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Lotus Aug 2012
Pure waters of the river
Caressing
Flowing
Shaping stone to full-round curves
Arrow-straight lines
Sharp-jagged edges

Rhythmic sighs of summer wind
Inhaling the scent of dust
Exhaling transparent vapors
Of Nature's embrace

Silent rays of gold
Spying through the space between branches
Painting an image of bright dots
Floating on the surface
Of shaded stones

Amidst these delicate folds
Of Nature's cloth
Three jovial youths
In touch with the river's harmony
Stand
Their three pairs of feet bare

Three pairs of eyes closed
Seeing deep within their being

Three pairs of feet bare
Balancing with the stone's stillness beneath them

Three pairs of hands
Dancing in the air encircling them

Three pairs of mouths
Sharing deep breath with the summer wind...
Smiling
Mohammad Skati Jan 2015
Barefooted is not good ,so                                                                                       A pair of shoes helps in any season ...                                                                     People rush to buy the best and the highest qualities                                            Even if their prices are like pyramids ...                                                                 I don't understand this rush towards                                                                      All different kinds of pairs of shoes ...                                                                     There are people who are ready to buy                                                                 The whole shoes' stores                                                                                            At any price !
RAJ NANDY Feb 2015
AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART IN VERSE  
By Raj Nandy : Part One

INTRODUCTION
Background :
The India subcontinent and her diverse physical features,
influenced her dynamic history, religion, and culture!
The fertile basin of the Sapta-Sindu Rivers* cradled one of
world’s most ancient civilization, (seven rivers)
Contemporary to the Sumerians and the Egyptians, popularly
known as the Indus Valley Civilization!
The Sindu (Indus), Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, Bias, along
with the sacred river Saraswati, shaped India’s early History;
Where once flourished the urban settlements of Harappa and
Mohenjodaro, which lay buried for several centuries;
For our archaeologists and scholars to unravel their many
secrets and hidden mysteries!
Modern scholars refer to it as ‘Indus-Saraswati Civilization’;
By interpreting the text of the Rig Veda which mentions
eclipses, equinoxes, and other astronomical conjunctions,
They date the origin of the Vedas as earlier as 3000 BC;
Thereby lifting the fog which shrouds Ancient History! +
(+ Two broad schools of thoughts prevail; Max Mullar refers
to 1500 BC as the date for origin of the Vedas, but modern scientific findings point to a much earlier date for their Oral composition and
their long oral tradition!)

On the banks of the sacred Saraswati River the holy sages
did once meditate, *
When their third eye opened, as all earthly bonds they did
transcend !
From their lips flowed the sacred chants of the Vedas, as
they sang the creator Brahma’s unending praise!
These Vedic chants and incantations survived many
centuries of an oral tradition,
When Indian Art began to blossom into exotic flowers like
Brahma’s divine manifestations;
With all subsequent art forms following the model of
Brahma’s manifold creations!
The Vedas got written down during the later Vedic Age
with commentaries and interpolations,
And remain as India’s indigenous composition, forming a
part of her sacred religious tradition! *
(
Rig Veda the oldest, had hymns in praise of the creator;
Yajur Veda spelled the ritual procedures; Sama Veda sets
the hymns for melodious chanting, & is the source of seven
notes of music; Artha Veda had hymns for warding off evil
& hardship, giving us a glimpse of early Vedic life.)

IMPACT OF FOREIGN INVASIONS:
Through the winding Khyber Pass cutting through the rugged
Hindu Kush Range,
Came the Persians, Greeks, Muslims, the Moguls, and many
bounty hunters storming through north-western frontier gate;
Consisting of varied racial groups and cultures, they entered
India’s fertile alluvial plains!
Therefore, while tracing 5000 years of Art Story, one cannot
divorce Art from India’s exotic cultural history.
From the Cave Art of Bhimbetka, to the dancing girl of Harappa,
To the frescoes and the evocative figures of Ajanta and Ellora;
Many marvelous and exquisitely carved temples of the South,
And Muslim and Mogul architecture and frescoes along with
India’s rich Folk Art, enriched her artistic heritage no doubt!
Yet for a long time Indian Art had been the least known of
the Oriental Arts,
Perhaps because from Western point of view it was difficult
to understand the spirit behind Indian Art!
For Indian Art is at once aesthetic and sensual, also passionate,
symbolic, and spiritual !
It both celebrates and denies the individual’s love of life,
where free instinct with rigid reason combine !
These contradictory elements are found side by side due to
her culturally mixed conditions, as I had earlier mentioned!
Now, if we add to this the constant religious exaltation,
With the extensive use of symbolic presentation, from the
early days of Indian civilization;
We have the basic elements of an Art, which has gradually
aroused the interest of Western Civilization!

The further we get back in time, we only begin to find,
That religion, philosophy, art and architecture,
Had all merged into an unified whole to form India’s
composite culture!
But while moving forward in time, we once again find,
That art, architecture, music, poetry and dance, all begin to
gradually emerge, with their separate identities,
Where Indian Art is seen as a rich mosaic of cultural diversity!

(NOTES:-In the ancient days, the Saraswati River flowed from the Siwalik Range of Hills (foothills of the Himalayas) between Sutlej & the Yamuna rivers, through the present day Rann of Kutch into the Arabian Sea, when Rajasthan was a fertile place! Indus settlements like Kalibangan, Banawalli, Ganwaiwala, were situated on the banks of Sarsawati River, which was longer than the Indus & ran parallel, and is mentioned around50 times in the Rig Veda! Scientists say that due to tectonic plate movements, and climatic changes, Saraswati dried up around 1700BC ! The people settled there shifted east and the south, during the course of history! Some of those Indo-Aryan speaking people were already settled there, & others joined later. Max Muller’s theory of an Aryan Invasion which destroyed the Indus Valley Civilization during 1500BC, supported by Colonial Rulers, was subsequently proved wrong ! Indo-Aryans were a Language group of the Indo- European
Language Family, & not a racial group as mistaken by Max Mullar! Therefore Dr.Romila Thapar calls it a gradual migration, & not an invasion! The Vedas were indigenous composition of India. However, they got compiled & written down for the first time with commentaries, at a much later date! I have maintained this position since it has been proved by modern scholars scientifically!)

SYMBOLISM IN INDIAN ART
From the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic to the Cretan Bull
of Greece,
Symbols have conveyed ideas and messages, fulfilling
artistic needs.
The ‘Da Vinci Code’ speaks of Leonardo’s art works as
symbolic subterfuge with encrypted messages for a secret
society!
While Indian art is replete with many sacred symbols to
attract good fortune, for the benefit of the community!
The symbols of the Dot or ‘Bindu’, the Lotus, the Trident,
the Conch shell, the sign and chant of ‘OM’, are all sacred
and divine;
For at the root of Indian artistic symbolism lies the Indian
concept of Time!
The West tends to think of time as a dynamic process which
is forward moving and linear;
Commencing with the ‘Big Bang’, moving towards a ‘Big
Crunch’, when ‘there shall be no more time’, or a state of
total inertia !
Indian art and sculpture is influenced by the cyclic concept
of time unfolding a series of ages or ‘yugas’;
Where creation, destruction and recreation, becomes a
dynamic and an unending phenomena!
This has been artistically and symbolically expressed in the
figure of Shiva-Nataraja’s cosmic dance,
Which portrays the entire kinetic universe in a state of
eternal flux!
The hour-glass drum in Nataraja’s right hand symbolizes
all creation;
Fire in his left hand the cyclic time frame of destruction!
The raised third hand is in a gesture of infinite benediction;
And the fourth hand pointing to his upraised foot shows the
path of liberation!

It was easier to teach the vast untutored population through
symbols, images, and paintings in the form of Art;
For a picture is more effective than a thousand words!
The Dot or ‘bindu’ becomes the focus for meditation,
Where the mental energies are focused on a single point of
creation,
As seen in the cotemporary art works of SH Raza’s
artistic representations!
Yet the same dot when expanded as a circle becomes
wholeness and infinity;
The shape of celestial bodies of the cyclic universe in its
creativity!
The Lotus seen in many sculptures, on temple walls, and
majestic columns, denotes purity;
A symbol of non-attachment rising above the muddy waters,
retaining its pristine color and beauty!
The Lotus is a powerful and transformational symbol in
Buddhist Art,
Where pink lotus is for height of enlightenment, blue for
wisdom, white for spiritual perfection, and the red lotus
symbolizing the heart!
This Lotus symbol also finds a place in Mughal sculptural
carvings and miniatures;
The inverted lotus dome resting on its petals, forms the
crown of Taj Mahal’s white marble architecture!
The trident or ‘trishul’ symbolizes the three god-heads
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva;
As the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, in that cyclic
chain which goes on forever!
The ***** stone of Shiva-lingam surrounded by the oval
female yoni symbolizes fertility and creation,
Usually found in the inner sanctuary of Hindu temples!
Finally, the symbol of ‘OM’ and its vibrating sound,
Echoes the primordial vibrations with which space and
time abounds!
All matter comes from energy vibrations manifesting
cosmic creation;
Also symbolized in Einstein’s famous matter-energy equation!
The Conch Shell a gift of the sea when blown, sounds the
ancient primordial vibration of ‘OM’!
It’s hallowed auspicious sound accompanies marriage
ceremonies and rituals whenever occasion demands;
And pacifies mother earth during Shiva-Nataraja’s sudden
seismic dance! (earthquakes)
Dear readers the symbols mentioned here are very few,
Mainly to curb the length, while I pay Indian Art my
artistic due!

A BRIEF COMPARISON OF ART:
Despite the many foreign influences which entered India
through the Khyber and Bholan pass,
India displayed marvelous adaptability and resilience, in
the development of her indigenous Art!
The aesthetic objectivity of Western Art was replaced by
the Indian vision of spiritual subjectivity,
For the transitory world around was only a ‘Maya’ or an
Illusion,- lacking material reality!
Therefore life-like representation was not always the aim
of Indian art,
But to lift that veil and reveal the life of the spirit, - was
the objective from the very start!
Egyptian funerary art was more occupied with after-life
and death;
While the Greeks portrayed youthful vigor and idealized
beauty, celebrating the joys of life instead!
The proud Roman Emperors to outshine their predecessors
erected even bigger statues, monuments, and columns
draped in glory;
Only in the long run to drain the Roman treasury, - a sad
downfall story!
Indian art gradually evolved over centuries with elements
both religious and secular,
As seen from the period of King Chandragupta Maurya,
Who defeated the Greek Seleucus, to carve out the first
united Indian Empire ! (app. 322 BC)

SECULAR AND SPIRITUAL FUSION IN ART:
Ancient Indian ‘stupas’
and temples were not like churches
or synagogues purely spiritual and religious,
But were cultural centers depicting secular images which
were also non-religious!
The Buddhist ‘stupa’ at Amravati (1stcentury BC), and the
gateways at Sanchi (1stcentury AD), display wealth of carvings
from the life of Buddha;
Also warriors on horseback, royal procession, trader’s caravans,
farmers with produce, - all secular by far!
Indian temples from the 8th Century AD onwards depicted
images of musicians, dancers, acrobats and romantic couples,
along with a variety of Deities;
But after 10th Century ****** themes began to make their mark
with depiction of sensuality!
Sensuality and ****** interaction in temples of Khajuraho and
Konarak has been displayed without inhibition;
As Tantric ideas on compatibility of human sexuality with
human spirituality, fused into artistic depictions!
Religion got based on a healthy and egalitarian acceptance
of all activities without ****** starvation;
For the emotional health and well-being of society, without
hypocritical denial or inhibition!
(’Stupas’= originated from ancient burial mounds, later became devotional Buddhist sites with holy relics, & external decorative gateways and carvings!)

KHJURAHO TEMPLE COMPLEX (950 - 1040 AD) :
Was built by the Chandela Rajputs in Central India,
When Khajuraho, the land of the moon gods, was the first
capital city of the Chandelas!
****** art covers ten percent of the temple sculptures,
Where both Hindu and Jain temples were built in the north-Indian
Nagara style of Architecture.
Out of the 85 temples only 22 have stood the vagaries of time,
Where a perfect fusion of aesthetic elegance and evocative
Kama-Sutra like ****** sculptural brilliance, - dazzle the eyes!

KONARAK SUN TEMPLE OF ORISSA - EAST COAST:
From the Khajuraho temple of love, we now move to the
Konark temple of *** in stones - as art!
Built around 1250 AD in the form of a temple mounted on
a huge cosmic chariot for the Sun God;
With twelve pairs of stone-carved wheels pulled by seven
galloping horses, symbolizing the passage of time under
the Solar God !
Seven horses for each day of the week, pulls the chariot
east wards towards dawn;
With twelve pairs of wheels representing the twelve calendar
months, as each cyclic day ushers in a new morn !
The friezes above and below the chariot wheels show military
processions, with elephants and hunting scenes;
Celebrating the victory of King Narasimhadeva-I over the
invading Muslims!
The ****** art and voluptuous carvings symbolizes aesthetic
bliss when uniting with the divine;
Following yogic postures and breathing techniques, which
Tantric Art alone defines!
(
Both Khjuraho & Konark temples were re-discovered by the
British, & are now World Heritage Sites!)

Artistic invention followed the model of cosmic creation;
Ancient Vedic tradition visualized the spirit of a joyous
self-offering with chants and incantations!
The world was understood to be a structured arrangement
of five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ethereal space;
Where each element brought forth a distinct art-expression
with artistic grace!
Element of Sculpture was earth, Painting the fluidity of water,
Dance was transformative fire, Music flowed through the air,
and Poetry vibrated in ethereal space!

CONCLUDING INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN ART:

Indian Art is like a prism with many dazzling facets,
I have only introduced the subject with its symbolism,
- without covering its complete assets!
After my Part Three on ‘Etruscan and Roman Art’,
Christian and Byzantine Art was to follow;
But following request from my few poet friends I have
postponed it for the morrow!
Traditional Indian Art survives through its sculptures,
architecture, paintings and folk art, ever evolving with
the passing of time and age;
Influenced by Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, Mogul, and many
indigenous art forms, enriching India’s cultural heritage!
While the art of our modern times constitutes a separate
Contemporary phase !
The juxtaposition of certain concepts and forms might
have appeared a bit intriguing,
But the spiritual content and symbolism in art answers
our basic artistic seeking!
The other aspects of Indian Art I plan to cover at a later
date,
Hope you liked my Introduction, being posted after
almost forty days!
ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH RAJ NANDY
E-Mail: rajnandy21@yahoo.
    FEW COMMENTS BY POETS ON 'POETFREAK.COM' :-
I have a vicarious pleasure going through your historical journey of Indian art! Thanks for sharing this here! 2 Mar 2013 by Ramesh T A | Reply

The prism of Indian Art is indeed has myriads of facets and is an awesome mixture of many influences some of which you list here so clearly - a very understandable presentation of symbolism too - -thank you for your fine effort Raj. 2 Mar 2013 by Fay Slimm | Reply

Oh what an interesting read with immense information capturing every single detail. You painted this piece of art with utmost care. Truly, it's works Raj…tfs 2 Mar 2013 by John Thomas Tharayil | Reply

First, I have to say, the part about the lotus symbolism reminds me – My name ‘NILOTPAL’ can be split into ‘NIL’ meaning BLUE and ‘UTPAL’ meaning LOTUS. So my name represents wisdom (although it contradicts ME.. LOL). A lot of things were mentioned in the veda and other ancient Indian texts that were way ahead of the time Like the idea of ‘velocity of light’ got considerable mention in the rig veda-Sahan bhasya, ‘Elliptical order of planets, ‘Black holes’ , although these are the scientific aspects. The emphasis on contradictory elements or even the idea of opposites in Indian art is interesting because India developed the mathematical concept of ‘Zero’ and ‘infinity’. Hard to believe Rajasthan was a fertile place but now it possesses its own beauty. It was great to read about the Natraja, ‘OM’ and the trident(Trishul). Among symbolisms, Lord Ganseha is my favorite because a lot is portrayed in that one image like the MOOSHIK representing
When I composed the History of Western Art in Verse & posted the series on 'Poetfreak.com', few Indian poet friends requested me to compose on Indian Art separately. I am posting part one of my composition here for those who may like to know about Indian Art. Thanks & best wishes, -Raj
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Elfor ECH Dec 2013
Soulmates share two pairs of arms
But what if one pair is wings
While the others are mere arms?

