants to be treated with equal respect a loving nurturing relationship she is suspicious of all people their alternate realities passive aggressive behavior co-dependence craziness

3

he sees her then looks away she suspiciously notices nothing happens they go back to their separate homes alone always home alone grown calm in resignation yet disbelieving of this destiny saddened by this fate both worry about future she looks at her face naked body in mirror her stomach churns feels sad sickening remembers time when she was more carefree he puts one foot in front of other then walks tries to remember who taught him to walk how many times did he fall who taught him to laugh where did his sense of humor go

4

he sees her thinks she is lovely resists the urge to turn away he smiles says hello she notices nervously smiles her shaky voice articulates louder than a whisper hi

Tucson 2-step

they are standing in line at a café on 4th avenue he is directly behind her she is lanky wearing white background faded colors patterned summer dress thin straps over bare shoulders long brown hair few gray strands small unfinished tattoo on left calf leather slip-ons 1 inch heals he is at a complete loss for words thinks to make remark about the weather decides not to overhead fan stirs hot humid July air barista girl asks what she would like her eyes scan blackboard menu behind counter she hesitates remarks help him i need an extra moment to decide he steps up to counter money in hand orders small to go Arnold Palmer half black current lays $3 on counter mentions change goes in tip jar thank you barista girl moves fast he lifts cup from counter glances at woman still deciding then at barista girl says have a wonderful day turns walks out door dawns on him woman grows hair under her arms his 2nd most compelling female physique adornment fetish oh god he thinks to himself should i wait for her to make up her mind then approach try to craft conversation at least find out her name no i’m too weak in this moment she is so lovely let her go

2

she orders double Americana in small cup to go room for soy milk thinks to herself he did greet her perhaps their paths will cross on street why did he run off so fast she glances toward front of café notices window seat changes her mind instructs barista ******* 2nd thought make it for here digs through purse realizes she left wallet in truck explains to barista girl she needs to run out to her vehicle to retrieve wallet forgotten under front seat the air on the street is heavy dense she smells her own perspiration looks north then south does not see him walks to truck feels exhausted appetiteless almost nauseous wishes she did not order a drink thinks to get behind wheel drive home go to sleep

Tucson 3-step tango

she feels disappointment by her recent writings as if she is reaching a more sophisticated audience and setting a higher standard for her work yet she is not living up to her ambitions her recent writings smell of her past writings too emotional the damaged woman wounded child she wants to write more introspectively with detached humor that only comes from keener intelligence she slams her laptop shut decides to go to Club Congress for a ****** mary or margarita but Club Congress is haunted with small town cretins losers wannabes she considers Maynard’s decides Maynard’s is too safe suburban yuppyish finally gives in to thought of glass of pinot noir at Plush next comes what to wear jeans in mid-July desert heat is unacceptable perhaps loose fitting thin cotton white summer dress thin leather belt ankle high indian moccasins hair in ponytail no pigtail braids no ponytail no makeup maybe little ylang ylang oil no she thinks about her recent writings

2

i am one breath away from crying in every moment one breath away from flying m.i.a. in every moment one breath away from destroying everything there is beauty in ugliness beauty in decrepitude disease beauty in harm hurt suffering beauty in greed injustice betrayal beauty in corruption contamination pollution beauty in hate cruelty ignorance beauty in death we spend our whole lives searching for a good death we spend our whole lives searching for eternal love this modern world is too much for me over my head the horrors of this place are beyond words unspeakable voice inside maybe mom yells quit your whining or dad hollers stop complaining i am trying to smile through tears one breath away from giving in one breath away from becoming stranger to myself winter spring winter spring there is beauty in nothingness we spend our whole lives searching for ourselves learning who we are not finding grasping secrets from dark paths light trails winter spring winter spring i am one breath away

3

she sits alone at bar at Plush glass of pinot noir glass of ice water in front of her 2 bearded older men eye her from other end of bar she ignores them glances at her wristwatch tries to look like she is waiting for someone music from speakers antiquated rock standard it is early friday hours from dusk moderate middle aged crowd mingle wait for local jazz trio to begin she thinks about her recent writings wonders is it too late for love considers lesbian affair from 5 different perspectives 5 woman’s voices each describing same lesbian affair in 5 opposing accounts hmmm she sips dark red wine from glass chases it with ice water she considers a story about a gang of female bikers who ride south to Mexico

4

the Americans came through here last night crossing border illegally climbing over our fences digging tunnels beneath our barrier walls littering along their trail they travel in packs of every skin color carry guns knives explosives wear leather boots some are shirtless tattoos dyed hair mischievously smiling conceitedly stealing when in question murdering they rob our homes slaughter our chickens ransack gardens loot our harvest you can still smell the stink of their fast food breaths

5

she swallows the last dark red wine from glass chases it with ice water local jazz trio begins to play as bar fills with more people she decides to walk home one foot in front of other wonders who taught her how to walk how many times did she fall she laughs to herself

Tucson square dance

TPD 10-18 unconfirmed data report

7 post-University of Arizona female graduates go to Cactus Moon for several drinks and dancing then drive to Bashful Bandit for more drinks and dancing 2 women get into scuffle victim Brittany Garner female 23 years of age race #5 (Native American, Eskimo, Middle -Eastern, Other) 5’ 2” long black hair cut-off blue jean shorts clingy light blue top falls hits head on side of bar dies of fatal blow to skull forensics report crushed occipital lobe assailant Stacy Won female 31 years of age race #4 (Asian) 5’6” black jeans black leather jacket red helmet Honda motorcycle still at large

witness accounts

Jess Delaney female 33 years of age race #2 (White) 6’ tight black pencil skirt white sleeveless undershirt no bra 3” heels blond ponytail “that squirting little **** deserves everything she got she lied told Stacy i’m a ***** i never cheated on Brittany i don’t understand we were all having a good time getting buzzed and dancing we should never have left Cactus Moon **** Kerrie thought some biker dude might be hanging around the Bandit hell maybe the Bandit was a biker bar once but now it’s just a college sink hole full of drunken frat boys when Monique flashed a little *** they went crazy cheering and buying us shots it just got out of hand never should have happened the way it happened Stacy didn’t mean to **** Brittany it’s ****** up i want to go home please let me go home”

Sabrina Starn female 29 years of age race #2 (White) 5’8” trendy corporate gray suit black pumps red shoulder length hair “i have to be at work at 8 AM Stacy was drunk out of control she gets crazy when she drinks Brittany was trash talking pushing all Stacy’s buttons then Stacy accused Brittany of sleeping with Monique and all hell broke loose i didn’t see what happened i was in the powder room it’s a terrible tragedy unfortunate accident can i please be released i need to sleep this is madness”

Kerrie Angeles female 27 years of age race #1 (Hispanic) 5’ 6” black pants white shirt black hair cut stylishly short silver crucifix around neck red fingernails “when we got to the Bashful Bandit i was ***** soaking between my legs thinking about a cowgirl at Cactus Moon ready to **** anyone i saw fantasized pulling a train with those frat boys Monique had been kind of quiet at Cactus Moon but when we got to the Bashful Bandit she lit up dancing wild unbuttoning her top jacket Sabrina went to the ladies room to snort coke with biker dude Kerrie wanted but he wasn’t into her then Brittany started saying crazy stuff accusing Stacy of stealing Monique from Jess Jessie goes through women heartlessly she doesn’t give a **** about Monique Jessie knows if she wants Monique back she can simply fiddle a finger my guess is Stacy is half way to Argentina she never meant to **** Brittany i’m going to miss her real bad she was a good kid”

Ann Skyler female 28 years of age race  #2 (White) 4’ 11’’ green white red Mexican peasant skirt black t-shirt black high-tops hair in messy bun “i’m confused i saw them dancing laughing grinding up against each other Rage Against the Machine came on then Nine Inch Nails the room felt quaking dizzy claustrophobic then they were pushing each other shoving yelling frat boys cheering the next thing i knew Brittany was supine on the floor blood pouring out maybe she just slipped hit her head i don’t know what to think i feel real sad confused sick to my stomach scared”

Monique Smithson female 24 years of age race # 3 (Black) 5’ 9” blue jeans jean jacket cowboy boots nose ring braided pigtails “Stacy had it in for Brittany from the start i saw it in her eyes at Cactus Moon she made several clever toxic remarks they snapped at each other i never thought it would escalate to ****** poor sweet Brittany was always so susceptible i was looking down adjusting my jeans over my boots when it happened i heard felt a big thump glanced up Brittany was lying there lifeless blood spilling everywhere Stacy ran out fast i heard her bike engine take off in a hurry”

Rodeo Drive Tucson

matt’s hats tom’s tools & tobacco lou’s liquors fred’s beds frank’s planks bill’s drills jane’s drains & panes chuck’s check cashing cheryl’s barrels hank’s tanks tina’s trucks & tractors walt’s asphalt sean’s pawn rick’s rifles mom’s guns terry’s tires charlie’s harleys rhonda’s hondas jim’s rims art’s parts gus’s gasoline mike’s bikes frank’s feed gwen’s pens ann’s cans nancy’s nursery joes‘s clothes jess’s dresses bert’s skirts steve’s sleeves paul’s shawls michelle’s shells & bells al’s pails & snails sam’s hams & jams patty’s pancakes phil’s chili don’s donuts betty’s spaghetti bob’s burgers alycia’s quiches jean’s beans jerry’s berries anna’s bananas andy’s candies cathy’s taffies tony’s ponies roy’s toys kim’s whims marty’s parties jill’s pills rick’s tricks alice’s palace debbie’s disposal dave’s graves

Quinta Waltz de Tucson

she is definitely displeased profoundly disappointed in her latest literary efforts she dreams aches to create deeper discourse higher insight more thoughtful philosophical inquiries about life’s challenges beauty a better world overpowering love inspiration instead she writes paperback television trash stupid inadequate answers to solemn questions she wonders if she is too scratched dented to find love her ******* are definitely changing she is deeply disturbed not ready for menopause too young for menopause she wants to remain a fertile woman with smooth skin wet ******

