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lib Nov 2017
i parked my car in your driveway
promising myself i was over you
and waited for a moment
promising myself i was over you
my head rested in my hands
promising myself i was over you
i heard myself open the car door
promising myself i was over you
and shut it
promising myself i was over you
i jogged up your gravel driveway
promising myself i was over you
and almost turned around
promising myself i was over you
i hopped up the porch steps
promising myself i was over you
and knocked three times
promising myself i was over you
i blinked
promising myself i was over you
and you were suddenly there
promising myself i was over you
no words were spoken
promising myself i was over you
your blue eyes like the sea
promising myself i was over you
you smiled
promising myself i was over you
and i realized you didn’t hate me
promising myself i was over you
you asked if i was okay
promising myself i was over you
i lied
promising myself i was over you
“yeah, i’m better than ever”
promising myself i was over you
you said you were glad we could still be friends
promising myself i was over you
i lied again
promising myself i was over you
“me too.”
realizing i wasn’t over you
Cynthia Barton Jan 2010
To you I give my heart,my soul, and mind.                                                                                                     Promising to always love you,always true and kind.                                                                                                               To you I give my all plus each breath I take.                                                                                                         Promising to stand by you through your worst mistakes.                                                                                                           To you I give everything as I place it in your hands.                                                                                                    Promising to always be proud to have you as my man.                                                                                                                  To you I give my arms to hold you every night                                                                                                         Promising to never stray to far from your sight.                                                                                                              To you I give my body and soul til the day it rests in peace                                                                                                      Promising to always be your angel guarding you as you sleep.
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.
PoserPersona Jun 2018
I.
The moon sings the languid flower,
  to bloom at midnight hour
Harmonious feast transpires -
  luminescent choir

Petals mirror la hue de Luna,
  but pale below her glow
Though the desert sweet aroma,
  is fragrance plus photo

Neither causing nightly failure,
  in idyllic charm
In fact, those powers are greater,
  together than apart

II.
The moon a long gone distant rock,
  yet pulls on ocean tops
Cereus lures with sweetest tricks,
  and stings with countless licks  

Battered holy asteroid face,
 woos flawless solar gaze
And even though it causes mire,
  lunar eclipses fire

The cactus thrives in driest sands,
  and chokes in fertile lands
Alluring lonesome wanderers,
  promising mere water

The lucid beauty bewilders,
  as much as it can haunt
In fact, those powers are greater,
  together than apart

III.
You, once my cereus and moon,
  were drowned in my love well
Perhaps, I was this to you too,
  though your hole I’d not delve

However, what was first velvet,
  morphed into devil’s horns
Winter shed those thorns in my chest,
  now spring gifts hope and more

The icy grips of each winter,
  provides spring fuel to spark
In fact, those powers are greater,
  together than apart

IV.
Although we've gone on our own ways,
  I wouldn’t change the past
For each step was necessary,
  to find true love at last

We were once greater together.


I’m now greater apart.
Tommy Johnson Dec 2013
You can hear the voices of our peers being silenced, ignored, shunned and distorted.
Staggering out of their bedroom doorways to the street corner to score a dime bag.
Bright, insightful millennials freezing in search of warmth from something to believe in that will encourage them to look forward to see another day.
Where our economy has made financial prudence clear when talking about education, yet price tags of university tuition's skyrocket.
The refused, the ones with hope but no money or scholarships; tread the streets with the echoes of electro house pulsing in their skulls.
Those who strip themselves down and shred their own morals to scraps just to find themselves and to see their own limitations.
Searching for answers to the unknown, to ascertain what they are, who they are and why.
Timid in high school, pushed along with nothing and no one to put their creative vigor into.
The squeakiest wheels that were never even considered to be given a good greasing.
Faculties giving them lethargic hellos on the first day of school, bestowing celebrated goodbyes to them on graduation day, diplomas in hand.
Now are the ones slumped over in a lackadaisical position contemplating how they can afford an education.
They work eight to ten at seven twenty five an hour Monday to Friday; and weekends staying in as not to blow their earnings.
Those who commute to university and balance a job with it, I applaud you.
The bewilderment of adulthood, the overabundance of pressure and responsibility.
Awakened from nightmares of lost opportunities, missed trains and lost contacts.
To step out of bed and splash water onto a severely distressed face and staring into a mirror with a despairing look.
Then hoping a bus to Garfield to bring back weight for all the embryonic smokers not yet at the point of make or break, just save up enough to pave my own way.
Gazing at the town on a roof top, chugging down the tenth…no…twelfth beer of the night wondering how this all happened.
Wild sensations of kissing an attractive stranger, the rush of touching on things never felt, tasting pleasures only the lucky have known.
The passionate, yet dissolute yearning for that ever eluding ******* adrenaline. Pounding, Pounding, Pounding until the culmination of energy has come.
Flip sided to those dizzying, tear jerking thoughts of suicide, annihilation of ones being, the contradictions of their faith in themselves and the people around them.
Unexplainable waves of anxiety crashing onto the shore of a diminutive island of optimism
Striving to look past the panic, the gloominess and fury that may or may not be present. But to remain composed and press forward to what awaits them.
Coffee keeps them going. Cup after cup, late night cramming every bit they can; into their caffeine driven psyches until the indisputable crash and failure.
Packs and packs of menthol cigarettes to calm their rattling nerves but at the same time killing them slowly. Their lives will seem shorter than the time it took to finish one bogey when death is near.
Marijuana induced ventures to run down burger shacks, laughing hysterical in the car ride, eyes heavy with a most ridiculous elastic grin extending from ear to ear. While inside millions of thoughts and realizations of consciously simple speculations and troubles become clear and unproblematic. So the joy is mirrored outside in.
LSD trips in Petruska dancing and singing in the rain! Making music, making love; playing pretend and creating art. Becoming a family while kicking back under the warmth of an illuminated tree on a cool fall night.
MDMA streaming through the body, everything is as it should be
Beautiful, lovely to touch, wondrous to stroke, marvelous to move.
To contact and connect, converse and converge with the dwelling desire to share what you feel with everyone for it would be selfish and unpleasant to keep it in.
Mushrooms oh the emotional overflow I need not say more but ****.
Then there are over the counter candies, Oxycontin, ******, Adderall and Xanax, painkillers and antidepressants. Ups, downs, side ways and backwards.
Selling addiction and dependency legally to kids. Making heroine, ******* and speed easily obtainable to them. Changing the names and giving out prescriptions so the parents can feel like they're actually helping their children but are subconsciously making it easier on themselves because they cannot handle the way their offsprings actually are. Some parents a feel it is the only way, I wish it wasn't so. Becoming zombies, mindless addicts before they even start to mature into puberty. I've seen it, firsthand front row.
Oh, the monotonous, mundane rituals and agendas of our lives. School, work, sleep eat, the sluggish schedules and repetitions of yesterday's conversations and redundancy of itineraries we had plotted months prior.
Same people, the constant faces of boredom that groan in apathy and hold the fear of complacency.
We talk about how hum drum out lives have become and what we could to put some color in our world but don’t.
We speak of how unfair the system is but ultimately confuse ourselves and everyone else due to lack or organization and dedication so nothing is changed.
We speak of breath taking women we want to share ****** fantasies with but can’t even muster enough courage to send a trivial friend request.
Texting away for hours trying to court those who now occupy our minds and possess our hearts hoping they may allow us to acquire their attention and affection. Calling them only to receive futile dial tones and know we are being evaded.
Weeping on and on for seemingly endless time frames of a dilapidated relationship that was so strained that a miniscule breeze could cause it to collapse but still clinging to every memory as if they were vital hieroglyphics depicting your very essence.
Brilliant theories blurted out in a drunken stupor.
Ingenious hypothesis shrouded in marijuana smoked out room.
Remembrance of friends long gone.
The marines, the navy.
The casualties of drug addiction.
The conquerors or their afflictions.
The scholars.
The insane locked away on the flight deck never to be seen again.
Teenage mothers unsure of themselves, abandoned by their families for they believe that they brought fictional shame upon the family’s name. The fate of the child is unclear but the mother’s everlasting love shines through any obscurities in its way.
Dear mother of the new born winter’s moon may the aura of life protect you and your baby.
The father gone without a trace.
He will never know his daughter.
And it will haunt him forever.
Parents bringing up their kids with values and morals, The Holy Bible, mantras and meditation, the Holy Quran, The Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads. Islamic anecdotes and Jewish parables.
The names all different
The message the same
The stories unlike
Goals equivalent
Faith
Kabala, Scientology and Wicca
Amish and Mormons
All separate paths that intertwine and runoff each other then pool into the plateau of eternal life.
But do we have faith in our country, our government?
They do not have faith in us. Cameras on every street corner, FBI agents stalking social media, recordings of our personal lives and police brutality. 4th amendment where have you gone?
We say farewell to Oresko the last veteran of the last great war. And revisit the Arab spring, Al-Assad’s soldiers opening fire on innocent protesters, one hundred fifteen thousand lay dead. Bin laden dead, Hussein hanged, Gaddafi receiving every ounce of his comeuppance. War, terrorism, the fear of being attacked or is it an excuse to secure our nation's investments across the sea? Throwing trillions of dollars to keep the ****** machine cranking away, taxes, pensions, credit scores, insurance and annuities all cogs in the convoluted contraptions plight.
My dear friend contemplates this every night laying in bed, fetal position; the anxiety if having to be a part of this.
Falling apart on the inside but on the outside, an Adonis, *******, Casanova wanna be. Who worshiped the almighty dollar, gripping it so tightly until it made change, drank until he had his fill falling face first into the snow. The guy who lead on legions of clueless girls wearing their hearts on their sleeves not knowing he had a girlfriend the entire time. Arranging secret meetings in hidden gardens, streaking into the early morning. Driving to Ewing in his yellow Mustang to woo a sado masochistic girl. The chains and whips do nothing to him he is already numbed by the thrill. Then he comes home, lays in bed until one, with no job and having people pay for his meals.
He knows what he does and who he is wrong. He recites and regurgitates excuses endlessly. He cries because he knows he is weak, he knows he must fix himself. I sit on the edge of myself with my fingers crossed hoping maybe, maybe he will set himself straight.
My chum who can talk his way out of any confrontation and into a woman’s *******. Multitudes of amorous affairs in backrooms, backseats, front rows of movies theaters. Selfish, boastful and ignorant, yet woman fling themselves at him like catapulted boulders over a medieval battle field just to say hello. These girls blind to see what going on, for their eyes were taken by low self esteem. A need to be accepted, to feel wanted even only for fifteen minutes. Poor self image, daddy issues, anorexic razor blade slicing sirens screaming on about counted calories and social status. Their uncontrollable mental breakdowns and emotional collapse. Their uncles who ***** them, their parents who split up and confusing their definition of love and loyalty for the rest of their lives. Broken homes, domestic abuse and raised voices, sending jolts of fright into the young girl’s fragile minds. I send my sorrows to you ladies, to see such beautiful creatures suffer then be used and thrown away with the ****** that was just ****** deep into their *****.
Then I see women and men of marvelous stature, romantic in the streets holding everyone and everything in high regards. Finding beauty in anything and anyone. Enjoying every second as if the rapture was over head eating exotic foods from unheard of countries and cultures. Bouncing to the sound of whimsical , reverb ricochets and sense stimulating music. Huffing inspiration to create something out of thin air. Dancing to retired jazz and swing albums as if no time had past since their conception. Wearing bold colors and patterns, thrifty leather shoes or suede.
Dawning pre-owned blazers because why spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes just to look good but feel uncomfortable with a hole in your pocket. Dressing up but dressing down, so class yet urban I love it, chinos, pea coats and flannels so simple but chic.
At night they go to underground dens, sweaty bodies, loud music and freedom. Expressive manifestations glowing fueled with MDMA and other substances to further their enjoyment of the dark glorious occasion. Kandi kids sporting colorful bracelets, not watches for time is of no concern to them, they have all eternity they know that.
Going to book stores, coffee shops just to have some peace of mind and a moment of silence to themselves so that can weave the tapestry of imaginative innovation. Writing their own versions of the same story, endless doors of perception, reading news papers and taking it with a grain of salt. Watching the news on TV with a hand full of salt. Searching for the real story so they can know if the world they all live in is actually safe.
She who made her own way breaking hearts, rolling blunts and making deals. The flower child of the modern age, left the rainy days in search of radiant sunshine, idealistic. Reality was subjective, purple dyed hair, multicolored sweater with sandals on her feet. A ten inch bowl with bud from California packed in tightly. Coming from Dumont to Bergenfeild then on to Philly to Mount Vernon. Off to Astoria and the Heights. Now to Sweden laying in the grassy plains below the mountains. Good for you my friend whom I have loved, may fortunes of unsullied joy come to you and all you meet.
Since you’ve left I have encountered drunken burly firemen just trying to have a good time. Pounding down Pabst Blue Ribbon as if it were water; as if it were good tasting beer. But heroes none the less.
EMT's, young eighteen years old high school graduates, saving lives reviving people who are a mere inch close to death.
Sport stars getting scholarships thanks to their superior skills and strength.
Striking beauty school students who are into making the people of this world a little bit more beautiful on the outside.
All these people, successful, doing things. Departing to their desired destinations. I see inside them, they carry baggage, loneliness and insecurities. I can feel their guilt slowing them down. All have their loads but it’s the way they carry them that shows who they really are. And to me their all gems.
Not far in Paterson I watch the junkies limping across busy winding street, perusing a severely needed fix. “Diesel!” they shout beneath flickering streetlights, asking for spare change and if bold enough a ride to some shady sketchy place. I give them a dollar and politely decline. They’ll die without it. Vomiting up bile and blood, twitches and shivers are all you feel when it’s not in you. They cannot stop, they need help. Why not help them instead of “assisting” those who are homosexual? Cleansing so they can be granted entry to the kingdom of God. Looking down on people who have found love and understanding and a deep attraction to others who just so happen to share alike genitals.
Narrow minded uproars about the spread of AIDS, nonsense! The puritanical onslaught of those who want nothing more than the rest of us, love. "Gay", "****", "******", "queer", how about "kind", "funny", "genuine human being"? The right to be married and divorced should be an option for everyone to enjoy. The strains and hardships of matrimony are yours if you want them. If you don’t agree don’t hate or harm just allow them to be peacefully. Same goes for anything for that matter, Jehovah's going door to door, Mormons from Burbank. New ideas are never a bad thing, they’re not a waste of time. On average you have about eighty years to mull over your options.
Some people don’t live long enough to do so, cancer is rampant, blood diseases, ****** diseases, natural disasters coming right out of left field and blindsiding the innocent bystanders of both hemispheres. Some go through life handicapped, autism is apparent these days. Schizophrenia, Asperburgers, ADD and ADHD. Some lose their golden memories of their many valuable years walking down Alzheimer's Lane, not being able to remember whatever transpired only a few moments ago but revisiting gold nuggets from from fifty-some-odd years ago with ease. Some go through life delusional or bipolar. Some can't even sleep at night but they still carry on. And if assistance is needed it is our job as a race to help our brothers and sisters, no one deserves to be excluded from the gala of life. Or be denied by society and pumped with brightly colored pills from doctors promising a cure but prescribing a crutch.
Finding solace in sincerity.
The serendipity of it all hasn’t been uncovered and that keeps me going.
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world above, below and across. Unhindered without ill will without enmity.” Oh Buddha the truth as it ever was.
Who is he who keeps these thoughts from the conscious minds of the population?
Who is it that distracts us from the humbling beauty and overwhelming devastation of this place of existence we’re in?
It’s they who do under the table parlor trick behind our backs.
Those who broadcast mind numbing so called reality TV shows without an underlying value or meaning.
Those who produce music, proclaiming extravagance to be the end all be all gluttonous goal we all should aim to achieve.
And those who turn noble causes into money making scams and defile pure ideas.
And of course those who give false promises of easily obtained  bright futures, those who don’t care, those who steal, ****, curse, bad mouth and lie. But still manage to get elected into positions that more or less decide out fates. Monsters, demons, banshees howling inconsequential worries and leaving us deaf to hear the real issues.
The
Mark Ball Sep 2014
Promising words not
Followed by action is like
*** without the attraction-
******* useless.
Challenges and competition notified.
Every step codified.
Tears and sweat pacified.
Achievements and advancement glorified.
Regression and depression terrified.
Muscles and struggle verified.
Foes and conspirators mortified.
Plans of progress and purpose sanctified.
Grace and the Goodness of God testified.
Sweet pleasures of life.
Trials, Torment and Torture.
Eulogies and Elegies of visible characters.
Promising and decisive.
No conflicts, No dilemma.
ryn Oct 2014
tell me...

will tomorrow bring,
     all the things
i'm longing...
    stowed upon its elusive wings,
tirelessly beating
    and fighting
to show what's dangling
and hanging...
          ready for the picking...

                          awaiting...
such time so it could begin its need for unloading,
                   delivering
                                      and dropping,
its gleaming
                      treasures
on those who are deserving,
        in no way lacking
so they could be at the receiving
end of this pressurising,
           inking
                      of dwindling
                                        words...

carel­ess thoughts conceived only to
              fuel
           my deranged ramblings...
incessant mutterings of a shattering
                         mind...

           bending backwards, almost breaking,
         risking...
the chance of ever fully
                                          mending...

hopin­g and praying
   for a sentence that's pending
dawn's approval...

allowing
   the rising
of the sun...
                  paving
            ways for thriving
                                          wishes,
unbarr­ing
                  gates for soaring
                                                dreams, unlocking
                   latches,

relieving...
the heightening
                     anxieties of grieving
                                                        ­ hearts.

constantly whispering
                               utterances, promising
good will, happiness
                              and titillating
                                                     ­ sanity.

we're thinking...
     the earth is spinning,
         the moon is setting,
     so the sun must be rising
                         but...

             tell me,
                           tomorrow...