Soulmates share two pairs of legs
But what if one pair is fins
While the others are just legs?

Soulmates share two pairs of eyes
But what if one pair sees only metaphysical
While the other sees only physical?

Soulmates share two pairs of arms, legs and eyes
But what if the Soulmates no longer share;
What if they were no longer together

And the three pairs of two were split

So one had wings while one had arms
One had fins while one had legs
One saw metaphysical and the other saw physical?

Would one fly above the other that crawled?
Would one swim beneath the other that walked?
Would the metaphysical float by the physical unable to see?

But how could one fly without the other?
How could one swim without the other?
How could one see without the other?

How could Soulmates survive and not share;
How could Soulmates live without the other?
Ksh Nov 2019
In high school, I'd wear Converses.
Or Chuck Taylors, whatever you called 'em.
I'd remember going to a new school, proudly wearing
a pair of Converses with the same blue shade
as my new school's uniform skirts;
how I'd attend Phys Ed with the same trainers,
even though it wasn't a good idea to use them
for physical activity.
I remember riding in the back
of my father's motorcycle as we
did errands around the town,
and he'd indulge me by parking near
a road chock full of thrift stores --
and we'd go in, under a false pretense of
"just checking, just a quick look-around"
and my father would surprise me
by buying me a thrifted pair.
They were either pink, or magenta,
and I was at that age of rebellion --
"no girly colors", I'd shout --
but I'd always wear them out,
and it always made my dad smile.
I once came home with my friends
without telling my father,
and he was out in the front porch,
half-naked as all Asian dads are,
and he was clipping some brand new Converses
on the wash line to dry.
I had been so embarrassed, because this
was the first time that my friends
had seen my father, had seen my house
but all they could see was how kind he was
by surprising me with a new pair.
I had a total of seven pairs of Converses,
one of them he paid his sister to buy for me
from the United States.
I keep them in a box, under the sink,
because even though my feet have grown,
I'm still unable to sell them nor give them away.

In college, I wore Palladiums --
big, thick, chunky lace-up boots
that looked out of place in a college freshman's closet
and more at home tied by the shoelaces to a soldier's bag.
I've moved to the capital city,
away from my little brother, away from my father.
I lived with my mother, who worked and moved
until her body gave out and she'd have to take some days to rest.
She bought me my first pair when I asked;
because she told me that
"first impressions last; but shoes are always what stays in a person's mind",
which was funny seeing as how
Palladium was, first and foremost,
a company from the age of the Great Wars
that manufactured the tires fitted for airplanes;
and that now, decades later, rebranded themselves
as a company with a recognizable design --
channeling urban life, heavy endurance,
and the soul of recreating one's image,
rising from the ashes of the past like some sort of phoenix.
My mother had wanted me to fit in,
yet be unique at the same time,
in a world that moved so fast that I had to run just to keep up.
And she'd buy me pairs not as often as my father did,
but it was always in celebration.
Either for a job well done, a reward for good grades,
or simple because it was my birthday.
Those Palladiums became my signature shoes,
and I was the only one to wear them
inside the university.
At one point, I was recognizable because
of a particularly special pair --
Palladiums that were bright, firetruck red
and had the material of raincoats --
that people would know it was me
even from far away, just by the color of my boots.
I had six pairs in total; all heavy, all colorful,
with different textures and different price points,
and my mother bought me these special shoeboxes
which we stacked til the ceiling, right beside
her own tower of heels for special occasions,
because that was what defined us.

I've started buying my own shoes,
and I'm not as brand-exclusive as I was before.
There's a pair of no-names, some banged up Filas,
even a pair of Doc Martens I'm too afraid to bust out.
They're also not as colorful; because I know that
black pairs and white pairs are easier to style
in any day, in any weather, with any color or material.
Most of them were for everyday use, and it required
a certain level of comfort, a certain level of durability,
that was worthy of that certain retail price.

I look at my shoe rack, and realize
that I am not as colorful as I once was.
I do not have that sense
of colorful, wild, down-on-my-luck rebellion
that my father put up with in my adolescent years.
I lost my drive of being
a colorful, unique, instantly recognizable upstart
as my mother had taught me to be.
My shoes have no stories to tell,
no personality to express --
a row of blacks and whites, the occasional greys.
And when I look internally,
it's the same, monochromatic expanse staring back at me.

I am in a place where
I am everywhere and nowhere at once.
I can't tell whether my feet
are solidly on the ground,
or pointed to the sky, toes wriggling in the clouds.

In an ever-growing shoe rack
filled with old, ***** Converses,
and heavy, attention-seeking Palladiums,
I choose a comfortable pair of plain, white sneakers
and head out in the open,
paving my own way.
I take comfort in the fact
that it's just the beginning.
That I am at the start
of my designated brick road,
an endless expanse before me.
My shoes will acquire color,
my designs will develop taste,
my soul will be injected into the soles of my feet
with every step I take --
forward, backward, it doesn't matter
so long as I keep moving.
K Balachandran Jul 2014
Streaming sunlight, what an intense, insistent lover!
empty catamaran dances in it's sultry embrace,
on the foam bed of gently rocking sea waves.
The dark shadow of this union finds it's kind of fun
swimming deeper, frightening fish roaming in pairs.
Stu Harley Sep 2014
two red kites
like pairs of white kittens
locked in
a spiritual
trance
ice-skating
pairs
triple-axle
across
the
ice
blue sky
with a flare
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been conceived in Flamborough, so his little sister assured him some eleven summers ago, which was a tad hard for Rocky to swallow, she was a whole eighteen months his junior and then some... and at that age, well... what did she know, she was only a kid, "on this very rock" River insisted, kicking her heels in delight, "next to this very rock pool" they were both sitting beside, "one sunny afternoon eleven years ago..." and that was how he came by the name of Rocky... she taunted as the rest of the colourful story unfolded... and that she had it all on the best possible authority... although the more she thought about it, had she meant concealed... she wasn't quite sure now, it was all so very confusing at her tender age but thought it sounded close enough not to matter too much and that she would just wait and see which way the wind blew.
        
     It was conceivably an ill wind that blew no one any good that day, especially if you were a boy and just happened to be sat by a rock pool next to your little sister...  Having just taken a well earned drink from a neighbouring rock pool, Sockeye the floppiest Springer Spaniel this side of the Pecos decided that he was going to dig a hole and that he would be digging it deep, then changed his mind mid-dig and decided to have a more down to earth back scratching wriggle instead... then promptly flopped over and slid into the hole... life was sweet.  Now covered from nose to tail with every species of deceased shore life usually found frequenting the high water mark Sockeye, in a blinding flash of canine inspiration judged it would be in everyone's best interest were he to have a really good shakedown which always appeared to go down well on these occasions... and give everyone a good peppering, just so they could see exactly what they'd been missing all their lives.  

     "A rock of all places, for goodness sakes..." and what's more, it was this rock, "Yuk..." he jumped up and wiped his palms on the back of his jeans in disgust, then onto his tee-shirt, then sat back down again and began exploring his left nostril in quiet contemplation before finally jambing his hands back into his pockets... what in Heaven's name had his parents been thinking of..? what on earth was his little sister talking about..? and more to the point, what in fact did conceived mean..?  these were the questions that were uppermost in Rocky's mind as he poked an exploratory stick into the rock pool...  a baby crab marooned by the tide scampered sideways beneath a large pebble and stuck one beady eye out at him... Rocky's sister, seemingly in a world of her own, much like the baby crab sat on the edge of the noteworthy rock kicking her heels, an innocent smile curled the corners of her mouth as she quietly hummed a little song of tuneful bliss to herself and considered what further mischief she could possibly pass her brother's way.

     Rocky tossed a piece of driftwood over his sisters shoulder at a nearby flock of seagulls, squabbling over what appeared to be a discarded bag of fish and chips... Sockeye, simply knowing that his little master wanted to play a game of fetch gambolled after the stick, his ears flying courageously in the still Summer air and burst, amid a melee of feathers into their midst, only to romp back moments later, the stick all but forgotten in the excitement but now proudly sporting the derelict bag of leftovers and the odd splash of guano, his tail lolloping magnificently from side to side... and for the moment at least, leaving the fratching seagulls wheeling noisily overhead and to go about their daily business without further interruption... as for Sockeye, it had been a no contest situation.

     After fourteen years of valiant endeavour his father... Red, so named for his vivid shock of wiry hair, was still engaged in man's eternal struggle to win his significant other half's approbation with the manful art of deck-chair assembly, beach barbeque and other significant gentlemanly pursuits, all while strutting his manly stuff, sporting top of the range beach wear in accordance with the social etiquette of the previous decade... his masculine paunch slumping gallantly atop his waistband...  

     After the same fourteen terms of domestic servitude and the same thirteen identically overlooked anniversary cards a certain someone had no intention of allowing another certain someone to forget so much as one of them... his better half, so she insisted would ride rough shod, administering her own brand of justice at every given opportunity, in much the same way you'd brandish a royal-flush on poker night... or better still, a loaded revolver... and that she personally carried the burden of every ill-fated card that Lady Luck had dealt strung about her neck like Adam's original sin on Judgement Day.  

     Red much preferred the shorter, more condensed name of Rock for his son, rather than the longer more protracted Rocky, as he struggled with the wood and canvas lounger badly trapping the mound of his thumb in the process, "Aaargh...!!!" plunging his throbbing hand deep into the cold, soothing rock-pool "aaah...!!!"   Still marooned by the tide, the baby crab stood poised and ready for action as it considered giving this latest intrusion a good offensive nip, then hang on spitefully as it gave Red the final withering once over with the same baleful eye it had successfully used earlier.

     Acknowledging her husbands misfortune with a perfunctory grunt as she rummaged in her beach-bag for the thermos, she refused to be drawn in where thumbs were concerned right now, after all with his DNA sequencing she was convinced he could probably grow a new one within the month... whilst Tina, well... she was just plain worn-out... but still rejoiced in telling anyone who cared to lend a sympathetic ear in her direction... and who in turn was more than happy to listen to the woes of others and went somewhere along the lines of... 'and had she heard any more of poor Mrs Dorey's lingering martyrdom recently..? you know, the downtrodden lady who lives in the next street but one... and how they would all miss her when she was gone... and how she couldn't wait...' and as rumour had it, neither could her husband...

      Feigning to be otherwise engaged, Tina... as her husband, now blowing frantically on his mangled thumb, stumbled backwards over the half erected lounger and with a spine jarring "Ooomph...!!!" landed squarely in Sockeye's subsiding earthworks... professed total disassociation with the entire fiasco as she plunged her nose even deeper into the overdue library book she'd purposely brought on holiday for just such an occasion, making it perfectly clear that she was a tourist and furthermore, planned to stick with the same itinerary once they returned home... and that while she was here, she did not under any circumstances wish to be disturbed, the notice was clearly displayed hanging from the door handle... but if anyone should, then whoever it was did so at their own peril... and she was keeping score... although a mangled thumb she luxuriated, with the same roguish smile curling the corners of her mouth as the one normally found playing around her daughter's... was equally as heart warming.

      All Tina wanted was one week of uninterrupted peace and quiet in Flamborough, preferably with a certain someone out from under her feet then spend what might pass for several undisturbed hours sitting quietly by the rock pool comparing notes on eye makeup and the feminine merits of pedicure with the little crab who, still marooned by the tide was now sat busily knitting four pairs of matching leg warmers in the cool, still water but that was only if that certain someone... a shrill  "AAaargh...!!!" somewhat more desperate than the first, ****** itself upon the as yet unaggressive afternoon as it gyrated across the warm Jurrasic rock and recoiled out to sea... "now where was I", twisting her book uppermost "oh yes..! someone was going to pay..." only now it was going to be sooner rather than later, but only if that certain someone didn't finish the seating arrangements before the Sun disappeared and drift into some backstreet tea-room before all the lemon cheesecake sold out, or was that she reflected, simply too much to ask.

     It was his Surname that Rock found so objectionable, or it had been right up until his little sister's enlightening disclosure, now it was both names Rocky disliked, it would have been far kinder had Rock Salmon been sandwiched between sliced bread and given to Sockeye... who's solemn duty, from the first mouthful to the very last, was to gaze up beseechingly from beneath the kitchen table  and devour anything that passed his way, even the postman had to be quick about his business or have his arm follow the mail through the letter box... then Sockeye would just smack his lips and help himself to seconds.  

     All Rocky's mum had thought about for the last fourteen years was seconds... every last solitary one of them since she'd suffered with an infection of matrimonial neurosis which had deprived her of common sense and her maiden name, from Chovey to that of Salmon and how with hindsight she should have taken an Aspirin instead, wedlock she asserted was everything the name claimed to be and was without doubt the worst move she'd ever made... and what's more was seen as a bad move in whoever's wedding album you just happened to be paying your condolences to.

     Rocky would never be so fortunate on that score, unlike his sister he was stuck with Salmon for good, his grandma-Ann by all accounts had been dead set against the union from word Go and saw his father as someone who would always be out of his depth in whatever rock pool he found himself in, swimming against the tide as it were, rather than going with the flow... and it appeared that Rocky, almost eleven years into a life sentence, was about to flounder in the same murky undertow as the rest of the Salmon family... only he couldn't swim.

     "There"! her husband exclaimed "all finished... better late than never eh', who fancies trying it"? his wife luxuriated over the words 'better late' and wondered whether her new earrings, her latest acquisition would complement formal mourning attire.  Red dusted off the palms of his hands with the certain knowledge of a job well done and cautiously took one step back, looking with justifiable pride at the outcome of his manly exertions of the last two hours, this was what holidays were all about he declared, one man pitted against insurmountable odds...  His wife meanwhile was getting to grips with more odds of her own than you could safely expect to shake a stick at... her husband being one of them.  

     Having gathered her offspring with the promise of verbal earache if they didn't... and finished packing the beach-bag, Tina finally located Sockeye peering out from the shade of an adjacent rock, wisps of feathers poked tellingly from the corners of his mouth, his tail beating mischievously on the shingle decided in one further blaze of canine brainstorming, as Tina attempted to slip his collar on that a game of tag would just about round the day off nicely... Tina then devoted the next ten minutes chasing him amid unrestrained salvo's of cheering from the rest of the family... then bid goodbye to the little crab who, still marooned by the tide waved a friendly pincer in return... and trusted that she wouldn't have too long to wait for the next rising tide back home, then she slid off the rock with a corrosive... "the deck-chair attendant would have shown you" she snapped "and don't forget the deposit when you take them back" then double checking that she landed squarely on his foot she marched past, her floral sun hat jammed resolutely on her head at what she considered a jaunty angle with her equally jaunty, angular children scrambling in hot pursuit, back in the direction of their lodgings.  

