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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.
RAJ NANDY Sep 2018
Dear Poet Friends, Torin Galleshaw from Charlotte NC, a Member of this Site, had requested me to compose about the Rise of Third *****. Therefore, I have commenced with the causes for its Rise in my Part One posted below. Planning to compose Part Two with ******’s Blitzkrieg campaign of Poland later. It is unfortunate that I am unable to post related Maps & Photos for better appreciation of my Readers! Such options are not available for us here! However, I have managed to post a copy with maps & photos in the E-mail ID of my friend Torin!  Kindly give comments only after reading this researched work of mine, during your spare time.  Thanking you, - Raj, New Delhi.

            STORY OF SECOND WORLD WAR – PART ONE
                            RISE OF THE THIRD *****
                                       By Raj Nandy

                                  INTRODUCTION
In this part I shall mainly deal with the causes leading to the Second World War,
Which had also created favourable conditions for the rise of Third ***** under ******.
The word ‘*****’ derives from old German word ‘rihhi’ meaning ‘realm’;  
But is also used to designate a kingdom or an empire in a broader sense.
Historically, the First ***** was the Medieval Holy Roman Empire which lasted till the end of the 19th Century.
While the Second ***** was the First German Empire from 1871 to 1918, when dynamic Otto Von Bismark had united all of Germany,
Which ended with its defeat in World War One and birth of the Weimar Republic.
The Third ***** refers to the **** German Empire under ******, Which lasted from 1933 till 1945, for twelve traumatic eventful years!
Historians opine that the ending of a war is equally important as
its beginning;
Since the causes for the start of a war is often to be found embedded in its ending!
The First World War came to an end on 28th of June 1919 as we all know.
With the signing of the Treaty at Versailles by the German Foreign Minister Hermann Muller and the ‘Big Four’.  (Britain, France, America, & Italy)
Yet it is rather ironical, that this Peace Treaty of Versailles, considered as President Woodrow Wilson’s ‘brain child’,
Had sowed the seeds of discontent resulting in the outbreak of the Second World War, and Adolf ******’s dramatic rise!

Though several causes are attributed for the outbreak of the Second World War by our Military Historians.
Let me try to summarise those causes which are considered to be more relevant.
Commencing with the harsh Treaty of Versailles, the British and French Policy of Appeasement, followed by Hyperinflation and the Great Depression of 1929, and failure of The League of Nations to maintain peace;  
Are relevant factors which collectively combined resulting in the outbreak of the devastating Second World War, scarring human memories for all time!
But not forgetting ******’s forceful and persuasive eloquence which mesmerised the Germans to rise up as a powerful Nation once again.
Since ****** promised to avenge the humiliation faced by Germany following the Treaty of Versailles,
Which was drawn up with vengeance, and dictated by the victorious Allies!

THE  ARMISTICE  AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES:    
Armistice means a truce for cessation of hostilities, which provides a breathing space for negotiating a lasting peace.
Now the Armistice ceasing the First World War was signed inside the railway carriage of the Allied Supreme Commander Marshal Foch, in the Forest of Compiegne,
On the 11th of November 1919, sixty km north of Paris, between the victorious Allies and vanquished Germany.
But in the meantime naval blockade of Germany had continued, and the German Rhineland was evacuated and partly occupied by the combined Allied troops!
Release of Allied POWs interned civilians followed subsequently; And the Reparations Clause of monetary compensation was strictly imposed on Germany!
Now, following a wide spread German Sailor’s Revolt towards the end of October 1918, Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm-II had abdicated;
And on the 9th of November Friedrich Ebert, as the new Social Democrat President of Germany, authorised his representative to sign the Compiegne Armistice.
We should remember here that this Armistice seeking cessation of hostilities did not stipulate any unconditional surrender;
And the signing of the Armistice by the German Social Democrats, was considered as ‘a stab in the back of the German army’ by majority of the Germans!
These issues get repeatedly mentioned by Adolf ****** in his eloquent speeches subsequently,
To arouse the spirit of German Nationalism, and resurgence of the ‘Master Aryan Race’ of the Germans, - in Germany!

The Versailles Treaty was signed on 28th of June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which had sparked World War One.
Let me mention few aspects of this Treaty which was detested by the Germans!
Germany lost 13% of its land, 12% of its people, 48% of its iron resources, 15% of its agricultural production, and 10% of its coal, following its implementation!
German army was reduced to 100,000 men, its Navy reduced to 36 ships with no submarines, its Air Force banned, and its union with Austria forbidden.
Now to use a Shakespearean phrase the ‘unkindest cut of all’ came in the shape of Article 231,  the ‘War Guilt Clause’ of the Versailles Treaty,
Which provided the legal basis for the payment of war reparations by Germany.
The reparation amount of 132 billion gold marks (US $33 billion) to cover the civilian damage caused during the war, now had to be paid by Germany!
Thus the humiliation, resentment, and the virtual economic strangulation following the Versailles Treaty,
Was exploited by extremist groups such as ******’s **** Party.
And in the decades to follow, ******’s Nazis would take full control of Germany!

NOTES: Following Versailles Treaty, Alsace-Lorraine captured by Germany in 1870 was returned to France. The SAAR German coalfield region was give to France for 15 yrs. Poland became independent with a corridor to the sea dividing Germany into two. Danzing, a major port in East Prussia, became a free city under the League of Nation. Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, & Czechoslovakia became independent. Industrial area of German Rhineland, forming a buffer zone between Belgium &France,was
demilitarised.

WOODROW WILSON’S  14 - POINT PEACE INITIATIVE  & THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS:
American President Wilson was an idealist and a visionary, who in a speech to the US Congress on 8th Jan 1918,
Introduced a 14 Point Charter as a platform for building global peace, based on the principles of transparency, self-determination, and Democracy.
But for the first time in US history, the Republican-led US Senate rejected this Peace Treaty, and prevented America from joining the newly created League!
The US Senate wanted to retain its sovereignty without external entanglements;
Free from the League of Nation’s political dictates in its foreign commitments!
The Irish immigrants refused to support Wilson's Fourteen Points because Wilson was concerned about stopping WWI, rather than forcing the British to set Ireland free.
Many Jews also refused to back Wilson, since he was paying too much attention to the War, and not enough to the Balfour Declaration of 02 Nov 1917, -
Which promised an Independent Jewish State with a distinct Jewish identity.

The League of Nations had emerged from Wilson’s 14 Points on the 10th Jan 1920, with its HQs at Geneva, Switzerland, but it had no peacekeeping forces those days!
The League had failed to prevent invasion of Chinese Manchuria in 1932 by Japan;
Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935; annexation of Sudetenland and Austria by Germany!
The Axis countries Germany, Italy, and Japan, withdrew from the League subsequently.
Thus the League of Nations was disbanded in 1946 officially!
But President Wilson’s ceaseless efforts for global peace did not go unrecognised,
Since on the 10th of December 1920, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!
While his disbanded League of Nations, as the first global humanitarian organisation,
Continued to survive in spirit with the establishment of United Nations Organisation on the 24th October, 1945.

ECONOMIC CAUSES - FOLLOWED BY THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF 1929 :
Germany emerged from the First World War with loss of 25,000 square miles of territory;
Loss of seven million inhabitants, and a staggering debt imposed by the Versailles Treaty!
The Wiemar Republic, after abdication of Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm-II  to Holland,
For the first time in German history, established a Democratic Constitution with Friedrich Ebert as its first President.
But The Republic first had to consolidate itself by squashing the Spartacist Revolt of January 1919 led by the extreme Leftists, and inspired by the Russian Bolshevik Communists!
The Freikorps, in March 1920, an Ex-Soldiers Rightist Group, tried to overthrow the Wiemar Republic with support of their Rightist allies and their own veteran troops!
This was soon followed by a Communist attempt to takeover of the Industrial Rhur;
But fortunately, all these uprisings against the Republic were effectively subdued!
But the 33 Billion Dollars of Reparations hung over the Wiemar Republic like the legendary ‘Sword of Damocles’, followed by the Great Depression of 1929;
Coupled with the ‘Policy of Appeasement’ practised by the British and the French;
Became the most important causes for ******’s expansionist ambition and his short- lived meteoric rise to fame!

GERMAN PAPER CURRENCY & HYPERINFLATION:
Gold Mark was the currency used by the German Empire from 1873 to 1914 only.
But to pay for the costs of the ongoing First World War, Germany suspended the gold standard, and decided to fund the war by Borrowings entirely,
Hoping to pay back the loans after Germany achieves Victory.
But having lost the war, and faced with a massive debt imposed by the Allies,
Exchange rate of the Mark against the US Dollar steadily devalued and declined!
Papiermark became the German currency from 04th August 1914 onward, when link between the Mark and gold reserve was abandoned,
In order to pay for the ongoing expenses of the First World War with paper marks, which was constantly being printed!
But later after the war, when the London Ultimatum of May 1921 demanded payment of war reparations in gold or in foreign currency only,
Even more paper marks got printed by the Republic to buy those foreign currency !
By December 1922 hyper-inflationary trends emerged, when the US Dollar became equivalent to 7,400 German Marks, with a 15-fold increase in the cost of living !
By the fall of 1922 when it became impossible for Germany to make further payments,
The French and Belgium armies occupied Germany’s Ruhr Valley area, its prime industrial region!
French and the Belgians hoped to extract payment in kind, but a strike by the workers of the Ruhr area their hopes belied!
The Wiemar Republic printed more paper notes to pay and support the workers of the Ruhr area,
When hyperinflation had peaked at 4,210,500,000,000 German Marks, to a US Dollar!
Paper currency having become worthless, some form of ancient barter system began to be used instead!

STABILISATION OF GERMAN ECONOMY WITH ONSET OF  THE GREAT DEPRESSION:
Following the hyperinflation Chancellor Josef Cuno’s cabinet resigned in August 1923,
When Gustav Stresemann became the new Chancellor of Germany.
Stresemann’s Government had introduced the Rentenmark as a new stable currency,
To end the hyperinflation which had plagued Wiemar Germany.  
Rentenmark was backed by real goods, agricultural land and business,
Since gold was not available in a beleaguered German economy those days!
When One Rentenmark was equivalent to One million, million, old German Mark;
While One US Dollar was equivalent to only 4.2 Rentenmarks.
Though Stresemann’s Government lasted for 100 days only, Stresemann continued to serve as the Foreign Minister in successive Coalition Governments of the Republic,
Till his death in the month of October 1929, but working for the betterment of Germany all the while!
His ‘Policy of Fulfilment’ stabilised German economy with a 200 Million Dollars loan from America under the Dawes Plan in 1924,
Which had also ensured the evacuation of France from the occupied Ruhr area, with their future reparations payments ensured.
Stresemann’s signing of the Locarno Pact in London on 1st Dec 1925 with France, Belgium, Great Britain, and Italy, was considered as his achievement and a feat!
Since it made Germany to enter the League of Nations ensuring stability and peace;
While the Noble Peace Prize was awarded to Stresemann for his efforts in 1926!
Later, the Young Plan of 1929 further reduced German reparations payment by 20%, while extending the time frame for the payments to 59 years!
But following a sudden Wall Street Stock Market Crash in late October of 1929,
The American Banks were forced to recall money from Europe and the Young Plan;.
Which created acute financial distress when unemployment soared to 33.7%  in Germany in 1931, and quickly rose to 40% during the following year!
Lausanne Conference was held in Switzerland in 1932 by Great Britain, Germany, and France, to further reduce the War Debts imposed by the Versailles Treaty.
But in Dec 1932, the US Congress had rejected this Allied War Debt Reduction Plan completely.
However, no further payments were made by Germany due to the Great Depression;
And by 1932, Germany had paid only 1/8 of the total sum required to be paid as per their pending wartime reparations!

NOTES: Rentenmark was issued on 15 October 1923 to stop the hyperinflation in Wiemeer Germany. Reichmark was the currency in Germany from 1924 to 20 June 1948 in West Germany , when it was replaced by the Deutsche Mark; but had continued in East Germany until 23 June when it was replaced by East German Mark.
During the Stresemann Years of Stability from 1924 to 1929, (prior to the onset of the Great Depression), with help of American financial aid, created more housing & production in Germany. Dada & Expressionist Art forms flourished, followed by modern architecture; also the Philosophy of Existentialism of Thomas Mann – influenced the Western culture. Paul Whiteman's Band for the first time brought in American Jazz to Germany, and Jazz signified the liberation of German youth and women folks of the younger generation generally. But the US Stock Market Crash had unfortunately ended this short lived euphoria, and as it soon became a global phenomena!                                


FAILURE OF THE WIEMAR REPUBLIC & THE GREAT DEPRESSION WHICH BENEFITED THE NAZIS:
Last Days of Wiemar Republic:
Ever since Otto Von Bismarck that ‘Man of iron and steel’, united Germany into a single Empire in the year Eighteen Hundred & Seventy One,
For the first time a Constitution for a Parliamentary Democracy was drawn up in August 1919, in the eastern German city of Wiemar.
Wiemar was the intellectual centre of Germany associated with musicians like Franz List, and writers like Goethe and Schiller.
The Wiemar Republic of Germany which had lasted from 1919 till 1933 had seen,
20 different Coalition Governments, with frequent elections and changing loyalties!
Due to a system of proportional representations, and the presence of very many political parties those days,  
No single party could obtain absolute sole majority in the Reichstag Parliament!
The longest Coalition Govt. was under Chancellor Bruning, which had lasted for only 2 years and 61 days!     (From 30 March 1930 to 30 May 1932)
Now, to understand the reasons for the failure to maintain a Democratic form of Government by the Wiemar Republic,
It becomes necessary to monitor its ‘dying gasps’ during its closing years so to speak!
Since faced with the economic depression Chancellor Bruning had worsened the unemployment situation by adopting stringent and unpopular measures!
Thereby having lost popular political support, Bruning with the approval of President Hindenburg, invoked emergency powers under Article 48, to survive his last few months and years!
During the years 1931 and 1932  it is seen, Bruning had used this Emergency Clause 44 and 66 times respectively!
Thus his so-called ‘Presidential form of Govt.’ had undermined Wiemar Democracy!
If Burning was the ‘Republic’s Undertaker’, now remains a debatable issue of History!
But Burning’s vigorous campaign made Hindenburg to get re-elected as the President;
Thereby he had removed the defeated Adolf ****** out of the Presidential race!
Therefore, later when ****** became the Chancellor on 30 Jan 1933, Bruning had very wisely fled from Germany!

Following Bruning’s resignation in May 1932 came Chancellor Papen’s ‘Cabinet of Barons’ consisting of individuals who were not members of the German Reichstag!
While in the election of July 1932 ******’s **** Party won 230 seats, making it the largest party in the Reichstag.
But ****** refused to form a coalition with Papen, because he wanted to become the Chancellor himself !
Now General von Schleicher advised President Hindenburg that the German Army,
Would not accept Papen’s use of Article 48 to remain as the Chancellor of Germany!
Therefore following Papen’s resignation, Schleicher took over on the 04th of December 1932 as the new German Chancellor.
Schleicher tried to restore a democratic form of government to get the Wiemar Republic back on its feet.
But in the ensuing political power struggle Papen wanted to take revenge on Schleicher for his removal from power and defeat.
So Papen persuaded Adolf ****** to become the Chancellor, and retain for himself the post of Vice-Chancellor.
In doing so, Papen mistakenly thought that he would be able to reign in the self-assertive Adolf ******!
Papen finally made President Hindenburg agree to his proposal, and on 30th of Jan 1933,
****** became the New Chancellor, with approval of the President!
A month later a sudden fire in the Reichstag made ****** invoke Article 48, in order to squash the suspected Left Wing Communists;
But while doing so, the Press was muzzled, and many Civil Rights of the German people were abolished, inclusive of their right of assembly and free speech!
****** acted swiftly, and by passing the Enabling Act on 23 March, 1933, armed himself  with dictatorial powers for enacting laws without the approval of the Reichstag whenever necessary!
Thereby ****** threw Democracy to History’s wasteland most unfortunately!
Following the death of Hindenburg on 29 June 1934, ****** combined the powers of the President and the Chancellor, and became known as the FUHRER!
Historians generally agree the Enabling Act of 1933, as the date for establishment of The German Third *****.

THE POLICY OF APPEASEMENT AND GERMAN AGGRESSION:
The horrors of trench warfare with the rattling of machine guns and bursting of poisonous nerve gas shells,
Even after 20 years remained fresh, in the minds of all World War One participants!
Therefore, it was natural for British and French Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier initially,
To grant political and material concessions to an aggressive Germany, for the sake of peace and stability.
Thus the diplomatic stance of Appeasement between 1935 and 1939 followed by the French and the British, was mainly to avoid another dangerous armed conflict!
But the trusting Mr. Chamberlain had underestimated ******, who had served in the German Army as a Corporal, winning the Iron Cross during the last Great War!
****** was not afraid of war, but wanted to avenge the Treaty of Versailles and its punitive dictated peace;
And also establish for the superior German Aryan race a lasting Third *****!
Therefore, having consolidated his power as the Fuhrer along with his trusted **** Party cronies, he withdrew from the League of Nations in October 1933.
Introduced conscription in March 1935 in Germany, and embarked on a mission to rebuild a new modernised German Army for combat on land, air, and sea!
In March 1936, in another open violation of the Versailles Treaty, ****** re-occupied the demilitarised Rhineland, followed by a Treaty of Alliance with Japan and Italy.
The much desired Anschluss (or merger) with Austria, the country of birth of ******,
Saw the German Army in March 1938, triumphantly and peacefully marching into Vienna!
Now with the Munich Conference of 19 September 1938, this Policy of Appeasement is said to have reached its climatic peak!
The Sudetenland area, consisted of 3 million Germans were made
to join Czechoslovakia when the frontiers were drawn in 1918-19,
Much against the wishes of the Germans!
When ****** wanted to annex this Sudetenland area, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, met at Munich to diffuse an explosive situation peacefully.
It was agreed at Munich that once Sudetenland joins Germany, ****** will not invade Czechoslovakia and honour the terms of peace.
But on 15th March 1939, in violation of the Munich Agreement, ******’s army invade and occupied Czechoslovakia, thereby openly flouting the Policy of Appeasement!

NOTES: ******’s desire for ‘LEBENSRAUM’ or ‘increase of living space’ for the Germans, commenced with his ‘Border Wars’, which soon turned into a Global War because of the ‘appeasement policy’ of the Allies. ****** had secured his Eastern Front with a treaty with the Stalin, since fighting on two fronts would have been very difficult for the Germans.

