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Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: So Aziel what's your plan with Frank?
Aziel: Well he is going to help me destroy the Order Of The Silver Knights and in return I shall help him get the Witch who cursed the Forest Of Whispers.
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Well I'll give you some valuable information who your looking for is Bethilda N. Lement. She is a very powerful Witch who with her Elemental Plowness is able to obtain what she wants.
Aziel: Well well ...so the Old Hag still holds the grip over the Forest doesn't she
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Indeed she isn't someone to take lightly now she is well rounded and knows how to fight. She controls The Tavern Of Doom Dragons. In her possession are 3 fully grown Dragons. Blair the Oldest Dragon Claire The Mother Dragon and Aurora the youngest one of them three.
Blair the Black Dragon Claire The White Dragon and Aurora the Stone/Lighting Dragon. Many have meet their doom entering in her territory Cyclop Human and Vampire Alike.
Aziel: I don't have anything to fear.

~Meanwhile...~

Bethilda Lement: Adreanna I want you to learn more about my Dragons start training with Aurora but be cautious she may be only three years old but she is powerful and robust. Lement screeches then Aurora hovers over the Mountain Of Shen* where the Tavern Of Doom Dragons is located. Adrianna Develve places a strong spell in the Dragon Aurora she finally succumbs to her authority.
Adrianna and Aurora go take down the Golem Of Steel  in the Hidden Ruins Of Odom.* The Golem stands 15 ft high weighs 2,500 pounds. Holding a crest of an almost impenetrable diamond in the middle of his chest. Emanating from the Crystal comes all his power and it's his only weak spot. Then Aurora and Adrianna make an impressionable entrance to the ruins and attack the Golem head on. Golem Of Steel: Here stands the infamous Adrianna Develve...well isn't  this a surprise.  I see that you have grown some and are able to maintain your powers well to face me. I know what you want you want the Crystal in my chest...that will be over my dead body. Audon's Crystal* is powerful enough to consume 1000 Well Trained Witches therefore young Witch you don't scare me. Now as for that Dragon well ... perhaps you stand a chance after all.  Adrianna Develve: I usually don't pick fights with powerful DemiGods like yourself but I  am in desperate need for your Crystal. Therefore, you will hand it over or I'll take it by force.  Golem Of Steel:  Good Luck.
Aurora shields herself with Stone Armor and goes head on collision with the Golem. He dodges the attack and  counterattacks with a strong fist to the  Dragons body and knocks Aurora down cracking part of her Stone Armor. The young female Dragon counterattacks with a powerful lighting blast hitting The Steel Golem in the right shoulder injuring him. Develve attacks with a powerful mind blast knocking down the Golem Of Steel on it's back. The Golem Of Steel bleeds blue blood out of his shoulder blade and runs full force towards Adrianna Develve.  She  dashes the attack and counterattacks  with a Shadow Ball attack hitting him in the chest and expanding all over its body. It's a possession Ninjutsu technique making him practically paralyzed for about 2 minutes till he breaks free from the technique but sustains a considerable amount of damage. Adrianna Develve seeing that the Golem Of Steel is showing a sign of weakness she takes advantage to try to inflict him with a spear of lighting into the chest impairing him and he bleeds out the mouth but as the last resolution The Golem Of Steel punches the Audon Crystal shattering it into 5 individual pieces him losing his life in the process however what he didn't know is that Adrianna Develve collected all the pieces however there was a violent explosion at the site shattering huge boulders of steel and inflicting Aurora gravely. Adrianna Develve  hurries and performs a powerful healing spell leaving her drained of all power. Adrianna Develve hurries to get out of the ruins because they are crumbling down. She manages to recover Aurora briefly from there they fly to The Tavern Of Doom Dragons Of Doom Dragons right when she pulls in with Aurora who is injured from the boulders hitting her body and face at high velocity even the Rock Armor was perforated. The Dragon lands barely with Adrianna Develve who gets the Wrath of Granny Bethilda N. Lement. Aurora breathing heavily and bleeding out the mouth slipping in and out of consciousness ...Adrianna Develve barely getting off the Dragon.
Bethilda Lement: What the hell  happened to Aurora she is in really bad shape. Adrianna your completely drained I see you did good by healing her however, she must rest for about 3-4 days now and fully recover from that gruesome fight with that **** Golem Of Steel. Adrianna are you Ok darling? Go get some rest I see you used the forbidden technique of Soul Healing Transfer. Well now you'll live 12 years less thanks to your little sharede. Develve I am thankful that you saved my Dragon from dying but hell consequences are quite dire.
Develve: Here Granny Lement I got Audon's Diamond however it's shattered in 5 separate pieces.
Bethilda N. Lement:  Let me guess the Golem Of Steel did not want this to fall under the wrong hands for it is a powerful relic. Smart move buying time however, useless due to the fact that we got the diamond under our possession. Adrianna we are going to search the Master Forger Of Relics* who can aid us recover this valuable relic to it's original state. It's said that he resides in one of the headquarters of the Order however, he has worked with Witches, Pagans and Nacromancers before so am sure that as long as we provide the right monetary value to repair the relic he'll work for us.
Develve: Why don't we just kidnap him and make him do the work or he pays with his life?
Lement:  Good objective it may have to work that way for us.
Develve: Im aware that the Cyclop population in the Village Of Chalekathan are not taking your threats seriously well ElderLord Gromm has not paid his fee from allowing them to live and not be consumed by the curse itself.
Lement: By killing him we can set an example of what can happen to them if they don't cooperate with our cause.
Develve: It dangerous though he is a strong Leader with lots of powerful influences. Plus he is a highly skilled Witch Doctor/Shaman able to manipulate the forces of nature. Known to use 3 Godly Deities Aikune Chalekathan & Eion. Aikune the cherubim of the Northern Side Of Heaven. Chalekathan the Spirit God embodiment of The Forest Of Whispers and last but not least Eion the mythical creature with an Eagle face 6 wings and the body of a Lion. Embuted with heavenly essence making him a very formidable foe.
Develve:  We will take care of our responsibilities soon but our primary mission is to talk Ayeiton Balderoux III* the Master Forger Of Relics.
: Whoa had no idea he was The Kings kin.
Lement: Indeed he is now go and lay your head and recover some energy because we need to practice your magical plowness.
Adrianna heads towards the Guest Room.

~Meanwhile in The Forest Of Whispers~
Frank Deltoro gets introduced to Gromm ElderLord Of Chalekathan by Jhino.  He also introduces Navarro Castleworth who is pleased to meet the famous Elder.
Gromm: Hello young man I am the protector of this village which has sustained numerous attacks by Lement's Dragons. Develve also partook enthusiastically with her Grandmother in attacking innocent hard working Cyclops. Making them slaves of the Curse which drives them mad and homicidal attacking friends brothers and family so we had to do the inevitable put them down.
Nevertheless, I pray to Deynave Dion High Saint/Priestess Queen Of All Shamanism to protect the lost souls of them Cyclops who fought the curse till the very end but unfortunately lost the fight and in turn lost their lives.
Frank: My condolences to your friends ElderLord Gromm.Am sure they in a better place now at least not suffering. However, I have a personal matter to score with Lement. She kidnapped and murdered my only daughter 10 years ago she was a...his voice gets trembly and he lightly clears his throat..at the same time a solid solo tear drops from his only Eye symbolizing a Fathers great pain and suffering from such an atrocious act." Gromm regains his composure. I got a personal score to settle with Mrs.Lement due to the fact that she took a piece of my heart and soul she killed my daughter. Develve played her part in the kidnapping of my baby girl 10 years ago she would be 18 years old today if Shaila Dair Sultran were alive...her appointed time to be brutally killed by my hand is coming...Bethilda N. Lement has been suppressing her powers for the last 300 years I believe she has some sort of powerful anti-chi barrier put up extending tremendous lengths so even if she is active in The Forest Of Whispers we wouldn't know how to tell due to this **** barrier.
Frank: So your bloodline comes from the Ancient times from the powerful Cyclop Of Royal Priests/Witch Doctors family Sultran.
"A gentle wind blows and Aziel telepathically communicates with Frank.  Aziel: Frank, be careful where you thread I been informed that Lement's Grand-Daughter Adrianna Develve recently gathered Audon's Crystal a powerful diamond known to give its user Bending Steel abilities and higher sustainability. Adrianna Develve has plans to use the Crystal to fully cover the Forest Of Whispers covering every inch of Forest with the Curse which drives all living creatures with a conscious mad totally subseptable to their influence.
However, to you those must be terrible news so my question is...you been in Chalekathan Village for 1 hr and a half you have 5.3 hrs till daylight removing the Darkness powers you currently control.
Frank: I am aware of this Aziel don't worry I'll take care of business.
Aziel: Keep an eye out Navarro I don't  trust him I don't know what intentions he has...plus he is part  of that shady Tower Of Frejoird but perhaps you can use his hatred towards the Order Of The Silver Knights. He can maybe be a reliable source. Be careful Frank.

~Meanwhile in Aziel Castle~
Isis: Well...Aziel aren't  you such a concerned individual...I didn't  know you had a soft spot towards mere humans.
Aziel: I usually don't...but Frank is different from the rest. He is courageous trustworthy and he put his life at risk by helping me regain all my vampiric power. I am in much debt to him...am having second thoughts on your plans to **** him after he completes his assignments that we have agreed upon. If he makes it out alive after all this...he at least deserves a reward and to live.
Isis: Chuckles at Aziel Aziel looks at the Empress with great focus.
Isis: C'mon I'll just have some fun with Frank I wasn't planning to ****** him.
Aziel: I'll  think about it now leave me be I got couple of things I need to take care of.
Isis: Fine Darling I'll  leave you be. You know you are the handsomest of all the brothers you have.
Aziel: Well now Isis you flirting with me...I doubt you'll want my erected tool up your stash. Don't you remember am a Vampire?
Isis: I'm aware of that. Adventure sounds fun plus I never had *** with a hot vampire like yourself.
Isis: Well Doll that is going to be some other time I am working against the clock right now.
Isis: Fine you *****...I'll leave. However, keep in mind that Im watching you closely. Plus remember I still keep contact with DarkLord for soon your Father will be back in this plane of reality.
Aziel: So I have heard.
Isis: Well I have found some juicy
Information about Uriels wereabouts he is in a Modern Castle in America. Amelia St and Cross. Residency 106. He is a huge celebrity in Russia and Germany. Keeps his bloodlust at check with fresh blood always for him to self medicate. Looking only 19 years old he is quite the chick magnet though not my taste his Gothic Progressive Horror Rock made him quite famous. Got 5 albums however kept his personal life well hidden from his fans. Many fake and supportive accounts claiming to know the real Uriel Governale. Though no one truly knows he is a vampire for certain. I know because I searched the private records and found out that he belongs to a High Ranking Secret Society known as Maximillion Vampire Clan. Which performs innocent human babies to be given as a sacrifice towards Baphomet and Azmodeus* 2 Of the Demon Lords of Hell. Your brother belongs to this hidden organization that operates in the Shadows but their latest project is to revive your Father the Progenitor most infamous VampireLord of all time. Dracula! Humanity will cease to exist if he were to be revived. All they need is a vial of blood from all of the current 8 saints and they have their eye on Saint Lauren Glennwald from the Eastern Side of Germany from a small rural community town known as Hertzentmort. She currently 25 years old is on a mission to collect Papal papers for the Order for you know they are closely tied to the papalcy. However, she got body guards that are Elite Knights with very powerful Anti-Witch spells and very accurate at pinpointing weak points in any battle with powerful Witches. So going alone isn't very advisable.<br>
Aziel: I greatly appreciate your information I'll take a look on what my little brother is looking to do. I'll take care of him. Don't you worry I'll be seeing you later. <br>
Isis: Alright..."She steps towards Aziel and rubs his chest and says...my reward is waiting for me...and looks down his pants" <br>
Aziel:  Now your tempting me to destroy that *****... but here this is what you'll get "he shows her his ****"<br>
Isis: Mmmm I can't wait baby...well that's a massive apparatus you got in there just hiding.<br>
Aziel: Hahaha...right. Soon enough I'll be all yours to play with. No leave me.<br>
Isis transforms to a cloud of dark myst and leaves the premises of the Castle.<br>
<br>
~Meanwhile in Uriel's Castle~<br>
<br>
The Maximillion Vampire Club had a secret meeting in the Uriel's Castle. There where many prestigious and famous guests there and so was the Highest Ranking Vampire of the Club Maximillion Virgil Vann himself. Inside the Castle where also uninvited guests from The Order Of The Silver Knights pretending to be Vampires. His name Michael Neil Stalwart & his partner Aalyaah Black. Both of them infiltrated the party somehow the Order Of The Silver Knights caught wind of shady operations in the occult club and decided to check it out. Michael & Aalyaah belong to Stealth/Infiltration part of the Order known as The Dark Ones
. Even the last 5 remaining Dark Priests from the Cathedral Of Skylor* where 13 years ago Baphomet was revived and mortalized to walk upon humans granting favors for a price. Ultimately the price Demon Lords require of humans is their souls to consume them and become more powerful. This 5 Dark Priests where very important in the ceremony taking place because tonight at 3 a.m. they will unify their powers to revive Azmodeus. They were successful on bringing back Baphomet back to life so they are trying to revive another Demon Lord. In Baphomet's revival they used 666 unborn fetuses with 6 babies 3 male and 3 female all born under the sign of Capricorn and all must be 3 months premature. With this requirements met...Baphomet was revived to this plane of existence, however since he was violent and still hellbent from transitioning from the hellish plane to a mortal one he killed and consumed 3 Dark Priests in the process of fully coming to his senses and being able to recognize them and thank them for what they done. Baphomet promised that he would aid them 5 Dark Priests revive all 13 Demon Lords and in turn 2 Of the 5 remaining Dark Priests must sacrifice themselves to the Demon Lords for the strongest remaining 3 get a extraordinary reward.
By Jennifersoter Ezewi

If we recover from this:
We will deepen our respect for the creator of life.

If we recover from this:
We will thankfully live our lives.

If we recover from this:
We will never neglect our health sectors.

If we recover from this:
We will learn to love beyond class.

If we recover from this:
We will realise that we need each other.

If we recover from this:
We will put our unity to good use.

If we recover from this:
We will renovate our homes to suit our comfort.

If we recover from this:
We will learn to understand the beauty of good planning.

If we recover from this:
We will appreciate the importance of knowing what to do at the right time.