                                *is it coming?
jake aller Dec 2019
Snarling Cup of Coffee    




I like to start my day with a hot cup of coffee
I pound down the coffee
First thing I do every day
as the dawning sun
Lights up my lonesome room

Yeah, but not just a simple cup of java Joe, but a ******* snarling sarcastic smarmy cup of coffee

I mean, - we are talking about an alcoholic, all speed ahead, always hot, always fresh, always there when I need it, angry, attitude talk to the hand Ztude, bad, bad assed, beats breaking, beatnik, bluesy, bitter, ******, bombs away, capitalistic, caffeinated up the ***, cinematic, communistic, Colombian grown, Costa Rican inspired, Cowabunga to the max, crazy assed, devilishly angelic, divine, divinely inspired, dyslexic, epic, extreme vetting, evil eye, expensive, ****** vision inducing, Ethiopian coffee house brewed, euphoric, freaky, freazoid, foxy, Frenched kissed, French brewed, funkified, foxy lady, graphic, GOD in my coffee, with Allah, Ganesh, Jesus, Kali, Buddha, Christians, Durga, Hindus, Mohamed, Jesus and Mo and their friend, the cosmic bar maid, Sai Babai, Shiva, Taoists,

Zoroastrians, drinking my god ****** coffee in Hell;

growling, gnarly, happy, hard as ice, Hawaian blessed, high as a kite, hippie, hip, hipster, hip hoppy, hot as hell yet strangely sweet as heaven, jazzy, jealous, Kerouac approved, kick ***, kick my ******* *** to Tuesday, kick down the doors and take no prisoners, grown in the Vietnam highlands by exVietcong, Guatemalan grown, kiss ***, illegal in every state, imported from all over the ******* world,

insane, lovely, loony, lonely, lonesome, malodorous mean old rotten, *******, nasty, narcotic, never whatever, never meh, never cold, not approved by the CIA, not approved by DHS, not approved for human consumption by the FDA, not your daddy’s sissified corporate cup of coffee, NOT DECAFE coffee, not your Denny’s truck driver weak as brown water cup of fake coffee, not your establishment friendly cup of coffee, Not your FBI coffee, Not FAKE Herbal coffee substitute, but a real cup of coffee, not your farmer brothers dinner crap, not made in America for Americans, not safe for work, not your Starbucks average expensive overpriced ****** corporate chain cup of coffee, Not pretentious, Not White House approved, not State Department safe, nuclear, Not Patriotic, operatic, Peets’s coffee approved,

paranoid, pornographic, psychotic, pontific, politically aware, rapping, rhyming, right here, right now in River city, rock and roll up the Yazoo, sad, sadistic, sarcastic, sassy, satanic, schizoid, *******, silly, ****, smarmy, smelly, smooth, snarky, snarling, stupid, stinking, sweet as honey, sweat inducing, symphonic, Trump can’t handle this coffee, vengeful, Wagnerian, wicked, with nutmeg and cinnamon swirls, with a hint of stevia, with a hint of vanilla, with a hint of ***, with a hint of whisky, with a hint of cherry, with a hint of fruit overtones, with a hint of drugs spicing up the coffee, spendific, speeding, splendid, superior accept no substitutes, survived the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the first and Second Korean war, World War 11, the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on black people, the ****** revolution,

Soulful as a summer’s night in MOTOWN- James Brown approved, TOP approved, Berkeley approved, the coffee that Jimmy Hendrix drank before he died, the coffee that Elvis drank on his last breakfast, the coffee that Barry White crooned as he drank his cup of coffee – and the coffee that made the white boy play stand up and play that funky music, the coffee that made Jonny B Goode play his guitar, and made Jonny bet the devil his soul after he drank his morning cup of righteous coffee and the coffee that make the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll, the coffee your mother warned you against drinking, the coffee that Napoleon drank when he became the Emperor of all Europe, the Coffee that Beethoven drank when he wrote the Ninth symphony, the coffee that Mozart drank as he wrote his last symphony, the coffee that Lincoln drank before he was killed, the Hemingway drank before he killed himself, the coffee that started the 60’s, and ended the 20th century,

the coffee that Lenin drank as he plotted revolution, the coffee that ****** and Stalin drank with FDR as they divided up the world after World War 11, the cup that JFK drank before he was blown away, the coffee Jerry drinks while driving in cars with random celebrities and political figures, the coffee that Jon Stewart drinks before he goes on an epic take down of some foolish politico, the cup of Arabic coffee that Sadaam drank the day he was executed, the coffee that GW and Cheney drank when they bombed Baghdad, the Indian cup of coffee that Bid Laden drank before 9-11 and just before the seals blew his *** to hell, the cup of coffee that Tiger Woods drank with his mistresses while playing a 3, 000 dollar round of golf at Sandy Lane golf course in Barbados, the last legal drug that does what drugs should do, the cup of coffee that Obama drank when he became President, Vietnamese, Vienna brew, wacky, whimsical,

Whisky Tango Foxtrot, wild, weird, wonderful, WOW, Yabba dabba doo! Yada Yada yada Zappa’s favorite cup of cosmic coffee, and Zorro’s last cup of coffee, Good to the last drop rolled into one simple cup of hot coffee   
As I pound down that first cup of coffee
And fire up my synaptic nerve endings with endless supplies
Of caffeine induced neuron enhancing chemicals

I face the dawning day with trepidation and mind-numbing fear
I turn on the TV and watch the smarmy newscasters in their perfect hair

Lying through their perfect blazing white teeth
about the great success the government is having
Following the great leader's latest pronouncements

I want to scream
and shoot the TV
and run out side

Shouting
Stop the world!
I want to get
off this ******* crazy planet"

The earth does not care a whit
about my attitude problem

It merely shrugs
and moves around the Sun
In its appointed daily run

the universe whispers
in my ear
time to drink more coffee
for an attitude adjustment

And I sit down
The madness dissipating a bit
And enjoy my second cup
Of heaven and hell
In my morning cup of Joe

Coffee Revolutions



coffee cup
Coffee led to the American Revolution<span
As patriots drank coffee
To rebel against
the aristocratic English tea

Coffee started the London Stock Market
And started the gossip mills running
Every great invention
Was fed by coffee's sweet brew
sweet allure

All the great thinkers
All the great leaders
All were enslaved
to coffee's magic

I sing my praises
Of the great
glorious coffee lady

Long may she continue
To be my sweet companion

Long may coffee continue
To rule my heart
And set my heart
on fire

Ode to Coffee



Mistress of sacred love
Sacred lady of desire

You start my day
Setting my heart on fire
With your dark delicious brew 

And throughout the day
Whenever the mean old blues come by
You chase them away

With your bittersweet ambrosial brew
Every time I inhale your witch's brew

I am filled with power, light and love
And everything is al right Jack
If only for a few fleeting minutes

I love you oh coffee goddess
In all your magical forms

In the dark coffee of the dawning day
In the sizzling coffee in the mid morning break
In the afternoon siesta break
And in the post dinner desert drink

I love you my coffee mistress
You are my refuge
From this horrid world

And you are my secret lover
Never disappoint me, ever
I've never had a bad cup
Of that I can be sure

Even the dismal coffee
Served at Denny's at 3 am
Is still sweet loving coffee

Even the farmer brother's diner coffee
Excites me and gets me going
Asking for another cup of divine delight

Coffee always is there
It is always on and piping hot
With hidden dark secrets
Swirling in its liquid essence

Coffee is my last vice
My only legal vice left

Coffee does not cheat on me
It is always faithful, always true
It does not turn on its friends

And all it asks in return
Is that you come back
Cup after cup after cup

A good cup of coffee
Is a little bit of heaven
In a cup of dark liquid hell

Coffee is like a drug
But a good drug that does what is should
And never complains

It does not get grouchy
It does not hurt you

It does not make you crazy
But allows the muse to come out
And play with it

Coffee led to the American Revolution
As patriots drank coffee
To rebel against the aristocratic English tea

Coffee started the London Stock market
And started the gossips mills running

Every great invention
Was fed by coffee's sweet brew
sweet allure

All the great thinkers
All the great leaders
All were enslaved to coffee's magic

Yeah
I sing my praises
Of the great glorious coffee lady

Long may she continue
To be my sweat companion

Long may coffee continue
To rule my heart
And set my heart on fire

I love thee
Mistress coffee
And sometimes I think
You love me too

No More Coffee Blues








I love coffee
Always have

And coffee has loved me back
But lately I have soured on her
Soured on the whole coffee scene

On the harshness
of the morning brew
And the promises it makes

As I sip of its nectar
Drawn into its lair

Drinking drop by drop
As the caffeine takes over

Rewriting my every nerve
Turning me into a slave
For its perverted pleasure

Yes I love coffee
But I am afraid

Coffee is a harsh mistress
Demanding so much of me

Promising the sun
And delivering the moon

As I drink her swill
Deepening under her influence

I have the coffee blues
Can’t live without her
Can’t live with her

I try
But tea does not cut it
Not really

***** does not do it
At least not in the morning

Yoga is not enough of a buzz
Nor is the runner’s high

And I am afraid deadly afraid of *******
And speed and drugs and energy drinks

And so I remain a slave to coffee
My only legal drug

As I sip another
and fall under
her seductive spread

Once more failing my resolve
To skip coffee for that day
That morning that moment

I shall never be free of her spell
Ever and she knows it
As she beckons me
Every morning with her intoxicating smell

And I come to her
and drink her brew

And become her slave
again and again

Coffee Ya Du





must drink coffee
have every day
the morning dawns
drinking my coffee as I yawn

Morning cup of coffee 



every morning
I drink my coffee
as I contemplate 
the dawning day

watching the news anchors
blather on and on
drinking my coffee
thinking of life

and my coffee
consumes me
overwhelms me
and at time controls me

after all coffee is a drug
and I am her slave
from time to time

Drinking Coffee in the Morning



in the morning
dangerous mood
felling deranged
watching the news

trigger warning
you are ******* dude
end of the world
the end times come

I drink coffee
in the morning



Coffee *** Killed





His wife has banned my use
by my owner
says he makes too much
of a mess when he uses me

it is not his fault
I want to say
but being a coffee ***
can not speak

and so I am abandoned
thrown out into the trash

and feel very sad
for my owner

who was my friend
he liked me

he keep me going
and I did my job

providing him
with fresh coffee

doing my coffee *** duty
and now it is over

Drinking My Coffee


drinking coffee

drinking my coffee
early in the cool morning
thinking life is fine

everything will be okay
after I drink my coffee

morning coffee



morning coffee

dawning sun 











coffee MGur Poem


coffee

I pray to the coffee gods
every cup of coffee
is like a sacrament to me

I pray as I drink my coffee
that it will fill me
with wisdom

and find peace
with my coffee

as I drink
my devotion

Hot coffee


cup of coffee


take coffee with you
Hot hot coffee, makes my day -

Must drink My daily coffee, as the morning dawns - 

With out my morning coffee

in me,  I feel nothing at all -

Electrified Hot Coffee



coffee is the drug of choice
nothing else will do it
as I drink coffee
Electrified
Hot Coffee

Hot Coffee and Cake


coffee
coffee is the drug of choice
electrified circuits
as I drink coffee
coffee and cake



Coffee Patina



coffee
hot coffee
hot Hellish Heaven
Essence of coffee
the rest of the coffee poems can be found at
Seán Mac Falls Aug 2012
Little sea,
Cast me in waters most surrounding
And ring me in kaleidoscope of reef,
Gently waving me home, promising
Deep underwater lands.

Little star,
Guide me in my mission of light,
Turn me toward the green valleys,
The blood streams, the noble orchard
And fruitions of dream.
Sahil Suri Mar 2014
Before I begin, allow me to explain,
I too loved.. once,
so think of me not as some cynic-
nor as a master in the ways of love-
but rather as a keen observer-
now, that may mean I have nothing to offer you-
no insider knowledge-
no secrets of love-

But I do  know how to tell a true love story -

Interested?
Fantastic-
So let’s begin,

True love, if there is such a thing at all,
is like the thread that makes the cloth
you can’t tease it out-
you can’t extract meaning-
without ending up deeper in the web-
and it always remains-
hidden under layers -

In the end, that’s all you can really say about any
True love story-
They don’t generalize-
They don’t analyze-
They arent found-
They just… happen.

and that’s what makes them “true.”

But what is this coveted “love” -
the emotion?-
the act?-
the mentality?-

Love, is a constant state of illusionment-

A collective agreement amongst humans-
that it, whatever it may be,  can be treated as an excuse
for recklessness, irrationality, and misplaced strife-  

A quid pro quo  between two individuals-
to agree that they are doing something-
anything-
other than mindlessly drudging through life-

Now that is not to say that what love creates is pointless-
I said before, I have felt the embrace of love
Love festers between individuals for so long
it has no option-
but to mould the physical to itself-
and alter our personalities-

Characterized by spontaneity-
by indulgence-
by risk-
to love is the most dangerous experience in existence-
the act of being fully vulnerable with another-
while promising not to hurt them the same-

Love is characterized by vulnerability-
and the constant fear of being hurt-

So you want to know how to write a true love story?
be honest-
dwell not on the “romantic” blindfolds that keep us irrationally seeking our partners-
dwell not on the on the memories of a love that blossomed-
reveal the core of love -

A true love story comes from gut instinct-
A true love story, comes from experience.
A true love story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe

So I said I loved once,
allow me to elaborate-

I too have felt the “butterfly stomach”
- where the insides of the lovestruck turn on their host and manifests the emotional significance of meeting “the one”

I too have spent the day daydreaming...
-Lost in the thought of “the one”, seeking brief breaks from reality in my mind between moments of  utter normalcy

I too have melted into a puddle of emotion….
-lying next to “the one” as we slowly spill more and more of the secrets that bound us as individuals, joining a spirit much larger than ourselves-

I too have felt... invincible-
-to know that I’ve found something more significant than myself. Something that replaces the fear of the future.. and makes it something to look forward to.

Yes, I too have fallen in love.
and I did just that-
I fell.





..And that is my true love story-
Edit: Thank you everyone. It has meant a lot.
Amara Oct 2012
This is a story I created for my 5 year old niece.

During the old times, things were not as they are now.  Dangerous monsters lurked around every corner doing the ***** deeds of the gods. The innocents had no protection. Only their own wits could keep them living another day.
Such was so for Elephant, he was one of the most intelligent of all the animals in the forest. He was large and grey, wizened with age. He had dark eyes, full of knowing. He had a strong face, with a large round nose. He was the guard of the forest, a scholar, and he could even read, unlike so many of his predecessors. He protected the innocent animals from the evil ones who meant them harm. The gods envied his intellect. They were afraid that it surpassed their own.  They wanted the innocents to be consumed by their minions, the dangerous monsters that lurked around the outside of the protection circle.
They devised a plan to destroy Elephant once and for all. They got their scariest, meanest, largest, most determined beast to do their bidding. The Mushika, some called him “The Mouse”. The Mushika had never been seen before, he had only been a whiff of a rumor found in children’s stories. He was said to be as large as the biggest trees, as mean as all of the god’s combined, and as powerful as the forest itself.
The god’s were able to convince the Mushika to do their bidding, by promising to make him even larger, meaner, and more powerful than he already was. He agreed and began his journey towards the innocents’ home where Elephant stood ready to protect and defend.
Elephant could feel it in the wind that something was coming. He read the leaves on the water to be sure. He knew that danger was almost on them and prepared for battle. He stood quietly, his eyes slowly moving from trunk to trunk. The wind blew slightly, ruffling his long ears. Then, THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. It seemed as if the whole forest quaked. Far away, trees began to fall to the left and to the right. Slowly, it got closer and closer. Until the Elephant could see a looming white beast with red eyes, a pink nose, round ears, a long pink tail, and a massive body.
He roared, “Elephant, I have a bone to pick with you!!” Elephant’s face was calm as he stepped forward. The Mouse lunged stepping on the Elephant’s trunk. Elephant howled in pain, jerking and tossing away from the Mushika’s massive foot. The Mushika persisted, realizing that he had made Elephant utterly defenseless. He opened his giant mouth, full of sharp teeth, about to swallow Elephant whole.
Elephant’s eyes filled with fear, then sharp determination. He mustered all of his strength together and made one final, gigantic tug. His round nose stretched and stretched and stretched, then popped out from underneath the mouse’s foot. He realized he was free, and wasn’t focused on how his nose had become elongated. He shoved with all of his might against the Mushika who was very startled sending him back against the trees. The Mushika had been knocked out.
Elephant called out to the innocents, “Family! We must flee now before this mouse wakes up. We must go where not even the God’s can find us!” All of the innocents came out of their huts.
One of the children, Giraffe, asked, “What happened to your nose?”
Elephant replied, “It has been stretched out, but do not worry. I am fine. We must go now!”
So all of the animals packed their things and went to a hiding place. Elephant realized he could grip things with his new nose. He picked up a giant rock and began to crack the ground away from the rest of the forest. It broke off and floated away, millions of galaxies away. They decided to call this place Earth. So that was how Earth became.
Later on, when the Mushika woke up, the gods were waiting for him. “You have failed your mission, therefore you must be punished,” they said in unison. The mouse quivered as they began chanting strange words. Slowly his size diminished to the size of an apple. He squeaked, no longer able to roar. The god’s laughed, snapping their fingers. The Mushika was suddenly on Earth, where his dreadful enemy was. The Mushika had been stripped of his mighty name and put into unfamiliar territory with no allies. Forever to be called Mouse, never to be able to defend himself again.
Elephant knew that Mouse had been punished for loosing their battle, yet he was still terrified that he would change back into that horrible beast. He feared Mouse the rest of his life, and told all of his family to fear him as well. This story explains why the elephant’s trunk is so long, why mice are so small, and why such a large animal as the elephant is scared of such a small animal as the mouse.
Nandini Oct 2014
You eclipsed me like my moons,
In melted darkness I lie.
Suns gave away sheer,
My  lights gold you stole,
In Satined darkness,
your eclipse holds.

You eclipsed me like my moons,
Silver love you shined.
Cold whispers on curtains lingered,
Dusk you bring unto my eyes,
Here you eclipse,
in silence I sigh!

You eclipsed me like my moons,
I smell lilies bloom on my sheets.
Lifting the eclipse you,
You rise to leave,
Promising new suns you would,
again set in my eyes....

You eclipsed me like my moons*....
Spending thousand suns and moons ,
Lay worthless to your one sight!
KatsaNovari Aug 2014
I am a Forget-Me-Not,
budding into spring.
I am shy in my shady place;
I still wish to dream.
My petals will remain around me,
Until I feel safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tend to your children, to those brokenhearted. To the confused and betrodden you save.
Those with no home find it within you. But don't I live here too?
Save,
Give,
Provide,
Love,
Care...
Do all of these things, give it all you've got.
But please... Please....
Forget-Me-Not.
First poem I'm putting on here due to a suggestion from someone I know. She encouraged me to join this site, so I'm a little new, but hopefully not for long!
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
She said, ‘You are funny, the way you set yourself up the moment we arrive. You look into every room to see if it’s suitable as a place to work. Is there a table? Where are the plugs? Is there a good chair at the right height? If there isn’t, are there cushions to make it so? You are funny.’
 
He countered this, but his excuse didn’t sound very convincing. He knew exactly what she meant, but it hurt him a little that she should think it ‘funny’. There’s nothing funny about trying to compose music, he thought. It’s not ‘radio in the head’ you know – this was a favourite expression he’d once heard an American composer use. You don’t just turn a switch and the music’s playing, waiting for you to write it down. You have to find it – though he believed it was usually there, somewhere, waiting to be found. But it’s elusive. You have to work hard to detect what might be there, there in the silence of your imagination.
 