Now when ******’s army invaded Poland on 1st of September 1939, it became ‘the last straw on the camel’s back’ for the Western Allies!
Committed to the Anglo-Polish Defence Pact of 25 August, 1939, both Britain and France declared war on Germany,
Which I propose to narrate in Part Two of my Second World War Story.  
The Policy of Appeasement no doubt gave some time for Britain, to regain its depleted military strength,  but Adolf ****** had viewed it as a sign of weakness!
With Russia and America initially as non-participants, ****** became more confident and arrogant!
Thereby turning his border wars into a global conflagration lasting six long years.
When the use of advanced technology, resulted in greater loss and casualties;  
Which was followed by the holocaust and unprecedented human suffering!
I would like to conclude my present narration with a poem by English soldier-poet Seigfried Sassoon, who participated in the First World War on the Western Front.

DREAMERS  -  by Siegfried Sassoon
Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal ****** with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with ***** and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
…………………………………………………………………………
Thanks for reading patiently, from Raj Nandy of New Delhi.
  *ALL COPYRIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR ONLY
Frankie Gestone Mar 2013
He woke up in a rapid sweat, darkness surrounding him, his soaked pillow was pressing up on his neck as he could feel the uncomfortable stabbing cold run right threw his whole body. His mouth was dry and his body was in great pain. He lay there practically naked, but not just physically, also emotionally. It was like a catatonic state where the person’s body is paused in reality, but the actual person is far away and isolated even from himself. He wondered why he was so comfortable being uncomfortable and remaining frozen in time.  He saw nothing but the subtle moonlight that peaked through the blinds of his window. A point of existence, he feels nothing because all he has ever felt has drowned him. His numbness was being accepted and he embraced that if he remained this way, he would never have to feel hurt or heartbreak again. It’s better this way, he confirmed.

Eventually he got up out of his bed, walked outside to a nearby empty field. He looked up at the infinite night sky and contemplated the moon, the stars, and the endless space that sustained all of its existence. A tear fell down his cheek as he remembered the beautiful wonder of life and the universe; his realization that he is just a small spec of dust compared to all that is and all that is wonderful. Whatever happened to that universal happiness he used to feel? The feelings of the unseen, the cosmos, the mysteries that remain unsolved were all love. He then felt ancient and brand new at the same time-always being around all that is, but recently born into the unknown. The silence of the night swarmed him, and he suddenly embraced all the things he could not accept. The lullaby of the wind put him to sleep.

When he awoke, it was twilight. The sky was a lighter, deep blue and the sun in the far distance was rising in a fiery halo of mixed red, orange, and yellow colors, and the early morning clouds were clear and transparent. He heard the sound of a train horn in the far distance. He followed the sound with his ears as the sound became slightly louder and louder. Then, suddenly he could see the light of the early morning train.

The train had stopped as he approached it, and he hopped on with no hesitation or looking back. This runaway train was going to take him to where he needs to be, and he blindly and faithfully accepted that his fate was out of his hands now. No more heartbreak, no more reminders of the past, and most importantly no more drowning in his tears. As the train proceeded to move forward, he could feel fresh air gently touch his face, and all that he saw and ever knew were now flashing lights disappearing into eternity.

It was hours into the late morning when the train made its first stop. He listened to the train conductor speak out over the intercom, almost incoherently, say, “This is Brightstone Park. Next stop will be Riverhead.” A nostalgic feeling suddenly came over him as he could remember that his very first kiss was in Brightstone Park with Jessica Garzi. That was not his first true love, but his very first heartbreak. Riverhead was a forbidden memory, as he knew a classmate who had committed suicide off the Riverhead Bridge. He had not returned there in five years because of his haunting memories that would always come back to remind him just how cold and frightening the world really is.

While lost in thought, he felt a rough, sand paper-like wet feeling on his forearm. He looked down and it was a black cat, but not all black. The paws were all white like socks, and the chest and stomach were snow white. The loud prominent purr was a very peculiar reminder of a cat he once owned. Her name was Midnight. She was not the friendliest cat to strangers, but she loved him, especially when he massaged her paws. This cat was practically identical to Midnight. Midnight was put down three years ago though. As he began petting the cat’s back, it ran away and jumped off the moving train. He looked out in a hurry, but it was gone. It was just like everything else he loved. There for one moment, then gone the next. The strange thought that has one wondering if anything had actually existed that is now no more. A person, or a thing, could mean everything to you, but once they slip away, they become like the wind: occasionally brushing up against you, but never revealing its form.

On the train he began to wonder how he got where he was, and in general how the smallest decisions he made lead to bigger events and all in all, everything was all connected. There are no isolated events, or isolated people- it is all proven fact and science. Everything depends on each other to survive. The trees depend on the sun to keep themselves alive; we give off carbon dioxide to the trees and in return, we receive the oxygen we need from the leaves of the trees. He thought about the potential of a seed-for example, a tomato seed. Within that tiny seed is unlimited potential of life: The seed may produce one plant of several tomatoes, and within all those tomatoes are countless other seeds. This is all from one seed. Then, one may take a couple of seeds from a picked tomato and plant them throughout the yard creating a garden. That original seed came from another tomato seed inside a tomato on a plant, and that seed came from another seed. When did this cycle of reproduction begin and when does it end? Is it just another form of the infinite? When a person eats a tomato from that original seed, he receives certain essential vitamins his body needs for surviving and sustaining good health. This good health will effect his offspring and so on and so on. When he defecates, that will all return to the earth for potential fertilizer used for other tomato seeds. This is the same when he returns to the earth again. His dust will fertilize the same world that he came from, for all things come from it just to inevitably return to it.

He continued to think about how matter is never created nor destroyed and the same for energy. Nothing ever truly dies; the form changes into something new, like how water becomes a cloud and the cloud becomes water. Though this comforted him, he noticed that a few feet away from him was a former coworker and friend, Natasha Karev. She always infatuated him and they became close friends, but he always wished it had continued and gone even further than it did. One night, only a couple of years ago, they were at a friend’s party. Both were drinking, but not so heavily. That night they bonded and got so close, that she admitted she loved him. He was never quite sure how real that “I love you” was, but it was burned inside his heart ever since. That night there were moments she would tell him how much she wanted to make love to another guy at the party, Kevin, but was afraid to approach him. She told him she desperately wanted to lose her virginity that night to somebody because she was eighteen and only getting older. This was like a sharp knife slowly penetrating into his heart. He remained speechless for quite a few minutes. Finally he decided to go up in a bedroom alone. To his surprise, she followed him up and kissed him. He felt her clothed body up and down, and she touched areas not many have touched before. She told him she wanted to have *** and that she wanted him to rob her of her virginity. He was speechless, but extremely excited. Then, abruptly, she told him she could not because everything was happening way too soon. Why couldn’t she just make up her mind? He sat frustrated in the darkness, again, all alone. After that night, they spoke and remained close, yet that night was never mentioned again. It was as if it had never happened. After about two years of an on and off friendship, they just went their own ways. There were no fights or disagreements. Life just separated them.

“You’re just a figment inside somebody’s dream. So far from reality, you are a dream within a dream within a dream.” Startled by this soft voice, he quickly turned around to see Natasha smiling at him. “Ha-ha! I knew I could scare you. Were you abused as a kid, or something?” No words could come out at that moment, but he hugged her tightly. She explained to him that she is getting off at the next stop to meet a friend. He was sure he wanted to follow her and see where life would take him. She reminisced and told him how she had been away inside her own cave for several months, but is now very happy to meet up with everyone she had lost contact with.

The next stop arrived, but he did not catch the name of the stop he was getting off. As he got off with several others, both he and Natasha met up with her friend, Valeria, who he found quite cute. She resembled Natasha a bit in that they both had ***** blonde hair and blue eyes. They walked right into a giant street fair with a crowd of people looking at the foods and desserts, the trendy clothes, cheap jewelry, and children play rides.

As he looked around, he began seeing many familiar faces. He saw Kevin, a childhood and grammar school mate there with another co-worker of his, Jenny. Jenny was a Colombian beauty in his eyes and who was a flirt and tease to him, but never actually gave him any time alone. Incidentally, he knew both of them at different times in his life and had no idea they knew of each other. Kevin stopped contacting him during high school without any arguments or disloyalties that would tear a friendship apart. Keeping his head down, he walked a few feet to discover another childhood best friend, Jack, who was with a mutual childhood friend, Melanie. Melanie was a best friend of his and also a first childhood crush who also had a crush on him. He thought it was odd because even though Melanie and Jack were also best friends, Melanie never liked Jack in a special boy/girl way. He felt a moment of heartbreak, but quickly turned away and kept walking. A little further up the road, he saw two more childhood friends, Chris and Jimmy, who as children did not get along that well and only hung out with each other in the company of him. How peculiar it was suddenly seeing them together after ten years, and as seemingly best of friends.

That was not all. Things were getting stranger and stranger. It was like all the people who had made an imprint on his life were now coming together around him. He saw his two therapists, one he had gone to as a teenager and the other as a young adult, stand next to each other selling prescription drug samples. Both stared at him with a blank face, but with a prominent smile. He could barely nod at them. Natasha directed them to a local bar. Inside the bar was huge and also had a second floor. He noticed the music playing in the background was, Nocturne In E Flat Major, Op.9 No.2, by Polish born Romantic composer, Frederic Chopin. He became fixated on the elegant eighth note, left hand arpeggios, and the sweet and peaceful fast moving seven, eleven, twenty, and twenty-two notes from the right hand. If he thought about the most beautiful song ever written and all that is wonderful in one, this was the song.

They all took a seat and began looking at people and laughing at their behavior. Everyone was wearing masks. Social masks. They observed how different people act when they are in social gatherings, and how if you carefully study their body language, it will become clear that what they are saying and trying to put out is not what is actually being expressed through the body. One young man was frantically shaking his right leg as he tried to flirt confidently with a young woman he had just recently met. His face began to turn noticeably red, in an embarrassed flush, and he was making sudden hand gestures and quick eye blinking. She, on the other hand, pretended to be interested in what he was saying; yet her eyes would often look around the room and her body was a good distance from him with her arms folded.

Then as they were all laughing, he abruptly stopped and looked ahead to see two drunken women making out two tables away from them. As his eyes focused in on them, he realized they were two of his former crushes, Claire and Veronica, who he had no idea knew of each other because in fact, they were from different time periods of his life. He began seeing former teachers and professors from each stage of his school career, laughing hysterically with one another. Some of his most inspiring teachers and professors were gathered with other teachers and professors he despised. A young, tattooed hipster woman entered the scenery with a little Cairn Terrier that had an uncanny resemblance to his recently passed dog, Petey, who was put to sleep when he was away on a vacation, unexpectedly. His sorrow began to overwhelm him for not being able to say good-bye and see him for a proper last time. Everything about the dog’s high energy, playfulness, and watchdog attitude was exactly like Petey. A tear ran and fell off his cheek from his left eye right into the hand of Natasha. He looked up at her and she said, “Your tears are my tears. For what pain you withhold, I take and share with you.” She then wiped her right eye with the hand that held his tear. Natasha’s friend began to speak slowly into his left ear in Russian. Though he could not understand a word she was saying, it sounded just like a poem based on the pattern and rhythm’s consistency. It made him feel free of melancholy, but then thought of Angela Antonaci entered his mind.

He thought that the last painful experience ended with the break up of his closest best friend ever to play a part in his life. She was his girlfriend for the last three and a half years. They had known each other for ten years before they broke up their entire relationship. She was thirteen and he was fifteen when they first met in a park. She was always all over him like a little schoolgirl and he would often get frustrated with her obsession over him, for he believed he was no big deal. She was the first person to ever make him feel special and important, and even though he would resent her likeness towards him, he could never keep his eyes off of her or stop himself from always coming to her when he felt lonely. After about seven years, he realized he was in love with her. He had always been in love with her from the first time they met eyes. His long road had always lead back to her home in life. Every time he tried forgetting her and moving on, they would meet again. That person people search their entire lives for, he had found.

He rose out of his seat and briefly said goodbye to Natasha and her friend and went upstairs. He wanted time to be alone and walk around until he suddenly saw Jessica walking towards him. He stopped and waited for her to say hello, but she walked right by him, as if he had never existed. He felt a little insulted, yet relieved as any awkwardness that would arise was avoided. Looking ahead, he saw Angela’s two best friends, Kate and Julie, with her high school crush, John. John was playing an acoustic guitar on a lounge chair, singing to the two friends, almost enticing them with his eyes and voice. His jealousy overcame him, as Angela had been infatuated with him on and off even though he had played with her feelings throughout high school and college. John would tell her he loved her and make her believe he was a romantic, then when she fell into his words, he would leave her and keep a distance for long periods of time, leaving her in despair.

The conclusion occurred to him that maybe she was nearby. He searched throughout the entire bar not finding any other clues that she was around. When he went downstairs, he saw Natasha and her friend asleep, as well as most of the bar, except for the bartender. It was like everyone just passed out from the alcohol or possibly inhaled some type of knockout drug. The bartender was watching the news forecast of a tornado watch and dangerous thunderstorms. The bartender looked at him and said, “It’s better if you stay in here. It’s dangerous out there. I recommend you don’t go out!” He just listened, but decided to leave to the outside anyway.

He walked three blocks through the heavy rain and strong winds. He took a moment to stop and look at the black and gray clouds above him. As he looked across the street, he saw her. She was with her mother, sister, and mutual friends of theirs, Chrystal and Mike. He also saw behind them, his own mother and sister. He ran across the street to her and she shockingly with excitement screamed, “Hey!!! Oh my God!! Please stay with us. I missed you so much. You have no idea. We have to get to a shelter away from this storm. Hold my hand…” Smiling, he kept walking with them. They walked for twenty minutes and entered a giant field. After ten minutes of walking restlessly through the field, they all stopped to catch their breath. Angela’s mom ordered everyone to hold one another’s hand. An enormous gust of wind pushed them all to the grassy ground. He began to shake violently as he felt the touch of death nearby. He wondered if this would be the end, as he felt unaccomplished and left with so much left unsaid to her. Thoughts raced through his mind like a speeding highway about how to get to safety. Unable to control and remain focused on one rational thought at a time, he blacked out for a minute.

Then there he was right in the middle of a storm. In so many ways, he realized where he was ending was where he originally began. All the imprints from all he ever knew came back all at once to watch him finally leave all he ever knew from this life. And in the last moments, he found himself with her. He held her hand, while she held his, and the hands of their family and friends. The world was so dark and cold. The wind became much more rapid and an enormous bright light from it came within just miles of them. He kept looking up at the dark black and gray clouds over them, never as frightened as he was now. His focus was on the great strength of the wind. Whatever melancholic thoughts he had of his life, he would not give up hope. Maybe he was just hopelessly hopeful, but holding each other tightly might, in some miraculous way, save them. Then suddenly a deep peace began to sustain his very being. He remembered whose hand he was holding- the only woman to ever understand every level of his being. He looked down at her big, precious eyes pouring out tears. Their eyes locked, as she had been watching him the entire time. No words needed to be said from one another. They knew exactly what they felt and meant. For the first time in his life, everything was all okay. All was beautiful. The whole situation was beautiful, not tragic. In that moment, he understood this was where he was meant to be. This was where he wanted to be, for only in such a life altering moment does one comprehend the very nature of love and life. To just glance into her eyes and see the same person staring back in suspense, while all he ever knew was being born, growing, and dying simultaneously in complete acceptance. They began to fade and disappeared into the light.
Kendall Mallon Feb 2013
A man sat upon a pub stool stroking his
ginger beard while grasping a pint with his
other hand; an elderly gent sat down next to
him; this older man saw the ginger bearded
fellow’s pint was quite ne’r the bottom

A woman with eyes of amber and hair like
chestnut strolled through a vineyard amongst
the ripening grapes full of juice soon to become
wine she clutched a notebook—behind black
covers lay ideas and sketches on how to bring
the world to a more natural state; balancing
the wonders and benefits of technology with
the beauty and sanctity of the natural world

When the ginger bearded man finished
the last bit of his pint another appeared
before him—courtesy of the old man,
“Notice you got the mark of a man accustom
to the seas,” said the old man gesturing to
the black and blue compass rose inscribed
in a ship’s helm, imbedded into the back
of the ginger bearded man’s right hand.

“I have crewed and skippered a many fine
vessel, but I am giving up the sea. I have
one last voyage left in me—to my home.”

“Aye the sea can be cold and harsh,
but she captures me heart. To where
are ye headed for home, there son?”

“’tis not a where, ‘tis a who. Sets of events
have lead to separate from me my wife. I
have been traveling for  five years waiting
to be in her embrace. The force of the sea,
she, is a cruel one for at every tack, or gybe
I am thrown off my course to stranger and
stranger lands… I have gone to the rotunda
of hell and the gates of the so called heaven.
I have struck deals, and  made bets only a
gambling addict would accept. All to just be
with her. I am homesick—she is my home; it
doesn’t matter where—physically—we are
my home is with her. I was told to come to the
clove of Cork and wait, wait for a man, but I
was not told anything about this man only that
I must return him this,” the ginger bearded man
held out a silver pocket watch with a frigate
engraved on the front and two roses sharing a
stem swirling on the back upon themselves.

“Can it be? ‘tis my watch t’at me fat’er gave
me before he died… I lost t’is at sea many a
year ago; it left me heartbroken. For ‘twas me
only lasting memory of him… Come to t’ink
I was told by a beggar in the streets, I do not
remember how long ago, but it has been many
a years, t’at I would meet a man with something
very dear to me, and I would take this man on
a journey, and this man would have the mark
of a sailor. What is ye name? Can it be…?”

“My name is Lysseus dear old man—it seems
the Sea is holding up her bargain—though a
little late... do you have a ship that can fair to
Rome? All across this land, none a skipper will
uptake my plea; they fear the wrath of the sea.
If they have no fear, they claim my home ‘is not
on their routes…’ ‘tis a line I’ve heard too often;
I would purchase a boat, but the sea, she, has
robbed me identity and equity; I’m at her mercy.”