If we recover from this:
It will be a life time lesson.
This poet talks  about the need to seal up our loopholes after the Coronavirus saga.
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.
jake aller Mar 29
Corona Virus Poems


Index
The virus from hell is amused
End of the World
Every Day I Turn on the New
Irony Meters Blow Gaskets
Chaos
Corona Virus Fears Tanka
My Phobias Overwhelm Me
Fear Fills the Air
Is this the best we can get?
More Trouble Every Day
by pass the alarms spreading across the land
corona cinqku
Taking a Walk in the Corona Era
A lone man stands in an empty parking lot
hell of a world we live in ain’t it?
Pause for a moment amidst the media madness
I feel as if the whole world needs to be cancelled
The Virus King Cried
Bring out your dead
the Virus Came From Hell
The Delivery System of the Virus is Round
the corona virus is testing us all
the call goes out
the horsemen begin to ride
nature spirits revolts against humanity
Last Human on Island
Corona Virus Haiku
the virus came from hell
bring out your dead cries
Be Afraid  haiku
Death Comes Knocking
the virus from Hell haiku



the Virus from Hell is amused
the Virus from Hell is amused
laughing at the world’s panicked reaction
as it marches through the world unabated
infecting everyone in its wake
as the world awaits its fate
the virus smiles he ain’t no fake
he is the real deal
he is death itself
he is the end of the world
the grim reaper is smiling
god is silent as usual
the world’s leaders
dither and rather
as the economy craters
everyone hoping that God
will save them
the virus does not care
insults and orders do not work
the virus simply does its virus thing
infecting everyone it encounters
and thousands will die
equal opportunity offender
killing the rich and the poor alike
but more poor people
just so many more poor people
than the few billionaires
the virus smile
his work is done
and mankind is doomed
so be it the virus thinks




that is the way of the world
and the virus is the new king
of the world

End of the World
end of world
the fears world-wide
soon find us dead
bring out the dead
ll the dead die
death lies here there
there goes here
as death here comes
soon here death comes


Every Day I Turn on the News
debunking the bioweaapon conspiracy theories
every day I turn on the news
nothing but news about the virus
the virus from hell
the world is filled with fear
and my anxiety levels rise
every time I turn on the news
oh my god I say
we are all going to die
and I am so afraid
afraid of everyone
afraid of everything
dreading the latest news
and nothing relieves my fear
I watch the world
loosing its collective mind
wondering how much more of this
can  we all take
I scream out
Dear God save us all
god is silent as usual
and so I realized
we are doomed
perhaps it is the end times
perhaps not
I turn off the TV
try to stay calm
hoping the madness
will not overwhelm us all


Irony Meters Blow Gaskets
the Irony meter gasket
is blown again and again
with every statement
of our chaos president
and his endless surrogates
promoting the latest Presidential
on spot guidance by our great leader
that must be true
because our dear leader
says it is so
The President accuses his democratic rival
of being senile and needs to be in home
and will be run by his radical left allies
and the right wing media
echoes the presidential absurd comments
refusing to acknowledge
that the president himself
is rapidly fading into dementia
and his radical right cronies
are looting the government
driving out expertise
even in the midst of pandemic
Oh  yeah the irony meters
are blowing gaskets
every single day

Chaos
the world descends into chaos
as our world leaders
led by the chaos president
are overwhelmed
by the smallest
enemy of all
a simple virus
straight out of hell
blows through the crumbling
third world public health infrastructure
living proof of the decline of America
and no one is prepared
and panic ensures
with every Presidential tweet
as people don’t believe
a word he says
conspiracy rumors spread
everyone believes their own reality
as the world spins out of control
the chaos king is in his element
convince that only he knows
the deal
and everyone else
is iust a bit player
in the reality show
that he presides over
and so the rest of us
hunker down
just hoping for the best
as the panic and
chaos spreads faster
than the virus
are we doomed
can we survive
will God save us?
he is silent as always

Corona Virus Fears Tanka
Corona virus
lurking fears all around me
we all will die
the TV screaming nonstop
Must be afraid be afraid

My Phobias Overwhelm Me
lately I have become scared
of everything
the news scares me, the corona virus scares me, the presidential race scares me, fears of gun men in the street, terrorism, fears of getting sick, fears of dogs, fears of other people, fear of loosing money, fears of becoming demented old man, lost in his nightmares on the street just another invisible homeless *** in the end of his life
all these phobias overwhelm me
time to walk away from my fears
and realize
it will be alright
everything will be alright
As long as I have you
by my side

Fear Fills the Air

watching the news
CNNMSNBCFOXBBCKOREANNEWSJAPANESENEWSBLOOMBERABCCBSNBCGOOGLEA­PPLEREUTERSAPIRUSSIANTVCHINESTVFRENCHTV
blather on and on
the world is ending
pandemic is coming
we are going to die
and the fear grows
and the restrictions grow
travel comes to stop
the economy comes to  a stop
everyone is so afraid
our leaders fret
say that everything is fine
as the world enters
the second great depression
and we are faced
with the reality
all over the world
idiots in high places
the masters of the universe
are in charge
the internet spreads
the wildest rumors
must be true
I read it on the internet
the truth is lost
in the shuffle
no one believes anyone
everything thinks
that they know
it is all a conspiracy
the thought comes to mind
we are all so ’S….
end of the world
is upon us

is this the best we can get?
watching the news
one wonders
how in this great country
of ours
335 million people
among the most educated
richest people in the world
we can end up
with such idiots in high places
running out country?
these idiots in charge
no disrespect intended
both political parties
all corporations
and our institutions
except maybe the military
has been infected
by this virus
of epic incompetence
greed and indifference
to the general good
who loudly constantly proclaim
that they are Christians
while violating
all of Christ's teachings
Jesus if he came back
would scream out
I am not Christian
it is all about me
and mine
and you can go
to hell
if you dare to disagree
and so we tweet and titter
and watch the news
reading the latest rumors
and I wonder
if there is a god
or if there is a devil
and are we overwhelmed
by the dismal news
why can’t we have better
leaders
better people
in our leaders
around the world
has god abandoned us
are we in hell
or did god ever exist
except in our fevered imagination
will god save us all
or will the world
just go around the sun
indifferent to our pleas?
no answer
must watch the news
consumed by the need
to see the latest news
and so it goes
and I wake up
the sun is up
and the nightmares
fade away
until I watch the news
and the madness consumes
us all again and again
as the corona virus
marches on and on
consuming us all
as the world falls apart
these must be the end times
I hope I will be raptured away
even if I am not a Christian

More Trouble Every Day
The Old Zappa song plays
on in my head
every time I turn on the news
and see more trouble every day
no one can delay
the trouble coming every day
Frank Zappa died too soon
before the horrors of the Trump era
and the corona end of the world plague
that he would have foreseen
if he had lived on
he was truly a prophet
crying in the wildness
while making money
as an over night sensation
as he saw the slime
oozing out of the TV sets
we will do what we are told
for the rights to us have been sold
And Jesus too
has been sold
to the highest bidder
nothing but a business deal
in America
the land of the constant deal
and so I turn off the TV
and realize that
the torture never ends
the torture never ends

Trouble Every Day
more trouble every day  Frank Zappa
Well I'm about to get sick
From watchin' my TV
Been checkin' out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it's gonna change, my friends
Is anybody's guess
So I'm watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
Wednesday I watched the riot...
I seen the cops out on the street
Watched 'em throwin' rocks and stuff
And chokin' in the heat
Listened to reports
About the whisky passin' 'round
Seen the smoke & fire
And the market burnin' down
Watched while everybody
On his street would take a turn
To stomp and smash and bash and crash
And slash and bust…

The Torture Never Stops
Frank Zappa
torture never stops
Flies all green and buzzin'
In this dungeon of despair
Prisoners grumblin
**** they clothes
Scratch their matted hair
A tiny light from a window-hole
Hundred yards away
That all they ever get to know
'Bout the regular life in the day
'Bout the regular life in the day
Slime and rot and rats and snuck
***** on the floor
Fifty ugly soldier men
Holdin' spears by the iron door
Stinks so bad, stones are chokin'
Weepin' greenish drops
In the den where
The giant fire puffer works
And the torture never stops
The torture never stops, torture
The torture never stops
The torture never stops
Flies all green and buzzin'
In this dungeon of despair
An evil prince eats a steamin' pig
In a tumbers right near there
In the chambers right near there
He eats de snouts an trotters first!…


by pass the alarms spreading across the land
to bypass the alarms spreading across the land
the circuit breakers are breaking down
as the alarms go on and on
with the end of the world
the end days approaching
spreading the alarm far and wide

corona cinqku
corona
it came from hell
we must be all prepared
meet God


Taking a Walk in the Corona Era
every day I go for a walk
in the spring time woods
near my house
braving the weather
and the dreaded corona virus
wearing masks and gloves
keeping a distance
from anyone we encounter
that is life it seems
in the era of the corona virus
when will it end
no one knows
until then
I will brave the viral threat
and confront my fears
and walk in the park
with the love of my life
my bride my wife
by my side
in these challenging times
that is all we can do

A lone man stands in an empty parking lot

contemplating the new normal
social distancing run amuck
as fears of the corona super plague
plague the land
driving everyone inside
sheltering in place
afraid to go out
afraid of the deadly c virus

It is a hell of a world we live in ain’t it?
It is a hell of a world we live in ain’t it?
said the old man to me
sitting on a bench
in the park in the woods
as we both sought shelter
from the spreading chaos
the pandemic swirling around us
Yes I said
standing up
to enforce the proper distance
between us
don’t want to give the virus a chance
to spread between us
he smiled and said
relax I already went through it
I am fine and you will too

Pause for a moment amidst the media madness
Pause for a moment amidst the media madness
All around us fears and chaos
Unlike the end of the world approaching us
Sadness overcomes us dooming us to our fate
Every we go nothing but death awaits

I feel as if the whole world needs to be cancelled
I feel as if the whole worldneeds to be canceled
due to rough times ahead
due to the corona madness
and the thread of pure craziness
that it inspires in us all

The Virus King Cried

the virus king smiled
as the politicians lied
saying that the end was near
the virus king infected thousands more
and killed hundreds of people
the virus king sneered
as people panicked
and partied on the beach
the virus king infected thousands more
and killed hundreds of people
the virus king laughed
as the markets crashed
millions became unemployed
the virus king infected thousands more
and killed hundreds of people
the virus king roared
as the world slid into chaos
people turning on one another
the virus king infected thousands more
and killed hundreds of people
the virus king smirked
knowing that there was nothing
that they could do to stop
his army from infecting millions
and killing thousands
the virus King begin to realize
that soon there would be no one left
no one for his army to infect
as everyone was dying
the virus King yelled
remaining defiant
as civilization collapsed
billions were infected
millions died
the Virus King at last cried
when he saw that he was defeated
as one by one
people began to recover
and his reign of terror came to an end

Bring out your dead
the call bring out your dead
spreads around the world
as millions die
all over the world
the virus has spread
mutated and killed
all over the world
bring out your dead
the mournful cries
echoing in the wind
of the dying cities
mass starvation
as no is working
in the fields
as more people die
and the world spins
around the sun
with the politicians lying
and the dead still dying
as civilization dies
and humanity flee
into the wilderness
chased by the killer virus
straight down to hell

the Virus Came From Hell
the virus came from hell
straight out of a mad lab
born and raised in China
the virus spread from Dinah
all over to carolina
it spread from the lab
the mad virus of Hell
was mad as hell at humans
who it blamed for everything
seeing itself as cleansing everything
killing the world and everything
revenge against humans
perhaps virus came from God
more likely came from Satan
part of natures’ revenge
all designed to avenge
the damage to Stonehenge
virus came from Satan

The Delivery System of the Virus is Round
the delivery system of the virus is round
very simple system
the virus spreads around
and all must pay the price
death and destruction

the corona virus is testing us all

the corona virus
is testing us all
is it a plague
sent by God

if we have faith
will we recover

or it is beyond our control
the end of the world

does god hear our prayers
does god even exist

the virus from hell
spreads around the world

and test our faith
will god save us all

I have no answer
but perhaps if god exists

we will recover
from this plague
from hell



The call goes out

the call goes out
stay at home
to beat the dreaded c virus

will we live
or all die?

the four horse men ready to ride

the end of the world is upon us
as god unleashes the corona virus
which is spreading across the land

the four horse men are ready
to begin their grim journal
announcing the end of the world

the white horse comes first
offering peace and hope
in the midst of death
and despair

the red horse rides second
ushering in war
throughout the world
as nations turn on each other
and civil war looms

the Black Horse is ready
unleashing famine
on a starving world
as people stay at home
and food rots in the field

no one is able
to work any more
as the virus kills more
and more

the pale horse rides last
bringing death
in his wake

death all around us
as the virus kills us all
and civilization ends

the four horse men
have done their job
the virus finishes its reign of terror
and the few survivors
beging to recover

end of the world
came and went
and they are still alive
thanks to God

who remains silent
as always

nature spirits revolt against humanity

all around the world
nature's spirits
are on the move

the world is changing
as the nature's spirits
rise up
in revolt against humanity

is this the end time
is nature on revolt
against humanity

is this the end for us all
will the virus **** us all
will nature rise up
and **** us all?

Last Human on Island

Last human on an island
in the deep blue sea
nothing there
but death and destruction

virus all around
pandemic plague
Apocalyptic views
end of times
death of civilization




corona virus

corona virus
staying home waiting for death
Afraid everything  
the virus came from hell

the virus came from hell
staying home waiting for death
Afraid everything  
Bring Out Your Dead

bring out your dead cries
break out all over the world
we are waiting death



death comes knocking

death comes knocking
on our doorsteps tonight
will God hear prayers



be afraid afraid

be afraid afraid
Must be afraid every one
Death is at our door


The Virus Came From Hell


the virus came from Hell
ravaging the entire world
all waiting for death
my take on the corona virus pandemic  for more check out my blog, https://theworldaccordingtocosmos.com
jide oyediran Jul 2013
DREAMS
One beautiful thing about Dreams
U discover then u recover
The funny thing about Dreams
When discovered u think u have recovered  
But you are not even close to recovering
Another funny thing about Dreams  
When you are almost there
Something pulls u down
At that point you need to discover
When u are through
With discovering
then u can  boldly recover
Stick to your DREAMS den u will RECOVER
unedited inspiration!
In between   (a poem)
.
my mind struggles against its own illusion
nightmare tumbles out into still morning
light is heavy,
a fog of echoes...
and I am caught
.
day dreams the sunlight
dreams light the day
and I am caught in between
mourning echoes...
like a stillborn ghost
who can't take a breath in the present

….
  
I live on a tropical island and just want to go surfing with my husband, but the nausea in the early morning as I try to eat  breakfast and drive with him to the beach is so uncomfortable.  Day after day it makes even surfing a chore, and I consider not going anymore.  Background anxiety and unreasonable irritation interferes with our marriage, frustrates him enough to want me out.  

For me, a trip to the grocery store or meeting a group of people awakens the same dreadful fear as rockclimbing a cliff. Perspective has been lost in the extremes.  I try to gain some control over this hindering nuisance, seeking situations that bring the same surges of adrenaline so I can learn to master it.  If I can just push past the avoidance that would keep me inside doing nothing, if I can just ignore the feeling I want to throw up, if I can just get out there, I am rewarded with life’s potential beauty eventually.  Many days I do enjoy the thrill of mountain biking or connection with nature when surfing, but there are too many days of internal struggle that reduce what should be enjoyable to a relentless chore of wrestling inner demons.

The VA offers a few sessions of marriage counseling, and the doctor begins to explain PTSD.  ***, I’ve learned to cope with an unreliable brain, but now there’s this?  From what I understand (and that’s just me, an amateur philosopher) Sometimes the brain is so traumatized, that the memory is literally sealed off, encapsulated, protecting it from changing.  If later something happens that is similar, the brain triggers avoidance responses as a take-no-chances survival mechanism.  Literally the brain is protecting one’s self from one’s self.  This all-or-nothing strategy works fending off potential dinosaur attacks, but in our complex society, these automatic avoidance behaviors complicate functioning and well being.  Life becomes an attitude of constant reaction instead of motivated intention.

The website for the National center for PTSD says.  “After a trauma or life-threatening event, it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping. If these reactions do not go away or if they get worse, you may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.”  

“Common reactions to trauma are:
• Fear or anxiety: In moments of danger, our bodies prepare to fight our enemy, flee the situation, or freeze in the hope that the danger will move past us. But those feelings of alertness may stay even after the danger has passed. You may:feel tense or afraid, be agitated and jumpy, feel on alert.  
• Sadness or depression: Sadness after a trauma may come from a sense of loss---of a loved one, of trust in the world, faith, or a previous way of life. You may:have crying spells, lose interest in things you used to enjoy, want to be alone all the time, feel tired, empty, and numb.  
• Guilt and shame: You may feel guilty that you did not do more to prevent the trauma. You may feel ashamed because during the trauma you acted in ways that you would not otherwise have done. You may:feel responsible for what happened, feel guilty because others were injured or killed and you survived.  
• Anger and irritability: Anger may result from feeling you have been unfairly treated. Anger can make you feel irritated and cause you to be easily set off. You may:lash out at your partner or spouse, have less patience with your children, overreact to small misunderstandings.  
• Behavior changes: You may act in unhealthy ways. You may:drink, use drugs, or smoke too much, drive aggressively, neglect your health, avoid certain people or situations.”   It lists four main symptoms: reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind of the event, feeling numb, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)”

Four words strung together: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  They’ve become a tired cliché, exhausted from the endless threat of random cruelty camouflaged in banality, weary of the weight shouldering back the wall that separates death and gore from the living.  Living was a reflex beyond willpower and devoid of choice. Control was self-deception.  The mind was so preoccupied with A: survival, B: sanity, in that order.  Rest was a cruel illusion.  The tank was drained, no room for emotions ditched.  Empathy took too much effort, fear was greedy.  Hopefully they can be remembered and found on the other side, if there is one.  Sleep deprived cells were left hyper-alert from the imminent, shot up and addicted to adrenaline.  Living was Fate and Chance, and meant leaving that time and place sealed in forgetfulness.  

Now PTSD is a worn out acronym, a cold shadow of what it feels like.  I try to think of something more personal that can describe the way it randomly visits me, now resigned to its familiar unwelcome influence.  It steals through my brain, flying ahead of me with its own agenda of protecting sabotage.  Its like the Guardian Trickster of Native American legend.  Its an archetype but real enough to make mistakes: Chulyen, the black raven.

A decade after the ER, contentment is found in a garden of slow tranquility as a butterfly interrupts a sunbeam.  My heart fills with bittersweet as I’ve finally found something I love and want to keep.  Just then Chulyen’s grasping black claws clamp my heart with painful arrhythmia and it fills to burst, tripping in panic trying to recover its pace.  The sudden pain drops me to my knees, in the dirt between fragrant lavender and cherry tomatoes.  Pain stops breath and time and makes me remember the ER, when my heart rebelled its ordained purpose for a week.  I had tried to throw my bitter life back in God’s face but He didn’t take it.  Now that I have peace and a life that I treasure, He’s taking it now.  The price for my mistake is due.  It was all just borrowed time and I’m still so young, my children just babies.  God with a flick of cruelty reminds me not to put faith in the tangible, especially when its treasured.  The sharp claws finally relent and I can breathe, looking up with a gasp and the Raven takes flight overhead leaving a shadow.  Bright noon warmth, unusually heavy and foreboding, seems to say ‘there will come a time when you will not welcome the sun.’   Doctors run an EKG and diagnose ‘stress’.