     "Woof "..? said a bewildered Sockeye, bringing everyone to an abrupt halt... and with paws the size of place-mats, he wasn't going anywhere he didn't want to... he hunkered down with a look of hurtful accusation on his face, "oh yes you are my lad"! said his mistress "I've met your sort before" and knew exactly where to place the toe of her dainty size-5 as Sockeye, digging his heals in even further created swathes of canine furrows up the beach, leaving her husband the unwitting holder and in sole possession of the overlooked guest-house keys... and somewhat resigned to clean up his own masculinity and dismantle the recently assembled, now redundant deck-chairs by himself... as for Tina, well... she'd had quite enough excitement for one day thank you very much.

     Morning register was always the worst he thought, as they trooped back along the shingle beach, Rocky making surprisingly good furrows of his own... but the rest of the class loved it and saw it as the highlight of each day... Rocky's form teacher, despite showing a brave face was always hard pressed to avoid bursting into hysterics every time she worked her way down the register to the letter 'S' and would attempt to bypass it altogether, jumping from 'R' to 'T' and just prayed that no one else had noticed, but it hadn't taken the class very long to point out her oversight and... "please Miss" they'd all chant "we haven't had Salmon all week" and while the rest of the class were having convulsive fits, Rocky would elbow the lad sat at the next desk in the ribs... and promptly get one hundred lines for his trouble... thank goodness it was school holidays.  Why couldn't they have been given respectable names like Seymour Legge, Rock wondered, who sat over by the window or perhaps the teachers pet, Anna Prentice or even, Robyn Banks at a pinch, but definitely not what they'd been given and certainly not Salmon, they were the most hilarious names he could imagine and if someone was looking down on them right now he thought... then they had a very unique sense of humour indeed and Rock said so... "why" his little sister asked sweetly, "what's wrong with River Salmon".

                                                      ­                         ...   ...   ...*

a work in progress*                                                        ­                                                              240­6
Erin C Ott Jun 2018
Fallow brown, like he's poured his whole soul out through the gold sieve and lies in wait to be replenished.

2. The color of the ocean. Blue, I guess, but that’s not even the half of it. All the ruggedness of the waves—forming up, breaking, and forming again like life is only the motions. Her eyes are blue, but you could hardly tell.

3. A hand-painted bowl of fresh chocolate frosting from which the most immature hands soonest get a mouthful.

4. Beautiful. Like, drop dead gorgeous. I’d dig my own grave and stick to rolling in it if she ever looked at me some type of way. Their color? I don’t know. But most of all, I dare to wonder about the bludgeoned scar between them.

5. Sturdy cobalt. Far more indicative of her steady heart than gold could ever hope to be. Still susceptible to tear, but not so easily warped by heat or stress.

6. Simply brown. No, red? It’s always been hard to tell through the fog. Truthful like the rawest earth, I’ll call her mahogany.

7. Faded blue spray paint over a slate gray wall. Forcibly muted after her years of blasting music, but there’s still that rogue twinkle to them that I pray slips through the cracks.

8. Coffee, with all the vim and vigor to make you click your heels and fall in love.

9. Unripe lime seen lazing in the shade. Not fit for a margarita just yet, but straining at the bit nonetheless.

10. Hazel, although I still don’t know what the **** that actually is. Whatever. It looks nice on her resume.

11. Green. Or were they blue? The memories of her were too wonderful, too important, that I had to let the littlest details fade away first.

12. The crystallized seafoam that made me realize I deserved to feel alive, too.
Dedicated to any pair of eyes that's ever struggled to raise itself from the sights they've grown used to.
Mark Armstrong Mar 2018
Are you listening to the whispers? are you feeling scandalised?
Harbouring ***** little feelings that you wanna sanitise?
Walk through the swinging doors of a catholic franchise
Ask em for that sailors knot a black-n-white man-ties

To the pairs of prying eyes his practical rebuke
Is a marital disguise and a tactical puke
Throw the garter ‘mongst the pigeons, the voluntary victims...
Whose single minds are filled with matrimonial conviction

Paired up poets pool their miseries; the price of art
Each miserable synergy - the sum of its parts
Did he swear that he’d hold you ever dear to his heart?
To love and to cherish til your knees did part?

If she wants you like her father and you want her like your mother
What the hell are you gonna do when you’re bored of one another?

There she stands on ceremony all silk and sinew
While the vow evicted from his Adam’s apple continues
To stutter as the panic builds like stifled farts
Til it splutters its devotions on her lady parts

Her eyes sentence you to sit though your neck-hairs stand
She’s the ****** ****** written in the lines on your palm
Old scores squeeze sideways through her gritted teeth
And he takes on the debt of every promise she believed

Hide the love-bites in a polo-neck, your love life in a Rolodex
When the ***** hand of happen-stance runs its evil down your keks
Cos like the indelible digits on your bathroom mirror
Love is for life until you dress it with liquor

If she wants you like her father and you want her like your mother
What the hell are you gonna do when you’re bored of one another?

We are but experiments, seven billion shades of wrong
The clever ones stay celibate, the others pass it on
That’s an easy line to settle-on in present company
Single-riders in the peloton to pick up the debris
Jay M Wong Feb 2013
1:1
Stop. Who’s there? Tis clock strikes twelve,
brings thy Horatio to seek tis specter from hell,
In Denmark, something is rotting in thy state,
In Norway, unimprovèd mettle hot and full awaits,
Tis specter arrives to arouse confusion and fear,
but to treat it violence and majestic threat,
thy specter departs as the ****’s crow drew near,  
leaving the blows of malicious mockery to regret.
And for Hamlet may speak to the wandering soul,
Tis morning to Hamlet must the three a’go.

1:2
Claudius, thy Uncle, is crowned King a’last,
Gertrude, thy Mother, hastily marries a’fast.
With duties done, Laertes to France adieu,
Hamlet griefs thy Father’s death and thy Mother’s dine,
for once a Hyperion to now a satyr is Uncle to Father a’new,
is but now a little more than kin and less than kind.
Horatio brings poor Hamlet the fatherly news,
that King Hamlet’s specter is now a’loose.
The joyous Hamlet is but joyous to see,
the two month father, dead and decease,
but for he calls that foul deeds will foully arise.
He hurries to the heavenly site prior sunrise.

1:3
Laertes to Ophelia, a brother to sister, he warns,
that Hamlet is but a fiery lover and to love he sworn,
but to love now is but not the future,
for Hamlet’s fire may, thy mind unpure,
for his lovely vows are not to believe,
he is but a man of deception to conceive.
For when Laertes departs, Polonius rants,
that Hamlet’s love, Ophelia must recant
for his affections and fashions are but false wows,
for when blood burns, lends the tongue false vows.

1:4
Shrewdly the air bites, nipping and eager,
at Horatio and Hamlet thy specter nears.
To speak alone, it beckons so,
But Horatio to Hamlet speaks no,
for may it draw thy madness and strip thy reason,
but to thee specter does Hamlet go,
for thy life is but a’lacking living reason.
Aback do they hold him most,
but Hamlet, his sword he wields
Fate has brought him here, he feels
To hold him back is but to turn a’ghost

1:5
Revenge, does his heavenly father speak,
of tis horrid ****** of unnatural feat.
For the orchard’s snake, wears thy father’s crown
and ****** thy gracious Queen, whose now evil abound.
With dignity and devotion she loved me so,
but tis sinful ******, Hamlet, you must’a know!
Through my ears, a venomous potion he drew,
thy fair Uncle, Claudius that potion he brew.
Abed, my life he ended this night,
And to my crown and Queen took he a’flight.
For thy dearest father, revenge must thy draw
upon thy villainous head, Claudius must fall
And to thy sword thou dearest friends must swear,
to tell not the occasions of this night we bear,
And to madness Hamlet must falsely seek,
to discover the truth of horrid deed beneath.

2:1
Reynaldo to Laertes, Claudius a’spies,
to Paris, Reynaldo goes with a’plan devised,
to seek the situation of Laertes in foreign hoods,
with bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth.
Ophelia then enters, with her father she shares,
"Oh, father, father, I’ve just had such a scare!"
In her sewing room, it is Hamlet she sees,
with no hat, nor buttons, nor stable knees
For he stared and stared to let out a final sigh,
Love mad he may be, a’to King we must a’by.

2:2
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
Directly or indirectly will Claudius learn,
of Hamlet’s matters they are to return.
Polonius, with news of Hamlet, he waits,
for thee Ambassador, to inform that Denmark Gates,
Are to be opened for young Fortinbra’s ****** defeat,
Polonius to Claudius, reveals thy madness roots,
For Hamlet is but love crazy for the fairest fruits,
of dearest Ophelia, who a letter he wrote,
Proclaims the fairness of her upon tis note.
And to test the truth, their confrontation, must’e spy,
Behind the arras to view thy love-mad side.
Is but our hastily marriage and his father’s death,
thy Mother, aware, are but the means of his mad breath.
Polonius then to Hamlet, speaks of witty words,
A fishmonger he calls, but one of two is misheard,
For when Polonius humbly takes a’leave,
He is but to take anything, but his life, shall he not receive.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, enter to Hamlet, they chat,
but Hamlet to quickly find the two are but a King’s ****,
Only sent to spy on a dearest friend,
And to human’s name do they offend,
Only to betray a dearest friend in honor of the King.
And so Players arrived at Denmark grounds,
for they, the best in the world, Polonius sounds.
And then for Jephthah, witty Hamlet chants,
the song of a foolish man who accidently grants,
the sacrifice of his beloved daughter.
Pyrrhus, do they perform for dearest Hamlet,
His sword is a’air, but a’air it sets,
for he hesitates to swing thy sword,
And with this, Hamlet hopes to store,
the strength to **** the horrid Lord.
Though he is but ashamed, for upon false emotions can Players act,
And in himself upon truths, strength can he not extract.
So a play for the King’s conscience does Hamlet devise,
for the heavenly ghost may be false in his advice.

3:1
To be or not to be; that is the question,
For Hamlet to be nobler or to a’take action,
Shall he withdraw with ****** self slaughter,
But shall’st never may see thy fairest daughter,
To die, but to sleep for a mere dream,
But in sleep shall fair or foul be unseen?
Now Polonius and Claudius awaits,
for Hamlet’s arranged meet with a’bait.
Hamlet to Ophelia, his love recants,
For honesty and beauty are but Someone’s grants,
Once did he love her, but now a’figured,
that women are but corrupt and impured,
For one’s honestly and beauty can and shall be taint,
For if God given thou one face, dear not another by paint.
For honestly and beauty has God falsely bred,
All but one, shall women *****.
All but one, shall women be nun.
Hence this marriage is over, and to a nunnery at once,

3:2
Let this mousetrap be named and this play a’set,
Shall capture thy horrid mouse or thy Uncle of Hamlet.
Polonius to Hamlet, the theater he knows,
For a Caesar death died he at thee Capitol.
Upon the lap of fair Ophelia, does Hamlet, lie,
Only to think of country matters and nothing (he implies).
And the play begins, with a prologue so brief,
Like a woman’s love, was Hamlet’s belief.
The King and Queen, a loving bond they share,
But the King by a mystic potion envenomed beware.
Thee action to ****, a murderous scene it was,
Leaving Claudius to regret the murderous act abuzz,
He arises to say: Let there be light! Let there be light!
And to the joy of Hamlet to see tis joyous sight,
For the words of thy heavenly father was but right.
Now shall the minute parts of truth ignite.
And to his Mother he shall speak daggers wield none,
for shall his tongue speak of the cruelties undone.

3:3
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to England a’go,
Should insane Hamlet know not a hawk from a crow,
And behind the arras, Polonius will again spy,
the taxation of Hamlet and his Mother’s cry.
Polonius departs to spy upon the Mother and the Insane,
Only to leave Claudius to regret thy hideous Mark of Cain,
Shall he pray the Heavens to forgive him his actions,
For thy stripped thy Brother of life, throne, and attractions.
As Claudius is never to withdraw his stripped token,
Divine forgiveness shall never then be unspoken.
Hamlet can **** not his murderous Uncle in praying stance,
For a hideous monster shall not a’go Heaven by chance.

3:4
So behind the arras dearest Polonius stays,
to view the idle and wicked tongue arrays,
Thou’st the Queen, Thy Husband’s Brother’s wife!
But to hear a rat, shall Hamlet for a ducat its life.
Oh, but death ‘neath the arras, may it the King?
A horrid act? To **** and wear thy brother’s ring?
Oh, King it be not, but be a wretched, rash fool,
And now shall Hamlet tell thy Myth a’Ghoul.
For thy murderer has slain thy Heavenly mate,
And only now by natural law does he abate.
Upon these portraits shall ring a’clear,
That from thy Heavenly father is he nowhere near,
A murderer, a villain, a horrid fiend,
He is but a devilish murderer yield unclean,
No way can one drop from THIS to THAT,
And shall by this scene, the specterous soul attract,
Dear not be untenderly to thy Mother it speaks,
And shall this revenge soon awake its peak,
Hamlet appears a’mad to thy watching Mother,
but to his mother he warns, abed not another,
For two mouths should speak of none,
of this revenge that will soon be done.
And again, abed let not him ****** you so,
For now, apart to English must’e a’go.

4:1
Gertrude to Claudius, she continues to reveal,
Of Polonius’s ****** and his arras squeal,
"A rat! A rat!" A’mad Hamlet is,
Brandished, to rapier the life of his.
And now where’s thou Hamlet still?
To draw apart the body he hath killed.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is but yet called again,
With discord and dismay, are they to seek that thou slain.

4:2
The two seek to Hamlet, for the body’s lair,
Compounded with dust now does it wear,
And a sponge, does Hamlet call them so,
for the King to squeeze them dry and thorough,
"A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear."
The body a’by a’King, but a’King, the body unnear.
And so, Hamlet to the King premiere.

4:3
And to Claudius does Hamlet call,
That Polonius now rests at a dining hall,
‘til a conference of worms devours him all
He shall eat not, but they eat so,
‘tis our fate despite status quo.
And upon the lobby stairs a corpse may lay,
One of dearest Polonius, slain to heaven or hell
Now to English death must Hamlet pay,
To one mother does he give two farewells.

4:4
With a Captain does Hamlet now proceed,
Who tells of young Fortinbras of Norway accede,
The Norway prince through Denmark he leads,
to seize a’minute ****** patch must’e receive.
A worthless land, must many die for one,
But true greatness acts not from fair reason,
But for the sake of the mind when honor is won.
And has Someone granted the reasoning mind,
For man to hesitate so cowardly inside,
For thy deed to act, must we rid the mind bind,
And act on instinct and be not wise.
And from the reasoning state must Hamlet now leave,
for honor he shall act, and his emotions he’ll believe.