Later over their first meal in this large cottage she said, ‘How do you stop hearing all those settings of the Mass that you must have heard or sung since childhood?’ She’d been rehearsing Verdi’s Requiem recently and was full of snippets of this stirring piece. He was a) writing a Mass to celebrate a cathedral’s reordering after a year as a building site, and b) he’d been a boy chorister and the form and order of the Mass was deeply engrained in his aural memory. He only had to hear the plainsong introduction Gloria in Excelsis Deo to be back in the Queen’s chapel singing Palestrina, or Byrd or Poulenc.
 
His ‘found’ corner was in the living room. The table wasn’t a table but a long cabinet she’d kindly covered with a tablecloth. You couldn’t get your feet under the thing, but with his little portable drawing board there was space to sit properly because the board jutted out beyond the cabinet’s top. It was the right length and its depth was OK, enough space for the board and, next to it, his laptop computer. On the floor beside his chair he placed a few of his reference scores and a box of necessary ‘bits’.
 
The room had two large sofas, an equally large television, some unexplainable and instantly dismissible items of decoration, a standard lamp, and a wood burning stove. The stove was wonderful, and on their second evening in the cottage, when clear skies and a stiff breeze promised a cold night, she’d lit it and, as the evening progressed, they basked in its warmth, she filling envelopes with her cards, he struggling with sleep over a book.
 
Despite and because this was a new, though temporary, location he had got up at 5.0am. This is a usual time for composers who need their daily fix of absolute quiet. And here, in this cottage set amidst autumn fields, within sight of a river estuary, under vast, panoramic uninterrupted skies, there was the distinct possibility of silence – all day. The double-glazing made doubly sure of that.
 
He had sat with a mug of tea at 5.10 and contemplated the silence, or rather what infiltrated the stillness of the cottage as sound. In the kitchen the clock ticked, the refrigerator seemed to need a period of machine noise once its door had been opened. At 6.0am the central heating fired up for a while. Outside, the small fruit trees in the garden moved vigorously in the wind, but he couldn’t hear either the wind or a rustle of leaves.  A car droned past on the nearby road. The clear sky began to lighten promising a fine day. This would certainly do for silence.
 
His thoughts returned to her question of the previous evening, and his answer. He was about to face up to his explanation. ‘I empty myself of all musical sound’, he’d said, ‘I imagine an empty space into which I might bring a single note, a long held drone of a note, a ‘d’ above middle ‘c’ on a chamber ***** (seeing it’s a Mass I’m writing).  Harrison Birtwistle always starts on an ‘e’. A ‘d’ to me seems older and kinder. An ‘e’ is too modern and progressive, slightly brash and noisy.’
 
He can see she is quizzical with this anecdotal stuff. Is he having me on? But no, he is not having her on. Such choices are important. Without them progress would be difficult when the thinking and planning has to stop and the composing has to begin. His notebook, sitting on his drawing board with some first sketches, plays testament to that. In this book glimpses of music appear in rhythmic abstracts, though rarely any pitches, and there are pages of written description. He likes to imagine what a new work is, and what it is not. This he writes down. Composer Paul Hindemith reckoned you had first to address the ‘conditions of performance’. That meant thinking about the performers, the location, above all the context. A Mass can be, for a composer, so many things. There were certainly requirements and constraints. The commission had to fulfil a number of criteria, some imposed by circumstance, some self-imposed by desire. All this goes into the melting ***, or rather the notebook. And after the notebook, he takes a large piece of A3 paper and clarifies this thinking and planning onto (if possible) a single sheet.
 
And so, to the task in hand. His objective, he had decided, is to focus on the whole rather than the particular. Don’t think about the Kyrie on its own, but consider how it lies with the Gloria. And so with the Sanctus & Benedictus. How do they connect to the Agnus Dei. He begins on the A3 sheet of plain paper ‘making a map of connections’. Kyrie to Gloria, Gloria to Credo and so on. Then what about Agnus Dei and the Gloria? Is there going to be any commonality – in rhythm, pace and tempo (we’ll leave melody and harmony for now)? Steady, he finds himself saying, aren’t we going back over old ground? His notebook has pages of attempts at rhythmizing the text. There are just so many ways to do this. Each rhythmic solution begets a different slant of meaning.
 
This is to be a congregational Mass, but one that has a role for a 4-part choir and ***** and a ‘jazz instrument’. Impatient to see notes on paper, he composes a new introduction to a Kyrie as a rhythmic sketch, then, experimentally, adds pitches. He scores it fully, just 10 bars or so, but it is barely finished before his critical inner voice says, ‘What’s this for? Do you all need this? This is showing off.’ So the filled-out sketch drops to the floor and he examines this element of ‘beginning’ the incipit.
 
He remembers how a meditation on that word inhabits the opening chapter of George Steiner’s great book Grammars of Creation. He sees in his mind’s eye the complex, colourful and ornate letter that begins the Lindesfarne Gospels. His beginnings for each movement, he decides, might be two chords, one overlaying the other: two ‘simple’ diatonic chords when sounded separately, but complex and with a measure of mystery when played together. The Mass is often described as a mystery. It is that ritual of a meal undertaken by a community of people who in the breaking of bread and wine wish to bring God’s presence amongst them. So it is a mystery. And so, he tells himself, his music will aim to hold something of mystery. It should not be a comment on that mystery, but be a mystery itself. It should not be homely and comfortable; it should be as minimal and sparing of musical commentary as possible.
 
When, as a teenager, he first began to set words to music he quickly experienced the need (it seemed) to fashion accompaniments that were commentaries on the text the voice was singing. These accompaniments did not underpin the words so much as add a commentary upon them. What lay beneath the words was his reaction, indeed imaginative extension of the words. He eschewed then both melisma and repetition. He sought an extreme independence between word and music, even though the word became the scenario of the music. Any musical setting was derived from the composition of the vocal line.  It was all about finding the ‘key’ to a song, what unlocked the door to the room of life it occupied. The music was the room where the poem’s utterance lived.
 
With a Mass you were in trouble for the outset. There was a poetry of sorts, but poetry that, in the countless versions of the vernacular, had lost (perhaps had never had) the resonance of the Latin. He thought suddenly of the supposed words of William Byrd, ‘He who sings prays twice’. Yes, such commonplace words are intercessional, but when sung become more than they are. But he knew he had to be careful here.
 
Why do we sing the words of the Mass he asks himself? Do we need to sing these words of the Mass? Are they the words that Christ spoke as he broke bread and poured wine to his friends and disciples at his last supper? The answer is no. Certainly these words of the Mass we usually sing surround the most intimate words of that final meal, words only the priest in Christ’s name may articulate.
 
Write out the words of the Mass that represent its collective worship and what do you have? Rather non-descript poetry? A kind of formula for collective incantation during worship? Can we read these words and not hear a surrounding music? He thinks for a moment of being asked to put new music to words of The Beatles. All you need is love. Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Oh bla dee oh bla da life goes on. Now, now this is silliness, his Critical Voice complains. And yet it’s not. When you compose a popular song the gap between some words scribbled on the back of an envelope and the hook of chords and melody developed in an accidental moment (that becomes a way of clothing such words) is often minimal. Apart, words and music seem like orphans in a storm. Together they are home and dry.
 
He realises, and not for the first time, that he is seeking a total musical solution to the whole of the setting of those words collectively given voice to by those participating in the Mass.
 
And so: to the task in hand. His objective: to focus on the whole rather than the particular.  Where had he heard that thought before? - when he had sat down at his drawing board an hour and half previously. He’d gone in a circle of thought, and with his sketch on the floor at his feet, nothing to show for all that effort.
 
Meanwhile the sun had risen. He could hear her moving about in the bathroom. He went to the kitchen and laid out what they would need to breakfast together. As he poured milk into a jug, primed the toaster, filled the kettle, the business of what might constitute a whole solution to this setting of the Mass followed him around the kitchen and breakfast room like a demanding child. He knew all about demanding children. How often had he come home from his studio to prepare breakfast and see small people to school? - more often than he cared to remember. And when he remembered he became sad that it was no more.  His children had so often provided a welcome buffer from sessions of intense thought and activity. He loved the walk to school, the first quarter of a mile through the park, a long avenue of chestnut trees. It was always the end of April and pink and white blossoms were appearing, or it was September and there were conkers everywhere. It was under these trees his daughter would skip and even his sons would hold hands with him; he would feel their warmth, their livingness.
 
But now, preparing breakfast, his Critical Voice was that demanding child and he realised when she appeared in the kitchen he spoke to her with a voice of an artist in conversation with his critics, not the voice of the man who had the previous night lost himself to joy in her dear embrace. And he was ashamed it was so.
 
How he loved her gentle manner as she negotiated his ‘coming too’ after those two hours of concentration and inner dialogue. Gradually, by the second cup of coffee he felt a right person, and the hours ahead did not seem too impossible.
 
When she’d gone off to her work, silence reasserted itself. He played his viola for half an hour, just scales and exercises and a few folk songs he was learning by heart. This gathering habit was, he would say if asked, to reassert his musicianship, the link between his body and making sound musically. That the viola seemed to resonate throughout his whole body gave him pleasure. He liked the ****** movement required to produce a flowing sequence of bow strokes. The trick at the end of this daily practice was to put the instrument in its case and move immediately to his desk. No pause to check email – that blight on a morning’s work. No pause to look at today’s list. Back to the work in hand: the Mass.
 
But instead his mind and intention seemed to slip sideways and almost unconsciously he found himself sketching (on the few remaining staves of a vocal experiment) what appeared to be a piano piece. The rhythmic flow of it seemed to dance across the page to be halted only when the few empty staves were filled. He knew this was one of those pieces that addressed the pianist, not the listener. He sat back in his chair and imagined a scenario of a pianist opening this music and after a few minutes’ reflection and reading through allowing her hands to move very slowly and silently a few millimetres over the keys.  Such imagining led him to hear possible harmonic simultaneities, dynamics and articulations, though he knew such things would probably be lost or reinvented on a second imagined ‘performance’. No matter. Now his make-believe pianist sounded the first bar out. It had a depth and a richness that surprised him – it was a fine piano. He was touched by its affect. He felt the possibilities of extending what he’d written. So he did. And for the next half an hour lived in the pastures of good continuation, those rich luxuriant meadows reached by a rickerty rackerty bridge and guarded by a troll who today was nowhere to be seen.
 
It was a curious piece. It came to a halt on an enigmatic, go-nowhere / go-anywhere chord after what seemed a short declamatory coda (he later added the marking deliberamente). Then, after a few minutes reflection he wrote a rising arpeggio, a broken chord in which the consonant elements gradually acquired a rising sequence of dissonance pitches until halted by a repetition. As he wrote this ending he realised that the repeated note, an ‘a’ flat, was a kind of fulcrum around which the whole of the music moved. It held an enigmatic presence in the harmony, being sometimes a g# sometimes an ‘a’ flat, and its function often different. It made the music take on a wistful quality.
 
At that point he thought of her little artists’ book series she had titled Tide Marks. Many of these were made of a concertina of folded pages revealing - as your eyes moved through its pages - something akin to the tide’s longitudinal mark. This centred on the page and spread away both upwards and downwards, just like those mirror images of coloured glass seen in a child’s kaleidoscope. No moment of view was ever quite the same, but there were commonalities born of the conditions of a certain day and time.  His ‘Tide Mark’ was just like that. He’d followed a mark made in his imagination from one point to another point a little distant. The musical working out also had a reflection mechanism: what started in one hand became mirrored in the other. He had unexpectedly supplied an ending, this arpegiated gesture of finality that wasn’t properly final but faded away. When he thought further about the role of the ending, he added a few more notes to the arpeggio, but notes that were not be sounded but ghosted, the player miming a press of the keys.
 
He looked at the clock. Nearly five o’clock. The afternoon had all but disappeared. Time had retreated into glorious silence . There had been three whole hours of it. How wonderful that was after months of battling with the incessant and draining turbulence of sound that was ever present in his city life. To be here in this quiet cottage he could now get thoroughly lost – in silence. Even when she was here he could be a few rooms apart, and find silence.
 
A week more of this, a fortnight even . . . but he knew he might only manage a few days before visitors arrived and his long day would be squeezed into the early morning hours and occasional uncertain periods when people were out and about.
 
When she returned, very soon now, she would make tea and cut cake, and they’d sit (like old people they wer
Another Bad Poem Mar 2018
she says
she's not a poet
but i find her poems
to have more meaning
more beauty, more heart
to them than mine
and the way
she uses her words
can change how a person is feeling
from sad to happy
just with a couple of phrases
knitted together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i say
she's often right,
but the subject
becomes herself
and she's far from the truth
she's absolutely wonderful
and in my eyes
perfect
a perfect person
and a perfect friend
the most beautiful woman on earth
mentally and physically
and there's nobody else
i'd rather love
quote from Sarah J. Maas
though the loving isn't easy, i still love
with all my heart
i hope this makes you smile when you're down
or helps you see yourself the way i see you
judy smith May 2016
For the fifth year in a row, Kering and Parsons School of Fashion rolled out the ‘Empowering Imagination’ design initiative. The competition engaged twelve 2016 graduates of the Parsons BFA Fashion Design program, who "were selected for their excellence in vision, acute awareness in design identity, and mastery of technical competencies." The winners, Ya Jun Lin and Tiffany Huang, will be awarded a 2-week trip to Kering facilities in Italy in June 2016 and will have their thesis collections featured in Saks Fifth Avenue New York’s windows.

The Kering and Parsons competition, which is currently in its fifth year, is one of a growing number of design competitions, including but not limited to the LVMH Prize, the ANDAM Awards, the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund, and its British counterpart, the Woolmark Prize, the Ecco Domani fashion award, and the Hyères Festival. among others.

In the generations prior, designers were certainly nominated for awards, but it seems that there was not nearly as intense of a focus on design competitions as a means for designers to get their footing, for design houses to scout talent, or for these competitions to select the best of the best in a especially large pool of young talent. Fern Mallis, the former executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and an industry consultant, told the New York Times: “Take the Calvin [Kleins] and the Donna [Karans] and the Ralph [Laurens] of the world. Some of these people had money from a friend or a partner who worked with them, but they weren’t out spending their time doing competitions and winning awards to get their business going.” She sheds light on an essential element: The relatively drastic difference between the state of fashion then and fashion now. Fashion then was slower, less global, and (a lot) less dominated by the internet, and so, it made for quite different circumstances for the building of a fashion brand.

Nowadays, young designers are more or less going full speed ahead right off the bat. They show comprehensive collections, many of which consist of garments and an array of accessories. They are expected to be active on social media. They are expected to establish a strong industry presence (think: Go to events and parties). They are expected to cope with the fashion business that has become large-scale and international. They are expected to collaborate to expand their reach, and while it does, at times, feel excessive, this is the reality because the industry is moving at such a quick pace, one that some argue is unsustainably rapid. The result is designers and design houses consistently building their brands and very rarely starting small. Case in point: Young brands showing pre-collections within a few years of setting up shop (for a total of four collections per year, not counting any collaboration or capsule collections), and established brands showing roughly four womenswear collections, four menswear collections, two couture collections, and quite often, a few diffusion collections each year.

The current climate of 'more is more' (more collections, more collaborations, more social media, more international know-how, etc.) in fashion is what sets currently emerging brands apart from older brands, many of which started small. This reality also sheds light on the increasing frequency with which designers rely on competitions as a means of gaining funds, as well as a means of establishing their names and not uncommonly, gaining outside funding.

The Ralphs, Tommys, Calvins and Perrys started off a bit differently. Ralph Lauren, for instance, started a niche business. The empire builder, now 74, got his start working at a department store then worked for a private label tie manufacturer (which made ties for Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart). He eventually convinced them to let him make ties under the Polo label and work out of a drawer in their showroom. After gaining credibility thanks to the impeccable quality of his ties, he expanded into other things. Tommy Hilfiger similarly started with one key garment: Jeans. After making a name for himself by buying jeans, altering them into bellbottoms and reselling them at Brown’s in Manhattan, he opened a store catering to those that wanted a “rock star” aesthetic when he was 18-years old with $150. While the store went bankrupt by the time he was 25, it allowed him to get his foot in the door. He was offered design positions at Calvin Klein (who also got his start by focusing on a single garment: Coats. With $2,000 of his own money and $10,000 lent to him by a friend, he set up shop; in 1973, he got his big break when a major department store buyer accidentally walked into his showroom and placed an order for $50,000). Hilfiger was also offered a design position with Perry Ellis but turned them down to start his eponymous with help from the Murjani Group. Speaking of Perry Ellis, the NYU grad went to work at an upscale retail store in Virginia, where he was promoted to a buying/merchandising position in NYC, where he was eventually offered a chance to start his own label, a small operation. After several years of success, he spun it off as its own entity. Marc Jacobs, who falls into a bit of a younger generation, started out focusing on sweaters.

These few individuals, some of the biggest names in American fashion, obviously share a common technique. They intentionally started very small. They built slowly from there, and they had the luxury of being able to do so. Others, such as Hubert de Givenchy, Alexander McQueen and his successor Sarah Burton, Nicolas Ghesquière, Julien Macdonald, John Galliano and his successor Bill Gaytten, and others, spent time as apprentices, working up to design directors or creative directors, and maybe maintaining a small eponymous label on the side. As I mentioned, attempting to compare these great brand builders or notable creative directors to the young designers of today is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, as the nature of the market now is vastly different from what it looked like 20 years ago, let alone 30 or 40 years ago.

With this in mind, fashion competitions have begun to play an important role in helping designers to cope with the increasing need to establish a brand early on. It seems to me that winning (or nearly winning) a prestigious fashion competition results in several key rewards.

Primarily, it puts a designer's name and brand on the map. This is likely the least noteworthy of the rewards, as chances are, if you are selected to participate in a design competition, your name and brand are already out there to some extent as one of the most promising young designers of the moment.

Second are the actual prizes, which commonly include mentoring from industry insiders and monetary grants. We know that participation in competitions, such as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, the Woolmark Prize, the Swarovski, Ecco Domani, the LVMH Prize, etc., gives emerging designers face time with and mentoring from some of the most successful names in the industry. Chris Peters, half of the label Creatures of the Wind (pictured above), whose brand has been nominated for half of the aforementioned awards says of such participation: “It feels like we’ve talked to possibly everyone in fashion that we can possibly talk to." The grants, which range anywhere from $25,o00 to $400,000 and beyond, are obviously important, as many emerging designers take this money and stage a runway show or launch pre-collections, which often affect the business' bottom line in a major and positive way.

The third benefit is, in my opinion, the most significant. It seems that competitions also provide brands with some reputability in terms of finding funding. At the moment, the sea of young brands which is terribly vast. Like law school graduates, there are a lot of design school graduates. With this in mind, these competitions are, for the most part, serving as a selection mechanism. Sure, the inevitable industry politics and alternate agendas exist (without which the finalists lists may look a bit different), but great talent is being scouted, nonetheless. Not only is it important to showcase the most promising young talent and provide them with mentoring and grant money, as a way of maintaining an industry, but these competitions also do a monumental service to young brands in terms of securing additional funding. One of the most challenging aspects of the business for young/emerging brands is producing and growing absent outside investors' funds, and often, the only way for brands' to have access to such funds is by showing a proven sales track record, something that is difficult to establish when you've already put all of your money into your business and it is just not enough. This is a frustrating cycle for young designers.