The bird perches on my shoulder two more decades later, always seeing death just over there.  So I sit on the porch just a little longer and check my list again, delaying the unavoidable racing heart and rush of tension when I fix the motorcycle helmet strap under my chin.  I know all those stupid drivers have my life in their cell-phone distracted hands and hope my husband knows how much I love him, and my daughters too.  

Chulyen wakes me at 3:00 am when autumn’s wind aggravates the trees.  His rustle of black feathers outside unsettles summer’s calm night.  He brings an end-of-the-world portent that hints this peace is just temporary, borrowed.  Tribulation will return.

Ravens are attracted to bright shiny things.  Chulyen steals off with treasures like intention, and contentment.  I don’t realize they are missing until occasionally I find myself truly living in the moment.  I guess that is another reason why I crave adventure, for those instants and epiphanies that snap me out of that long term modis operandi of reacting, instead of being.  The daily list of ‘I must, or I should’ can for a brief while become ‘I want’  and I am free.

My companion the black bird perches relaxed in the desert on the gatepost of a memory.  A bullet-scarred paint-faded sign dangles by one corner from rusty barbed wire:
    No Trespassing    
    That Means You
I have a haunted idea what's behind the fence.  Chulyen implies the memory with a simple mistaken sound:
a Harley in the distance is for a second the agitating echo of a helicopter...
or those were the very same words they said when...
or I hear a few jangling clinks of forks in our warm kitchen...
hinting a cold cafeteria at 5:00 am smelling of fake eggs and industrial maple flavored corn syrup,
and everything else that happened that day...
My cells recollect, brace with the addictive rush of adrenaline.  But the raven denies access to the memory, distracting with discomfort.  I trip and I fall hard into the gritty dirt of irritation at the person who unknowingly reminded me.  Anxiety floods in along with fatigue of the helplessness of it all, back then and still now.  I can't go further.  Chulyen’s tricking deception says Leave This Memory, you never wanted to come back.
But I already knew from just recognizing the bird patiently sitting there a sentinal,
recalling every other time he tricked me with nausea and depression.
I tried to tell myself again that behind that gate,
the past has dried up from neglect.
Disintegrated into dust,
Blown away,
doesn't
exist.



After everything else, how to work through this?  The VA gave me a manual, a crudely printed set of worksheets with a government-looking blue cover page:  Cognitive Processing Therapy.
“In normal recovery from PTSD symptioms, intrusion, thoughts, and emotions decrease over time and no longer trigger each other.  However, in those who don’t recover, the vivid images, negative thoughts, and strong emotions lead to escape and avoidance.  Avoidance prevents the processing of the trauma that is needed for recovery and works only temporarily.  The ultimate goal is acceptance.  
There may be “stuck points”, conflicting beliefs or strong negative beliefs that create additional unpleasant emotions and unhealthy behavior.  For example, a prior belief may have been “ I am able to protect myself in dangerous situations.”  But after being harmed during military service, a conflicting belief surfaces, “I was harmed during service, and I am to blame.”  If one is ‘stuck’ here, it may take some time until one is able to get feelings out about the trauma, because one is processing a number of rationales.  “I deserved it because…” , or “I misinterpreted what happened, I acted inappropriately, I must be crazy…”  The goal is to change the prior belief to one that does not hinder acceptance.  For example, “I may not be able to protect myself in all situations.”

(chapter continues with recovery methods)
*** trafficking – the trafficking and debasement of souls; Drug trafficking – the trafficking of substances that debase the body.  Here compared you will find the prevalence, impact, and rehabilitation processes associated with *** and shrug trafficking.  Respective clientele, demographics, and locales that these types of trafficking touch will be revealed in order enlighten you to their world-wide prevalence. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impact of lifestyles that result from these two types of trafficking will be detailed to etch vividly an image of just how far-reaching the impact of these two activities is. Light will be shed upon the rehab processes that lead to recovery from each.
                 According to UnoDC.org, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the use of illicit drugs has remained in a stable trend, with approximately the same number of people using illicit drugs each year. This trend has continued for a number of years. Upon examining the world drug report, written by UnoDC.org, production of several drugs exhibit particularly interesting trends. ***** production for example fell and spiked in a somewhat predictable patter from 1990 until 2010. When this data is graphed a reasonable medium appears for all the years, revealing that ***** production has stayed around an average production of roughly 200,000 hectares annually. Likewise, coca cultivation pictures an interesting trend. From 1990 to 2010 coca production appeared to be almost identical each year, and with little to no rise or fall in production, there is a similar trend in its being trafficked.  
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls is a documentary that was released in 2012 by Exodus Cry Its producers and researchers saw firsthand the atrocities of the *** trafficking industry. The film crew interviewed former pimps and prostitutes, spoke to traffickers, the families of the trafficked and to individuals still actively engaged in three sides of the *** trade referring to currently employed pimps and prostitutes as well as those who purchased ***. The researchers and producers interviewed eastern European gang members and took a trip to Amsterdam’s red-light district – home of legal prostitution. They journeyed to Los Angeles and saw the glamorized side of the dark issue of *** trade.
According to Nefarious, the number of humans trafficked for the purpose of providing ****** services is on a shockingly steep rise. In a matter of a few years, *** trafficking rose from the third largest criminal enterprise to the second. It is second only to drug trafficking and is vying for the position as top criminal enterprise in the world. It is encroaching upon that position far more speedily than any authority or decent human being would care to acknowledge.  A survey taken in 2010 by DART (the drug awareness resistance training program) revealed that 21.8 million people aged 12 and older had taken an illicit drug in the previous month. In 2010 it was estimated that between 153 and 300 million people had used an illicit drug at least once in the previous year. These statistics fail to take into account the impact that this usage has on the lives of the families of drug users. Neither do these statistics reveal the extent to which drug users lifestyles are impacted by drugs. However, nearly  every single human trafficked for ****** purposes is completely and utterly enveloped in the lifestyle of prostitution and the violent world of being prostituted. In Nefarious a shocking statistic is revealed. Approximately ten percent of the entire human population of earth has been trafficked. Both human and drug trafficking are prevalent across the globe. Human trafficking occurs in 161 of 192 countries. Illicit drugs are trafficked in every country that has laws that deem substances unlawful. There are little to no race, religion, ethnicity, or age restrictions on who can and is trafficked for use of ***, but drugs are far more limited by age and ethnicity in their use.
Drug trafficking, though similar to *** trafficking in many ways, is in no way as substantial a damaging force to the mind, soul, and spirit as the world of *** trafficking  is in terms of the critical and dangerous force it exhibits in the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual  impact it has on young girls. Both drugs and *** trafficking have some influence in all of these respective areas. The primary area in which people are affected by drug use is the physical. Drug users’ health declines, they become physically or psychologically dependent, and they may develop diseases from sharing of needles or lack of inhibitions that lead to *** with an infected individual. Drugs may, in some rare cases, lead to psychoses and mental disorders. They may cause brain damage, which is both physically and mentally damaging. Drugs may even set one’s heart and soul in a place that they are more susceptible to lies or truth. They alter spiritual state for some individuals, but only mildly. However, *** trafficking victims are impacted majorly and in their entirety as a person. In all aspects of the physical, mental, and spiritual, *** trafficking victims are consumed by *** trafficking. In Nefarious it is revealed that In order to “break” *** trafficking victims they are profusely beaten, and are psychologically toyed with to create a twisted trust and dependence on their various handlers. They are repeatedly *****, and are examined like cattle by those who wish to buy women. They are imprisoned in dark rooms and not allowed to leave unless told to do so. They are bedridden and forced to ******* themselves. After being broken in ways described above and sold to a ****, girls are forced every day to meet certain quotas of customers and cash flow. If they do not meet these they are beaten even more. They lay in bed sometimes a week at a time to recover physically enough to usefully return to their “job”.  Through this hellish ordeal, their soul, self-worth and identity are being attacked by circumstances that devalue them. They become like animals.
*** trafficking victims become dependent on their environment for normalcy. This is so true for some individuals that even though they have been rescued from the lifestyle, they return.  This is not because the *** trafficking victims enjoys the lifestyle of prostitution, and it is not because they want to. Instead, it is because they think they can be nothing more than a *******. The *** trafficking victim, in this case, believes that they need to settle into the numb and thoughtless mind state that they develop when broken. Returning to prostitution does not evidence an addiction. In contrast, it is the cry of a soul that is desperately trying to cope. They do this in order to feel as if they can survive.  
The rehab processes for *** and drug trafficking differ greatly in commitment and length, but are similar in that they both require physical and psychological rehabilitation.  Drug rehabilitation programs typically consist of twelve-step programs or something similar. They last a number of months, or occasionally a few years. They allow individuals counsel and encouragement, and they attempt to, by abstinence, exorcise an addicted individual’s addiction. *** trafficking rehabilitation requires the re-creation of an individual. Self-worth must be reconstructed. The spirit must be healed in order to allow for psychological healing. Prostitutes are not addicted to prostitution, but prostitution produces dependence in that the prostituted crave normalcy. This dependence must be killed. Successfully rehabilitating women from this forced lifestyle requires lifelong commitment and endless resources. It requires passionate fanatics, people who will pour their life into changing the lives of others, because only the incurable fanatic can wreak havoc on the tragedy of human trafficking. Any short-term effort to rehabilitate a *** trafficking victim is doomed to failure. The degree to which the brokenness of *** trafficking victims becomes ingrained in them is so extreme that it takes a lifetime to reshape their lives.
While researching *** trafficking in order to accurately produce Nefarious, the researchers and producers of Nefarious became convicted by facts that they collected. The evidence they collected speaks to the fact that *** trafficking does not just attack the body; it attacks the entire being, and in far worse ways than drugs ever could. Varied races and ages are prostituted and / or consume drugs. The impact of both of *** and drug trafficking is severe, but much more so severe in the case of human trafficking. The rehab process for human trafficking is much more in depth and is testament to the horror and degree of psychological, mental, and emotional disfigurement, as well as acclimation to a horrible situation to the point that horror becomes normal – a new definition of addiction. Human trafficking is an atrocity that is far more horrendous and prevalent than imaginable. It is far more destructive than drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is one of the most destructive forces in this generation.  Surely consuming drugs is one of the most horrid things we can do to our bodies, but what about consuming souls? *** trafficking consumes souls, hearts, minds and bodies. It splits, fragments, debases, brutalizes, obliterates, murders, rapes, molests, destroys, and dehumanizes the prostituted.  Drug trafficking attacks the body the soul, and sometimes the mind, but in much milder ways.
Dorothy A Oct 2013
Everything faded to black. He had a hard time remembering just what the hell happened. He wasn't sure of downing some random pills from of the medicine cabinet-- his first attempt to end it all. Making sure he would not recover-- if the pills didn't do the job-- he had already devised the set up of the noose in his bedroom. Definitely, he didn't recall anyone cutting the rope, forcing him down to the floor.

Lacie joked with him. "Dude, you've got nine lives! You must really be a ****, fricking cat in disguise! That's why you'll eat those nasty tuna fish sandwiches they serve in the nuthouse! "

Chris grinned at her.  He had to agree. To refer to it as the psych ward at the hospital made it seem like more of a jail term, but calling it "the nuthouse" lightened up the severity of the situation. As grave and nearly tragic as everything  had become, it was kind of laughable to him.  He supposed he had more chances than a cat's fabled life. It all seemed so crazy that it must be funny.

Well, what could he say? He had flirted with death, but unwillingly managed to escape its grip. "Pathetic..."--he commented. "I don't not even know how to die well..."

Chris  eventually realized that he had been rushed to the hospital, but wished it wasn't true. Since then, everything was either a total blur or a bizarre state of mind . Even waking up in his room was like a remotely vague memory, almost like a long ago dream that might not really have happened.

Maybe, he was somewhat aware that his sister was screaming in shock and horror at the sight of him, shouting out downstairs to her boyfriend to help her. But the walls were turning red, a glowing scarlet- red, with an added fiery orange and yellowish-gold-- all joined together in pulsating embers. He was quickly losing consciousness. It was like some, bad acid trip. Not that Chris knew this firsthand, but it sure was like something he saw on TV or at the movies.

And now he was the star of the horror show.

Did he die?  Death was what he planned on, so waking up was not a relief, or a reality back into motion--just the opposite. It was as if being awake was the real nightmare, a delusional time when everything was not true, and was only an scary, offbeat version of the life of Chris Cartier.

The bad acid trip continued. He recalled hospital staff rushing about him, seeming like real people-- sort of. Then they morphed into fish in scrubs. From overhead, an IV was dripping into his arm. Tubes were shoved down his throat. His vital signs were displayed on a screen that made beeps and sounds, increasing the chaos and adding to the mayhem to his mind. Soon, the vital signs machine started talking to him that he was a "very bad boy" and other such scoldings.

He was thoroughly freaked out. If he was still alive, he'd rather be dead.

He wanted to run. One of the fish pushed him back down and muttered out undecipherable utterances-- like underwater gibberish . Then that fish used its slimy fins to inject him with a needle in his arm. The other fish circled around him like fish out of water--with opening and closing mouths-- as if gasping for air.

As they surrounded him as rubber monkeys shot out from the walls and bounced all over the room. On top of all this madness, the florescent lights above were flickering on and off, in sync to the wild music, like the drum beats of a distant jungle. It was one bizarre tangle of events, a freaky, crazy, out-of-control ride in which reality could not be distinguished from the animation and mass confusion. It was one overpowering ride that he would much rather forget.

When Chris got out of critical condition, he found out that he could still not go home. That would take a few weeks more. Dr. What-The-Hell's-His-Name assured him that he needed to start on the path to his psychological healing--just as grave as the physical--right here in a safe place.

It didn't seem so safe to him.

The enemy wasn't what was out there in the world, but the big, bad wolf was actually him. He had to be protected from the true culprit--himself-- and that was a mind-blowing concept. Just what did he get himself into?   

He never had been a patient in a hospital before. In all his twenty-six years, he didn't so much as even have his tonsils out. Feeling now like a prisoner,, he was still scared out of his mind-- as if it was day one all over again. When was he going to get out of here? Chris began to fear that they would never let him out. No professional had a definitive answer, as only time would tell of his improvement.

Man, why couldn't he just be dead?

His parents visited almost everyday, but it was of no reassurance to him. His mother always left in tears, and his father was lost for words. This was nothing new. When it concerned their troubled son, they felt inadequate to help him. The best his dad could say was, "Hey, Chris, we're pullin' for ya". That was of no comfort, whatsoever, like he was some fighter in a boxing ring that his old man had a bet placed on . His mom always clung to him as she said goodbye, like she needed the hug more than he did, saying to Chris through her sobs , "Miss you....love you". Her emotional state just unsettled him to the core, and he was worried for her more than for himself.    

At best, his outlook was grim. But then he met Lacie Weiss, and things started looking up.

Lacie was one of the quietest psych patients in the ward, always sticking to herself. But then he found himself sitting right next to her in group therapy, and they hit it off. He had no idea that she had a fun side. She usually looked apathetic and quietly defiant to society, a nonconformist in the form of a Goth, with edgy, dyed black hair, dark eye make-up and some ****** piercings of the eyebrow, tongue and nose. Her look was quite in contrast to his light blue eyes and sandy-brown hair. Chris never was into Gothic, viewing those who were as spooky creeps.  

It was obvious that Chris was scared and confused. Now although trying to seem tough and stoic, Lacie seemed so little, almost fragile, yet obviously trying to hide her broken self together. Petite and somewhat girlish in appearance, she was barely 5 feet tall. Chris was 5 feet 11 and a half inches, close enough to the six foot stature that he wanted to be. Only a half inch less really didn't cut it for him, though, even though his slim build gave the impression of a lankier guy. He would have loved to be as tall as the basketball players he so emulated. But such was life. He was never used to having the advantages.  

At first, Lacie never opened up, not to a single soul. Like Chris, she certainly acted like she didn't need this place, and nobody was going to help her--or be allowed to help her. As stony and impenetrable as she tried to be, group therapy it was hard to disappear in. Everyone was held accountable for opening up, and the leader was going to see to it.  No way, though, did Lacie want to crack or look weak in her turtle shell composure, in her self-preservation mode. So it was agony for her.

She first spoke to him, whispering loudly to him, onc,e in the group circle "This is all *******!"

Hanging with Chris was the one salvation that she had in this miserable experience. They both could relate more than he ever realized. They both really liked motorcycles and basketball. He had his own Harley, and it was something he loved to work on and go on long rides with it, his own brand of therapy.  In spite of how she looked, Lacie was also actually close to his age. He was twenty-six. and she was twenty-two.