4:5
False sanity is but false no more,
For fair Ophelia’s reason be not restore.
A’now sings of thy premature stone a’foot thy father’s grave,
and the departure of Hamlet for thy wed depraved.
Claudius is but to blame for thee rotting state,
For Polonius, a proper ceremony he not awaits,
For poor Ophelia, stripped from her reasonous state,
For Laertes aback from France, by thy father’s death, irate.
And Laertes enters, with thy support for king,
For the murderer, vengeful death shall he bring,
So Claudius to Laertes, says he is not to blame,
but thy father’s murderer is but another name.
And enters Ophelia, with figurative flowers to give,
But those of Faithfulness have ceased to live.
Alive are but for Thoughts, for Remembrance,
for Adultery, for Repentance, and for False Romance.
For his sister’s sanity is but another to blame,
Laertes, a vengeance mind, is but now aflame.

4:6
Horatio, a letter from Hamlet he receives,
that upon a Pirate ship has Hamlet board,
And that shall with speed would’st fly a’breathe.
Meet to hear the story Hamlet has a’stored.

4:7
Claudius to Laertes, he speak of innocence,
for by public appearance, the truth may bent,
For the public count loves Hamlet so,
And to thy fair Mother, Claudius a’beau.
Thy noble father lost and sister insane,
The murderous filth of Hamlet is to blame.
At this, a loyal messenger approaches,
to deliver the news that but Hamlet reproached,
An English death did Hamlet face not,
For now his destined death are they to plot,
Naked and alone, will he return to Denmark a’learn,
Of the honorable fence-match, he shall earn,
Against Laertes, whose fatherly love nor illusion,
Shall the death of Hamlet draw conclusion.
Even a’church will Hamlet, Laertes slay,
Death by no bounds, must Hamlet pay.
Envenomed rapier and wine shall prepare,
the faithful death of murderous Hamlet a’near.
Gertrude then enters with Ophelia’s news a’share,
For sorrows comes not in singles but in greater pairs,
Upon muddy death has Ophelia drowned,
for now another death has but profound,

5:1
Two Gravediggers upon one grave they create,
for to the death of thy Graveowner do they relate,
To die by self slaughter or to die by not,
the attention of passing Hamlet have they caught.
With Hamlet does one of thee two chat,
for once a woman, shall this grave be buried at,
A quick digger for Hamlet to his surprise,
Revealed that to England is mad Hamlet to advise.
For a corpse to live for eight or nine,
Thy dearest Yorick’s skull is to find,
Thy a corpse to date three and twenty,
Leaves Hamlet to recall thy memories a’plenty,
And to think Alexander, o’buried alike.
Here comes the King, Laertes and the Queen,
And upon the burial grounds is Ophelia seen,
His dearest sister does Laertes mourn,
But to Hamlet, her death, his heart a’torn.
Laertes to Hamlet, must’e not compare,
the death of one is a little more foul than fair,
For forty thousand brothers can sum not his love,
For the death of the fairest maiden beloved.
Claudius to Laertes, must Hamlet pay thy debt,
the plot of night prior shall’st not forget.

5:2
Hamlet to Horatio, does his truths trust,
Of thy wretched King and his unjust,
Of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern English death they meet,
With sacrifice and thy seal was thou to spare self defeat.
Now’st Osric enters to Hamlet a’chat,
For’st not hot, nor cold, nor sultry at.
And a’wish to court, with thy Laertes of excellence,
For Hamlet’s head does thee King expense.
With six French rapiers and poniards assign,
For by fate’s determination, shall this court incline,
For a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,
Can we do not, but abide by fate a’follow.
Trumpets and drums, now’st the fence begins,
For Hamlet and Laertes hand and hand therein.
Pardon he begs, Hamlet to thy brother,
For in him is but foil Hamlet yet another,
And so they fence for honor and fence for life,
Two of two leads Hamlet the strife.
The King, to Hamlet he drinks,
Tis pearl shall he the cup he sinks,
And unwounded for two, Hamlet prevails,
But Queen, the dearest Mother, so faithfully frail,
For she drinks thy cup of heavenly pearl,
For heavenly it be not, as thy malicious plot unfurl,
The cup! The cup! A poisonous potion,
Cause yet another by venomous commotion.
A distracting cause, for Hamlet to bear,
For Laertes envenomed blade must’e beware,
Now envenomed blood shall Hamlet shed,
Shall he hold thy rapier of Laertes instead,
to shed thy venomous blood of thy venomous mind,
For now thy murderous plot shall unwind,
At the honorable death of brother Laertes,
Shall the death of Claudius be a’seized.
The King’s to blame for the death of all,
And tis day shall he see his destined fall.
With thy venomous blade held a’hand,
Let the doors be locked and the evils banned,
For Hamlet wounds thy treacherous soul,
And shall horrid Claudius pay his destined toll,
For Hamlet forces to drink thy murderous potion,
And shall he too die of venomous commotion.
The death of four and tis ****** scene,
Shall Horatio tell to those unseen.
Shall he speak of murderous truths embark,
for Fortinbras shall now throne Denmark,
For in Fortinbras does his admiration lay,
For does Hamlet trust thou’st fiery ambitious way,
And tis now concludes thy Hamlet’s life,
For death and death thou’st all alike...
A dedication and summary of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" the tragedy of the witty prince of Denmark written in 2011 for a class journal assignment.
Casey Lived in a small terraced house right on the corner of Green bottle road. It over looked some tall green trees in the neighborhood. Casey wasn't a very popular girl because of her rather strange ways, She certainly had an obsession with pyjamas. Everywhere you went in Casey's
house they were piles of pyjamas drying on the clothes rail .
Their were all sorts of colors most of them in a foral design and the list was endless She even had red tartan pyjamas never nighties as Casey never liked them she always preferred to cover her legs and they were practical and very warm. In Casey's draw upstairs she had ten pairs in each drawer that made a grand total of twenty pairs. why would you need all these pairs of pyjamas she could open up a shop tomorrow
Why Casey lived for her pyjamas every single morning her mum would be shouting at her to get dressed for school but often she just ignored her mum, this would upset her a lot in fact Casey's Mum was at her wits end, she had had quite enough..
So Her mum decided to do something about it she emptied all the drawers and bagged the lot and handed them into the charity shop. Her Mum left her just three pairs in her drawer. When she arrived home from school and discovered her drawers had been emptied of all her favorite
Pyjamas she threw a big tantrum but her mum didn't take any notice of her she deeply regretted spoiling her so much over the years and now
if it wasn't to late she would try and be a much better parent and start to discipline her children in future and guide them in the right way for adulthood. When Casey calmed down a little bit her mum sat her down to explain why she got rid of her other pyjamas soon Casey began to release that she did have a problem and she was to be coming selfish
she apologized to her Mum and they both hugged and hugged and soon they began to laugh it off....
"
A story about a mothers relationship with her daughter...
"
Casey Lived in a small terraced house right on the corner of Green bottle road. It over looked some tall green trees in the neighborhood. Casey wasn't a very popular girl   because of her rather strange ways, She certainly had an obsession with pajamas. Everywhere you went in Casey's
house they were piles of pajamas drying on the clothes rail .
Their were all sorts of colors most of them in a floral design and the list was endless She even had red tartan pajamas never nighties as Casey never liked them she always preferred to cover her legs and they were practical  and very warm. In Casey's draw upstairs she had ten pairs in each drawer that made a grand total of twenty pairs.  why would you need all these pairs of pyjamas  she could open up a shop tomorrow
Why Casey lived for her pyjamas every single morning her mum would be shouting at her to get dressed for school but often she just ignored her mum,  this would upset her a lot in fact Casey's Mum was at her wits end,  she had had quite enough..
So Her mum decided to do something about it she emptied all the drawers and bagged the lot and handed them into the charity shop. Her Mum left her just three pairs in her drawer. When she arrived home from school and discovered  her drawers had been emptied of all her favorite
Pajamas she threw a big tantrum but her mum didn't take any notice of her she deeply regretted spoiling her so much over the years and now
if it wasn't to late she would try and be a much better parent and start to discipline her children in future  and guide them in the right way for adulthood. When Casey calmed down a little bit her mum sat her down to explain why she got rid of her other pajamas soon Casey began to release that she did have a problem and she was to be coming selfish
she apologized to her Mum and they both hugged and hugged and soon they began to laugh it off....
Katie Nicole May 2014
your old socks haunt me
as they linger in my drawer

Touching all my innocent matched pairs.

you had slipped them to me
one frosty night when the cold nipped at my toes

An act of a gentleman.


but now what am i to do?
you're gone, but your socks remain

Each opening of my drawer kindles the coldness I feel.

you and your socks betrayed me
none of you comfort me anymore

*But at least the socks decided to stay.
Thomas Thurman May 2010
For you
my dear
anew
for you
all through
the year;
for you
my dear.
Casey Lived in a small terraced house right on the corner of Green bottle road. It over looked some tall green trees in the neighborhood. Casey wasn't a very popular girl because of her rather strange ways, She certainly had an obsession with pyjamas Everywhere you went in Casey's
house they were piles of pyjamas drying on the clothes rail .
Their were all sorts of colors most of them in a floral design and the list was endless She even had red tartan pyjamas never nighties as Casey never liked them she always preferred to cover her legs and they were practical and very warm. In Casey's draw upstairs she had ten pairs in each drawer that made a grand total of twenty pairs. why would you need all these pairs of pyjamas she could open up a shop tomorrow
Why Casey lived for her pyjamas every single morning her mum would be shouting at her to get dressed for school but often she just ignored her mum, this would upset her a lot in fact Casey's Mum was at her wits end, she had had quite enough..
So Her mum decided to do something about it she emptied all the drawers and bagged the lot and handed them into the charity shop. Her Mum left her just three pairs in her drawer. When she arrived home from school and discovered her drawers had been emptied of all her favorite
Pajamas she threw a big tantrum but her mum didn't take any notice of her she deeply regretted spoiling her so much over the years and now
if it wasn't to late she would try and be a much better parent and start to discipline her children in future and guide them in the right way for adulthood. When Casey calmed down a little bit her mum sat her down to explain why she got rid of her other pajamas soon Casey began to release that she did have a problem and she was to be coming selfish
she apologized to her Mum and they both hugged and hugged and soon they began to laugh it off....
Alyssa Underwood Mar 2016
I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  “That fellows got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some **** their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
******* a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one’s throat, before
The hangman with his gardener’s gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.


II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer’s collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock’s dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God’s sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had ****** us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


III

In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman’s hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother’s soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool’s Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil’s Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a ****-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another’s terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The **** crew, the red **** crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the ****** grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

“Oho!” they cried, “The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame.”

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God’s dreadful dawn was red.

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to ****.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows’ need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness *****:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man’s heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a ***** in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the ****** sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


IV

There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God’s sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man’s face was white with fear,
  And that man’s face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were ***** and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer’s heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God’s kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man’s despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who ***** the yard
  That God’s Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


V

I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart,
  And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean *****’s house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ’s snow-white seal.


VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men **** the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Peeing: to ***; to urinate; to release the body of its liquid toxins; to pass or discharge *****; characteristically yellow- the strength of the color depending on the body’s hydration.
People have strange habits when peeing; urinating; releasing the body of their liquid toxins. Some people procrastinate it to the last minute and rush to the bathroom, barely yanking their pants down in time and shuddering in relief. They are those who habitually whip in and out, even when they don’t really need to. There’s the common usage of an escape from boredom in classes or meetings. Perhaps it even causes a slight blushing in the cheeks of painfully shy woman at hearing rushed tinkling so close by. And of course, they are also the people who love to leave surprises for the next person who uses the bathroom.
All in all, peeing seems to mean not much to people – a small part of life; but a very, very necessary part.  

                                 *                 *                    * .

The rain poured furiously outside the window as Emily sat, straining her brown eyes against the whiteboard flashing images of trigonometry from Mr. Well’s laptop, trying hard to concentrate. She was sitting in her usual seat in class, and also her favorite. It was a solitary table with a chair, away from the clusters of tables and the chattering children, and the only chair by the window. She liked to look out the window, even if it distracted her from Mr. Well’s loud explanations. The booming of “SOHCAHTOA” in her ears became distant as the wind’s movement caught her eye. She gazed out on sheets of rain flapping across the sky like giant teary spirits and pressed her fingertips on the glass. Cold.
Absent-mindedly, she pressed her cheek against the coolness and felt it absorb her body warmth. Her imagination kicked in and the glass became a panel of energy, ******* a little life from all those who touched it, vibrating with a strange purple light until it was so filled with energy the particles of the glass would explode and she would be the first to die from the sharp shatters that would spray across the room, causing droplets of blood to-
Ahem.
Mr. Well coughed meaningfully at her dreamy face. The class exploded into laughter and the bell rang. A skinny girl smiled at her but she was so lost in her own world, she forgot to smile back as she slung her bag on her shoulder and ran out. Maybe that’s why she didn’t have too many friends.
The dark skies were pouring furiously as only Bangkok in Monsoon weather can.
A walk home or a motorbike ride? A motorbike ride would be a little dangerous in this flooding… and with that reasoning she waved up a motorbike. The seat was soaked and so was the driver, whose brown leathered feet struggled to keep red flip-flops on as they sloshed through the flooded Sois.
Fat water bullets pelted her skin and the wind blew them ferociously into her face till her eyes stung. The motorbike swerved in and out of the cars stuck in traffic (slightly floating), the bottoms of their wheels immersed in ***** water.
The pockets of her school shorts were hastily rummaged through and she pulled out a soggy green twenty-baht note bank before running into the shelter of the lobby, dripping over the marble floor and completely drenched. The building-maid widened her eyes, and watched her horrified; knowing it meant extra work mopping and drying up the lobby floor as soon as Emily vanished into the elevator.
The plastic button with the circular metal piece glowed orange. It was strange how she was shivering with cold but her touch was still warm enough to light up the elevator buttons.
The usual itchy, impulsive, restlessness was building up inside her from the wet motorbike ride. Thunder roared and crackled through the lobby’s swinging glass doors and they vibrated slightly. Another flashing image of splintering glass splashed across her mind and in the split-second, she saw the diamond shards pierce the eye of the lobby’s guard and splinter across the floor-
She shook her head. This was what happened when she had too much pent-up energy. She had to do something- something reckless and fast and dangerous… now! A bolt of lightning went through her as a familiar wide open space came into her mind… the rooftop of her thirty-five floored building.
The elevator ride up was slow, much too slow for the fast pacing of her heart and she hit the metal doors with wet fists. Tearing out of the doors when it finally jolted to a stop, she climbed up to the top, running up the stairs two steps at a time and caught her breath. It was flooded up to her ankles and violent gusts of wind made her steady herself.
Emily’s Dad often told her stories of when he was child. “The winds in my home during Monsoon season were so strong we could lean into it with our fully body weight and we wouldn’t fall. It was almost as good as flying.”
Her lids squinted shut and the sensitive skin was immediately exposed to the pebbles of the rain and whipping wind; and in almost dream-like state, she leaned into the howling wind.
There was a comically slow fall and her bony knees hit the concrete flooring with a dull thud. She burst into tears of laughter in her own stupidity at thinking the wind could hold up against her gigantic frame and rubbed her ***** knees sorely. Reaching up to wipe her tears with muddy fingers, she laughed to herself again. There was no point in wiping away tears. They were so trivial in comparison to the current weeping of the skies.
Against the thick opaqueness of the wind, she could see how the view towered over a jungle of buildings as far as the eyes could see, with snaking concrete roads and skinny black canals. Slums scattered around nearby swanky hotels of the rich. The buildings faded into small dark shapes in the distance. Bangkok.
No matter how tall and industrial it tried to become, everyone ran for cover under this blinding rain.
Up here, completely a victim to nature’s power, she felt exposed; naked; real. The animalistic instincts inside her swelled up. Humans weren’t meant to wear these annoying pieces of material or shoved inside skinny architectural designs. With aggressive tearing motions, a pile of soggy clothes half lay, half floated on the flooded floor beside her and she stood there bare… and completely naked. Laughter spilled out from the depths of her naked chest with the two tiny hints of possible womanhood; it was louder than thunder. Screaming, laughing and gasping she stumbled around – climbing over objects and feeling the beautiful dizziness: a sweet, sweet dizzy. She stood up on a random block a meter high; spread her arms wide as her wet body shone with raindrops. The rain threatened to push her over, her soaked hair twitching heavily on her neck.
She ****** in her breath, ready to yell so that the heavens could hear but instead, the voice that came out was controlled with a shaky undertone of joy,
“I need to ***.”
And then she did.