2

her neighbor Leslie awoke to horrible morning Leslie’s 6 chickens were assaulted overnight precious Mabel dragged off feathers everywhere trail down the street other hens cowering slumped together with wilted necks 3 of them with puncture wounds Leslie carried them one by one inside washed their wounds hugged them cried who did this terrible act a neglected abusive neighborhood cat or some desert predator why didn’t Leslie wake to sounds of savage marauding now this creature knows hen’s whereabouts when will it return for more massacre what modifications need to be enforced to ensure their coup before nightfall

3

she wants to remain a hen keep producing eggs does not want is not ready to enter the next **** stage of this **** existence it was fun being pretty for men inspiring them to say do whacky things she wants to remain a hen she is definitely displeased profoundly disappointed in her latest literary attempts “Tucson square dance” (self-referential) ****** bit about Americans came through here last night in “Tucson 3-step” ****** "Rodeo Drive" tepid perhaps the pinot noir lowered her standards everything is becoming nothing she cannot sleep tosses turns thrashes sheets in humid heat of her lonesome bed is she is too scratched dented to find love she worries for Leslie

4

tomorrow is another day they say the rain will come last year’s monsoon never came the baking sun smothered her garden died one by one sleepless she will miss tomorrow’s pilates class the infrequent delightful chatty breakfast afterwards she dreams aches of deeper discourse higher insight with detached humor that only comes from keener intelligence more thoughtful philosophical inquiries about life’s challenges beauty a better world overpowering love inspiration she crossed the line tonight her ******* are definitely changing

Tucson 666

he decides to shave eighth to quarter inch length salt and pepper beard a.k.a. unshaven look he has worn for years and grow full mustache the whiskers on his upper lip are darker with sparse gray at first no one notices after weeks the mustache gradually fills evoking many contrasting remarks several women loath it several men admire it girl at grocery store suggests he grow Fu Manchu so she can tug on it shopgirl says he looks like Charlie Chaplin downstairs neighbor from Turkey explains most Turkish men traditionally wear mustaches he read mustaches masculinize and empower men especially men in authoritative positions he thinks back to the 1960’s when many hippie males grew mustaches then in the 70’s gay men fashioned mustaches then in the 80’s cops adopted mustaches he wonders why a swatch of hair beneath nose is so provoking examines his visage in mirror discerns the mustache confers a Pepé le Pew quality or European accent to his appearance he remembers when he was young hippie with many amorous episodes how his mustache preserved the scent of a woman but there are no women in his life for many years do post-menopausal women possess scent? he feels indecisive whether to retain it or be rid of it

2

she observes her figure in mirror thinks to herself maybe her ******* are not changing perhaps it’s all in her head she inspects the little lines forming near her eyelids studies her features for signs of aging hardly any silver strands in long brown hair she examines neck ******* arms elbows fingers tummy hips pelvic region thighs knees shins calves ankles feet detects subtle changes thinks to herself my ******* are possibly slightly changing turned 40 in March married briefly in late teens no children a 15 year old dog beginning to suffer veterinarian promises to warn her when the time comes she wonders why it is so difficult finding fitting mate men sleep with her several times then move on maybe she is not such a great lover perhaps she would be better if one of them stuck around perhaps she is a lesbian the whole ide
Annie Feb 2017
Once upon a thyme
In an herbed house
Their lived a witch
Whose ripe rampion
Was so overpowering
That the neighbors
Left bottles of febreeze
On her doorstep.

The witch didn’t care
- But
In the flat-ironed town
Of Lunch time lipo
Where you were defined
By your eating disorder
She looked like
An Omish escapee
With hips that wriggled
And ******* that jiggled

So her cell phone number
Wasn’t in anyone’s top five
-Except
For one confused neighbor
Who never made it to college
And got to experiment
Like a true Gemini.

Now imagine the witch’s surprise
When this neighbor confides
That she would love to eat
Her ripe rampion.
- Naturally
The witch agreed.
It was nice to have something
That somebody else wanted
Though it was exhausting
For the neighbor
Who munched day and night.

And if one surprise
Wasn’t enough
The witch discovered that her
Neighbor was pregnant.
Now the witch had many powers
But that wasn’t one of them.
It appeared that her neighbor
Found her husbands
Carrot patch to
Quite esculent also.

And the witch
Being a picky Virgo
With a jealous Scorpion moon
Thought that her neighbor
Should not
Have spun around the vegetable
Color wheel quite so fast
And so in a fit of temper
She stole her baby
And locked her away
In an ivory tower.

Initially everything worked out
Until the oil crisis
And then the witch couldn’t
Visit Rapunzel quite as often
As she would have liked
Not with gasoline
Being so expensive
And so Rapunzel became bored
And started chatting to
Prince charming
On her face-book wall.

The witch took all the hopeful Trojans
That the prince had left
On previous visits
And tied them together
To form a rubbery step ladder
And when she heard him shout
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel…let down your hair!"
She threw this at him…angling it
With just a little thread of hate.

Prince charming grew all shivery
And put on his worst
Austin powers "Oh behave" accent
Thinking of the delights
That awaited him

However, his shivery-ness
Soon became a full body tremor
When the witch met him
On the top rung
And he knew quick enough
This wasn’t a
Ménage à trois.

The prince spent many months
In traction
Recuperating from his fall.
Rapunzel was sent off
To boarding school.
And as for the witch…
She dropped twenty pounds
And got her own reality show
*Housewives of Salem county.
TlvGuy Jun 2014
My neighbor
Steals my morning newspaper
Off my doorstep every day
For years
And now, he moved on
Maybe to another city
Maybe he's dead

As for Me,
I was left here
With unnecessary newspapers
And no one to focus
My burning hate on
Zeeb Jul 2015
Hotrod
Verse I

Wrenches clanging, knuckles banging
A drop of blood the young man spilt
A new part here, and old part… there
A hotrod had been built!
A patchwork, mechanical, quilt

Feelings of excitement not unlike those of Christmas mornings long past paid visit to the young man, his head under a raised hood, hands occupied, the job nearing completion.  Did building that Lionel train-set so long ago form some type of pattern in his brain, now being so pleasurably served?  The good feelings would dissipate though, as quickly as they came, as he cursed himself for stripping a bolt, or cursed someone else for selling him the wrong part, or the engineer whose design goals obviously did not consider “remove and replace”.  He cursed the “gorilla” that never heard of a torque-wrench, the glowing particle of **** that popped on to the top of his head as he welded, the metal chip he flushed from his eye, and even himself for the burn he received by impatiently touching something too soon after grinding.  He, and his type, cursed a lot, but mostly to their selves as they battled-on with things oily, hot, bolted, welded, and rusty – in cramped spaces. One day it was choice words for an “easy-out” that broke off next to a broken drill bit that had broken off in a broken bolt, that was being drilled for an easy out.    Despite the swearing, the good and special feelings, feelings known only to those with a true capacity for this type of passion, would always return, generally of a magnitude that exceeded the physical pain and mental frustration of the day, by a large margin.   Certifiably obsessive, the young man continued to toil dutifully, soulfully, occasionally gleefully, sometimes even expertly, in his most loved and familiar place, his sanctuary, laboratory… the family garage.

And tomorrow would be the day.
Fire extinguisher? “ Right there”
Battery? “Charged and connected”
Neutral?  “yes”
Brake?  “Set”
And with hard learned, hard earned expertise and confidence, in this special small place, a supremely happy and excited young man commanded his creation to life.

Threw  a toggle, pressed a switch
Woke up the neighbors with that *******

The heart of his machine was a stroked Chevy engine that everyone had just grown sick hearing about.  Even the local machine shop to which the boy nervously entrusted his most prized possession had had enough.  “Sir, I don’t want to seem disrespectful, but from what I’ve read in Hot Rod Magazine, you might be suggesting a clearance too tight for forged pistons…” then it would be something else the next day.   One must always speak politely to the machinist, and even though he always had, the usual allotment of contradictions and arguments afforded to each customer had long run out – and although the shop owner took a special liking to the boy because, as he liked to say, “he reminds me of me”, well, that man was done too.  But in the end, the mill was dead-on.  Of course from the start, the shop knew it would be; that’s almost always the case; it’s how they stay in business - simply doing good work.  Bad shops fall out quickly, but this place had the look of times gone by.  Good times.  Old porcelain signs, here and there were to be found, all original to the shop and revered by the older workers in honored nostalgia.  The younger workers get it too; they can tell from the men they respect and learn from, there is something special about this past.  One sign advertises Carter Carburetors and the artwork depicts “three deuces”, model 97’s, sitting proudly atop a flathead engine, all speeding along in a red, open roadster.  Its occupants a blond haired boy with slight freckles (driver), and a brunette girl passenger, white blouse slightly unbuttoned,  both in the wind-blown cool, their excited expressions proclaim… "we are free!" (and all you need is a Carter, or three).

The seasoned old engine block the boy entrusted to the shop cost him $120-even from the bone yard.  Not a bad deal for a good block that had never had its first 0.030” overbore.  In the shop, it was cleaned, checked for cracks, measured and re-measured, inspected and re-inspected.  It was shaped and cut in a special way that would allow the stroker crankshaft, that was to be the special part of this build, to have all the clearance it would need.  The engine block was fitted with temporary stress plates that mimic the presence of cylinder heads,  then the cylinders were bored to “first oversize”,  providing fresh metal for new piston rings to work against.  New bearings were installed everywhere bearings are required.  Parts were smoothed here and there.  Some surfaces were roughened just so, to allow new parts to “work-into each other” when things are finally brought together.  All of this was done with a level of precision and attention far, far greater than the old “4- bolt” had ever received at the factory on its way to a life of labor in the ¾ ton work truck from which it came.  They called this painstaking dedication to precision measurement and fit, to hitting all specifications “on the mark”, “blueprinting”, and it would continue throughout the entire build of this engine.  The boy stayed  worried the whole time, but the shop had done it a million times.