They first broke the ice with casual introductions. "No, the name is not pronounced like Carter", he corrected her about his last name. "It is like Cart-EE-AY...... It's French".

"Yep", she replied. "Like mine is the same way, but as German as brats and sauerkraut,  Ja dummkopf?"

Chris gave her a weird look. She continued, "My mom's dad was from Germany, and I got my mom's name. Ya don't say it how it looks. You would say Weiss like Vice, but I couldn't give a **** how anybody says it. Nobody gets it right and original, anyhow." Her dark brown eyes flashed at him as she said, " But I think I like Chris Cutie, myself, better than Cartier.....cutie it is for me. Huh, cutie pie? "

Chris laughed hard. She was pretty coy for a die-hard Goth. She batted her eyes playfully at him and winked."You're worth being in here for, ya know", he told her, blushing, still laughing at her silly remarks.

She studied his face in response, all laughing aside. Suddenly, her mood turned solemn.  "I'll bet".

They began hanging out in the commons, walking down the halls for exercise, and swapping stories of their plights. Chris quickly found that she Lacie wasn't so steely and unapproachable as the day he first saw her.  And she discovered that he was more than a pretty boy.

"My parents weren't home when I tried", he told her one time after lunch was done. They were sitting in a corner, trying to be as private as possible. "Twenty-six years old...and I still live with them. Yeah, that's my life. I got a twin brother, and he's moved out and doing alright for himself. My sister's younger, is going to college. Wants to be a doctor".

Lacy didn't have any siblings to compare herself to. "Must be cool to have a twin", Lacie said. "I always wondered how that would be to have two of me running around! Scary, huh, dude?"

Chris shook his head. "No, it's nothing like that. Jake and I aren't identical. We are just a two-for-one deal...I mean  is that my parents got two babies in one, huge-*** pregnancy. Jake and me don't even act like twins. Half the time, I don't want to be around him."

No, it wasn't like his cousins, Adam and Alan, who were identical friends, mirror images, and best of friends. Chris never identified with that kind of brotherly relationship. He and Jake never dressed alike, or knew what the other one was thinking. And Chris felt that his brother always felt superior to him. He was the popular one. He was the ambitious one who landed a great job in computers, as a system analyst.  To add to Chris's feelings of inferiority, his little sister, Kate, had surpassed him, too. She was acing most of her classes, and boarding away at college. She was well on her way to becoming a doctor.    

"So if your mom and dad weren't around...who saved you?" Lacie asked. She stared into his eyes with such a probing stare that Chris almost clammed up. Just thinking about that day was overpowering.

"Uh...my sister and her boyfriend were hanging out in the basement. She was home from college, and I didn't know it. My parents were out-of-town. Our dog, Buster, was acting funny. He knew something was up..."

Chris stopped abruptly, but went on. "Kate, my sister, explained to me that she saw me in my room, getting up on a step ladder. She says she yelled at me to stop. I don't remember...but I guess..I guess I was going to do it anyway, and she wouldn't be able to stop me....stop me from...so I hurried up and jumped off before she could stop me."  

Lacie could almost picture it, as if she was there with him. She said, "But she did stop it. She saved you."

"Yeah", he agreed. "Buster started it all...barking, alerting my sister to come upstairs from the basement, and upstairs by my room...." All of a sudden, he felt so weird, like he was having an out-of-body experience.

"Hey, it's OK", Lacie reassured him. "It's over now. You aren't there anymore".

Chris started to cry, but tried not to. "If it weren't for Brian, Kate's boyfriend....she would not of had the strength to hold me up by herself, and cut the rope, too. I must have been like dead weight, and Brian grabbed a kitchen knife and told her to stay cool about it. Yeah, sure, like that could have been possible ! She was trying to keep the rope slack, while trying to save my sorry ****...and she was scared, shitless! "

Lacie opened up, too, relating her tragic past. She had an unbelievable tale, one hell of a ride herself.  It was amazing how detached she was when relating it, though. "Well" actually I got to fess up" "I'm not really an only child....I mean I am...but not really. I know that sounds weird---hey--but I am weird. Oddly unusual is the story of my life-- even before day one. "

Chris had no idea what she was talking about. "What are ya' trying to say?"

She added another surprising bombshell. "Also,  I have a two-year-old boy. His name is Danny. He don't see his dad--ever. The guy's a waste of space. Anyway, my mom has him. She can afford him more, and can do a better job raising him than me. Well, she does OK money-wise. Anyhow, my mom deserves him because she lost everything. And I mean EVERYTHING! Her whole fricking family practically wiped out!"

The shock that Chris had on his face-- his widened, blue eyes and open mouth were expected.   Most people had a hard time believing her.

She explained, calmly, "I mean she nearly died--way before I was born--in a car accident. And her two, little boys were with her in the backseat...and they died that day. "

Chris looked pale. "That is so awful!" he said, hoarsely, barely able to say it.

"Yeah", she continued. "Not a **** thing she could do about it, too. She was like in a million pieces. I know a part of her died right there and then, too. I just know it.  You know, dude, my mom was once really, really coasting along, just doing fine. A typical wife and mother-- a bit older than me now-- life was good. Her little boys were just cute, little toddlers--like Danny. I found out from my grandma that she was  pregnant, too, just a month or two. Nobody could have imagined it coming. She was just driving--doing nothing wrong-- when some idiot broadsided her.  I don't know if it was a guy or a lady, if they were jacked up on ***** or drugs, but they were speeding like a demon out of Hell. Her husband was at work and wasn't around."  

The boys were Benjamin and Gerard, but Lacie couldn't remember their names, for her mom could barely mention them without breaking down. It was an unbearable loss.

Chris was so horrified, amazed that Lacie related this like it was someone else's story. She was almost too cavalier about it.

"And they died ?!" he asked.

"Yeah....*****, don't it? Pure, pure agony. Downright Hell on earth. My mom had to learn to walk again. It took about year, I think."

"Oh, no! What about the baby she was supposed to have?"

"Miscarriage. Worse yet, the **** doctor told her she'd never be able to have kids again. She lost everything, man! Her husband couldn't handle it and left her. **** on top of ****, on top of more ****, on top of more. If it wasn't for her parents, and her sister's help, she would never have made it.

"But she had given birth to you, right? Or were you adopted?"

"Yeah, she gave birth to me. I was her miracle baby, and she didn't give a rat's rear end if my dad wanted me or not. He'd send her money, once in a while, but he wasn't really into either of us. Who cares though? She didn't give a **** what he thought. I was her baby. Truth is, before I came, she ended up slitting her wrists--just like me. What was the use? At first, there was nothing to live for. But now she has Danny.

"And you!" Chris quickly pointed out.

"Dude, are you kidding me? I have been NOTHING but grief for her, a real pain in her ***!"

Unlike her deceased, half-brothers, Lacie grew up before her mother's eyes, from a shy girl to a ******* rebel. Since the age of twelve, she would sneak drinks from her mom's liqueur cabinet. Eventually, she smoked *** and tried ******* and ******. Dropping out of the eleventh grade, she soon away from home, living with friends or boyfriends ever since.  Thankfully, she wasn't doing drugs when she conceived Danny. And her drinking wasn't as prevalent as it was in her teen years of partying and binge drinking. That didn't mean that her drinking problems magically disappeared, or that she was cured. Immediately, though, when she knew she was pregnant, she refused to touch a bottle, but it was just a white knuckle process that was effective momentarily--a band aid on a more serious wound. And going months without a drop of alcohol didn't deaden her urges--quite the opposite--as it only made her crave what she could not have. Often, her fears caught up with her--of especially becoming
CK Baker Jan 2017
In time you’ll recover and absolve
push those scorned impressions aside
hammer down the jaded edges
and sing
that delightful commoners song
the one you sang so well
in what seems a lifetime ago

You really had it you know
that fiery disposition and nimble cunning
those butter chords and derelict style
we could see it -- we could all see it
it was all it took to turn the evening tide
(and rile that buck fever)
heads bashing
tongues lambasting
middle fingers high
and raising Cain on those may fly statesmen

There were no rules
when it came to your survival
no textbook rally or common bond
no structured songbird or bravado stage
you either made it, or laid it
“life by the *****” Mr. Poppy would say
a kaleidoscope of dreams
with rich colored imagery
hardened artisan seams
in a carefully woven motif

But something got lost in the needle point
something sinister and distorted took hold
the quirks and street genius
that were your lifeline
gave way to grunts
and squeals
and chilling night crawlers
the colors faded quickly
to a cold confining grey

There was no grace in the new world
no retribution or switch back
no salvation or accorded finale
only edged platforms of blackened steel
that kept you cased
in a silent vanquished cell
shivering cold with fear
night without day
all in the shadow of death

But time heals all
and the polish sneakers
and open sores are long gone
(though the roman nose and shallow cleft remain)
indeed the falconer beat the widow maker
this go around
and I’m hopeful it won’t happen again
and if it does you’ll see me
standing hand on heart
with that old verse in hand:

he ain’t tainted
or silly,
and most certainly
not forgotten…
he ain’t loony
or fixed,
or a product of his self-doing…
he’s just a straight shootin’ guy,
who had the most of it
figured out
Her Feb 2018
My name is Erin
and i was *****
at the age of 7

it has taken me
14 years of my life
for those 13 words to escape
my hollow mouth

the only questions i come to now
is why
why lock me in that room
why take everything from me
my innocence
my purity
my childhood

in that room
where my family trusted you
where i trusted you
the night terrors i have to this day
still haunt my mind

like a never ending
drive in movie that plays
over
and
over
only the moon in the night sky
isnt made to be found here
there is no light in these terrors

i cant sleep this time of year
because every time i do
its you
in that room
locking the door
shutting the windows
******* me
yelling at me
every single night
i close my eyes

it has taken me 14 years
to accept the fact that i was taken by you
i have been numb ever since
left in the dust
rotting away at the core
thinking i was nothing
thinking i deserved nothing
because you took everything

but not anymore
i will recover from this
i am strong enough
i believe in myself
i believe in my own happiness
and i promsie
that when i have children one day
i will never ever let them rot at the core
i will find happiness
the darkness will not take over this time
Valentine Mbagu Oct 2013
There at the eve where October planned her suicide,
l embraced praise and worship hoping to recover all that was lost over the years.

There at the gloom where October groaned to dethrone her grains,
l burned my candle hooting to recover the bloom of my dream.

There at the throne where October struggled to end her rule for the year,
l waited to build my drone for the fears ahead.

There at the nest where October decided to rest her neck,
l ragged to set my quest for the task ahead.

There at the mountain where October feed on fears and drank the tears of distress,
l mounted my fountain of hope and coat ahead.

There at the garden of flowers where October watered her field for the last time,
l planted my seeds of expectation and desires.

There at the season where October reasoned the purpose of her living,
l hallowed the Lord in the eve of halloween.

There at the moment of moments where the fate of October was to be determined,
l pleaded to have the grace to embrace November.

Twitter:
@MbaguPoetry
Edward Coles Feb 2017
The distant park
Was a graveyard of dead stars.
Each streetlight a system of worlds,
So many lives between each mote of light,
Indistinguishable in their unique love,
Bespoke hate, and the drama of the modern age.

Drunk laughter behind transparent
Double doors. Another hotel balcony,
Another cloud behind the canopy
Of marijuana eyes
To unsettle me from the crowd.

She points out, when you look closely
You can see the disorder
Amongst all constellations
Of life and love and litter;
Of discarded Coke cans
And temporary highs.

She says this is not a scene
To imbue the ****** of a present mind,
More to baulk at the incompletion
Of one thousand to-do lists;
A million reasons why
You should just stay inside.

She says you can see the human swell
Of ignorance, our city lights
Blotting out the stars
In a black ocean of broken politic
And irretrievable fault lines-
Divisions between us all.
Lives twisted with professional smiles
And eyes lit with stunning indifference.

Still, I have felt charity and warmth
On the doorstep of lunatics and fascists.
I have read the love of life
In faces of those who gave up.
I have recounted countless artists
Who saw beauty
In moments that precisely lacked it.

I have spent too many nights
In anaesthesia,
Fleeing each instance of feeling
And terror; all the tremors
That tell me I am still alive.

Continued to stare at the lights
Long after her voice
And the laughter inside had gone.

Heard waves in the traffic.
A world so large, so expansive,
It can never truly sleep.
Every broken heart,
Every war-torn land,
Every promotion,
Every one-night stand.

I wonder what would happen
If we all stood still.
If we all took one moment
To observe the motion
That unfolds beneath
Our static windowsill.

If we all took one moment
To recover our loss.
The wars that we won,
The feelings, forgot.
The hell we retain;
Our paradise, lost.
C
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to **** you.
You died before I had time ----
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My ****** friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You ----

Not God but a *******
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the *****.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two ----
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagersnever liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you *******, I'm through.
Arke Sep 2018
red torii gates separate the sacred
engraved with kana names
I step on the stone tiles
reinvent myself by praying
to every god I have never believed in
donating all the coins I have to shrines
the omamori will protect me
with pretty ribbons, silk, and wood
their birds guide to understanding
converting lies into truths before me
their paper songs a tender kindness
and there is courage within me
even as my voice turns to melody
my words spill out a tune
the temple walls hum
a chorus of veracity, louder
I have come to realize the importance
of moral authenticity within me
your gracious decency, divine
delicate gentleness with my fragility
from shattered pieces I rebuild
recollect myself and rise stronger
the sakura blossoms melt
the tide rises up the torii
compelled by a cold moon
wooden birds take flight away
and I return solid and true
Coop Lee Jun 2014
to the young privateer.
the captain kidd & his bought n’ taut gang of holy bluffs.
they bribe and imbibe and swoon on the dock-way looking for a quest or two or three
to dream and bury their doubloons in island guts like little mysteries. little sundowns
over a rixdollar indian ocean.
let them take a turn.
destined to mutate from private to pirate, the kidd, like blackened rotten wood.
******* frigates.

the ship:
with her bob and sway. she is, the adventure.
& her song is calling out for a rapturous few,
for men ready to die on the highwater mark by glory or fire or dead glorious sun.
so they put her brass and bough to seafaring days,
the sweet galleon, barely wet, yet
completely riffed to voyage.
she is
from the shores of london. built. designed to kick 14 knots under a full sail blast.
& she will bite.

she’s in calm waters.
the kidd savvy toothed and butterscotched, he awaits the big show,
engorged to set forth the play like wily ocean dervish &
they do.
they do proceed with benefactors coined and crunched on postulations of pirate death &
pirate gold. reclaimed honor as they say. the hunt for pirate teeth.

& with official pass and parchment, high-throne approved,
king ***** III stamp & sealed,
this voyage is.
this voyage is and forever was, hereby charted, to recover said stolen goods.
to reclaim thy warrior vanity &/or vengeance.
to noble this **** with pinched loaf, like now.
set sail. now.
1696.

“**** them navy yachts at greenwich, the thames be ours, boys.”
slap *** and flick thumb toward those armada sons,
& as tribute
smoke balsam herbs on the starboard side for the mother she and the father be.
but for this slight,
this dishonorable silly ****,
one third of adventure’s men are pressed into service of the crown.

