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FIRST DAY

1.
Who wanted me
to go to Chicago
on January 6th?
I did!

The night before,
20 below zero
Fahrenheit
with the wind chill;
as the blizzard of 99
lay in mountains
of blackening snow.

I packed two coats,
two suits,
three sweaters,
multiple sets of long johns
and heavy white socks
for a two-day stay.

I left from Newark.
**** the denseness,
it confounds!

The 2nd City to whom?
2nd ain’t bad.
It’s pretty good.
If you consider
Peking and Prague,
Tokyo and Togo,
Manchester and Moscow,
Port Au Prince and Paris,
Athens and Amsterdam,
Buenos Aries and Johannesburg;
that’s pretty good.

What’s going on here today?
It’s friggin frozen.
To the bone!

But Chi Town is still cool.
Buddy Guy’s is open.
Bartenders mixing drinks,
cabbies jamming on their breaks,
honey dew waitresses serving sugar,
buildings swerving,
fire tongued preachers are preaching
and the farmers are measuring the moon.

The lake,
unlike Ontario
is in the midst of freezing.
Bones of ice
threaten to gel
into a solid mass
over the expanse
of the Michigan Lake.
If this keeps up,
you can walk
clear to Toronto
on a silver carpet.

Along the shore
the ice is permanent.
It’s the first big frost
of winter
after a long
Indian Summer.

Thank God
I caught a cab.
Outside I hear
The Hawk
nippin hard.
It’ll get your ear,
finger or toe.
Bite you on the nose too
if you ain’t careful.

Thank God,
I’m not walking
the Wabash tonight;
but if you do cover up,
wear layers.

Chicago,
could this be
Sandburg’s City?

I’m overwhelmed
and this is my tenth time here.

It’s almost better,
sometimes it is better,
a lot of times it is better
and denser then New York.

Ask any Bull’s fan.
I’m a Knickerbocker.
Yes Nueva York,
a city that has placed last
in the standings
for many years.
Except the last two.
Yanks are # 1!

But Chicago
is a dynasty,
as big as
Sammy Sosa’s heart,
rich and wide
as Michael Jordan’s grin.

Middle of a country,
center of a continent,
smack dab in the mean
of a hemisphere,
vortex to a world,
Chicago!

Kansas City,
Nashville,
St. Louis,
Detroit,
Cleveland,
Pittsburgh,
Denver,
New Orleans,
Dallas,
Cairo,
Singapore,
Auckland,
Baghdad,
Mexico City
and Montreal
salute her.



2.
Cities,
A collection of vanities?
Engineered complex utilitarianism?
The need for community a social necessity?
Ego one with the mass?
Civilization’s latest *******?
Chicago is more then that.

Jefferson’s yeoman farmer
is long gone
but this capitol
of the Great Plains
is still democratic.

The citizen’s of this city
would vote daily,
if they could.

Chicago,
Sandburg’s Chicago,
Could it be?

The namesake river
segments the city,
canals of commerce,
all perpendicular,
is rife throughout,
still guiding barges
to the Mississippi
and St. Laurence.

Now also
tourist attractions
for a cafe society.

Chicago is really jazzy,
swanky clubs,
big steaks,
juices and drinks.

You get the best
coffee from Seattle
and the finest teas
from China.

Great restaurants
serve liquid jazz
al la carte.

Jazz Jazz Jazz
All they serve is Jazz
Rock me steady
Keep the beat
Keep it flowin
Feel the heat!

Jazz Jazz Jazz
All they is, is Jazz
Fast cars will take ya
To the show
Round bout midnight
Where’d the time go?

Flows into the Mississippi,
the mother of America’s rivers,
an empires aorta.

Great Lakes wonder of water.
Niagara Falls
still her heart gushes forth.

Buffalo connected to this holy heart.
Finger Lakes and Adirondacks
are part of this watershed,
all the way down to the
Delaware and Chesapeake.

Sandburg’s Chicago?
Oh my my,
the wonder of him.
Who captured the imagination
of the wonders of rivers.

Down stream other holy cities
from the Mississippi delta
all mapped by him.

Its mouth our Dixie Trumpet
guarded by righteous Cajun brethren.

Midwest?
Midwest from where?
It’s north of Caracas and Los Angeles,
east of Fairbanks,
west of Dublin
and south of not much.

Him,
who spoke of honest men
and loving women.
Working men and mothers
bearing citizens to build a nation.
The New World’s
precocious adolescent
caught in a stream
of endless and exciting change,
much pain and sacrifice,
dedication and loss,
pride and tribulations.

From him we know
all the people’s faces.
All their stories are told.
Never defeating the
idea of Chicago.

Sandburg had the courage to say
what was in the heart of the people, who:

Defeated the Indians,
Mapped the terrain,
Aided slavers,
Fought a terrible civil war,
Hoisted the barges,
Grew the food,
Whacked the wheat,
Sang the songs,
Fought many wars of conquest,
Cleared the land,
Erected the bridges,
Trapped the game,
Netted the fish,
Mined the coal,
Forged the steel,
Laid the tracks,
Fired the tenders,
Cut the stone,
Mixed the mortar,
Plumbed the line,
And laid the bricks
Of this nation of cities!

Pardon the Marlboro Man shtick.
It’s a poor expostulation of
crass commercial symbolism.

Like I said, I’m a
Devil Fan from Jersey
and Madison Avenue
has done its work on me.

It’s a strange alchemy
that changes
a proud Nation of Blackhawks
into a merchandising bonanza
of hometown hockey shirts,
making the native seem alien,
and the interloper at home chillin out,
warming his feet atop a block of ice,
guzzling Old Style
with clicker in hand.

Give him his beer
and other diversions.
If he bowls with his buddy’s
on Tuesday night
I hope he bowls
a perfect game.

He’s earned it.
He works hard.
Hard work and faith
built this city.

And it’s not just the faith
that fills the cities
thousand churches,
temples and
mosques on the Sabbath.

3.
There is faith in everything in Chicago!

An alcoholic broker named Bill
lives the Twelve Steps
to banish fear and loathing
for one more day.
Bill believes in sobriety.

A tug captain named Moe
waits for the spring thaw
so he can get the barges up to Duluth.
Moe believes in the seasons.

A farmer named Tom
hopes he has reaped the last
of many bitter harvests.
Tom believes in a new start.

A homeless man named Earl
wills himself a cot and a hot
at the local shelter.
Earl believes in deliverance.

A Pullman porter
named George
works overtime
to get his first born
through medical school.
George believes in opportunity.

A folk singer named Woody
sings about his
countrymen inheritance
and implores them to take it.
Woody believes in people.

A Wobbly named Joe
organizes fellow steelworkers
to fight for a workers paradise
here on earth.
Joe believes in ideals.

A bookkeeper named Edith
is certain she’ll see the Cubs
win the World Series
in her lifetime.
Edith believes in miracles.

An electrician named ****
saves money
to bring his family over from Gdansk.
**** believes in America.

A banker named Leah
knows Ditka will return
and lead the Bears
to another Super Bowl.
Leah believes in nostalgia.

A cantor named Samuel
prays for another 20 years
so he can properly train
his Temple’s replacement.

Samuel believes in tradition.
A high school girl named Sally
refuses to get an abortion.
She knows she carries
something special within her.
Sally believes in life.

A city worker named Mazie
ceaselessly prays
for her incarcerated son
doing 10 years at Cook.
Mazie believes in redemption.

A jazzer named Bix
helps to invent a new art form
out of the mist.
Bix believes in creativity.

An architect named Frank
restores the Rookery.
Frank believes in space.

A soldier named Ike
fights wars for democracy.
Ike believes in peace.

A Rabbi named Jesse
sermonizes on Moses.
Jesse believes in liberation.

Somewhere in Chicago
a kid still believes in Shoeless Joe.
The kid believes in
the integrity of the game.

An Imam named Louis
is busy building a nation
within a nation.
Louis believes in
self-determination.

A teacher named Heidi
gives all she has to her students.
She has great expectations for them all.
Heidi believes in the future.

4.
Does Chicago have a future?

This city,
full of cowboys
and wildcatters
is predicated
on a future!

Bang, bang
Shoot em up
Stake the claim
It’s your terrain
Drill the hole
Strike it rich
Top it off
You’re the boss
Take a chance
Watch it wane
Try again
Heavenly gains

Chicago
city of futures
is a Holy Mecca
to all day traders.

Their skin is gray,
hair disheveled,
loud ties and
funny coats,
thumb through
slips of paper
held by nail
chewed hands.
Selling promises
with no derivative value
for out of the money calls
and in the money puts.
Strike is not a labor action
in this city of unionists,
but a speculators mark,
a capitalist wish,
a hedgers bet,
a public debt
and a farmers
fair return.

Indexes for everything.
Quantitative models
that could burst a kazoo.

You know the measure
of everything in Chicago.
But is it truly objective?
Have mathematics banished
subjective intentions,
routing it in fair practice
of market efficiencies,
a kind of scientific absolution?

I heard that there
is a dispute brewing
over the amount of snowfall
that fell on the 1st.

The mayor’s office,
using the official city ruler
measured 22”
of snow on the ground.

The National Weather Service
says it cannot detect more
then 17” of snow.

The mayor thinks
he’ll catch less heat
for the trains that don’t run
the buses that don’t arrive
and the schools that stand empty
with the addition of 5”.

The analysts say
it’s all about capturing liquidity.

Liquidity,
can you place a great lake
into an eyedropper?

Its 20 below
and all liquid things
are solid masses
or a gooey viscosity at best.

Water is frozen everywhere.
But Chi town is still liquid,
flowing faster
then the digital blips
flashing on the walls
of the CBOT.

Dreams
are never frozen in Chicago.
The exchanges trade
without missing a beat.

Trading wet dreams,
the crystallized vapor
of an IPO
pledging a billion points
of Internet access
or raiding the public treasuries
of a central bank’s
huge stores of gold
with currency swaps.

Using the tools
of butterfly spreads
and candlesticks
to achieve the goal.

Short the Russell
or buy the Dow,
go long the
CAC and DAX.
Are you trading in euro’s?
You better be
or soon will.
I know
you’re Chicago,
you’ll trade anything.
WEBS,
Spiders,
and Leaps
are traded here,
along with sweet crude,
North Sea Brent,
plywood and T-Bill futures;
and most importantly
the commodities,
the loam
that formed this city
of broad shoulders.

What about our wheat?
Still whacking and
breadbasket to the world.

Oil,
an important fossil fuel
denominated in
good ole greenbacks.

Porkbellies,
not just hogwash
on the Wabash,
but bacon, eggs
and flapjacks
are on the menu
of every diner in Jersey
as the “All American.”

Cotton,
our contribution
to the Golden Triangle,
once the global currency
used to enrich a
gentlemen class
of cultured
southern slavers,
now Tommy Hilfiger’s
preferred fabric.

I think he sends it
to Bangkok where
child slaves
spin it into
gold lame'.

Sorghum,
I think its hardy.

Soybeans,
the new age substitute
for hamburger
goes great with tofu lasagna.

Corn,
ADM creates ethanol,
they want us to drive cleaner cars.

Cattle,
once driven into this city’s
bloodhouses for slaughter,
now ground into
a billion Big Macs
every year.

When does a seed
become a commodity?
When does a commodity
become a future?
When does a future expire?

You can find the answers
to these questions in Chicago
and find a fortune in a hole in the floor.

Look down into the pits.
Hear the screams of anguish
and profitable delights.

Frenzied men
swarming like a mass
of epileptic ants
atop the worlds largest sugar cube
auger the worlds free markets.

The scene is
more chaotic then
100 Haymarket Square Riots
multiplied by 100
1968 Democratic Conventions.

Amidst inverted anthills,
they scurry forth and to
in distinguished
black and red coats.

Fighting each other
as counterparties
to a life and death transaction.

This is an efficient market
that crosses the globe.

Oil from the Sultan of Brunei,
Yen from the land of Hitachi,
Long Bonds from the Fed,
nickel from Quebec,
platinum and palladium
from Siberia,
FTSE’s from London
and crewel cane from Havana
circle these pits.

Tijuana,
Shanghai
and Istanbul's
best traders
are only half as good
as the average trader in Chicago.

Chicago,
this hog butcher to the world,
specializes in packaging and distribution.

Men in blood soaked smocks,
still count the heads
entering the gates of the city.

Their handiwork
is sent out on barges
and rail lines as frozen packages
of futures
waiting for delivery
to an anonymous counterparty
half a world away.

This nation’s hub
has grown into the
premier purveyor
to the world;
along all the rivers,
highways,
railways
and estuaries
it’s tentacles reach.