Penny with her rich chestnut hair sat on a fountain
in a piazza—her half empty heart longing to feel
the presence of the Lysseus and stroke his ginger
beard… everyday she would look out at the sea;
where she saw him leave port—five long years ago…

All said she should give up; that he
was dead by now—his ship (what
was left) was found amidst the rocks
of Cape Horn, but she knew there was
hope, she should feel deep inside her
soul he is alive somewhere fighting to
return home. Never would she leave;
never would she abandon her post.
She made that promise five years ago
as he set out on his ‘last’ sail off shore.
And she would be ****** before she
broke her promise—a promise of the
heart; a promise of love. He said, “You
are my lighthouse; your love will guide
me home—keep me from danger. As
long as you remain my lighthouse I will
forever be able to return home—to you.”

Off from Crosshaven the old man took
steadfast Lysseus en route to his home.
Grey Irish skies turned blue as they made
their way out on the Celtic Sea, southeast,
to the Straight of Gibraltar; gentle cold
spray moistened his ginger beard, his
tattooed hands grasped the helm—his
resolute stare kept the two on course.

It was a shame to the old man that this
would be Lysseus’ final voyage—he was
the best crew the man had known; he
was  not sure if it was just the character
of the  fellow or his personal desire to
return  home after five long, salty-cold,
years being a slave to the sea and her
changing whim—never had he seen his
ship sail as fast as he did when Lysseus
was his crew—each sail trimmed perfectly,
easing  the sheets fractions of an inch to
gain just the slightest gain in speed; the
sight warmed the heart of the old man.

The old man mused: maybe this is the
reason the sea has fought so hard and
lied to keep Lysseus from returning
home… she could not bear to lose such
fine a sailor from her expanses—she
is known to be a jealous mistress…

The old man, as he smoked his pipe, sat on
the back pulpit staring at Lysseus’ passion
to return home, as he calls her. But for all
his will and passion the, old man had to
insist for the fellow to rest; otherwise he
would go mad without sleep; reluctantly he
would retire below deck, but the old man
doubted the amount of rest he actually
acquired in those moments out of his sight.

The seas were calm as open water can be,
rolling swells rocked and pushed the vessel
forward. The Straight of Gibraltar opened
up on the horizon like a threshold—a major
land mark for the Lysseus; he was closer to
home than he had been in five long, salty,
years. His limbo was starting to fade, his
heart slowly—for the first time since he left
port—was beginning to feel whole again.
The Mediterranean Sea—his final sea—he
would not miss the gleam of his lighthouse…

The closer they sailed to Rome, he could sense a
change in the water, a change in the weather; clouds
grew darker and bellowed like gluttonous bulbs. As
he feared, the Sea was breaking her promise—she
was not done with him yet. She could not let him
return home—the jealous temptress who has ruined
many a fine men—the least honest of all the elements.

“I see she ain’t done wit’ ye yet,” said
the old man. Surveying the dark, grey,
clouded noon-day sky from the bow pulpit.

“Nothing will keep me from reaching home; even if I
have to swim the final nautical miles. I will not let the
Sea break her deal; I will make her keep at least one of
her deals. My love is stronger than her forces. That I
know for certain. That I know beyond doubt.” Such
cried Lysseus out to the darkening sea and old man.

As if on cue—waiting for Lysseus to finish
his soliloquy—the clouds let out a deafening
cacophony of thunder cracks rolling through
the heavens towards their vessel. Lighting
grounded on the horizon around them creating
a cage of light and electricity. The gentle rolling
swells grew in stature with every cracking
second. The bow smacked and dove into on
coming waves; drenching both Lysseus and
the old man; with each flood of water over
the deck. The swells grew to such heights the
horizon transformed into dark clouds and
white peaked waves merging with the sky.

A wave crashed over the windward side of
the ship, the force of it cracked the base at
which the compass stood fastened to the deck
of the cockpit a larger wave hit abeam further
loosening the compass from its purchase; with
the angle of the ship and the rise and fall in the
waves it was all Lysseus could to do hold on
and watch the Sea slowly take the ship’s
navigation instrument into Her dark cold depths…

“Oh why do you curse me you foul tempest?
Cannot you see all I desire is to return to my
home!? I have done all you asked; I have
played all your games and won! now it is my
turn now—time for you to play by my rules!”
Lysseuc beckoned the old man to seek refuge
below deck—he would sail them through the
storm, and assured him the ship would reach
port afloat; for, “I can feel my lighthouse in
the distance; do you hear me Sea? You can
take away our mariner’s compass, but you
cannot take away the compass in my heart;
and the light of my home on shore. Five long
years ago she made a promise to me to be
my lighthouse—to guide me home no matter
what—regardless what you do, Sea, you can
never break her promise—only your, promises.”

As a lighthouse she stood through the weather
of the night—risking pneumonia, for Penny’s
heart told her she could never abandon her
promise as the waters fell flat and the sun peaked
through the storm clouds, a silhouette stretched
in the sunrise light, pointing to her feet. Upon the
bow Lysseus stood, his eyes fixed at the dock
where his lighthouse stood, fixed. Upon the dock
he jumped into the warm, loving, arms of his
home both of their hearts became whole again.
In my head, this is the beginning of a longer epic, which I still have yet to write. Would any of you who read this like to have more to the story; or do you like it as it is?
LexiSully Jan 2018
Perched quietly in the shadows of the night,
Observing completely, using all her might,
Untouched the landscape sat; she breathed a sigh,
She leapt and began to fly

She soared through the trees, dark and murky,
Weaving in and out, the ride a little jerky,
Until she reached the clearing, blooming and sprouting,
Where she landed and began scouting

She spotted a baby, small and alone,
Hungry and confused, wanting to be shown,
Flying over to the area in which it sat,
She pulled some wisdom from her hat

Unmoving and silent, she sat as an example,
Showing her apprentice just a little sample,
Teaching patience and perseverance was first on the list,
She didn’t quit until it got the gist

Next thing she knew, her student was growing,
In no time, it was the one doing all the showing,
She took a step back, gazing proudly at her work,
While the child continued doing all the groundwork

Rays peaked out across the horizon in all hues,
Most of which consisted of reds and blues,
She looked at the child, beckoning it to fly on home,
Although she longed to stay and roam

As the sun rose, slow and bright,
She decided to turn and take off in flight,
Twisting and turning through trees and brush,
She flew on quickly, as if in a rush

She spotted it then, modest and small,
The place she longed to go most of all,
Adventures are fun and she liked to roam,
But there’s definitely no place quite like home.
TheRhymeRenegade Feb 2018
do you recall
the crunch beneath our feet
a gesture small
as we ambled down the street
dirt and gravel
I felt pebbles through my shoe
I unravelled
When I looked at you

Where did you come from
Are you real?
Is this how I’m supposed to feel?
A dreamgirl
In a dreary place
I’ve counted every freckle on your face

Sunlight peaked through maple branches
in such a tranquil way
missed chances to make advances
I always hoped you'd stay
a fork in the road ahead
we went different directions
I used many different methods
to try and snag your attention
Where did you come from
Are you real?
Is this how I’m supposed to feel?
A dreamgirl
In a dreary place
I’ve counted every freckle on your face

you never seemed to notice
you just stared ahead
heart bloomed as if a lotus
while I tugged at a loose thread
sometimes I'd begin to speak
but choked upon my words
so I walked next to you without a peep
and together watched the birds

Where did you come from
Are you real?
Is this how I’m supposed to feel?
A dreamgirl
In a dreary place
I’ve counted every freckle on your face

it's odd and super subtle
the synchronicity
insignificant and pointless
yet means the world to me
quiet walks every afternoon
past the garage and dead leaves
we watched the starlings courtship
do you remember me?

Where did you come from
Are you real?
Is this how I’m supposed to feel?
A dreamgirl
In a dreary place
I’ve counted every freckle on your face
May 9, 2012, 7:01:02 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




The rivers of winter ice had melted with spring sunshine's awakening and the noises of the forest announced the awakening of the fauna. a young fox stretched her long legs and fluffed up her tail as she yawned awake. this winter had been a lonely one for her, as she did not have a mate. throughout the winter she had felt the tingling feelings of her ****** urges creep between her legs and she moaned slightly as she felt them creeping there again.  she stepped slowly out of her den and took a cool breath of the spring air, bringing her the scents of the amorous flowers and the frolicking prey. she watched two birds in courting flight above har and she sighed at her loneliness. the fox hung her head low and walked softly forward. at some point she closed her eyes and yet kept walking, a few tears of longing falling from her eyes. the tingling urges grew stronger and she fought to keep them at bay. she kept walking a bit, aimlessly, though. she cried out as she stumbled over a heavy rock.
She tumbled into the nearby brook and felt a sharp stone cut her right hind leg. she clambered on to the bank, shivering and soaking wet with the chilled water. she attempted to stand and felt a fiery sting to her leg. she looked and saw a shallow **** marring her orange fur. "ow... ow..." she whimpered as she walked on. as the sun peaked over her, she felt her stomach's pleading for sustenance and she groaned. she could faintly smell a rabbit nearby and crouched low, going over how to stalk her prey. she sniffed for it and it seemed to be close, on the other side of a group of trees. she flanked around as best she could and spotted the furball. she licked her lips hungrily and pounced. the rabbit was dead in an instant as she tore its throat out. she chomped at it once and then felt a feeling of dread. she gulped once and heard a wolf growl nearby. i'm wounded... i can't avoid it now.
.
she thought. she heard the wolf running toward her and was bowled over by it. when she stopped
Rolling she was on her back. looking up at the wolf, a young grey, white chested wolf, at the beginning of his manhood. he snarled at his prey as she whimpered beneath him. then to her surprise, he sniffed at her and tilted his head, the tenseness of the hunt gone from his yellow eyes. the wolf took a step back and looked her up and down, stopping as he saw something. he spoke softly, almost caringly, "you are female... and in heat... i apologize for interrupting your meal."
the fox looked at him curiously, "You...?"
he glanced at her and finished her thought. "...do not harm females. it is a code of honor i choose to live by."
she sniffed at him, "you have no mate, no lover."
his breath caught. "nor do you, young fox, lest he'd be satiating your body's desires, and his as well."
she felt the tingling between her legs again and attempted to say something, but was stopped. the wolf said, "nor do i wish to take advantage of females either."
The fox replied suggestively, "you spared my life, surely theres some way i could repay you, handsome wolf."
the wolf looked at her, eyes dilated and his breathing rough. he shook his head, "no.. i couldnt. its not my place."
she could feel the urges burning inside her, she wanted to release them, she wanted this wolf to release her. "chivalrous, i see. then, dear wolf, alleviate my longing, my pain, and i shall alleviate your own."
the wolf took a step closer, his own longing feeding his fire. "beautiful fox... your offer intigues me... you- you are wounded..." she looked and saw her leg still bleeding. "let me aide you, dear fox." he took a few steps and lay beside her, licking her wound. with each lick, the pain receded and was replaced by a wave of pleasant ache. the bleeding stopped and he stopped licking, for the moment. he sniffed her, his cold nose brushing the swollen flesh, and as it quivered between her legs, he knew she was ready for him. "my den is close by, young fox."
She nuzzled against his chest and felt his heart pounding. she took his paw and pressed it against her own chest, letting him feel her heart. "you know we cant wait that long, here.. in this group of trees." she gestured to the spot a few feet away. the wolf quickly walked into the tangle of trees, followed by the fox. the wolf had hardly stepped inside the treeline before the fox began nudging at the furry bulge between his legs. "you're not quite ready yet, dear wolf." the wolf whimpered a few times as she licked at it, taking his smooth member in her mouth and enticing it with her tongue. once it was throbbing in its full glory, she licked one last time and said, "now you're ready." and raised herself in preparation for him. he got into position on top of her and with one paw she guided him inside her. she gasped as he stretched her a little. she glanced over her shoulder and
realized that he wasnt that much bigger than her. he looked nervous and she realized something,
This is his first time... mine too... lets make this memorable.. she experimented with different positions, and after finding her favorite, set about making this wolf howl.
the wolf ****** slowly at first, drawing out the ecstasy. only when she began to whimper amorously did he begin to ****** harder, faster. she joined him, as he pulled back, she leaned forward, leaving only his tip inside her. when he ******, she leaned back on him with a wet squish. the wolf's tongue lolled and his eyes were glazed over in sweet agony. he howled softly at first, and as the ****** came, he howled again, echoing with the fox's cries as the ecstasy reached its ****** and rocked their bodies. the wolf staggered slightly at the passionate waves of ******. he pulled out his member and looked at his mate. "come with me to my den, so we can sleep, dear fox." the fox looked at him and nodded, grateful.
* * *
The fox and the wolf walked quietly to his den, set inside a secluded cluster of trees. the den itself was set in the ground, like a cavern, just large enough for the two of them to lie down comfortably. "its going to get cold tonight," said the wolf. "we should... share body heat." he had a faint twinkle in his eyes as he glanced nervously at her. when she tilted her head to him, the wolf looked down at his paws. the fox licked his muzzle and laid down next to him. the wolf's grey fur was thick, and she was  already beginning to feel warmer. she felt the wolf's heart beat a little faster, and he curled around her. his furry tail wrapped around the fox and she purred slightly as she nuzzled him and rested her head on his foreleg. for a moment they lay there, eyes closed, listening to the others' breathing, when he whispered to her, "i never did catch your name, young fox."
she grinned at him, "my name's Sasha, the only fox in this forest. and what be your name, dear wolf?"
The wolf opened one eye slightly to look at her, "my name is Ronan, i'm the last wolf of my pack."
she held him in her gaze a few beats and replied, "i haven't seen many wolves 'round these parts, where do you come from, Ronan?"
the grey sighed and said, "Farther north, over the mountains and into ice country. the food became scarce and the pack withered away, all but me. i treveled over the hills and mountains, through forests and grassland, and i kept going, finally stopping here. what of you? you said yourself you were the only fox in this forest."
Sasha swished her tail back and forth for a moment before, "i was separated from my family during a blizzard. i- i couldn't see anything, and i couldn't hear anything over the wind. i wandered aimlessly in the whiteout, tripping and stumbling until i bumped into something big. then again, i was just a kit and everything was big to me, but i looked up and saw a pair of eyes looking at me. i was so scared the snow beneath me turned yellow.
The monster bent over and picked me up by the scruff of my neck and carried me for a long time. i was so exhausted i fell asleep in its grip. when i woke up i was in a chilly den. i looked and realized that the monster had been a snow-white she-wolf. she sat at the enterance to the den and kept looking outside, waiting for something. when the snowstorm cleared out, she turned to me and said, 'little fox. have you a family?' i shook my head as i realized they were gone. from then on, the wolf raised me and taught me how to survive. then one day a few years ago... she was gone..."
Ronan was watching the fox as she told the story. "i'm sorry."
"don't be, ronan. ever since she left ive been alone. no fox to breed me, no one for a lover. until you came along..."
ronan licked her muzzle, "no need for loneliness now." sasha smiled and was soon asleep, warmed by her lover.
*
The sun rose and shone brightly into the entrance of the den the next morning, waking sasha from her slumber. she yawned and felt around for the grey. she felt nothing. she stood up and looked around the empty den. did he... leave me? a single tear fell when she imagined the possibility. "no.... please no..." she whimpered. her breath caught as she heard something rustling the grass outside the den. sasha shrank back and hid behind her tail, peeking over it slightly. she could hear her heartbeat in her ears and feel it rising in her throat as the rustling got closer and closer. she squeaked, "who... who's there?"
she flinched as a dark mass blocked the sunlight, its shadow stretching across the wall. the mass stepped slowly forward and sasha shut her eyes tight, fearing what might come next. "sasha?" it was ronan. "what's the matter?"
she gasped at him before rushing forward and burying her muzzle in his chest fur. "i thought you'd left me..."
with a paw, ronan stroked the fur on her back. "i'm a wolf, ***. loyalty and chivalry are the only things i know." she buried herself deeper in his fur and scolded herself for not realizing that. "i caught breakfast, i figured you'd be hungry after i interrupted your meal yesterday." she looked behind him and saw a small pile of ****** rabbits. sasha licked her lips hungrily. "its all yours, dear fox." she looked gratefully at Ronan before pouncing on the pile of carcasses, tearing into one and bloodying her maw. ronan watched her with pleasant  affection. the den was filled with the sounds of flesh being rendered from bone and the snapping of Sasha's teeth. she feasted upon the **** until she could eat no more, her belly now filled. two rabbits still lay uneaten, and ronan devoured them slowly, savoring the ****** meat as it slipped down his gullet. sasha lay nuzzled up against him while he ate, toying at his tail and
otherwise teasing at him. he gave her a look of amusement and somehow got into a game of tag with her.
He chased her around the den and she dodged his paw as he reached for her. when he did finally touch her, sasha dove between his legs and poked his furry belly. leaving him with a dumbfounded expression on his face. he then chased sasha outside and they continued their game within the cluster of trees around them. sasha laughed, a liquid smooth, crystal clear laugh. ronan watched her jump around him, the sun's rays catching her fine orange fur in such a way that it seemed almost like fire. he watched her a moment and loosed a soft howl. she's so beautiful... he thought.
* *
Timothy Sep 2012
By Alfred Noyes 1880—1958**

PART ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART TWO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.       .       .

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

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.  
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there  
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
Andrew Parker Nov 2018
How Does Happiness Happen Poem
11/25/2018

I once heard that happiness is like watching the sunrise.
That when its golden shining rays meet your eyes, their solar power can bring the darkness its demise, by summoning a radiant, dazzling smile--that's how I thought happiness happens for a while.

Someone else said that happiness just takes some time, while living in the present. That its like you wake up one day and suddenly things seem more pleasant. In other words, it should feel like the cut scene of a Disney movie--but my movie writers must have missed the memo.

I've also been told that happiness is a habit. That you tell yourself kind things in the mirror, and then they'll stick to you like a jacket you wear covered in positive patches made of hearts and unicorns and stuff--although my jacket never seemed to keep me warm enough.

Some say that happiness is letting go of the what if's and why not's, the whose its', what's its, and the what nots.
That it's the power to accept what you cannot change.
They all say that happiness starts within, but what if happiness is not in me? What if my body doesn't know how to make happiness happen?

Because I've been through sleepless nights to watch the sunrise, but its shining rays must have stopped before they hit my heart. Instead of a super smile, all I could muster was a lukewarm shoulder shrug and tired yawn and thought to myself, "Well, I guess that's all," as I watched the sunrise, and felt my hopes fall.

I've tried living in the present. I've patiently waited and wished to wake up one morning and be over this. I know they said that happiness just takes a while, but it's taken so long that now it's the ******* future and I've stopped believing in that fool's rumor.

How many mornings have I spent saying sappy affirmations in the mirror? Telling myself, "You are smart," "You are kind," "You are fine, fresh, and fierce," "You will be happy someday." By now, those words I once wore like a jacket have outgrown me and they no longer fit.