However, this is where design competitions are a saving grace. If we look to recent Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund winners and runners-up, for instance, it is not uncommon to see funding (distinct from the grants associated with winning) come on the heels of successful participation. Chrome Hearts, the cult L.A.-based accessories label, acquired a minority stake in The Elder Statesman, the brand established by Greg Chait, the 2012 winner, this past March. A minority stake in 2011 winner Joseph Altuzarra's eponymous label was purchased by luxury conglomerate Kering in September 2013. Creatures of the Wind, the NYC-based brand founded by Shane Gabier and Chris Peters, which took home a runner-up prize in the 2011 competition, welcomed an investment from The Dock Group, a Los Angeles-based fashion investment firm, last year, as well.

Across the pond, the British Fashion Council/Vogue Fashion Fund has awarded prizes to a handful of designers who have gone on to land noteworthy investments. In January 2013, Christopher Kane (pictured below), the 2011 winner, sold a majority stake in his brand to Kering. Footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood was named the winner 2013 in May and by September, a majority stake in his company had been acquired by LVMH.

Thus, while the exposure that fashion design competition participants gain, and the mentoring and monetary grants that the winners enjoy, are certainly not to be discounted, the takeaway is much larger than that. These competitions are becoming the new way for investors and luxury conglomerates to source new talent, and for young brands to land the outside investments that they so desperately need to produce their collections, expand their studio space, build upon their existing collections, and even open brick and mortar stores.

While no one has scooped up inaugural LVMH winner Thomas Tait’s brand yet or fellow winner, Marques'Almeida, it is likely just be a matter of time.Read more at:www.marieaustralia.com/short-formal-dresses | http://www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dresses-sydney
Ken Pepiton Oct 2018
Drunk, we staggered home.

Aware of having been
some
other where
a while

That woman, she could answer

any question rebbi axt,
Ohhhhmyyy

she laugh and say, Dude, I got the Intent-net,
in my hand

That's more than a list of numbers, this
accounting idle words going on, on going, as fast as

lightning, at the scale, of, say

cat-ions ifiying an-ions
at random,
seen systematical, from a distance
zoom out
at the scale, of, say
Great Deep Field.

Center you, I'm no matter.

synchro
now

zoom out
Use that steam program
Universe Sandbox,
you gotta see that to imagine this, right,

and next is what you keep saying is unbelievable,
but its not.

Good things come to them
to whom
good makes more sense.

Earth from the moon POV

Confusion flux, spurtual,  caused by the solar flare of all solar flares,
one side

Whooshing the Ice left from Patton's flood
into steam, the stuff, not the app,

which swooshhhesssssssssss smack
into the freezing repurcussions
from the daark side…

The Noah event, that was bad,
This one, the last one, this just previous one,

was spiritual. Magnitudes incomparable
(save in parable and example, exemplar gratis,
says the bodiless being, with a roll of  my wrist and a bow)

At that very time on the side away from the flare,
the daark side of the planet, this one…

a Donald Patton nitrogen snow ball
that nearly breached Roche's limit,

too not nearly enough,
dis -integration
The atmosphere freezes
to the quark level, snap,

the cold
explosive
forward momentum
booms a nitrogen bubble now
minusminusminus
solid nitrogen
melting

any heat locked in flare fired steam,
what was once the water
that washed away the gods and locked their cities
of ivory under the ice

on the sunny side,
where now, then,

a solar flare like legends build empires upon
has passed, fires rage

there were survivors who lived to tell

and old stories never die. Old story tellers do,

Only miners survived, gold digger mostly,
few alchemists who knew the mystery in mercury,
Lost was all knowing but to a very few,
who truth be told had been the owner's
well kept servants, ministers of this and that
they perished with all the fires touched

we diggers, we only marvel

How bits of time, exact as ours, can be seen happening
all in bubble of Mercury. Cooked out red rock like these.

"Blood o' the gods of old, swat I'astold."

Messages from the gods, grandma, said, "Mercury calls for gold, gold listens, when fire's hottern fire can be,
unless
the breath of men blow on the coals", we all said that last part and blew out the light. G'night


but a story told a wee bit here a qubit there
here a little, there a little
line upon line,
precept upon precept,

'cept no body knows what I know about cept,

capere, a story starts, a provisioning tale. Wait.

it means grip. like a tool. rock breaks nut.

Paper covers rock, but scissors are so far in the future
that now, my time, my mind wanders after whys

this authoritative telling of the story, in it,
none know the terminal tale.

As in times past, there were survivors who lived to tell

and old stories never die. Old story tellers do,

Tho' here's a clue.
Meek's not bad,
stupid, for no reason, is.

Living long for the sake of a song heard once,
in dream luring me on, promising right now, I'll

know what it's like to see, oh

POV I made this clear some time ago,
time is less predictable than any imagined, before 2018
when, you know…

Even those tales old drunk Hesiod sold
in the Hittite tavern at Delphi,

Chronos thought wrong in those,
he ruled but for the merest gleam o'

Time, then a bubble gen erated by the thought of
opposition to transition,
nothing to something,
pushing /pushing back
stretch/snap/spark
that takes power, pulsing power, throbbing power

push/stretch
glow/snap
you know, imagine, glowing - cheat, think 2018 CG
glow/snap
Planc time,
each time the bubble pushes back
a ripple
imagine a clock, later, if you believe then, you must.

Now, see the bubble of all men have imagined,
since the time when such a bubble was only evil,
continually.

It went viral.
Noah we know for sure, almost, survived, ? Cushites kept records. In Africa.
Akkad kept record, too.
Some Hopi survived somehow and they have a tale.

They say they know the story is ten thousand years old,
I've been to a crossroads
on their journey,
stories
tell of it, still, today.

Holy means marked for good reason.
Marked with clues, not riddles, maps

Sacred means secret means hidden away for use,
not common, every day, quotidian use, right use.

Time, the opposing force, is precious to us all.
In time, we do all we can and die,

in ever, we expand, in no time at all. I imagine.

You fill it. Now, Your expandable mind's time,

time pushes from the outside,
wisdom pushes from the inside,

And so it goes, life goes on and music grows on ya,

Amusing how they do that, teeny muses dancing
shiva on the tip of my tongue,

singings songs in tongues I've never known
if they
are words on tongues
or sounds on tongues,

notes,

Baysian Binary Cross Validation
still ends with some people thinkin'
"it is finished" left them with a ton o'weight,
that's wrong, insist resistance.

Some, heavy duty, leaders of lambs, they claim
power in their mouths, spoken from fixed hearts,

but fixed upon, is truly the song,
said, words are only
little bits of whole sym ulacrum of re-ify-ing

where broken things re-pair, and life goes on…

"fixed, my heart is fixed",
no, your heart is machine of the most magnificent design, perfected,
a time at a time.
Flexing, pacing time itself, faster slower,

try some time
alone
be still, pond still

I know the story broke,
I could not hold it.

In the night, bitter cold
Frozen fragile...

There are pieces scattered every

where, everywhere
there is time, there is at least, a point

a story may stand upon and ask an angel
to dance.
Dance, give it some flare, what do we care?

Nobody's watching, but that fly.
This is read, by me at http://anchor.fm/kenpepiton
Life is good at my house, thankyou. A reader is needed more than words can tell. My posts are a book now, few stand solidly on their own. Thank you if you spend your time perusing them please tell me where I muddy the flow, or break the story.
Jack R Fehlmann Dec 2013
crooked steps
just a seconds glimpse behind
perfect trail before me, each step a gift
Then in the distance I  caught sight
of something
I saw you kiss the lips of the sinking Sun
locked embrace
and O' how completely I struggled
that entire night
and O' how the next and the next
and then the  next I tasted
betrayal O' how vivid I
I relived the scene in visions,
questioning my eyes,
wondering your motives
I focused, I tried more and more
O' I dug deep, i closed the miles,,
then much closer I witnessed
then, you whispering to the sky
then you reached up your hands
upon the full moon's face
Pulling her down from heaven,
 to your promises as you smiled
to deny us, O' I obsessed
You....
Kissing the sun, Promising the moon,
As I watched O' I glared
O' as did I wilt
I withdraw to obscurity
Beneath cover of your growing shadow

a silouhette to follow
making chase of the impossible
I can't give up
all i do is follow,
and look , and press on ,
just to get close enough
To tell you
You are still my sun,
Though you have another
and you are my setting moon,
my unobtainable,...
and my reasoning for every step,
every mile...  
Now besought by the breadth
The severity of those betrayals
I hope you knew,
i followed and still do
coming to apprehend
my little tease,
my treasure, my liar
I give chase,
to how completely
how very far I would go
just to prove once and for all
I love you.
I shall, one day...
If and when the stars let me
they decide...
Even they see plainly my envy
As I have no mask
One motive,
Several unknown labels.
I contrast the brilliant
Silk strewn beauty once mine
Falling once, am I choosing
Leg by foot, by will and love
Outshine the sun and by this
Luna will turn it's attention
Perhaps this test of time
Practiced, lonesome patience
May one day return the gaze
Embrace in arms my desire
The only one I want and follow
My world.
UNFINISHED... but closer
moonboy Jun 2014
rumour has it mirrors shatter
at the thought of you having your fathers eyes
I hope you know that if you're looking for a sign
you might find it tying to choke out one last goodbye
at the end of the night
you'll find it wherever home is
I know you hate the smell of smoke
but cigarettes are all I know
so I'm asking you to put up with it
you have every reason to be furious
but I'm hoping you'll take deep breaths and see
how calm they make my blood stream
I only started smoking to ease the pain
it was that or a needle to the vein
a bullet to the brain
too much going on up there anyways
it all just needed cutting out
so cigarettes just made sense
I talk about them in the past tense
but the one between my fingers seems to disagree
open your eyes and see
through all the smoke and mirrors lies me
a double entendre for how things used to be
and how they are currently
the writing is on the wall
in every ****** love song lies a promise
to make the next one stronger
and they keep promising that but the time between gets longer
and all of a sudden the bands broken up
and the symbol of love you used to **** to
is broken like the bond of your parents love
I love you is an apology
forgiveness is given with every similar reply
I love you means that I forgive you
for being broken and for breaking me
because picking you out in a crowded room
is something I've become accustomed to
god I can't stop thinking about the look in your eyes
on that night in July with fireworks in the sky
the last time I remember you saying goodbye
because I shattered at the thought of you having my fathers eyes


smoke and mirrors
06/22/14
9:10am
j.s
"You're cold."

  He said as he took her hands and he couldn't be more right and wrong at the same time. Her gaze simply fell to her feet as she let the silence envelop her. She felt cold, her soul quivering somewhere in the corner of her heart, obscuring its rhythmic beat and creating a swell of off tempo chaos in her veins. Her memory of his whispers were akin to the sudden rush of wind that hit her skin, wet with the storm of tears and caused chills to cascade their way across her body.
  
  But he was wrong, it wasn't she who was cold, it was him who was stealing everything that made her warm. Coaxing her with his silver tongue, murmuring the words he knows she wants to hear, testing his skill and bringing her to the edge of the flimsy fortress she calls defense, to where she's just barely out of his reach, a paper thin wall separating his will from hers, and he nearly giggles in delight when he causes her to tear it down herself, like a spider tearing down its own web.
  
  But of course that isn't enough, not when she's standing there, all walls down, vulnerable and tender, her heart so soft he could cut right through it with just his fingernails, and Hell be ****** itself if he wasn't the slightest bit temped to try because he knows how easily he can, like shoving a pin through a butterfly, simple and smooth, and it'd be so interesting to see her squirm. But instead he's interested in how far he can cause her to do it to herself.  
  
  All he has to do is let a few of his venomous words drip from his teeth, promising he isn't like everyone else (because he isn't of course, no one else would be this thrilled to watch her crumble so slowly ), that he understands, understands that she's so incredibly weak, and that her heart is so big it oozes to the surface of her skin for everyone to see, and it's so **** easy that she must be begging for it, and suddenly he's caught her and he loves it.
  
  She's hanging on every word as if he's holding happiness over her head, but this is boring him, he wants to see what makes her tick, how she is the way she is, so it's time to step up his game. He moves his hand from hers and slides it up her arm, resting ever so gently on her shoulder as his other hand moves to her waist, and as if to further prove his point about how she basically wears her heart as her skin it turns a rosy shade of pink, and sends its pulse so strongly he can feel it. He lets his breath ghost across her susceptible ears and pulls her against him as he gives his orders.

"Strip."
  
And she does.

First go the clothes, but her skin isn't what he's interested in, and he makes it very clear with the expecting look he gives her, so she goes again,tearing skin from muscle one piece as a time. He knows it must be painful, from the tears pouring from her eyes and how the exposed muscle throbs with its raw appearance, and yet the look of concentration on her face just pulls him in more, and yet it still just isn't enough, and finally that red disgusting throbbing ****** mess is pulled away to expose her shining ivory bones. He can't help but marvel in how gracefully they curve, the very core of her frame standing before him, she's completely bare with nothing left to expose, and that gorgeous  pearly figure before him is only more defined by the red  heart that's left behind those ribs, as it pulses and drips and beckons him with each flutter.
  
  It glistens like a slimy rotting apple, and it couldn't be anything more since it belongs to her. But you know what they say, fruit is always the sweetest just before it goes bad, and it's too tempting for him to not take a bite. And he couldn't help but marvel at how warm it was, or the sudden chills dancing down his spine.
Dear,
Donald Trump,
you will never make
America great again.
the American Dream is dead.
and people like you,
are the ones who killed it.
Money hungry,
Capitalist.
millionaire.
you do not care about the people’s well being,
because you are not a person.
you are the rare 1 percent
who we view as a god.
because you have
wealth we can never attain,
success that is viewed out of reach,
and your streets are paved with gold.
we believe you,
are the american dream.
but we seem to forget
the american dream consists of
hard work,
love
and persistance.
things you have never held in your heart.
you had success handed to you
And you will never know how hard it is to live in America
And have a dream.
and i have realized
America has never been great.
just blindfolded by powerful leaders.
we can’t see anything wrong
because we can’t see anything at all
you will build your walls
And guide us past them
Keep the color out,
It has never been just black and white,
to them
it's just been white.
KEEP YOUR WALLS OUT AND KEEP MY FRIENDS IN.
I am raised in a nation constantly telling me
to hate things i see as different
that i don’t understand
that i am not a part of,
but i do not need to be a part of these things
to understand
racism
transphobia
sexism
homophobia
islamaphobia
hate
is wrong.
we are a nation under god
turned godless
Liberty and justice for all
does not apply,
If you are not
White
Straight
Wealthy
Male
And cis.
How can you ever try
To make America into
The great nation
You are promising it to be
If you take away the aspects
that are supposed to make it great.
The diversity
The freedom
The acceptance
the dreams
The love.
People like you
Try to strip away
so you could make
More money
More walls
Less diversity
Less freedom
less acceptance
less dreams.
no more love.
my aunt makes a wreath
with your name
and hangs it on her door
to me it is an unwelcome sign
to everybody
that doesn’t fit in your box
almost as a way to say,
"welcome to america
the home of the wealthy, sick
and depraved.
if you aren't like us
then get out."
III. TO APOLLO (546 lines)

TO DELIAN APOLLO --

(ll. 1-18) I will remember and not be unmindful of Apollo who
shoots afar.  As he goes through the house of Zeus, the gods
tremble before him and all spring up from their seats when he
draws near, as he bends his bright bow.  But Leto alone stays by
the side of Zeus who delights in thunder; and then she unstrings
his bow, and closes his quiver, and takes his archery from his
strong shoulders in her hands and hangs them on a golden peg
against a pillar of his father's house.  Then she leads him to a
seat and makes him sit: and the Father gives him nectar in a
golden cup welcoming his dear son, while the other gods make him
sit down there, and queenly Leto rejoices because she bare a
mighty son and an archer.  Rejoice, blessed Leto, for you bare
glorious children, the lord Apollo and Artemis who delights in
arrows; her in Ortygia, and him in rocky Delos, as you rested
against the great mass of the Cynthian hill hard by a palm-tree
by the streams of Inopus.

(ll. 19-29) How, then, shall I sing of you who in all ways are a
worthy theme of song?  For everywhere, O Phoebus, the whole range
of song is fallen to you, both over the mainland that rears
heifers and over the isles.  All mountain-peaks and high
headlands of lofty hills and rivers flowing out to the deep and
beaches sloping seawards and havens of the sea are your delight.
Shall I sing how at the first Leto bare you to be the joy of men,
as she rested against Mount Cynthus in that rocky isle, in sea-
girt Delos -- while on either hand a dark wave rolled on
landwards driven by shrill winds -- whence arising you rule over
all mortal men?

(ll. 30-50) Among those who are in Crete, and in the township of
Athens, and in the isle of Aegina and Euboea, famous for ships,
in Aegae and Eiresiae and Peparethus near the sea, in Thracian
Athos and Pelion's towering heights and Thracian Samos and the
shady hills of Ida, in Scyros and Phocaea and the high hill of
Autocane and fair-lying Imbros and smouldering Lemnos and rich
******, home of Macar, the son of ******, and Chios, brightest of
all the isles that lie in the sea, and craggy Mimas and the
heights of Corycus and gleaming Claros and the sheer hill of
Aesagea and watered Samos and the steep heights of Mycale, in
Miletus and Cos, the city of Meropian men, and steep Cnidos and
windy Carpathos, in Naxos and Paros and rocky Rhenaea -- so far
roamed Leto in travail with the god who shoots afar, to see if
any land would be willing to make a dwelling for her son.  But
they greatly trembled and feared, and none, not even the richest
of them, dared receive Phoebus, until queenly Leto set foot on
Delos and uttered winged words and asked her:

(ll. 51-61) 'Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my
son "Phoebus Apollo and make him a rich temple --; for no other
will touch you, as you will find: and I think you will never be
rich in oxen and sheep, nor bear vintage nor yet produce plants
abundantly.  But if you have the temple of far-shooting Apollo,
all men will bring you hecatombs and gather here, and incessant
savour of rich sacrifice will always arise, and you will feed
those who dwell in you from the hand of strangers; for truly your
own soil is not rich.'