After machining, the block was filled with new and strong parts that cost the young man everything he had.   Parts selected with the greatest of effort, decision, and debate.  “ You can compromise on paint”,” live with some rust”, he would say,  “wait for good tires”, “but never scrimp on the engine”.  Right on.  You get one shot at getting that right, and this proclamation demonstrated wisdom but also provided ample excuse for the rough and unfinished look of the rest of his machine.  But it was just a look, his car was, in fact, “right”.   And its power plant?  Well the machine shop had talked their customer into letting them do the final engine assembly - even cut their price to do it.  They were looking out for the boy.  The mill in its final form was the proper balance of performance and durability, and with its camshaft so carefully selected, the engine's “personality” was perfectly matched to the work at hand.   It would produce adequate torque in the low RPM range to get whole rig moving quickly, yet deliver enough horsepower at red-line to pile on the MPH, fast.  No longer a polite-natured workhorse, this engine, this engine is impatient now.  High compression, a rapid, choppy idle - it seems to be biting at the bit – to be released.  On command, it gulps its mixture and screams angrily, and often those standing around have a reflexive jump - the louder, the better - the more angry, the better.  If it hurts your ears, that’s a good feeling.  If its bark startles, that’s a good startle.  A cacophony?  No, the “music” of controlled explosions, capable of thrusting everything and everyone attached, forward, impolitely, on a rapid run to “red-line”, and it keeps pulling hard and delivering power while spinning fast because it is breathing right and proper and producing the power that thrills, and the only reason to shift gears is to preserve connecting rods, eager as the engine may be to rev further!

This is the addictive sound and feel that has appealed to a certain type of person since engines replaced horses, and why?  A surrogate voice for those who are otherwise quiet?  A visceral celebration of accomplishment?    Who cares.  Shift once, then again - speed quickly makes its appearance.  It appears as a loud, rushing wind and a visually striking, unnatural view of the surrounding scenery.  At some point, in the sane, it triggers a natural response - better slow down.    


He uncorked the headers, bought gasoline, dropped her in gear, tore off to the scene
Camaros and Mustangs, an old ‘55
Obediently lined-up, to get skinned alive!


Verse II (1st person)

I drove past the banner that said “Welcome race fans” took a new route, behind the grandstands
And through my chipped window, I thought I could see
Some of the racers were laughing at me

I guess rust and primer are not to their taste
But I put my bucks mister in the right place

I chugged/popped past cars that dealers had sold
Swung into a spot, next to something old

Emerging with interest from under his hood
My neighbor said two words, he said, “sounds good”

The ’55 I parked next to was “classic rodding” in its outward appearance.  The much overused “primer paint job” channeled “Two Lane Blacktop”.  The hood and front fenders a fiberglass clamshell, pinned affair.  Dice hanging from the mirror paid homage to days its driver never knew, but wished he had.  He removed them before he drove, always.

If you know how to peel the onion, secrets are revealed.  Wilwood brake calipers can be a dead giveaway. Someone needs serious stopping power - maybe.  Generally, owners who have sprung the bucks for this type gear let the calipers show off in bright red, to make a statement, and sometimes, these days, it’s just a fashion statement.  Now, expensive calipers, as eye candy, are all the rage.  What is true, however, is very few guys spend big money on brakes only to render them inglorious and seemingly common with a shot of silver paint from a rattle can, and the owner of this ’55 had done just that. 

Two things seem to be at play here.  One, he needs those heavy brakes because he’s fast, and two, hiding them fits his style.   Really, the message to be found in the silver paint, so cleverly applied to make your eyes simply slide across on their way to more interesting things, was “sleeper”.   And sleeper really means, he’s one of those guys with a score to settle - with everyone perhaps.   The list of “real parts” grew, if you knew where to look.  Something I had defacto permission to do since my rod was undergoing a similar scrutiny.  
“Stroked?”, I asked.  That’s something you can’t see from the outside. “ No”, the racer replied.  
“Hundred shot?”  (If engines have their language, so do the people who love them).   Despite the owner’s great efforts to conceal braided fuel and nitrous lines, electrical solenoids and switches, I spied his system.  The chunks of aluminum posing as ordinary spacers under his two carburetors were anything but.   “No”, was his one-word reply to my 100- shot question.  I tried again; “Your nitrous system, how much are you spraying?”  “Two hundred fifty” in two stages, he said.  That’s more like it, I thought, and I then figured, he too had budgeted well for the machine shop – if not, he was gambling in a game that if lost, would fly parts in all directions.   Based on the overall vibe of the scene, and the clean work on display, I believed his build was up to the punishment he planned.   I knew exactly what this tight-lipped guy was about, seeing someone very familiar in him as it were, and that made the “sounds good” complement I received upon my arrival all the more valuable.

The voice on the loudspeaker tells us we’re up.

Pre-staged, staged, then given the green
The line becomes blurred between man and machine

Bones become linkage
Muscle, spring
Fear, excitement

Time distorts ….
Color disappears …
Vision narrows…
Noise ---  becomes music
Speed, satisfaction

End
Morgan Aug 2013
The sky is bright on a Sunday afternoon
My neighbor steps outside
He's got his pitbull on a leash
And he's rocking a pair of bare feet
I'm lying in the grass
Inhaling menthol
And listening to the cars hurry past
His eyes narrow to protect themselves
from the burning sun
When he waves,
I just nod
We're friends
We're friends because we say hello
And we never ask questions...
We just kind of know
He hears me weep from the edge of my bed
I hear him scream at the stars
When he stumbles out into the night
Just two normal people
When the days are turning
And the public is watching,
But we know more about each other
Than anyone else ever will
Without even knowing each other's names
And so we give that omniscient smile,
Like
*"Hey I'm crazy too
We're gonna make it through"
And we do
My alcoholic, pitbull having neighbor & I
We make it through
And no one knows
And no one cares
But we've got each other
He waves
I nod
That's all
bianca Aug 2013
gay
the church says love thy neighbor
and the crowd follows it.
but why does the crowd go against gay marriage?

and yes, i know, it is Adam and Eve
but why can't others understand
some people want Adam and Steve?

when others see a woman kissing the same gender
they stare in disgust and whisper to its neighbor
"look at that disgusting woman kissing another woman"
and the neighbor can't do anything but protest in silence
inspired by BriBry's coming out/gay poem. x
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2018
where was i? right, anywhere but here,
listening to some medieval music,
i sometimes sit in one place,
fade, and then find myself sitting
in the same place with a question
on the tip of my tongue: where am i?!

hard not to notice:
heaven reigns supreme with
a "st." michael coming down
with the sword...
depiction, please!
where's satan?
  coming from below armed only
with a tongue...
fair fight, by anyone's standard:
i'm dripping sweat from both
ridicule and sarcasm...

st. michael comes down with a sword...
satan rises up with a flaming tongue,
does satan lick michael's sword
to draw the blood required for
running the heart factory?

               medieval people and their
"nuanced" explanation...
so many images contra words
contra literacy of the people outside
the realm of monks...

   satan rises from the depths of
     hell saying: i wish a socratic dialectic
with god...
god replies: michael i will send armed
with swords...
who ever said: the quill is mightier than
than the sword,
implied: when the tongue has
to be necessarily silenced? then!

      das schwart,
          das feder,
    das zunge...

       how many definite articles are
there in deutsche? das, der, die?
too many or too few?

         always with "st." michael armed
with a sword...
and satan... armed with only his tongue!
i guess, the tongue becomes a tank,
while the sword becomes a feather's
tickling effect...

    angehoben das teufel von der
    tiefe: und gab sie namen...

  (raised the devils from the depths:
  and gave them names)...

why is satan only armed with a flaming tongue,
while "st." michael is armed with a sword?
is god, the god-dialectic / theology
so afraid that it has to remain topped
with unchallenged imagery
                         of sword contra tongue?

ich werden anfangen:
   ich werden treffen du hälfteweg...
            im schreiben...

                  satan rose to a depiction
with "st." michael: disarmed...
  tongue in mouth: which should have been
his hand, "st." michael descended with
a sword... come to think of it,
with satan's tongue cut off...
it still spoke to "st." michael within his
hand...
  the sword overcame the medium...
and so writing was born...
once upon a time when satan's tongue
in his hand began licking the sword
of michael...
            and? if the contemporaries
should hope to know:
writing is the res extensa medium
of res cogitans:
            writing is an extension of thinking:
it's not an invitation to speak...

writing cannot be speaking,
however much commentaries you leave
behind...
writing is an extension of thinking:
it's not an invitation to speak...

it's no disguise...
    in terms of the depiction...
enough of Milton and Dante and...
satan came to the summit
  without his armour without his weapons...
the summit of the plateau...
tongue in gob and joke in cheek...
while "st." michael descended
wit a sword and a missing tongue...
it would appear that god cut out
"st." michael's tongue before his descent
while arming him with a sword to
cut the conversation even shorter
than it was supposed to be, to take place...

the aspired to monotheistic monogamy
of king Solomon,
to imitate swans...
    Muhammad's lost enterprise of
the: greatest harem the world has ever
seen... sorry... Muo-Mo-Hammie:
the macedonian alexander beat you to
the count of 365 concubines...
as did genghis khan...
           so many pakistanis with khan
as a surname...
             your failed harem ambition?
compared to the otherwise world "greats"?
with the ******* promise of 72 virgins
post-mortem? that ship is sinking in my head...
muhammad failed in the ambition
of averaging a 100+ concunbine **** fest...
so he promised 72 for those that believed in
him...
   and if he was ever competing with
king solomon? look at solomon...
         he chose monogamy in the end...
i guess it's a noble enterprise to come back
among the lizards...
to spawn from an egg: from an womb
made external by an egg in the form of a bird...
birds: half mammal half lizard...
            muhammad failed at having
an envious harem...
                which makes me a little bit envious
of him... compared to the others...
he's quiet honest...
        but if he was illiterate...
    who the **** wrote the Quran?
    what's that book, in praise of older women?
andrás vajda...
   who would have written the first
verses (if not the last) of the Quran if not
khadijah **** khuwaylid?

i'm sorry to say: the feeling of conversation
soon turns into a feeling of conversion,
me, beer in hand, park, bench,
an old pakistani walks up to me...
flips out a digital Quran,
tries to convert me...
     opens the book on surah al-baqarah...
i point at three words...
what are these, i ask?
he replies: oh... only allah knows...
really?! really?! i ask myself...

    the three words?
   alif. lam. meem.

           allah knows?!
guess i'm allah then...
given alif: أَلِف  (α, א) a-lif
                 lam: لاَم (λ, ל) l-am
   and meem: مِيم (μ, מ) m'eem...

so yeah, "god" knows...
   how was this old pakistani going to convert
me, supposing i was simply some european
"drunk" sitting on a bench, drinking beer,
assuming i was ease target for
isis propaganda?!