Maybe my soul is like a sapless flower, a ship that sinks, or a staring contest filled with blinks... ****, that stinks.
Maybe my brain chemicals have leaked, or my allotted amount of happiness has already peaked.
Maybe my stress and anxiety disagree with me being happy.
Maybe my happiness frosted, the first time I fell in love and lost it.

Even after all these things I've seen and done, I can't comprehend why my happiness is still long foregone.
My smile's corrosion has continued unspoken -- so I've issued a new one with permanent pen.
But I couldn't concoct a formula for the happiness potion -- one that would raise my happiness quotient.
I haven't unfrozen my heart out of fear that it's broken -- and thawing it out will release the emotions.


But I do know one thing that's true -- it's for certain.
If my happiness is broken, then by the principles of inversion, it can be rewoven.

There is no guarantee that it will come promptly,
but until then, I'll keep my pursuit in motion,
and continue to believe in the notion
that someday happiness will just happen to happen to me.
In the heart of the Courtroom sat God with his Only Begotten Son The Christ to his right-hand side to the left-hand side was Lucifer fully armored with a Golden Celestial Horn which will be blown once the war speech commences. Directly in front of them sat 25 Golden Robed Kings dressed in a white tunic with Golden Crowns flowing above their heads. In the massive throne room, there were nearly 750,000 thousand Angels gathered to hear this important speech. Within the crowd, there was some excitement and yet commotion going into play. The Golden Armada Of ArchAngels was presently composed of only 8 Lv-1000 ArchAngels they are under God's direct command and they are the most powerful toughest meanest baddest Angels God has put aside for the most dangerous and toughest assignments ever to be imagined. What God didn't expect was about to happen he was about to get betrayed by one of his main Angels and he himself be tested with the greatest trial he would ever face. Suddenly, Lucifer blew the horn the speech was about to commence...

Meanwhile in Infernus...
Inrah is harnessing Infernus power and converting it into a massive ball of power by opening his mouth wide the energy ball that has a rainbow color to it gets bigger and bigger and has created a transparent shield covering him leaving the angels unable to attack him directly...so every attack they throw at him has failed whether it be a long ranged attack or a close-range attack. Sebastian added "If I were to attack the beast somehow in close range I could potentially aim my Holy Spirit Purple Flame Arrow Of Fate is one of the most powerful attacks I have in my repertoire of moves. Valerye tells Krillin to use stealth and cloak herself from enemy view and attack him from behind the skull of the dragon...the dragon had peaked power in its attack and aimed directly at the 4 ArchAngels floating in mid-air about 400 ft away. In a blink of an eye, Krillin shot at the Dragon with Heavenly Gun Celestial Ray Bullets to draw attention to the dragon. Leona had used her doppelganger to act and be portrayed as Krillin. That made Inrah believe all 4 was there. The bullets broke the shield behind Inrahs skull and 3 bullets penetrated his head exploiting deep within and causing huge rupture like holes on his head. Inrah lost power and was interrupted so the energy ball lost some power itself. Squad #6 realized this was their chance to take Inrah down ...so Valerye being the muscular wise the strongest she leaped then teleported to Inrahs head and descended with a colossal attack disestablishing his power ball and exploding creating a distortion of ethereal space and the blast was so powerful that the Arch Angels suffered extensive damage to their armor. This time Inrah whole head had exploded and collapsed on itself Slowly but surely the tremendous beast with ferocious power had been silenced they all thought Inrah was dead. So each of them examines their selves Valerye had a crack on her shoulder side of her armor. Krillin had her armor almost intact except the broken shattered part of the crystal armature which some shards cut her left arm below the armpit. Krillin was bleeding but recovered phenomenally. Sebastian had Burn marks all over his lightweight armor. Leona had not suffered much due to the fact that she was observing the blast farther away. She had once again used her doppelganger to trick Inrah that she was Sebastian and had moved close to the energy ball when it was still in decent condition. Those golden seconds allowed her to teleport to a nearby location to observe the blast.
It had been 7 minutes and Inrahs head had not recovered...Exhausted from the long battle the Angels began to slowly fly away from the scene. However, Inrah was not dead yet and he gathered his last bit of strength to go back to his Arch Fiend form. The Arch-Fiend flashed and grabbed Valerye then Inrah began glowing dark energy and wouldn't let go of Valerye. So then all the other 3 members threatened Inrah to let go of Valerye then Inrah shouted to the Angels that if they were to attack him or interfere on the absorption of holy power he was going to perform that he would explode leaving Valerye dead or heavily injured. She then telepathically told all the goodbyes and all. Then Valerye heard the Lord's voice to tell her teammates to attack Inrah. Sebastian telepathically asked her if she wanted him to use Celestial Arrow so then they all detected that Inrah couldn't telepathically communicate with them anymore due to his lack of power. So they communicated this among each other and they took advantage of this opportunity to communicate with each other about Jesus message to them saying it was OK for them to attack Inrah due to the fact he had allowed the Holy Spirit to descend to Infernus temporarily to shield Valerye. Taking advantage of Inrah's inability to decipher their angelic messages thru telepathy they readied their positions. In fear, Inrah shouted to him and warned him that he would explode. Sebastian just looked at him and smirked and said... "Don't you see Demon is over..." at that very moment he drew his heavenly bow and slowly drew a celestial arrow. So then Inrah responded nervously... "I may be at my last stand but Master will understand..." right when he finished those words he exploded annihilating him instantly but Valerye was left unharmed due to the Holy Spirit Godly Shield an ability able to withstand any blast with a power level below 1000. So there all four Arch Angels stood on the ground of Infernus and made a surprising discovery. Their power level had grown. Furthermore, a new ability was unlocked by each member of the group. Sebastian learned Shadow Arrow. Leona Infernal Shield. Krylinn learned Earthly Armor. Last but not least Valerye Shadow Clone the ability to use two doppelgangers. The victory came at last and they all four after being left roaming Infernus for 7 long days they arose to heaven victorious and feeling joyful to see the Lord's gentle face and to feel God's embrace and power ever so mightily.

Back in the Courtroom...
The earnest tone of voice and a most elegant poise was worn by Lucifer as he gave his speech. Spoken in Umen a diabolical dialect mixed in the crowd was Vhar disguised as a messenger Angel. He contacted Nebol the 6th DemonLord of Infernus who has 650,000 Necromancers and 1.5 million undead soldiers at his disposal. Nebol made a rift allowing the Undead and Necromancers inside Infernus to relocate to random places around the perimeter of the Throne Room. Vhar and Nebol stormed into the Throne Room just to find themselves surrounded God had given orders to dispose of the imminent threat if any that opposed him or his kingdom. However the demons knowing God's presence would be overwhelming Nebol opened a portal right in front of him which transferred him to Infernus however him and Vhar sustained damage which lowered Nebol vitality due to Occult technique Shade of Darkness which allowed them to be shielded from God's Celestial Light and Adonai Vortex the first ability allows Yahweh the to impair demons use of abilities and conjuring power. The second ability is a is a white dim and slowly becomes a transparent hole that disintegrates demons any rank if touched by it. So with 1/4 of Nebols troops disintegrated when he almost lost his life and almost lost one of his best Generals Vhar he was outraged at the fact he had lost a significant amount of his demonic fleet. Now with 450,000 Necromancers and only having a million undead soldiers left. Nebol killed and consumed the heart of 5 Lv500 General Undead Soldiers and 1 out of only 6 in all the Necromancer Platoon an Lv-800 High Diabolic Priest Necromancer regaining all his power and armor back and with a stronger more powerful stance now regaining his posture as a Demon Lord. *There are 9 DemonLords in Infernus. Each and every single Demon Lord has Immortality and a power level of 1000. However some Demon Lord's are weaker and some stronger even though their power level cannot be higher. It ultimately matters of determination and skill. Aikalar First of the Demon Lord's rules the first circle of Infernus. He is a Huge White Wolf with Black flames with a small blue hue in his eyes and tail dominating the entrance of Infernus the smallest circle of Infernus. The Second Demon Lord portrayed as a Crow in a rotten tree high in the heights of Infernus. The second biggest circle in Infernus. Croxuss the third Demon Lord of Hell portraying himself as a huge turtle looking monster with Bloodshot eyes and ugly putrefying stench emitting from his body. The 4th Demon Lord known as Flayiron a once beautiful Arch-Angel LvIII Bow-Master now that he has joined the Infernus Fleet after his rebellion in Acapella He has a light blueish/purplish armor with a gigantic bow that can be transformed to a sword or a shield with a telekinetic command given by Flayiron. The fifth Demon Lord of hell is known as Asmodeus a half-giant half grey skinned demon who killed an Arch-Angel known Killas. Nebol the 6th Demon Lord of hell who was inbound to attack the great palace of heaven retreated momentarily to collect his thoughts. Lilith the 7th Demon Lord is the Angel of Lust a pure goddess of seduction with tremendous power. Nova the eight demon lord the most powerful goddess of all demon lords extremely beautiful and extremely sensual she does as she pleases with any of the Arch-Angels God has sent her way so far...she doesn't know she is about to meet her doom ...
Squad # 6. Arch-Angel Valerye with Arch-Angel Leona Arch-Angel Kryllin and Last but not least Arch-Angel Sebastian. They came to the 8th Circle Of *Infernus
where Demon Lord Nebol from the 6th Circle Of Infernus.
Work in progress...
Daniel James Mar 2011
Shrouded in secrets
The men from F-Branch
Recite the techniques
Undiscussed in advance
Of Democracy's dance
Democracy's dance
Democracy's Dance with Terror.

Outside the port of Umm-Qasr
Hundreds of men
Hooded in the dark
Of the midday sun
Kneeling on the run
From Democracy's Dance with Terror.

Suspected by students
Back home and online
Theories get conspired
Petitions get signed
"Stop Democracy's Dance!
Stop Democracy's Dance!
Stop Democracy's Dance with Terror!"

The attorney general
Is called for advice.
A solemn exchange
Top down bottom line.
His argument is
"If it's nice it's all right."

Ministers from Ministries
Are detained and questioned
By the goggles of a press
Suffering sleep deprivation.
It's like a game of touch rugby
Outside downing street
With a twist on the rules of 'Just a minute'.

And outside the port of Umm-Qasr
Democracy doggedly dances her dance.

But the rhythms of the dance
The stress of white noise
Peaked
And escaped on the wind
Blowing through the forgotten kindness
Of confused hearts and minds
Escaping through the drafty guilt
Of hung up uniforms
Dancing on the mumbling lips
Of sleeping soldiers
With wives, partners, families, friends
Back home
Who don't know what it's like
They don't understand the drill
They can't do the moves
They don't know what it's like.

But the dance did not stop
It did what every bad vibration does
And moved elsewhere
And was henceforth known
By an unpronounceable acronym:
JFIT!

And now we join James
Young musclebound man
With a drink in hand
Back from tour of duty
It's a Saturday night
And the Weston women like a soldier,
A real man.
The fact that he
Has been doing his duty.
"Do you mind if I ask..." Asked Deborah
Showing more than necessary of her bra
"Where was you based, your base in Iraq-
Your third base, in particular?"
"I'll tell you," Said James
And the ladies came quick
Putty in his hands
Just like a joystick.
Said James, with the gravitas
Or some silverscreen star,
"While out in Iraq,
I was stationed
At a British logistics base in Shaiba.
It's outside Basra.
Basra in Iraq.
Iraq?
You have heard of Iraq?"
But by then,
Deborah and her bra and her friends
Were talking to another group of men
Who worked in property development
And apparently, Deborah, they're neighbours
Or something, because that one said
They've got seventeen houses between them.

But what James hadn't told them is this
The exact meaning of words in English
Like British Logistics camp is
Not always what you think that it is.

Oh did I say camp?
I meant base.
Please delete any mention of camp
From the record.

It was not long before
That James' routine
Had been... very different
To say the least.

Indeed soon after crossing the border
And re-invading his parents' home again
He'd been watching Jeremy Vine when
He spotted a pattern of systematic abuse
On the curtains
Whenever he muted the telly.

James decided to get out of the house
And to help him get a grip
He decided to go shopping
But when he looked down at his list
It said:

59 hoodies
11 Electric plugs
52 Alarm clocks
122 pairs of earmuffs
160 torches
117 blackened goggles
132 stress positions
39 enforced nakednesses

And by this stage he realised
That perhaps he ought to see someone.
But instead of seeing a journalist
Or the Swedish King of wikileaks
He went and saw a military psychiatrist
Who charged him a lot to let him speak
On a one-off profit plus! contract
James ended asking the same question
Week after week -
Do you think I'm crazy?
What does all this mean?
The doctor replied:
"Of course you're not crazy,
It's just your mind is very ill,
I'll tell one part of it to ignore another part -
Here - take one of these little pills
They're only one pound ten each
And if you take one
Every three hours
Every day
For the rest of your life
(Or until you die,
Whichever is longer)
You'll be fine.

Meanwhile,
The dance continued to be taught
Like capoeira on a foreign-office team-building course
On the art of interrogation
The alpha-tango
Aimed at prisoners of war.
But the footsteps of karma
Where circling once more
And the base back at Shaiba
(Near Basra. In Iraq?)
Was once more withdrawn
This time to the airport
Along with other UK forces.

Now relatives of the victims
Both at home and abroad
And those most susceptible
To empathy's ill-considered force
Were planning to divert the dance -
Divert the Dance!
Divert the Dance
with Demo Dances,
Demo Dances!
Demo Dances!

Then it was the turn of the politicians
To work their magic of popular logisticians
By answering the questions no one has asked
Like are we human or are we just dancers?
We are just humans
Doing democracy's dance
Democracy's Dance
Democracy's dance with
(cough, cough).

And the news reporters
With their sleep-deprived goggles
Reported in such detail
As to make one's mind boggle
Each step, each move and each deliberate error
Of democracy's dance
Democracy's dance
Democracy's dance
With Terror.

(To be Continued... on the BBC)
The Terry Tree Dec 2014
In glorious flight owning daylight
You magistrate freedom across
An ocean with your own box
Of twilight that you share
In a land of fish
A moonlit wish
With wings that
Kiss the
Sky

Throughout your expeditions to ground
Your voice is a dynamic sound
None can ignore your presence
What would Pandora say
When you sing that way?
Higher you fly
Distances
Many
Won't

Instruct us to use our heart compass
Open our eyes to perspective
Show us potential to live
When self-doubt is about
Like a grain of sand
May our cares be
Found without
A need
For

The liberty of our latitude
Is the length of our attitude
The way the wind blows effects
The direction we go
Our choices to be
Curiously
Ebb and flow
Waving
Lo

Behold a new dawn of bright feather
Consider the stormy weather
Notice how cloud and sun
Witness the Mother
Nature at play
Survey to
Coastal
Bay

May we find our way as you have shown
Limitless unbounded and flown
So shallow is the worry
No longer a fury
A calming has come
Soaring above
With truth in
Our hearts
Won

Riding the currents of emotions
Soaring aloft mental oceans
Wings spanned in physical worlds
Discover us great pearls
Of wisdom and poise
Joyful in noise
Good solid
Gifts of
Sage

Cleansing our spirits of past trifles
Being careful not to stifle
New growth with every gust gained
A quill, a crest, a quest
A mountain peaked with
Knowledge like the
Pier we are
Destined
To

A gate to become the best versions
Of our outstanding self-landing
Into the stars we have been
The fringe dust of pinion
Divine with the wind
Beginning free
And renewed
With no
End


© tHE tERRY tREE
Poetic Form | the Nonet; The nonet poetic form is a 9-line poem that has 9 syllables in the first line, 8 syllables in the second line, 7 syllables in the third line, and continues to count down to one syllable in the final (ninth) line.
Twenty seven years
The age where you've peaked stardom,
then you die so young.

Twenty-seven years
The age where you've peaked the fame,
then you're gone too soon.
Nathan Squiers Jul 2014
Look, I was gonna go easy on you not to hurt your feelings, but I’m only going to get this one chance!
Something’s wrong… I can feel it.
Just a feeling I got, like something’s about to happen… but I don’t know what.
If that means what I think it means, we’re in trouble—big trouble—and if he’s as bananas as you say I’m not taking any chances!

(You are just what the doc ordered)

I’m beginning to feel like a write god (write god).
Can all the readers out there who think I’m right nod, right nod.
Now here I am again for another rap talk, rap talk…
They said I write like a monster, so call me scribe-star,
But for me to write like a beast means I’m a demon at least;
I got a devil kept in my pocket,
On my shoulder’s when I rock it.
Talkin’ of killin’ and of thrillin’; won’t stop it!
Write a demon doorway, now knock on it!
Ever since the dark days when I’d just lost it,
Way back when the world would pace and chant “Nutcase!”
I’m a ******, but I’m charming;
Yes, a crude, rude dude, but I’m still disarming.
Using syllables to **** ‘em all with this
empowering empire of powerful vampires.
The writer-type clackin’ back with typewriters, like way back, right?
Clackity-clack!
Rockin’ stack after stack, clackin’ out more attacks,
Ideas tacked out while hacks hack out their crap (but ******* spew **** all the time),
so I perform written parkour tricks so you’re not bored; strike a chord.
Show you Stryker’s tortured life of suicide ‘n strife turnin’
to strength and a fiery passion burnin’ while readers’ guts are churnin’—
teary eyes all burnin’.
Their fears are returnin’ from a story I turned out when I got turned on
to my own life.
Now I drop F-bombs;
exploding real-life scenes—
these ain’t your G-rated dreams, so take your outdated themes—
It’s the **** I’ve seen; don’t make me obscene.
I’m mean, I mean, it’s my means to screen a scene between a matte sheen.