(ll. 62-82) So spake Leto.  And Delos rejoiced and answered and
said:  'Leto, most glorious daughter of great Coeus, joyfully
would I receive your child the far-shooting lord; for it is all
too true that I am ill-spoken of among men, whereas thus I should
become very greatly honoured.  But this saying I fear, and I will
not hide it from you, Leto.  They say that Apollo will be one
that is very haughty and will greatly lord it among gods and men
all over the fruitful earth.  Therefore, I greatly fear in heart
and spirit that as soon as he sets the light of the sun, he will
scorn this island -- for truly I have but a hard, rocky soil --
and overturn me and ****** me down with his feet in the depths of
the sea; then will the great ocean wash deep above my head for
ever, and he will go to another land such as will please him,
there to make his temple and wooded groves.  So, many-footed
creatures of the sea will make their lairs in me and black seals
their dwellings undisturbed, because I lack people.  Yet if you
will but dare to sware a great oath, goddess, that here first he
will build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men, then let
him afterwards make temples and wooded groves amongst all men;
for surely he will be greatly renowned.

(ll. 83-88) So said Delos.  And Leto sware the great oath of the
gods: 'Now hear this, Earth and wide Heaven above, and dropping
water of Styx (this is the strongest and most awful oath for the
blessed gods), surely Phoebus shall have here his fragrant altar
and precinct, and you he shall honour above all.'

(ll. 89-101) Now when Leto had sworn and ended her oath, Delos
was very glad at the birth of the far-shooting lord.  But Leto
was racked nine days and nine nights with pangs beyond wont.  And
there were with her all the chiefest of the goddesses, Dione and
Rhea and Ichnaea and Themis and loud-moaning Amphitrite and the
other deathless goddesses save white-armed Hera, who sat in the
halls of cloud-gathering Zeus.  Only Eilithyia, goddess of sore
travail, had not heard of Leto's trouble, for she sat on the top
of Olympus beneath golden clouds by white-armed Hera's
contriving, who kept her close through envy, because Leto with
the lovely tresses was soon to bear a son faultless and strong.

(ll. 102-114) But the goddesses sent out Iris from the well-set
isle to bring Eilithyia, promising her a great necklace strung
with golden threads, nine cubits long.  And they bade Iris call
her aside from white-armed Hera, lest she might afterwards turn
her from coming with her words.  When swift Iris, fleet of foot
as the wind, had heard all this, she set to run; and quickly
finishing all the distance she came to the home of the gods,
sheer Olympus, and forthwith called Eilithyia out from the hall
to the door and spoke winged words to her, telling her all as the
goddesses who dwell on Olympus had bidden her.  So she moved the
heart of Eilithyia in her dear breast; and they went their way,
like shy wild-doves in their going.

(ll. 115-122) And as soon as Eilithyia the goddess of sore
travail set foot on Delos, the pains of birth seized Leto, and
she longed to bring forth; so she cast her arms about a palm tree
and kneeled on the soft meadow while the earth laughed for joy
beneath.  Then the child leaped forth to the light, and all the
goddesses washed you purely and cleanly with sweet water, and
swathed you in a white garment of fine texture, new-woven, and
fastened a golden band about you.

(ll. 123-130) Now Leto did not give Apollo, bearer of the golden
blade, her breast; but Themis duly poured nectar and ambrosia
with her divine hands: and Leto was glad because she had borne a
strong son and an archer.  But as soon as you had tasted that
divine heavenly food, O Phoebus, you could no longer then be held
by golden cords nor confined with bands, but all their ends were
undone.  Forthwith Phoebus Apollo spoke out among the deathless
goddesses:

(ll. 131-132) 'The lyre and the curved bow shall ever be dear to
me, and I will declare to men the unfailing will of Zeus.'

(ll. 133-139) So said Phoebus, the long-haired god who shoots
afar and began to walk upon the wide-pathed earth; and all
goddesses were amazed at him.  Then with gold all Delos was
laden, beholding the child of Zeus and Leto, for joy because the
god chose her above the islands and shore to make his dwelling in
her: and she loved him yet more in her heart, and blossomed as
does a mountain-top with woodland flowers.

(ll. 140-164) And you, O lord Apollo, god of the silver bow,
shooting afar, now walked on craggy Cynthus, and now kept
wandering about the island and the people in them.  Many are your
temples and wooded groves, and all peaks and towering bluffs of
lofty mountains and rivers flowing to the sea are dear to you,
Phoebus, yet in Delos do you most delight your heart; for there
the long robed Ionians gather in your honour with their children
and shy wives: mindful, they delight you with boxing and dancing
and song, so often as they hold their gathering.  A man would say
that they were deathless and unageing if he should then come upon
the Ionians so met together.  For he would see the graces of them
all, and would be pleased in heart gazing at the men and well-
girded women with their swift ships and great wealth.  And there
is this great wonder besides -- and its renown shall never perish
-- the girls of Delos, hand-maidens of the Far-shooter; for when
they have praised Apollo first, and also Leto and Artemis who
delights in arrows, they sing a strain-telling of men and women
of past days, and charm the tribes of men.  Also they can imitate
the tongues of all men and their clattering speech: each would
say that he himself were singing, so close to truth is their
sweet song.

(ll. 165-178) And now may Apollo be favourable and Artemis; and
farewell all you maidens.  Remember me in after time whenever any
one of men on earth, a stranger who has seen and suffered much,
comes here and asks of you: 'Whom think ye, girls, is the
sweetest singer that comes here, and in whom do you most
delight?'  Then answer, each and all, with one voice: 'He is a
blind man, and dwells in rocky Chios: his lays are evermore
supreme.'  As for me, I will carry your renown as far as I roam
over the earth to the well-placed this thing is true.  And I will
never cease to praise far-shooting Apollo, god of the silver bow,
whom rich-haired Leto bare.

TO PYTHIAN APOLLO --

(ll. 179-181) O Lord, Lycia is yours and lovely Maeonia and
Miletus, charming city by the sea, but over wave-girt Delos you
greatly reign your own self.

(ll. 182-206) Leto's all-glorious son goes to rocky Pytho,
playing upon his hollow lyre, clad in divine, perfumed garments;
and at the touch of the golden key his lyre sings sweet.  Thence,
swift as thought, he speeds from earth to Olympus, to the house
of Zeus, to join the gathering of the other gods: then
straightway the undying gods think only of the lyre and song, and
all the Muses together, voice sweetly answering voice, hymn the
unending gifts the gods enjoy and the sufferings of men, all that
they endure at the hands of the deathless gods, and how they live
witless and helpless and cannot find healing for death or defence
against old age.  Meanwhile the rich-tressed Graces and cheerful
Seasons dance with Harmonia and **** and Aphrodite, daughter of
Zeus, holding each other by the wrist.  And among them sings one,
not mean nor puny, but tall to look upon and enviable in mien,
Artemis who delights in arrows, sister of Apollo.  Among them
sport Ares and the keen-eyed Slayer of Argus, while Apollo plays
his lyre stepping high and featly and a radiance shines around
him, the gleaming of his feet and close-woven vest.  And they,
even gold-tressed Leto and wise Zeus, rejoice in their great
hearts as they watch their dear son playing among the undying
gods.

(ll. 207-228) How then shall I sing of you -- though in all ways
you are a worthy theme for song?  Shall I sing of you as wooer
and in the fields of love, how you went wooing the daughter of
Azan along with god-like Ischys the son of well-horsed Elatius,
or with Phorbas sprung from Triops, or with Ereutheus, or with
Leucippus and the wife of Leucippus....
((LACUNA))
....you on foot, he with his chariot, yet he fell not short of
Triops.  Or shall I sing how at the first you went about the
earth seeking a place of oracle for men, O far-shooting Apollo?
To Pieria first you went down from Olympus and passed by sandy
Lectus and Enienae and through the land of the Perrhaebi.  Soon
you came to Iolcus and set foot on Cenaeum in Euboea, famed for
ships: you stood in the Lelantine plain, but it pleased not your
heart to make a temple there and wooded groves.  From there you
crossed the Euripus, far-shooting Apollo, and went up the green,
holy hills, going on to Mycalessus and grassy-bedded Teumessus,
and so came to the wood-clad abode of Thebe; for as yet no man
lived in holy Thebe, nor were there tracks or ways about Thebe's
wheat-bearing plain as yet.

(ll. 229-238) And further still you went, O far-shooting Apollo,
and came to Onchestus, Poseidon's bright grove: there the new-
broken cold distressed with drawing the trim chariot gets spirit
again, and the skilled driver springs from his car and goes on
his way.  Then the horses for a while rattle the empty car, being
rid of guidance; and if they break the chariot in the woody
grove, men look after the horses, but tilt the chariot and leave
it there; for this was the rite from the very first.  And the
drivers pray to the lord of the shrine; but the chariot falls to
the lot of the god.

(ll. 239-243) Further yet you went, O far-shooting Apollo, and
reached next Cephissus' sweet stream which pours forth its sweet-
flowing water from Lilaea, and crossing over it, O worker from
afar, you passed many-towered Ocalea and reached grassy
Haliartus.

(ll. 244-253) Then you went towards Telphusa: and there the
pleasant place seemed fit for making a temple and wooded grove.
You came very near and spoke to her: 'Telphusa, here I am minded
to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they
will always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich
Peloponnesus and those of Europe and all the wave-washed isles,
coming to seek oracles.  And I will deliver to them all counsel
that cannot fail, giving answer in my rich temple.'

(ll. 254-276) So said Phoebus Apollo, and laid out all the
foundations throughout, wide and very long.  But when Telphusa
saw this, she was angry in heart and spoke, saying: 'Lord
Phoebus, worker from afar, I will speak a word of counsel to your
heart, since you are minded to make here a glorious temple to be
an oracle for men who will always bring hither perfect hecatombs
for you; yet I will speak out, and do you lay up my words in your
heart.  The trampling of swift horses and the sound of mules
watering at my sacred springs will always irk you, and men will
like better to gaze at the well-made chariots and stamping,
swift-footed horses than at your great temple and the many
treasures that are within.  But if you will be moved by me -- for
you, lord, are stronger and mightier than I, and your strength is
very great -- build at Crisa below the glades of Parnassus: there
no bright chariot will clash, and there will be no noise of
swift-footed horses near your well-built altar.  But so the
glorious tribes of men will bring gifts to you as Iepaeon ('Hail-
Healer'), and you will receive with delight rich sacrifices from
the people dwelling round about.'  So said Telphusa, that she
alone, and not the Far-Shooter, should have renown there; and she
persuaded the Far-Shooter.

(ll. 277-286) Further yet you went, far-shooting Apollo, until
you came to the town of the presumptuous Phlegyae who dwell on
this earth in a lovely glade near the Cephisian lake, caring not
for Zeus.  And thence you went speeding swiftly to the mountain
ridge, and came to Crisa beneath snowy Parnassus, a foothill
turned towards the west: a cliff hangs over if from above, and a
hollow, rugged glade runs under.  There the lord Phoebus Apollo
resolved to make his lovely temple, and thus he said:

(ll. 287-293) 'In this place I am minded to build a glorious
temple to be an oracle for men, and here they will always bring
perfect hecatombs, both they who dwell in rich Peloponnesus and
the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to
question me.  And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot
fail, answering them in my rich temple.'

(ll. 294-299) When h
Ember Evanescent Dec 2014
Psychological issues?

Sure.

I've got plenty.

I don't know exactly when it started
But some time ages ago
During elementary school
I just felt so worthless
Like I was numb
I wanted to feel
But I didn't know how
And it wasn't a sharp pain
I would welcome a sharp pain
It was dull ache that wouldn't leave me
I froze in my own icy thoughts
Maybe it was the loneliness
Or all the things those girls said to me
Maybe it was the insults or the whispers
Or maybe it was just my twisted mind
But whatever the cause
I tried to **** myself
When I was just a little 11 year old girl
When some girls were still playing with Barbies in secret
I was secretly playing with knives and ropes
I would take that blade
And scratch a cut into my wooden headboard
One slit in the wood for every moment that I wanted to die
Because I was too young back then to even think of my wrist
That came later
A few years later
And still
There are days where I just feel so horrible and sad and broken
For absolutely zero reason
It doesn't make sense
Nothing bad is even happening
But I feel shattered
I spent a year feeling so. hollow.
So f!cking hollow
I felt like I couldn't breathe
Like I wasn't alive
I spent entire days
Not speaking
I still miss the cuts sometimes, honestly
I like my scars
Which sounds terrible
But I trace them with my fingernails absentmindedly some days
During the darker nights
It comforts me
Because even though I’m not going to cut myself ever again
I can jolt myself into remembering the pain
And it is a form of relief in itself
I don’t know
Not something I can explain
Is that depression?
Probably not though, I feel bad suggesting it in front of people who actually for sure have depression when I haven't been analyzed
But still, it's not impossible I guess

I spent 5 years
From grade 5 through to grade 9
Which is pretty **** young
Feeling fat
Hating my body
Hating myself
I can see my ribs but I still feel fat
It’s okay I can fix that
Eating a little less
Skip a meal
Just skip lunch
Just eat a tiny breakfast, no lunch
No breakfast, no lunch but it’s okay because I have a good dinner
I think I’m losing weight
Is it bad that I’m in grade 5 and thinking like this?
This is great
I think it’s working
I’m in grade 6 now
Maybe I won’t be worthless if I become skinny
I can still see my ribs
I could from the beginning
But I still feel fat
Okay, less dinner now
Hide it well
Let’s switch
No lunch, a little dinner and a bit of breakfast
Just enough to stay alive
Although how much to I really want to stay alive?
Fat.
Look at my legs
Look at their legs
My thighs God I hate my thighs
Eat less
Eat less and less
Until I’m basically surviving on snacks and just the beginnings of each meal
Just enough to take a few bites before they leave the room for a minute
Just long enough for me to throw away my food
But I don’t think I’m losing weight
I will never be enough
7th grade
Just a little less
Don’t tell any of them
Losing pounds
Check my reflection
I still feel fat
I try to be less so I can feel like I’m more
But does the number on the scale even matter anymore?
I’m promising and promising I ate before I came
But these pretty little lies are driving even me insane
And they can’t see through my smile they can’t figure it out
I’m slowly killing myself
From the inside out
Pretty soon, “I don’t feel well” is my favorite phrase and an everyday thing
A justification for my small portions that I don’t finish
It’s true though
I don’t feel well
I feel worthless.
It continues into 8th and 9th grade
Worse and worse
Looking up the calories of different food
Surviving on water and tea
Just enough food to stay alive
Though I really don’t care that much about my own survival, really
Is that anorexia nervosa?
I doubt it
But it’s a possibility I guess

I look in the mirror
And I feel so f!cking ugly
I literally cannot find ONE thing I like about myself
I cannot leave the house without makeup
Because I am SO ashamed of my own face
I genuinely feel bad for the people who have to see my face
I cry sometimes, because I look in the mirror and see my own worthless hideousness
I remember that sleepover I was invited to with the popular girls and I wondered why
When I got locked in a closet, got soap sprayed in my mouth and locked outside in the freezing cold snow without pants on when I was just trying to change into my night clothes
That’s when I knew I had been invited just so they could torment me
I don’t like being the entertainment for the party
I tried to just go to sleep because if I called home I would look like a coward
And my mother who NEVER let me go to sleepovers would get to say “I told you so”
And when they thought I was asleep
But I wasn’t
I listened to them talk for a full hour
My eyes on the clock
My ears on their conversation
“Is she asleep”?
I didn’t know they were talking about me until I heard them mention my name
When they talked for a full f!cking hour
In detail
About why I was ugly
On what levels I was ugly
The degree of my ugliness
I didn’t cry
I didn’t sit up and tell them I could hear them
It would be too humiliating
I listened
And I know they are right
But now it’s getting bad
My face doesn’t even look human to me anymore
It looks like some sort of beastly troll’s face
It looks f!cking hideous
My mother is worried about me
Because I can’t even look myself in the mirror when I have no makeup on
Because I Freak. Out when it is suggested that I might have to be in public without hiding my ugly face in makeup
It literally affects my ability to function properly in everyday life.
The thing is, those girls said it
And they ALL agreed
So if I REALLY had dysmorphia
Then it would all be in my mind
And if they all agreed I was hideous
Then I must be
So how can it be imagined?
I don’t know
Anyway
My point is
I suppose
MAYBE
It is possible
I have dysmorphia

But
Depression
Anorexia Nervosa
Dysmorphia

Those possible diseases of the mind
I
Have multiple
Psychological issues

BUT OCD IS NOT F!CKING ONE OF THEM

How dare he suggest such a thing
Just because I
“Always seem to be working towards something”
Excuse me for not getting drunk and high and naked
Putting off work
Not caring about anything
It’s not OCD though
It’s just called going somewhere in life
Because I may as well
Since in my mind
I’m hopelessly lost
Sorry this is so long. Don't feel any obligation to actually read the whole thing it's more for me to get out some bad emotions.
Dorothy A Jun 2012
With great recollection, there were a few things in life that Ivy Jankauskas would always remember—always.

She would never forget where she was when 9/11 happened; she was in her algebra class, doodling a picture on a piece of notebook paper of her dog, Zoey—bored out of her mind by Mr. Zabbo’s lecture—when she first heard the shocking news. Certainly, she could remember when she first properly fell in love; she was fresh into college when she knew that she loved Trevor Littlefield—the day after they agreed to get back together, right after the day they decided to split up—after she finally realized that she really loved him, much more than she ever, really, consciously thought. She would forever remember when her parents first took her to Disneyland; she was seven and got her picture taken with Snow White and Mickey Mouse, and she instantly decided that she wanted to become a professional Tinkerbelle when she grew up.

And, like it or not, she could remember her very first kiss. She had just turned five, and it was at her birthday party. How could she ever forget those silly paper hats, and all her little playmates wearing them? They were a good sized group of children, mostly from the neighborhood and her kindergarten class, which watched her open present after present. Ivy remembered her cherry cake, with white frosting, and the stain she had when she dropped a piece on her pretty, new dress that her mother had bought her just for the occasion.  

It was later that day, behind her garage, that Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third, a boy her same age, planted one on her. It was a strange sensation, she recalled—icky, wet and sloppy, and Gordon nearly missed her mouth. Not expecting it, Ivy made a face, puckering up her lips—but not for another kiss—as if she had just ****** on a spoiled lemon. Ever since then, it was the beginning of the dislike she had for Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third. She didn’t exactly know why—there was just something about him that bugged her from then on.

There grew to be several reasons why Ivy knew that Gordon was a ****, something she first sensed at her birthday party behind the garage. Since about third grade, children picked on Ivy’s name, teasing her by calling her “Poison Ivy”.  And the one who seemed to be the loudest and most obnoxious of the name callers, chiming in with the other bullies, was Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third.  Ivy was proud of her name up until then, but the taunts made her self conscious. Her mother told her to be proud of her name, for it was unique and different, as she was unique and an individual. Still, Ivy felt uncomfortable with her name for quite a while. Only in adulthood, did she feel somewhat better about it.

A bit of a tomboy back then in school, she would have loved to punch Gordon right in the nose. If only she could get away with it! What a joke! Who would name their child Gordon anyway? She had thought it was far worse than hers.