    "god knows"... when it comes
to old pakistanis trying to
             recruit young europeans...
god knows ****!

if this old pakistani was seeking an easy target
like some paedo, he was much mistaken,
what does a pumpernickle (has) to do with
a windmill?! zilch!
i'm not going to exactly crawl out
of my walther von der vogelweider:
        palästinalied
that much easier...
i won't....
   i just think:
the yids have tight defences
against proselytes... they abhor converts...
islam, welcomes them,
at their own peril...
          and there i was thinking that
urdu was "superior" to sanskrit...
an old pakistani tells me "god knows"
in relation to alif. lam. meem.

             i guess the quran has an inbuilt
proselyte defence mechanism:
in reverse... ask a muslim what alif. lam. meem.
means... if they tell you: only god knows...
ha ha...
              hello stupid...
                            is the islamic world playing
a jewish game of gematria?
are the three letters supposed to represent
some sort of "covert" message?
A.L.M.?
        what, based on the hebrew alphabet
where "a" is not an an A but a consonant(s)
akin to ayin and aleph?!
the gay genesis?
          
                really?
                 we: the europeans were perhaps
the barbarians in the medieval years,
harrowed by the cold...
lucky us: lucky me: we did learn to read...
so ignorant of the pakis to presume
such and such...

             that we are still unable to read
and will fall for the next sort of *******...
look at us! we even began to question
christianity with the unearthing of
the nag hammadi library where
jesus played chinese whispers with
st. thomas!

   next time i'll be listening to a camel jockey
or a magic carpet ride aladdin
i'll ask them: you dehydrated, or something?!
oh forget h'america,
their evangelical ******* is worth
as much as a free microwave or a toaster...

_

hell man...
    i mean my neighbor smokes
16 8ths in a spare of the week...

wha?
    ****...
   i remember i used to smoke
an 8th over the week...

yeah... an 1/8... of an ounce...
he smokes two ounces
in a week,
  
gets the **** on discount...
but still has to cough up
over 100 quid for the stash...

but... but... these organic
cigarettes you're pushing?

ha ha... **** me... holy basil
(tulsi leaves) -
and the peppermint and green
tea leaves?
   in ******, whatever you want
to call it, rolling paper...

i've seen the inner sleeve -
big fan of hunter s. thompson,
i suspect...
   otherwise you wouldn't
have used the second, plastic
filter...
  
   tell you what... don't put
that plastic filter on every cigarette -
halve it...
     or provide two or three...
it's reusable -
        i smoked one of your
placebo marijuana joints...
  and then i'm going to smoke
a red Indian cough-up...

   ah... these blue Indians...
Vishnu centrists -
   beyond blue blooded,
more blue skinned herbalists...

dunno... the effects are subtle...
you can only tell the difference
if you actually smoke tobacco...

but sure as hot **** on a street
in Calcutta -
    it beats the Arabic portable
hookah pipe...
   i.e.?  
         vapping - or vapourißing -

i'd say less a cure for tobacco smokers,
and more a cure for
the dope-heads...
    he (my neighbor) smokes
2 ounces a week,
   and somehow manages to stay
down on a job...

    no ******* way...
    he says it helps him to sleep...
like me...
   a liter of ***** and two
paracetamols,
    or one naproxen (if i'm lucky),
or two paracetamols
  and one amitriptyline (25mg)...

sorry, what? sound of mind?
sound of mind to the point
where i'm mindful of grammar
and spelling?

            **** man...
  the content is transcendent
    of whatever the receiving end deems
it to be...

i might actually buy into
this... placebo marijuana -
given that i am a tobacco smoker...
  ha ha! holy basil:
  like Basil Fawlty...

   as you see...
there are people, and there are "people",
there are neighbors,
    and there are "neighbors",
i don't see how the natives
can dictate universal laws of
     private property ownership...
esp. over such... trivial...
meaningless...
          sitting down on a cactus
****-naked "problems"...

i hate being mean,
   i hate telling someone to *******...
i really do...
    i compromised -
i stopped smoking cigarettes
out of my window...
  but yesterday's confrontation?
over a ******* barbeque...
    oops... the compromise
has just been revoked...
  
   music blasting into my ears
through my earphones...
the next thing my cuntish neighbor
will "hear" is sign language...
  
oh yeah... that primary school
lesson:

(a) WHY     (b) DON'T  
        (c) YOU    (d) ****    (e) OFF

(a) index + middle fingers
    slapped on the left palm knuckles up

(b) index + middle fingers
    slapped on the left palm knuckles down

(c) scissor index + *******
   into the side of the left hand

(d) fist, vertical slam onto the left
  palm

(e) thumb's up moving away from
  the palm of the left hand...

because?
      i just can't be bothered trying
to reason with some people...
     they might as well be put in zoological
confinement, and put under observation...
but i'd feel sorry for the chimps
and other animals, have to share a close
proximity.
The silver fog slithers around
my ankles, slowly winding up
my legs with a serpent's silk move.
Squeezing her fingers, my mother
and I approach the barn-red house.

It breathes heavily and its exhale
reveals a backyard cemetery.
As the mist settles, a limestone
hand reaches out to ****** her away.

Down the street the dollhouse neighbor
cannot see me screaming, weeping,
I call for help.

Brown-green water drips from
the bathroom ceiling--
the plumber continues plumbing.

Sweat beads form on the tip of
the fat priest's nose, as he climbs
the broken stairs, he continues preaching.

The porcelain girl wears her mother's
brown-stained ivory prom dress.
Chanting, Sonofabitch. Sonofabitch.

They cannot see me--
I flail my limbs.
They cannot hear me--
Their own cursing drown out my voice.
Raj Arumugam Sep 2011
1
Psst! Nasrudin! Pssst!
says the neighbor
at the doorway;
Nasrudin looks down from his roof
where he's fixing some tiles
and sees his neighbor in the street

Yes? Nasrudin asks

Come down, Nasrudin;
I have something to say
that cannot be said aloud;
you must stand at the same level
to hear what I have to say


2
And so Nasrudin comes down
the ladder
and asks his neighbor what the matter is;
and the neighbor whispers:
Nasrudin - lend me a 1000 dollars;
I need it straight away...


Come up, says Nasrudin
with no hesitation,
and he climbs
back up to the roof
and the neighbor follows

3
Now here is something,
whispers Nasrudin
(once they are both seated on the roof)
*that I could not say below in the street
but that can be said
when we are at the same height:
No; now you can go
ConnectHook Feb 2016
by John Greenleaf Whittier  (1807 – 1892)

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

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


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


                                       EMERSON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/vVOQ54YQ73A
Lauren T Ian Mar 2017
Good morning neighbor, how are you today ?
Interesting times at your house, I must say
I am right beside you and looking in your yard
Wondering if life is easy for you or if it is hard

As I look at what’s happening over our fence
I think of our relationship and try to make some sense
Can we talk about it ? Are you feeling okay ?
Or are you distraught and in total dismay ?

Did you expect to win or were you surprised you lost ?
Are you paying the price to find out the cost ?
Or are you finding value in what you have bought ?
Or finding some meaning in what you’ve been taught ?

I know we do not share the same address
And to know what you are feeling is anyone’s guess
Because it’s really not my business what goes on in your house
But I do care about you, your kids and your spouse

Will our lives change in our neighborhood ?
Will we all be worse off or will it be good ?
I am your friendly neighbor, living right next door
Wondering what you are thinking and what is in store

I may be a southern hombre or a northern canuck
And as your neighbor, I really do wish you the best of luck
Your happiness is important to me because it affects my life
And for us it cuts both ways just like a knife

So between you and me, if I may be so bold to ask
Answering my question may be a difficult task
Our yards, our neighborhoods and our world is so small
"So would you like to mend a fence or build a wall ?"
YungBeauti Sep 2014
Title : Being Transgender

Being transgender
Being transgender is unique.
Being transgender isn't disgusting.
I find these people wiser and stronger.
Because they are not afraid to show who they love

Bullying someone because he or she is trans is not cool.
Actually, they are making themselves fool.
what would matter if I am trans, or your best friend, even your neighbor?
That's right it wouldn't matter!

If someone think being trans is wrong,
they are just being childish.
Idris Muntaqim Aug 2020
The Muslim ninja is driving somewhere and sees something that's awful as can be;
An MMA fighter is beating up his neighbor and I'm speaking truthfully.

The Muslim ninja stops his car and gets out and I'll tell you why;
He's gonna save the neighbor and that's no lie.

When the MMA fighter sees the Muslim ninja, he tries to attack him, as you can see;
The Muslim ninja kicks and knocks out the ******* immediately.

When the MMA fighter is defeated, the Muslim ninja calls the cops;
The MMA fighter is full of slop.