5.
Sandburg’s Chicago,
is a city of the world’s people.

Many striver rows compose
its many neighborhoods.

Nordic stoicism,
Eastern European orthodoxy
and Afro-American
calypso vibrations
are three of many cords
strumming the strings
of Chicago.

Sandburg’s Chicago,
if you wrote forever
you would only scratch its surface.

People wait for trains
to enter the city from O’Hare.
Frozen tears
lock their eyes
onto distant skyscrapers,
solid chunks
of snot blocks their nose
and green icicles of slime
crust mustaches.
They fight to breathe.

Sandburg’s Chicago
is The Land of Lincoln,
Savior of the Union,
protector of the Republic.
Sent armies
of sons and daughters,
barges, boxcars,
gunboats, foodstuffs,
cannon and shot
to raze the south
and stamp out succession.

Old Abe’s biography
are still unknown volumes to me.
I must see and read the great words.
You can never learn enough;
but I’ve been to Washington
and seen the man’s memorial.
The Free World’s 8th wonder,
guarded by General Grant,
who still keeps an eye on Richmond
and a hand on his sword.

Through this American winter
Abe ponders.
The vista he surveys is dire and tragic.

Our sitting President
impeached
for lying about a *******.

Party partisans
in the senate are sworn and seated.
Our Chief Justice,
adorned with golden bars
will adjudicate the proceedings.
It is the perfect counterpoint
to an ageless Abe thinking
with malice toward none
and charity towards all,
will heal the wounds
of the nation.

Abe our granite angel,
Chicago goes on,
The Union is strong!


SECOND DAY

1.
Out my window
the sun has risen.

According to
the local forecast
its minus 9
going up to
6 today.

The lake,
a golden pillow of clouds
is frozen in time.

I marvel
at the ancients ones
resourcefulness
and how
they mastered
these extreme elements.

Past, present and future
has no meaning
in the Citadel
of the Prairie today.

I set my watch
to Central Standard Time.

Stepping into
the hotel lobby
the concierge
with oil smooth hair,
perfect tie
and English lilt
impeccably asks,
“Do you know where you are going Sir?
Can I give you a map?”

He hands me one of Chicago.
I see he recently had his nails done.
He paints a green line
along Whacker Drive and says,
“turn on Jackson, LaSalle, Wabash or Madison
and you’ll get to where you want to go.”
A walk of 14 or 15 blocks from Streeterville-
(I start at The Chicago White House.
They call it that because Hillary Rodham
stays here when she’s in town.
Its’ also alleged that Stedman
eats his breakfast here
but Opra
has never been seen
on the premises.
I wonder how I gained entry
into this place of elite’s?)
-down into the center of The Loop.

Stepping out of the hotel,
The Doorman
sporting the epaulets of a colonel
on his corporate winter coat
and furry Cossack hat
swaddling his round black face
accosts me.

The skin of his face
is flaking from
the subzero windburn.

He asks me
with a gapped toothy grin,
“Can I get you a cab?”
“No I think I’ll walk,” I answer.
“Good woolen hat,
thick gloves you should be alright.”
He winks and lets me pass.

I step outside.
The Windy City
flings stabbing cold spears
flying on wings of 30-mph gusts.
My outside hardens.
I can feel the freeze
deepen
into my internalness.
I can’t be sure
but inside
my heart still feels warm.
For how long
I cannot say.

I commence
my walk
among the spires
of this great city,
the vertical leaps
that anchor the great lake,
holding its place
against the historic
frigid assault.

The buildings’ sway,
modulating to the blows
of natures wicked blasts.

It’s a hard imposition
on a city and its people.

The gloves,
skullcap,
long underwear,
sweater,
jacket
and overcoat
not enough
to keep the cold
from penetrating
the person.

Like discerning
the layers of this city,
even many layers,
still not enough
to understand
the depth of meaning
of the heart
of this heartland city.

Sandburg knew the city well.
Set amidst groves of suburbs
that extend outward in every direction.
Concentric circles
surround the city.
After the burbs come farms,
Great Plains, and mountains.
Appalachians and Rockies
are but mere molehills
in the city’s back yard.
It’s terra firma
stops only at the sea.
Pt. Barrow to the Horn,
many capes extended.

On the periphery
its appendages,
its extremities,
its outward extremes.
All connected by the idea,
blown by the incessant wind
of this great nation.
The Windy City’s message
is sent to the world’s four corners.
It is a message of power.
English the worlds
common language
is spoken here,
along with Ebonics,
Espanol,
Mandarin,
Czech,
Russian,
Korean,
Arabic,
Hindi­,
German,
French,
electronics,
steel,
cars,
cartoons,
rap,
sports­,
movies,
capital,
wheat
and more.

Always more.
Much much more
in Chicago.

2.
Sandburg
spoke all the dialects.

He heard them all,
he understood
with great precision
to the finest tolerances
of a lathe workers micrometer.

Sandburg understood
what it meant to laugh
and be happy.

He understood
the working mans day,
the learned treatises
of university chairs,
the endless tomes
of the city’s
great libraries,
the lost languages
of the ancient ones,
the secret codes
of abstract art,
the impact of architecture,
the street dialects and idioms
of everymans expression of life.

All fighting for life,
trying to build a life,
a new life
in this modern world.

Walking across
the Michigan Avenue Bridge
I see the Wrigley Building
is neatly carved,
catty cornered on the plaza.

I wonder if Old Man Wrigley
watched his barges
loaded with spearmint
and double-mint
move out onto the lake
from one of those Gothic windows
perched high above the street.

Would he open a window
and shout to the men below
to quit slaking and work harder
or would he
between the snapping sound
he made with his mouth
full of his chewing gum
offer them tickets
to a ballgame at Wrigley Field
that afternoon?

Would the men below
be able to understand
the man communing
from such a great height?

I listen to a man
and woman conversing.
They are one step behind me
as we meander along Wacker Drive.

"You are in Chicago now.”
The man states with profundity.
“If I let you go
you will soon find your level
in this city.
Do you know what I mean?”

No I don’t.
I think to myself.
What level are you I wonder?
Are you perched atop
the transmission spire
of the Hancock Tower?

I wouldn’t think so
or your ears would melt
from the windburn.

I’m thinking.
Is she a kept woman?
She is majestically clothed
in fur hat and coat.
In animal pelts
not trapped like her,
but slaughtered
from farms
I’m sure.

What level
is he speaking of?

Many levels
are evident in this city;
many layers of cobbled stone,
Pennsylvania iron,
Hoosier Granite
and vertical drops.

I wonder
if I detect
condensation
in his voice?

What is
his intention?
Is it a warning
of a broken affair?
A pending pink slip?
Advise to an addict
refusing to adhere
to a recovery regimen?

What is his level anyway?
Is he so high and mighty,
Higher and mightier
then this great city
which we are all a part of,
which we all helped to build,
which we all need
in order to keep this nation
the thriving democratic
empire it is?

This seditious talk!

3.
The Loop’s El
still courses through
the main thoroughfares of the city.

People are transported
above the din of the street,
looking down
on the common pedestrians
like me.

Super CEO’s
populating the upper floors
of Romanesque,
Greek Revivalist,
New Bauhaus,
Art Deco
and Post Nouveau
Neo-Modern
Avant-Garde towers
are too far up
to see me
shivering on the street.

The cars, busses,
trains and trucks
are all covered
with the film
of rock salt.

Salt covers
my bootless feet
and smudges
my cloths as well.

The salt,
the primal element
of the earth
covers everything
in Chicago.

It is the true level
of this city.

The layer
beneath
all layers,
on which
everything
rests,
is built,
grows,
thrives
then dies.
To be
returned again
to the lower
layers
where it can
take root
again
and grow
out onto
the great plains.

Splashing
the nation,
anointing
its people
with its
blessing.

A blessing,
Chicago?

All rivers
come here.

All things
found its way here
through the canals
and back bays
of the world’s
greatest lakes.

All roads,
rails and
air routes
begin and
end here.

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow
got a *** rap.
It did not start the fire,
we did.

We lit the torch
that flamed
the city to cinders.
From a pile of ash
Chicago rose again.

Forever Chicago!
Forever the lamp
that burns bright
on a Great Lake’s
western shore!

Chicago
the beacon
sends the
message to the world
with its windy blasts,
on chugging barges,
clapping trains,
flying tandems,
T1 circuits
and roaring jets.

Sandburg knew
a Chicago
I will never know.

He knew
the rhythm of life
the people walked to.
The tools they used,
the dreams they dreamed
the songs they sang,
the things they built,
the things they loved,
the pains that hurt,
the motives that grew,
the actions that destroyed
the prayers they prayed,
the food they ate
their moments of death.

Sandburg knew
the layers of the city
to the depths
and windy heights
I cannot fathom.

The Blues
came to this city,
on the wing
of a chirping bird,
on the taps
of a rickety train,
on the blast
of an angry sax
rushing on the wind,
on the Westend blitz
of Pop's brash coronet,
on the tink of
a twinkling piano
on a paddle-wheel boat
and on the strings
of a lonely man’s guitar.

Walk into the clubs,
tenements,
row houses,
speakeasies
and you’ll hear the Blues
whispered like
a quiet prayer.

Tidewater Blues
from Virginia,
Delta Blues
from the lower
Mississippi,
Boogie Woogie
from Appalachia,
Texas Blues
from some Lone Star,
Big Band Blues
from Kansas City,
Blues from
Beal Street,
Jelly Roll’s Blues
from the Latin Quarter.

Hell even Chicago
got its own brand
of Blues.

Its all here.
It ended up here
and was sent away
on the winds of westerly blows
to the ear of an eager world
on strong jet streams
of simple melodies
and hard truths.

A broad
shouldered woman,
a single mother stands
on the street
with three crying babes.
Their cloths
are covered
in salt.
She pleads
for a break,
praying
for a new start.
Poor and
under-clothed
against the torrent
of frigid weather
she begs for help.
Her blond hair
and ****** features
suggests her
Scandinavian heritage.
I wonder if
she is related to Sandburg
as I walk past
her on the street.
Her feet
are bleeding
through her
canvass sneakers.
Her babes mouths
are zipped shut
with frozen drivel
and mucous.

The Blues live
on in Chicago.

The Blues
will forever live in her.
As I turn the corner
to walk the Miracle Mile
I see her engulfed
in a funnel cloud of salt,
snow and bits
of white paper,
swirling around her
and her children
in an angry
unforgiving
maelstrom.

The family
begins to
dissolve
like a snail
sprinkled with salt;
and a mother
and her children
just disappear
into the pavement
at the corner
of Dearborn,
in Chicago.

Music:

Robert Johnson
Sweet Home Chicago


jbm
Chicago
1/7/99
Added today to commemorate the birthday of Carl Sandburg
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
RAJ NANDY Aug 2018
Dear Poet Friends, I conclude this series on The Enigma of Time by mentioning few important features about the concept of Time according to Modern Philosophy and Science. I have used a
simple format, and also tried my best to simplify the concepts for your kind appreciation. Unfortunately, there is no provision on this Poetry Site to show Diagrams to elucidate! If you like this one, kindly repost the same for wider circulation! Thank you, Raj Nandy, New Delhi.
            
       CONCLUDING THE ENIGMA OF TIME IN VERSE:
                      PART THREE – BY RAJ NANDY
              
              TIME ACCORDING TO MODERN PHILOSOPHY

UNREALITY Of TIME : Mc Taggart’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ Series:
Now skipping through the pages I come to Modern Philosophy, with Mc Taggart the British philosopher of the 20th Century.
He had acquired a substantial following with his 1908 paper on the ‘Unreality of Time’ initially.
With his quibbling argument he states, that moments in his ‘A’ Series of Time are either of past tense, present tense, or of future tense.
It is all about human perception, since we experience the past through our memories;
Become aware of the present through our senses, while future is pretty unknowable.
Here time appears to be flowing through us, as nothing remains stable around us!

In his ‘B’ Series of Time Mc Taggart expresses differences in moments of time as either Before or After,
Without using the tenses used in his ‘A’ Series of Time.
All parts in time can be expressed equally as points along a time line, in the absence of past, present, and future tense;
While here we appear to be flying through time in a metaphorical sense!
Thus in the ‘A series’ time appears to be flowing through us, but in ‘B series’ we seem to be flying through time on a timeline created by us!
Therefore, Mc Taggart finds both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ Series describing Time to be inadequate and also contradictory;
And he finally concludes that Time is unreal and does not exist in reality!