[continue.]

the adventuresome few, petty crew and crows.
steal the heart and mother-meat of a french ship. steal everything onboard.
steal the ship itself.
& on her way to new york, new boon, pure and entered into the new world.  
there are new men bought in the american port,
good men and odd men of long criminal legacy.
a small black vicious quartermaster. he’ll do.
a murderous preacher gripped by stars and celestial patterns. he speaks spanish. he’ll do.
another type of holy man and a wild drinker too, embattled by demons on the port side. sure.
plus the dock-boys destined to **** for fruits of exploration.
this is the way of the son of a gun.

the boatmen jockeyed. she is
the adventure
prancing the vertebrae of atlantic and beyond. cape of good hope, she
breathes easy out here on the wide tide and float.
out here on the vast blue this. she
evolves
out here. loves out here.

pirates.
the hunt for pirates or the lack thereof. she leaks.
she rasps into the years on. and on.
the kaleidoscope hallucinations of sun and moon, sun and moon, and moon and sun
forever.
the strait of bab-el-mandeb.
& there
she plunges into darkness, into the stars seen from and through a periscope formed
by ancient hominid lineage.
seen but untouched,
in dreams. the kidd, reluctantly lime, admits to his madness.
madagascar.

malaria and cholera and hell break the boat by the throat.
& thrash.
to be organic is to be ruled by a shadow, or entropy.
the mouth of a red sea.
one third of the men will die here.
simply as insects crushed and brushed off deck and into to her great spate of agua,
the mother gush.
her earth.
body.
father,
hear his whispers in the mirage.
the ancient mariner, the ancient holy ghost riming down there.

in destitution.
in a rough and soggy life squeezed and making men weird or violent or both be ******.
the kidd goes cold to hot sweating noxious.
turns pirate himself
out of sheer hunger.
out of sheer need to eat.
sets the boys like dogs upon a frigate of east india company men,
or french *****. either/or/or/either/or.
he & the boys are in a madness swirl of sun and heavy guts.
cuts to spill blood
or gold. this tender bit.
lip bit
& tested.

captain kidd fractures the skull of a deckhand named moore,
for bad attitude and giggles. moore gets death.
chisel on the deck.
& to think we are all troubled by some primal trauma.
some dumb thing called death, that is.
men starving, men dying, men falling in the vast black that is that eternal void.
dream of women and riches in the meantime.
fortunes.
1698.

savage kidd, cool kidd, cool spit
off the edge. to think of the once soulful idea of these paradise days
& trip.
savage to cool.
the two divine modes of a survived man.
a ghoul man, or aging man.
& to keep control of his crew kidd sets them upon the quedagh merchant;
a 400 ton armenian hulk chalk full of gold, silver, satins, and muslin. ‘tis *****.
renames her: the adventure prize.

madness quenched for now.
charmed for now
& on the horizon are fragrant times. blissful distance.
but robert culliford,
with his mocha frigate. this man, this suave pirate lord, his vengeance act.
he had stolen kidd’s ship years back, &
the captain opts to cut his throat.
take the mocha.
keep calm & carry on.
to paradise.
to dream of her cool warm beaches and fruit forever, peacefully thinking.
so that night they two drink together in good health, and in the morning
most of the men defect to this other man, this other ship, culliford.
other dream,
other captain of true buccaneer effect.
act 3:

13 remain in the galley firm.
this is the house adventure.
& she is burnt alive three days later for rot and ill repair.
but she was fun,
& a *****.
a stitch of old woodwork given-in
& crackling with the eyes of her crew seen in fire.

kidd steps the pond to caribbean times with the adventure prize, toad toxins
& high on the jungled shore.
he trades that colossus, flips her for a sloop and seven little chests of gold.
little bellies.
the island-gut doubloons to bury.
dream, remember?

but the men-of-war are after him now. the privateers & hunters & devil’s dogs.
the men he once was.
men of marked death.
& he is now some pirate, some forthright bandit
settled to **** or be killed.
some sad kid.

first: buries that treasure up the coast of america.
oak island rig.
cherry rocks of the maine bank and *****-trapped pit.
the hunted.
they catch him on an inlet ****, and sail back
to london to be tried for crimes against the crown.
the high court of admirality.
1701.

they hoist and gibbet his body with worn chains above the river.
not for piracy, but for ******.
the ****** of that strange deckhand moore and his giggle.
kidd’s bones
suspended there for three or more years at the mouth of the thames,
as warning
to the perverse travails of a criminal lifestyle on the highwater pond.
Deb Jones Sep 2017
For personal reasons I don't have a deep faith, like most of you have, to wrap around myself like a mantle during a tragedy like this.

And I truly believe that Ashley's death is a tragedy.

I have wrote and rewrote this. Trying to find the right words to tell you how wonderful Ashley is. "Is" because she will live forever in our hearts. There is no "was"

And I finally realized I couldn't. It would take a lifetime. Or 22 years.

This started out to be my commemoration of Ash. Instead it has turned into something I probably won't share entirely.

Because I have lived a long life already, I know how the passing years eventually make grief bearable. How it knocks you to your knees and bends your back. But over time it becomes part of you and you learn to live in a new reality.

No one forgets a loved ones death. You just learn to live with the pain. We absorb it and carry the pain around with us forever.

My new reality is a life without Ashley in it. Where she never gets to grow older. But she also doesn't have to grow sicker. That gives me little solace. As I am selfishly wanting her back.

Type 1 Diabetes killed Ashley. It's an illness that is a battle every day. You fight to get through the day. To do the best you can and then get up the next day and fight the same battle all over again. You don't get a day off. Or a vacation from it. Because if you stop fighting for even one day you will have to fight 100 times harder to get back on track.

Ashley wanted to live a normal life. She wanted to do everything that her friends were doing. And her sister, made that possible. She watched over her, especially the last 2 years. They were together almost every day and night. I am proud of her. She grew into the adult she is by loving and treating Ash like a normal young woman. Adventuring with her.

Ashley lived with me from the time she was a toddler until she was 21. She was a daughter to my heart.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes the very same day I was. She was 18. We learned how to live with it together.

She was doing so well. Only hospitalized a few times. While I was hospitalized monthly.

Her last hospitalization, I picked her up after her discharge. She was still vomiting a lot.

I called and made her an appointment with my Endocrinologist for the next morning.

I want to go back to that minute. The one right before I reached out to touch her shoulder to wake her for the appointment the next morning. The minute before I realized something was wrong.

She wouldn't wake up. I pulled her over, her eyes were open in a blank stare.

By doing chest compressions on her, arguably the scariest experience any loved one can go through, I saved Ashley.

A helicopter landed in one of my fields and flew her to the nearest Trauma Center.

So we could have almost 6 days to say goodbye to her. We are all forever grateful for that.

She was declared brain dead the first day she was in the hospital. But I already knew that.

I am so angry at Ashley's senseless death. Losing a beautiful young girl. One who tried to wrap everyone in a kindness that was her unique specialty.

But, I know Ashley was tired. So very tired. She went 16 days without eating. Only drinking water or juice she vomited back up.

I KNOW how she was just so tired. I know that kind of tiredness. Not only of your body, but of your spirit and soul. When you want to isolate yourself from everyone because it's too much to face. To deal with. There is no bravery or sacrifice. Just the silent chant of pleas. Pleas to make it stop. Pleas for solace. For surcease.

The hospital failed her. Looking at laboratory values versus a patient's physical self.

And I wasn't there to advocate for her. The family that was there with her were scared. And helpless to fix her. How do you hold a hospital accountable, with its anonymous staff, without holding me accountable too?

There are things I should have taught Ashley. How to ask for things she needed. How to demand. How to scream.

But I didn't. I talked with her about things she needed. But I didn't see the ramifications of her not using all avenues to get help. I didn't teach her how to scream.

Even though my screams are just as silent.

I knew she was severely brain damaged the morning I first saw her. But really...I was in denial too.

It helped to be the one all the information was funneled through. But the cost to me was denial. I could explain everything to everyone. Over and over again. To family groups. To individuals as they arrived at the hospital and I walked them down that long corridor to the intensive care.

Using that walk to prepare them. To stand beside so many that came to say goodbye to her. But still suppress my grief into a hot ball that I choked on every day she was on life support.

I could only really grieve the way I needed to once I was alone. My sobs were private. Thinking of Ashley when I went to sleep. And of her when I woke.

Every thing Ashley did during that 6 days she was on life support was talked about. And used to foster hope. The rare blinking of her eyelids. The few tears that coursed down her temples.

I knew they had pressure cuffs on her legs. To help keep her blood pressure up. Until I saw the damage to her legs...I still thought there was a chance. The chance I refused to say outloud. As if I challenged what I knew to be true with false hope.

I knew she had significant brain damage but I still thought there might be a chance she would recover, be a different Ashley than we were used to, an Ashley that would need rehabilitation. An outcome that would allow us to keep her here.

Then I saw her legs. I was alone and noticed the pressure cuffs were off. I lifted the blanket and saw her legs. They were blue and mottled with large sections of skin gone. I knew then that she really was not going to recover.

The surgeon even discussed taking one or both of her legs at the hip in order to save her from the infection. But he said she was too fragile and wouldn't make it through surgery. And even if they did the surgery it would not save her brain injury.

My family and I privately discussed ***** donation for Ash. We knew Ashley would have wanted that too. I called a friend of mine that works with the donor network and she said of course Ashley could be evaluated for any donation. I kept in contact with her while Ashley was in the hospital and asked when we could talk to the ***** donor advocate/liaison. That became a moot point when Ashley started spiking temperatures with the infections ravaging her body.

When she was finally completely off sedation she was unresponsive. That poor baby. That poor, poor baby.

Her brain damage was severe. And her legs were poisoning the rest of her body. She really just stayed for us. To give us a chance to say what we needed to say and what she needed to hear in her final moments. And we held her and told her we were walking with her into the sunlight.

Because I have many medical credentials, I was the one that talked for the family. And then talked for the physicians.

I asked all my family to come to a designated conference room. When I talked to my family about removing her life support there was anger. But as I continued to explain to them there was just a deep inconsolable sadness.

When 4 of the doctors came in I told them we didn't need a rundown of all the reasons to remove her from the ventilator. We had already made our decision.

When we turned the ventilator off she could breathe on her own for a little bit. I told my family that she would go fast. But seeing that she was breathing they all left the room. To smoke, to text, to make phone calls.

After they were gone about 4-5 minutes Ashley's breathing began to slow down. I was the only one in the room. I asked the nurses at the desk to call my family overhead.

They still didn't come back soon enough.

I climbed into the bed with Ash and pulled her into my arms. I rocked her and crooned to her. Told her how loved she was.

She took her last breath in my arms.

When my family funneled back into the room I heard over and over again how Ashley must have waited until they left the room to die so they wouldn't suffer more.

My heart cried. What about me? What about me.

I am supposed to tell people how loved she was. How she shined. I think they all know that already.

I keep trying to commemorate her. To write a speech detailing her life and how much she gave of herself to others. How she was the hub a lot of her family circled around. She was unceasingly happy. She was so loved.

You know what I want to do? I want to scream. I want to rant and rave about the unfairness. Point to other people, people I don't know and say why couldn't they have been taken instead? I don't love them like I do Ash. Point to myself also. Why wasn't I taken?

I will tell everyone what they already know. About how wonderful a person Ashley was and how much we love and miss her. How we will grieve the rest of our lives for her.

The night I came home after Ashley died I went right to my mother. I told her Ashley was gone. And she held me, in the dark, with my head in her lap while I cried. She didn't talk while I sobbed. Just made soothing noises.

And that was what I needed. What my heart craved.

I appreciate everyone that called me just to listen to me cry. Some would not even talk other than the first hello. Just soothing comforting sounds. I won't forget the gift you gave me of just listening to me sobbing.

I want to share something that was happening to me the first 2 months during the time she was on life support and the months after. I have never experienced hallucinations before. But I did during that period.  I would wake up with my arms out to people. In the middle of a conversation. Trying to soothe them. Help them. I don't understand why I needed certain things, like the way I woke while dragging dining chairs in my room. Arguing I needed them when my son tried to stop me. Or the way I would stop breathing in my sleep and knowingly maintain it as long as I could. Or the other private personal things I hallucinated.

I called a psychiatrist and talked to her about what I was experiencing. And she told me that it was normal. It stopped after about 2 months.

Part of me knows I was trying to carry the grief I knew my sister and her kids were trying to carry. If I could, I would take their grief and add it to mine. Just to give them some peace.

My niece, Ashley's sister had a little girl a month ago. Her name is Ashley Michelle.

There is no death, only a change of worlds. —NATIVE AMERICAN PROVERB
September 20 was the first Anniversary of Ashley's death day.
Audrey Sep 2018
A poet is no more than a person
A mother
A daughter
A lover  
Someone needing release
Or someone needing to recover


It’s the art they create when that ball of ink or stick of led dances on the canvas they so perfectly prepared.
And when the end result and their purpose become perfectly paired.
Bare-handed, I hand the combs.
The man in white smiles, bare-handed,
Our cheesecloth gauntlets neat and sweet,
The throats of our wrists brave lilies.
He and I

Have a thousand clean cells between us,
Eight combs of yellow cups,
And the hive itself a teacup,
White with pink flowers on it,
With excessive love I enameled it

Thinking 'Sweetness, sweetness.'
Brood cells gray as the fossils of shells
Terrify me, they seem so old.
What am I buying, wormy mahogany?
Is there any queen at all in it?

If there is, she is old,
Her wings torn shawls, her long body
Rubbed of its plush ----
Poor and bare and unqueenly and even shameful.
I stand in a column

Of winged, unmiraculous women,
Honey-drudgers.
I am no drudge
Though for years I have eaten dust
And dried plates with my dense hair.

And seen my strangeness evaporate,
Blue dew from dangerous skin.
Will they hate me,
These women who only scurry,
Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?

It is almost over.
I am in control.
Here is my honey-machine,
It will work without thinking,
Opening, in spring, like an industrious ******

To scour the creaming crests
As the moon, for its ivory powders, scours the sea.
A third person is watching.
He has nothing to do with the bee-seller or with me.
Now he is gone

In eight great bounds, a great scapegoat.
Here is his slipper, here is another,
And here the square of white linen
He wore instead of a hat.
He was sweet,

The sweat of his efforts a rain
Tugging the world to fruit.
The bees found him out,
Molding onto his lips like lies,
Complicating his features.

They thought death was worth it, but I
Have a self to recover, a queen.
Is she dead, is she sleeping?
Where has she been,
With her lion-red body, her wings of glass?

Now she is flying
More terrible than she ever was, red
Scar in the sky, red comet
Over the engine that killed her ----
The mausoleum, the wax house.
Abigail Madsen Mar 2013
A pair of eyes can hold more than a thousand lies
some of the deepest darkest ties
these eyes can show skies
skies that hold secrets
little whisper winds
Of what makes up a face
a face of beautiful
a face of grace
a face that holds no regrets of what race
Racing lips
lips that can contain the words to be put on a page
lips that make a cage
a cage of rage
waiting to be unleashed from
the tongue like a stage
Still holds less than that of the Eyes
eyes like the darkest skies
eyes of a deep and haunting demise
A pair of eyes are the window to a soul
a soul blackened by change
a soul as darkened and deranged
as change
a body the greatest of all machines
It can endure heart break
it can recover recover from fake
it can give
it can take
But most of all it can make
This body
This mind
This soul
Made of many things
Most of them being
These secrets hiding behind
These
Green
Eyes
Sacrelicious Apr 2012
In vain,
we all act like
we're the center of the universe.
A cheap trick,
for a poor soul to postpone
the underlying
truth that your
parents cared
more about what was on t.v,
than what you did at school Today.
Stop trying
to cover-up.
Recover.
howard brace Sep 2012
He'd been hanging around for some time now, indeed... he'd become rather proficient in that direction of late and although it would probably be rude to point, you could hardly accuse him of loitering... and certainly not with intent, which would have been of some considerable comfort to Norman's Mother, given his current situation, particularly since the latest complication in his otherwise dull and uneventful life, had left him predisposed towards looking a little more drawn in the face than was usual for the time of year and a decidedly deeper shade of green.

     Barely discernible, only the deeper scars now remained to  mar the roadside foliage, bearing scant witness to the motorcycle's recent and untimely misadventure... regrettably with Norman still mounted astride.  Having lost all adhesion with the freshly resurfaced country lane the motorcycle had promptly slewed sideways and across the wet grassy verge before plunging down the wooded embankment, there to encounter its own humbling demise and land in the shallow watercourse below, but it was still early Summer and already the verdant undergrowth had begun to recover.

     At the point where his motorcycle, having determined without deviation or interruption to take the most direct route to its final resting place below and follow the downwardly allure of gravity... Norman being somewhat lighter and more aerodynamic than the former had been propelled, amid a flurry of leaves and twigs headlong through the outermost branches of the nearest tree... and promptly snapped his neck... Far below a dog-eared circular proclaimed 'kidz do it better on wheelz'!!!

       In many ways it was the most handsome beech tree you could ever wish to lay eyes upon, majestic in stature and albeit stationary in nature, was full of life, contrary to its uninvited guest who decidedly was not... but who definitely was just as static as the beech tree... and which by any stretch of the imagination had far more right to be there than Norman did.
  
     The sudden and unforeseen turn of events of the previous forty eight hours had cast grievous, Holiday nullifying inevitability directly into the path of any plans Norman may have prematurely made in that direction... and for the moment at least to be left hanging high and dry in the lush, verdant canopy far above his motorcycle, currently languishing in the sparkling clear waters below... and it has to be said, without so much as a pair of galoshes between them, and having little else to do other than hang around nodding his head in the warm Summer breeze he swayed gently up and down in the light country air.

     Pausing mid-twitch on three legs between Norman's deceased neck and his equally demised shoulders, an inquisitive squirrel was now the prime mover in our eponymous hero's sudden and discontinued modus-operandi as it provoked involuntary nods from Normans head, gestures of consent as the prying rodent set itself to investigate in great detail the darkest, innermost depths of Norman's inside breast pocket.

     Norman's unintentional leave of absence had finally extinguished once and for all any further thought of future remittance towards the outstanding balance due on the motorcycle hire purchase agreement, which as luck would have it was just as well, because his equally unintended leave of absence, so it transpired, had also extinguished Norman... and thereby deprived him once and for all of any further thought of his outstanding ability to pay them or indeed, any further thought at all.