The injured neighbor thanks the Muslim ninja for saving him, which is polite;
The Muslim ninja is glad that he had beaten the MMA ****** in a fight.

The cops arrive and arrest the MMA freak;
The Muslim has excellent ninjitsu techniques.

The cops are taking the injured neighbor to the hospital, which is cool;
The MMA fighter is also a stupid *** fool.

The Muslim ninja gets back in his car and drives away;
The injured neighbor is recovering at the hospital and that's all I have to say.
Binary Code Mar 2015
Yea, I'll bet yr thrilled to see, me yo read me


Cool

Ya read peas? Maybe a spool.

Wow. That's callee da burn grab the allo





I pop right b aka up on the trending poems , player and hat ears see me and go noooo,,,,





But I fight back, I don't retract my neighbor my neighbor I


Eat his cat rack jv,. Owe
One do the betatnjñ just slickest next out there my dawg walker 33$ shaman 2015
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2018
.ludo savis... play nice... ludo savis... play nice:

i knew the relationship was over when i encountered her ex-boyfriend sitting in her st. petersburg flat drinking ***** with me, no, wait, it was when she started questionning me using cosmopolitan magazine quiz about perfect girlfriends on our way from st. petersburg to moscow to see metallica, while all i wanted was to listen to bob dylan and appreciate whatever rural russia had to offer... beside that? it took me quiet a time to fiddle through and find the glagolitic alphabet, the slavic alphabet before the learned greek came across "my" people, given the romans never venture that far... good luck finding an african phonetic encoding system, beside the hieroglyphs... i won't bother looking right now... not to insult, though: so much for a large phallus megalomania contra envy... Ⰶ: życie (life) is not the half of the caron ž in the form of: the acute... (ź): ździra (don't ask, seriously, the word implies worse than ***** / szmata)... źródło (source)... eh... the one-armed caron (ž)... ź... i can't explain it any further: you need to speak the lingo to keep the "nuance" alive... southern slavs treat the caron akin to ž = ż... how beautiful... given the english language has no diacritical marker application: can't exactly claim diacritical markers using only the automated hovering decapitated heads above ι & ȷ... i'm not english i'm tired of looking up h'america's *******! i don't need not fancy pants to debrief the people i'm concerned with to mind, not giving a **** about them... thanks for your jeans: subtitle made in canada... beside the whole mao shitshow of: made in china.... back in the 1990s! *******... even in terms of music h'america isn't really relevant.. it just is... and "whatever" this "is" is to be, will remain... but only as an r.e.m. ref. pointer, that requires the physical translation of the lyrics: the one i love... a simple prop: to occupy my mind.... fire! the silesian vampire... because... said so... learning about monsters is what i could only fathom, which included me... but, sorry... the glagolithic script... ⰄⰀⰏ: dam... i.e. i will give... fun fact: r.e.m. didn't sell their: it's the end of the world as we know it (and i feel fine) to microsoft for a commercial break.. glagolitic script... where are the africans? oh, right, nowhere when phonetic encoding is turning heads... **** me... even the blind are onto the affair...  i went as far back as the glagolithic script: pre cyrillic, about the same time that the latins incorporated the northern "savages" with applying the chisel to the ᚱ / R... ᚠ / F... copernican "up-side down": why do all tree (beside the pines) resemble a Y shape, a gamma? why did god compensate his existence with opiates?! refresh my memory, though, why am i drawing blanks at african phonetic encoding? **** me, the blind drew something, the deaf too... if you played the guitar, forget about reading braille... you need tender, french, fingertips.... you can't play the guitasr and read braille... mind you... encoding morse overshadows braille... but even the european blindman overcomes the fully ****-naked butter-cup sprinting *** of a black man every day of the week: i'm not here to compensate for a leprechaun's sized *****: mind you... in the hands of a porcelain ***- beauty? everything looks like a hiroshima... i just started to entertain an asian fetish... 4th knuckle mizzing... missing... the most ****** aspect of a female aesthetic? her hand... when *** & the city cited trimming ***** hair (no circumsion, really?), so no asian porcelain hands, no 4th knuckle missing?! i hate what the anglo-speaking world has become, it's this, this, this quasi-Islam.... at least i respect the Quran... but 1984, by the secular prophet of the western world? why do people still calling it: silicon vallyey... it's a ******* curtain, smart-you not seeing the replacement mechanisms of the silicon curtain: now wow... ******, where you're getting-to-go get from? any ideas?! a tehran baza?! ******. 1960s homosexuals fiddling their way past the tunis police, happy? loitering sucker-****** pansie? again... entertain me... where is the african phonetic encoding system... this is my "i.q." avenue masterpiece... i don't care about i.q. but a ******* blind man beat the african at phonetic encoding... personally?


one just simply falls, tired of the right-wing momentum regarding beauty, it's such a bothersome crtique of its generic foundation if beauty..... i hate it, this objective classicism: back to the future take no, 4; *******...

             again, where were the africans sorting
out their invetement in the slave trade...
ONLY WHITE PEOPLE
WERE BAD, CONCERNING BLACK PEOPLE...
Idi Amin... Idi Amin Idi Amin Idi Amin Idi Amin
Idi Amin... Idi Amin Idi Amin Idi Amin Idi Amin ....
******! please!
ever see an african-h'american in africa?
   ******! please!
ever see an african-h'american in africa?
i said: ******! please!
ever see an african-h'american in africa?
i'd love to see an african-h'american
in africa... mouthin-off their stature...

                   african phonetic encoding....

debussy                                       chopin




satie                                              schumannn...

­and?
              there's too much of loon'don....
                   had enough of it, ****'s....
too much ***-kissing,
too much of the h'american swindle...
carelesss buggers; these brits...
******* ****** jolly-tribe
               ****-ups....
  
i drink and relax solving a sudoku -
i'm not doing it to compete -
   just having a conversation with
my neighbor about the difference
between Alzheimer's
and dementia brought back memories
of what i negated for some time...

it's only when someone else tells
you of their elder relative's dementia
you muster the courage to
spot the same symptoms in
your relative...

         my grandfather has dementia...
my early teenage years,
every summer visiting him,
traveling to Krakow,
     going fishing,
riding our bicycles in the afternoon...
he feeding my what books
i should read...
      i still visit,
  spend about a month,
say, keep him company,
   fix up the kitchen...

  but it's such an exhausting disease...
not so much for the sufferer -
this mild form of Alzheimer -
no killer proteins eating away at
the brain cells -
   dementia?
the ontological nadir of old age...
then again, perhaps the zenith...

a closure...
   the long term memory opens,
while the short term memory
closes -
   he still can solve a crossword
puzzle like a mad genius...
but he lapses into what is
the cinema of mortality...
                 he remembers things
like the two SS-men
   posted in my home town,
running up to them
and saying -
herr bitte bon-bon!...
  the raven black of the uniform
and the glaring *******...

    i blocked the fact that it was
dementia, when my grandmother
thought it was wise to scare all
of us, uncle, mother and father
into thinking it could degenerate
into Alzheimer's...
        he still recognizes me!
Alzheimer's sufferers can't
even muster that!

   at best... dementia couples itself up
with melancholia,
  the natural melancholia
akin to the sadness expressed by
Nietzsche: only when the house
has been completed,
but never during the construction...

dementia is just an endless memory
loop...
   when man is allowed to finally
put down the hammer, the sickle...
and retire?
  he's standing on the precipices of mortality...
on a dam about to crack open,
and release a surge of the sea
of memory...
   why wouldn't he take the time
to remember?
  to remember himself?
        
the tedium comes when the same
persons implores others to listen to them...
when memories become less
of the old man's cinema and more
affairs of an oral culture -
our culture has lost the point
of oral transmission -
  hence dementia sufferers have
to evolve -
                  into not talking so much...
not as a mean spirited conviction -
why? i do the same -
   i have about 10 focal memories
that constant revive me -
               and i'm only 32...
          but i don't talk about them...
hell, i won't write them...
   it's my own, private cinema -
but my grandfather comes from
a time before the optical explosion
of television...

         i don't need to hear what he saw -
all i need is to tattoo his mannerisms
and face onto my psyche...

   but dementia, thank god,
is a listening tedium...
                     point being...
a life opens up,
   but any immediacy of life disappears...
hence his persistent ability
to solve crossword puzzles,
enjoy reading the newspaper -
but the significance of remembering
yesterday is missing...
    
he's an old man...
   he has no obligations in terms of
duty in a professional arena of
the metalwork factory...
why wouldn't he attempt to push death
aside and not linger on
the memory of his, magnum opus -
his life sigma oeuvre?

     me?
  some would call this music neo-**** skinhead
****...
   wumpscut, two songs...
   thorns & wreath of barbs,
     bunkertor sieben (reprise)...
but it relaxes me when sitting on a sudoku,
drinking Bacardi cola and lime...
      enjoying the cool August air
after just enough rain
that manages to exfoliates the flowers
with refreshed sensuality...

  sudoku no. 10101...
    after enough numbers pop up,
the tactic is to hone in on one number
in each of the 9 squares and 9 vertical
and 9 linear line...
for sudoku no. 10101 in the Friday's
edition of the times?

   it went something akin to this

[8, 5] - [3] - [1] - [9] - [7] - [2, 6] - [4]

that's the closest schematic
i'll have for you,
   with regards to how the grid is filled.

i drink and relax solving a sudoku -
i'm not doing it to compete -
   just having a conversation with
my neighbor about the difference
between Alzheimer's
and dementia brought back memories
of what i negated for some time...

it's only when someone else tells
you of their elder relative's dementia
you muster the courage to
spot the same symptoms in
your relative...

         my grandfather has dementia...
my early teenage years,
every summer visiting him,
traveling to Krakow,
     going fishing,
riding our bicycles in the afternoon...
he feeding my what books
i should read...
      i still visit,
  spend about a month,
say, keep him company,
   fix up the kitchen...