How Mc Taggart’s Theory Was  Updated :
Modern Philosophers have re-casted Mc Taggart’s theory in term of findings of Modern Physics.
His A-Theory is updated into ‘PRESENTISM’, which holds that only thing that is real is the ‘present moment’.
In ‘Presentism’ time has no past or future, and time has no duration either!
All things come into existence and drop out of existence, and past events no longer exist;
And since the future is undefined or merely potential, it too does not exist!

His B-theory is re-formulated into ‘ETERNALISM’ or the ‘Block Universe’, influenced by the later Theory of Relativity.
‘Eternalism’ holds that past events do exist even if we cannot immediately experience them, and future events also exists in a very real way.
The ‘flow of time’ we experience is just an illusion of consciousness.
Since in reality, time is always everywhere in an eternal sense!

Theory of Growing Block Universe:
It was proposed by the Englishman CD Broad in 1923, as an alternative to ‘Presentism’ where only the present exist;
And also as an alternative to ‘Eternalism’ where past, present, and future together also exist.
In ‘Growing Block Universe’ only the past and the present exist, but not the future.
Since the growing of the block happens in the present, with a very thin slice of space-time continuously coming into existence;  
Where consciousness as well as the flow of time are not active within the past,  
But they can occur only at the boundary of this ‘Growing Block Universe’!
Few scholars this concept did criticise, saying that in this theory the word ‘now’ can no longer be used to define Time!

But according to Einstein, this perception of ‘now’ that appears to move along a timeline, creating the illusion of ‘flow of time’, arises purely as a result of human consciousness;
And the way our brains are wired due to our evolutionary process, enabling us to deal with the world around us in a practical sense.
“People like us, who believe in Physics, know that the duration between the past, present, and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion,’’ said Einstein.

A poem on ‘The Paradox of Time’:
Now to lighten up my Reader’s mind, I present only the first three stanzas from ‘’The Paradox of Time’’, composed by the British poet Austin Dobson:
  “Time goes, you say? Ah no!
   Alas, Time stays, we go;
      Or else, were this not so,
  What need to chain the hours,
  For youth were always ours?

  Ours is the eye’s deceit
  Of men whose flying feet
     Lead through some landscape low;
  We pass, and think we see
  The earth’s fixed surface flee,
     Alas, time stays, we go!

  Once in the days of old
  Your locks were curling gold,
     And mine had shamed the crow.
  Now, in the self-same stage,
  We’ve reached the silver age,
  Time goes, you say? - ah no!
       Alas, time stays, we go!”
            
HOW LIGHT IS CONNECTED WITH THE CONCEPT OF TIME:
Brief Background:
I commence with quotes from the ‘Book of Genesis’ - Chapter One, along with my thoughts about Light and Time,
Before concluding this series with Albert Einstein’s concept of Space-Time.

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. ……And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so.”
                                                      - BOOK Of GENESIS Chapter One.

Since ancient days, Light had acquired a religious and a spiritual significance.
Since Light became associated with goodness, intelligence and ultimate realty;
Light accompanies transcendence into Nirvana of Buddhist religious philosophy.
In due course the Sun began to be worshipped as an important live-giving deity.
As seen in the symbolic form of Egyptian Sun God Ra, and the Greek gods Helios and Hyperion as the Sun god and god of Light respectively.
In Hindu mythology Surya is the Sun god, and Ushas the goddess of Light.
Huitzilopochti, both the Sun god and god of War of the Ancient Aztecs was kept pleased with human sacrifice!

SOME PROPERTIES OF LIGHT:
Plato, during the 5th Century BC said that God was unable to make the World eternal, so gave it Time,  - “as the moving image of eternity.”
While some seven hundred years later St. Augustine in his ‘Confessions’ said,
That when God created the universe out of darkness with light, “the world was also created with Time, and not in time.”
Thus along with light, time also began to flow, while our scientists discovered a connection between the speed of light and time, few centuries ago!
To understand this connection between light and time, we must first understand something about the properties of light.
Light is the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum* which can be perceived by our human eye.         (See Notes Below)
As seen in the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet colors of the Rainbow in the sky,
When water droplets acting like countless prisms break up white sunlight!
Now this electromagnetic spectrum also contains the ultra violet and infra red spectrum which our eyes cannot see.
But this entire electromagnetic spectrum contains Photons, which are discreet packets of zero mass less energy.
In a vacuum light photons travel at 186,000 miles for second, which Einstein declared as the cosmic speed limit, and as an universal constant.
When a photon strikes the eye, it is turned into electrical energy that is transmitted to the brain to form an image which we call sight.

NOTES : Gama-rays, X-rays, Ultraviolet lights, have shorter wave lengths & more energy than Visible light. But Infrared, Microwave, Radio waves, with larger wave lengths are less energetic than the Visible spectrum of light. Sir Isaac Newton using a prism had discovered the spectrum of visible light, & used the word ‘spectrum’ for the first time in his book ‘Optick’ in 1671.

EINSTEIN'S SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY 1905 :
In his Special Theory of Relativity of 1905, he stated that nothing can move faster than speed of light which is 186,000 miles per second.
This speed of light always remains the same, irrespective of its source and frame of reference.
Now the mass of an object would double if it travels at 90% of light’s speed.
But if the speed of light is reached, mass of an object would become infinite!
Since photons, the quantum particles that make up light have a zero mass, they move at the speed of light.
Even inside the World’s Largest Particle Collider (LDC), located near the French-Swiss Border,
Experiments are carried out only around 99.99% of Light’s speed, in accordance with the Laws of Physics.
Einstein had also shown mathematically that on reaching Light’s speed, Time will come to a standstill!
And should this Light’s speed be exceeded, then Time would start to travel backwards, which becomes a mind boggling concept!
Here we enter into the realm of science fiction, which has been described by HG Wells  in his popular novel ‘The Time Machine’.
But to become a time traveler shall always remain our cherished desire and dream!

NOTES: Only mass less particles like the photon can travel at light speed, photons experience no time, they do not age. Objects with mass cannot reach the speed of light since in that case its mass will become infinite. Also, one cannot see the fourth dimension because of Lorenz Contraction, which is also related to stopping of time, for at the speed of light an object will shrink to zero length! Also, particles interact with the Higgs' Field present all around to pick up mass, excepting photons which do not interact with this Higgs' Field.

Now Einstein’s theory of 1905 is called ‘Special’, because it explains how space and time are linked for objects that are moving in a straight line at a greater speed but which is constant.
Time moves relative to the observer, and objects in motion experience ‘Time Dilation’.
Meaning, time moves slowly when it is in motion, as compared to one who is standing still, -  a relative comparison.
This can be further explained by the ‘Twin Paradox’, where a 15 year old travelling in a spaceship at 99.5% speed of light for a period of 5 years,
Returns back to Earth to find himself to be only 20 years old.
But to his surprise he finds, his twin brother on Earth who was left behind, has reached the ripe age of 65 !

Limitations of Special Theory of Relativity:
It was confined to non-accelerating bodies only, and after ten years of deliberation,
Einstein added gravitational force field, space-time curvature, and acceleration, -
To formulate his General Theory of Relativity with satisfaction.

   SPACE-TIME & GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY 1916 :
Isaac Newton during the 17th Century spoke about 'absolute time' and 'absolute space', accordance to the understanding of science of his Classical Age.
Space was the arena where the drama of the universe was played out, and this arena was passive, eternal, and unchanging no doubt.
Time too was absolute with an independent existence, and continued to beat independently like the heart beat of Space!
Newton also gave us the Laws of Motion, and Gravity, with more massive objects exerting more Gravity than a less massive one in reality.
Now one aspect of Special Relativity is that space and time are merged into a four-dimensional space-time entity,
They do not exist as separately as envisaged by Newton and Descartes during the 17th Century.
Some 250 years later Albert Einstein, defined Gravity as a curvature of Space-time.
Einstein also tells us that gravity can bend light, which travels along the curvature of this space-time.
Gravity is flexible, it could stretch like a fabric warping of space-time caused by objects present within it, in fact Gravity is the shape of space-time itself!
The Moon rolls around the curvature created in space-time fabric by the heavier object the Earth,
Just like the massive Sun which creates the depression and curvature around it for the planets of our solar system to orbit round the Sun. *

Einstein’s space-time has been likened to a stretched out vast rubber sheet,
Where heavier the planet, more depression it creates on the fabric of space-time along with its own gravitational field.
Einstein’s Space is not passive like that of Newton, but has a dynamic presence.
Interwoven with Time, Space tells Matter how to move, while Matter tells Space-Time how to curve - in this dynamic presence!
The constant speed of light at 186,000 miles per second, is just a measure of space of something which travels over time;
But both space and time had to adjust themselves to accommodate the constant speed of light!
Thus space, time, and the speed of light are all unified in the General Theory of Relativity,
We owe all this to Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of our Century.
NOTES: **Planets orbiting the Sun do not fall back into the void of space due to the attraction of gravity, and also due to their individual speed of acceleration maintained in orbit as per Kepler's Second Law of Planetary Motion. Mercury has the fastest orbital speed of 48 km per second, Venus at 35 km per sec , and Earth at 30 km per sec. as their orbital speeds. Planets further from the Sun require lesser orbital speed.

UNFINISHED WORK OF EINSTEIN:
During his later years Einstein was secretly working to find a ‘Theory of Everything’,
Which would ultimately replace the erratic tiny micro world of Quantum Mechanics.
His Theory of General Relativity had dealt with the functions of gravity at the greater macro level of the universe only.
So he hoped to extend this theory to find an all embracing Unified Field Theory.
For at the subatomic quantum level, as the Englishman Thomson discovered in 1897,
The electrons inside an atom at times behaved in an alien fashion and were very unstable!
This world of the subatomic particles is a wondrous world where time becomes chaotic;
Where the position of the electrons cannot be predicted with certainty!
Einstein called this unpredictable and unstable behaviour of electrons as "spooky action at a distance"!
In the ‘double-split experiment’ it was seen, that the light photons behaved both like waves and as particles, -
Even though the speed of light remained constant.

EINSTEIN'S NOBLE PRIZE For PHYSICS AWARDED IN 1921:
Now despite Einstein's dissatisfaction with Quantum Mechanics it is rather ironical,
That the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Einstein for his work on the ‘Photoelectric Effect’ at the Quantum level;
Which for the first time had suggested that Light travelled in Waves and also as Particles ( i.e. as photon)!
This observation led to the development of electron microscope, solar panels, night vision devices, at a later date.
Since his Special and General Theory of Relativity considered as ‘The Pillars of Modern Physics’, was still being examined by the Scientific Community;
And they could be proved and accepted only subsequently.

'STRING THEORY' PROPOSED AS THEORY FOR EVERYTHING:
During the 1970s the proponents of ‘String Theory’ had claimed, They found a Theory of Everything, following Einstein’s quest.
They claimed that micro vibrating open and closed looped strings gave rise to some 36 particles at the subatomic level;
But also required 10 dimensions for this 'String Theory' to operate!
In our Standard Model of Physics we have only 18 particles as on date, therefore due to lack of scientific evidence,
There was no Noble Prize for those ‘String Theory’ proponents!
Efforts are on to find a Unified Theory of Everything, and to understand the mysteries of God’s infinite universe, -
We finite humans have just made a beginning!

Now, to reduce the length of my composition I conclude with a short verse by the famous novelist and poet DH Lawrence, -
Who had shocked Victorian England with his explosive ****** novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”,
Which later inspired Hollywood, and a film got made.

               RELATIVITY
“I like relativity and quantum theories
because I don’t understand them,
and they make me feel as if space shifted about like
a swan that can’t settle,
refusing to sit still and be measured;
and as if the atom were an impulsive thing
always changing its mind.”  – DH Lawrence.

Thanks for reading patiently,
‘All Copy Rights Are With The Author Only’, - Raj Nandy of New Delhi.
Robin Carretti Jul 2018
This is not, a time to loosen up
Or nine to five job to give up
Just saddle up the power is in you
Five ladies cafe to dine at five and
drove_* the meter is running
(The Canadian Cup) team versus the
     Taxi Cup
He swooned you in your
Five dreamy but half heart sugars
Come on Baby bloomers
Let's see some boom!!