So to counter his verbal assaults to her name, Ivy called Gordon, “Flash Gordon”, after the science fiction hero from TV and the comics. But Gordon was no hero to her. He was more of a villain, creepy, vile, and just plain mean!

Soon, new name of him caught on, and other kids were joining her. She had a smug sense of satisfaction that Gordon grew furious of the title, for it stuck to him like glue.

Gordon’s family lived right around the block, just minutes away from where Ivy lived. Ivy’s mom, Gail, and Gordon’s mom, Lucy, both went to the same Lithuanian club, and both encouraged their children to take up Lithuanian folk dancing. Ivy remembered she was eight-years-old when she began dancing. It was three years of Hell, she had thought, wearing those costumes, with long, flowery skirts, frilly blouses, aprons, caps and laced vests, and performing for all the parents and families in attendance. Worst of all, she often had to dance with Gordon, and he was one of only three boys that was dragged into taking up folk dancing by their mothers. Probably all of those boys went into it kicking and screaming, so Ivy had thought.

Many years have came and gone since those days. Ivy was now a lovely, young woman, tall and dark blonde, and with a Master’s degree in sociology, working as a social worker in the prison system. Ivy’s parents would never have imagined that she would work in a field, in such places, but she found it quite rewarding, helping those who often wished for or were in need of redemption.    

When Ivy came over to visit her mom one day, her mother had told her some news. “Gordon Durand’s mother passed away”, Gail announced. It was quite disturbing.

“What? When?” Ivy replied, her face full of shock.

“Well, it must have been a few days ago. I saw the obituary in the paper, and a couple of people from the Lithuanian club called me to tell me. The funeral will be Friday. Why, I didn’t even know she was sick! She must have hid from just about everyone. If only I knew, I would have gone to see her and make sure she know I cared”.

It had been a long time since Ivy saw Gordon, ever since high school. Now, they were both twenty-six-years-old. It never occurred to her to ever think of Gordon, to have him fixed in her mind like a fond memory from the past.

“Could of, would of, should of—don’t beat yourself up, Mom” Ivy told her "I guess I should go pay my respects”. But Ivy was not sure if she really should do it, or really if she wanted to do it. “Mrs. Durand was a nice lady. Sometimes, it is the nice ones that die young. What did she die of anyway?”

Ivy’s mom was pouring herself and her daughter a cup of coffee. “I believe it was leukemia. In the obituary, it asks for donations to be made to the Leukemia Society of America”.

Ivy shook her head in disbelief.  As she was sitting down with her mother at the kitchen table, drinking her coffee, her mom shocked her even more. Gail said, “Only twenty-six, same as you, and now Gordon has no mother or father! How tragic to lose your parents at such a young age! It breaks my heart to think of him without his parents, even though he is a grown up man now!”

“What?!” Ivy shouted in disbelief. “When did Gordon’s dad die?!”

Gail sipped on her coffee mug. “Oh, a few years ago, I believe. Time sure flies, so maybe it was longer than I think”. Gail had a far away look on her face like she was earnestly calculating the time in her mind.

“He died? You never told me that! How come you never told me?”

Under normal circumstances, the thought of Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third, would almost want to make Ivy cringe. But now Ivy was feeling very sad for him.  

“I did!” Gail defended herself. “You just don’t remember, or you weren’t listening. I am sure I told you!”

Gail was a round faced woman, with light, crystal blue eyes that always seemed warm in spite of their icy color. Ivy was quite close to her mother, her parents’ only child. She was grateful that her dad, Max, was still around, too, unlike the thought of Gordon’s dad dying. She felt that she could not have asked for better parents. They loved her and built her up to be who she was, and she felt that they could be proud of how she turned out, not the stereotypically spoiled, only child, not entitled to have everything, but one who was willing to do her share in life.  

“I would have remembered, Mom!” Ivy insisted. “I would remember a thing like that! What happened to him? Did you go to the funeral home?”

“I think he had a heart attack”, Gail replied, tapping her finger on her temple to indicate that she remembered. “I did go…oh, wait a minute. You were in Europe with your friends. It was the year after you graduated from high school, I believe. You couldn’t possibly have gone to the funeral home at that time”.

Since Gail did not want to go to Daytona Beach, in Florida, for her senior trip, her parents saved up the money for her to go to Germany and Italy. Ivy wasn’t into being a bikini clad sun goddess, nor was she thrilled by the rowdy behavior of crowds of *** craved teens—a choice that her parents were quite grateful that she chose, level headed as she was.

Since she was a little girl, Ivy dreamed of going to Europe. Her parents, both grandchildren of Lithuanian immigrants, would have loved for her to go to Lithuania, but Ivy and two of her friends had found a safe, escorted trip to go elsewhere,  on to where Ivy always dreamed of going—to see the Sistine Chapel and to visit her pen pal of eleven years, Ursula Friedrich, in Munich.  

Now, Ivy was available to visit the funeral home for Gordon’s mother, and she had decided to go with her mother. Not seeing Gordon in years, Ivy had her misgivings, not knowing what to expect when encountering him. Perhaps, he would be different now, but maybe he would prove to be quite the ****.

As she came, she noticed Gordon’s sister, Deirdre, and she gave her a hug. “I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. She was so nice”, Ivy told Deirdre. She felt uncomfortable talking to Deirdre, for she did not know what to say other than the usual, I am sorry for your loss. It was “sympathy card” talk, and Ivy felt like she was quoting something contrived from a Hallmark store.    

Deirdre was two years older than Gordon. She slightly smiled at Ivy and sighed. She must have said just about the same thing all day long, “It is good of you to come. Thank you for your kind support. Mom would appreciate it”.

Ivy looked around the room. There were many flowers, in vases and baskets, and people surrounding the casket. Ivy could not see Mrs. Durand in the coffin, for people were in the way, her mother included. She was glad she couldn’t see the body from her view.

Funeral homes gave her the creeps, ever since she was thirteen years old and her grandmother died, her father’s mother, and she had to stay at the funeral home all day long. Even a whiff of some, certain flowers was not pleasant to smell. They reminded her of being at a place like this, certainly not evoking thoughts of joy.          

Ivy looked around the room. “Where is Gordon?” she asked Deirdre.

Deirdre sighed again. “Gordon cannot handle death very well”, she admitted. “Go outside and look. He has been hanging around the building outside, getting some fresh air and insisting he needs a big break from all this.”

Ivy shook her head and smirked. “That sounds like Gordon, I must say”  

“Yeah”, Deirdre agreed, as she looked like Gordon’s help to her was a lost cause. “And he’s leaving me to do all the important work—talking to people who come in while he goes away and escapes from reality”.

Ivy went outside to search for Gordon. Sure enough, she found him by the side of the building, under a broad, shady tree. He was having a cigarette, standing all by himself, when he saw her approach.

Gordon looked the same—wavy brown hair and freckles, but much more grown up and sophisticated, his suit jacked off and his tie loosened up. Ivy knew that he always hated wearing ties. She knew that when both her mom and his mom convinced them to go out with each other—a huge twist of their arms—to the Fall Fest Dance in ninth grade and in junior high school. Gordon’s mom bribed him to go with her by promising to double his allowance for the month, and Ivy actually had a silly crush on Gordon’s cousin, Ben, hoping that she might get to talk to him if she went with Gordon to the dance.

Ivy glanced at Gordon’s cigarette, and he noticed. “Been trying to quit”, Gordon told her as she approached. He dropped it on the sidewalk and stepped on it to put it out. His face was somber as he added without any emotion, as if parroting his own voice, “Ivy Jankauskas—how the hell have you been?” It sounded like he had just seen her in a matter of months instead of years.

Well, at least he had no problem identifying her or remembering her name. She must not have changed that drastically—and hopefully for the better.

Ivy stood there before him, as he looked her down from head to toe. Same old Gordon! She thought he was probably giving her “the inspection”. She thought he almost looked handsome in his brown suit vest and pants—almost—with a sharp look of sophistication that Gordon probably wasn’t accustomed to. Surely, Ivy had no real respect for him.

“I’m well”, she responded. “But the question is more like…how are you doing?” Ivy studied Gordon’s blank expression. “No—really. I’d like to know how you are coping”.

Gordon stood there looking at the ground, his hands in his pants pockets, like he never heard her. “Come on. Let’s go for a walk”

“Here? Now?”

“Just a short work, around the block”, he told her. He already started walking, and Ivy contemplated what to do before she decided to follow up with him to join him.

They walked together in silence for a while. From anyone passing by, they surely would have looked like a couple, a well-paired couple that truly enjoyed each other’s company. Ivy could not believe she was actually walking with him. Gordon Zachary Durand, the Third? Of all people!

“You haven’t answered my question”, Ivy said. “How are you coping? You know I really liked your mom a lot. She always was pleasant to me”.

She wanted to add, “Unlike you”, but it certainly was not the right time or the right place. She felt a twinge of guilt for thinking such a thing. Under more pleasant circumstances, she would have jabbed him a little. That was just how they always communicated, not necessarily in a mean-spirited way, but in a brotherly and sisterly way that involved plenty of teasing.

Gordon thought a moment before he answered. “Yeah, it’s hard. But what can I do? I lost my dad. I lost my mom. Period. End of discussion. I’m too old to be an orphan…but I kind of feel like one anyhow. That’s my answer, in a nutshell”.

“And I wish I knew about your dad”, Ivy said, with a great tone of remorse. “I was in Europe at the time, and I couldn’t have possibly gone to the funeral”.

“Europe? Wow! Aren’t you the jet setter? Who else gets to do that kind of stuff but you, Ivy?”

Now that was the Gordon she always knew! It did not take long for the true Gordon to come forth and show himself.

“No! I don’t have all kinds of money!” she quickly defended herself. “I actually helped pay for some of that trip by working all summer after we graduated from high school. Plus, it was the trip of a lifetime. I may never get the chance to go again on a trip like that again”.  

Ivy was a bit perturbed that Gordon seemed to imply that she was pampered by her parents. He accused her of that before, just because she was an only child.

Autumn was approaching, but summer was still in the air. It was Ivy’s favorite time of year, with the late summer and early autumn, all at the same time.  The trees were just starting to turn colors, but the sun felt nice and warm upon her as Ivy walked along. It was surely an Indian summer day, one that wouldn’t last forever. She wore a light sweater over her sleeveless, cotton dress, and took it off to experience more of the sun.

“It has been ages since I’ve seen you”, Gordon admitted. “Since high school. So what became of you? Did you ever go to college?”

“I did and I work as a social worker…I work in various prisons”

Gordon laughed out loud, and Ivy gave him a stern look. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

“I just can’t picture you going in the slammer, even if you aren’t wearing an orange suit”, he said in between laughing. He looked at Ivy, and she had quite a frown on her face. He changed his tune. “I was only joking, Ivy. I think you’d probably do good work at your job”.  

“And where do you work?” she asked, a devilish expression on her face. “At the circus?”

Ivy caught herself becoming snarky to Gordon. It did not take long. She opened her mouth to apologize, but Gordon, sensing her need to be sorry, stopped her.

Laughing even more, he said, “Good one! You are sharp and fast on your feet! You always have been! I work for an insurance agency. I work for Triple A”.

“Oh, really? Do you like your job?” Ivy asked. Her interest was genuine.

“It pays the bills. But, hey! I am going back to college in January. I just have an Associate’s degree right now. I am not sure what I want to take up, but I want to go back and at least get a Bachelor’s”.

“That’s great!” Ivy exclaimed. “I think you should keep on learning and keep on moving forward. That is a great goa
Feel Oct 2012
I feel as close to you as how wind is to my skin,
I feel as powerful with you as how I am with a gun.
I feel as courageous next to you as how sky divers are with working parachutes.
I feel as sad without you as departing rain drops from dark hovering clouds.
I feel as bored dismissing you as a good book read by a blind man.
I feel as far from you as how the visible sun is if you look from Earth.
I feel as clouded missing you as the moon is clouded by nebulae.
I feel as dejected promising you as government cronies over promising development.
I feel as lonely not seeing you as Golden Retrievers are when their masters are not around.
I feel as blatantly bloated next to you as over-heated air balloons raise up the shiny sky.
I feel as speechless around you as unprepared speakers in a conference hall.
And at the end, I feel as close to you as how my eyes met yours then cheekily, we detached our sight and pretend that we were never close at all.
I feel close to you still
but even closer
to sin.
Evynne Apr 2013
Can you feel all the suffering, can you see it?
Stop embracing the hate of your own humanity, just quit it
Why all the hypocrisy?
Challenge your democracy

Aim for enlightenment
Fight against all ill torment
Oppression, alienation, inequality
The government's manipulative utilities

Explore your human aptitude
Your mind and your magnitude
Because passion is power and
You can make all evil cower

Work to open your third eye
Don't cry or comply, but rather ask "why?"
Empathy and compassion are most important
Without them, moral principles remain impotent

Our world is nothing compared to the entire universe
We are so small, egoistic, and it's getting worse
Focused on all of the wrongs ideals
Creating terrible and false ordeals

Our world is cruel and mean
Too many people die hungry
There's no such thing as equality or true justice
It does not exist in this realm of consciousness

If only we could shift the system and our ways
Then things would continue to fall into place
But change is virtually unachievable
Especially when entities with just intents are inconceivable

Human beings are clueless, trapped in a trance
Don't let yourself fall victim to your ignorance
You need to expand your knowledge and your perspective
Aim to be more pensive and introspective

Challenge absolutely everything you are told
Form your own beliefs, don't let your mind be controlled
Remove yourself from conformity and complacency
And you'll realize a multitude of problems, that I guarantee

You can't trust anything

Hear what I'm saying 

No you cant trust anything

Believing is damaging

Creating is everything, it's promising
Stop adhering to societal norms

Why do you conform

To all that

The government tells us

All that society spells for us
Why don't you realize

Wake up from all the lies

The world is an intricate place, that you can't replace

But you can change your ways and your pace

Create some displacement in the system
Stand up your rights

And what you believe in

Be genuine

Imagine

Not one person, thing, or system

Can tell us, control us, conform us


With enough minds open and motivated
We can help those oppressed and alienated
We can change this race for the better
Let's all work to be that kind of trendsetter
Come on, let's start a movement
So we can see some real improvement
In our world, our ways, and our wisdom
But most importantly in the system
Emilie Sep 2012
Like a good story
The trees unfolded at the top of the mountain.
Spread across the blue sky,
Resembling some far off, imaginary bird
Releasing its broad wings to greet the day.
Old barns swaying in the sun,
Promising something great,
Something new.
A well kept secret, a small valley,
Red kites meet the mountain.
A tale only told in books, fabricated by the distant winds.
Skirts hiked up so toes can touch the water.
Wild flowers spread like fire
Simple, calm and free.
A wrong turn, a subtle miracle, a new life to lead
Little fields with red fruits
Fireplace bricks scorched with memories.
A race through the grass, bare toes collecting weeds.
Braided hair tangled with lilies, old dirt road new foot prints.
Lazy days laced with dogwood.
Fresh lemonade on a Sunday evening, as the sun drops behind the mountain.
Brittany Wynn Mar 2015
For every night we've spent sitting on loveseats
crying about mistakes and burdens promising to haunt
us for the rest of our under-grad, I could've gotten a humanities
degree two years ago.
Tommy Randell Apr 2017
All this talk of crying, all this grief and sorrow,
The worship of dying, the Light of tomorrow,

All this promising of peace everlasting,
All this eulogising of prayer and fasting,

All this stuff about Sin, original or otherwise,
All this reincarnating of dead people's lives,

It's the mother of all *******, it's hypocrisy and hate,
It's a religion of commerce taxed by the state.

It's chocolate and glitter, it's a dressage of delusion,
An endless repetition of power doing the using.

They are selling you incense so you can make smoke.
They say only they walk down the true road.

It's a pantomime of rhetoric perfected over time
So we look the other way Deaf Dumb and Blind.

Who wrote these rules, carved them into stone?
What have they done to us we let them rattle our bones?

It's all hidden in riddles of Tax Laws and Treaties -
100% of the future owned by 1% of the species.

It's in every paper, it's on every screen,
The drumbeat is progress and money is the dream.

The hard times are here we must all tighten our belts,
We must put up with sacrifice, every little will help.

But listen to the beating of those soft silver tongues -
They're not fasting they're feeding, until tomorrow never comes!
1.

From our
safe windows,
we crane our necks,
rubbernecking
past the slow
motion wreckage
unfolding in Homs.

We remain
perfectly
perched
to marvel at
the elegant arc of
a mortar shell
framing tomorrows
deep horizon,
whistling through
the twilight to
find its fruitful
mark.

In the now
we keep
complicit time,
to the arrest
of beating hearts,
snapping fingers
to the pop
of rifle cracks,
swooning to
the delicious
intoxication of
curling smoke
lofting ever
upward;
yet
thankfully
remain
distant
enough to
recuse any
possibility
of an
intimate
nexus
with the
besieged.

2.

From our
safe windows,
we behold the
urgent arrivals of
The Friends of Syria
demanding
clean sheets
and 4 Star
room service at a
Tunisian Palace
recently cleaned
and under new
management
promising a
much needed
refurbishment.

The gathered,
a clique of
this epochs
movers and shakers,
a veritable
rouges gallery of
ambassadorial
prelates, Emirs and
state department
bureaucrats
summoned
with portfolio
from the
darkest corners
of the globe.

They are
eager to
sanctify
the misery
of Homs,
deflect and
lay blame
with realpolitik
rationalizations,
commencing
official commissions
of inquiry,
deliberating
grave considerations,
issuing indictments
of formal charges for
Crimes Against
Humanity
while
remaining
urgently
engrossed
in the fascination
of interviewing
potential
process servers
to deliver the bad news
to Bashar al-Assad
and his soulless
Baathist
confederates,
if papers
are to be
served.

Yes, the diplomats
are busy meeting
in closed rooms.

In hushed circles
they whisper
into aroused ears,
railing against
Russia’s
gun running
intransigence
and China’s
geopolitical
chess moves.

Statesmen
boast of the
intrepid justice
of tipping points
and the moving poetry
of self serving tales,
weighing the impact
of stern sanctions
amidst the historical
confusion of the
asymmetrical
symmetries
of civil war.

Caravans
of Arab League
envoys roll up
in silver Bentleys,
crossing deserts
of contradictory
obfuscations,
navigating the
endless dunes
with hand held
sextants of
hidden agendas.

The heroic
Bedouins are
eager to offload
their baggage
and share
on the ground
intelligence from
their recent soirées
across Syria.

They beg
a quick fix,
the triage of a
critical catharsis
to bleed their
brains dry
of heinous
recollections,
pleading
release from a
troubled conscience
victimized by
the unnerving paradox
of reconciling
discoveries of
perverse voyeurism
with the sanctioned
explanations
of their respective
ruling elites.