                                                *         *            *.

His eyes are brown. Dark chocolate brown – a simple, solid color. Simple and solid like him.
Because he was so simple, people enjoyed his companionship. Though he was simple, he was not boring. Rather he was sharp-mouthed, quick on his feet, witty and observant speaking bald truths about people that either provoked them to scandalized laughter or humiliated fury.
What some people forgot to recognize was that he didn’t really love anyone. Plenty called him a close friend, but so absorbed were they in their own world; they seldom realized the fact that most of his thoughts were concealed. Kept in a little box of surprises in the back of his mind, and hidden so well nobody knew they existed.
He could spend months with a friend traveling in a different country, and return back home with no feelings of attachment. He could care for a friend while they were here and not really miss them while they were gone.
Most of the time his eyes were neutral and observing and they would sparkle amusedly when he had provoked someone with his words. This was how remained to almost everyone; everyone but one person. The one person that could turn his normally calm face even more still, the dark brows would rise slightly and a quick flash of fire would shoot through his eyes- and for a long while, they would burn slowly like two twin coals; the one person who could cloud his eyes dreamily; the one person who could make them glint wetly.  
He reached over and grabbed her hand. Emily turned smiling eyes at him.
A group of teenagers were strolling down the closed roads, armed with water guns, pasted in thick white powder, thoroughly drenched in the hot, dry weather and skipping over puddles (except for Emily who splashed into them).
Songkran in Bangkok: celebrated in the middle of April where temperatures reach forty-degrees Celsius, Thailand’s New Year and a time to pay respect to the elders in the family, but as most traditions, they became really just an excuse to enjoy oneself and in this case, one-year-olds to eighty-year-olds roamed the ***** streets splashing ice-cold water from hoses and water guns and smeared each other with chalk in buckets.
The street they were being shoved along was crowded with slick, drunk bodies. The heat of the afternoon sun shone down on their backs. The sign that introduced excited people in was sprayed by a passing pick-up truck filled with screaming locals. “WELCOME TO SOI COWBOY” printed the red letters.
Red-faced fat foreigners held in each arm a tiny ******* with their bright lace bras showing through the wet see-through shirt and their black eye shadow playing havoc with their cheeks.  Country-side Thai music blared in its jumpy, quirky manner with the over done sound effects. Those nasal voices of dark skinned women with their skins covered with make-up to an ashy white whined out of the stereos. A man with the head of a buffalo mask sauntered past. It was a mark of how wild things got at Songkran that eyes merely flickered over the shirtless buffalo briefly with a quick laugh. Transsexuals clad in diamond-studded flip-flops, wet white tank tops and mini jeans shorts the size of underwear danced to the blasting music from the open pubs down either side of the road. Their surgically-made ******* were all-too visible in the white shirts, their dark ******* poking out as they grabbed the crotches of good-looking men and boys that passed by, squealing and rubbing their bodies against white men especially. Most of these white foreigners had a look of bewildered pleased ness... for only a few realized that underneath that squeaky voice was a very deep rumble, and underneath those lacy thongs lay a very big surprise indeed.
One of the better-looking boys in the group, his green eyes and pointed chin drawing the fancy of many hookers, was pulled off by four pairs of wet skinny arms touching him and yelling in broken English, “Oh so handsome! You so handsome! I love you! What your name! You tell me your name, handsome boy!”
The handsome boy proceeded to manage some sort of scream for help while laughing until his stomach ached. It was Songkran; it was a merry time, and he knew he was good-looking. Kat, who held a secret crush on him laughed amusedly at his yelping.
Emily stumbled after him with Kat and parted through the crowd of ladies in time to see a tiny little ****** trip on her squeaking flip-flops and fall beside a sprawled figure, face down in the ***** road with a massive bag of ice on top of him.
“Hey! Are you alright?” Emily cried, half-amused and half-concerned, lifting the heavy ice bag off his shoulders.
Kat rushed forward, laughing but compromising her concern with furrowed brows and helped him up. “You okay Tom?”
He whimpered in pain and put a hand on his neck, rubbing it sorely. “That ice bag was ******* heavy.” The girls decided to make no note of his skinny arms.
They walked back to their group of friends who turned around and saw a limping green-eyed boy and roared with laughter. The noise caught the attention of predators searching for a good target and they were hosed down with water pipes.
Suddenly Emily felt a huge body lift her up and swing her around while hands plastered her with wet chalk.
“Emily!”
She felt safe hands grab her and looked up into the pair of dark chocolate eyes. They were a little annoyed as they flickered over the fat drunk man who released her heavily but it was Songkran, and he managed to laugh at her bewildered expression.
Just then they passed a horde of prostitutes and she felt him being ripped from her. “I like this one!” screeched a passing market lady who rushed in to jump on him. “I like this one! Let’s keep this one!” They dunk his head in a bucket of white goo.
She screeched with laughter and even at something that silly, felt protective of him. “Brad!”
He was too busy being attacked. “Brad!” she tried to reach in and he opened his mouth to call out to her. That was a big mistake, he realized, as he received a handful of powder in his mouth. Spitting, coughing, and trying to breathe through nostrils blocked with powder he managed to wipe his stinging eyes clean. The prostitutes released him but not before a huge ******* screamed with glee at his straight nose and thin red lips, and reached forward giving his crotch a good grab. He screeched in genuine disgust and fear, had a moments feeling of guilt in case he had offended the ******* which was immediately wept away as he, no she, no it, yelped joyfully and massaged his **** before trotting off to his, no her, no its next victim.
Where was Emily? With his height, he managed to see a brown head that stuck above the other dark-haired and light-haired heads being jostled out of the street by the moving crowd. He ran to catch up and grabbed Emily’s hand as the group of teenagers tripped out of “Soi Cowboy”.  
They stood for a moment catching their breath. Zoey, a tiny little girl with a chest that threatened to put her out of balance, pushed her brown curls out of her face. A red glow was starting to spread over her cheeks.
Kat laughed scornfully, her wide smile spreading generously over her face. “Sunburn?! You white girl!”  
They had all been out around the streets since early morning and it was late in the afternoon now. Rose’s cheeks were flushed and the tip of Kat’s nose was a little pink herself. The rest of them, with their darker skin, had tanned slightly but unnoticeably. They laughed at Zoey for a short while. It was an interesting group of friends: all of them of mixed heritages from around the world with different backgrounds that became common in the world of International schools. It was alright to tease Emily’s honey skin; it was funny to crack jokes about Stefan’s hairiness; it was hilarious when Zoey tried to tan.
Emily shot a picture of everyone laughing: their clothes wet, their faces scrunched up, eyeliner smudged (Kat and Rose had lined their eyes with water proof kohl that of course wasn’t really waterproof), their cheeks and chin caked a crumbly white.
Kat and Zoey clambered over her shoulders, peering at the little digital screen of the water proof camera. “Ew! Gross!” yelled Kat who was only used to pictures of her lips rosy from lipstick, camera at a flattering angle with a bright flash from her professional equipment that made her black-lined green eyes sparkle like emeralds.
“Delete! I look sick!”
Even Zoey, who admired Kat’s photogenic ness to a great extent, could find no words of solace except to say, “Me too! I look gross! Delete! Now!”
Emily just laughed and said, “No you don’t.” Of course it wasn’t a type of picture they’d profile on Facebook, but all the same it was beautiful with their wild-looking and uninhibited faces and un-posing body shapes, curled up in laughter.
Zoey snatched the camera from her and they fiddled with the buttons till the picture was deleted. It was regretful, annoying, but not unexpected.
Emily rubbed her sore knees and noticed how Tom was still rubbing his neck sorrowfully with Stefan laughing at him, shaking his head wearily. Brad was holding onto her arm a little tiredly, Kat and Zoey had their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder for leaning support and Rose and Emily’s younger brother, Jason, were standing together, staring absen
Cat Fiske May 2015
and in the world of unknown,
the boy sat alone,

he was so much on his own,
and he wanted a friend so bad he was willing to make a clone,

and he thought more about making a friend in his mind,
because he didn't know his own cline,

and when he saw her,
chills went up his chine,

she made jaws drop,
and sweaty chins,

and you imaging what her love was like,
like raw sugar cains,

and you give me so many pains,
in all my veins as you come closer,

are you walking to me? does someone care?
do you want to stop being alone and be like, umm... **pairs?
I used the words from a word ladder go figure
vircapio gale Jul 2012
"
"nor is this a fact," nor is my syntax the 'true.'
i can't use quotations in the way i'd like to,
to allow the paradoxical to seep through
in the sly act of revising 'this' honestly--
merging truth with falsity, to silently see--
grammar become a means to shatter certitude

"i can't tell the 'truth' with these ["i can't tell the 'truth'
with these{...} very words"] very words"; i really can't...
it's somewhat unfair to communicants, this rant.
let me bolster your trust by not telling it slant:
in fact, it's not poetry, not from this angle.
maybe when you read, this 'this' will be poetic?
meh, i'm relying on telling, not showing. so...
quiet's often better than such entanglement

but this is not about value, it's about truth.
sincerely, i doubt i'll keep those two separate

perhaps... if you pretend i'm a prolix parrot,
who happened through some acosmic accident
to be the transmigrated daimon-soul of Sappho,
or Hypatia, Gertrude Stein or Plath even...
(yeah, i'm like a Cretan for going on): they weren't,
'your gobbledygoo,' or 'Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.'
stripped bare at the Caesareum, being murdered
for the crime of godlessness or female wisdom
spoken in the scapegoat-hungry rule of Rome...
this is not what they were, not the whole truth, at all
and though from winds of ****** she spoke in verse
that her vast poetic fame 'was no delusion:'
and that, 'dead, I won't be forgotten,' i fail,
painfully fail,
to trace into a verbal womb
the seeds of those that transformed all, yet now entombed...
for to remember them in me is to revise,
reduce, sadly in that poetic untruth found...

"this" is a gestalt, i guess i'll have to say,
a "figure-ground," a floating 'shape' in some context,
one that you embody too, somehow, not in text;
even through a distant sharing, it's realized
(hold onto the random metaphors you find,
they're probably better than what's in my mind)
and to share this with you now, to hypocritize,
it's lunacy. i mean, the moon, the poetic moon
is not a meme, is not a custom, is not a poetic fact,
in fact, it's not in this poem, and if it were--
being televised with some authentic ontic pixel-space--
here between the lines augmented mOOn for you
it would prove how unpoetic the poem is, and how
very true the moon is, if it were here, right quoteunquote"here"
ineffably punctuated
            -- well, let me try
and fail again to make Erasmus proud:
the quotes would hang about romantic beams
parentheses to echo adjectival spectra streams,
an underscore horizonal and asterisks for stars.
but not these * asterisks,
or those_types of underscores--
better (parentheses) and far more "quothy" "quotes"--
the punctuation would literally ^punctuate^ the sky of my text.
time would stop.                                                            ­                   and that would be poetic.
you don't need to breathe, even; not this 'you,' in this moment
(the one i've failed to capture):
'i will put you on the moon' i say,
'and sit you buoyant by the buddha-astronaut, who,
in answer to the question sprinkles moondust in slow motion,
symbol-guiding realness, my "finger" for solution,
to present to you again, what is present to me now.
the Russian names, the rest of names, the 'face' some say cries, "sweetly,"
as if we could use the moon's sympathy,
or as if we should feel it for the white rock that elliptically defines us,
dances to our rhythm, (the tides, the ****** huntress)
the one that taught us to dance,
the one that taught us to yearn darkly in surreal eclipse
more hopefully for the chance of cataclysmic doom
some Greeks thought it was a disco ball, after enough *****, that Dionysian night,
some Greeks thought it was a disc,
like a coin that flipped just right
to match it's dance about our pearoid earth
in synchrony's anachronistic mirth.
i would lick each Bacchant clean to learn the mysteries of poem
i would lick each Bacchant clean. period. no music or noema known
this 'poem' is not a "poem"
in a very real sense
i did not make this,
nor did i compose or create it.
if you're not following it's ok, i'm barely there myself -- i'm trying to refer to...
the elliptical shape that certain publishers use
to refer to fundierung
the double-founding,
reversibility,
the flesh of passive
the flesh of active
enfleshed perceiving
the common meaning we contribute
but can't attribute to any source we express!
(however distorted) after the fact, yes! --
either all that, or the meaning you get from "this" act
doubly-enfolded, with two pairs of hands kneading the same dough,
two pairs of eyes weaving the same lOOm,
another Indra's net to sew,
in meaning you give now,
the techne of your reader's mind
and the meaning i'd wish to know,
if i were still writing what you are reading,
doing my best to ignore the title
and to write something worthwhile...

i do wish i could show it to you the way i love it in your own poetry,
but you would know that, already, without my love

without my unpoetic lack of facts, my rhymes.
free of poems, free to flout the literary sea.
free to be unwordly, and let the contradictions fly
"
-a version of the Cretan's or liar's paradox ('This sentence is false.') inspired this write and took on a life of its own and isn't meant to be an argument for anything. just an exploration of the problem of representation, a universal distrust of language and my associations. hope it didn't drive you crazy like it did me :)

-i quote Sylvia Plath's "Daddy", Stein's "Susie Asado", and Sappho's very short,

"I have no complaint"

I have no complaint
prosperity that
the golden Muses
gave me was no
delusion: dead, I
won't be forgotten
Sappho

-Erasmus wrote "Praise of Folly." the title alone comforts me

-when asked 'what is truth?' by one of his disciples, the buddha is said to have picked up a flower.

-our moon rotates at the same rate as its revolution (not sure why please inform me), so one side always faces us. the greeks thought it was a disc, literally. and when the Russians got to the 'backside' first, they got to name all the craters.

-noema:
the objective aspect of or the content within an intentional experience. NL, fr. Gk noema perception, thought understanding, mind, fr. noein to perceive, think
patty m Jul 2018
In the pale beyond the moon
fossilized predators bay,
while stone footprints lead us nowhere.
We slide across meridians,
masked as silent shadows,
some run with wolves
and sometimes vanish
others are mummified
soon after they're born.
Lost souls, stray cats, fleas on the
backs of ubiquitous rats,
we flail ourselves with twisted hangers
sounding discordant notes.