In your hips men will be men taking
frequent flyer trips temptation 1 2345
We need fewer digs one love teo reasons
World  345  heart flags
We don't have to cross our hearts
Perhaps tattoo heart legs no more strikes
Jumping Jack flash
What a rope in this isn't the Pope

Somehow we all get broke
To court her like your the lasso
stars cosmos hearts like Lassie
Never a change of subject how it
remains in your heart how it hit hard
to react but changed to five cards
Digging too long  lucky 777 like heaven
Heart digs

1-where?
Oh! There

No, I am here
We are always  
In-between
numbers_ I only
have 5 minutes
No I phone have a heart
Oh! where is designed for me
Those five plates

Whats in between them
      *Him

We are opening Live- Five
Strong heart to give the caring
The useful heart is never so daring
My gate* Girls are nail digging
Hugging

Or losing add +

Flirty
*****
Our community
Heftier like Jupiter
Heart to build
the gravity
A big kiss hunch
of five roses

Your getting to bloom
but only have
5 extra movie parts
The front dress mermaid tail
Your heart delicate hands
opened up your emails
I think you hit the
Jackpot

Max to the million shot
No heart of gold
Only more leaders
Scrambling and digging
your fork
Mixing those egg beaters

Five men think they know
there women
like ten
commandments
Turn to five wrong
engagements
There it goes the lucky
five arguments

A plot beating
like a hot-shot
The French Baguette
Bread 9 to 5 firecracker
Five-carat baguette
wedding band in her safe
Heart digs to five hands
Heart neck guilty as a giraffe

The cafe house had only
5 cups left  they sold you out
Only Five Bed and breakfast
stayers
Do detailed with their Ladyfingers
But need more alone time
Be on time get sweet key lime
What is real-time so sublime

That rose- paper cut- origami
Sorcerer of five he was like the
cold cuts of big Sub Salami
Japanese sword samurai
What a Geronimo Oh! no
Jericho
This wasn't a hot potato

Or Gizmo No-Go
Getting a shot for Polio
The gusto songs to the heart play
Maestro the Cosmo's
The five stars to heart his
afterglow
Like a titanic ship but heroics

Five lunatics wedding horns ******
Five two timer Mario gamers
so demonic
DOMINO'S bed five students wed
We dug deeper get-up sleepy-head
Exposed cries location set
Network U- dig cups

Something lip curved
He misplaced my lips
What did he do in exchange
More stocks and hard stone rocks
Like frying pan egg
scrambled words

Crossed heart Rapper so believing
The Fox five sticking tacky glue
His CD Rose lying pants no clue
Painful pointed shoes need R&R
     Robin's *Responsibilities
       The Heart On Replay
The deeper you dig to restart

The healthy organically grown brain
Men on Pause I truly believe nature
takes its course
but another beat to go is that so?
And if so heart digs to five
Feel the good vibe in another tribe
Five times I had to wake you up
I am the love cure reminiscing

Giving me five reasons
Our beautiful change of
heart in season

Studying the fine art heart
Referencing
Never refusing thats life
five-step to strive nothing
Fancy

Robin shoutbox she getting
her point across
Either you're the worker or loner
The heart pleaser the boss
Your heart looks good
on your dress
Whether we win or deep mess
The good heart can change to
a bad start

Recharge your heart count to five
Venus- beauty moved on like a
pathologist digging over staying alive
The hearts what digs this is not the 9-5 workers we are talkers
and long settling in heart walkers come any join me we may actually be alive did I get a live one
luci Jan 2018
Assisted suicide?
Physician Assisted Suicide is the process of a doctor providing the necessary sleeping pills/lethal dose to allow a terminally ill patient to perform the life ending act. In the United States, all but four states have made physician assisted suicide (PAS) illegal.When in a situation a terminally ill patient is in, they should have the right to commit a physician-assisted suicide.
In 1994, the state of Oregon enabled the Death With Dignity Act (DWDA). With 51% voting in favor of the act, it gives terminally ill patients access to PAS. Attorney General John Ashcroft challenged the act by saying it was not “real” and that allowing doctors to do perform that, violates the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). CSA protects the regulation of doctors from performing unauthorized distributions of drugs and drug abuse. If doctors are able to assist suicides, through Ashcroft’s claim, they would be using drugs as an abuse. In the Supreme Court, petitioner Paul D. Clement argued in the case about the violation of CSA, with 6-3, “we conclude the rule is not authorized by the CSA, and we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals” (Gonzales V Oregon).
Patients of irreversible illnesses often develop disorders that go underdiagnosed causing them to live a life that isn’t happy for them or their family members. According to Dr. Fine of the Office of Clinical Ethics, terminally ill patients usually get depressed when dealing with intense suffering. When the patient is depressed, they may not respond to treatment as expected. If the patient is not responding to treatment well, the doctor may up the dosage of medication or consider adding antidepressants, causing the patient to be reliant on medication for the rest of their life.
Patients who receive a terminal diagnosis usually experience high levels of anxiety.  According to Dr. Fine, anxiety can cause problems such as, agitation, insomnia, restlessness, sweating, tachycardia, hyperventilation, panic disorder, worry, or tension. Sleep deprivation plays a huge part in the anxiety the patients feel. The patient’s sleep is often interrupted many nights and several times to get their blood pressure checked, blood withdrawals, checkings of veins, etc. Because these medical requirements can not be withheld, many doctors may feel the need to heavily sedate the patient to make them feel lucid during the day time.
Studies have shown that patients of terminal illnesses fear that they’d burden their families. The patients feel, “grief and fear not only for their own future but also for their families’ future” (Johnson), researchers say. The feelings of being in the way can cause emotional, physical, social, and financial problems. In  doctors Johnson, Nolan, and Sulmasy’s research, they found that feelings of burden are most likely to affect emotional symptoms, quality of life, and patient satisfaction. Wanting to feel like they aren’t a burden to their families and society was most important to patients seen by the doctors. The research the doctors conducted found that out of a list of 28 qualities, the wish to not be a physical or emotional burden on family, 93% of respondents said that this was very or extremely important to them. The doctors made three categories of experiences that were related to “self-perceived burden” (Johnson). The first one being “concerns for other” (Johnson), then “implications for self” (Johnson), and last being “minimizing the burden” (Johnson). Feeling like a burden can cause “empathic concern engendered from the impact on others of one’s illness and care needs, resulting in guilt, distress, feelings of responsibility, and diminished sense of self” (Johnson).
To let a patient commit an assisted suicide means, they’re freed from pain. To force someone who knows that their time's coming to an end quickly when they do not wish to be in pain anymore should be a crime. In Epidemics, Book 1, it states, “practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient”, by allowing the patient to continue their life is harming them, all physically, mentally, and spiritually. Doctors take an oath, the Hippocratic Oath when practicing medicine. In the oath, there is a phrase that says “Also I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief”, if the patient has considered an assisted suicide, they’ve been in too much pain and wish for it to end. Refusing them the help causes them more physical and emotional pain; physical being the illness itself and emotional being the feeling of being a burden.
Patients with terminal illnesses have the right to commit assisted suicides because it allows them to end their life from something no drug would be able to fix. With the illness being irreversible, dragging it out will cause both suffering and financial problems. Terminally ill patients have the right to die with dignity. Dying by choice will let their loved ones know that they are ready and have accepted their fate, easing weight off their families shoulders. Having the ability to die will portray the patients as human beings who want to make one last decision before going rather than people who are laying in a hospital bed waiting to die. A patient knows that the doctor’s job is to relieve pain, with a doctor refusing their wish, only cause distrust in their relationship. Letting assisted suicide would allow their families to begin healing. By refusing the patient their right to die, forces them to live a poor quality of life no one would ever wish upon anybody. It is in everyone’s interest to let them go. Doctors have a responsibility to make the patient happy and to relieve them of any kind of pain, letting them go is relieving them of the pain they wish to no longer feel. PAS gives them the ability to go happily and contently.
Jeff Gaines Mar 2018
OK Reader, I'm going to tell you a tale … with great trepidation. You see, this tale, well, it's kind of like telling someone that you've seen a UFO. They want to believe you, but … it's never really been proven scientifically. Not to mention the fact that most folks who believe in such things are often the tin-hat wearing types, written off as … lets be nice and call them “odd”. And, of course, the more you swear to it, the crazier you appear. It's an epic tale, spanning 30 years of my crazy life.

  But, It's a story I want to tell, because it happened to me. I can barely understand it myself, let alone explain it. So … I'm just going to launch into it and you take it any way you wish.

*  *  
Where Can You Be?

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I'll search with gazes and I'll search with cars,
I'll search the cities and I'll search the stars, well …
I'm gonna find you, oh, wherever you are,
I'm gonna find you baby …  near or far, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I thought I'd found ya, but she wasn't you,
that girl she left alone and blue, well …
I know that's something that you'd never do,
your love has always been strong and true, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

If you must settle for some other man
and deviate from our immortal plan, well …
I hope you realize I will understand
and I'll try and do the best that I can, but …

Where will I be?
Where will I be, my love?
Hoping the next life sees …
our destiny!


Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

~Wednesday, April 1st, 1987
10:30 P.M.



  I was singing in a band back in those days and, as it happened, this was the last song I'd ever write for it. Just after this, as it does, it all came crashing down and the band was finished. But in those last days, they pondered this song, with great puzzlement. You see, it was unlike anything I'd brought them before. It wasn't rock … It wasn't a ballad … it wasn't even structured like a “normal” 80's rock song.
  
  No bridge, no solo, no loud grinding guitars, etc. It even had bits where I hummed, yes hummed, the melody, like a lullaby. As they read the lyrics and I described how it went, they all looked at me like I had three heads and asked where this had come from. It was nothing like anything I'd written before. I could only tell them when and where I'd written it, but had no explanation of what inspired it. It had just came to me, so I wrote it down. They didn't know what to make of it, or even what to do with it.

  One of them said it sounded like a late 70's or early 80's adult contemporary song or even in the vein of The Eagles. Another asked if it was about reincarnation … And I honestly, until that moment, hadn't thought of it that way, I didn't think like that at 24 … but then, one of them said it was “Haunting” …

  “Haunting”?

  “Wow”, I thought, I'd never had anything I'd written described as that before. When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that it was haunting to think that this poor guy is desperately seeking a girl, that may or may not even know that he exists … in a world with billions of people in it. To top that off, he fears that she may off and marry someone else if he doesn't find her in time.

  This, along with the suggestion of it being about reincarnation made me rethink and rewrite the song. Well, a few lines in the last verse and chorus anyways. It actually made the song flow better and seem more complete. In a way, it actually made the song make more sense … to me and them. Sadly, we never did anything with it. There wouldn't be time. Ha … Time … how ironic. Over 10 years later, came this …


For Someone I've Never Met

Please save a place for me,
deep inside your heart.
Always know that I think of you,
as we both practice our arts.

Our worlds are full of temptations,
so very hard to resist …
and the good Lord knows
we're both far from,
sixteen and never been kissed.

Wealthy men with jaws divine …
Temptresses with looks so fine …
Paths that lead our hearts away …
Paths that surely lead astray …

They'll lead us there every time.
They'll leave us there … so  unkind.
Our hearts must shine,
night and day.
Through any darkness … they'll light our way.

If you never touch my face …
If I never look into your eyes …
We'll always have the comfort of sharing
the same
big, blue sky.

If I never smell your hair …
If you never kiss my lips …
Always know the search for your smile
has launched a thousand ships.

So, I hope you save a place for me
in your heart so sweet and kind.
Please, save a place for me …
Heaven knows you've one in mine.

~Thursday, September 9th, 1999
9 A.M.



“For Someone I've Never Met ” poured out of me in the midst of another breakup from the second, and last, girl that I wanted to marry. That emotion, never found me again. I looked at it on my computer screen and smiled, seeing “Where Can You Be”, in my mind, on my tattered old note pad that I called my “Song Book”. The memory of me writing it while sitting in my Z-28, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico as a beautiful heat lighting storm sent bolts across the sky, came flooding back; as did the debate of reincarnation I'd had with my pals in the rehearsal room all those years before. Here I was, again, writing about “someone” that I sensed, for lack of a better term, was out there … somewhere.

  Well Reader, do you believe in reincarnation? I was never really certain, but, as you can see, I had twice written pieces to someone I wasn't completely sure existed. I had always “sensed” someone out there beginning with the period after I wrote “Where Can You Be?” and thereafter. So, there they were, each written after losing someone I was deeply in love with. Each came out of nowhere, as they usually do. By the time I was in my 40's, I began to think I was either imagining it all (a side effect of being a hopeless romantic) or that I had just somehow missed this person and our “moment”.

  And then …



Epiphany

There was a place.
There was a time …
There, I stood … still unknowing
and everything seemed fine.

But there in that place …
at that moment in time …
the moment I saw the eyes,
I'd never believed I'd find.

Well, what could I say?
What could I do?
In a world filled with billions …
and there … was a you.

I'd always known you were out there …
even written of something amiss.
I never, ever stopped looking for you …
because my heart always said you exist.

My breezy Fall became harshest Winter.
My crazy life left my health running out.
I'd resigned myself that our moment had passed …
but this moment … it removed all doubt.

Well, what could I say?
Tell me, what could I do?
There we stood, staring … alone … in a city of millions …
yes, there … there was a you.