  but it's such an exhausting disease...
not so much for the sufferer -
this mild form of Alzheimer -
no killer proteins eating away at
the brain cells -
   dementia?
the ontological nadir of old age...
then again, perhaps the zenith...

a closure...
   the long term memory opens,
while the short term memory
closes -
   he still can solve a crossword
puzzle like a mad genius...
but he lapses into what is
the cinema of mortality...
                 he remembers things
like the two SS-men
   posted in my home town,
running up to them
and saying -
herr bitte bon-bon!...
  the raven black of the uniform
and the glaring *******...

    i blocked the fact that it was
dementia, when my grandmother
thought it was wise to scare all
of us, uncle, mother and father
into thinking it could degenerate
into Alzheimer's...
        he still recognizes me!
Alzheimer's sufferers can't
even muster that!

   at best... dementia couples itself up
with melancholia,
  the natural melancholia
akin to the sadness expressed by
Nietzsche: only when the house
has been completed,
but never during the construction...

dementia is just an endless memory
loop...
   when man is allowed to finally
put down the hammer, the sickle...
and retire?
  he's standing on the precipices of mortality...
on a dam about to crack open,
and release a surge of the sea
of memory...
   why wouldn't he take the time
to remember?
  to remember himself?
        
the tedium comes when the same
persons implores others to listen to them...
when memories become less
of the old man's cinema and more
affairs of an oral culture -
our culture has lost the point
of oral transmission -
  hence dementia sufferers have
to evolve -
                  into not talking so much...
not as a mean spirited conviction -
why? i do the same -
   i have about 10 focal memories
that constant revive me -
               and i'm only 32...
          but i don't talk about them...
hell, i won't write them...
   it's my own, private cinema -
but my grandfather comes from
a time before the optical explosion
of television...

         i don't need to hear what he saw -
all i need is to tattoo his mannerisms
and face onto my psyche...

   but dementia, thank god,
is a listening tedium...
                     point being...
a life opens up,
   but any immediacy of life disappears...
hence his persistent ability
to solve crossword puzzles,
enjoy reading the newspaper -
but the significance of remembering
yesterday is missing...
    
he's an old man...
   he has no obligations in terms of
duty in a professional arena of
the metalwork factory...
why wouldn't he attempt to push death
aside and not linger on
the memory of his, magnum opus -
his life sigma oeuvre?

     me?
  some would call this music neo-**** skinhead
****...
   wumpscut, two songs...
   thorns & wreath of barbs,
     bunkertor sieben (reprise)...
but it relaxes me when sitting on a sudoku,
drinking Bacardi cola and lime...
      enjoying the cool August air
after just enough rain
that manages to exfoliates the flowers
with refreshed sensuality...

  sudoku no. 10101...
    after enough numbers pop up,
the tactic is to hone in on one number
in each of the 9 squares and 9 vertical
and 9 linear line...
for sudoku no. 10101 in the Friday's
edition of the times?

   it went something akin to this

[8, 5] - [3] - [1] - [9] - [7] - [2, 6] - [4]

that's the closest schematic
i'll have for you,
   with regards to how the grid is filled.

oh sure sure, the uncircumcised man,
crucified when all the orthodox were
drunk,
                   פור day,
       drunk cruxion?!
                 lovey purin "misgivings";
what's next?

   oh sure sure, the jews would hav e crucified
me on the hill of: tel megiddo
****-heads throwing up their kippahs
into the air in some skewed form
of celebration...
       like bacchus entering
Valhalla asking: where's the mead?
    i've had too much wine...
where'y the whiskey?

   i'll keep repeating...
              talk about jews among the polonaiase?
hush hush: ****, dont want to bring
bad luck... jews in poland are very much akin
to roma gypsies: lucky charms...
but... do you see any ******* leprechauns
around? look at me: i see none...
  let's tell the joke in verse,
not the stadard: a priest a rabbi and an imam
walk into a bar...
****... is that even a joke?! muslims don't drink!
what's the imam having; cranberry juice?!

and englishman a scot and an irish walk
into a bar... the three of them walk
out on stag-duty with inflanted sheep and
speaking cymcru... terrible joke...
as all my jokes were to begin with...

         i am currently navigating,
my uncle's ex girlfriend is sleeping downstairs
on the couch,
blah blah Tuscany... blah blah prosecco...
i'm becoming suspect: she's a gemini,
isn't she? all the geminis i ever met where
extroverted self-absorbed louis XIV types...
they need to, they need to self-absorb themselves
in order to extract the sort of energy
associate with rhetoric,
   and how they constantly digress,
there's always a sub-plot to the plot... nay,
there are always sub-plots...
          great company, i mean...
when a person speaks all the time there are
no awkward moments of silence,
until the said person tells the "eager" listener...
play some music...
she's a warsaw girl, so she's a pretty learned
in the ways of the world,
i'm just an ostrowiec commoner...

    oy vey! oy vey: she'***** 40 and lamenting...
i too complain about my uncle...
she had an abortion with him...
i once talked with my uncle about music
while he surfaced at mrs. roshandler's back garabe...
we ate sri lankan fried chicken wings and
chips and listened to californication
for the very first time...

   abundance of hope in Tuscany...
"apparently"... but if you have ever watched
a woman, borderline on asylum incarceration?
i was looking at one just example...
  it's not a pretty sight...
even when she asked: how's *** and business?
i'm a monk...
          or at least i tend to...
even if she came from a stock of
failed relationships: fine fine...
            now?

i served up decent food,
a malvani and a tikka masala curry...
          naan bread,
     turmeric infused rice,
vanilla cheese cake with strawberries...
she enjoyed it,
i like to please people...
    mind you: ever see a slim chef?
i wouldn't trust a slim chef,
i never have, i never will,
you need some chubby chub chub rounding-offs...
mind you: i much prefer cooking
food than eating it,
but i would never trust a chef associated
with a c.o.d. associated with counting calories...
never have, never will...
two noteworthy proverbs:
1. too many cooks in one kitchen =
no decent meal is being made...
  one cook, one couldron, that's your best bet...
2. never trust a slim, athletic cook...
those ******* can shove their kale
       smoothies....
they can slurp up those smoothies
turning their ***** in straw ******* vortexes!
i'll cook on lard trimmings,

em....
  [9] - [2] - [6] - [3] - [8] - [1] - [4] - [5, 7]?
that's when the sudoku puzzle was filled...
all the nines... all the twos... etc. became filled
in the 9 grids...

well...
     "apart" from: my uncle's girlfriend:
i've been living in englamd
for nearly 30 yeasrs...
i've dated a french girl,
an australian, a russian....
but u've never dated an english
girl: i guess they much prefer
aged pakistani grooming gang
members....
            i guess:
**** gasoline on them,
they're all readied and geared up!

braille contra morse?
if you want to play the guitar?
forget the braille....
you need tender fingertips
to read braille...
morse? nit so much...
here's a comparison...
i see!

    a.:   ⠓⠑   ⠺⠓⠕
                       ⠎⠑⠑⠎
    ⠊⠎       ⠁⠃⠇⠑
                   ⠞⠕
                                     ­   ⠗⠑⠁⠙

b. play the guitar and learn to....
read finger tip braille, ******....

· · · ·  ·         
· − −  · · · ·  − − − 
· · ·  ·  ·  · · · :
                  · ·  · · · 
▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ · − · ·  ·  (a / b)
      −  − − − 
                   · − ·  · ▄▄▄▄▄▄▄ − · ·  (a)

(he who sees: is able to read)...

           i can attest...
             i would find myself readily reading
morse in braille,
than braille by itself...
                far more easier.

finger-tips... i'd sooner read your morse
as braille, than braille as morse..
Fred Schrott Jul 2014
Can I borrow some sugar?
Said, my puppy’s gone missin!
If you need some ears,
I’m the one that’ll listen
You’re the best thing to ever hit this town
When I saw ya movin’ in,
I really did want to help ya
If you want a good ride, you
can call me Helter Skelter
You’re the best thing to ever hit this town
Now there’s no chance in Dodge
that I will ever turn city boy,
especially when I found myself a brand-new toy
Now it’s time to enjoy!
Well howdy, new neighbor
I’m so **** glad to meet ya
I’m not like your ex, who
always tried to defeat ya
You’re the best thing to ever hit this town
I will send you to heaven
by the way that I treat ya
And just like my God, it’s
every day that I’ll need ya
You’re the best thing to ever hit this town
Now there’s no chance in Dodge
that I will ever turn city boy,
especially when I found myself a brand-new toy
Now it’s time to enjoy!
So I’m washing my truck,
do you need yours cleaned?
You can be the buffer and
I’ll be the sheen
You’re the best thing to ever hit this town
So, on the weekends down here
we all like to party
We’d love you to join us;
you can be my “shorty”
You’re the best thing to ever hit this town
I said you’re the best **** thing
to ever hit this town!
From, The Transitive Nightfall Of Diamonds, due out 8/14 from iUniverse books
L A Lamb Sep 2014
“It’s going to storm tonight.”

“Yeah.”

He honestly was just going to drop her off tonight, he said. She masked her disappointment with a long exhale of cigarette smoke as she flicked the cigarette ash out the window. She inhaled again. The car ride, although only ten miles and some, to her house, seemed longer than usual. She had nothing certain to look forward to. He was nothing certain. But sometimes she looked forward to him. Him, both strangely attractive and unattractive. Him, both perceptive, thought-evoking yet ignorant and uneducated. She hated how he stereotyped. She hated how he didn’t seem to care for her.

But didn’t he? She thought he might. He would rub her feet at work. They would joke together at work and mutually smile and laugh. His teeth weren’t straight or incredibly white, but she loved his smile. The way he kissed her when they had *** seemed to be passionate. It was the summer. It was July 5th. She would be leaving for college in August, and that weekend would go to her college and see the room she’d be renting in the fall. She would meet her roommates—a family from Delaware who had a house with extra rooms, which non-smoking females could rent—that weekend. She talked about how excited she was to be leaving. He never really made any comments about the matter. She stopped talking about it.