The bellies
of these
scopophiliacs
are distended;
grown queasy
from a steady diet
of malfeasance
an ulcerated
world parades
in continuous loop;
spewing the raw feeds
of real time misery;
forcibly fed
the grim
visions of
frantic
fathers
rushing
the mangled
carcases
of mortally
wounded
children
to crumpled
piles of smashed
concrete that were
once hospitals.

We despondently
ask how
much longer
must we
look into
the eyes
of starving
children
emaciated from
the wanton
indifference
of the world?


3.

From our
safe windows
we wonder
how much
longer can
the urgent
burning
ambivalence
continue
before it
consumes
our common
humanity in
a final
conflagration?

My hair already
singed by the
endless firestorms
sweeping the prairies
of the world.

How can we survive
the trampling hoards,
the marauding
plagues of acrimony
fed by a voracious
blood lust aspiring to
victimize the people
of Homs and a
thousand cities
like it?


4.

From my safe
window I stand in witness
to the state execution of
refugees fleeing the
living nightmare
of Baba Amr.

The ****** of innocents,
today's newly minted martyrs,
women and children
cornered, trapped
on treacherous roads,
mercilessly
slaughtered and
defiled in death
to mark the lesson
of a ruthless master
enthralled with the
power of his
sadistic fascist
lordship.

I cannot avert my eyes
marking sights
of pleading women
begging for the
lives of their children
in exchange for
the gratification
of a sadists
lust.

My heart
is impaled
on the sharp
spear of
outrage
beholding
careening
children mowed
down with the
serrated blades
protruding
from marauding
jeeps of laughing
soldiers.

I drop
to my knees
in lakes of
tears
reflecting
a grotesque
horror stricken
image of myself.

My eyes have
murdered my soul.

The ghastly images
of Homs have chased
away my Holy Ghost
to the safety of a child's
sandbox hidden away
in a long forgotten
revered memory.


5.

From my safe window
I seethe with anger
demanding vengeance,
debating how to rise
to meet the obscenity of
the Butcher of Damascus.

The sword of Damocles
dangles so tantalizingly close
to this tyrants throat.  

The covered women
of Homs scream prayers
“may Allah bring Bashar to ruin”

Dare I pray
that Allah trip the
horsehair trigger
that holds the
sword at bay?

Do I pick up
the sword
a wield it
as an
avenging
angel?

Am I the
John Brown
of our time?

Do I organize
a Lincoln Brigade
and join the growing
leagues of jihadists
amassing at the
Gates of Damascus?

Will my righteous
indignation fit well
in a confederacy
with Hamas and
al-Qaeda as my
comrades in arms?

Do I succumb to
the passion of hate
and become just
another murderous
partisan, or do I
commend the power
of love and marshal
truth to speak with
the force of
satyagraha?

I lift a fervent prayer
to claim the justice
of Allah’s ear,
“may the knowing one
lift the veil of foolishness
that covers my heart in
cloaks of resent, cure
my blindness that ignores
my raging disease of
plausible deniability
ravaging the body politic
of humanity.”

6.

Indeed,
physician heal thyself.

I run to embrace my
illness.

I pine to understand it.

I undertake the
difficult regimen
of a cure to eradicate
the terrible affliction.

This
pernicious
plague,
subverting
the notion
of a shared
humanness
is a cunning
sedition that
undermines
the unity of
the holy spirit.  

The bell from
the toppled steeples
still tolls, echoing
across the space of
continents and eons
of temporal time.

The faithful chimes
gently chides us
to remove the wedge
of perception that
separates, divides
and undermines.

Time has come
to liberally
apply the balm
that salves the
open wounds
so common to
our common
human condition.

The power of prayer
is the joining of hands
with others racked
with the common
affliction of humanness.

Allah,  
My eyes are wide open,
my sacred heart revealed,
my sleeves are rolled up,
my memory is stocked,
my soul filled with resolve,
my hand is lifted
extended to all
brothers and sisters.
Lift us,
gather us
into one
loving embrace.

Selah


7.

From the safe
windows of
our palaces
we live within
earshot of
the trilling
zaghroutas
of exasperation
flowing from
the besieged
city smouldering
under Bashar’s
symphony of terror.

Our nostrils
fill with the
acrid plumes
of unrequited
lamentations
lifting from the
the burning
destruction
of shelled
buildings.

Our eyes spark
from the night
tracers
of sleeking
snipers
flitting along
the city’s
rooftops.

The deadly jinn
indiscriminately
inject the
paralysis of
random fear
into the veins
of the city
with each
skillful
head shot.

These
ghoulish
assassins
lavish in their
macabre work;
like vultures
they eagerly
feast on the
corpses of their ****,
the stench of bloated
bodies drying in the
sun is the perfume
that fills their nostrils.


8.

From our
safe window
we discern the
silhouettes of militants
still boldly standing
amidst the
mounting rubble of an
unbowed Homs
shouting;

Allah Akbar!!!
Allah Akbar!!!
Allah Akbar!!!

raising pumped fists,
singing songs
of resistance,
dancing to
the revelation of
freedom,
refusing to
be coward by
the slashing
whips of a
butchers
terrible
sword.


9.

From my
safe window
my tongue laps
the pap
of infants
suckling from
the depleted
teats of mothers
who cannot cry
for their dying
children;
tears fail
to well from
the exhaustion
of dehydrated
pools.

10.

From my
safe window
my heart stirs
to the muezzin
calling the
desperate faithful
from the toppled
rubble of dashed
minarets.

We can
no longer
shut our ears
to the adhan
of screams
the silent
voices that echo
the blatant injustice
of a people under siege.


11.

From my
safe window,
I pay
Homage to Homs
and call brothers
and sisters to rise
with vigilant
insistence
that hostilities
cease and
humanity be
upheld,
respected and
protected.


12.

From my safe
window
I perceive
the zagroutas
of sorrow
manifest as a
whiling hum,
a sweeping
blue mist,
levitating
the coffins
from the rubble
of ravaged streets.

The swirling
chorus of
mourning
joins my
desperate
prayers;
rising in
concert
with the
black billows
of smoke
dancing
away
from the
flaming
embers
of scorched
neighborhoods.


13.

From my
safe window
I heed
the fluttering
wings
of avenging
angels
furiously
batting
as they
climb
the black
plumes,
lifting from
the scattered bricks
of the desecrated
city.

It is the
Jacob’s
Ladder
for our
time;
marking
a new
consecrated
place
where
a New Adam
is destined
to be formed
from the
pulverized
stones of
desolation.

14.

From our
safe windows
we peer into
resplendent
mirrors
beholding
the perfect image of
ourselves
eying
falling tears
dripping blood,
coloring death
onto the
blanched sheets
of disheveled beds.


15.

From our
safe windows
our voices are silenced,
our words mock urgency
our thoughts betray comprehension
our senses fail to illicit empathy
our action is the only worthy prayer


16.

From my
safe window
I hear the
mortar shells
walking toward
my little palace,
the crack
of a ******
shot
precedes
the wiz of a
passing bullet
whispering
its presence
into my
waxen
ear.


17.

From my
safe window,
my palms scoop
the rich soil
of the flower boxes
perched on my sill.
I anoint the tender
green shoots of  the
Arab Spring
with an incessant flow
of bittersweet tears.

Music selection:
John Coltrane
A Love Supreme
Acknowledgment

Oakland
2/28/12
jbm
The pains of reality justify the
Deep seated sorrow of man.

The vulture encircles me
Events surrounded by mystery
Enveloped in insanity
The human race is
Captivated by mystery
Doomed to repeat history

Collusion to bestow unmitigated
Sorrow upon my being

Simply put, I am
Damaged goods

Speak softly now
And choose your next thoughts
Carefully,
For the devil has called
My soul to dance

Reckless, unmitigated
Abandonment
Of mind, body, and soul
Fruitless searches
Forever numb
Longing to feel whole

Deep beneath the rolling waves
Lies serenity
Amongst sunken slaves
Deep inside my brain
The labyrinth of my mind
Memories that
I've left behind
Gone with the breeze
Above arid land
Somewhere lost in the desert
Where only shamans understand
Somewhere locked in the innocence
Of childhood frailty
Misplaced in the universe
Perpetuating reality
Walking alongside
All the gods of the ages
Bounding across time
In history's pages
Vacated with the morals
Of man
Lost in the seams of
Our lives
In the absence of the infinite
Shared hallucinogenic cries
Gone with the limbs of
The serpent
Ignored individuality dies
The reflection of man tainted,
For it is where the devil hides
Looming in the shadows
Of irresistible allure
No acquittal of our sins
A race ****** to remain
Impure
Violence surrounding our
Unequivocal, dastardly instincts
Perched in the forefront of our
Perceived selves
Selfish, devilish
Acts of kindness
The misfortune of the fortunate
Given all the amenities
Of a king's meal
Without the sensation of
Taste
Washed away with our
Dreams of betterment
Laying upon the chests
Of mythological beasts
Souls left rotting
Souring with ferment

Supreme consciousness
Arouses the senses
Invent my future with the
Myths of the past

You're stuck in a state of
Imaginary grace
Dream myself into
New bounds of transparency

Cryptic writings
Things left unsaid
Unsure of the real
Or the surreal
Life's slipping away
Once again
Paper in hand
Palms begin to sweat
Indulging into reality
Memories
I long to forget

It seems forever
Since I've been home
Trying to balance
This chemical imbalance
But always, I'm left here
Alone
Believing my dreams real
Realizing my world's surreal
Living with uncertainty
Imagining reality

Where do I go
To hide the pain?
Dual existence?
Acute psychosis?
Trapped inside my own
Brain
There's a place in my mind
I like to hide
Where all of my secrets
I do confide
There's a place I go
To bury the pain
A papered existence
Conducive synopsis,
Abstained

I begin to sweat
My heart screaming
From my chest
Let the feeling pass
Delve into the kingdom
Inability to
Repress
Take me away
To that far off place
Abscond into surreality
Amongst things I dare not
Confess

Drinking in divinity
Affixed on mortality
Will I die in this place?
Unable to resurface
Back in reality

Stuck running in circles
On a surface-less plane
Can't escape the shadows
Can't remove the pain
Simple design
Made up of
Over thought complexity
A universe separated
Removed from the modern mind
Inexorably

Amputation of
The mutation
That is the
Human race
Segregation of this
Charred realm
From other wordly
Space
We live
We die
And death begins it
Reinvent our minds
Ignite our passions

Drowning in a gene pool
Of degenerates
Souls thrashing
Wildly, forlorn
Plunged into unmitigated
Evil
Of a race that destroys
The unborn

Lachrymose gaze
Upon the living dead
A thin film of separation
Through which lies
Are fed
Understanding the weakness
Into which we are
******
For shed blood
Forces cries
Ripping from mother's eyes
Witnessing her own demise
As a piece of her
Slowly dies
For father's impenitent
Fantasies once dreamed
Torn away from aching
Fingers
Left ravaged,
Impotent

Gazing at you
Under the cloak of
Intrigue
Watching you struggle
In the tangled lies
You weave

Commanding the head
Of the serpent
Lilith forcing man's
Non-repent
Imposed upon our being
Righteous punishments
Such ramifications
Deemed astringent

Incomprehensible
Allure
Masochists of
Everything pure

Watch the world die
From afar
Irrevocable despair
Promising allegiance
To a life I cannot
Bear

Killing myself with
Indecision
On the perimeter
Of sanity
In the psychotropic prison
And psychotic affliction

Here it comes again
The voices, getting louder
It doesn't feel good anymore
How do I escape
Escaping?
Where do I go when my sanctum
Has been compromised?
Unable to quiet
The insurgents afoot
Incurable, incalculable
Indecision
Lost, finding my way home
Left in between existence
Alongside myself
Alone

The cold, inhuman ability
To sacrifice one's own mind
Hanging onto the coat tails
Of free thought
Journey we now,
Into the nightmare
Ignoring loss of
Comprehension
Vacated laws of
Apprehension
Arming latent illness
Plotting revenge
Beneath the surface

Here it comes again
I hear it getting louder
It doesn't feel good anymore
Who will save the lifeguard
When he's about to drown?

Can you see me?
Can you hear my cry out?
He looks to find
There's no one around

Searching indefinitely
For myself
Lost in another
Under the guise of
Someone else
Why does it matter?
Seemingly insignificant
In a moment of clarity
Just breathe for a moment
Shoved back in reality
"Am I dreaming," he asked
His reflection replied
The answer profound
Unknowingly died

I sold my soul to get here
On the periphery of realization
Stuck on the perimeter of reality
Reentry revoked
Forced to sit idly
As my life passes
Before my eyes

This is my letter
Unable to deliver
This is my life
Unable to decipher
This is my nightmare
That I've never dreamed before

Trapped in the prison
I've constructed on my own
Locked myself in four walls
Of uncertainty
Built in the center of being
Unnoticed by the proprietor
Frailty prevalent
Implosion of the mind
Leading to the ******* of
The insanity
I've come to find

Death looms at the end
Of the candlestick
Walk hand in hand
With me
Fellow traveler of
Uncharted paths
My fellow affliction
With the unknown
Unable to save myself
From the pain I know
Awaits me

Here it comes again
Inescapable, maniacal laughter
It doesn't feel good anymore
And all I ever wanted
Was your guiding hand
Complacent in lies
Forcing deafening cries,
For there will be
No reprise
As my soul flutters
And dies

Death for sale
Ten will take you away
Consumed by the thought of it
No more worry
No more being suppressed
This other kingdom
Unknowingly repressed
Delve deeper into the nightmare
We lie together
Naked
Unashamed
Open to the probing
Fingertips
Of the world
Unable to speak
Sleep paralysis,
Yet this is no dream
Wide eyed
Searching
Unable to scream

Incommunicable desires
No longer latent
Unsuppressed is the disease
Of your discontent
Insufferable, forcible pain
Towards the ones loved most
Catatonic, embryonic
Feeble mind
Please save me from myself

Forgive me, father
For I know not what I do
Forgive me, mother
For I do not blame you

Plastic state of being
Suspended in the viscous
Coagulant of stolen thought
And free will
Drowning in my
Own enjoyment
Of self suffering

How will you remember me?
A trembling voice
To read my eulogy?

Forget the things I should have said
This demoness I've brought to bed
Speaking in riddles
Bewilderment of the senses
Deeper appreciation
For the subjugation of man

War criminals in suits
Pretentious, cowardly vestiges of man
Surrounded by an air of
Undeserved arrogance
Getting fat on young girls
Sending their children to war
Safeguarded by a desk
And the allure of change
Obscene, disgusting animals
Consuming their weight daily
In the profit of drugs and
Devised disease
Profiteers of death
Politicians work the corners

And I fall,
Too weak to carry on
Can't escape my own
Lonely, cold, loveless
Gaze
Black holes in my head
Leading into the depths of
My soul
Emptiness pervading
Madness running rampant
Destroying who I once was
Tearing to pieces
My uniqueness
Stripped of self
Thrown back to march
Within the masses
Towards impending demise

Staring into the eyes
Of the serpent
Turned to stone
Numb to emotion
Numb to pain
I cry out for substance
I miss the person
I used to be
The person you loved
Before you met me

Relieve me now of sin
Unto re-birthing, begin
Relieve me now of this burden
Knowledge and shame
Relieve me now of myself
And self inflicted pain

There it goes again
Making me feel dour
It doesn't feel good anymore
Purge me of this dependency
Ancient, carnal need
Necessity of loathing the infinitesimal

I've met the devil in my dreams
She looked a lot like you
Dreaming in wakefulness
Awakened desire in dreams
What is my intention?

Do I provide a function
Or functionally provide?
Are you living in a nightmare?
Have you gone to sleep and died?

Synesthesia upon awakening
My sensory perceptions
The permutation of the
Infinite

Children of the wilderness
Remove us from the
Impurities of societal disorder
Relieve us of the blandishment
Of media driven fallacies
As the masses are hoarded,
Spoon fed their own flesh,
And directed onward
By the pusillanimous grave robbers
Awarded with the title of
Government official
Given diplomatic immunity
And free reign over
The direction of our lives

There lies a serenity
Beneath the quiet surface
Of the ocean
The ocean floor is vast,
Uninhabited promise

I have developed an acute prescience
For what will come

Man unknowingly conspires
Against himself,
For the good of man
Cannot overcome
The evils of mankind
Conquering in the name of
Worthless ideals
And fruitless endeavors

Conforming to nonconformity
You're only fooling yourself

Wandering about in a dreamy state
With unexplained expectations
For some sort of happy outcome
Welcome to my nightmare
My inescapable kismet
Defend me from myself
I have become
My own worst enemy
Just a hyena looking for
A lions share
More animalistic than
A starving predator

Morally ambivalent
Acting upon
Inconclusive notions
There is no stability
In this loose earth
Sinking ever deeper
Into life unbeknownst
To me
Quicksand enveloping
Sanity and conscience
Leaving behind
Only memories of
What we ought to have
Become

Been suppressing emotion
For so long
Seems like forever
Since I've gone
Numb to the heartache
Blind to the happiness
Rediscovered childhood
At the end of my life

The words become a
Flowing river
My pen cannot dance
Quickly enough
To capture my
Escaping tongue

Discovering escape
Through self sufficiency

Sanity is nomadic
Traveling from
Person to person
Mind to mind
At any given moment
We are all insane
Began as a stream of consciousness and developed into a monster.
Larry Potter Jul 2013
I was hungry enough to eat the **** end of a skunk.  I felt like gobbling the whole mound of concrete that is half an hour closer from becoming a part of my room.  Make that a quarter. I guess my tummy has had enough grumbling, like a seething network of volcanoes ready to devour Hawaii.  I am sure as exhausted as a zombie after a “battle of life and death” handling a plethora of carpentry tools which I have managed to rummage from our dismal basement.  I’m quite serious with the phrase “battle of life and death”.  I get to have this Obsessive Compulsive Syndrome which gulps a huge amount of my rhythm compelling me to put things in place especially in my chamber.  At times, a weltered pen could instigate an emotional havoc.  Or perhaps an inappropriate collaboration of curtain hues and mattresses would be ample to spin the color wheel concept out of my brain.  But now, my walls have done it.  Well, it was just a microscopic sight of a divine crevice, but how in the world could that escape my eyes?  Without a second thought, I approved an avid proposal from my subconscious – a full concrete room renovation.  And that’s how it brings me here, smothering the last square inch of the genius blueprint with this porridge of lime and clay, the hell with chemistry!  I have found out that my room has achieved the piquancy of a sizzling summer noon, thanks to the mist of dust and the precipitating drops of sweat that come tingling down my overheating body.  Ah! At least my system tells me that I’m not a promising patient of ****** dysfunction.  When the last patch has been perfectly planed in place, I drew my last ounce of pure strength and plunged into my most formidable bed, congratulating myself for a job well done. Alas! A thirty-minute nap and I’m ready for a superb coffee and doughnut delight.