Oh, that mistress fate, she is just so cruel.
Frustration, a curse to be mine.
   I'd searched for you my entire life …
but now … my clock … knows a limit of time.

You see, I would never venture a love with you,
while knowing I'd have to leave you … hurt and alone.
I could only admire from afar … stoic and aloof …
while turning my heart into stone.

Nothing I could ever say and nothing I could ever do …
But now, at long last … at least I finally knew.

There, you stood … green seas, gazing up … into skies of blue.
My long-awaited revelation … become sorrow-laced realization.
There really is … a you.

~August 12th, 2009
  

  Typical of my life-long Charlie Brown syndrome … After being told in 2005 that I had “the lungs of an eighty-year-old man” and that I had “Six to Ten years” to live, I made a conscious decision in that Doctor's parking lot that I could never have another girlfriend and that I must face this alone. I don't see woman as objects. They are glorious creatures that are here to be our partners and friends and to make our lives amazing. I could never, ever knowingly let a woman fall in love with me, all the while knowing I was going to die and leave her. It's not in me to do such a thing, lonely or not.

  Yes, I'm still alive, I'm stubborn like that. But, some days are better than others and my new doctors say that they don't give people “time limits” anymore … because of people like me. I can't afford the lung transplant. So, as Bono so aptly put in one of his songs: “The rich stay healthy, while the sick stay poor”. It is what it is … and like the energizer bunny, I'm still going. Good for me.

  In the moment that I met her, the morning that followed, and the amazing speed of our nexus over the next several months combined with a string of synchronicities (Coincidences? Did I mention that she too, was a poet and writer?) that not only came after I met her on the sidewalk in front of the publisher we shared, but in those pieces I had written before and in several after; I was pretty much convinced I had actually found her. I have NEVER experienced anything like this, or her, in my entire life.

  So, after all this time, here she was … and there wasn't a **** thing that I could do about it. Besides, she was much younger than I and it probably would never have worked anyways. ****, the universe is rotten sometimes, huh? Maybe, if I'm lucky, things will balance out better in the next life. I can only hope. But I'm reminded, worryingly so, of the **** The Alarm song: “Collide”:

“All of these thoughts pounding in my head …
with the words I've wrote, in the letters I've never sent.
The distance in our lives may change …
Times that you can never erase …
But will our worlds collide?
Will our worlds collide, the next time?”



  Only time will tell.



  “Colors”, and a few others, were written about/for her. But, I could never show them to her. I would never endanger my friendship with her. I just wanted to keep her in my life. That, and that alone, was the only motive I'd ever had with her. I looked forward to seeing her marry, hearing her stories of her three kid's adventures; Hubby, all greasy, working on the car in the driveway, rabbits in her garden at night, eating her precious organic veggies or even about her new curtains. Just to know that she was alive, happy and doing well. I found a solace in her voice I could never describe and I was completely content to just have her in my life and watch hers unfold. Only I could end up in this odd position.

  I feared that she might get weird-ed out because I'd never displayed any romantic inklings toward her, so, to suddenly read these might make her feel a bit, lets say: uncomfortable. Actually, I didn't write them with any romantic intentions, per se; I just did what I always do … write what comes out. Still, there's no denying that they come across romantic. Again, so, so Charlie Brown. (long sigh)
  
  It is what it is. I also have to ponder the fact that maybe all those Charlie Brown moments in my life were preparing me for this one big, painful one. That does makes sense … ******' Universe.


Colors

Well when you're Green, I'll be your Brown.
Like the earth that loves the flowers,
I'll will be your solid ground.

And I'll be your Azure, when you are Verdigris.
We'll be thee most beautiful ocean
that eyes have ever seen.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
Mixing all of the colors … I'll make everything alright.

Now when you're Blue, I'll be you're Red.
If something should make you wanna cry,
I will feel your pain instead.

And I'll be your Orange, whenever you are Pink.
We'll be thee most amazing sunset,
that the sky could ever ink.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … and make everything alright.

Should you be Violet, I will be your Beige.
Like a sleepy moonlit desert,
pasteled in dunes and sage.

And when you're Grey, I will be your Rainbow.
We'll be thee most soothing rainstorm
the world has ever known.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … yes, I'll make everything alright.

With love on my palette, painting a glorious sunrise …
I'll color all your mornings with a smile and brighten up your skies.
If you should find yourself in sorrow from someones hate or lies …
I'll take the stars down from the heavens … and paint them in your eyes.

So whenever you are Black, I will always be your White.
I'll mix all your colors with a promise … everything will be alright.

Yes, I'll mix all of your colors with a promise … Everything's gonna be alright.

~  Winter 2012



  I wrote this after she had rang me up one afternoon lamenting about her life at the moment, troubled that her latest novel hadn't done as well as she'd hoped and now she had to be waitressing to make ends meet. I tried my best to cheer her up and assured her that she was strong enough to handle anything and that she must keep chasing her dreams. I wrote it as a poem, but I can't help but notice it looks like a song, though I've never heard music for it. Those repeated verses look just like choruses to me.

  Earlier in the day, I had been looking at a booklet of paint swatches. I guess, up there on my roof looking at the Manhattan skyline, her sadness and me looking at all those colors melted together somehow and, as happens, out came this piece. Even this, became another synchronicity as she would name her next novel “Show Me All Your Colors”. I remember seeing it in the bookstore and looking straight up … shaking my head at the sky. Was this the universe telling me to show and tell her all this?

  Well, if it was, I stuck with my gut and kept it to myself. My God, if you only knew how many of these synchronicities there were between her and I. It simply boggles my mind. I wanted to call them “coincidences”, but there were just so **** many of them … Each so unique, they just couldn't be called that. I don't want to tell them all here, because like I said, the more you swear to it, the crazier you sound. And I'm sure your questioning my sanity by now, aren't you? (Smirk)


  OK, OK … this one is definitely romantic. I wrote it one night, drunk to the bejeezus. I'd done what we called “The Crosstown Crawl” with my pal Tristan and a gaggle of assorted waitresses we knew. This involved starting at Brass Monkey on the west side highway in the Gansevoort District and ending at my favorite hookah bar, Karma, on the Lower East Side … Drinking in, and often being “asked to leave” (Read: Kicked out of) every bar that took our interest as we walked (Read: staggered) west to east, staying below 14th St.

  On my way home from the city on the J train, I thought about all the phone conversations we'd had while I was on this train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. Being drunk, I guess, I caught a bout of sadness that I'd never get to tell her any of this or even how I felt about it all. Before I hit my elevator, this piece was swimming in my head. It's about as mushy a piece as I've ever written … if not thee most! Not the norm for me, but this is, after all, a lot to keep pent up inside you. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone.


For My Little Red-Haired Girl …


You …

My Love.
My Queen.
This Shining Light in my eyes.

My Laughs.
My Dreams.
My Soft, Contented Sighs.

My *****.
My Lavender.
My Dew Covered Rose.

My Smile.
My Cinnamon.
The Joy in my heart … ever inspiring my prose.

My Best Friend.
My Co-Star.
My Fearless Partner in Crime.

My Breath.
My Cohort.
My Side-kick throughout time.

My Snow-capped Mountain.
The Wind caressing my face.
My Vast Green Field.

The Ivy Covered Wall
that harbors my soul … ever refusing to yield.

In a different time ...

You … would have been my Life.

You … would have been my World.

You … would have been my Everything

and I will always love you for my own special reasons.

It is just a shame … and I'm so, so sorry … that you … must never, ever know.

Maybe next time.


~Charlie Brown




   When I came-to in the morning and read what I had wrote, I had to laugh a bit. It is borderline corny, very beautiful, very telling and very sad … all at once. I shook my head, laughing and told myself :

  “*******, Sam … yer losin' it. Get your **** together, will ya?”

  I guess in my stupor, I was imagining what it would have been like to write something for her. I don't know … There it was and I was stuck with it. I almost deleted it, but, my finger wouldn't press the key. As I told you before … I'd NEVER show this to her. She'd probably never speak to me again.

   As a sadder epilogue, that eventually happened. I still don't know why, but we haven't spoken in years. Maybe she sensed this emotion in me and ran away. Or maybe, just maybe … she thought I'd pushed her away somehow … but for whatever reason, we drifted apart. I guess I'll never know.  As you can see by reading this, that was never my intention. But, like I keep reiterating … It is what it is.

  One day, I called her number to catch up and shoot the breeze. I hadn't spoken to her in a few months as she'd been busy promoting her new novel and I didn't want to pester her. But … it was disconnected … I checked my emails … nothing. I'd never been so confused, she just closed me out. I didn't want to bother her. I was sure she had her reasons and if she wanted to reach out to me again, she would. She had my email and my phone number. But, for now … she was gone … and that was that.

  So, what do you think, Reader? Do I get the Tin hat … or a Badge of courage? Am I bat-**** crazy … or just eccentric? I'll leave it up to you to decide, because as I said, this all happened to me and there isn't a thing I can do about any of it. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thanks for letting me vent.

  Wherever she is … she will always mean the world to me. I can see her green eyes if I close my mine and look for them. Sometimes, on occasion, her face haunts my sleep. Still, I like to picture her, kids playing in a sprinkler behind her, digging in her garden, wearing gloves too big for her hands and a smudge of fresh dirt on her cheek … it makes me smile.


-Sam Webster
Brooklyn, New York
2013
OK, you can stop scratching your head. I'm sorry if you feel like I tricked you or was playing a prank … That was not my intention. This piece is experimental writing, of sorts. If you are wondering, it's titled “Somewhere … Out There”. But I didn't want to put a title at the head of the page, as that might have clued you in too early.

I also confess that “Sam” the narrator is, on no uncertain terms, based loosely on myself. But hey, what better way to string you along? Besides, as Stephen King said, you “Write what you know”. As far as I 'm aware, using poetry within a short story like this, or in this manner, has never been done before. Welcome to the future!

It really belongs in my “From Thee Edge” Collection with the rest of my Twilight-Zone-esque short stories. (You can now read some of these fiction short stories here, posted in my "NoPo@HePo" posts, along with some non-fiction essays. I hope you enjoy them.) But, because I pieced together several of my poems to not only tell the story, but as a vehicle to carry it along as part of it; I wanted to put it here on Hello Poetry just to see if I could convince you long enough to get you through the story … while having you believe it was me speaking to you and that it was all very real to me. Thus, making it feel real to you as you read it.

Was I having you along right up until it was signed by someone else? Or, at least until the narrator addressed himself as “Sam”?

If so, then I accomplished my mission. I'd love to hear your comments on it. If you've been reading any of my other posts, I'm sure you've figured out that I like to run wildly outside of the box sometimes. This was just, as I said, an experiment in a different way to tell a story … fiction or otherwise. As always, I hope that I took you on a journey and, more importantly, that you enjoyed it.

~Jeff Gaines
L.A.
(Lower Alabama)
2015
oni Dec 2014
they called me crazy
for refusing to pick flowers
for saving spiders from the kitchen
and for talking to birds rather than humans

they called me crazy
for clawing at my wrists
for eating my own words
and for tearing out my hair for allowing myself to feel

nothing ever satisfies
when you worry about the endless amount
of "they"
and "them"
and what "they" think

nothing ever satisfies
when "they" meet your demons
and "they" make a home
in your own ******* ribs
Christa Leuning Dec 2011
Thursday, 1:36AM
A conversation
Stemming from a picture
Posted on Facebook
Over whether a volleyball is pink or bubblegum.

You girls should seriously get your eyes checked
Suggests its owner
Because the volleyball is most definitely not pink
Indeed bubblegum and white.

It is sad, he says,
That a college-aged person does not know
The basic colors of life.
He tells us I will pray for you
As if we are the ones who need to be atoned.
What is our sin?

Hes wondering why
God gave us such shallow minds
And bad color perception.

To this I take offense, especially since
Perception is not spelled
“p-r-e-c-e-p-t-i-o-n”.
He brings
Conception, Construction and Liposuction
Into the mix.
Where is this going I asked What is the relevance
Of these things?
He has no answer…

The things I have learned from this
are very clear:
Pink does not equal bubblegum
Facebook does not equal
Intelligent conversation
And owning a pink volleyball
Does not equal being effeminate
And whether male or female
All are one.
Lianna Walters Jun 2019
!!!!!!Trigger Warning: ****, domestic violence, abuse, suicide!!!!!!!!