Tattooed our blood rituals finalized
we peel ourselves from the edge
living knife sharp against the violence always flaring.
Beat up junk, reeking of smoke
the cruelty of it all and yet we reveal nothing,

Lionesque leaders stalk
jabbing their claws, partaking in torture,
now we are random prey;
no tower of control or greetings are chorused,
as we move alone or in pairs conversing only in signs and signals.
We align our sites on the bullet's trajectory,
superimposing ourselves on our enemy's vision,
Like demons spreading disease and infection
we fight until we die, or defiantly dance
in the bloodlust of future freedom.

Idols turned clay, the universe erupting
what do we make of it all?

Nullified regions under siege
and still they fight,
don't they know that we're all dying?
Bryan Lunsford May 2018
With a paranoid soul,
I've been staring for hours and hours out of my peephole,
Where beholds a pair of secretive glowing eyes made of gold,
With it being that of a sinister little troll that's had my paranoia at tenfold,
I feel as my whole mind, here, begins to fold and nearly implode,
With my emotions no longer being able to go with the flow,
I decide to walk away, undress, and then snort a line of coke,
Followed by taking a hit of **** while I put on my bulletproof vest,
Oh, and yes!–surely if it's a fight that these little demons want to see,
Then it'll be a fight that I'll bring outside where I'll make them all regret ever trying to mess with me,
For no longer will I hide and allow them to whisper to me from my lone tree,
No!–For I will tell them all "I'll no longer be the one to carry out their evil little deeds",
And I will tell them that statement with a knife while rushing at their golden-eyed chief,
You know, just so there's no question of my authority,
Though, with a few steps outside, I see no pair of golden eyes within my vicinity,
Oh, and with "Such lies and deceit!" being the words that I have just screamed,
I hear a whisper whispering to me (as it's whispering from my only tree)
Where I decide to scream, "Oh, and you will not be making a mockery of me!",
Though, with nothing but a chuckle (as I know this voice is chuckling at me)
I pick up an apple and throw it directly at my lonely little tree,
There!–hearing with a loud screech and seeing a shadowy creature drop beneath,
It's with the sight of a hundred pairs of eyes lighting up my scenery,
And surely with my paranoia spiked to the highest degree,
I begin to wonder is this all in my mind? Though, I decide to entrust in my feet,
Where I run, and see this beast begin to chase after me,
I race towards my door, with it being "****** ******!" that I scream,
As it's with this peep hole, once again, and just like before consuming all that my eyes see,
I hear that whisper once more, hearing as that whisper turns into a roar,
And hearing as it tells me–like it's told me before,
That "Methamphetamine really isn't fun anymore"
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.
I. Song of the Beggars
"O for doors to be open and an invite with gilded edges
To dine with Lord Lobcock and Count Asthma on the platinum benches
With somersaults and fireworks, the roast and the smacking kisses"

Cried the cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.
"And Garbo's and Cleopatra's wits to go astraying,
In a feather ocean with me to go fishing and playing,
Still jolly when the **** has burst himself with crowing"

Cried the cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.
"And to stand on green turf among the craning yellow faces
Dependent on the chestnut, the sable, the Arabian horses,
And me with a magic crystal to foresee their places"

Cried the cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.
"And this square to be a deck and these pigeons canvas to rig,
And to follow the delicious breeze like a tantony pig
To the shaded feverless islands where the melons are big"

Cried the cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.
"And these shops to be turned to tulips in a garden bed,
And me with my crutch to thrash each merchant dead
As he pokes from a flower his bald and wicked head"

Cried the cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.
"And a hole in the bottom of heaven, and Peter and Paul
And each smug surprised saint like parachutes to fall,
And every one-legged beggar to have no legs at all"

Cried the cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.

Spring 1935

II.
O lurcher-loving collier, black as night,
Follow your love across the smokeless hill;
Your lamp is out, the cages are all still;
Course for heart and do not miss,
For Sunday soon is past and, Kate, fly not so fast,
For Monday comes when none may kiss:
Be marble to his soot, and to his black be white.

June 1935

III.
Let a florid music praise,
The flute and the trumpet,
Beauty's conquest of your face:
In that land of flesh and bone,
Where from citadels on high
Her imperial standards fly,
Let the hot sun
Shine on, shine on.

O but the unloved have had power,
The weeping and striking,
Always: time will bring their hour;
Their secretive children walk
Through your vigilance of breath
To unpardonable Death,
And my vows break
Before his look.

February 1936

IV.
Dear, though the night is gone,
Its dream still haunts today,
That brought us to a room
Cavernous, lofty as
A railway terminus,
And crowded in that gloom
Were beds, and we in one
In a far corner lay.

Our whisper woke no clocks,
We kissed and I was glad
At everything you did,
Indifferent to those
Who sat with hostile eyes
In pairs on every bed,
Arms round each other's necks
Inert and vaguely sad.

What hidden worm of guilt
Or what malignant doubt
Am I the victim of,
That you then, unabashed,
Did what I never wished,
Confessed another love;
And I, submissive, felt
Unwanted and went out.

March 1936

V.
Fish in the unruffled lakes
Their swarming colors wear,
Swans in the winter air
A white perfection have,
And the great lion walks
Through his innocent grove;
Lion, fish and swan
Act, and are gone
Upon Time's toppling wave.

We, till shadowed days are done,
We must weep and sing
Duty's conscious wrong,
The Devil in the clock,
The goodness carefully worn
For atonement or for luck;
We must lose our loves,
On each beast and bird that moves
Turn an envious look.

Sighs for folly done and said
Twist our narrow days,
But I must bless, I must praise
That you, my swan, who have
All the gifts that to the swan
Impulsive Nature gave,
The majesty and pride,
Last night should add
Your voluntary love.

March 1936

VI. Autumn Song
Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

March 1936

VII.
Underneath an abject willow,
Lover, sulk no more:
Act from thought should quickly follow.
What is thinking for?
Your unique and moping station
Proves you cold;
Stand up and fold
Your map of desolation.

Bells that toll across the meadows
From the sombre spire
Toll for these unloving shadows
Love does not require.
All that lives may love; why longer
Bow to loss
With arms across?
Strike and you shall conquer.

Geese in flocks above you flying.
Their direction know,
Icy brooks beneath you flowing,
To their ocean go.
Dark and dull is your distraction:
Walk then, come,
No longer numb
Into your satisfaction.

March 1936

VIII.
At last the secret is out, as it always must come in the end,
The delicious story is ripe to tell the intimate friend;
Over the tea-cups and in the square the tongue has its desire;
Still waters run deep, my friend, there's never smoke without fire.

Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of the migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.

For the clear voice suddenly singing, high up in the convent wall,
The scent of the elder bushes, the sporting prints in the hall,
The croquet matches in summer, the handshake, the cough, the kiss,
There is always a wicked secret, a private reason for this.

April 1936

IX.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

April 1936

X.
O the valley in the summer where I and my John
Beside the deep river would walk on and on
While the flowers at our feet and the birds up above
Argued so sweetly on reciprocal love,
And I leaned on his shoulder; "O Johnny, let's play":
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

O that Friday near Christmas as I well recall
When we went to the Matinee Charity Ball,
The floor was so smooth and the band was so loud
And Johnny so handsome I felt so proud;
"Squeeze me tighter, dear Johnny, let's dance till it's day":
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

Shall I ever forget at the Grand Opera
When music poured out of each wonderful star?
Diamonds and pearls they hung dazzling down
Over each silver or golden silk gown;
"O John I'm in heaven," I whispered to say:
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

O but he was fair as a garden in flower,
As slender and tall as the great Eiffel Tower,
When the waltz throbbed out on the long promenade
O his eyes and his smile they went straight to my heart;
"O marry me, Johnny, I'll love and obey":
But he frowned like thunder and he went away.

O last night I dreamed of you, Johnny, my lover,
You'd the sun on one arm and the moon on the other,
The sea it was blue and the grass it was green,
Every star rattled a round tambourine;
Ten thousand miles deep in a pit there I lay:
But you frowned like thunder and you went away.

April 1937

XI. Roman Wall Blues
Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

October 1937

XII.
Some say that love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world round,
And some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway-guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like classical stuff?
Does it stop when one wants to quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn't ever there:
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn' in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its time at the races,
Or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories ****** but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on the door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

January 1938
Sam Hawkins Apr 2013
What we have named Fire Escape
(an ordered, angular tangle of ladders and rail)
had made picture geometries in my west window
well-framed and flat--set foreground and background
in two dimensions, as the sun hid,
and my round eye opened.

What we have named Fire Escape
was flaked-paint brown orange, as if
first it had been born of a flame
and then had taken up living as metal--
tempered itself into usefulness,
which I should trust now, in case of the yelling
and the engines.

What we have named Fire Escape
was happy Jungle Jim or Jungle for Jane
for the sparrows I saw this morning
which flitted and wildly played
within, rising up
arched and back again.

Made of the square pairs of ladder rungs--
a tunnel entrance or ducking posts,
or highway bridges to clear;
the birds like small plane, daredevil pilots
each following each, going under.
No sparrow would ever crash.

And what is this I remember now?
How one bird eased its engine and perched there to stay?
As if to offer me, with a little turn of head gesture--
a thank you, for the bread I'd left on the sill? Or to say  
I'd better shut the curtain and make my exit?

Either prideful guess gets me nowhere fast.
Failed even is speaking in any sparrow languages
from my recline stuffed chair; again, but now imagined,
to draw beady eyes to fix on me, telling me much less.

That morning, with the very last sparrow gone,
I remember that nothing in my sight moved,
save an American flag at a distance in the wind,
with its one red-white striped wing
waving toward the cold north,
as the white church spire,
framed in open quadrilaterals,
held its position.
written and posted a few hours before the Boston Marathon Bombing, Monday April 15th, 2013
Genevieve Aug 2016
I keep looking for evidence that you were here.
Proof that once you shared this bed.
Some something embodying our shared time.
What I do find leaves me lost.

Three and a half pairs of socks.
Steak seasoning.
Aluminum foil.
Diet orange soda.
Hot sauce.

And, if you count them,
Notes I left for you.

Sometimes it feels like I dreamt it all,
Just like I'm dreaming you'll read these poems,
The only notes I can leave for you now.
Find them, and maybe I won't be so lost anymore.
Find me.
poeticalamity Jun 2014
She once told me
she was terribly afraid of
the 889 blades of grass
in the park down her street,
of the 889 worn books
in her local library
of the 889 gum-covered steps
to her bus stops
of the 889 looks
she must make over her shoulder
of the 1 778 pairs of greedy eyes
stealing looks away from me.

I missed her when she sent me pictures
because I couldn't bear to look
at empty frames of empty eyes
(red dows no match red
unless it is the scarlet of blood on broken glass
after a year and two months of tranparency)
and also because the things that slipped into my phone
could only remind me of moments that could never be
and dreams
that would never come true.

I don't know what to say to her
without breaking her
(like the broken glass)
(the image still hasn't left my head)
but she inspires me toward metaphors
and the adromeda galaxy
isn't so far away anymore.

How can I stay by her side
when she triggers me to want to fall
but how can I ignore her call
when she is the only person I feel safe with
to coincide

I am afraid to tell her
(or myself)
how I feel
because in a cliche
I don't know how I feel myeslf
but dear, together, we are formidable
and apart --
I don't know about you,
but I catch myself on the dry spells --
we are fort minable

this song has been stuck in my hear
since it reminded me of you
and this could be another metaphor for something heartfelt
and not altogether original

But I want us to be
the figures in the painting
you said you saw us in
I want to be
that feminist duet
(even if I can't sing and you voice is that of the devil's)
I want to be
the cats in the picture
with the intertwined tails
or the flowers tangled up
on a vine
(I was going to send you that on
but I thought against it
because you were too beautiful to be compared
to a simple petrichor-scented bougainvillea)

So I will be
the 889 poetry books
you dog-ear and highlight
and secretly slightly plagiarize
and I will be
the 889 plants growing
in your backyard,
sparkling for you like replacement diamonds
after the rain
(and better yet I will be the forest
of 889 trees
looming not frighteningly but protectively
over you)
and I will be
the 889 strides
of golden brick road
to follow to your favorite coffee shop every day
and I will be
the 889 innocent peaks
at a delicate pinkie finger or a nose
(because a delicate rose such as you
cannot be seen all at once and truly appreciated)
and I will even be
the 1 778 pairs of eyes
stealing my own looks,
and hopefully you will not be afraid anymore.

I will split myself
into
6 228 parts
to make you feel comfortable
and if this is not a love poem
then it is an apology
and gratitude
and anger/resentment/not really/how could I resent you/you are everything

what I'm trying to say is,
we could go so many different ways,
and what's one more expression of love to you
after all you've been through.
Jon Tobias Apr 2012
If you could see the way she looks at you
you would know

But you're busy building walls of doubt
nursung weary what-ifs
like feeding gremlins after midnight

I have this picture of the both of you

You are staring off into your imagination
always just above the horizon

And she is laughing
at something you said

She is looking right at you
smiling honest

Only you can make her laugh like that
Only you

I guess some of us need it spelled out
Our egos need to be reminded

You are not always going to be her favorite everything
You are not the best

But for whatever reason she chose you

Chose you like a raffle ticket
from a barrel full of so much better

You are not a jackpot
she is not a jackpot
but you both have won something

You're both walking away with what you came here for

You break her heart some days
How her eyes sadden
and she does that thing that girls do

you know
when they go
awww but it's pronounced oohh
(Men love that sound)

I see the tremble in her arms
the hesitation to hold your head to her *******

But your signals cross
and you beat yourself up later
for not acting differently
because she might fall in love with you
if you had done things differently

You can't act your way into a relationship
If you're not being yourself
You're being somebody else
and in that case
she's better off with that other guy

It makes me wonder about lightbulbs
and how many people it takes to ***** them in
depending on your occupation