     The squirrel meanwhile, having brushed aside the meagre contents of Normans pocket finally emerged victorious into the subdued light of the dappled canopy, brandishing a hard won paper-tissue proudly clenched between its teeth... before moving on to other, far more pressing matters on the branch opposite... then paused to scratch its ear...  Now it may be of some interest to the reader at this point... or not, as the case may be, but the squirrel allegedly knew a friend of a friend, who incidentally runs the little B&B; further down the road and who would be prepared to swear on Norman's other-worldly life that she'd seen far worse looking faces peering back from the bathroom cabinet mirror of a Sunday morning after a ***** night out with the lads... than anything she could ever possibly imagine exercising squatters rights way above in the majestic beech tree.

     Flies seemed to be one of the few living creatures that morning who hadn't raised any objection to Norman's ill-mannered intrusion... indeed, were currently hatching plans of their own in that particular direction and take intimacy to the next level with regard to lunchtime seating arrangements... and who had assured him from day one, that while their long term prognosis for Norman attaining ***** and independent posture was by no means cut-and-dried, he should nevertheless be moving about, not necessarily under his own steam in no time at all... and by the look of his complexion, it would seem that in the interim period he should be thankful for the company.

     As the balmy Summer afternoon steadily drew to its own happy conclusion Norman, without a care in the world and now in the early larval stage of being in the family way, so to speak and shortly to shed a little life of his own... stared vacantly out at what had recently become his own neck of the woods, rapidly becoming a permanent fixture in the pastoral landscape... and while his sudden relocation may have been a real eye opener for some, for Norman he'd discovered the true meaning of be at one with nature, about the birds and the bees and especially the flies in the trees...  

     So there we must leave poor Norman with his recent and enduring affliction, nodding in the dappled shade of the majestic beech tree, playing host to the countryside and the following seasons crop rotation, leaving his Mum to worry as to whether her Son had fresh underwear that morning... or not as the case may be... the County Constabulary making their door to door enquiries as to Norman's current whereabouts... his former employer re-adjusting next months pay cheque... accordingly and the hire purchase company about to dispatch final demands indiscriminately left, right and centre for financial delinquency.  The only other claim you could probably make with any degree of certainty was that Norman's full-face motorcycle helmet had by no means achieved that which was expected of it for his ultimate well-being that day... and was doing little more than keep his hair dry and his spectacles from slipping further than his chin.
                                                           ­  ­                                                                ­ ­                                                                ­ ­             ...   ...   ...**

A work in progress.                                                        ­                                                     1122
lionheartlion Jan 2015
I feel bad for her because I know she's hurting.
But does she know how much pain she puts on me.
Making me think he doesn't love me.
Maybe I believe it.
That's the pathetic part.
Her pain causing the problems of my future life with Him.
This is not the love of a mother.
Who doesn't approve of her daughter.
Who she is now.
The person that she loves to be.
This is emotional abuse.

Hopeless
Dauntless
Useless

God get us out of this labyrinth.
Set the generations of past free for the future.

For only the hole in my chest is never going to fully recover with this madness.
This is not good madness.
The repetition of the flash on the screen makes my heart panic.
Alas it should be comfort that the soul encounters.
Sally A Bayan Sep 2015
Start slow...
     warming... up...and...below
         forty five degrees
            to the left...right...others go nineties...
       some freeze...from locked knees
   they don't mind...they'll recover
          before the hour is over...

Detach self
    from what
       surrounds
             but...still aware
                connected...
            agitation
        soon to be lessened
   eventually....calmed

Focus...
   exercise
       stabilize
    synchronize
        visualize
     internalize
  energize!

Endure!
               An ant bites at the back of your ear
         something's  crawling on your tummy
     beads of sweat, drop across your eyes,
or inside your ear...you feel the cold touch within
    
A bee, a wasp...sometimes, a fly
      circles very near your face
           makes your wall of
                concentration, crumble
              tempting you to lose count
          of the movements
      testing you...
   if you might still stray...even
      a step away...
          if, to your weaknesses
      you would still succumb

          will you be distracted?
             or stay focused?

Let eyes, and mind blink
     One...two...three...quickly!
            be grounded!
                stay on the right track.....

               Exercise!
               ...visualize....
               ... internalize.....
               ...never give up!



Sally


Copyright September 21, 2015
Rosalia Rosario A. Bayan
***starting the week right...too much chinese noodles this weekend***
Like the moon her kindness is,
If kindness I may call
What has no comprehension in't,
But is the same for all
As though my sorrow were a scene
Upon a painted wall.

So like a bit of stone I lie
Under a broken tree.
I could recover if I shrieked
My heart's agony
To passing bird, but I am dumb
From human dignity.
Gibson Jun 2017
I can’t write this poem
I can’t write this poem because the last time I opened up to someone artistically they told me it was pretty dark and I should keep it to myself.

I can’t write this poem
I can’t write this poem because I was raised in a culture that was anti love and pro meaningless ***. I saw endless commercials about movies that glamorize a lifestyle in which your body is fulfilled but your heart is ignored and at that impressionable age I learned my heart came second but my allure came first and the less I cared that happier I would be and I carried that belief around with me the way I used to carry around a Bible as a child.

I can’t write this poem
I can’t write this poem because of the time that I opened my father’s phone to reveal a family secret I would hold to this day against my own moral instincts unraveling miles of insecurities wondering if I’m not a good enough daughter or if he stopped loving my mother or if true love was never real and although I had been taught marriage was my purpose, it was what I believed would make me happy, maybe rings aren’t enough to stay in love and maybe people’s feelings change and maybe no one actually has a “one true love” and that this purpose I had been taught was really an endless wild goose chase that only lead to broken families and lost souls.

I can’t write this poem
I can’t write this poem because sometimes I still wonder why I fell into an abyss of toxicity at such a young age. And when I say wonder I don’t mean a trivial ponder, I mean I contemplate every possible reason why the person who I once believed held the universe in her eyes would lie to my face, why she never kissed me in public and our love was always a secret, why she valued girls with blue hair but my blonde hair was not good enough, why I had to hide bruises from my family when I was still in high school or more importantly, why at the time, I thought I deserved them. These thoughts, this lingering paranoia that I am undeserving of healthy love, they muddy my interpretations of real life and distort reality and effect my relationships. My doctor would call these intrusive thoughts, my best friend would tell me they’re symptoms of PTSD, but I have come to realize that I’ve been burned and I am damaged and I hope to god I can recover.

But you,
Oh god, you
You can write this poem. You can be my safety net while I’m free falling in love. You can be the one to listen to my mental tilt-a-whirls, you can be the one that introduces my body and my heart, you can be the one that calms the storms in my mind when I’m questioning the love I’m deserving of. You are the one who makes sure I fall asleep in my bed after drunk nights, you are the one that still sees my value after acknowledging my flaws.
You can write this poem.
judy smith Nov 2016
Shortly after 3pm on September 29, 31-year-old Olivier Rousteing strode through the shimmering, fleshy backstage area at Balmain's Spring 2017 Paris Fashion Week show. Along the marble hallway of a hôtel particulier in the 8th arrondissement, long-limbed clusters of supermodels were gamely tolerating final applications of leg-moisturiser, make-up touch-ups and minutely precise hair interventions from squads of specialists as fast and accurate as any Formula 1 pit-stop team. The crowd parted as Rousteing swept through.

Wearing a belted, black silk tuxedo and a focused expression that accentuated his razor-sharp cheekbones, Rousteing resembled a sensuous hit man. Target identified, he led us to the board upon which photographs of every outfit were tacked.

We asked him to tell us about the collection (for that's what fashion editors always ask). "There is no theme," said Rou­steing in his fast, French-accented lilt. "No inspiration from travel or time. The inspiration is what I feel, and what I feel now is peace, light and serenity. I feel like in my six years here before this, I have tried to fight so many battles. Because there is no point anymore in fighting about boundaries and limits in fashion. Balmain has its place in fashion."

And the clothes? "There is a lot of fluidity. A lot of knitwear, lightness, ponchos. No body-con dresses. But whatever I do, even if I cover up my girls, it is like people can say I am ******. So this is what it is. I think there is nothing ******. I think it is really chic. I think it is really French. It is how I see Paris. And I have had too many haters during the last three years to defend myself again. So, this is Balmain." And then the show began.

Star endorsements

Under Rousteing, Balmain has become the most controversial fashion house in Paris. Rousteing has attracted (but not bought, as other, far bigger houses do) patronage from contemporary culture's most significant influencers. Rihanna, all the Kardashians, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber – a royal flush of modern celebrity aristocracy – all champion him.

Immediately after this show, in that backstage hubbub, Kim Kardashian told me: "I thought it was very powerful…I loved the sequins, and I loved all the big chain mail belts – that was probably my favourite."

Yet for every famous fan there is a member of the fashion establishment who will sniff over coffee in Le Castiglione that Rousteing's crowd is declassé and his aesthetic best described by that V-word. The New York Times' fashion critic Vanessa Friedman reckoned this collection appropriate for "dressing for the captain's dinners on a cruise ship to Fantasy Island". At least she did not use the V-word. When I once deployed it – as a compliment – in a 2015 Vogue menswear review that declared "Rousteing is confidently negotiating a fine line between extravagance and vulgarity", I was told that Rous­teing was aggrieved.

The fashion world's ambivalence towards Rousteing is a measure of its conflicted feelings towards much in contemporary culture. Last year Robin Givhan of the Washington Post wrote of Balmain: "The French fashion house is always ostentatious and sometimes ******. It feeds a voracious appetite for attention. It is anti-intellectual. Antagonistic. Emotional. It is shocking. It is perfect for this era of social media, which means it is powerfully, undeniably relevant."

Since joining Instagram four years ago Rousteing has posted 4000 images and won 4 million followers. The combined reach of his audience members and models at this Balmain show was greater than the population of Britain and France combined. Balmain was the first French fashion house to gain more than 1 million followers, and currently has 5.5 million of them.

Loving his haters

As digital technology disrupts fashion, Balmain's seemingly effortless mastery of the medium galls some. Last year, the designer posted an image of a comment from a ****** follower to his feed. It read: "Olivier Rousteing spends more times taking selfies for Instagram than designing clothes for Balmain." Underneath, in block capitals, he commented "i love my haters".

Rousteing can be funny and flip – doing a video interview after the show, I opened by asking, tritely, how he felt. He replied: "Now I feel like some Chicken McNuggets with barbecue sauce, and then some M&M;'s ice cream."

When at work, however, that flipness flips to entirely unflip. The previous evening, at a final fitting for the collection, Rousteing had paced his studio, his face a scowl of concentration, applying final edits to the outfits to be worn by models Doutzen Kroes and Alessandra Ambrosio. The 30-strong team of couturiers working in the adjoining atelier delivered a steady stream of altered dresses.

"We are ready," he said from behind a glass desk in a rare moment of downtime. "This a big show – 80 looks – and I want a collection that is full of both the commercial and couture. But it's smooth too. All of the girls are excited about the after-party and interested in the music. And eating pizza." In the corridor outside Gigi Hadid – this season's apex supermodel – was indeed eating pizza, with gusto.

The fitting went on until far beyond midnight; Rousteing, fiercely focused, demonstrated the work ethic for which he is famous. When he was studio manager for Christophe Decarnin, his predecessor at Balmain, the young then-unknown was always the first in and last out of the studio. Emmanuel Diemoz, who joined Balmain as finance controller in 2001 and became chief executive in 2011, says that his hard graft was one of the reasons he was chosen to succeed Decarnin.

"For sure it was quite a gamble," says Diemoz. "But we could see the talent of Olivier. Plus he understood the work of Christophe – who had helped the brand recover – so he represented continuity. He was a hard worker, clearly a leader, with a lot of creativity. Plus the size of the turnover at that time was not so huge. So we were able to take the risk."

Clear leader

Which is why, aged 24, Rousteing became the creative director of one of Paris's best known – but indubitably faded – fashion houses. In 2004 it had been close to bankruptcy. In 2012, Rousteing's first full year in charge, Balmain's sales were €30.4 million and its profit €3.1 million. In 2015, sales were €121.5 million and its profit €33 million. Vulgarity is subjective; numbers are not.

Rousteing, who is of mixed race, was adopted at five months by white parents and enjoyed an affluent and loving upbringing in Bordeaux. "My mum is an optician and my dad was running the port. They are both really scientific – not artistic. So I had that kind of life. Bordeaux is really bourgeois and really conservative, I have to say."

After an ill-starred three-month stint at law school – "I was doing international law. And I was like, 'oh my God, that is so boring'" – he did a fashion course that he managed to tolerate for five months.

"I found that really boring as well. I just don't like actually people who are trying to **** your dream. And I felt that is what my teachers were trying to do."

Obsessed with Gucci

Following a three-month internship in Rome – "also boring" – Rousteing became fascinated with Tom Ford's work at Gucci. "I was obsessed, obsessed, obsessed. Sometimes the press did not get it but I thought 'this is like genius, the new **** chic'. Obsessed, full stop."

He wanted to work there – "that was my dream" – but applied to every fashion house he could, and found an opportunity to intern at Roberto Cavalli. "They took me in from the beginning. I met Peter Dundas [then womenswear designer at the brand] and he said you are going to be my right hand – and start in four days."

Rousteing counts his five years in Italy as formative both creatively and commercially, but when the opportunity came to return to France in 2009 he leapt at it. "Christophe said he liked my work and that he needed someone to manage the studio. So two weeks later I was here. I loved Balmain at the time, when Christophe was in charge. It was all about rock 'n' roll chic, ****, Parisian. And he was appealing to a younger generation. You can see when brands become old but Balmain was touching this new audience. I always say Christophe's Balmain was Kate Moss but mine is Rihanna."

When Decarnin left and Rousteing replaced him, the response was a resounding "who?". His youth prompted some to anticipate failure.

"It was not easy at all. Every season I had the same questions." Furthermore, Rousteing (who has said he thinks of himself as neither black nor white) was the only non-white chief designer at a Parisian couture house. In a nation in which very few people of colour hold senior positions, his race may have contributed both to the establishment's suspicion of him and to his powerful sense of being an outsider.

'Beautiful spirit'

As he began to build a personal vernacular of close-fitted, heavily jewelled, gleefully grandiose menswear – fantastical uniform for a Rousteing-imagined gilded age – for both women and men, that V-word loomed.

"They asked, 'But is it luxury? Is it chic? Is it modern?' All those kinds of words. But you know there is no one definition [of fashion] even if people in Paris think there is. And, I'm sorry, but I think the crowd in fashion are those who understand the least what is avant-garde today."

In 2013 Rihanna visited the studio, met Rousteing, and reported all with multiple Instagram posts. "You are the most beautiful spirit, so down to earth and kind! @olivier_rousteing I think I'm in love!!! #Balmain." :')"

Rousteing met Kim Kardashian at a party in New York – they were drawn together, he recalls, because they were both shy – and was promptly invited to lunch with her family in Los Angeles.

An outsider in the firmament of old-guard Paris fashion, Rousteing was earning insider status within a new, and much more influential, supranational elite. He points out that Valentino, Saint Laurent and Pierre Balmain himself "were close to the jet set of their time. What I have on my front row is the people who inspire my generation".

From them, he learned a new way of doing business. "I think it was Rihanna and the music industry that first understood how Instagram can be part of the business world as well as the personal. But in fashion? When we started it was 'why do you post selfies? Why do we need to know your life, see you waking up, see you working? Why don't you keep it private'. And I was like 'you will see'."

Rousteing cheerfully declares his love for Facetune – "I don't have Botox but I do have digital Botox!" – an app that helps him airbrush his selfies and tweak those ski-***** cheekbones.

Reaching new population

From his office around the corner from Rousteing's, Diemoz adds: "When Olivier first proposed Balmain use social media, our investment in traditional media was costing a lot. Here was an alternative costing less but bringing huge visibility. It has been successful, quite rapidly…we decided to be less Parisian in a way but to speak to a new population. A brand has to be built around its heritage but we are proposing a new form of communication dedicated to a wider group of customers."

The impact of that strategy became apparent in 2015, when Rousteing and Balmain were invited to design a collection for the Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M.; Within minutes of going on sale – and this is not hyperbole – the collection, available at vastly cheaper prices than Balmain-proper, had completely sold out. In London, customers fought on the pavement outside H&M;'s Regent Street branch. "Balmainia!" blared the headlines.

You have to move fast to get backstage after a Balmain show. I was out of my seat and trotting with purpose even before the string-heavy orchestra at the end of the catwalk had quite stopped playing Adele.

Rousteing had taken his bow merely seconds before. Still, too slow: I ended up in a clot of Rousteing well-wishers stuck in a corridor blocked by security guards. A Middle Eastern woman against whom I was indelicately jammed looked at me, laughed, shook her head, then said: "We pay millions for a fashion house – and then this happens!"