When I moved to your hometown, I saw your true colors.
I saw that power meant more, your dominance meant more, your ego and your assertiveness meant more to you than I did.
I tried.
I tried to leave you alone, but like a moth drawn to a flame, time and again I allowed myself to draw nearer to you, shocked when you burned me every time.
Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
Days later, I cut you off. I blocked you. And it felt good. Like I regained some of the control you took away from me. I was starting to feel like myself again until I got home that night.
You busted through the deadbolt lock on my door.
My backpack was missing.
I called your mom in a panic, having not connected the dots until moments after I hung up the phone with her and I heard your voice, calling me from outside my window.
I asked you.
I asked you once.
I asked you twice.
Did you do that to my door?
Your calm, unchanging face didn’t even blink when you answered,
No.
It wasn’t until I put two and two together, you being there, having my backpack, the holes in your story, your unchanging, unsurprised, unsympathetic face, that I realized what you had done.
And when I called you on it, you admitted it.
Why lie to me? Why lie to my face?
So I blocked you, again.
Leave me alone until I give you the word, I said.
Just leave me alone.
Two days later, I was breaking down crying over my inability to be alone, over my inability to love my broke pieces enough to pick myself up and put myself back together
Two days later, I called you.
You told me you were sorry.
And that you sent me roses in the mail, set to arrive sometime before I left, two weeks from then.
And I melted
I caved
I gave up being strong and decided to instead be naïve, oblivious, or simply in denial.
We can make it work at least until I leave, right?
What’s the worst that can happen?
But then the worst started to happen.
Your flashbacks took away your memories of me and replaced them with menacing, intrusive thoughts
Replaced me with other girls
Nameless, faceless, meaningless bodies for you to use as you please
Or a roadblock in the way of you achieving peace at last, kissing death’s sweet lips
The bad guy you worked so hard to bury deep within your subconscious became very, very conscious
Very real
I first noticed it the day we were walking to the park, I said you were less mature than I, a harmless quip meaning no personal injury
You walked on the opposite side of the street as me, refusing to look at me, refusing to acknowledge me, refusing to come back to my side.
But when that car full of guys rolled by me, whistling, yelling various unsolicited, uncomfortable things resembling compliments, you laughed.
You laughed at my fear.
And still wouldn’t walk with me.
It was that day, you got in my face and dared me to put my hands on you so you could lay me on the ground
It was that day, I asked you, why are you talking to me like this?
It was that day, you answered, if I don’t hurt you verbally, it will be physically.
It was moments later, through tears, I begged, why do you treat me like this?
It was moments later, with cold eyes, you answered, to feel powerful
Is it a switch?
Can you flip it on and off?
How can the one who caresses my face so very gently,
The one who calls himself my protector at all costs,
The one who rushes to my side at every beck and call,
The one who opens doors for me
Walks two hours in the rain for me
Spends all his money to send me roses,
Be so cruel?
Three days before I’m supposed to leave, you come spend the night with me
We’re laying down, whispering sweet nothings to each other in the darkness
When I suddenly admit, I’ll miss you.
Don’t go, you say.
But I have to. I have to, my love.
It was then that you grabbed me by the neck, and told me I was not going to leave you.
Baby, please, I can’t breathe.
You’re not leaving. I don’t care if I have to take you away
Then you jolt out of it, looking at me with confusion. Your head hurts.
Just lay on me chest baby, it’s okay
I stroke your hair slowly, softly, calmly
Why is your heart beating so fast?
It’s not baby, close your eyes.
I hear it. What’s wrong?
Nothing, love, I’m fine. Just anxious about the move.
You know, you could stay here with me.
Baby, I already got my plane ticket, I’m leaving in a couple days.
No.
No?
No.
You grab my wrist with one hand.
Baby, let me go.
No.
Babe, you have to let me go. It’s okay.
No. Stop saying that.
Baby, I-
It’s too late. You’re already on top of me, grabbing my other wrist and pinning me down, your dark eyes beating into mind.
Baby, please let go of me, you’re squeezing too tight, you’re hurting me.
Your grip grows even stronger, and I feel the panic rising in my chest again.
Then you jolt out of it. Your head hurts. You need to lay down.
This time, I don’t let you lay on me. This time, I simply watch you lay there.
You reach out for me
I flinch
Concern flickers in your eyes, babygirl what’s wrong? You haven’t flinched around me in months.
It’s nothing.
It’s something, talk to me. What did I do?
You… um.. you pinned me down. You h-held my wrists. You wouldn’t let me go…
You laugh.
I wouldn’t do that, unless you were trying to leave me
Baby, I’m leaving the state in two days.
Your eyes turn cold. You yank my hair, pulling my head back.
You what?
I don’t answer.
You WHAT?
I-I’m leaving in two-
You yank my hair again, harder this time, before letting me go.
Your head hurts.
Really bad, really, really, bad.
Lay down baby, it’s okay.
I kiss your forehead tenderly
You’re okay.
My last day there was the worst.
By far, the worst.
Laying down, we’re past the stage of denial over me leaving.
I’m leaving tomorrow. And I’m so horribly sad to leave you behind.
You’re depressed. You don’t want to be here anymore. You don’t see yourself living without me.
You’re the only thing ******* keeping me here anymore, you say bitterly.
You’re gonna have to be strong for me when I leave, my love. I know you can.
Just die with me, you plead, it’ll be quick. I can choke you to death and **** myself. We’ll never have to be apart again.
We don’t even know what’s on the other side. What if it’s nothing? What if we don’t find each other?
You insist. You beg. You plead. You cry. Until you finally give up convincing me, your hand creeping up towards my neck.
Let me go.
Baby, let me go
Your hand is around my neck. Tightening. It’s getting harder and harder to breathe. There are black spots clouding my vision, like when you stand up too fast after sitting for too long, except they’re everywhere
Please, babe, please just…
Shhhhh babygirl it’s okay, close your eyes, go to sleep
So I do. I close my eyes and you slowly remove your hand from my neck, kissing me tenderly on the forehead, before getting up and going to my window. You open the window and as you’re looking down at the two story drop, my eyelids flutter open.
I reach out for you as you go to climb out the window.
Baby, stop, I whisper weakly.
You’re supposed to be dead.
But I’m not. Just, come here, it’s okay, you don’t have to do this.
I stand slowly and come to you, grabbing your arm to pull you away from the window.
Now it’s your turn to demand that I let you go.
Just let me do this. I need to do this. Leave me alone.
No, you don’t, just come here.
Before I can even blink both of your hands are around my neck and squeezing, lifting me off the ground.
Leave me alone before I make you leave me alone.
Unable to breathe, I nod, and you drop me.
Gasping for breath, I see you going towards the window once again.
Please! Just use the front door. Just walk out the front door, if you go out the front door I swear to god I’ll leave you alone.
You turn towards me, reaching once again for my neck, and I grab your wrists.
You back me up, twisting out of my grip and grabbing onto my wrists.
You keep backing me up, until we’re almost to my closet. I stop and rest against the open door, and you ask coldly,
Why’d you stop backing up? Keep going. Since you don’t know how to leave me the **** alone.
I don’t have much of a choice. You push me into the closet, and turn me around so I’m no longer facing you, placing your arm around my neck in a choke hold and tightening your grip.
I hit your arm once, twice, three, four, five times, and you finally drop me.
Your head hurts.
I turn to face you, with fear in my eyes, cowering under you.
You look at me with confusion.
Why are we in a closet? What’s wrong? Why are you-
You reach out to touch me and I cower and flinch, shaking my head
Please don’t, please, please don’t touch me. Please. I’m sorry. Please.
I break down crying.
You realize what you’ve done.
And you sit in the closet. In your little corner, to punish yourself, as I cower in the corner.
Seconds blend into minutes as they pass by, until you rise from the closet, going to the door. You don’t know where you are. You don’t know who I am. You keep calling me another girl’s name. I don’t know who it is.
Now it’s your turn to cower in the corner.
I can only imagine what’s going on in your head, as you’re crying out with fear and panic over the voices screaming in your head. I let you cry, clinging onto my legs.
It’s okay my love, you’re safe now, you’re not there anymore. Let it out. It’s okay.
My jeans are soaked now. I gently remove you from my legs and go to change my pants. Your face immediately switches to panic.
No, please, I don’t want to have ***. Please. I don’t want to.
Baby, relax. I’m not going to make you. I’m just changing out of these wet pants.
As I change out of my pants and into your oversized basketball shorts, your face changes.
Come here.
I look at you, confused.
Now.
I slowly walk over to the corner where you’re no longer cowering in. I crouch down next to you.
Closer.
You pull me onto your lap.
I gotta tell you something.
I lean over, your lips grazing my ear as you whisper,
I want you
You begin kissing my neck.
Kissing, touching, gently.
I almost didn’t notice anything was wrong. It wasn’t until you looked at me and asked,
What’s your name, girl?
That I realized you weren’t really here. I looked at you, dumbfounded, and you shrugged,
Okay, I guess that doesn’t matter. You’re **** as hell.
I pushed off of you, shaking my head.
I’m your girlfriend. Remember?
You shake your head.
I don’t date girls like you. Why don’t you just take that off?
You stand, walking towards me.
Just relax.
No!
I push you off me, and you laugh coldly.
Babygirl, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. But I love it when they fight back.
You grab me by the neck, kissing me roughly, as your free hand pulls my shorts off.
I’m pushing you. I’m pushing you off of me but you’re too strong.
You grip my ******* tightly and begin pulling them down, but I grip them tighter and keep holding them up.
Stop. Please. Stop.
I use my most authoritative voice and you chuckle with amusement.
Guess we’re doing this the hard way then, hm?
You pick me up and set me on my back on the ground. I go to get up. You pin me back down by my throat, prying yourself between my legs.
You begin to touch me.
I flinch under your touch and keep pushing, keep pushing you off of me.
You pin my hands with both of yours.
You bring my hands together and hold them both with one of your hands.
Stop. Fighting.
You resume touching me.
My body betrays me as I squirm and leak.
You know you like that. Don’t you?
You enter me, and I cry out in pain as you use me for your pleasure.
Call me daddy
You demand, and I shake my head.
You grab me by the throat and begin going harder. Faster. Harder. Faster.
Again, you demand,
Say it.
The word escapes my lips and you grin with satisfaction.
I close my eyes.
I stop fighting.
I do anything I can to take a mental vacation somewhere far, far, away.
I’m not here. This isn’t happening. It’s not. It’s okay. I’m fine. It’s almost over.
You pull out suddenly, and look at me with horror.
No… no… no, no, no, no, no, no
You let go of my neck. Then my hands. You back up and stare at me as if I’m on fire.
Please tell me I didn’t just do what I think I just did.
I wish I could. I wish I could tell you that you didn’t just do what you think you just did, but you did.
Your head hurts.
So ******* bad.
You retreat to your corner in the closet, and I retreat to the corner opposite in the room. Now it’s my turn to cower in the corner.
The next morning, you’re helping me move my stuff out of my room, into your mom’s car. She’s taking me to the airport.
The ride to the airport is silent.
When we arrive, you open the door for me, and scoop me up bridal-style so I don’t get my shoes wet in the puddle you’re standing in.
I hug you tightly, holding back tears.
I kiss you gently, holding back words.
I love you.
I love you, too.
As I walk into the airport, leaving you standing in the rain, I realize:
The roses never came.
This is the real story of how my life has been for the past month. I am safe now, in another state. I escaped but he still lives in my mind. Please no hate or judgement in the comments.
Ooolywoo Oct 2016
I LOVE MYSELF
With all my flaws
In my Beautifulness,
In my mistakes,
In my weakness,
In my darkness.
I love myself, because I am worth it.
I am a high power person who can move mountains with my love, thoughts and dreams
I am good, kind, funny, full of life and love, contagious with my explosive energy
Some things may be equally essential but nothing is more important than loving oneself
And at this moment the love I have for myself goes above and beyond.
It could reach the end of the universe if I just unwrap it
I love me in my inane, craziest, sanest, beautiful twisted, darkest and funniest way
I love me in a way that no one does
I love me in my fullest woes
I am everything that I can and will be
I am frightfully proud of my flaws and proudly wearing them as no one is perfect
This is the start of a new journey to me
The journey of love and self acceptance
The journey to fully embrace and value my own self
I allow myself to fall in my stupidest and biggest way, just to get back up and catch my breath again
Failure will not stop me but make me stronger
I am fully seeing me and smiling at my imperfected and distorted reflection
Hugging myself so tightly, refusing to let go
The more I am spending time with me,
The more and more my love grows
Is it bad for my health ? I do not think so.
It’s true, I am better, happier, more free, powerful, at peace
The sun is shining on me
I don’t need no help to be beautiful, ‘cause I’ve got me
I’ve got that uncontainable light from within me
I am smoldering a treasure, sharing laughter, joy and sadness with myself
I have learnt the phases of myself
So distant from that little insecure girl I used to know
As I allow her opinions to matter
I have accepted her difference
Her different kind of beauty, I have learned to love
This feeling of wholeness, self acceptance, comfort and love, is liberating
I wrap myself around my contorted and beautiful else to form a ME
As I am, Raw and Real
Tea Oct 2013
I remember crying during lunch my senior year of high school
My math teacher’s eyebrows colliding turning one plane into a fractal image
He had sat there every day for nearly four years
Helping me struggle through an unreal number of numbers
Literaly and figuratively
And again and again the numbers on my math test said
You are less than average
You
Are
Stupid.