I wonder how many pairs of eyes it takes
to notice what love looks like

Because if you could see the way she looks at you
you would know
and the only thing you might do differently
is continue to be yourself
First line donated by kelli
Time for an adventure,
3 a.m. and raining
Sitting in my FUBU hoodie
My brain was really straining
To keep awake until the bus
Pulled into Detroit Station
So I could start my trip across
This once great and mighty nation
I wasn't there alone this night
Others dozed and slept
Some just sat there silently
While some just sat and wept
I looked at those around me
Who had assembled for this ride
I hoped we would get along
When in walked a young bride
She was dressed in white from head to feet
Her veil was ripped and torn
Behind the ruined makeup
You could see her face was worn
No groom came in, she was alone
She changed, sat, made no fuss
It was almost one more hour
Before we finally saw our bus
A Greyhound, drab and dreary
Pulled up at our loading door
They announced "210 to Vegas"
And they didn't say no more
Most people fly when heading there
They want to get there and get home
Our band of silent travellers
Wanted to just get out and roam
They loaded up our cases
I just had a backpack, that
I was gonna take on board and
Just load it where I sat
They said fifteen more minutes
They would have to fill with fuel
At this point I made contact
With a man....to have a duel
He was sitting right across from me
He had a ball out, on his knees
He was tossing it into the air
So...I brought out my keys
He tossed it up and caught it
So, with my keys I did the same
He smiled and flipped it to his left
and with my keys I played his game
He moved it round from hand to hand
Made it hover in mid air
He did it all so gracefully
I did the same with out a care
His ball, my keys...time slipping by
Just then he gave a smile
He bounced the ball upon the floor
He had beat my by a mile
I nodded, slipped my keys away
I'd been outdone through and through
By a man with a red rubber ball
What else was there to do?
We lodaded up and took our seats
The crowd was pretty thin
With the lights low on inside the bus
It was looking rather dim
The married folks and partners
paired up in seats as pairs
The singles spread out randomly
As they collected up our fares
Vegas, was our hallowed ground
The final destination for us all
Then on the station P.A
they made the final loading call
Thirty three hours was the time
We'd take to drive
Give or take some time for food stops
We'd all get there safe, alive
We hit the road directly
My adventure had begun
It was still dark in the distance
We were driving towards the sun
Across the aisle all alone
An old lady sat and wrote
She was trying to get comfortable
She was wrapped up in her coat
The seat behind me, vacant
I was grateful for this fact
It afforded me the space so I
Could put my seat right back
With the blind pulled down,
I tried to sleep, at last I drifted off
There was the sound of the bus motor
And of the occasional, dry, hoarse cough
I heard music in my head at first
So I thought it was a dream
It turned out to be a radio
Owned by our runaway, bridal queen
she sat two rows down and to my left
She had changed into some jeans, and shirt
She had one ear plug in, one out
You could see how she did hurt
I got up, stretched, went to the back
I'd freshen up and have a ***
As I walked I felt so ill at ease
As all eyes followed me
The back two seats were occupied
by  two nuns, one old, one not
The smiled as I came near them
I smiled back, and then I thought
This cast of wayward characters
Was not at all like those
That were portrayed in "Homeward Bound"
The song most folkies all shoud know
On my way back I noticed a man
Reading, or at least that's how it looked
I saw no print upon his page
No letters in his book
I stood and watched, his fingers flew
Like they were moving on a rail
Then I realized that he was blind
And his book was all in braile
I stood there in amazement
At this sight that I'd just seen
Then I chuckled at the cover
From an old ******* Magazine
We pulled into a diner
We'd been out for nine hours now
We had an hour to ourselves
Time to change and get some chow
Most folks sat as they had come
In pairs or all alone
Some went out for a ciggy
One old man went to the phone
We all made sure to void ourselves
Before we got  on board
For the smell from eighteen greasy meals
would test the nuns faith in our lord
The background noise was louder
Than it had been at the start
We were eighteen lonely travellers
Travelling together, but apart
A father and his daughter
Played "eye spy" and sang some songs
They played "license plate bingo"
Most lyrics they got wrong
The old lady across the aisle
was watching, intently like a hawk
She was scratching things inside her book
You'd expect her just to squak
The man who had the ball sat
Alone, said not a word
I walked by and said "good morning"
But I don't think he heard
He sat there, still not moving
staring out the window at the world
He was taking in the movie
Of our trip as it unfurled
The trip was uneventful
It went on mostly the same
People reading, people watching
Father, daughter and their games
The driver pointed out some stuff
As we passed by on the way
"To the left you'll find the largest
ball of string made to this day"
He pointed out old houses,
Fields of battle, lost and won
Just a couple took real notice
Most wished the trip was done
A repeat after five more hours
A new driver came on board
She was blond, blue eyed and beautiful
Inside, my heart just soared
In my imagination
She would pick me from the crowd
When we made it to Las Vegas
I would go with her, I'd be proud
But, she sat there pointing out the sights
Like her predecessor had
My fantasy went up in smoke
It was really kind of sad
We ventured on till Vegas
getting off to eat and then
We would all repeat our actions
And get back and sleep again
It was quiet for the most part
Most folks waiting for the end
When we came out of the mountains
We could see the strip around the bend
"Ten minutes till Las Vegas"
our blond driver told us all
Make sure you've your belongings
I looked at the man who had the ball
He smiled tossed it in the air
I tossed my keys just one more time
In a way, we had a friendship
In a way , it was a crime
We had one thing in common
It would stick with me for good
It would always make me smile
And a smile's always good
We pulled up into the station
We were all tired from the ride
Most grabbed their extra luggage
I grabbed mine and went inside
There, I went up to the window
Bought another ticket, heading east
Turned and bumped into a fellow
He was a slight, buy friendly priest
"I'm heading to Detroit, my son"
"Where is it you're off to"
"I'm just off on an adventure"
"I think I'll go back there with you"
He smiled, opened his bible
We had three hours still to wait
Before our bus was ready to go back
Across the United States
You might ask yourself, why do this?
Why go back and not take time
To see the city that I'd come to
It just seems so sublime
to me the whole adventure
Isn't in the place I go
The adventure is the people
Each trips a brand new show
The cities that I visit
Really never, ever change
But the people....oh the people
Man, some are really strange
If you now would please excuse me
I must go and change my clothes
For I'm off on adventure
How it turns out...no one knows.
this one is a long one, so sit down, grab a beer....and come away on a bus trip from Detroit to Las Vegas.
May
Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass
And every minute every hour
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower
And toil and childhoods humming joys
For there is music in the noise
The village childern mad for sport
In school times leisure ever short
That crick and catch the bouncing ball
And run along the church yard wall
Capt wi rude figured slabs whose claims
In times bad memory hath no names
Oft racing round the nookey church
Or calling ecchos in the porch
And jilting oer the weather ****
Viewing wi jealous eyes the clock
Oft leaping grave stones leaning hights
Uncheckt wi mellancholy sights
The green grass swelld in many a heap
Where kin and friends and parents sleep
Unthinking in their jovial cry
That time shall come when they shall lye
As lowly and as still as they
While other boys above them play
Heedless as they do now to know
The unconcious dust that lies below
The shepherd goes wi happy stride
Wi moms long shadow by his side
Down the dryd lanes neath blooming may
That once was over shoes in clay
While martins twitter neath his eves
Which he at early morning leaves
The driving boy beside his team
Will oer the may month beauty dream
And **** his hat and turn his eye
On flower and tree and deepning skye
And oft bursts loud in fits of song
And whistles as he reels along
Cracking his whip in starts of joy
A happy ***** driving boy
The youth who leaves his corner stool
Betimes for neighbouring village school
While as a mark to urge him right
The church spires all the way in sight
Wi cheerings from his parents given
Starts neath the joyous smiles of heaven
And sawns wi many an idle stand
Wi bookbag swinging in his hand
And gazes as he passes bye
On every thing that meets his eye
Young lambs seem tempting him to play
Dancing and bleating in his way
Wi trembling tails and pointed ears
They follow him and loose their fears
He smiles upon their sunny faces
And feign woud join their happy races
The birds that sing on bush and tree
Seem chirping for his company
And all in fancys idle whim
Seem keeping holiday but him
He lolls upon each resting stile
To see the fields so sweetly smile
To see the wheat grow green and long
And list the weeders toiling song
Or short note of the changing thrush
Above him in the white thorn bush
That oer the leaning stile bends low
Loaded wi mockery of snow
Mozzld wi many a lushing thread
Of crab tree blossoms delicate red
He often bends wi many a wish
Oer the brig rail to view the fish
Go sturting by in sunny gleams
And chucks in the eye dazzld streams
Crumbs from his pocket oft to watch
The swarming struttle come to catch
Them where they to the bottom sile
Sighing in fancys joy the while
Hes cautiond not to stand so nigh
By rosey milkmaid tripping bye
Where he admires wi fond delight
And longs to be there mute till night
He often ventures thro the day
At truant now and then to play
Rambling about the field and plain
Seeking larks nests in the grain
And picking flowers and boughs of may
To hurd awhile and throw away
Lurking neath bushes from the sight
Of tell tale eyes till schools noon night
Listing each hour for church clocks hum
To know the hour to wander home
That parents may not think him long
Nor dream of his rude doing wrong
Dreading thro the night wi dreaming pain
To meet his masters wand again
Each hedge is loaded thick wi green
And where the hedger late hath been
Tender shoots begin to grow
From the mossy stumps below
While sheep and cow that teaze the grain
will nip them to the root again
They lay their bill and mittens bye
And on to other labours hie
While wood men still on spring intrudes
And thins the shadow solitudes
Wi sharpend axes felling down
The oak trees budding into brown
Where as they crash upon the ground
A crowd of labourers gather round
And mix among the shadows dark
To rip the crackling staining bark
From off the tree and lay when done
The rolls in lares to meet the sun
Depriving yearly where they come
The green wood pecker of its home
That early in the spring began
Far from the sight of troubling man
And bord their round holes in each tree
In fancys sweet security
Till startld wi the woodmans noise
It wakes from all its dreaming joys
The blue bells too that thickly bloom
Where man was never feared to come
And smell smocks that from view retires
**** rustling leaves and bowing briars
And stooping lilys of the valley
That comes wi shades and dews to dally
White beady drops on slender threads
Wi broad hood leaves above their heads
Like white robd maids in summer hours
Neath umberellas shunning showers
These neath the barkmens crushing treads
Oft perish in their blooming beds
Thus stript of boughs and bark in white
Their trunks shine in the mellow light
Beneath the green surviving trees
That wave above them in the breeze
And waking whispers slowly bends
As if they mournd their fallen friends
Each morning now the weeders meet
To cut the thistle from the wheat
And ruin in the sunny hours
Full many wild weeds of their flowers
Corn poppys that in crimson dwell
Calld ‘head achs’ from their sickly smell
And carlock yellow as the sun
That oer the may fields thickly run
And ‘iron ****’ content to share
The meanest spot that spring can spare
Een roads where danger hourly comes
Is not wi out its purple blooms
And leaves wi points like thistles round
Thickset that have no strength to wound
That shrink to childhoods eager hold
Like hair—and with its eye of gold
And scarlet starry points of flowers
Pimpernel dreading nights and showers
Oft calld ‘the shepherds weather glass’
That sleep till suns have dyd the grass
Then wakes and spreads its creeping bloom
Till clouds or threatning shadows come
Then close it shuts to sleep again
Which weeders see and talk of rain
And boys that mark them shut so soon
will call them ‘John go bed at noon
And fumitory too a name
That superstition holds to fame
Whose red and purple mottled flowers
Are cropt by maids in weeding hours
To boil in water milk and way1
For washes on an holiday
To make their beauty fair and sleak
And scour the tan from summers cheek
And simple small forget me not
Eyd wi a pinshead yellow spot
I’th’ middle of its tender blue
That gains from poets notice due
These flowers the toil by crowds destroys
And robs them of their lowly joys
That met the may wi hopes as sweet
As those her suns in gardens meet
And oft the dame will feel inclind
As childhoods memory comes to mind
To turn her hook away and spare
The blooms it lovd to gather there
My wild field catalogue of flowers
Grows in my ryhmes as thick as showers
Tedious and long as they may be
To some, they never weary me
The wood and mead and field of grain
I coud hunt oer and oer again
And talk to every blossom wild
Fond as a parent to a child
And cull them in my childish joy
By swarms and swarms and never cloy
When their lank shades oer morning pearls
Shrink from their lengths to little girls
And like the clock hand pointing one
Is turnd and tells the morning gone
They leave their toils for dinners hour
Beneath some hedges bramble bower
And season sweet their savory meals
Wi joke and tale and merry peals
Of ancient tunes from happy tongues
While linnets join their fitful songs
Perchd oer their heads in frolic play
Among the tufts of motling may
The young girls whisper things of love
And from the old dames hearing move
Oft making ‘love knotts’ in the shade
Of blue green oat or wheaten blade
And trying simple charms and spells
That rural superstition tells
They pull the little blossom threads
From out the knapweeds button heads
And put the husk wi many a smile
In their white bosoms for awhile
Who if they guess aright the swain
That loves sweet fancys trys to gain
Tis said that ere its lain an hour
Twill blossom wi a second flower
And from her white ******* hankerchief
Bloom as they ne’er had lost a leaf
When signs appear that token wet
As they are neath the bushes met
The girls are glad wi hopes of play
And harping of the holiday
A hugh blue bird will often swim
Along the wheat when skys grow dim
Wi clouds—slow as the gales of spring
In motion wi dark shadowd wing
Beneath the coming storm it sails
And lonly chirps the wheat hid quails
That came to live wi spring again
And start when summer browns the grain
They start the young girls joys afloat
Wi ‘wet my foot’ its yearly note
So fancy doth the sound explain
And proves it oft a sign of rain
About the moor ‘**** sheep and cow
The boy or old man wanders now
Hunting all day wi hopful pace
Each thick sown rushy thistly place
For plover eggs while oer them flye
The fearful birds wi teazing cry
Trying to lead their steps astray
And coying him another way
And be the weather chill or warm
Wi brown hats truckd beneath his arm
Holding each prize their search has won
They plod bare headed to the sun
Now dames oft bustle from their wheels
Wi childern scampering at their heels
To watch the bees that hang and swive
In clumps about each thronging hive
And flit and thicken in the light
While the old dame enjoys the sight
And raps the while their warming pans
A spell that superstition plans
To coax them in the garden bounds
As if they lovd the tinkling sounds
And oft one hears the dinning noise
Which dames believe each swarm decoys
Around each village day by day
Mingling in the warmth of may
Sweet scented herbs her skill contrives
To rub the bramble platted hives
Fennels thread leaves and crimpld balm
To scent the new house of the swarm
The thresher dull as winter days
And lost to all that spring displays
Still mid his barn dust forcd to stand
Swings his frail round wi weary hand
While oer his head shades thickly creep
And hides the blinking owl asleep
And bats in cobweb corners bred
Sharing till night their murky bed
The sunshine trickles on the floor
Thro every crevice of the door
And makes his barn where shadows dwell
As irksome as a prisoners cell
And as he seeks his daily meal
As schoolboys from their tasks will steal
ile often stands in fond delay
To see the daisy in his way
And wild weeds flowering on the wall
That will his childish sports recall
Of all the joys that came wi spring
The twirling top the marble ring
The gingling halfpence hussld up
At pitch and toss the eager stoop
To pick up heads, the smuggeld plays
Neath hovels upon sabbath days
When parson he is safe from view
And clerk sings amen in his pew
The sitting down when school was oer
Upon the threshold by his door
Picking from mallows sport to please
Each crumpld seed he calld a cheese
And hunting from the stackyard sod
The stinking hen banes belted pod
By youths vain fancys sweetly fed
Christning them his loaves of bread
He sees while rocking down the street
Wi weary hands and crimpling feet
Young childern at the self same games
And hears the self same simple names
Still floating on each happy tongue
Touchd wi the simple scene so strong
Tears almost start and many a sigh
Regrets the happiness gone bye
And in sweet natures holiday
His heart is sad while all is gay
How lovly now are lanes and balks
For toils and lovers sunday walks
The daisey and the buttercup
For which the laughing childern stoop
A hundred times throughout the day
In their rude ramping summer play
So thickly now the pasture crowds
In gold and silver sheeted clouds
As if the drops in april showers
Had woo’d the sun and swoond to flowers
The brook resumes its summer dresses
Purling neath grass and water cresses
And mint and flag leaf swording high
Their blooms to the unheeding eye
And taper bowbent hanging rushes
And horse tail childerns bottle brushes
And summer tracks about its brink
Is fresh again where cattle drink
And on its sunny bank the swain
Stretches his idle length again
Soon as the sun forgets the day
The moon looks down on the lovly may
And the little star his friend and guide
Travelling together side by side
And the seven stars and charleses wain
Hangs smiling oer green woods agen
The heaven rekindles all alive
Wi light the may bees round the hive
Swarm not so thick in mornings eye
As stars do in the evening skye
All all are nestling in their joys
The flowers and birds and pasture boys
The firetail, long a stranger, comes
To his last summer haunts and homes
To hollow tree and crevisd wall
And in the grass the rails odd call
That featherd spirit stops the swain
To listen to his note again
And school boy still in vain retraces
The secrets of his hiding places
In the black thorns crowded copse
Thro its varied turns and stops
The nightingale its ditty weaves
Hid in a multitude of leaves
The boy stops short to hear the strain
And ’sweet jug jug’ he mocks again
The yellow hammer builds its nest
By banks where sun beams earliest rest
That drys the dews from off the grass
Shading it from all that pass
Save the rude boy wi ferret gaze
That hunts thro evry secret maze
He finds its pencild eggs agen
All streakd wi lines as if a pen
By natures freakish hand was took
To scrawl them over like a book
And from these many mozzling marks
The school boy names them ‘writing larks’
*** barrels twit on bush and tree
Scarse bigger then a bumble bee
And in a white thorns leafy rest
It builds its curious pudding-nest
Wi hole beside as if a mouse
Had built the little barrel house
Toiling full many a lining feather
And bits of grey tree moss together
Amid the noisey rooky park
Beneath the firdales branches dark
The little golden crested wren
Hangs up his glowing nest agen
And sticks it to the furry leaves
As martins theirs beneath the eaves
The old hens leave the roost betimes
And oer the garden pailing climbs
To scrat the gardens fresh turnd soil
And if unwatchd his crops to spoil
Oft cackling from the prison yard
To peck about the houseclose sward
Catching at butterflys and things
Ere they have time to try their wings
The cattle feels the breath of may
And kick and toss their heads in play
The *** beneath his bags of sand
Oft jerks the string from leaders hand
And on the road will eager stoop
To pick the sprouting thistle up
Oft answering on his weary way
Some distant neighbours sobbing bray
Dining the ears of driving boy
As if he felt a fit of joy
Wi in its pinfold circle left
Of all its company bereft
Starvd stock no longer noising round
Lone in the nooks of foddering ground
Each skeleton of lingering stack
By winters tempests beaten black
Nodds upon props or bolt upright
Stands swarthy in the summer light
And oer the green grass seems to lower
Like stump of old time wasted tower
All that in winter lookd for hay
Spread from their batterd haunts away
To pick the grass or lye at lare
Beneath the mild hedge shadows there
Sweet month that gives a welcome call
To toil and nature and to all
Yet one day mid thy many joys
Is dead to all its sport and noise
Old may day where’s thy glorys gone
All fled and left thee every one
Thou comst to thy old haunts and homes
Unnoticd as a stranger comes
No flowers are pluckt to hail the now
Nor cotter seeks a single bough
The maids no more on thy sweet morn
Awake their thresholds to adorn
Wi dewey flowers—May locks new come
And princifeathers cluttering bloom
And blue bells from the woodland moss
And cowslip cucking ***** to toss
Above the garlands swinging hight
Hang in the soft eves sober light
These maid and child did yearly pull
By many a folded apron full
But all is past the merry song
Of maidens hurrying along
To crown at eve the earliest cow
Is gone and dead and silent now
The laugh raisd at the mocking thorn
Tyd to the cows tail last that morn
The kerchief at arms length displayd
Held up by pairs of swain and maid
While others bolted underneath
Bawling loud wi panting breath
‘Duck under water’ as they ran
Alls ended as they ne’er began
While the new thing that took thy place
Wears faded smiles upon its face
And where enclosure has its birth
It spreads a mildew oer her mirth
The herd no longer one by one
Goes plodding on her morning way
And garlands lost and sports nigh gone
Leaves her like thee a common day
Yet summer smiles upon thee still
Wi natures sweet unalterd will
And at thy births unworshipd hours
Fills her green lap wi swarms of flowers
To crown thee still as thou hast been
Of spring and summer months the queen
my sonnet is A light goes on in
the toiletwindow,that’s straightacross from
my window,night air bothered with a rustling din