In June, Balmain was bought for a reported €485 million by Mayhoola, a Qatar-based wealth fund said to be controlled by the nation's ruling family. As so often with Rousteing-related revelations, some declared themselves nonplussed. "Why Would Mayhoola Pay Such a High Price for Balmain?", one headline asked. Yet Mayhoola, which acquired Valentino four years previously for $US858 million, might have scored a bargain.

Clothes key to revenue

Despite its huge, Instagram-enhanc­ed footprint, Balmain is a small, lean and relatively undeveloped business. Most luxury fashion houses today – Chanel, Burberry, Dior, et al – will emphasise their catwalk collections for marketing purposes but make most of their money from the sale of accessories, fragrances and small leather goods like handbags and shoes. One of the big fashion companies makes a mere 5 per cent from its catwalk clothes.

At Balmain, by contrast, clothes bring in almost all the revenues. If Balmain had the same clothes-to-accessories ratio as its competitors, its overall annual income could be more than €1 billion ($1.4 billion).

The company is moving in that direction. New accessory lines are in the pipeline. "Now we have to transform that desire into business activity," said Diemoz. "Sunglasses, belts, fragrances, the kind of products that can be more affordable."

The first bags should be available in January, as will a wider range of shoes, and then more, more, more.

Six days after his show, on the last day of Paris Fashion Week, I returned to the Balmain atelier. Apart from two assistants, Rousteing was the only person there – everybody else had gone on holiday to recover from the frenzy of preparing the show, or was busy selling the collection at the showroom around the corner.

Rousteing sat behind his desk in the empty room, wearing slingback leopard-print slippers, sweatpants and shades. "I am not even tired! I am excited. Because there are so many things happening – and I can't wait."Read more at:www.marieaustralia.com/red-carpet-celebrity-dresses | http://www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dresses-adelaide
Marrisa Jul 2018
We are strong, correct me if I'm wrong.
We are a work of art with a loving heart.
But once we were pulled apart by those we trusted.
Yes, the same ones that were disgusted
by the mere mention of our names;
the ones who never shared the blame,
whose only aim was to bring us shame.
It was easy to see we did not belong,
to stay would just prolong the torment.
Still, here we are to represent the innocent.
We may have been fragile once, a little too nice..
but that does not justify the slices
staking claim to our bodies,
stealing the territory we took for granted.
There will always be lies planted inside our minds
that are growing into vines, suffocating us..
but it does not justify the inhumane pills taken
to ease the pain that can't help but remain.
The dreams that we dread and run from will come,
but they do not justify the bullet holes in our head,
our wishing to be dead.
There is a way, a reason to survive, to be strong.
But correct me if I'm wrong...
axr Sep 2014
Behind that fake smile
Behind those lies
Lie the distant echoes of my cries
Behind those frequent relapses
Lie my urge to recover
now give me some poison.
I am predictable in my unpredictability
I am trying to fight my melancholy
Behind that funny girl
Lies someone who wants to watch themselves burn
The one who laugh the loudest have felt the most pain.
The Noose Sep 2013
Emptiness has darkened my eyes as I hopelessly beg for my life to end
......not literally
I'm enveloped in darkness
It's not safe in here anymore
Where is this light that I was promised would be there at the end of this god forsaken tunnel

Maybe if I push my fingers into my eyes... to rupture my sight..
All the **** I've had to put myself through would just.... fall away
I don't understand this free fall I'm in
I'm scared because the worst part of this mental illness is catching up with me
I'm somewhere between total recovery and total relapse
I can't dance around this anymore


I have to recover.
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.
sleeplessnxghts Feb 2015
Overhead the stars glimmered and the moon rested and all I could feel was a soft embrace, carrying me in tune with the wind. There was nothing left to lose, except life itself. I felt the heavy weights glide off of my shoulders and onto the pale green meadow beside me. A sweet mellifluous hymn sounded in the near distance, in tune with the Sun's descend toward Earth's core. Leaves rustle, the water ripples, so much movement around me, but I lay still. The tranquility is intoxicating, I don't wish to leave. This is my grand finale, yet somehow I find the exit signs exhausting to follow. I wished I could listen once more to the sound "I love you" makes but it's been years since I've heard it. It's been years since I felt anything but numb. All this time my mind has kept me isolated and trapped-- unable to find a solace. I couldn't make a home out of a person because I did that once and I was never able to recover what I lost from myself inside of him. This peaceful meadow is my one true love, nature being the ultimate constant in my life. It is, has, always will be around. Trust the whispering trees and dance to the swan's song. This is the chorus of my life, this is the final chapter of my book, I am free, I am free, I am free.
Translated into English in 1859 by Edward FitzGerald

I.
Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

II.
Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry."

III.
And, as the **** crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted -- "Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

IV.
Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.

V.
Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one Knows;
But still the Vine her ancient ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.

VI.
And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine
High piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine!
Red Wine!" -- the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine.

VII.
Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly -- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

VIII.
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon,
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life kep falling one by one.

IX.
Morning a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.

X.
But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot
Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot:
Let Rustum lay about him as he will,
Or Hatim Tai cry Supper -- heed them not.

XI.
With me along the strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot --
And Peace is Mahmud on his Golden Throne!

XII.
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, -- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness --
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

XIII.
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!

XIV.
Were it not Folly, Spider-like to spin
The Thread of present Life away to win --
What? for ourselves, who know not if we shall
Breathe out the very Breath we now breathe in!

XV.
Look to the Rose that blows about us -- "Lo,
Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

XVI.
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes -- or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two -- is gone.

XVII.
And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

XVIII.
Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his Hour or two and went his way.

XIX.
They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter -- the Wild ***
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.

**.
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

XXI.
And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean --
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

XXII.
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears --
To-morrow? -- Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

XXIII.
Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.

XXIV.
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch -- for whom?

XXV.
Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie;
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and -- sans End!

XXVI.
Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after some To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
"Fools! Your Reward is neither Here nor There!"

XXVII.
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are ******
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Works to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

XXVIII.
Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.

XXIX.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went.

***.
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour'd it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd --
"I came like Water and like Wind I go."

XXXI.
Into this Universe, and Why not knowing,
Nor Whence, like Water *****-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, *****-nilly blowing.

XXXII.
Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many Knots unravel'd by the Road;
But not the Master-Knot of Human Fate.

XXXIII.
There was the Door to which I found no Key:
There was the Veil through which I could not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was -- and then no more of Thee and Me.

XXXIV.
Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And -- "A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

XXXV.
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean'd, the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur'd -- "While you live,
Drink! -- for, once dead, you never shall return."

XXXVI.
I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answer'd, once did live,
And merry-make, and the cold Lip I kiss'd,
How many Kisses might it take -- and give!

XXXVII.
For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day,
I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay:
And with its all obliterated Tongue
It murmur'd -- "Gently, Brother, gently, pray!"

XXXVIII.
And has not such a Story from of Old
Down Man's successive generations roll'd
Of such a clod of saturated Earth
Cast by the Maker into Human mould?

XXXIX.
Ah, fill the Cup: -- what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if To-day be sweet!

XL.
A Moment's Halt -- a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste --
And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reach'd
The Nothing it set out from -- Oh, make haste!

XLI.
Oh, plagued no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow's tangle to itself resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.

XLII.
Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute;
Better be merry with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, fruit.

XLIII.
You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.

XLIV.
And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and 'twas -- the Grape!

XLV.
The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The subtle Alchemest that in a Trice
Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.

XLVI.
Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare
Blaspheme the twisted tendril as Snare?
A Blessing, we should use it, should we not?
And if a Curse -- why, then, Who set it there?

XLVII.
But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub couch'd,
Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.

XLVIII.
For in and out, above, about, below,
'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.

XLIX.
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass'd the door of Darkness through
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.

L.
The Revelations of Devout and Learn'd
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn'd,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep,
They told their fellows, and to Sleep return'd.

LI.
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Is't not a shame -- Is't not a shame for him
So long in this Clay suburb to abide?

LII.
But that is but a Tent wherein may rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another guest.

LIII.
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And after many days my Soul return'd
And said, "Behold, Myself am Heav'n and Hell."

LIV.
Heav'n but the Vision of fulfill'd Desire,
And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerg'd from, shall so soon expire.

LV.
While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
With old Khayyam and ruby vintage drink:
And when the Angel with his darker Draught
Draws up to Thee -- take that, and do not shrink.

LVI.
And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, should lose, or know the type no more;
The Eternal Saki from the Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbls like us, and will pour.

LVII.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh but the long long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As much as Ocean of a pebble-cast.

LVIII.
'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

LIX.
The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes;
And he that toss'd Thee down into the Field,
He knows about it all -- He knows -- HE knows!

LX.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

LXI.
For let Philosopher and Doctor preach
Of what they will, and what they will not -- each
Is but one Link in an eternal Chain
That none can slip, nor break, nor over-reach.

LXII.
And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to it for help -- for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

LXIII.
With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

LXIV.
Yesterday This Day's Madness did prepare;
To-morrow's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

LXV.
I tell You this -- When, starting from the Goal,
Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal
Of Heav'n Parwin and Mushtari they flung,
In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul.

LXVI.
The Vine has struck a fiber: which about
If clings my Being -- let the Dervish flout;
Of my Base metal may be filed a Key,
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.

LXVII.
And this I know: whether the one True Light,
Kindle to Love, or Wrath -- consume me quite,
One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.

LXVIII.
What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke
A conscious Something to resent the yoke
Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
Of Everlasting Penalties, if broke!

LXIX.
What! from his helpless Creature be repaid
Pure Gold for what he lent us dross-allay'd --
Sue for a Debt we never did contract,
And cannot answer -- Oh the sorry trade!

LXX.
Nay, but for terror of his wrathful Face,
I swear I will not call Injustice Grace;
Not one Good Fellow of the Tavern but
Would kick so poor a Coward from the place.

LXXI.
Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou will not with Predestin'd Evil round
Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin?

LXXII.
Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And who with Eden didst devise the Snake;
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give -- and take!

LXXIII.
Listen again. One Evening at the Close
Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose,
In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone
With the clay Population round in Rows.

LXXIV.
And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
Some could articulate, while others not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried --
"Who is the Potter, pray, and who the ***?"

LXXV.
Then said another -- "Surely not in vain
My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en,
That He who subtly wrought me into Shape
Should stamp me back to common Earth again."

LXXVI.
Another said -- "Why, ne'er a peevish Boy,
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy;
Shall He that made the vessel in pure Love
And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy?"

LXXVII.
None answer'd this; but after Silence spake
A Vessel of a more ungainly Make:
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?"

LXXVIII:
"Why," said another, "Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marred in making -- Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

LXXIX.
Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
"My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by-and-by!"

LXXX.
So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The Little Moon look'd in that all were seeking:
And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother!
Now for the Porter's shoulder-knot a-creaking!"

LXXXI.
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.

LXXXII.
That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare
Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air,
As not a True Believer passing by
But shall be overtaken unaware.

LXXXIII.
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong:
Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a Song.

LXXXIV.
Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore -- but was I sober when I swore?
And then, and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.

LXXXV.
And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel,
And robb'd me of my Robe of Honor -- well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the Goods they sell.

LXXXVI.
Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!

LXXXVII.
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
One glimpse -- If dimly, yet indeed, reveal'd
To which the fainting Traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!

LXXXVIII.
Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

LXXXIX.
Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,
The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me -- in vain!