But behind the eyes of a determined math teacher
Never read, what my insecurities where screaming
Refusing to believe the numbers, I sought one thing
Some unspoken meaning
I almost found it the day of my graduation
I almost found it between my teacher’s eyebrows
Wearing it like a point of pride
I was the first of my family to hold
Such a light thing as a diploma
Instead of a heavy head
Weighed down by ******
It nodding under all the pressure
The first to feel the lightness of feather
Instead of a sixpack
A lame back, from manual labor
I was flying
College was my next undefeated feat
Again I let an institution tell me what I was
Test scores tell me what I should meet
Intelligent measured by something
That couldn’t understand its diversity
Trying to tell me I was less than average
When I was just an individual
Above a point of comparison
Excelling in conceptual understanding
Debating and good energy

I could construct social interaction
Like gold, I learn to read people
The power in my phone
I learned that it wasn’t the diploma that I should be proud of
Not the thing I sought after
Not what I would show my little sisters and brothers
To show them how to live better, how to be stronger
Burn brighter. Burn longer.
So here I am
Red faced and scared
spoken word
was hiding, but always there
in between my math teachers scrunched brow
Was the answer
I could have cheated if I had known how
If I knew what question that needed answered
Had realized it was never in his book
I should have listened to what I saw
Not to the math test I took
I
Am
Not
Stupid
I haven’t failed by choosing something outside of school
That I am not defined by the score
By numbers or lines
By this institutional rules
Test scores or even rhymes
I am not less than average
I just don’t average out
That power isn’t really in a piece of paper
Power is found in your words
And chosen behavior
That silence and insecurity
Means nothing really
The answer wasn’t in his book
It was in his look
And his persistence to prove
I
Am
Not
Stupid
He just wasn’t good enough with words to prove it.
Keiya Tasire Jan 2019
Who am I?
Why am I here?
How do I grow?
Where do the words that I utter spring from?
How do my actions unfold to take flight?
What are the roots of my habits both desired and not desired?
When did my character become undesirably ripe?
As defined by Another?

Piously pompous extruding expectations
We both wagged the tail of judgment from our respective roles.
Each casting the wands of incantations, illusions, and lies!
One to change the controlling illusion
Another to maintain it's web and power.

It was handed down from the very first mothers
It was handed down from the very first fathers
It was set into motion from the very first breath of the very first lie.
It created the very first shadow of darkness that fell upon Truth.

Tainted, "It" fell from realms of Light, the realms of Love and Joy.
"It" tumbled and rolled down the family Tree
Branch by branch, twig by twig, and leaf by leaf
Deeper into the darkness, grief, sadness and pain.

We were taught to ignore the dragon of dysfunction
Lying among the branches of our human family tree.
As "It" grew and grew, and grew.
"It" matured and gave birth to expanding prodigies
Who fained deeds of compassion, fained loyalties,
Fained emotions, and fained love

To twist and to alter reality,
Aimed toward total power,  riches, and total control.
Using the swords of Expectations,
Judgments, half truths and lies, they waged war!
With their army of
Every wolf in sheep's clothing
Every entitled the fair-haired child
Every hero - rescuer
Every "I am the victim"
Every fearful guilt burdened peacemaker,
Every misunderstood black sheep,
And all the unaware lost lambs.
The cycle of dysfunction turns
As a companion within the wheel of time.
We are told to never speak of It and deny It's existence.
This is the power that feeds It as It expands.
And we find ourselves beyond the ability to contain "It."

One day our eyes open to awareness
We come face-to-face with "The Choice."
Do we go back to sleep? Or do we get up?
And if we stand up, what is next?
When we see our unveiled past, will we fear and hide?
Or arise as a seeking warrior of Light?
If we choose the Light will Love begin to arise from the darkness
Will Love transform "It" to find It's-self Immortal & Eternal?

Give me understanding of Love!! With Understanding I will seek!!
Standing between the windows of time past, present, and future
With the root of addictive desire, laid upon the alter
Banished! Gone!! Released!!

Will the Darkness  release "It" from the depths of grief, sadness and pain?
Without a word "It" became a He
And He draped the blanket of courage over His shoulders
with the Light of hope in His eyes.
Refusing to never give up
He dawned His Innate strengths
Refusing dire circumstances
Letting go of confusion, ignorance, vises, grief, blame, and all ill desire
He stepped straight and firmly into the Light which expands!
He stood with joy in the Light and looked back

As "It" became a She
And She draped the blanket of courage over Her shoulders
with the Light of hope in Her eyes
Refusing to never give up
She dawned Her Innate strengths
Refusing dire circumstances
Letting go of confusion, ignorance, vise, grief, blame, and all ill desire
She stepped straight and firmly into the Light which expands!

The Light embraced Her and embraced Him
They stood together seeking understanding
Their hearts opened
Each to sing their own song of joy, of love, of peace
Together in harmony
Dancing  in the Light as One.

So with courage, do my actions unfold to take flight!
With joyful Love the words uttered within my heart sprang!
How, I do grow!
I am fully here, awake!
I know who am I, really!
Because  in silence I sat upon the earth
As He sat upon the Earth
As She sat upon the Earth
Looking toward the heavens
She female and He male
Focused in silence, they taught me how to breathe.

Now throughout the generations of Time
We began to breathe as One
Together in Love, in Peace and in Unity.
Reaching and holding each other
Beyond and through the Wheel of Time.
The questions of our life stirs each of us to some kind of action. The actions we each choose are unique to our own personal life path. We each bring to our personal path ofseeking - our personal understanding about truth, our beliefs, acculturation, and family patterns. Of which culminate into our strengths and weaknesses.
By choosing understanding in the challenges of life, we are armed to step into a path of increased love, forgiveness, heightened spiritual growth, increased awareness and higher consciousness and love.
If we choose the path of ego defences we continue the dysfunction and the further weakening of our humanity, families, selves, hearts and spirits. This poem is about becoming aware of this process and the choice we each have.
Gossamer Nov 2013
Four letters won’t define.
Four letters won’t defeat.
Even though they’re forever mine,
Even though they’re not discrete.

Four letters won’t defeat;
No longer are they chains.
Even though they’re not discrete,
I won’t let myself live this way.

No longer are they chains;
They cannot pull me down.
I won’t let myself live this way;
Refusing to sink, refusing to drown.

They cannot pull me down;
These letters, sips of ruined wine.
Refusing to sink, refusing to drown:
Four letters won’t define.
this is about the disease I was diagnosed with at the beginning this year, and my decision to overcome it rather than let it take over my life and define who i am.
Keith W Fletcher Oct 2016
I thought about this and around this for a long time, so I guess it's time to write it down.

THE NATURAL ORDER.

There is a natural balance in Earths history and mankind's tentative balance along the scale.
  When humans began to band together and create communities, control of fire / light created a need for oil . Eventually settling on whale oil.
   So it was by the grace of whatever one might want to attribute it to,that let petroleum come into play at a time when whales are in danger of being annihilated and dead horses were clogging the streets of cities in the east, left dead or dying by the Cartmen who simply unstrapped the sick or dead animal and moved on.
  .Oil / petroleum led to the creation of the internal combustion engine.
   So again a hand stirred the ***.                
  Consider these improvements( if such they were )created rapid growth and burgeoning cities . Again Providence stepped in to create radio , telephone and airplanes, essentially at a time when growth of humanity was so great , that new ways of farming , new ways of seeing the world-  were  becoming more and more necessary to a shrinking world.
   Unfortunately, at a time when we, the American initiative creators of so many trends, ideas ,Innovations and inspirations around the world, were suddenly slammed a blow that at this point, 40 years later; it's very reverberations are still being felt.
   Consider if big oil and trickle-down had not ,for spiteful and greedy involution, taken down the solar panels from the White House roof, that Jimmy Carter had installed in 1977.
  How far ahead would we be now ,in clean energy and how much less damage to the ice cap and the atmosphere would have been done??  To date... my guess is that it is incomprehensible.
  So if nature does create a balance, it seems we are coming to a critical Junction.

Right now -metaphorically speaking- we are riding shotgun in a car with a driver ,who like us ,sees cars up ahead disappearing around the curve and all hitting  their brake lights. Now any reasonable driver at highway speeds is 65 - 80 miles an hour would at least take the foot off the gas in preparation of  tapping the brakes.
  So many politicians right now are refusing to accept the brake lights... see no reason to tap the brakes to interrupt cruise control, in all actuality, completely refusing to do anything except go around the curve at full speed.
   Around that curve we may find nothing but smooth sailing ,  or we may find a catastrophe in the making.
   Nature will accept the cruise Interruption now (maybe) brakes absolutely, but Full Speed Ahead will lead to the sickening crunch of seawater rising and  spilling salt water into the lands that are used for growing crops and food -  leading to millions , maybe billions of refugees with nowhere to go.

Or we will reach critical mass of sheer ignorant arrogance and nuke ourselves into a situation that does not have the technology or population to hammer at the planet so freaking hard.

Most likely the first scenario would instigate the 2nd and those of us who crawl up out of the ashes will start the evolution to revolution journey all over again.

Ain't nature Grand ???
Chris T Sep 2013
You took a ride
From a stranger
Driving a flower child van
And you never came back,
Lost in dead dreams,
Long gone ideals,
Wearing a
Psychedelic trip for a shirt
And dirt rubbed jeans teared knee to knee,
The wind blowing
And the radio playing some Dylan song,
Screaming and laughing,
The days were sand castles
On a beach being blown and
Losing shape, back to single grains,
And you promised that you'd never go back
But someplace in the back of your mind
You admitted to yourself that things
Like this, of smiles and bright eyes,
Never last, never last,
But that didn't stop you
And the highway stretched
And the clock ticked ticked
And the seconds were minutes
And the minutes hours,
A paper tablet for every normal thought
Worked like magic, medicine for the spirit,
Just like those that came before you,
All those people that smiled once,
Refusing to get behind a cubicle,
Refusing to wear a suit,
Refusing to get old,
You rode that van to the edge
(Of civilization) and watched the sun
Settle down up close, face to face,
And some time in between
It all stopped
And you were
Ancient history,
The psychedelic shirt lay in a chest,
The jeans in the back of a garbage truck,
The radio stopped playing Dylan,
The wind stopped blowing,
The castles were a hill of sand again,
Nobody screamed, nobody laughed,
you can try to run
But time always gets you,
No amount of pink and green tablets
Will save you
And peace will be but a teenage dream,
And the you that never came back
Did not come back,
But not because the van kept driving,
But because the van broke down forever,
Nothing lasts forever, nothing,
Especially you.
2013. New one. i liked it. It may have a few errors, i'm not sure, haven't edited yet.
Kewayne Wadley Jan 2017
You've crossed my mind many nights.
Sometimes I just lay there, holding you tight in mind.
Wandering your body with my hands.
Filling my fingers with the skin I've dreamt so much about.
The things you keep hidden. unraveled in empty sheets, blankets.
Your warmth becoming the only comforter that dictates whether or not I'll have sweet dreams.
What justifies the stain our breath has left on one another's.
The press of your face against my neck.
The marks left on each other in anticipation. Refusing to pull ourselves away.
Clinging tight to the ****** of being beside ourselves.
Deliberately keeping each other awake in the promise of sleeping wild moments later.
To watch your face scrunch up as it breaks your gasp. Bringing a halt to anticipation,
The comfort of bodies becoming pillows harboring us into a deep sleep. Soft, still.
My head laying on your shoulder.
As we ourselves become lost in the sheets
Kemy Sep 2018
Can you feel it
Shh, allow the galaxy to pamper your body, blanket the essence of your mind, bit-by-bit
Travel on a higher awareness to understand the galaxy’s gentle gift
Close your eyes and allow your mind to softly drift

Soft Moonlight Dust
Illuminating the night skies, given warmth of its inner trust
Centered in the sky, a star abates for its enlighten ******
Kindred minds to enrapture, as souls physically adjust

So gentle, as a touch to the skin
An inner space to conquer, there an exploring craving begins
Awareness of self stirring into the constellation
Bodies attuned beyond the stretch of imagination
Savoring on the flavor of the alignment sweeten taste
Desires igniting an inferno, the heat of its flames refusing to wait