I woke up from a cat’s screech. I peeped through the window. The nap breaker was a Cheshire, one with a dimmer fur, the stripes of gray suppressing the darker color.  Its tail enjoyed dancing around its rear, connoting either fear or excitement. It sure has a distinctive mischievous grin.  The feline was on the verge of climbing up the roof by jumping from a gutter about five feet away.  It seemed to have slipped but has managed to bring its **** next to the roof tiles. It stared at me with intent, giving me the macabre look from its glaring eyes.  It’s as if I’m being watched, stalked and examined in a way I couldn’t see, bringing me that feeling of guilt, of remorse.  Urgh! That’s why I hate cats.  Though I’m planning to keep one, I’ll reconsider it.  But what pains me more is to discover that my alarm was not able to do the job and so I slept three hours more than planned.  I looked down and saw the city lights flashing one by one, the beams glowing like a barrier of radiance diffusing into the gloom of the night. I guess this was the price I have to pay. I traded my snack with a peaceful hibernation, turning the coffee into a glass of iced tea and the doughnut into a great dinner with me, myself and I.

I have learned to cook since I was ten.  My mother believed that culinary prowess could be inherited from generation to generation.  And so, she put her trust on me and I haven’t failed her ever since.  This gourmet brilliance proves to be very useful at times of solitude when you got bored of ordering other’s recipes and decided to make your own buffet.  I remembered her telling me that all food would taste good if there is the chef’s heart flavored in it.  Cooking is an art, combining the loops and the whoops of seasonings and spices to the medley of meat and herbs.  Tonight, I decided that my dinner would equal breakfast, satisfying the grudge that I got from skipping my  diabetic snack attack.  A beef stew and a side of paella made my stomach die in joy, appeased at last that my gears are energized for my routinely nocturnal bookworming activity.

I normally hide under my sheets at nine but tonight, I shall break the rules. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll fix the rules next time. Just this time to spare for I have gained interest on this book entitled “100 Years of Solitude”, talking about how one could live happily even alone, just by creating the world you have ever dreamed of. Gabriel García Márquez is dumping the “no man is an island” concept which anyway sounds inspiring to me.  Finally, I jumped into bed thanking Him for letting me outrun another day living alone in a comfortable apartment, free from all sorts of vexation.  I wished for a better life at school, which gives me an imagery of dull monochromatic memories.  I am not that famous but I can be someday.

A heavy beam of sunlight pierced through my window, refracting on the ***** white floor and creeping up to the mahogany table just right at the corner.  It intercepted with the glass pyramid and created a beautiful prism that glittered all around my room.  It was a really majestic scenery, one that I luckily happen to see every morning, a good optic background, I guess. Two hours before class time – that’s where my pattern starts.  Take a bath, eat, brush teeth, groom, check the doors and power, then I’m off to go. Everybody follows a certain kind of pattern, that’s for sure. Whether you wear different types of clothes everyday or use competing brands of toothpaste, clothes are clothes and toothpastes are toothpastes.  As humanity finds more and more complexities in life, they become wired to doing the things and involving the events which they think would give happiness to them and simplify their equation of life.

As a proof, there’s Mrs. Lanny Honeycut from the house next door. She usually sprinkles her daisies every ten in the morning, wearing that friendly neighborhood smile. On their patio, you could never miss a day seeing her husband, Mr. Blake Honeycut reading the daily papers with a round of tea, jam and bread spread on his table.  On the busy intersection stands traffic enforcer, Red Mayer, waving his arms to and fro while wearing that aura of valor, never seem to get tired of doing the same thing over and over again. Thousands go out for work and go back to sleep everyday and that's the status quo we're talking about. Even inside the academic arena, you can still hold on to that thought; I mean the size of the population doing the same pattern at the same time – my schoolmates, enemies and… friends? Well, I’m not quite sure with the last one, but it’s this: they all make a fun of me.  They say I’m a dork, a nerd, a geek, a freak, and etc.  I wonder if they mean everything that they say or say everything that they mean.  Either way you put it, I’m not buying it. I am not what they say I am.  I just like being alone and that’s where I do best.

And as always, the school is crowded with busy people rushing through the corridors. Others are beating the deadlines while some are happy they could breathe for another break. But no matter how busy everybody could be, there is always a time spent for “information dissemination” or chitchats. But only this time, the topic discussed is the same.  I could hear it on the entire campus, everywhere in the perimeter. Another student in the university is missing leaving no trace of existence.  It’s been going on like this for over two months now and the university council has taken their best courses of action to unknot this mystery while campaigns have been running on TV’s and vigils were spent. Not that I don’t care but it seems that this is also happening to other places, I mean, this is not the only school where maniacs could exist and become professional serial rapists in the making. By the way, this is already the 12th case on the record. Weren’t people overreacting to the issue? Isn’t the case overrated? Did they reject the possibility that these people ran away because they got pregnant, messed up or something like that? Soon, the university area was covered with security troops roaming around like a swarm of bees, buzzing and sometimes boozing all the time.

I guess that’s what happens when you hang out too much with friends who are just jesters plotting your own jeopardy. I don’t think it would be good at all to be bothered with things like that because sometimes, it’s also useful not to have any use at all.  Like the king being admired by his kingdom amidst his sloth and compromises.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not friendly anymore. Actually, if it happens that I got company, I would magnanimously offer a treat at my place.  But the thing is, who would likely do that? I’d cross my fingers on it.

Wishes do come true even for a loner like me.  I think I have a fan. No, that would be too sublime. She’s hot and she’s hotter when you’ll know she’s so cool. Quite a paradox, but that’s just reality.  We came to know each other on our lab class. Her name’s Athena, fitting for her twisted logic and good humor. It makes me burn a lot of calories when I talk to her more than a 5-mile marathon could squirt. We were lab partners and we get along well. I just couldn’t figure out where she got the courage to befriend me. I do regard myself as unwelcoming species, but I might work on it when someone tries to knock the door. We juxtapose ideas. Yes, that’s what makes our conversations spin like a merry-go-round. But we enjoy it nevertheless, evident by the crescent smile we both generate out of the craziest topics in store. Once, she interrogated my way of settling wars with enemies. Well, I told her it was my habit of treating them to my house and giving them souvenirs to show how sorry I could be. She snickered and her eyes glowed like the Andromeda and her face shun the whole universe. Oh, I can do this all day long, if only I got hold of time and space.

Today, she asked me if it would be okay if she’ll stay at my place till nine when her dad could be home and she would be able to call her and ask to pick her up. She reasoned out that otherwise, the night would be scary because she’ll be alone in their house, no company, no security. I was puzzled how the thought of being alone could scare her. It is like freedom from any constraints, no ties, and no limits. But I couldn’t blame her. She’s too fragile, too vulnerable to handle it with herself.  With the speed of the light, I accepted the favor.  Well, that goes even without saying.

It was past six thirty when we arrived at my immaculate apartment. It’s great to be an“ OC” sometimes, I said to myself.  I thought of a winner dinner, one that would make her visit worth reminiscing. I preferred Italian.  I cooked her lasagna and drenched the dinner with sherry. We talked a lot until we run out of resorts. I guess she planned it, or I planned it, synergy perhaps.

The clock ticked nine and there’s no sight of her father’s getaway car. But there’s no sign of worry in her countenance either. I surmise it didn’t reach her inkling yet to phone her dad.  She was busy dissecting my kitchen and living room with her very playful eyes. That doesn’t trouble me though. That’s just as instinctive as any other first time guest could get. She grappled her attention on my antique collection of prehistoric movies, like the Scarlet Letter, The count of Monte Cristo and the likes. She happened to love them too. Well, that makes her more beautiful to me, other than the satin white dress she wears. Suddenly, she got the impulse of going to my room. She said there’s nothing more exciting to see than a gentleman’s bedroom. I startled from the request, but before I could say anything, she leaped straight to my chamber with the gestures of an imp. It’s weird to be in this kind of circumstance because I don’t often invite a lot of visitants to my room. I ain’t no hotel crew, bowing down and waving his hand to the chamber’s destination and leading the VIPs to their cabins. Yet this time, it’s the other way around: it’s my cabin.

But now it’s too late to stop her. She molested the **** and I giggled for some reason. Finally, the door opened a crack and a bend of light escaped from inside. She stepped in, and I followed. She was filled with awe not because my room is all made of gold nor did it resemble a royalty’s den. It was the exaggerated neatness and order that greeted her. In some unknown vortex of my deepest imagining, it made me feel like I’ve been through this instance before. The flashback is not so vivid as it appears, but something tells me this isn’t the first time. Deja vu could be working on it, I infer,although I don’t really believe in those forms of conceptualizations. Perhaps it’s the sherry’s spell infiltrating my mental prognosis. But something, I guess, isn’t really right.

I caught her opening a red box that was hidden behind my cabinet. I tried to steal it away from her but she fought back and it came tossing down the floor. Numerous items spilled from the case. A purple head band with the glittering initials ANNE, a ruby embedded bracelet, and a Nokia handy phone exposed the secrecy. This isn’t going to go along well and fine, I guess. A strong surge of desire came from my core. It tried to envelop my entirety and control me like a lifeless puppet. I felt the tip of the pyramid glass in my hand and I succumbed to lose my consciousness.

Morning came and it felt better than ever. It was a ***** Saturday. There she lies beautifully on the deck, like an immortal bud of red rose trapped in golden amber. The cellophane fits her well, and there’s no doubt she’ll be complaining anymore. I already prepared a cozy place for her deep sleep: A 5x2 feet wall engravement which I was busy molding last night. It wasn’t easy making her go to bed but still it ended up smooth and sound. I helped her get up and fitted her in place.I turned on the radio as I reached for my dear carpentry tools. The news was still nailed on it. But this time, the missing case struck for the 13th turn. Ahh, the hell with society! They never really get a way to deal with it.

I was busy patching the last mound of concrete that is half an hour closer from becoming a part of my room. Make that a quarter. I guess there’s no end to this divine crevice issue. It must be following a pattern too. But I can handle it, thanks to this vicarious personality. I wonder if I could get the chance to invite another visitor in my place. But if I do, I would certainly offer the best treatment they could ever have.
Savanna Beldon Apr 2014
You look at me and see a reflection of an image
An image based on assumption
Assumption based on a stereotype
A stereotype based on insecurities

I look at you and see a person
A person with a unique life
A life with a complicated past
A past with a promising future

We look at each other
You judge I wonder
weinburglar Apr 2015
The coolest girls in the world put rings in the places where doctors disconnected them from their mothers. Guys put ink in their forearms. Spaces in their ears. Their parents say things like, “what the ****?” But even they know ink and plastic gaps are better expressions than dead Vietnamese and ****. Better expressions than a vote towards Michael Reagan’s father, the movie star.

You were the fools that bought homes, cars, and color tv’s on unprecedented credit, things for your daughters and sons that they would probably disparage if only they knew the word. You were the ******* that made Sam’s Club, because Costco and Wal-mart weren’t enough. The one’s that plugged us into free AOL accounts that Stater Brother’s gave you with your purchase of Pop Tarts and Cookie Crisps. I guess you could say the ink in our arms is yours as much as ours.

The thing about ink though, is that it’s more constant than anything this generation has ever known. When our TV’s become internet, and internet 4G, and 4G spaceships, the **** in our arms will persist as what was once alive. It will remind us of the life we lived before we were tattooed with the consumerism and media that you did nothing to stop.
  
Maybe you should have kept doing acid, you all were much more promising in the 60's.
alexa Jul 2018
i just want to stay up all night
writing, perhaps.
haikus & slam poetry, written in all caps.
watching the starry sky
with a handsome stranger,
running red lights and trespassing
regardless of danger.
maybe a late-night drive
with the windows rolled down,
a romantic stroll
through this sleepy town.
how about a midnight picnic
with my favorite lover?
whole summer spent promising
there will never be another.
i'll tell you again:
i don't care what we do,
because anything becomes everything
when i'm doing it with you.
-a.c.b
last couple lines stolen from a past poem of mine... which one?
As mother nature's
Punitive measure
Against a society
In maintaining
The statuesque
That doesn't bother,
Our rivers
Had become subject
To a water thirst,
To the extent
Of projecting
Rocky ribs
Terrifyingly protruded out
For easy count!

But now thanks to
The all-out, terrace making
And reafforestation effort
Of each catchment
Farmers have made a point
And also  to the afforestation
Move of the government
Rivers aside from quenching
Their insatiable thirst
Have resumed
To brim over
With floods
Drinking water
To their hearts' content.

Our forests once stripped of
Their wooded cover
Have started, fast, to recover
From afar they are seen
Robed eye-catching green
From a fry-pan sky
Allowing a shelter
Also busy
Carbon to sequester.

Wild animals
That migrated
Have preferred
Back their way to find.

Now farmers don't have
Deep to dig
To sink a water well
Or find a nearby spring.

Birds are heard chirruping
Be it winter, summer or spring,
While Brooks bubbling.

Buzzing and hovering
From this to that flower
Bees are producing
Organic honey by the hour.

Promising a bumper harvest
Farmer's plots have
Fortunately continued
To resuscitate!
Those leaving
Their denuded abode behind
Away, who preferred
To stay
'We will return back
home soon! '
Is what
They  say.

Happily enough
Mother nature
Affords us a second chance
Imbued with
Environment stewardship
If  we are willing to mend
Our wrong 'Feast today
famine tomorrow! ' stance.

To dispel the spectre
Of climate change
And systematically face
The global challenge
True to the adage
'We have either to
swim together
or sink together! '

Hence in fighting the challenge
Or adapting to the change
Back scratching,
We have to be on the same page.

Indeed, irrigation must
Not slip our mind
For erratic rainfall
A  lasting solution
If we must find.//

Once a famous Ethiopian Poet  Pro.Debebe Seifu Who had passed away had  penned down a picturesque poem lamenting the land degradation, deforestation and change of climate the country was suffering.The bad scenario seemed unrecoverable.Now a days Ethiopia is reversing that sad episode.I have therefore to write a poem on this
#change   #trees   #erosion   #climate   #deforestation   #enviroment   #degeradation   #desertification
Once a famous Ethiopian Poet  Pro.Debebe Seifu, Who had passed away, had  penned down a picturesque poem lamenting the land degradation,deforestation and change of climate the country was suffering.The bad scenario seemed unrecoverable then.Now a days Ethiopia is reversing that sad episode.I have therefore to write a poem on this.
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2018
.i'm not here for the people, i'm here for the language, having observed it degenerate into modern hieroglyphics of emoji, and the acronym standard of american English... i'm here... for the language... the people? well... they're the people, and will always remain, what they always were... collateral... i can't speak for the organic product of what i am an inorganic byproduct of... why would there ever be a Hegelian dialectic to begin with? rather than a dichotomy? wasn't Kant the one to come up with a priori (thesis) and the a posteriori (antithesis) dynamism? no? then i guess i'm illiterate! must be! otherwise, how so?  i can't exactly command my a priori, given, with some "wonderful" a posteriori substitute of the global individualist! this urban Frankenstein! maybe the English speaker can... but i can't... given they allowed themselves the travesty of grammatical profanity... it's almost a shame, that the asylums closed down... when is cushioned room when you need one? oh... right... denial for the cases equivalent to jimmy salive... you attack grammar?! you attack us all... there's not qualification standards required... not all of us are required to have status as English language teachers... some of us? are just generically frustrated!

would i extinguish
cigarettes into my knuckles?

well... i was trying to
spot bone,..

but the real reason?
ha ha!

i was attempting to
count the number of eyes
on a tarantula.

not a funny joke?
i get it...
   i wasn't aiming for funny...

ever watch the grooving
bopping along,
seduced by the rhythm
bass player in a band?

you'd thin it was the drummer...
turns out?!
the intermediating
   focus....
   bass is all rhythm...
there's no such thing
as a rhythm guitar section,...

hardly any drums in
a classical music composition...
bass...
the subversive underlying
principality
of the fiasco...
the...
                          Pandemonium!

set your eyes on the bassist's groove...
pursed lips...
mm hmm ya ha...
           the *******
blood suckling artery
with not need for metaphor
presence of a band...

bass... bass... bass...;
hence the missing E i guess;
was, and always will be:
the base and bait
for listening to 20th century music...

whiskey lime & pepsi?
***** lemon & pepsi?
can't tell the difference,
both sound equally promising...

it pains me, to agitate a drummer's heart,
imitating a beat
without any drumming equipment...
bopping along, sly, shy,
and sometimes awry, fired up...
        
there were a few things i'd love
to have become,
a prof. cyclist doing the tour de france....
a vet practitioner...
    among others...
   what did i become?
a mediocre poet...
       a spewer of words
rather than their instigator...

had i ever the ability to write
pop **** jargon of
lost and wishing for awaiting loves...
i'd **** one of those
housewife harlequin novels!

alas... not to be, not to be...
     guess i tapped into Russian funk...
that Russian ex-girlfriend?
apparently she likes my writing,
she said: you should get published...
i did... little as **** did that do to
me in securing a stature of possible
fatherhood and a Tolstoy town-house
in the middle of St. Petersburg...

    i wasn't a priori to fiddle that
******* out into a castrated bull
******* an ****** with no *****
but pure muscle tension
of the phallus...

   wait... you never ****** off
as a man, prior to producing *****?
feel sorry for you...
guess the whole abortion debate
is killing you...
          you know...
  that's almost equivalent to theft...
what happens on the throne of thrones
and is dumped into a tissue?
ditto, i.e. remains there...

       thieving *****...
                  huh?!
                    **** it... do the Islamic take
on thieves...
ensure all the western men have
their ******* arms cut off...
to stop the thieving with
western culture jurisprudence
in-acting transgression
of transcending the allowance of
abortion, and...
enforcing...
                whatever the ****
fatherhood means...
when?
     a women proposes to you...
and then decides to throw away her
engagement ring, she, herself, chose...

as if... she never had the notion
of being young and being poor...
**** me! she forgot the beautiful part
of the equation!
  i liked her doughnut over-sized nose...
i loved to teasingly bite it
during *******!

      **** me... that contorted
face, Francis Bacon-esque
in the mirror doing *******?

      mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

look here: FULL MOON ALL OVER
MY FACE...

         there's no revenge ****
in this scenario...
                
  hey! resurrect the Bastille!
and i'll be the second Marquis de Sade
screaming the revolutionaries!
YOU FORGOT THE JUICE!
the juice?!
YEAH! THE MOLOTOV COCKTAILS!

                anarchy...

       what order is there to speak of?
when grammar is secondarily dictated,
outside of the teaching profession?
     these people are teaching me language,
or secondarily indoctrinating
me into the abuse of language -
with political bull's diarrhea?

   can't have one and the other...
   you attack grammar?
        everyone restricted to a grammatical
conventionality, will...
spank you with a naked russian saber...
   i'm not here for playing
unorthodox language games
outside of crossword puzzles
i don't entertain having the capacity
to solve...

               you play your game...
i'll play mine...
i have the integrity of the English
language at stake...
   not this post-colonialist quasi-English
*******!

— The End —