XC.
And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one -- turn down an empty Glass!
Minerva now put it in Penelope’s mind to make the suitors try
their skill with the bow and with the iron axes, in contest among
themselves, as a means of bringing about their destruction. She went
upstairs and got the store room key, which was made of bronze and
had a handle of ivory; she then went with her maidens into the store
room at the end of the house, where her husband’s treasures of gold,
bronze, and wrought iron were kept, and where was also his bow, and
the quiver full of deadly arrows that had been given him by a friend
whom he had met in Lacedaemon—Iphitus the son of Eurytus. The two
fell in with one another in Messene at the house of Ortilochus,
where Ulysses was staying in order to recover a debt that was owing
from the whole people; for the Messenians had carried off three
hundred sheep from Ithaca, and had sailed away with them and with
their shepherds. In quest of these Ulysses took a long journey while
still quite young, for his father and the other chieftains sent him on
a mission to recover them. Iphitus had gone there also to try and
get back twelve brood mares that he had lost, and the mule foals
that were running with them. These mares were the death of him in
the end, for when he went to the house of Jove’s son, mighty Hercules,
who performed such prodigies of valour, Hercules to his shame killed
him, though he was his guest, for he feared not heaven’s vengeance,
nor yet respected his own table which he had set before Iphitus, but
killed him in spite of everything, and kept the mares himself. It
was when claiming these that Iphitus met Ulysses, and gave him the bow
which mighty Eurytus had been used to carry, and which on his death
had been left by him to his son. Ulysses gave him in return a sword
and a spear, and this was the beginning of a fast friendship, although
they never visited at one another’s houses, for Jove’s son Hercules
killed Iphitus ere they could do so. This bow, then, given him by
Iphitus, had not been taken with him by Ulysses when he sailed for
Troy; he had used it so long as he had been at home, but had left it
behind as having been a keepsake from a valued friend.
  Penelope presently reached the oak threshold of the store room;
the carpenter had planed this duly, and had drawn a line on it so as
to get it quite straight; he had then set the door posts into it and
hung the doors. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door,
put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts
that held the doors; these flew open with a noise like a bull
bellowing in a meadow, and Penelope stepped upon the raised
platform, where the chests stood in which the fair linen and clothes
were laid by along with fragrant herbs: reaching thence, she took down
the bow with its bow case from the peg on which it hung. She sat
down with it on her knees, weeping bitterly as she took the bow out of
its case, and when her tears had relieved her, she went to the
cloister where the suitors were, carrying the bow and the quiver, with
the many deadly arrows that were inside it. Along with her came her
maidens, bearing a chest that contained much iron and bronze which her
husband had won as prizes. When she reached the suitors, she stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,
holding a veil before her face, and with a maid on either side of her.
Then she said:
  “Listen to me you suitors, who persist in abusing the hospitality of
this house because its owner has been long absent, and without other
pretext than that you want to marry me; this, then, being the prize
that you are contending for, I will bring out the mighty bow of
Ulysses, and whomsoever of you shall string it most easily and send
his arrow through each one of twelve axes, him will I follow and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly, and so abounding in
wealth. But even so I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
dreams.”
  As she spoke, she told Eumaeus to set the bow and the pieces of iron
before the suitors, and Eumaeus wept as he took them to do as she
had bidden him. Hard by, the stockman wept also when he saw his
master’s bow, but Antinous scolded them. “You country louts,” said he,
“silly simpletons; why should you add to the sorrows of your
mistress by crying in this way? She has enough to grieve her in the
loss of her husband; sit still, therefore, and eat your dinners in
silence, or go outside if you want to cry, and leave the bow behind
you. We suitors shall have to contend for it with might and main,
for we shall find it no light matter to string such a bow as this
is. There is not a man of us all who is such another as Ulysses; for I
have seen him and remember him, though I was then only a child.”
  This was what he said, but all the time he was expecting to be
able to string the bow and shoot through the iron, whereas in fact
he was to be the first that should taste of the arrows from the
hands of Ulysses, whom he was dishonouring in his own house—egging
the others on to do so also.
  Then Telemachus spoke. “Great heavens!” he exclaimed, “Jove must
have robbed me of my senses. Here is my dear and excellent mother
saying she will quit this house and marry again, yet I am laughing and
enjoying myself as though there were nothing happening. But,
suitors, as the contest has been agreed upon, let it go forward. It is
for a woman whose peer is not to be found in Pylos, Argos, or
Mycene, nor yet in Ithaca nor on the mainland. You know this as well
as I do; what need have I to speak in praise of my mother? Come on,
then, make no excuses for delay, but let us see whether you can string
the bow or no. I too will make trial of it, for if I can string it and
shoot through the iron, I shall not suffer my mother to quit this
house with a stranger, not if I can win the prizes which my father won
before me.”
  As he spoke he sprang from his seat, threw his crimson cloak from
him, and took his sword from his shoulder. First he set the axes in
a row, in a long groove which he had dug for them, and had Wade
straight by line. Then he stamped the earth tight round them, and
everyone was surprised when they saw him set up so orderly, though
he had never seen anything of the kind before. This done, he went on
to the pavement to make trial of the bow; thrice did he tug at it,
trying with all his might to draw the string, and thrice he had to
leave off, though he had hoped to string the bow and shoot through the
iron. He was trying for the fourth time, and would have strung it
had not Ulysses made a sign to check him in spite of all his
eagerness. So he said:
  “Alas! I shall either be always feeble and of no prowess, or I am
too young, and have not yet reached my full strength so as to be
able to hold my own if any one attacks me. You others, therefore,
who are stronger than I, make trial of the bow and get this contest
settled.”
  On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door
[that led into the house] with the arrow standing against the top of
the bow. Then he sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and
Antinous said:
  “Come on each of you in his turn, going towards the right from the
place at which the. cupbearer begins when he is handing round the
wine.”
  The rest agreed, and Leiodes son of OEnops was the first to rise. He
was sacrificial priest to the suitors, and sat in the corner near
the mixing-bowl. He was the only man who hated their evil deeds and
was indignant with the others. He was now the first to take the bow
and arrow, so he went on to the pavement to make his trial, but he
could not string the bow, for his hands were weak and unused to hard
work, they therefore soon grew tired, and he said to the suitors,
“My friends, I cannot string it; let another have it; this bow shall
take the life and soul out of many a chief among us, for it is
better to die than to live after having missed the prize that we
have so long striven for, and which has brought us so long together.
Some one of us is even now hoping and praying that he may marry
Penelope, but when he has seen this bow and tried it, let him woo
and make bridal offerings to some other woman, and let Penelope
marry whoever makes her the best offer and whose lot it is to win
her.”
  On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door,
with the arrow standing against the tip of the bow. Then he took his
seat again on the seat from which he had risen; and Antinous rebuked
him saying:
  “Leiodes, what are you talking about? Your words are monstrous and
intolerable; it makes me angry to listen to you. Shall, then, this bow
take the life of many a chief among us, merely because you cannot bend
it yourself? True, you were not born to be an archer, but there are
others who will soon string it.”
  Then he said to Melanthius the goatherd, “Look sharp, light a fire
in the court, and set a seat hard by with a sheep skin on it; bring us
also a large ball of lard, from what they have in the house. Let us
warm the bow and grease it we will then make trial of it again, and
bring the contest to an end.”
  Melanthius lit the fire, and set a seat covered with sheep skins
beside it. He also brought a great ball of lard from what they had
in the house, and the suitors warmed the bow and again made trial of
it, but they were none of them nearly strong enough to string it.
Nevertheless there still remained Antinous and Eurymachus, who were
the ringleaders among the suitors and much the foremost among them
all.
  Then the swineherd and the stockman left the cloisters together, and
Ulysses followed them. When they had got outside the gates and the
outer yard, Ulysses said to them quietly:
  “Stockman, and you swineherd, I have something in my mind which I am
in doubt whether to say or no; but I think I will say it. What
manner of men would you be to stand by Ulysses, if some god should
bring him back here all of a sudden? Say which you are disposed to do-
to side with the suitors, or with Ulysses?”
  “Father Jove,” answered the stockman, “would indeed that you might
so ordain it. If some god were but to bring Ulysses back, you should
see with what might and main I would fight for him.”
  In like words Eumaeus prayed to all the gods that Ulysses might
return; when, therefore, he saw for certain what mind they were of,
Ulysses said, “It is I, Ulysses, who am here. I have suffered much,
but at last, in the twentieth year, I am come back to my own
country. I find that you two alone of all my servants are glad that
I should do so, for I have not heard any of the others praying for
my return. To you two, therefore, will I unfold the truth as it
shall be. If heaven shall deliver the suitors into my hands, I will
find wives for both of you, will give you house and holding close to
my own, and you shall be to me as though you were brothers and friends
of Telemachus. I will now give you convincing proofs that you may know
me and be assured. See, here is the scar from the boar’s tooth that
ripped me when I was out hunting on Mount Parnassus with the sons of
Autolycus.”
  As he spoke he drew his rags aside from the great scar, and when
they had examined it thoroughly, they both of them wept about Ulysses,
threw their arms round him and kissed his head and shoulders, while
Ulysses kissed their hands and faces in return. The sun would have
gone down upon their mourning if Ulysses had not checked them and
said:
  “Cease your weeping, lest some one should come outside and see us,
and tell those who a are within. When you go in, do so separately, not
both together; I will go first, and do you follow afterwards; Let this
moreover be the token between us; the suitors will all of them try
to prevent me from getting hold of the bow and quiver; do you,
therefore, Eumaeus, place it in my hands when you are carrying it
about, and tell the women to close the doors of their apartment. If
they hear any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house,
they must not come out; they must keep quiet, and stay where they
are at their work. And I charge you, Philoetius, to make fast the
doors of the outer court, and to bind them securely at once.”
  When he had thus spoken, he went back to the house and took the seat
that he had left. Presently, his two servants followed him inside.
  At this moment the bow was in the hands of Eurymachus, who was
warming it by the fire, but even so he could not string it, and he was
greatly grieved. He heaved a deep sigh and said, “I grieve for
myself and for us all; I grieve that I shall have to forgo the
marriage, but I do not care nearly so much about this, for there are
plenty of other women in Ithaca and elsewhere; what I feel most is the
fact of our being so inferior to Ulysses in strength that we cannot
string his bow. This will disgrace us in the eyes of those who are yet
unborn.”
  “It shall not be so, Eurymachus,” said Antinous, “and you know it
yourself. To-day is the feast of Apollo throughout all the land; who
can string a bow on such a day as this? Put it on one side—as for the
axes they can stay where they are, for no one is likely to come to the
house and take them away: let the cupbearer go round with his cups,
that we may make our drink-offerings and drop this matter of the
bow; we will tell Melanthius to bring us in some goats to-morrow-
the best he has; we can then offer thigh bones to Apollo the mighty
archer, and again make trial of the bow, so as to bring the contest to
an end.”
  The rest approved his words, and thereon men servants poured water
over the hands of the guests, while pages filled the mixing-bowls with
wine and water and handed it round after giving every man his
drink-offering. Then, when they had made their offerings and had drunk
each as much as he desired, Ulysses craftily said:
  “Suitors of the illustrious queen, listen that I may speak even as I
am minded. I appeal more especially to Eurymachus, and to Antinous who
has just spoken with so much reason. Cease shooting for the present
and leave the matter to the gods, but in the morning let heaven give
victory to whom it will. For the moment, however, give me the bow that
I may prove the power of my hands among you all, and see whether I
still have as much strength as I used to have, or whether travel and
neglect have made an end of it.”
  This made them all very angry, for they feared he might string the
bow; Antinous therefore rebuked him fiercely saying, “Wretched
creature, you have not so much as a grain of sense in your whole body;
you ought to think yourself lucky in being allowed to dine unharmed
among your betters, without having any smaller portion served you than
we others have had, and in being allowed to hear our conversation.
No other beggar or stranger has been allowed to hear what we say among
ourselves; the wine must have been doing you a mischief, as it does
with all those drink immoderately. It was wine that inflamed the
Centaur Eurytion when he was staying with Peirithous among the
Lapithae. When the wine had got into his head he went mad and did
ill deeds about the house of Peirithous; this angered the heroes who
were there assembled, so they rushed at him and cut off his ears and
nostrils; then they dragged him through the doorway out of the
house, so he went away crazed, and bore the burden of his crime,
bereft of understanding. Henceforth, therefore, there was war
between mankind and the centaurs, but he brought it upon himself
through his own drunkenness. In like manner I can tell you that it
will go hardly with you if you string the bow: you will find no
mercy from any one here, for we shall at once ship you off to king
Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him: you will never get
away alive, so drink and keep quiet without getting into a quarrel
with men younger than yourself.”
  Penelope then spoke to him. “Antinous,” said she, “it is not right
that you should ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes to this
house. If the stranger should prove strong enough to string the mighty
bow of Ulysses, can you suppose that he would take me home with him
and make me his wife? Even the man hi
Every couple 'a years or so
Our family reunites
It takes a couple 'a years or so
To recover from the fights

A family like our'n
Doesn't party like most do
Ours gets a little out of hand
That's why we have so few

It's a redneck family reunion
everybody has a grand old time
eating grandma's cooking
and drinking grandpas shine
You never go home hungry
If you make it home at all
You go home bruised and battered
And you surely had a ball

There's daisy dukes and forty Lukes
They're racing trucks and burning rubber
There's jugs of moonshine everywhere
And at least a hundred bubbas

There's a smoker fired for the food
the size of two large trucks
It hold 4 cows, and fourteen pigs
And at least a hundred ducks

It's a redneck family reunion
everybody has a grand old time
eating grandma's cooking
and drinking grandpas shine
You never go home hungry
If you make it home at all
You go home bruised and battered
And you surely had a ball

There's pickled this and pickled that
And things you just can't swallow
That used to live down in the swamp
Way back there in the hollow

There's at least ten shotgun weddings there
And the groom might be rail roaded
But, the wedding isn't legal
If the shotgun isn't loaded

It's a redneck family reunion
everybody has a grand old time
eating grandma's cooking
and drinking grandpas shine
You never go home hungry
If you make it home at all
You go home bruised and battered
And you surely had a ball

There's greased up pigs and muddy runts
And at least ten bobby sues
and when they all get greased up
You can't tell which is who

There's horseshoe pits for tossing shoes
And games of every sort
Most of them aren't legal
And would get you into court

It's a redneck family reunion
everybody has a grand old time
eating grandma's cooking
and drinking grandpas shine
You never go home hungry
If you make it home at all
You go home bruised and battered
And you surely had a ball

But, it's the way we like it
Drinking shine and acting out
Tossing things that aren't tied down
And wrassling about

There's music there of just one kind
It's country and that matters
Any other sort of sound
Sets the crowd off like mad hatters

It's a redneck family reunion
everybody has a grand old time
eating grandma's cooking
and drinking grandpas shine
You never go home hungry
If you make it home at all
You go home bruised and battered
And you surely had a ball

There's always someone who's so drunk
And it's normally the preacher
Last year we married him off
To the back up first grade teacher

There's Chevy trucks of every kind
And one covered in sod
Mary Lou showed her tattoo
"Jeff Foxworthy is my God"

It's the best time of the year for us
And it's sad when it must end
but, you gotta haul your *** away
When the cops come round that bend

It's a redneck family reunion
everybody has a grand old time
eating grandma's cooking
and drinking grandpas shine
You never go home hungry
If you make it home at all
You go home bruised and battered
And you surely had a ball
Brian Miller Oct 2011
I'm a democrat and republicans want this war to continue. People needs to wake up!

I'm a republican and democrats want to keep spending despite our failing economy. People needs to wake up!

I'm a Christian and Jesus will be coming soon. The Non-Christians and non-religious need to wake up!

I'm a  radical Muslim and the west is going to take over. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm a atheist and the religious radicals are trying to take over the country. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm a bigot and gays, Jews and blacks are taking over. People need to wake up!

I'm an optimist and the world will recover. Pessimists need to wake up!

I'm a pessimists and the world is messed up. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm a teacher and school is necessary for society to function. Kids need to wake up!

I'm a vegan, because eating of and torturing of animals is inhumane. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm not a vegan because animals are needed for our survival. Vegans need to wake up!

I'm anti-school and school is a prison. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm a racist and other races will take over. My people need to wake up!

I'm an anarchist and the government is robbing us of our rights. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm pro-government and society needs order. Anarchists need to wake up!

I'm an environmentalist and we are harming the planet. Mankind needs to wake up!

I'm anti-environmentalism and the earth is fine. Environmentalists needs to wake up!

People, wake up!! I'm a 9/11 truther and 9/11 was created by the government.

I'm against truthers and 9/11 was caused by terrorists. Truthers need to wake up!

I'm a conspiracy theorist and the government is hiding things from us. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm against animal testing because its unethical. People need to wake up!

I'm for animal testing because we need to make sure our inventions work. Everyone needs to wake  up!

I'm a sexist and the opposite gender is taking over. My gender needs to wake up!

I'm a creationist and evolution is a lie. Everyone needs to wake up!!

I'm a scientist and creationism is a lie. Creationists need to wake up!

I'm anti-capitalism because it robs people of  their money. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm pro-capitalism because most wealthy nations are capitalists. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm pro-death penalty because some people need to die. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm anti-death penalty because criminals are people too. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm a militant and everyone is an enemy. We need to wake up!!

I'm against war because war is ******. Everyone needs to wake up!!

I'm a climate change denier and global warming is a scam. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm a climatologist and global warming is real. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm pro-life and abortion is ******. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm pro-choice and its the woman's choice. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm anti-gun law and people are crazy. Everyone needs to wake up!

I'm pro-gun law and people are crazy with guns. Everyone needs to wake up!





Wake up, Its a brand new day.....
Denisse Nov 2014
You help me to recover in the state of confussion
In a room of uncertainty where things are all in blurry
The million thoughts in my mind
You gave me a reason to pour it down and inked it.

You'd shown me how clueless it will be if it is left stored
Maybe your touch told me to break the barriers
Because i read in your eyes a classic story
That made me realize that I can still made the most meaningful form of poetry.
You clean up the mess.
You've touched my heart through a very small spark,
Just as a flower blosoms after the winter
And the ship settle after the storm.
A poem I made about two weeks ago. It's like you extremely want to write but you are terribly low and when you try to write, everything messed up. And one day, all the passion came back bacause you found another reason, another story to write.
let your little seed of hope grow
nurture and protect it
and someday you will
recover
from a hopeless state of
mind and body


if i can do it
so can you
Dedicated to all those struggling with addiction and those walking the path of recovery.  Phrase "a hopeless state of mind and body" is not my own.  I am quoting 12th step literature.
Cee Jun 2016
My life was in shambles
But then I discovered.
I couldn't get over her
My heart had to recover.
My days were filled with sadness
My life was in ruins.
I couldn't do anything right
I had no idea what I was doing.
The days seemed to get longer
They just didn't end.
Life got so hard without
My soulmate & best friend.
The nights were even worse
I couldn't get any rest.
I missed my wife, with her cover-hogging self
& her sweet caress.
I couldn't concentrate
I had too much heartache.
My heart was hurting too much
It was too much to take.
My eyes were red
From all the crying I had done.
My soul became empty
I withdrew from everyone.
My family reached out to me
But I too far gone.
I contemplated suicide
I had no will to go on.
My children worried about their father.
Why is he acting this way?
Their innocence couldn't comprehend
Why I was in such disaray.
The few friends I had called
& I didn't answer.
This heartache I was dealing with
Was an emotional cancer.
I finally had an epiphany
I knew what I had to do.
I had to get her out of my mind
& come to grips that we were through.
I prayed for understanding
& for inner peace.
The Lord heard my prayers
& this heartache was released.
He gave me a new strength
That I never knew I had.
God made me realize
That my life isn't so bad.
He took away the dark cloud
That had consumed my soul.
He gave me a new way of thinking
Gave me more control.
He took the frown away
That was on my face.
He replaced it with a smile
Because now I live in his grace.
He knew my love for her was real
He knows I'll always love her.
But God's kept me sane
& he's helping my heart recover.
Left Foot Poet Mar 2019
The Fidelity of Transmissions

”Cells, the units of life that compose our bodies, are able to make copies of themselves to help us grow, fight disease and recover from injuries. Cells have built-in mechanisms that maintain
  the fidelity of transmission  
of genetic information from one generation to the next, and to control cell division in a timely manner, allowing our bodies to build or rebuild various tissues.”

~~~
when the poetry cri de cœur grows unbearable ,
sound mystery-science calms his tumbling transcendency

alas, here too, his ears sit up straight when stumbling on a invitation to
“come write,” for hid within the science jargon, oft rests a snipers shot

redirecting the didactic mind back to the
everyman’s land where-poetry cells split,,
commanding him to delve into, visit new brain wrenching vistas
“the fidelity of transmission”
at its macro level, for science is micro-poetry,^
n’est-ce pas

~~~
when you love another
the transmission is a slow pour,
or a radical jarring,
the fidelity extremely extraordinarily variable

the loveliest unpredictable

the sip sip of eyelid kissing adoration,
the irrational irrigation of the no-space-between,
when the television remote disappears in the couch crack,
the screen, complete static, perfect complement, to a rigorous experiment of

the loveliest unpredictable

we manually conjoin fluids in her mouth’s petri dish,
stain the slide for observation,
in full Imax color observe the cells busting and doesy-do’ing over to
a new partner, where bonds of fidelity attach a partnership clause to

the loveliest unpredictable

when a child emerges, the first words are
find that remote, just kidding, first comes a comestible demand,
mother’s milk 98 degree heated,
feed me a white solution to any unanswered cell’s questions, what a

loving predictive predicate

scribble this, ****** that, change a diaper,
while debating whose baby’s assemblage resembles,
overjoyed at the experimental outcome,
proofs of the fidelity of transmission,
the outcome notated, but science demands no bias confirmation,
another test required of tissue rebuilding

the loveliest unpredictable

~~~

^postscript
for is He not laureate greatest poet of all,
developer of the scientific architecture,
inventor of varietal sunsets, moonscapes,
individualized singularity of snowflakes,
love making, gravity and the preprogrammed death
of your own cells,
etcetera etcetera etcetera
all just poetry in motion in fluidity,
ah, fidelity fidelity
fidelity
Sat., March 9, 2019

— The End —