‘Cause I’m beginning to feel like a write god (write god).
Can all the readers out there who think I’m right nod, right nod.
Now here I am again for another rap talk, rap talk…
They ask me to thaw out these oily blocks called ink-wads, ink-wads.
There’s a body in everybody , but not all bodies have a brain that makes them feel sane.
Like a train—just the same—
Might be runnin’ but we still cast blame,
The loading docks of our thoughts; they’re locked-up in a box,
And they’re stackin’ up like blocks
That turn the stacks to empty tracks (****!)
Trainees blame their brainees when it’s not easy training brains, see?
But the boarding isn’t boring—training brains; not trading pains—
Remember: the station’s self-exploration!
Me? I’m a hodgepodge! From train station to abandoned lodge;
Bully dodgin’, fully locked-in when I freaked out, fattened-up and then I geeked out,
Told “keep it down” but then peaked when I peeked deep down.
Creepin’ up, now, and keepin’ up (WOW!)
I swear it up and tear it up scribbled swords,
And now I wear awards for slingin’ words;
Offered praise; a chance to forget about the craze that once darkened all my days,
But I write that way—say “that’s okay ‘cuz it helps me write this way—each and every day!
And hacks think I act this way just to seem this way, ‘til come the day when the cray-cray takes the doubt away.
Demon obsessed? I’m possessed! Can’t own what you don’t possess!
“Hey, devil-lookin’ boy!”
So ***** for my honey I’m rockin’ horns, look here boy!
A Literary Dark Mass-acre,
Like the devil laid waste to a church on the page, looker boy!
They got a gold star, and a high five,
Felt so alive to see their own scribes make it to Momma’s fridge, ****** boy!
Hey, schnook-ah boy, looky here, looker boy,
I’m held up by The Legion, book-it boy!
Had to push for every word—every page—had to swallow all the rage,
Now you want out of your cage, schnook-ah boy?
I’m legendary—literary—and you’re literally just a *****, little boy!
So sell out while I’m bought out, ******-boy!

‘Cause I’m beginning to feel like a write god (write god).
Can all the readers out there who think I’m right nod, right nod.
The way I’m burnin’ through these pages, call me Dark Lord, Dark Lord!
But they’d rather burn my books, so start a fire war, fire war!
Can’t get it through your head? Words are more than Edward! He’s dead! WORD!
Let me drag you off to meet Dracula; take you back to the dawn of the dark lord, yea?
Fast forward to the foreword where the F-word’s “fangs” (you’re welcome);
This is my Hell, come! Be free!
Part Morningstar; part Morpheus! I throw up a kiss and jot down the kills like they’re red-apple pills.
Go ask Alice back at my palace what you should read to feed your head.
Sentence structure so smooth they call me FE-line, and my cat’s got better plot lines,
That the hacks will all call “sublime” (it’s “sub-fine”)
But me?
My **** scenes are brutal,
And my romance? Not frugal. I don’t saturate—I arrogate—
But I don’t condemn my characters to *******!
I wanna make readers care—if readers dare—
To connect and feel and follow where they can find some hope and power there.
While also giving them a place somewhere that isn’t here—though filled with fear—
A place where they don’t feel jeered or feel weird.
Horror ain’t just movie monsters, or gore-****** scopin’ sponsors!
You speak French? C’est de la merde, monsieur!
You look unsure! But I have the cure in the written word!
And though you once were achin’ for a rockstar author cravin’ bacon,
The role has since been taken by your man, Squiers.
And like a pair of pliers, I can reach into readers’ brains and cross all sorts of wires!
I’m settin’ cranial fires behind the eyes of all my buyers!
And while I’m growing Ghost Riders—ridin’ shotgun on the bullet-train ‘tween the pages—
There’s a horde of haters harboring growing rages
With a narrow gaze of who scribes pages.
They say I can’t write ‘cuz of my tattoos or my gauges
So allow me to assuage this: y’all can’t cage this!
If you don’t like it, let me show you where the grave is!
You’re well-aged, but I’m ageless!
Like the undead through the ages!
And like Shakespeare took to stages you can find me where the page is:
I’m hip to a script, I’m at home with a poem and feeling groovy writin’ movies; and I’ll be EZ on your TV.
You write normal? **** being normal!
What a novel theory! So very dreary!
Why the **** are they so leery, they say “Writing fear? We don’t want to hurt no feelings.”
Feelings? Setting up ceilings! Just more limits! It’s life! Live it!
Set the roof on fire!
Plot is getting hotter than a 24/7 squatter on a ***** channel!
So what if some **** gets a hair up ‘er ****? Don’t make it ****!
They wanna say “Hey you, we’re here to stifle!”
‘Cuz I mentioned rifles? Do they really want to trifle?
So I say:
“Better bring a sweater ‘cuz this thriller’s gonna chill ya—sure hope it doesn’t **** ya—and ya gonna get’a fill o’ all the ***** that I don’t give, ‘cuz I don’t live to let ******* quip or give me lip about my lit.
I’m entertaining and elating and also demonstrating how devastating a stream of escalating scenes can be so penetrating—although frustrating—to a mind that’s celebrating what it means to be vacationing between the pages; wading through the stages of a war that forever wages; meditating through the escalations now that they know what TRUE rage is!
“Oh, he’s too ******!”
That’s right! Ain’t right. That’s life: not nice; it’s strife.
It’s not just me; it’s we.
I just found a better way to show it:
Monsters that aren’t monsters;
Abuse put to good use; bred virtues!
“I don’t know how to plot plots like that;
I don’t know what words to use.”
Did it really never occur to them that to read a book—just to take a look—and THEN take up the pen?
You read King if you want to be king, strictly speaking.
A writing mind that isn’t a reading mind is a weakling; a weak link.
I’m a scholar—not a bawler—so I’m a flyer where there’s fallers;
Raised on Goosebumps and Creepy Crawlers so I’d Stine while others whined.
Got a dark side, but that’s The Dark Side on my side; counter haters with my Vader:
“I would be your father… but your dog beat me over the fence.”
No offense. Pretense: incorporate comedy and film; common sense.
Suicide pushed aside, though I still burn inside. **** myself on
the page each day so my readers can feel what it’s like to be alive.
It’s okay to hide.
Only your own devil knows what’s inside.
I own mine; he’s my co-pilot when I write. My demonic side; my demonic scribe.
Flipping my words to the birds—‘cuz, you see, that’s how I wing it—and flipping the bird while I throw down and sing it:
“Tiger, Tiger, burning bright,
My words are my roar and tonight I write!”
The fights are in your sights like you were seated inside a movie theater;
You’d see Xander and Estella—wouldn’t you want to meet her—
Have a front row to the creatures in a feature presentation…
But ‘til then
Eat some Rice An’ read a piece by a man who
Had an “Interview with a Vampire”—
I’m a fiction author, why would I lie to ya?
Prince of lies? I ain’t Satan!
Close friends, but I’m Nathan.
Judged for appraisal—I’m priceless—I’m  nice: no; charming: yes.
Got a razor-sharp and Shining wit like a crown left
on a King… but not.
Why be a left king, when I’m a write god.
So I did a lyrical re-write of Eminem's "Just Lose It" that wound up being pretty popular, so when I heard "Rap God" for the first time I knew I had to do the same. While I hope it's entertaining on its own, I think those who have heard the song will enjoy that I remained true to the source material in terms of flow, rhythm, and syllable count (Marshall Mathers is really quite an astounding wordsmith in his lyrical writings).

Hope you enjoy ^_^
Sarah Jane Jan 2011
I
I feel a darkness in me
that is not worthy of love
and is not capable anyways.
It is selfish and will hurt you.
But there is a bright light as well
and it has also caused you pain.
For the noble light removes me
out of belief it will stop you from hurting.
And when I want to love you
I know that I must not.
It is an inner turmoil that has accomplished nothing.
Your pain and confusion was meant to be spared.
I am a curse.
You have felt pain whether my intentions were pure or not.

II
A piece of my heart flew away
everytime I dissappointed myself.
A piece of my heart melted
everytime someone I trusted walked away.
A piece of my heart passed away
with each loved one lost.
Pieces of my heart have been broken
by the careless hands of others.
I feared there was nothing left
but in unknown, brief moments
I feel a slight spark in my chest
And I am reminded that there is still one person who can make me feel like there is no darkness in the world.

III
I think
I love you.
It seems clearer now
for some reason.
But this abrupt
clarity
is exactly what keeps me from knowing...
Why now?
Why did it take so long?
Just when my frustrations had peaked,
I found your name within my heart again.

IV
How I do love thee
I love thee with what heart I possess
but I'm afraid not much lies within this chest
And I fear you an injustice
If only part of a heart you request
Then I offer it as my best
For I do not know the tests
I may face in this life
nor the next.
If we should be but friends
I would embrace you as my best
for you have given me memories
that will forever be cherished
One day at a time it will show
One day we will know
But with you i'd rather grow
Than to have lost it and be unsure.

Made with Love
RAJ NANDY Sep 2015
RAJ NANDY
37 followers
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE IN VERSE
                                    By Raj Nandy
THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE WAS A PERIOD OF TRANSITION
BETWEEN MEDIEVAL & THE MODERN  WORLD. I propose to
present in three installments my researched work for both the Art &
History lovers of this Site. Kindly take your time to read at leisure before commenting. Thanks, -Raj Nandy, New Delhi.

                   PART ONE: BACKGROUND
The Term Renaissance :
The word ‘Renaissance’ means ‘to be born again’ ,
Derives from French ‘renaistre’ and Latin ‘renascere’, -
both meaning the same !
Swiss historian Jacob Buckhardt by writing “The
Civilization of Renaissance in Italy”,
Helped to popularize this term during the 19th Century !
The Renaissance evolved out of ‘Christendom’ , which
was Medieval Europe ;
Ruled entirely by the Catholic Church and the Pope !
It formed a period of transition between the Medieval
and the Modern Age ,
And as a contrast to the preceding thousand years , -
Which the Latin scholar Petrarch christened as the
‘Dark Ages’ !
This era saw a revival of interest in classical learning
of Greek and Roman art and culture ;
Focused on individual’s life on earth , with a new spirit
of adventure !
Happiness was no longer shelved to an afterlife and
repentance for salvation ;
But it lay in the advancement of human beings on Earth , -
with secular contemplation !
Thus individualism , secularism , and humanism , were
chief characteristics of the Renaissance ;
With innovations in art, architecture , and a scientific
temper of thought !
Knowledge no longer remained confined within the cold
ecclesiastical walls ,
But it spread from Italy across Northern Europe , -
To distant English shores through France !
During the Renaissance era Humanism became its
dominant philosophy ;
And there begins our Renaissance Story, since knowledge
is no man’s monopoly !
Events leading up to the Renaissance were many ;
Let me now dwell upon some salient features which
shaped its History !

THE BLACK DEATH (Peaked between 1347-1352) :
It was brought by Genoese merchant ships from the Orient ,
The fatal bacillus of the bubonic plague carried in the blood
stream of rodents !
The plague from Sicily and Italy spread to Northern Europe ,
All medicines failed , and even the Church provided no hope !
After having raged for almost a decade it started to abate ;
But by then almost one-third of entire Europe’s population
lay dead !
This deadly plague which followed the Hundred Year’s War
between England and France ,
Created social , economic and political upheavals in Europe,
leaving little to chance !
People began to lose faith in the church and on sermons of
afterlife ,
Secular thoughts now prevailed in a world where only the
fittest could survive !
Shortages of labour brought an end to Medieval feudalism
and serfdom ,
And Europe gradually emerged out of those Dark Ages, -
to greet the rising Renaissance sun !
The meager labour force could now bargain for better
wages and individual rights ;
Later, merchant guilds protected specialized labour and
their human rights !
Cities got gradually built and a new social order began
to emerge ,
Historians say that Europe saw the rise of a new Middle
Class !
As Europe gradually begun to recover from the aftermath
of war , plague, and devastation ;
The City-States of Italy lit the torch of a new intellectual
emancipation !
But before moving onto the Italian city-states, I must
mention the Holy Crusades ;
Since the Crusades opened up the doors of knowledge
and trade ;
Helping this ‘New Learning’ of the Renaissance to spread !

THE HOLY CRUSADES (1095-1270) :
At the behest of Pope Urban II and his battle cry “God
Wills It! ” ;
The First Crusade was launched to recapture the Holy Land
from Muslim infidels !
Within a span of next two hundred years eight Crusades
were launched ,
The First one took Jerusalem , but the Second failed to make
Damascus fall !
The Third led by Richard the Lion Heart, made Saladin to
grant the rights , -
To Christian pilgrims to visit their Holy shrines in Palestine !
The Fourth Crusade had sacked Constantinople , - then a
commercial rival of the Italians !
Now cutting a long story short , let us see what History
has taught !
These Crusades helped in opening up the trade routes ,
For importing paper, spices, soap, silk and luxury goods !
Trade was carried out with the countries of Levant region ,
Which included the countries from Turkey to Egypt , -
Bordering the eastern seaboards of the Mediterranean !
These trade routes formed a major conduit of culture
and knowledge ,
And exchanges and interactions broadened the mental
horizon of the Italians !
From Constantinople, recently Christianized Spain , and
the Arab lands , -
The preserved ancient classical knowledge now reached
the Italian hands !
In their School of Salamanca the Arabs of  Spain ,
Had translated works of Aristotle and classical scholars
into Arabic , - thereby preserving the same !
Later scholars translated these precious works into Greek
and Italian ,
And thus the Ancient Classics saw a glorious revival !
The scientific, philosophical, and mathematical thoughts
of the Arabs had also entered Northern Italy ,
From Egypt and the Levant region , to enrich Pre-
Renaissance Italy !
And when Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks in 1453 ,
Its Greek scholars with their precious manuscripts flocked
into Italy !

THE CITY-STATES OF ITALY :
‘Italia’, once the epicenter of the mighty Roman Empire ,
Disintegrated into several small principalities breaking
up Italy entire !
Its mountainous rugged terrain was a barrier to effective
internal communication ;
And no strong unified monarchies emerged, as in other
parts of Europe !
Italy with its peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean
Sea ,
Had begun to monopolize the trade routes, and also to
prosper economically !
During the time of the Renaissance , Italy had numerous
autonomous city-states and territories ;
Where a powerful leader called the Signore , ruled for
a fixed tenure initially ;
But later this post was declared as hereditary !
Kingdom of Naples controlled the south ;
Republic of Florence and the Papal States the center ;
Genoese and the Milanese the north and west respectively ;
And the Venetians the eastern part of Italy .
These Italian city-states prospered greatly from its growing
trade during the 14th century ;
Its cargo ships visiting Byzantine , and the cities bordering
the Mediterranean Sea !
It became a status symbol for rich families to patronize
art and culture ;
They vied with one another commissioning paintings
and architecture !
But the Italian city-state that had prospered the most ,
Was the city-state of Florence which became the host ;
And the ‘Cradle of European Renaissance’ !
...............................................................­­................................
* ALL COPY RIGHTS WITH THE AUTHOR -RAJ NANDY*
(My Part -II will contain the Story of Florence , - " Cradle of the
Italian Renaissance". Thanks for reading, do recommend this Verse to
your other poet friends!
Comments from Gita Ashok, an Educator, from ‘Poetfreak.com’:- A thoroughly researched erudite collection of historical facts presented in a very lucid and interesting manner. This write made me reminisce all those history lessons that I learnt in school many years ago - many of which I found boring as it was taught in an intimidating way. I feel like going back in time, becoming a student once again and learning history through such creatively written works of art. But I realize that we are all yet students of life and can still continue to learn and grow. I feel fortunate to have read this great piece of literary work and I look forward to reading the second part.-  by Gita Ashok | Reply
Edit poem

AN INTRODUCTION TO ITALIAN RENAISSANCE was added 21 hours ago.
ohellobeautiful Jul 2018
i melted off of you
like crystal clear water
as the snow changes form
you were the mountain i depended on
i had found home in your rubble
justified all of your cracks
when all along i knew
it wasn't me who
was falling
it was you

back then i was blind
but i thought i could see
how beautiful you + me could be
when my light peaked through
those broken parts in you

i guess that's what healers do
we attract the broken ones
knowing there is room to fill
but i have got to stop
and remember that no one
can understand my warmth
when they've only ever lived
in the cold corners of
my hopeful heart
when they only
loved me as
i looked
away

but that's
not romantic
it just left me frantic
yet all of that darkness
has made me a
mantic
I

He would drink by himself
And raise a weathered thumb
Towards the high shelf,
Calling another ***
And blackcurrant, without
Having to raise his voice,
Or order a quick stout
By a lifting of the eyes
And a discreet dumb-show
Of pulling off the top;
At closing time would go
In waders and peaked cap
Into the showery dark,
A dole-kept breadwinner
But a natural for work.
I loved his whole manner,
Sure-footed but too sly,
His deadpan sidling tact,
His fisherman's quick eye
And turned observant back.

Incomprehensible
To him, my other life.
Sometimes on the high stool,
Too busy with his knife
At a tobacco plug
And not meeting my eye,
In the pause after a slug
He mentioned poetry.
We would be on our own
And, always politic
And shy of condescension,
I would manage by some trick
To switch the talk to eels
Or lore of the horse and cart
Or the Provisionals.

But my tentative art
His turned back watches too:
He was blown to bits
Out drinking in a curfew
Others obeyed, three nights
After they shot dead
The thirteen men in Derry.
PARAS THIRTEEN, the walls said,
BOGSIDE NIL. That Wednesday
Everyone held
His breath and trembled.

II

It was a day of cold
Raw silence, wind-blown
Surplice and soutane:
Rained-on, flower-laden
Coffin after coffin
Seemed to float from the door
Of the packed cathedral
Like blossoms on slow water.
The common funeral
Unrolled its swaddling band,
Lapping, tightening
Till we were braced and bound
Like brothers in a ring.

But he would not be held
At home by his own crowd
Whatever threats were phoned,
Whatever black flags waved.
I see him as he turned
In that bombed offending place,
Remorse fused with terror
In his still knowable face,
His cornered outfaced stare
Blinding in the flash.

He had gone miles away
For he drank like a fish
Nightly, naturally
Swimming towards the lure
Of warm lit-up places,
The blurred mesh and murmur
Drifting among glasses
In the gregarious smoke.
How culpable was he
That last night when he broke
Our tribe's complicity?
'Now, you're supposed to be
An educated man,'
I hear him say. 'Puzzle me
The right answer to that one.'

III

I missed his funeral,
Those quiet walkers
And sideways talkers
Shoaling out of his lane
To the respectable
Purring of the hearse...
They move in equal pace
With the habitual
Slow consolation
Of a dawdling engine,
The line lifted, hand
Over fist, cold sunshine
On the water, the land
Banked under fog: that morning
I was taken in his boat,
The ***** purling, turning
Indolent fathoms white,
I tasted freedom with him.
To get out early, haul
Steadily off the bottom,
Dispraise the catch, and smile
As you find a rhythm
Working you, slow mile by mile,
Into your proper haunt
Somewhere, well out, beyond...