“You probably broke that guy’s heart.”

He was referring to the guy she met at Dash-In while pumping gas, the guy she spontaneously gave her number to. She wondered what made him say such a thing; he didn’t appear jealous. She struggled to understand how he felt. He never shared anything. Since they started sleeping together, she’d already told him five times that she liked him. She wrote him a poem. He smiled, but never acknowledged her efforts. She liked him but didn’t love him. She knew she never would—they had nothing in common. He was merely a summer dalliance, one of many she’d had in her life, and he wouldn’t be her last. She didn’t crave him, but she craved romance. She craved answers. She struggled with the here and now. She knew her feelings would dissipate once she went away, but she knew herself well enough to know that being around him, for another month and a half, would bother her.

She took it personally that he wouldn’t return to her house. She took everything personally. She took it personally that he never expressed any emotion towards her. She knew he had it. She knew it wouldn’t last. She didn’t want it to last, in fact, she regarded herself as “out of his league” in every possible aspect. He was twenty-five, managing a pool, still, and he never went to college. She was twenty, entering her fourth year of college and finally moving out of her house, with a double-major, and she taught swim lessons and lifeguarded as a summer job. She was a raging narcissist. She was vain, and she expected everyone she slept with to praise her for her beauty and wit. When they didn’t, she took it personally. Often, with the men she slept with, she received no such praise. She took it personally.

She assumed, because he was giving her a ride home, he would enter the house with her, and like the last time, two days prior, they would have ***. When he dropped her off at her house, she left him five dollars for gas. Several minutes after, when she was inside, he texted her and told her that she didn’t need to leave him money. She never responded to that text.

Instead, she texted her neighbor. Like her, he liked to drink. Like her, he liked casual ***. The attraction and un-attraction was mutual. Unlike her boss, she had no feelings for this neighbor. Unlike her boss, she  didn’t feel rejected by this neighbor. Unlike her boss, this neighbor was nineteen, not twenty-five. She wondered if her attraction to her twenty-five year old boss stemmed from the resemblance of another twenty-five year old, one she once loved. Her boss, like the other twenty-five year old, lacked ambition, lacked expressing emotion, lacked the intellectual compatibility that she searched for in a prospective boyfriend and was once addicted to drugs. She found the parallels. In her own way, she considered it closure.

She questioned if she actually liked her boss or if she felt automatically attracted to him because he resembled someone she once loved. The *** was similar. The after-*** was similar. The kissing wasn’t. She saw her boss almost every day. She contemplated ending the summer affair with her young manager, five years her senior, due to the resemblance of the man, the broken mirror who so sickly twisted shards of himself into her, forever damaging her own reflection. This man, her boss, while likable, could never amount to the man, the compost, her former twenty-five year old had been.

The here and now, and the concept of time, in general, had flooded her head with numbers. Dates: she started sleeping with her boss that Father’s Day; they had *** five times since, and he confessed his feelings for her zero times. She hated herself for always wondering what he thought. She hated herself for not actually being sincere. She sensed this man, her boss, was not generally accustomed to such ingenuous women. She was used to stupid men who felt threatened by ingenuous women. It was an emotion-evoking cycle; she would always plunge herself into situations where deadlines existed inevitably. He was writing material.

She took the *** and transformed her thoughts into stanzas. When she was uncertain about him, she wrote prose. She had a boring summer, and while she tried to read books, her writer’s block ate at her. Desperate for material, she resorted to the easiest—and her favorite—method of provoking thoughts: ***. She sometimes grew attached to the person after ***. She’d let herself fall, just a bit, before ripping herself away, emotionally, from the men she was sleeping with. These men only thought about her only once her behavior towards them grew distant and subtly acrid. She knew they knew. They knew she knew. The writing material fell into her lap as she fell into the laps of her men.

She was a poet, a writing fiend, a ****** up girl who only wanted to be interesting. She liked her boss’s smile. She liked his back, and she never minded scratching it while they worked together. She looked forward to going to going away to the university. There, she knew, she would be surrounded by peers who would be legitimately interested in the same things she was, and maybe then she could find someone she could actually let herself become attached to.

For now, her boss, although she liked him, mildly, was all she needed for her creativity just until the summer ended. Although he kept adding soda ash to her pool of affection, she knew that although liking him had become more basic, the summer would soon be over and the pool would be closed.
1060

Air has no Residence, no Neighbor,
No Ear, no Door,
No Apprehension of Another
Oh, Happy Air!

Ethereal Guest at e’en an Outcast’s Pillow—
Essential Host, in Life’s faint, wailing Inn,
Later than Light thy Consciousness accost me
Till it depart, persuading Mine—
Lenore Lux Feb 2015
I think sometimes, about what it means to be transgender. I probe and probe for answers, because as the possibility for a new age of enlightenment and safety increases, the others want to know. I’ve come up with many answers, but I can hold to none. I don’t deserve to paint the definition of a culture with the limited experiences I’ve had. I don’t see myself in the transgender identified people allowed on television. I don’t see myself in the transgender identified people making news feeds and giving high profile interviews. And as my nation’s exposure to our culture increases, likely will their curiosity. Am I transgender? Do I have the right? I’ve heard doctors, psychiatrists, may refuse transgender patients access to hormone therapy based on how dedicated or convincing their portrayal of their identified gender. If you want to be a man or woman, you’ll have to look like the women and men on TV. If you want to be transgender, you’ll have to look like the trans identified people on TV. Every single one of us who has an active role as either participant or observer in our society is prey to the crisis of validity. Am I pretty enough? Am I strong enough? Am I brave enough? Mom enough? Dad enough? Competitive enough? Successful enough? Rich enough? **** enough? Pious enough? It never ends. We’re, as a nation of people, being crushed and compartmentalized by this ever present lens, looming over us, exploiting our weaknesses and fears so it may grow wider, and support itself as it follows us, seemingly forever into the future. And one of the worst fears this camera of existential torment exploits, in most of us every day, is, “Do I have a reflection?” “What does it look like?” “Do I look like me?” What does it mean to be transgender? I can’t get away from that question. But I don’t have an answer. There are varying degrees of anguish, depression, panic, anxiety, and other wonderful emotional states that creep up on you and breathe down your neck nearly every waking day. Absolute contempt for the lie of a life you’ve lived till now, and contempt for the fragments still stuck to you, in memories, attached to your body and mind. Fear of those in your own community who would purposefully humiliate, invalidate, or attack you, choosing their own universal moral code over the innate urge and capacity to support the health and continued well being of another human. A ******* neighbor. A ******* pupil. A ******* employee. A ******* sister, brother, son, daughter, mother, father, cousin, ******* blood. What is being transgender like? By my experiences, it’s just like being anyone else in the country. But with a lot more fear, death, exclusion and medication.
1400

What mystery pervades a well!
That water lives so far—
A neighbor from another world
Residing in a jar

Whose limit none have ever seen,
But just his lid of glass—
Like looking every time you please
In an abyss’s face!

The grass does not appear afraid,
I often wonder he
Can stand so close and look so bold
At what is awe to me.

Related somehow they may be,
The sedge stands next the sea—
Where he is floorless
And does no timidity betray

But nature is a stranger yet;
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.
Harold r Hunt Sr Aug 2015
Who is your neighbor?
My neighbor is a little old lady.
With the brightest gray hair you ever seen.
And always has a smile to say hi with.
She has a rocker that I never been used.
At her kitchen and half the town smells like apple pie.
Which drives me crazy.
She's a kind old lady at all.
Brigitta Cuadros Jan 2018
At age 7, I was guilty
when I accepted an invitation
to go into the apartment of a neighbor
He smelled of beer as he groped me.

At age 10, I was guilty
when I walked home too late
because I missed the train
He popped out of the bushes
exposing himself.

At age 12, I was guilty
when my uncle forced
tongue into my mouth
because I could not
get away.

At age 14, I was guilty
when my uncle forced
me to sit on his lap
while in my bathing suit
and I ran away from home.

At age 16, I was guilty
when my uncle convinced
everyone that I was a liar
and I quit school.

At age 18, I was guilty
when I gave birth to
my first child,
because I was ignorant.

At age 20, I was guilty
when I saw the cardiologist
in the reflection of a lamp
*******  and the
police laughed at my report.

At age 30, I was guilty
when my employer
trapped me in the elevator
to ***** me, because I
was his subserviant.

At age 36, I was guilty
when I earned jujitsu honors
but risked going to jail
for defending myself.

At age 70, I was guilty
when a neighbor brought
me fruit and grabbed my
breast, because I was alone.

At age 72, I am guilty
of being a ferule woman
for 50 years and for
NOT be silent!
How many times must a woman be guilty for her existence?
Charlie Chirico Feb 2013
“It’s three in the morning. Are you drunk?” Larry asked me. “No, I just had to talk to someone and couldn’t think of anyone else,” I replied with desperation. “Can’t this wait until the morning, dude?” Larry asked, “I have to get up in six hours for work.” He sounded angry, but mostly tired so I pressed on. “No, this can’t wait, seriously. I’m sorry, but this is urgent.”

“Okay, what’s wrong that you had to wake me up?” Larry asked, and I was ready to talk. I was ready to talk until I couldn’t utter another word. I was distraught and scared. Larry was my best friend, and I knew he’d listen. I wasn’t sure if he could give me the right advice, but I knew he’d listen.

“I don’t know where to start.”

“Try the beginning. Come on, man. It’s too late for this.”

“Alright, but have a little bit of patience.”

“Yeah, just start talking before I hang up.”

“Okay, I ****** up,” I replied and paused for a response, but Larry didn’t respond so I pressed on.

“I got off work at ten and had to close the store. My manager was in a tight spot and left me with the keys,” I said, took a breath, and continued,”I was kind of ******* when he asked me to do it, but he said he had no other choice. He even offered to give me an extra day off with pay.”