sort of sublimated tom-tom
which quite outdoes the mandolin-

man’s tiny racket.  The horses sleep upstairs.
And you can see their ears.  Ears win-

k,funny stable.  In the morning they go out in pairs:
amazingly,one pair is white
(but you know that)they look at each other.  Nudge.

(if they love each other,who cares?)
They pull the morning out of the night.

I am living with a mouse who shares

my meals with him,which is fair as i judge.
Joe Workman Aug 2014
The radio alarm is a bit too strong
for his afternoon hangover taste.
He goes downstairs, sets the coffee to brewing,
rubs his hands through the hair on his face.
As he sits and he smokes, he can't quite think of the joke
she once told him about wooden eyes.

The coffee is ready, his hands are unsteady
as he pours his first cup of cure.
He tries to be happy he woke up today,
but whether being awake's good, he's not sure.
Outside it's raining, but he's gallantly straining
to keep his head and his spirits held high.

As soft as the flower bending out in its shower,
fiercer than hornets defending their hives,
the memories of sharing her secrets and sheets
run him through like sharp rusty knives.
He decides that his cup isn't quite strong enough,
takes the ***** from the shelf, gives a sigh.

He goes to the porch to put words to the torch
he still carries and knows whiskey just fuels.
Thunder puts a voice to his hammering heart.
Through ink, his knotted mind unspools,
writing of butterflies and of how his love lies
cocooned under unreachable skies.

From teardrops to streams to winter moonbeams
to a peach, firm and sweet, in the spring,
he writes of pilgrims and language and soft dew-damp grass
and how he sees her in everything.
He rambles and grieves, and he just can't believe
how much he has bottled inside.

He writes how the leaves, when they whisper in the breeze,
bring to mind her warm breath in his mouth,
how when walking through woods he loves the birdsong
when they fly back in the summer from the south
because she would sing too and he always knew
he wanted that sound in his ears when he died.

He writes even the streetlights, fluorescent and bright,
make him miss the diamond chips in her eyes,
how the fountain in the park plays watersongs in the dark
when he goes to make wishes on pennies
and while he's there he gets hoping
there will be some spare wishes
but so far there haven't been any.

He writes that the cold makes him think of the old
hotel where they spent most of a week,
lazing and gazing quite lovingly,
and how he brushed an eyelash off her cheek.
The crickets and frogs and all of the dogs
sound as mournful as he feels each night.

He writes about chocolate and fun in arcades,
he writes about stairwells and butchers' blades,
and closed-casket funerals, and Christmas parades,
then sad flightless birds and tiny brigades
of ants taking crumbs from the toast he had made,
and political goons with their soulless tirades,
old-timey duels and terrible grades,
strangers on  buses, harp music, maids,
the weird afterimages when all the light fades,
the pleasure of dinnertime serenades,
sidewalk chalk, wine, and hand grenades.

He writes of how much fun it would be to fly,
and saltwater taffy and ferryboat rides,

sitting on couches, scratched CD's
pets gone too soon and overdraft fees,

the beach, the lake, the mountains, the fog,
David Bowie's funny, ill-smelling bog,

jewelry, perfume, sushi, and swans,
the smell of the pavement when the rain's come and gone,

and shots and opera, and Oprah and ***,
and tiny bikinis with yellow dots,

stained glass lamps, and gum and stamps,
her dancing shoes on wheelchair ramps,
that overstrange feeling of déjà vu,
filet mignon and cordon bleu,

bad haircuts at county fairs,
honey and clover, stockmarket shares,
the comfort of nestling in overstuffed chairs,
and her poking fun at the clothes that he wears,
and giraffes and hippos and polar bears,
cumbersome car consoles, monsters' lairs,
singing in public and ignoring the stares,
botching it badly while making éclairs,
misspelled tattoos, socks not in pairs,
people who take something that isn't theirs,
the future of man, and man's future cares,

why people so frequently lie
and bury themselves so deep in the mire
of monetary profits when money won't buy
a single next second because time's not for hire,
and that he sees her in everything.

Then unexpectedly, unbidden from where it was hidden
comes the punchline to the joke she had told him.
He laughs -- it's too much and his heart finally tears
as a blackness rolls in to enfold him.
The last thing he hears is birdsong in his ears --
the sound brings hope and is sweet as he dies.
Natasha Jan 2014
Tiny pairs of wings in colours of lavender & mint
flutter over rose chiffon, hanging over the curtains of my window

Outside, the world settles slowly in the white night. It's most unbearable because I recall that such lovely creatures have no place
in this stoic wasteland at all.

There is no warm wind to lift their feather-light  wings,
nor flowers in which they may sip on
delicately

Jack Frost would nip at their tiny bodies
Father Winter would freeze their wings in motion

The cold winter wind would whip their breaths away. A sunrise pattern on the snow, littered with colourful decay.

Broken butterflies-
frozen; for the world on display

I still collect my voice with a tone of surprise, that they continue to flutter by inside next to this bed in which I lay.

For without your arms wrapped around my waist
the air in here is much the same,

As what lies beyond the window pane
Mokomboso Jul 2014
Friendly faces, shallow compliments
Pouring wine and piling plates
I smile and wave muted
Croak "ah" where there was a "thanks'
This makes a nice change at first glance
The lifestyle of the amiable
Each birthday greets the whole town
I make a beeline for food
Nibble and pick until I burst
Washed down with obligatory wine
I'm fed and full, no one gives up
The BBQ is smoking
This will be a long night
I stand feet tired mind sleepy
Wine hates me
I stand by my partners side
His woman to make up the party pairs
I hover like a bee
Bored
Fed up
Silent
Stuck
The toilet gives me space to breathe
The bedroom a cozy retreat
They call me outside I drag my feet
Evening draws near I'm cold
Can't leave too rude
I will give up one moment
Any moment now, make my excuses
TV on, party was fun
But solitude is sweeter.
I just made this up as I went along, I'm at my mother inlaw's birthday party right this moment. No edits. Just my thoughts.
M Mar 2013
I do not need a cigarette in my hand
A flat stomach
An eyebrow piercing
An infinite knowledge of Socrates.

I do not need
A quick-witted tongue
To be easy to please, short in stature, soft spoken, impatient.

I do not need
A fondness of antiques
The latest car
26 pairs of shoes
Diamond earrings,
To be passive,
To be alluring and enticing and likable, noticeable, noteworthy, appealing or interesting.

I need my heart. If my heart does not allure or compel you to see if I really do have 26 pairs or shoes or if I really am a smoker, if I am passive and soft spoken, if I am tall or short, then I am not compelling enough. My heart should be what catches your attention and what makes you stay.

My heart overrides all else when looking at my worth; my 26 pairs of shoes will not comfort you, but my heart will. Therefore, look at someones heart. That is where you will truly find someone rather in who they are than what they are.
I think some traits and pass times are secondary to someone's heart. The heart should hold the most appeal.
Megan Feb 2018
My therapist used to say that
I get the flashbacks because
I don't talk about it enough.

But how am I supposed to talk about it
when everyone tells me that my story has been made invalid
by the alcohol in my bloodstream,
and the fact that I laughed about it the next day?

We all have different ways to survive.

How was I supposed to process my emotions the morning after
when I had blood dripping down my legs,
standing in the 6am cold,
because shivering outside without a jacket
was far better than staying in a room with one of my rapists,
and the lingering smell of shame?

I am far too young to feel a pain like this.

A pain so heavy that my entire soul is flattened
by the weight I carry around.

A violation so evil
that I cannot help but leave my body -
it is no longer mine
but a vessel
that carries the blackness of my ache,
my thoughts that turn to ash when I try to say them out loud
and the demons that have possessed me.

Demons born from the three of you.

How can I continue
when I can still feel three pairs of unwanted hands,
      gripping,                                           ­         
hitting,                                        
bruising me                    
all at once?

How can I breathe
when I can still feel six eyes
on the most intimate parts of me,
every vulnerability and weakness?

How can I live
when I still have pieces of you
entangling yourselves around my bones,
suffocating my heart?

I thought that by burying it all deep into myself -
every 'it' that you called me,
every bruise left on my skin,
every single ****** that tore me apart -
encased by my ribcage,
wrapped in skin that you made into paper,
I would be able to carry on.

I created my very own Pandora's box.

But you escaped;
every millilitre of your venom
is combined and coursing through my veins,
poisoning each one of my nerve endings.

I no longer see the same version of myself,
like looking in a broken mirror,
each fragment showing a different flaw, a different shame.
I am not me.

I am full of darkness.
My mind is sick,
I am filled to the brim with hate and anger and inescapable sadness.
You made me into a monster
that leaves fingerprints of acid on everything I touch.

Is there anything worse
than seeing six vitriolic eyes
everywhere I go?

Is there anything worse
than your visits to me when I sleep,
waking up drenched in sweat because of the horror?

Is there anything worse
than feeling a constant lump of anxiety in my throat,
whenever I'm left alone? -
because please
please
please don't feed me to the wolves again!

Is there anything worse
than starving myself because
no-one will ever love me unless I'm thin because
I'm too riddled with trauma?

Is there anything worse
than blaming myself so much
that I started hurting myself again?

No-one ever tells you that trauma lasts forever,
but I'm learning that now.
Because it's been ten months and twenty-two days since
the three of you destroyed me...

And you've been destroying me every day since.
If you've read this to the end, THIS is the destruction caused by **** - stop injustice anywhere you can
Sally A Bayan Dec 2013
Early morning now, at the veranda...
Doing people-watching,
Thinking...just thinking the hours away.
The calendar is on its final page...
In a matter of hours, it is set to be changed...
A new year is coming in shortly, and I am
Wondering  about the days gone by...

I sit comfortably
And my thoughts are set free...
Almost sets me dreaming
With you, rocking...
My hands, sidewards dropping...
But i see a line of several pairs of shoes,
Different sizes, different uses...
Five pairs of shoes remind me,
Of days when a baby's cry echoed,
Made its voice known,
Heard in the still of the night,
Up to the hours of the wee morning.
To and fro we went,
Up, down, down and up...
Until the baby fell into  a deep sleep, and
You and i, slowed, then stopped...

Over and over
We went through the very same routines,
The years stretched on as i counted,
It was four more, to be exact...

Then came the time when
There were just the two of us left,
Swaying to and fro, slowly, slowly,
Up, down, down and up...
Always slowly, never too fast.
No, i wasn't asleep,
Just  recalling,
How we had patiently, gently,
Cared and cradled
Those five baby girls to sleep...
Of different ages, all grown ups now...
Up and about, no longer wanting
To be swayed to sleep again...
Now, like birds that leave their nests
In the morning,
To live their lives in the light of day
Then fly back home before dark, weary,
Owners of these pairs of shoes,
Lined in a row, all in varying hues...

We both worked hard through the years,
I think it's time we thought of ourselves...
I say, you rock me now an hour of nonstop rest,
Then let me "rock the boat" for a while,
Turn you upside down,
Caress your arms and feet
With a soft cotton cloth and some lotion,
Make you shine like before, and free you
From those grains of dirt embedded,
To sharpen your sturdy undercurves,
So we may both have fun once more...
Rock ourselves slowly, smoothly,
Swaying endlessly,
Enjoying, rocking
Our remaining days together...


Sally

Copyright 2014
Rosalia Rosario A. Bayan
(---was watching street vendors selling fruits to my neighbors...poem came to mind as I saw my visiting son in law,  falling asleep on our old rocking chair at the veranda...it reminded me of how each of my granddaughters, still babies then, were calmed and lulled to sleep on that old rocking chair, while I sang them lullabies---)

— The End —