Dawn-sniffing revenant,
Plodder through midnight rain,
Question me again.
suicidalsmiles Mar 2015
I use to be like Summer. A burst of brilliant red like when you bite into a perfectly ripe Strawberry. I stained his lips with my sugar-sweet kisses. Like evening’s Cotton Candy sunsets and blushing clouds trimmed with falling golden light, I was your whole sky, morning, evening and night; you marveled at my untouchable beauty, so close but yet so far. I was a Summer storm, rolling thunder and shattering lightning, electricity running through your bones. I was the pitter-pattering rain, tap dancing upon your room, humming you to sleep, every night you saw me in your dreams and always played them back to me. In your sleep you would see me, dancing far away  to somewhere where there was no other-side-of-the-fence, grass was always green wherever my feet touched the earth in between joyful leaps. Where the wind was music in the trees and the grass flowed in fluid motion like dancers caught up in the melody, where the wildflowers bobbed up and down and where the fleeting Robin never left, for there it is always Spring. Yes indeed, I was like wild flowers in mid July, I was the magical meadow tender and warm, hidden away in the pockets of your heart away from the dark, I was a safe haven you happened to stumble upon while fleeing the snapping jaws of the shadow wolves in the Forbidden Forest. Bright and strong like a sunflower, I did not bend in even the most wild wind, and you could lean against me and take in my strength, my untainted, yellow light. Soft and simple but still enough, like a daisy. I made a necklace of my prettiest flowers and hung it around your neck, a most beautiful and delicate daisy chain, my petals kissed and tickled your chest. But I was also vibrant like a Indian Paint Brush, I painted you the prettiest picture, promising passion in streaks of brilliant color, I promised you everything, my roots, my stems, my leaves, my blossoms, everything. And the promise ignited a wildfire within your shivering heart, and spread through your bones, to the black of your eyes, reflecting the fragmented image of me swimming beneath the broken lake’s surface, the white of my skin and the ripple of my hair, you reached into the water blinded, you dug through the sand until you caught me. Oh yes, I was the sunlight dancing on the kaleidoscope forest floor, that you chased trying to catch a handful of light, and I was the fairy circle you wished upon. Yes, I was your Summer.

And as the days grew shorter and the nights became colder I discovered that whenever my mind would wander it would always seem to fall back to you. I remember one night, it must have been in August, the night was pure and honest, and I was caught up in the infinity of the swirling, silver cosmos. My father joined me at my side and pointed up at the sky and showed me the North Star, I had never seen it before. He told me that it was like a compass that would point you home; the lost man’s final hope. Something about that brilliant twinkling star rendered me helpless, I was lost in it’s hypnotizing light. I stared at that star for the rest of the night wonderstruck by it’s beauty and the comforting thought that it knew the way to anywhere you wanted to be. And as the Sun ascended the horizon’s heavenly staircase and peaked in a mirage of smudged pastels for the first time in my life, I felt lost, I felt lost without that star. I all of a sudden had so many questions but no answers, I grasped for sure footing in my jagged thoughts, but was startled to find that you kept popping into my mind, as bright and clear and undeniable as that, stupid, beautiful, bewitching star, and I found myself wondering if somehow, someway, you had become my North Star, the compass that could show my wandering soul the way. And as the world was morphed into view under Daylight’s knowing hands, I realized it was true, you were my last hope, you were going to take me home to a place I didn’t even know, but suddenly was desperately homesick for. And I tried so hard to fall out of alignment with you, to break away from your orbit and run from the galaxy that would soon be us, and the black hole that would **** me up. But I was going up against Gravity, and I was pulled down, down, down.

No matter how I tried, how much I told myself that you were not the only star I could see, that you were not my infinity. But it was futile and somewhere I knew that, I knew that as well as I knew that I wanted you to be my infinity, and I yours. I wanted to create the most beautiful galaxy the Seven Continents had ever seen, so vast and far that no telescope could capture it, and scientists would forever marvel how it came to be. But nowadays, I ask perhaps, If I had known what would happen when the Universe could no longer contain our overpowering glow, what would happen when my North Star exploded? When all I would have left would be memories that would leave a deep scar, but I wouldn’t be able to remember why, leaving me as clueless as I was that first night; when all I would have is whispers that were almost too quiet to hear but would constantly be a murmur in my ear? Have you ever stepped outside and looked up the night sky when the world is asleep and still, but the sky is more alive than you?  Have you ever tried to take a picture to remember the wondrous spectacle Mother Nature and the Heavenly Father have laid out for you? You can try all you want, and use up all the memory on your phone, but no matter what you do, you cannot capture the beauty above you. The pictures if not blurred from your frustrated shaking hands, are simply screens of black, with dots of white that could be dust where stars are supposed to be. And you must walk under those stars, to you they shine so loud and clear, they are right there for God’s sake, but you cannot capture their beauty, you cannot touch them. You must endure the torture of knowing but lacking. And that’s what would happen to me when my North Star exploded into whimsical stardust, when you left me in the pitch black; slowly I am being crushed by the weight of absolute nothingness. And ******, even if I had known this is what would happen to us, that this would happen to me...even if I had known all this to be true, I know I would follow you into that unsure, perilous blue where every man is for himself. Because everything is fair in love and war. And even to this day, over a year later, I would retrace my steps back to that night, and let you destroy my horizon, my faith in 11:11, and belief in shooting stars all over again, if only for a glimpse of you, my darling North Star, Pivoting Axle of my world, my Gravity, my Endless Summer; my Infinity.  

Because soon it became clear that you were my Summer too. You wrapped your loose ends around me and rocked me to sleep in your makeshift cradle like the hammock out back that we used to nap in, do you remember that? You were the pile of books that I whirl through every Summer under the Weeping Willow Tree. You made me smile, you made me laugh, you made me blush and you made me terribly sad. For even then you were my defining phrase and favorite quote that I felt spoke to me the most. You were the birds in the trees singing their fragile hearts out, you told me of Summers past, and how you accidently went backwards and migrated straight into the darkest winter you’d ever seen and couldn’t find your way out of the storm. And that’s why underneath my daisy chain your heart was laced with icy carnations, that’s why your lungs were filled with puffs of smoke that looked like a breath in the biting cold. And that’s why your lips were so ugly, bruised black, purple and blue, proof of what you’ve been through, and every time you tried to explain your torn past, your lips got worse, your skin became terribly chapped, and your voice cracked as you tried to fight back, but the words eventually bled through your lips, so you learned not to speak, because you hated to bleed. But regardless of your cold words and colder shoulder, you were still Summer to me.You were the fireworks on the 4th of July, you lit up the world and were all that I could see, I couldn’t look away, I was afraid to miss a thing. You were the crunch of graham crackers when you bite into a perfect s'more, and you were the laughter when your marshmallow catches on fire.  You were my favorite time of the day, in between night and day, when the sky melts into this glorious turquoise blue, and the silhouette of the pine trees stand out against the fading light. You were quiet and thoughtful, the feeling you get when you sit atop a Ferris Wheel at the the County Fair, you’re a little bit scared, but you can’t help but be blown away by the world below your dangling feet. You were the spike of fear and the adrenaline rush you get when you dive off a cliff into the water, you can’t help but wonder if there are dangerous rocks at the bottom, even though you know it’s too late and there is no stopping your falling body now. But you feel alive, you feel alive and when you survive, you feel unstoppable. That’s the way you made me feel, I was afraid of how much I loved you, how you could tear me apart and push me to the end of the world, and with a brush of your heavy fingertips I would topple over the edge, and I faced the monstrosity of wondering what it would like to be dead, and just before I would let myself go and come to an endless end, you would pull me back up and dust me off, wipe my tears and bandage my bleeding elbows and knees; I was scared that maybe you hurt me just to be the only one who knew what would save me. And I was absolutely terrified of that fact that if that was true, I would still love you. I was scared of you, I was scared of what would happen when Summer came to a end.

I remember I went to California that year for the very first time in my life right before school started. I thought it would be good, to be away from you. I told myself I hoped that you would get bored of waiting for me to come back home and find another girl to give the world, but deep down I knew that I wanted you to wait more than anything. But denial is my thing, as you would soon know all too well, it’s what I do best. So I denied my feelings for you, I denied having any at all. (I still do to this day.) And it was only in California, that I finally realized that I couldn’t keep lying to myself. It happened late at night, as I suppose the most truthful thoughts always do. I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned and rolled and stretched but the bed was lumpy and the sheets were suffocating and I found myself slipping away,  tiptoeing across the squeaking floor and squeezing out of the heavy wood door, into the fog and sea salt air. I walked for a very long time. I think when people are near the ocean, and have sins they have to wash from their bloodstained palms, they find a friend in the Ocean, someone to hold their hand and teach them how to stand and walk upon water. And that night, I glided to the ocean like a ghost whose tables had been turned and broken, and now finds itself the the haunted one with blistering splinters that it can not see, left over from a world that could not be; made up of broken promises, what if’s and missed moments they can never get back. The Ocean’s magnitude overwhelmed me and neutralized the quiet chaos bubbling beneath my skin. The rabid froth and spit of crashing waves put out the fire that was eating away at me and the undertow pulled me into the blue. I floated through the undefined blur of the the aqua world. I ran my hands through the rocky sand and felt the urgent weight and staggering cold of the water pulling me under, but risking my life in that current among the frothing foam horses racing against the Moon’s tide made me feel so alive. I am no mermaid, I cannot breathe underwater, but for the first time in seemingly forever I had air in my collapsing lungs, and I didn’t know you could drown on dry land until I was dying in the sea. But it was not my time, and I awoke washed up on the scraping sand with water in my ringing ears, knotted hair and no feeling in my blue fingers. I sat there on the diamond sand for a long time until I was strong enough again to lift my arm and slowly I reached into the sky, and grabbed my North Star and pulled it into my heart and where it glowed, I scrubbed myself clean of my history and orthodox scriptures with the salt of the sea and was born again free of frown lines. Something about the Ocean brings clarity, and yes it is dangerous and chaotic, it could destroy the world and wipe us all away, leaving not a trace of the human race, but the Ocean is a lifeboat, a saviour of many in a way. When you find yourself faced with a whole new infinity, a horizon that only ends when it meets another, you are small, and you are still. You are pinned against your past but then can remember how to breathe again, you exhale the toxic smoke swirling in your lungs and inhale the mist. Exhale the past, inhale the future, breathe child-for you are here, no longer there. You are small and you are still but you are real. And that night I learned two of Life’s endless lessons. First; People love what kills them. Faced with death you are flooded with life, it ignites your brittle bones and breathes music back into the silent calamity of your echoing heart. People love what kills them. Second; the person you think of when you stand in front of the ocean. That’s the person you’re in love with. And I thought of you, you, you. I thought of you and I never stopped. And it’s killing me.  

But I knew something but really nothing of death back then. So when I got home a week before school I asked if we could meet somewhere in between. And we did. Beneath glaring flick of fluorescent lights in the gas station’s parking lot that didn’t stay any open later than ten, surrounded by everything ugly about humans, rusty pennies, tumbling plastic bags, stomped out cigarette butts and smashed beer cans, you held my hands and kissed me for the very first time, and suddenly, the world was beautiful. We walked hand in hand for the longest time, but found ourselves just a block past the lonely parking lot, by the town’s fountain. We sat there and splashed out feet in the ***** water enjoying the feeling of being. You had brought a bag of Skittles and sorted the red ones from the rest, and when I asked why with a laugh you sheepishly admitted you remembered that I thought that the red ones were the best and that the lemons made my face wrinkle and nose tickle. I poked fun at you for remembering something that silly, but truthfully it meant the world to me, because it meant someone out there was listening to even the simplest things I had to say. And in the fluid reflection of those pool lights rippling across your perfect face, I could tell that even though that pitiful fountain was no ocean, that you were thinking only of me. That night we shot ourselves into the dark like shooting stars and fell into each other, that fateful night was the night we became each other’s North Star. But in the end, no one knows where that star is taking them, they call it a lost man’s compass and the last hope, but if he is lost is his compass not broken, or else wouldn’t he be home? Is hope then of no use? Are North Stars just poetry to salvage doomed souls? I often wonder if, regardless of our faith in each other’s sense of direction, if that night was the most we ever knew each other.

You told me you loved Cheezits, and Lucky Charms with Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. You admitted that you chewed your nails to tiny stubs when you felt to much because all you ever wanted to be was numb. You confessed that you had trouble looking at your dad the same and saying,”I love you,” to your mom and tried to explain why video games were any fun. I pointed out all the scars on my legs and how I got them, whether it was from tearing through my childhood neighborhood on my Barbie tricycle or if it was from running over gravel trying to outrun myself and everything evil that clung to me. I muttered between my  hands and embarrassed giggles why I was terrified of fish and flies, and you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe. I recalled for the first time the night mom died and everything that followed that night, awful night that never seemed to end, and with a quivering bottom lip counted off everything th
I'm making a mini series, after months of not writing, not sleeping, not eating & not feeling, the words have come back to me, and it's wonderful. I'm sorry for being gone so long lovlies. P.S I'm sorry it's so long oh my gosh
Nat Lipstadt Jul 2018
Prologue

casual glance at my notifications while driving even though
I’m all ready a bad bad boy, cruising at a sedate,
cruise-controlled 70 mph  vs. the bureaucrat bifocals 55,
a remnant regulation of the Eighties,
all the while humming with Gilligan
“a 3 hour tour,
2 passengers set sail that day”

then execute a four lane 180,
gotta get highway sideway grassed ,
cause i’m gassed...
by a Poem Breach

of the poems promised by me,
to write of thee,
you, my best inspiration,
the list grows longer, faster
than the hours provided

pull over fast emergency for my composure breached,
my vision wetted, my eyes hit by an unplanned unexpected,
sudden summer thunderstorm

<•>

The Poem Breach

once more into the breach thy words breeze through my chest,
like on a flamed stick, night roasting, toasting beach summer marshmallows,
that cut direct to the ineffable sadness that resides resists within,
that sticky, white mess,
a human heart melting

a thank you message that I’ve read before,
many times more than once,
how my unasked poem, a sun unique,
arrived at the
precise time and place,
to lift and even save,
how could I’ve know?

I did not know

but these messages collect on my chest,
unsought words of purple ribbon metal that make a
less burdened cowardly lion,
grown man cry,
do crazy things for it is a possible solution to his
age old quest

Why do I exist, is this my purposed plan, don’t understand, all
but the answer peaked and peaceful accepted in the breach unreasoned,
my port of entry, a gateway to the scales, a bridge it is, over a time-life river styx and unstuck, yet certainly always confused...



“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”


thank you so insufficient
Matthew Harlovic Jun 2017
i kissed the sky on a windless night
and tasted sunlight on my tongue.

i peaked on a wingless flight.
some might say i’m mystified

by the mystery of happiness and misery
so i retrace my history

to a time when i was young
and held a hunger

for the wonders of world
before i was thirsty for some girl.

sundered by the sunburns;
one learns to discern his past

and turn to the hands of time,
turning sand into glass.

© Matthew Harlovic
Nat Lipstadt Oct 2016
~for Bex~*

in the flesh, not really, but I was...

ordered five bone china coffee mugs for you,
from the Artists Gallery, all scenes of nature,
painted by Canada’s Group of 7,
to go with the Lawren Harris mug,
'Lakes and Mountains'
from which I am currently sipping

for when I thought of you up north in Ontario,
I thought of my mom,
who was Toronto born and bred,
and the caramel oranges of fall
that have not yet arrived
in northern Manhattan,
but have already peaked in Ontario,
in late September

I smile,
while voyaging on the curving line of thought perusal,
at all the things that have already peaked,
someplace else,
and that have may yet, be late, arriving in my life

and I dream of:

all the poets who
I will never meet,
the living and the dead,
all the poems,
I will never finish, perhaps, n'ere to start,
never chance to speak, or chance to peak

all of you, sipping, from those real mugs of porcelain,
that are soon to arrive, via an imaginary railroad,
running on creosote stained ties of caramel orange,
built by a namesake, that I can no longer imagine,
but whom I knew
so well in my youth

my mug is sadness filled by
those stillborn verses that will never chance to peak,
but am comforted by the knowing,
as long as there is freedom to write,
that there is hope for one more poem
to be imagined, sourced from deep within,
drawn from the cool well water
of happy wishing
10/30/16

The Message

20 hours ago
You know, whenever I think of you, your name... and that you live in NYC, I think of the great Nat Taggart and the Taggart TransContinental RR. Then I think of Dagny and John Galt, and that makes me happy.

I hope you are well.
~
I read a message, I write a poem.

I
D L Smith Aug 2016
I write these words from boredom.

Where they lead to I know not.

All I know, is that I write from boredom.

Boredom creeps upon me, like a stealthy foe within the night. My interests can be peaked then can go out like a light. Maybe with a bit of horror my boredom could be solved through some fright. Alas I know that to resolve my boredom I'll have to put up a fight.

To the boredom I say good day and try to be on my merry way. Boredom however has more to say upon this day in such a way that it molds me like wet gooey clay. Shaping and forming my mind for the evening, the boredom kicks in an my spirits start leaving.

Once thriving and passionate, once creative and fair. Now because of my boredom I lack the very will to care. To care about feelings, hopes and dreams. Like most of my cares, they simply fall through the seams.

Seams within my mind that bind me into one whole thing. A thing that has no will to continue with such a boring night. A flightless, hopeless, careless, and boredom filled night.

So sleep tight, because as of now it's all I have to escape my boredom. Once I crawl into bed my mind is at ease, but when I wake up I need something that will please. Anything, anything at all.

Whether it be down or up the stairs, in between some spider hair, along a glowing beam, even along a narrow stream.

A gray dull life is not one I desire, day by day I hope for something to light my fire. Boredom strikes when I least expect, I always wonder when it will hit next. I'm lucky when it leaves and pray that is does not return.