“So what’s the problem?” Larry asked.

“The problem is what I did before I left.”

“And that is?”

“Well, I was getting the store all shut up. I let most of the employees go, and I left one cashier with me so I didn’t have to run around like a maniac. There weren’t any problems, so I locked up and got ready to count down the last till so I could get the hell out of there.”

“Can you speed this up, man? I’m falling asleep,” Larry said impatiently.

“Sorry, so I count down the last till and leave it by the register. I let the last cashier go for the night and locked the door. I go back to the register and grab the till so I could put it in the office and start the deposit. My manager left me instructions for the closing procedures and the combo to the safe. I counted everything and wrapped the deposit so it could be taken to the bank in the morning. I followed the instructions perfectly.”

“So what’s the problem then?”

I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. I was having trouble finishing my story, and even though I paused I knew Larry wouldn’t hang up. He wasn’t the kind of guy that would let a story go unfinished. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to get to the next part of the story. I was like a comedian without a punchline. It was hard enough to make the phone call to Larry, let alone get this far into the story. But I did wake him up, so the least I could do was finish my story.

“Are you there?” Larry asked.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just having trouble explaining this.”

“Take a breath. Just breathe and try to start again,” Larry said with a comforting tone.

“I left with it,” I said. I was being vague on purpose so Larry would ask me what I meant instead of me telling him. And that’s exactly what he did. “You left with what?” He said sounding confused.

“I left with the deposit and everything else in the safe,” I said in a hurried tone.

“You did what?” Larry said sounding confused as if he heard me wrong.

“I left with everything. I took all the money and locked up.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I robbed my store and left. It was an impulse. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. I ****** up.”

“I hope you’re joking,” Larry said.

“I’m not joking. I just up and left with everything,” I said.

“What the **** were you thinking? How much did you take?”

“I wasn’t thinking, man. I took everything, which was a little over ten grand.”

“This isn’t good. What the ****, dude. This is bad, really really bad.”

“I know, but I don’t know what to do. That’s why I called you,” I said, sounding more desperate than when Larry had first picked up the phone.

“What do you want me to say? You just called me at three in the morning to tell me you robbed your store for a **** load of money. This is beyond a **** up, man. Where are you?”

“I’m out front of your place.”

“What? How long have you been here?” Larry asked. He sounded like he was shocked to hear me say that, but deep down I knew he understood. I didn’t know what else to do, and he was the only person I could turn to. He might not of agreed with what I did, but he would help me through anything. Whether that be good or bad; he would be there for support.

“I’ve been here since I called you. I didn’t know what to do. I’m freaking out. Like beyond freaking out. I’m so ******, man. I am absolutely ******.”

“Alright, first off get the hell inside. I’m unlocking the door now,” Larry said and hung up. I closed my phone and shut the engine to my car. I still sat in my car with my head on the steering wheel. I was emotionally drained and knew the night wasn’t over. My night was only going to get worse, and facing Larry was going to drain me. Larry knew how to give that look of disappointment only a parent could give. He wouldn’t belittle me, but the look in his eyes would be enough to make me feel small. It was already past the point of no return with Larry. I had to face him now, and he was waiting for me. I lifted my head up and rubbed my eyes. The light on his front porch was on when I lifted my head. So I got out of my car, locked it, and made my way up to his house. The door was open a crack and I stepped inside and locked it behind me. Larry’s foyer led to the kitchen, and the light was on. He was in the kitchen waiting for me.

“Is that you?” Larry yelled from the kitchen.

“Yeah.”

“In the kitchen. I just put on a *** of coffee.”

The ten second walk to the kitchen felt infinite. My legs were shaky, along with the rest of my body. I was more nervous about seeing Larry than I was about the consequences that were to follow my recklessness. I turned the corner into the kitchen to find Larry sitting at his kitchen table, staring at the coffee ***.

“Hey,” I said, being at a loss for words.

“Sit down. The coffee is almost done.”

“Okay, I think I might need a cup.”

“You and me both, bud.”

Larry and I both stared at the coffee ***. He was waiting for the coffee to finish. I was hypnotized by the drip. In a weird way it was calming and gave me time to think. I’m not sure if Larry ever took the time to glance at me, as I was only fixated on the drip. I didn’t want it to end for a few reasons. Not only was it calming, but it also prolonged the inevitable: Our conversation.

“What do you want?” Larry asked.

“What?”

“What do you want in your coffee?”

“Oh, just a little cream and a little sugar.”

Larry fixed two cups of coffee and placed a cup in front of me. He took his seat and sipped his coffee. He didn’t say anything, and I wasn’t sure if he was waiting for me to speak. Before I could he cleared his throat.

“What the **** were you thinking?” He asked, as only a friend could when you make a mistake.

“I wasn’t thinking.”

“Yeah, you said that, but what could possibly make you do something like that. Really, what the **** were you thinking?”

“I don’t know. I just did it, and it didn’t cross my mind until I left and set the alarm. At that time I couldn’t do anything. I already took the money and left. I couldn’t go back in the store without sounding the alarm.”

“You set the alarm. You couldn’t just go back in and shut it off?” Larry pressed.

“No, I couldn’t. There are two different codes for closing and opening. I told you it was last minute, and my manager only gave me the code to close up.” I said in all honesty.

“You couldn’t of just put the money back and let the alarm go off? I’m sure they wouldn’t of been ****** about the alarm going off. It wasn’t your responsibility in the first place to be closing the store.” Larry said, making a valid point.

“I didn’t think about that, and I told you I was freaking. I thought I was already ****** so I left. I just got in my car and got out of there. I didn’t know where to go so I drove around for a few hours, and I didn’t want to go home so I called you.”

“Yeah, well thanks for that,” Larry said sarcastically.

“I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry, really I am.”

“No you’re not. If you were sorry you would of turned yourself in.”

“Are you serious? The last place I want to be is in jail.”

“Well you should of thought about that before you committed grand larceny.”

“What do I do then? What can I do?” I asked

“For right now just enjoy your coffee. Go pour another cup and relax. I’m going to call my work and call out. There is no way I’m going to make it in after all of this ******* you brought me.”

“I’m sorry, Larry. Really, I am truly sorry.”

“Just relax, there’s nothing you can do now.” Larry said. He got up and left the room. I also got up and poured another cup of coffee. He was right, I needed to relax and just stay calm. There was nothing else I could do, and freaking out was not going to help. I sat back down, took a sip of my coffee, and rested my head in my hands. It was the most at ease I’ve been the whole night. This is why I turned to Larry. He knew how to calm me down and was my only true friend. He always had my best interest at hand, and I loved him for that.

Ten minutes later Larry returned and sat back down. He took a sip of his coffee and spit it back in the cup. “I hate cold coffee,” Larry said and got up to pour another cup. “What are you thinking about?” He asked. I didn’t respond. I couldn’t respond. Although I was calmer my mind was still racing. It felt like my head was going to explode. Thankfully it didn’t, but it sure felt like it.

“What do you think you’re going to do? Larry asked

“I’m not sure yet. I think I might just take off. What else can I do? I can’t go to jail.” I replied through my strained throat. Larry didn’t say anything. His back was faced to me as he poured another cup of coffee. “I can’t.”

“You can’t what?” He asked.

“I can’t go to jail.”

“Okay, so then what? You’re just going to flee? Just get up and go?”

“Yeah, that is the only thing that seems plausible right now.”

“You don’t expect me to go with you, do you?”

“No, not at all. This is my mess.”

“You’re **** right it is,” Larry said sounding angry for the first time.

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologizing to me. You have no reason to say sorry to me.”

“You’re right. I think I should just go,” I said

“Where are you going to go?”

“I don’t know, but I can’t wait around. I have to do something. And I should leave before anyone gets to the store to see the safe empty. What time is it?”

“It’s quarter after six.”

“Okay, the store opens in almost two hours. I should get going soon if I’m going to be out of the state before someone gets there.”

“Okay, if that’s what you think you got to do. Have another cup and calm down before you leave.” Larry suggested.

“Okay,” I said, accepting his offer.

I got up and walked to the coffee *** to make my last cup of coffee before I left. I knew I had to get going, but I wanted to make this last cup of coffee last. This would be the last time I would see Larry. And after all, he was my best friend. I would have many regrets when I was gone, so I tried to make this last encounter last as long as I could.

As I was pouring my last cup Larry’s doorbell rang. I looked back in a hurry and Larry put his hand on my shoulder. “Relax, it’s my neighbor. He comes over early on Tuesdays. He’s an older guy that comes over for coffee. He’s lonely and his wife passed recently. It’s the least I can do.” Larry said, and made his way to his front door. I sat back down and put my head in my hands again. The two cups of coffee I drank had me jittery. I sat and waited for Larry to return with his neighbor. When he came back in I would leave and be on my way. I had no choice, and I had to be leaving as soon as possible anyway. I didn’t need to intrude while he had company. I just rested my head, and I heard footsteps. Larry was on his way back in the kitchen, and I’d be on my way out.

A hand rested on my shoulder. I still kept my head in my hands.

“Mr. Kofta?”

I looked up and nearly fell off my chair.

“I’m Officer Shandie, and I’m going to need you to come with us.”

There were three police officers in Larry’s kitchen, and Larry was standing right beside them. He looked at me in disappointment, like only a parent can look at their child. Officer Shandie pulled me up and put my hands behind my back. He cuffed me and led me to the front of the house. All of the police officers followed, along with Larry. I was being put into the back of the police cruiser when Larry stopped them and spoke up.

“I can’t keep bailing you out. You’re not running from this mistake.”

Larry stepped aside as I was put in the back of the car. The door was shut, and my fate was sealed. Officer Shandie got in the cruiser and backed out of Larry’s driveway.

The only similarity Larry and I had that night was when I leaving to be taken to the police station. We both had our heads down.

— The End —