However when it does return I yearn for something to do. I Look for a clue for something to do, just as you likely read this from boredom too. So my dear reader I bid you farewell, from whence I came I shall return to my boring spell.
Boredom is a running series of poems that I have created out of, you guessed it. Boredom.
The neighborhood was silent. There wasn’t a soul around this eerie town and the sun hadn’t peaked out of the clouds for days. The darkness of the land had swallowed the smiles of the population and nature had ceased to show its existence. The birds must have migrated early. The wind disrupted the branches of every tree that was in front of the houses; it left only the whisper of its presence behind.
Shadow’s alarm clock blared at the appropriate time of eight in the morning and he grunted at its ignorance. His girlfriend, Jessie, didn’t seem to care too much about his morning laziness. He didn’t even bother turning off the alarm. He simply rolled on his opposing side to ignore it. That seemed to require a larger effort than if he’d just gotten out of bed. Jessie remained motionless and wasn’t snoring like she usually did. She wore a long sky blue nightgown to bed and it brought out the true color of her blondish hair. She was lying on her stomach and her hands were tucked underneath the fluffy pillow. Shadow just peered at her through the crack of his eye as the sound of the alarm clock withered away his patience. Shadow heard his three-legged basset hound, Tripod, hobble to the nightstand and he began to lick Shadow’s left foot that was hanging out of the white silky bed sheets. The saliva dripped towards the floor and the grossness of the dog’s actions still wasn’t enough to get Shadow’s dead *** out of bed. The dog realized it had no affect on him and left the room.
Shadow had just gotten fired from his job as a technical engineer at a no-name computer store. He put computers together with both new and used parts and resold them to the customers. When he told Jessie, she was not supportive at all. They didn’t speak all last night and Shadow couldn’t imagine how this morning was going to go- another “Yes, MOTHER” conversation. He always had a problem with his temper. All hell broke loose when shadow didn’t get his way, but you’d think he had been taught not to swear at his boss when he got angry. Well, on the contrary his mind and anger had gotten the best of him. Guess Shadow saw that there was no reason for him to get out of bed. But his three-legged dog seemed to think so. He kept ignoring Tripod for some time and he **** all over the rug as a result of it.
Shadow felt a discomfort among his genitals as he stumbled to his feet to go to the bathroom. He concocted his usual bowl of cereal once he reached the kitchen across the hall and slurped up every last drop of milk. He thought distressingly about what Jessie was going to bring on him this morning. The sounds of static and distorted voices echoed through the room from the television- he walked back into his bedroom to get dressed. Shadow called out for his dog.
The job wasn’t so good anyway. Shadow was displeased with his boss from the beginning but he knew he needed to receive the checks- the pay was so good. He always had a passion for building computers and when he first explored this field, Spot would sit and watch Shadow build. Spot was his first dog, around the time when he was a teenager. He would sit there until Shadow was done and that might’ve been what caused him to like building them so much- it was the memory.
Shadow continued to call for Tripod but there was no response. The aroma of the dog **** grew more and more noticeable. The doors were closed so there was no doubt he didn’t escape again. He ran all around the house, opening doors and calling outside for him; peaking behind the furniture and the clothes within his closets for him. He spotted the pile of dog **** on the living room floor.
“What are you doing, Shadow?” Jessie asked.
“I am looking for the **** dog. He **** on the rug again.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Jessie.
“OUR dog!??” said Shadow.
The air began to blow through the rooms of the house and the papers that were neatly stacked on Shadow’s desk began to fall to the floor. Jessie sat up in bed and the wind carried her hair across her scull and it made her look even more beautiful than ever. Her hazel-green eyes remained staring a Shadow with the same goofy look of concern but she still looked beautiful.
“I don’t know if I’m alright. My face hurts…” said Shadow.
“Shadow, I DID hit you pretty hard last night. Remember?” asked Jessie. “I threw that little book-end at you and it hit you in the cheek bone. I didn’t mean it, I AM sorry.”
“It’s fine, Jess. I was being a ****. But really, where’s the dog?”
“I don’t know, he’s you’re dog. Let me get dressed and I’ll help you look for him,” said Jessie.
The window shades were pulled up so the light could shine throughout the house but there wasn’t much light to affect anything. It was still dark and moody in the sky and the storm was still passing though the area. Shadow had to turn every light on in the house to see, even though it was ten in the morning. He knew he needed to find a job, but he wanted to find this dog. He ran around the house looking for every trace of dog fur. The sounds of Jessie getting dressed were coming from the closet.
“Could you hurry up and help me, honey? I need to find this mutt,” said Shadow.
Shadow had given Jessie a special license plate for her birthday last year. It said “Jessie” on it and it was very hard to get. He had to call months in advance to purchase that plate. It was now implanted on his silver Jetta. Shadow’s job was right down the street, so he just rode a bike to work every day and let Jessie use the Jetta.
The job Shadow had used to drive him crazy. He’d work for hours on fixing or building motherboards and if it didn’t work, he’d have to start over. He’d come home in the worst moods after a hard day’s work. He didn’t want dinner; he didn’t want to hear from anybody, though Jessie liked to talk. And that’s where Shadow got very aggravated. He began to yell at her because she asked him questions and he would kick over Tripod’s food and water and storm out of the house in a rage; leaving the front door open behind him. But Shadow didn’t leave last night. He wasn’t the one who stormed out in a rage because he was too tired for that. Jessie left with the dog and claimed she was going to stay at her mother’s for the evening. They must have come back in the house late last night. The dog must be here. Shadow and Jessie kept looking for Tripod while calling out his name to come in sight. Tripod finally walked through the door form the back yard and barked a weak screeching bark.
“It’s about time, Podders! It’s about time we accomplished that dilemma” said Shadow as he looked up at Jessie and back at Tripod.
“What the ****?!” he said. The dog had blood all around his gumball nose and his droopy lips and walked away from them into the bedroom.
“I give up,” said Jessie. “You gotta clean that dog up because I am not going to go near that Blood; I already cleaned up the dog ****. What has he been through?”
“I don’t know…” answered Shadow.

In the mean time, I’m going to go shopping for some new shoes,” Jessie. “I’ll be back later this afternoon, alright?”
Shadow sat on his favorite recliner chair in the living room. She kissed his forehead, grabbed her keys and walked out the front door.
There was silence. He was alone.
Shadow immediately got up and opened the front door to grab the daily town newspaper from the steps. He noticed that the Jetta had already left the driveway and wondered why Jessie must have been in such a hurry. He looked down the gloomy dark street and saw no sign of life. He closed the front door, locked it, and sat back down on his recliner. He unfolded the newspaper and wiggled his toes to the melody of his improvisational hum.
The hum suddenly came to a halt. The toes stopped wiggling. Shadow didn’t seem to breathe. He read the front page of the news paper and couldn’t believe his eyes. There was a Jetta- or maybe it wasn’t because it didn’t look like one. Maybe that was the point. There was no hood; there was no front seat. There were two photos: one of the car and one of the whole accident. A Tractor trailer was involved and no one in the Jetta made it. Shadow started to breathe slightly again and came to his senses; tried to collect himself. He saw the license plate and couldn’t believe his eyes.
There was silence. He was alone. He was alone the whole time.
© Christopher Rossi, 2010
LexiSully Oct 2017
Dusk broke through the nighttime sky, filling it with fire and bright light as the distant sun peaked over the horizon.

It was a quiet warning, I knew. Although my mind did not want to admit it.

But I took the hint, and slowly the fire of the sky dripped into cold drops and came cascading to the ground over my shattered heart.

Even the sky could not pretend to stand strong as the heart inside my chest continued to crack with every given moment.

The rain ended, and I knew it was over.

Billowing clouds encircled and surrounded me, attempting to form a safety net from the rest of the world.

The clouds parted and the sky cleared into a majestic array of vibrant colors. The broken pieces of my heart, now scattered across the ground, were lifted up and slowly pieced together, although the cracks within remained visible to the eye.

It would be a process, I knew, and maybe I did not want the cracks to completely heal, but I did want to feel whole.

And I will, with Him, and with time.
L B Oct 2016
“Disaster Dan” skids into the Center's
Game Room
War Room
Control Room

Fueled by a red T-shirt
proclaiming “Vince the Pizza Prince”
He flips out his cellular...

“IT ISN'T UP TO ME!"
(Where does he get all those broken remotes?)
...flips open his cell
and shouts commands

“TURN THE POWER ON!"

“YA HEARD ME!" (He is totally in control)

“Fsssss    Fssssss   Fsssssss
THE PIPES ARE ABOUT TO BLOW!”

Drives his cruiser around the pool table
Pulls alongside
Fixes me point-blank and cockeyed

“GET THESE KIDS OUTA THE BUILDING!
THERE'S A BOMB ABOUT TA GO OFF!”

An eight-year-old spins iz finger round iz ear
and points a giggle

Dan--
the kind of guy whose life peaked
at Mount Saint Helen
Does a warlock for Halloween
Carries a portable showcase of horror
prized possessions in a dishpan
He explains his treasures

“That is NOT
a plastic scorpion!”

Offended by my ignorance
shoves it in my eyes

“THIS IS A PREDATOR ALIEN, STUPID!"
“CALIFORNIA WILL NOT COME BACK!"

Dan sorta likes me
We talk horror flicks
He forbids the serious of me

"CALIFORNIA WILL FALL OFF INTO THE OCEAN!”
he hisses in a spray of spit
Walks way, laughing, delighted!
Shaking iz head

Then back in my face again (for emphasis)

“DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!"
(He is dead serious)
"THE GUY THAT CAUSED THAT HURRICANE
WAS PAUL MCCARTNEY!"

His counselor fills in my blank
“Dan likes the Beatles
That's the only thing he likes
that isn't heinous”
I worked for a year and a half at a Boys and Girls Club.  Twice a week some local group homes would bring their residents in for some fun.  Believe me, "Disaster Dan" was a real guy.  

This was a few years ago when most cells were flip phones.
For readers not from America, Mount Saint Helen is one of our most deadly and active volcanoes. Erupted during the '80s.
Ian Cairns Nov 2013
On forgiving former loves-

I understand your worry for uncertainty
It consumed you
Emerged as an ideal that you could not abandon
So you abandoned me instead
And maybe abandonment is a strong word
But I'm a strong man and I finally have a grasp on this
A clenched fist gripping empathy, not animosity

I understand your intentions weren't reckless
But a blinded truck driver can't avoid oncoming traffic too long
And accidents still design destruction
No matter how sorry the driver is after the fact
And sorry is much appreciated but still neglects the fact that
Heart brakes don't stop collisions, they construct them

I understand your past problems peaked into the present
And interrupted our intimate conversations
I had no problem erasing the demons you carried
To carry your baggage to the nearest trash can
To make room for our own difficulties
But I know attacking these issues alone was your preference
And I admire an inspired inspector of treacherous ground

I understand your passion wasn't illuminating
Our relationship's mansion anymore
Your embers resembled smothered ashes on love's battlefield
Your heart- a committed commander to Independence
The sovereign state selected to attack happy couples
But I won the battle and the war this time
Because my troops are resilient for commitment

I understand your calendar didn't coexist with mine
Still I appreciate your treated tenderness
Your existence improved my experience
Your love surrendered waving white flags
Which I greeted at first reluctantly
But over time I've come to recognize
The importance of self-harmony
Lysander Gray Sep 2015
She wore mountains round her neck

           (“No, lower.”)

Peaked with scented minarets

           (Softer and sweeter than strawberries,
           grander than a psalm.)

In the gulch between words
I offered you a prayer
and you wounded me with a poem.

I watched you  move
like a summer night
to disrobe the cover
of your collected works
           -a landscape of fire and blood
            that beats a wardrum
            deep in my hungry river.

Your petals pressed against my lips
           to drown , to drown
                      gladly.

She wore mountains round her neck,
and I wore her ankles with a smile.
Memory
Present
Memory
M Murray Mar 2011
Two boys huddled on a playground:*

One Said:
'I've seen one.
This time when I was a kid,
My cousin was changing in our guest room
I peaked in through a crack in the door
And it was right there reflected in the mirror'

Said the other:*
'Well, in the attic at my
grandfather's house
There is this old black and white photo
Of this big party with lots of people
In the background, and off to the side
The photographer caught one,
But you can only half see it
Peaking behind this woman's dress.'
Brett Jones Jan 2013
The moth with newspaper wings sat under the arrow lungs of the eyeless
blood dripped falcon, more whole than the super-glued roman sculpture.

Next door a 50’s con held up church with a roulette table in the kitchen,
and boarded up the massage parlor
downstairs.

The eye of the man was a centrifuge of ducks, mallard and hen, spiraling
outward into evaporated roach-ground
asphalt.

Next door, slits in the picket fence displayed perfectly formed **** & broach,
empty shoes made of feet below, blending
fields.

The marble foundation formed from twine lollipops and fuzzy candy tabs,
ice-etched to the frequency of splintered seashell
angels.

Next door through the forest of knives a spaceship bearing gargoyles peaked
bodies through collages of faces in technicolor sepia
mitosis.

The heiress molted into tiled pieces, her own dog and sunhat caught in blizzard
cuneiform, kaliedescoping again to fractalled inchworms cemented in motion.
Maisha Mar 2013
Dear Charlie,
I assume you may not know me, but I know you. Well, how else could I not know you when your story has been adapted into a book and a movie? You may not recognize the way you can reach me back, because you’re fictional. But I’d like to think you’re real, and that’s good enough for me.
I’ve been reading your letters, just like any other kids my age and some adults who are still intrigued by young adult fiction. You cried a lot for a boy. You were not ashamed of it, too, even when you were with your friends, Patrick and Sam. They seemed to be really nice people, and I learnt that what they did didn’t define them. The fact that they like to smoke and drink doesn’t make them bad people. I like that. And as always, eventually, people stop doing things but their personality stays strong. Who you are comes from inside.
Anyway, yes, you cried a lot for a boy. You were lucky to have friends that appreciate your tears. Sometimes, they would join you, but in cheers. You cheered along, too, but they weren’t yelps or shouts of joy but whimpers of happiness. Crying may seem weak and vulnerable, but I think you didn’t need to stop.
I would like to tell you a story, if I may. Well, how would you reply to my request of patience and lending both of your ears when you’re only inside our minds? However, Charlie, if you were ever alive, I think you would be a good listener. This reminds me of one of the lines in your letter, stating that you’re “a wallflower”. Anyway, now, let’s get to my story.
In a few months, I will be packing my bags then depart to your country, the United States. A few months ago, I was tested whether or not I was eligible to live in your country and represent my nation. I passed. Though I thought that my interview kind of ******, I still passed. After being declared that I was qualified to go to the U. S., I was given a 27-page form I needed to fill. And so I did. The form consisted of student profile, student questionnaire, student’s letter to host family, parents questionnaire, interviewer’s report, medical records, academic records, a photo album, and a contract. I don’t know why, but this form seemed to weigh down on me, even though it shouldn’t feel tiring at all. I had the pleasure of writing my letter to my future host family, because I love writing, but somehow, I just didn’t like dealing with the official stuffs. But gradually, I put up with it and ended my misery.
Today, I gave the form to my counsellor. I was ready to feel satisfied. I was so ready because I had been feeling very ******* of late, and my rage peaked when my mom forgot to print the photos I needed for the photo album for my future host family to see. My anger still haven’t soothed down, though. Which means I am really mad. Little did I know, after all that ice cream of strolls between the school building to the administration to get my academic records and car rides from home to the doctor to clarify my medical records, topped by an icing of stress due to the ignorance in putting the photos together, there was a cherry on top. I had to print another copy of the same form, photocopy my passport photo, get my dad to sign my form, and if all that was not enough, my counsellor poured down a chocolate syrup into my wombs. I needed to refill my medical records which would only mean going back to the doctor for several more times. I don’t want to exaggerate by saying the hundredth time, because I am already tired.
Of course, all I did was put on my poker face for security, even though my mom yelled at me for not telling her sooner about the correct way to fill my medical records. To be honest, that is all I do. Put on a face of a clear expression of unclear emotion. I felt really stupid for not listening intently to my counsellor when we first met. I felt so stupid, I felt like I already wasted my opportunity. My opportunity to be myself to the fullest extent. My opportunity to feel what is unfelt. My opportunity to meet people I have not encountered. My first opportunity to really go.
But of course, that is not true. I just need to do what needs to be done and I’m all good. But I can’t help feeling like a failure. And I have been stifling more cries than I have ever been in my entire life. I wanted to cry when my brother left. All I did was covered my mouth with the bottom tip of my t-shirt and tried to catch myself when I fell. This time, I wanted to cry because I had never been so ignorant in following instructions. I don’t just tell myself this everyday, I am fully aware that I am observant. I see things people don’t. I feel things that people would dismiss. I listen to unspoken thoughts rather than what has been stated. I really like this part of myself. I feel like this is something that makes me me, and when I don’t do well on something simple like this, something has got to be wrong.
The first thing that came up to mind when I was faced with my mistakes was, “So this is my karma.”
I am a strong believer in karma, Charlie. I bet you know what it is. It’s the punishment you get after doing something bad. Nobody seems to know this, but I’m a bad person. I am. I have a bad habit of judging people; of collecting prejudices to make myself feel good; of being good even when I don’t want to; of not making the best of things; of lying, lying, and lying; of constantly hiding even when I have the chance to fully display myself out there; of being a burden to my parents and friends; of being vague about my faith; of not having a voice. I feel weak, but I won’t say I’m a weakling because I won’t make it become me, although all I want to do is to cry all the time because unlike you, I have no idea how to do that.
All I know right now is when I can feel there’s water in my eyes, I blink to dry them out. When my lips seem to turn upside down, I give them a rubdown so that they would look nice and pretty again. I don’t know how to cry, Charlie, I really don’t. I can already see myself next week at school, making an excuse to the toilet, or having lunch with friends and while having a good laugh I find myself crying, and I wouldn’t be able to distinguish my happiness and my melancholy. Neither would my friends.
I’m sorry for making it really long for you to read. I could just make it into several sentences, like, “Didn’t correctly fill out my form. Feeling like a failure. I don’t know how to express myself.” But knowing that you really like reading books as much as I do, I think you would appreciate my effort in writing my story as detailed as possible. I hope you enjoy it, too, no matter how miserable it seems when it really shouldn’t be. But then again, I wouldn’t be telling you a story.
During my inconsolable moment, I decided to make a list of things to remember when I’m an adult. In my mind, I wrote the first one down. I said to myself, “Remember the feeling of holding back.” I muttered the line aloud inside again and again, so that it would feel natural for me when I see someone in a situation like mine. As much as I hate that feeling, I need to be reminded so that others won’t be as miserable as I was. It seems pretty selfish of me, to see other people smile so that I can join them, but if you think again, it’s also for their own good.
The second one is to be sensitive, because it’s the only way you can understand anyone, especially your kids. I feel like people should not forget the fact that others of their kind is others of their kind. They’re not only their fellow citizens, they’re not only what they do for a living, they’re not doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, or archeologists. They are human. The basic form of every occupation. And they have feelings, just like we do. Sometimes we are blocked by the boundary of professionalism that we forget who they really are. There is not a day where we’re not divided based on jobs, religions, races, nationalities, and the list keeps going. But in the end, what we are is not based on those factions. We’re just mortals.
I would tell you more about the four other things I’ve listed, but I don’t want to keep you from doing what you’re supposed to do now. I think there are more things to be listed, too, when my days have moved on. But the four other things I’ve written down are, “Keep in mind Alesso’s quote, that you’re not gonna get any younger”, “Make ‘Listening to Sigur Rós’ a routine”, “Always eat your breakfast”, and “Remember the feeling of being a teenager, because most parents have already forgotten”. I thought that I would erase the last one because it is pretty similar to the second one, but I guess it has a different understanding. I’m sorry for keeping you from doing your job for awhile, whatever it is you are doing now. But I do hope you turn out well.
If you do reach the end, Charlie, now is the time that I thank you for reading this from the beginning to the end. I don’t get listened to much actually, so I think it is very kind of you for having finished reading every word. Anyway, I need to get busy printing my form again. I hope to recognize you in one of the souls I will be meeting one day.

Love always,
A friend
Ovi-Odiete Oct 2016
A SOCIETY WRITTEN IN FLAMES; SHROUDED IN DARKNESS

The tears flows in an endless way
Bemoaning the days of yore
Watching with eyes that sparks red,
Sunken and beaten from the tragedies of yore
Helpless and wishing for a relentless call
As tragedy hits her most sensitive part,
Bemoaning the tides,
All her days of glory,
Now a shadowy story


She had been ***** by her very own,
The children she yearned and bled for,
The men she fed and trained,
Where her rain fell full and vast, to soothe their hearts
Where she gave it all, and smiled, hoping that someday, they will realize her sacrifices and sleepless nights,
Her nights of terror and horrors
Where she stood in the midst of the stormy eerie night, shrouded in darkness


It was her ******* they ****** and clunged to,
It was her arms that shielded them from the shadows of the dark,
But when they grew and flew,
She waited still
Praying and wishing they would remember the days of yore


Then the dark hour rolled away,
And when morning came, it was harrowing.
It was harrowing how she waited abandoned and dejected,
As her sons and daughters peaked at the sky,
Trampling her down,
Relegating and belittling her
Painful it were, as she cried from the agonies of the days of yore,
Where she laid all her virtues down,
Giving it all to see her children smile,


It is this dejection that has brought her to tears,
It is this wickedness of a child to a mother, that has made her weep endlessly
It is this tragedy that have swallowed her glory,
As her children keeps flying above huddles, in peace and harmony,
Forgetting her,
It is this callousness, that pushed them to sapping her virtues and enriching themselves with it thereon


What is worse than a child abandoning his mother?
It is this penchant, that drives them
It is the love of greed,
It is the seed of corruption,
It is not an inherited trait,
It is a despicable decision
Like a monstrous shadow,
Twirling the back of the night.
It is the fire that burns within their heart,
The fire to ****, steal and destroy
To take what she can never give again
To live,
To live big at the expenses of others sorrow and agony
It is this evil that has perused Nigeria and has rendered her a roaming wretch
And now tragedy looms,
It booms and blooms,

A society written in flames
Who will save MOTHER NIGERIA?


Ovi Odiete©* 2016, Oct. 31
All rights reserved

Note
Children here signifies the evil politicians and men that has sapped our country dry with their evil penchant
A society written in flames
Trevor Gates Sep 2013
Vespertine, fatal dream
Mistress conjuring shapes of night
Seventeen little fiends
Elegy for a demon’s plight


Alone in my study, sitting
before a roaring fire
Visions so ******
they churn desire

With the dead of night
summoning hellish zest
They come to incinerate
my corrosive flesh

The hymns of *St. Lazarus
beckon solace
from the cathedral outside
But I linger here in the bowels,
where my ancestral sins reside

Animistic stares gazing through
these dead-soul dreams
Where another horror story is not
always what it seems

Portraits of deceased queens
looked down at me with blackened eyes
Layers of muffled screams
festered while judging my vacant lies

Years before, my grandmother watched
over me as a boy in his bed;
Endless, ambiguous rhymes of prayer
are what she often said.

She promised to ban the spirits
that steadily linger
But dark twisting hands
outreached and took her

The monsters and invisible abominations
have always been here
Following my whereabouts,
watching me year after year

Subtle ghosts keeping my heart
and house cold
I sat and waited for what my
icy breath foretold

The dreams, the demons, the ghosts
all that severed me
From experiencing the love of flesh
I so forever longed to see


Came the hour the church bells rang and tolled


The dread of things to come
The moans and cries had begun

From lissome shadows and corridors
Like Charon beating souls with oars


Creeping evil fled
to the refuge of my home
To reap the sins
that my family had sewn

The rippling, screeching strings
of a malevolent orchestra
Scored and produced themes
worthy of infernal Sumatra

The flames in the fireplace
surged a green incendiary wall
From the hell mouth jaw emerged
a dark figure I saw.

Mother Mephistopheles,
            clad in silvery pieces with a pale face
            Manifesting atrocities, her emerald eyes
            welcoming our embrace

I backed away from the sights in,
my trance lost in her glimmer
But the noises and choir peaked
in a swarming fit for a sinner

In a gush of surrounding ash, Father Selaphiel materialized
The otherworld lovers reunited,
their bond revitalized.

We come unto thee, Son of Faust, heir to Blake.
They said in unison like a choral demon snake

Create a fleshling worthy of a child, of many in one
So the deeds of your family’s sins can be undone.


I stared at the figures with execrable bewilderment
Fearing my sanity had seeped through my temperament

They threaten my eternal existence with continued torment
A living anguish that would solidify my hell-bound descent

What must be done?” I asked these surrogate advisers

And they instructed
A body made from flesh and metal
Of dead and living components
Blessed and cursed
From God and Satan
Men and creature
Using their collected powers
to merge with the night
I swept across the villages
and cities to obtain the materials
Now all these years, I’ve wondered
Why my medical expertise had been put to waste
“Did the demons prevent me?” I pondered
“Or did they aid me?” I concluded in my haste

Innocent or not, I claimed what I needed
To rid myself of the terrors deep-seated.

A steel-woven chest piece
and half-incinerated cadaver
Twenty feet of large intestines;
boys, girls didn’t matter

Shelled-out cranial cavity
with cerebral cortex to match
Mixing bladders and gallbladders
worth its catch

Punctured spleens and insolent creams
Circulatory, digestive, endocrine,

Iron bones, infused tendons mount
Smells and rancid odors spilling out

Guts, pus, worms and maggoty brains
Boiling in holy water with dried remains

Sacks of chain mail and velveteen potions
Seething concoctions conflate emotions

Patches of caustic skin made like adamant leather
Bolted with steel fingered brutally severed

Into gauntlet armor, this mechanized abomination
Personifying my sickened, wailing degradation

I showed Father and Mother my life’s work and creation
A flesh-iron shell waiting, they stood with appreciation

Vespertine…” they called to the collage of my work
They petted its face while the shadows continued to lurk

Seventeen little fiends and creatures
appeared and surround
The moon shined through the glass
and the room around

The Seventeen shadow children became smoke and entered the monster
Now a being both ethereal and corporeal

My sins and demons locked in my own creation
Mother Mephistopheles and Father Selaphiel
Left Vespertine in my care

All that plagued me
All that haunted me

Personified, solidified
And barely alive.

My half-dead servant.

and Halloween child
Carmella Rose Aug 2018
the way i smiled outside
is the opposite of how i cry inside
the pain left me hanging
i couldn’t take it anymore
the pressure they all gave me
the thoughts and misconceptions
the society fed me
kept being toxic
all my efforts
were nothing but trash
i seemed unnoticed
and silently i waited for someone
to hear how much myself peaked at
that metal mask that hides
my identity
i talked about my flaws
at the mirror
shouting how much
sorrow i’ve been through
seeing my bloodshot red eyes
kept me wondering
am i that pitiful?
i am that small thing
in the big perfectionist world
i couldn’t accept myself
so i torn it apart
and left every bits and pieces
of the real me
i kept using all these
makeups skincare pills
just to hide the past
but it wasn’t enough
the expectations were as high as the skies
and i was on earth
i put all my best
but it still wasn’t enough
the oceans in my eyes
shows how much i’ve suffered all throughout
the years of judgement in the pits of hell
i am sorry for being sad
been always sorry
will always be sorry
for being who i am.
i don’t know how to be me anymore, it’s like being lost in a different crowd where i am the loser and everyone here is yet to **** me.
Mara W Kayh Feb 2015
I'll never forget the way you looked
As you stood with your back to me
No defenses - no walls
Painting with such care
And so much love
as I peaked through the French doors.
You didn't hear me
as I opened the door
Because you have chosen to exit the world
Slowly
First by losing interest in hearing
And then in forgetting short term nonsense,
Preferring to live in the glorious past..
You were painting for me,
My once most picture perfect Mother.

Now with hat and shorts and torn shirt,
and not giving a care in the world
For how you appear
And I could see, in that moment,
Your immense love for me
And I knew it was there from the very beginning,
And that despite scars of our
mythical mother daughter battles,
it would never be lost
Or ever forgotten
And my heart broke
For the millionth time
Into millions of Pieces
For I understood then
That love between mother and daughter
is greater than
Time and life Itself.
My 85 year old mother was finishing a painting for me today..I was leaving her for my now not so new life in another country. I peaked into her studio, unnoticed, and saw her, at her most benign and least imposing..,she was unaware of my presence and the love I saw her putting into the painting left my heart shattered.
Glenn McCrary Feb 2012
Hazed by the dire rope of death



A subtle incandescence flickered



A white light glimmered like ****



Whilst hushed peaked a snicker





Her smile an adequate sedative



Terminating vivid estuaries



A moment equally competitive



In other eyes deemed honorary





Mi corazón happened upon felicity



Blessed be this origin of jubilee



Freeze we shall in fair amenity



Beneath this fine cherry tree
Big Virge Jul 26
It Seems That...
Interest Has PEAKED... !!!

Within Recent Weeks...
Over Protests In Streets...
And Now In... Street Parties... !?!

That May Cause The Increase...
of This... Viral Disease..

That CLEARLY Has NOT Peaked... !!!

Well NOT YET Medics CLAIM...
But Interest Indeed Is Peaking To Me...

In The... VORACITY...
of The Things That They Say...
And Have Chosen To Preach... !!!

Because People DON'T Seem...
To Be... Following Themes...

That Have Been...
What They’ve Deemed...
To Be... NECESSARY... ?!?

So How Can This Be... ???
Is What … Interests Me...

Because Now... SUDDENLY... !!!
We CAN Stand Within Feet...
of The People We Meet..

Rather Than Have To Deal...
From... Metres Away...
Well That’s What They CLAIM... !?!

But Then Are QUICK To Say...
That In... Some US States...

That... Distancing Measures...
Will HAVE To STAY IN Place... !!!

Because Now The Virus...
Is... RAGING AGAIN... !!!

Because Certain People...
AREN'T Observing What They...
Have Been TOLD To OBEY... !!!!!!

An … Observance of Space...
Cos’ This ISN’T A Game... !!!

You Just CANNOT INVADE...
A Space Someone’s Claimed...
And Get In Their Face...
Because That’s INHUMANE... !!!

And The Virus Will Stay...
If You DON’T Stay Away... !!!

And Do What Leaders Say... !!!

The Same Ones Who WON'T...
Wear A Mask On Their Face... ?!?

Now That Does INTEREST ME... !?!
Doesn’t It... Interest YOU... ?!?

Those Who Keep Saying..
That This... CORONA FLU...
Is REAL SERIOUS DUDE... !!!!!

After... ALL These Protests... ?
That Have NOT Kept Distance... ?

Do You STILL Think That’s TRUE... ?

Cos’ There’s Been...
... NO DISTANCE... !!!

When Street Feuds Have Ensued...
Between Protesting Heads...
And These Enforcement Crews...

Have They ALL BEEN TESTED... ?!?
And... CLEARED of This Flu... !?!

BEFORE... Being Allowed...
To Move Like The CROWDS...
Who Have Now Casted Doubts...
As To The... Whereabouts...

of... Corona’s Cold Shoulder...
Because They’ve Stood CLOSER...
To People In Streets...
WITHOUT... Having A Clue...
As To Who’s Got This Disease... ?!?

Now This Does Interest Me...
So My Interest Has PEAKED...
When It Comes To Scenes...
That I’ve Seen Recently... !!!!

From Police Using Knees.....
Until... George Floyd...
COULDN’T EVEN BREATHE... !?!
And Now... Rests In Peace
Because He's DECEASED... !!!

To These Protests On Streets...
Now Calling For.... UNITY.... ?!?

And An END To This Ism’...
That We Know As RACISM... !!!

To Folks Being Imprisoned...
WITHOUT Weapons In Vision... ?

So MUCH Has Now Peaked...
In Barely... A Few Weeks... !!!

INCLUDING The VOLUME...
of Poems Like THESE... !!!

That Speak On These Subjects...
That Have Now SUDDENLY...

Become Like This Virus...
That’s On The INCREASE...

That’s PEAKED My Interest...
As To What’s Coming Next... ?!?

Because... Recent Vibes...
May Not Have Been That Wise... !?!

Because They've...
... " Localised "...

... ”Lockdowns”...
FAR And WIDE............

Because of... BAD Vibes...
From The Beach To The Streets...

That May Well Prove To FEED...
PROBLEMS That Will Lead...
To A VIRUS INCREASE …
That Will Spread GLOBALLY... !!!

Because... Now It Seems...
That The Spread of This Disease...

Like UNREST That We’ve Seen...
Hit The News RECENTLY...

Are Just The BEGINNINGS...
of Things That We’ll See...

Because.....

THEY Like This Virus...
Have Yet To Reach... Their...

....... “ Peak “.......
So many peaks and WRONGS, however, no one really seems to know what's going on, and for just how long this virus will stay strong ... just CRAZY ?!?
Nat Lipstadt Jun 2014
This is the game, set and matching end-piece to what is known as:

http://hellopoetry.com/poem/385266/poetry-round-find-your-self-within/

by way of an introduction....

T'is season to move forward,
back to old acquaintances renewed,
sand, water and salty sun,
three lifelong friends who,
Auld Lang Syne,
never ever forget me

I get drunk on their eternity,
their celestial beauty,
and they, upon my tarnished earthly being,
muse and are bemused

unreservedly and never judgingly,
share shards of inspiration unstintingly,
we share, never measuring
this captain's humanity, his human efficacy,
by mystical formulae of reads or hearts

grains of sand, water wave droplets and sun rays,
and his beloved words, derived there from,
all only know one measure...
immeasurable

http://hellopoetry.com/poem/699991/adieu-my-crew-my-crew/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Pilgrimage (Reunion)


at last to begin,
to begin the 'at last,'
this reunion occurs
this first day of June
where on my
body's flesh colored calendar,
X red-marked,
deeper than any real cut of despair


this morn, leave for familiar parts,
embarking 100 steps to that
Adirondack chair,
my name, my self,
(oh god at long last)
so often, long lovingly
revealed unto you


the garden's sundial welcomes me,
Prince, Guardian, of the gate to the green,
the green steppe way to bay and beach,
a brief song of "ring around the irises,"
blooming around him,
he issues,
to celebrate his own glory recalled,
his own purpled prosed long ago one ecrivez'd,
by having the third mate
ring the greened worn,
bronzed ship bell
upon conclusion of
his raising of the gate


shorts and T white hair shirt,
costume de rigueur
of this Peconic pilgrimage,
turban and baseball uncapped,
stepping humbly
toward that worn wood throne
where carved are
the initials of
my poetic friends,
and his vast modest,
Concordia of poetic essays


Those odd disordered
collection of aleph bets
that have been prepared for this hour,
are sun dappled,
breeze caressed,
wave watched,
a fresh redressing after a
dum hiems,
a long dark winter


all rise up welcoming with voices
tremulous yet oratory,
sing with a love so spectacular ,
Handel's Messiah Hallelujah Chorus,
au naturel


the armies of ants declare this a
Truce Day,
parading before me in formation,
the rabbits race
in elegant uniforms,
white tailed bemedaled, dress grays,
announcing their  showoff arrival
with a new across-the-lawn
land speed record


the dear **** deer,
familiar families and generational,
look upon this human and
grumble while chewing our shrubbery,
an act of sherwooded lawn high robbery
but perforce acknowledging our entrance,
by uttering a Balaam blessing/curse,
a neutralized
"****, they're back"


the seagulls on the dock,
sovereign state observers from
Montauk and the far island city,
sent by the mother winds superior,
observers and reporters to nature everywhere,
Summer Season of Man Has Begun


a few white wakes disturb the water's composure,
the early low arc'd sun has not peaked in strength,
at 10:00am, the temp just breaches 60 Fahrenheit,
the beach sand untrod, no unlasting human impressions,
no children's red pails yet to them decorate,
amidst the sea life's detritus and smooth licked pebbles


Enough.


each tree ring and grass blade demands a verse,
an all my own tributary accolade,
this too much to accommodate


a year ago I issued an invitation,
do so again for my word is my bond
my responsibilities, my *******,


there are chairs for all
on my righted round and my motet left,
here, there are
no Americans,
no Canadians,
no Aussies or Brits,
or Indians and Fillipinos,
no African or Asians present,
East nor West,
None Invited here,
Only Poets


even those hardy pioneer
West Coasters, a proud lot,
and my Southern family drawling,
and perhaps lessening the mourning
just a touch, a minute modicum,
all sit quiet in the admixture
of poets come to celebrate
the blessing to have been tasked,
to write from and of places we visit
in the cerebral,
and to imbibe each other's words


Three Hundred and Sixty Four Days ago,
I wrote :

We sit together in spirit, if not in body,
You join me in the Poet's Nook,
A few frayed and weathered Adirondack chairs
Overlooking the Peconic Bay,
Where inspiration glazes over the water,
And we drown happily in a sea of words...

I am exhausted.
So many gems (poets)
to decorate
My body, my soul

I must stop here,
So many of you have reached out,
none of you overlooked.

Overwhelmed, let us sit together now
And celebrate the silence that comes after the
Gasp, the sigh, that the words have taken from
Our selves, from within.

Once again, in your debt


Again,
I await your beckoning wave of hello,
greet you in your mellifluous native tongue,
iced drinks at the ready,
the opening ceremony already started,
when all are seats taken
we commence officially,
with a blessed

*"Now, let us begin"
See the banner photo...paying off the promissory notes owed to myself

— The End —