Overheated friction surrendering without debates
Runaway yearning weakening in the presence of fate
The ecstasy of the moonlight’s dust felt, abiding to the crack of dawn
Emotions of the elixir slowly withdrawn

A Cheshire moonrise
Always a sacred communion given in surprise
Masked feelings hidden behind the stars in our eyes
Sprinkles of pixie dust as the moon becomes full
Paired upon, as lace meets wool
Interwoven and tenderly spun on a galactic spool

Stars In Exile
Twinkling for eyes to glimpse beyond the earth’s smile
Canopus to Antares, oh how you make me shine
Closing my eyes, coveting your point as I’m making you mine

Settled and glittering as small diamonds binding in the sky
A wondrous elopement to experience in the blink of an eye
Soft whispers to the ones that shoot right before they fall
Such a beautiful and breathlessly cadence to wish under them all

The Gift Of The Sun’s Stroke
Umm, shooting stars kept me awoke
Relentless bodies bathing under the moon
Caresses, touches, entwined souls echoing the note of its weakening tunes

Sweeter and sweeter, deeper and deeper
Bodies fueled, hot as a heater, bodies climbing steeper and steeper
Heat consumes the interior of the temple
Sweat of life, as movements come together and then disassemble
Elated, sedated, dipping in a cool blue lagoon
Kisses under the sun on a beautiful afternoon
Temperatures rising not a moment too soon

June slamming into summer’s heat
A merriment of a sun stroke basking in the glorious feast
The galaxy and its spicy passion
A gift to the world to enjoy in any unbridled fashion
She would give them order. She would create constellations.
Thomas Pynchon
Carter Ginter Oct 2018
As I picture myself in the future
Through years of HRT
Small glimmers of excitement
Reflect off the walls of my heart
I rarely feel excitement these days
So this instance is important
I picture ****** hair and muscles
A deepened voice ands flat chest
The physical changes excite me
It's the social ones that scare me
I cannot imagine having male privilege
I cannot imagine not feeling objectified
I cannot imagine being read as a man
I was raised in a position of oppression
I am constantly stared at and made into
Nothing more than the prospect of my genitals
And yet,
One day,
It will no longer be that way
I'll just look like a basic white boy
And they'll have no idea
Except that I will not stay silent
I will not hide in the shadows
I am transmasculine and nonbinary
And I refuse to remain invisible
Victor D López Dec 2018
You were born five years before the Spanish Civil War that would see your father exiled.
Language came later to you than your little brother Manuel. And you stuttered for a time.
Unlike those who speak incessantly with nothing to say, you were quiet and reserved.
Your mother mistook shyness for dimness, a tragic mistake that scarred you for life.

When your brother Manuel died at the age of three from meningitis, you heard your mom
Exclaim: “God took my bright boy and left me the dull one.” You were four or five.
You never forgot those words. How could you? Yet you loved your mom with all your heart.
But you also withdrew further into a shell, solitude your companion and best friend.

You were, in fact, an exceptional child. Stuttering went away at five or so never to return,
And by the time you were in middle school, your teacher called your mom in for a rare
Conference and told her that yours was a gifted mind, and that you should be prepared
For university study in the sciences, particularly engineering.

She wrote your father exiled in Argentina to tell him the good news, that your teachers
Believed you would easily gain entrance to the (then and now) highly selective public university
Where seats were few, prized and very difficult to attain based on merit-based competitive
Exams. Your father’s response? “Buy him a couple of oxen and let him plow the fields.”

That reply from a highly respected man who was a big fish in a tiny pond in his native Oleiros
Of the time is beyond comprehension. He had apparently opted to preserve his own self-
Interest in having his son continue his family business and also work the family lands in his
Absence. That scar too was added to those that would never heal in your pure, huge heart.

Left with no support for living expenses for college (all it would have required), you moved on,
Disappointed and hurt, but not angry or bitter; you would simply find another way.
You took the competitive exams for the two local military training schools that would provide
An excellent vocational education and pay you a small salary in exchange for military service.

Of hundreds of applicants for the prized few seats in each of the two institutions, you
Scored first for the toughest of the two and thirteenth for the second. You had your pick.
You chose Fabrica de Armas, the lesser of the two, so that a classmate who had scored just
Below the cut-off at the better school could be admitted. That was you. Always and forever.

At the military school, you were finally in your element. You were to become a world-class
Machinist there—a profession that would have gotten you well paid work anywhere on earth
For as long as you wanted it. You were truly a mechanical genius who years later would add
Electronics, auto mechanics and specialized welding to his toolkit through formal training.

Given a well-stocked machine shop, you could reverse engineer every machine without
Blueprints and build a duplicate machine shop. You became a gifted master mechanic
And worked in line and supervisory positions at a handful of companies throughout your life in
Argentina and in the U.S., including Westinghouse, Warner-Lambert, and Pepsi Co.

You loved learning, especially in your fields (electronics, mechanics, welding) and expected
Perfection in everything you did. Every difficult job at work was given to you everywhere you
Worked. You would not sleep at night when a problem needed solving. You’d sketch
And calculate and re-sketch solutions and worked even in your dreams with singular passion.

You were more than a match for the academic and physical rigors of military school,
But life was difficult for you in the Franco era when some instructors would
Deprecatingly refer to you as “Roxo”—Galician for “red”-- reflecting your father’s
Support for the failed Republic. Eventually, the abuse was too much for you to bear.

Once while standing at attention in a corridor with the other cadets waiting for
Roll call, you were repeatedly poked in the back surreptitiously. Moving would cause
Demerits and demerits could cause loss of points on your final grade and arrest for
Successive weekends. You took it awhile, then lost your temper.

You turned to the cadet behind you and in a fluid motion grabbed him by his buttoned jacket
And one-handedly hung him up on a hook above a window where you were standing in line.
He thrashed about, hanging by the back of his jacket, until he was brought down by irate Military instructors.
You got weekend arrest for many weeks and a 10% final grade reduction.

A similar fate befell a co-worker a few years later in Buenos Aires who called you a
*******. You lifted him one handed by his throat and held him there until
Your co-workers intervened, forcibly persuading you to put him down.
That lesson was learned by all in no uncertain terms: Leave Felipe’s mom alone.

You were incredibly strong, especially in your youth—no doubt in part because of rigorous farm
Work, military school training and competitive sports. As a teenager, you once unwisely bent
Down to pick something up in view of a ram, presenting the animal an irresistible target.
It butted you and sent you flying into a haystack. It, too, quickly learned its lesson.

You dusted yourself off, charged the ram, grabbed it by the horns and twirled it around once,
Throwing it atop the same haystack as it had you. The animal was unhurt, but learned to
Give you a wide berth from that day forward. Overall, you were very slow to anger absent
Head-butting, repeated pokings, or disrespectful references to your mom by anyone.    

I seldom saw you angry and it was mom, not you, who was the disciplinarian, slipper in hand.
There were very few slaps from you for me. Mom would smack my behind with a slipper often
When I was little, mostly because I could be a real pain, wanting to know/try/do everything
Completely oblivious to the meaning of the word “no” or of my own limitations.

Mom would sometimes insist you give me a proper beating. On one such occasion for a
Forgotten transgression when I was nine, you  took me to your bedroom, took off your belt, sat
Me next to you and whipped your own arm and hand a few times, whispering to me “cry”,
Which I was happy to do unbidden. “Don’t tell mom.” I did not. No doubt she knew.

The prospect of serving in a military that considered you a traitor by blood became harder and
Harder to bear, and in the third year of school, one year prior to graduation, you left to join
Your exiled father in Argentina, to start a new life. You left behind a mother and two sisters you
Dearly loved to try your fortune in a new land. Your dog thereafter refused food, dying of grief.

You arrived in Buenos Aires to see a father you had not seen for ten years at the age of 17.
You were too young to work legally, but looked older than your years (a shared trait),
So you lied about your age and immediately found work as a Machinist/Mechanic first grade.
That was unheard of and brought you some jealousy and complaints in the union shop.

The union complained to the general manager about your top-salary and rank. He answered,
“I’ll give the same rank and salary to anyone in the company who can do what Felipe can do.”
No doubt the jealousy and grumblings continued by some for a time. But there were no takers.
And you soon won the group over, becoming their protected “baby-brother” mascot.

Your dad left for Spain within a year or so of your arrival when Franco issued a general pardon
To all dissidents who had not spilt blood (e.g., non combatants). He wanted you to return to
Help him reclaim the family business taken over by your mom in his absence with your help.
But you refused to give up the high salary, respect and independence denied you at home.

You were perhaps 18 and alone, living in a single room by a schoolhouse you had shared with Your dad.
But you had also found a new loving family in your uncle José, one of your father’s Brothers, and his family. José, and one of his daughters, Nieves and her
Husband, Emilio, and
Their children, Susana, Oscar (Ruben Gordé), and Osvaldo, became your new nuclear family.

You married mom in 1955 and had two failed business ventures in the quickly fading
Post-WW II Argentina of the late 1950s and early 1960s.The first, a machine shop, left
You with a small fortune in unpaid government contract work.  The second, a grocery store,
Also failed due to hyperinflation and credit extended too easily to needy customers.

Throughout this, you continued earning an exceptionally good salary. But in the mid 1960’s,
Nearly all of it went to pay back creditors of the failed grocery store. We had some really hard
Times. Someday I’ll write about that in some detail. Mom went to work as a maid, including for
Wealthy friends, and you left home at 4:00 a.m. to return long after dark to pay the bills.


The only luxury you and mom retained was my Catholic school tuition. There was no other
Extravagance. Not paying bills was never an option for you or mom. It never entered your
Minds. It was not a matter of law or pride, but a matter of honor. There were at least three very
Lean years where you and mom worked hard, earned well but we were truly poor.

You and mom took great pains to hide this from me—and suffered great privations to insulate
Me as best you could from the fallout of a shattered economy and your refusal to cut your loses
Had done to your life savings and to our once-comfortable middle-class life.
We came to the U.S. in the late 1960s after waiting for more than three years for visas—to a new land of hope.

Your sister and brother-in-law, Marisa and Manuel, made their own sacrifices to help bring us
Here. You had about $1,000 from the down payment on our tiny down-sized house, And
Mom’s pawned jewelry. (Hyperinflation and expenses ate up the remaining mortgage payments
Due). Other prized possessions were left in a trunk until you could reclaim them. You never did.

Even the airline tickets were paid for by Marisa and Manuel. You insisted upon arriving on
Written terms for repayment including interest. You were hired on the spot on your first
Interview as a mechanic, First Grade, despite not speaking a word of English. Two months later,
The debt was repaid, mom was working too and we moved into our first apartment.

You worked long hours, including Saturdays and daily overtime, to remake a nest egg.
Declining health forced you to retire at 63 and shortly thereafter you and mom moved out of
Queens into Orange County. You bought a townhouse two hours from my permanent residence
Upstate NY and for the next decade were happy, traveling with friends and visiting us often.

Then things started to change. Heart issues (two pacemakers), colon cancer, melanoma,
Liver and kidney disease caused by your many medications, high blood pressure, gout,
Gall bladder surgery, diabetes . . . . And still you moved forward, like the Energizer Bunny,
Patched up, battered, scarred, bruised but unstoppable and unflappable.

Then mom started to show signs of memory loss along with her other health issues. She was
Good at hiding her own ailments, and we noticed much later than we should have that there
Was a serious problem. Two years ago, her dementia worsening but still functional, she had
Gall bladder surgery with complications that required four separate surgeries in three months.

She never recovered and had to be placed in a nursing home. Several, in fact, as at first she
Refused food and you and I refused to simply let her waste away, which might have been
Kinder, but for the fact that “mientras hay vida, hay esperanza” as Spaniards say.
(While there is Life there is hope.) There is nothing beyond the power of God. Miracles do happen.

For two years you lived alone, refusing outside help, engendering numerous arguments about
Having someone go by a few times a week to help clean, cook, do chores. You were nothing if
Not stubborn (yet another shared trait). The last argument on the subject about two weeks ago
Ended in your crying. You’d accept no outside help until mom returned home. Period.

You were in great pain because of bulging discs in your spine and walked with one of those
Rolling seats with handlebars that mom and I picked out for you some years ago. You’d sit
As needed when the pain was too much, then continue with very little by way of complaints.
Ten days ago you finally agreed that you needed to get to the hospital to drain abdominal fluid.

Your failing liver produced it and it swelled your abdomen and lower extremities to the point
Where putting on shoes or clothing was very difficult, as was breathing. You called me from a
Local store crying that you could not find pants that would fit you. We talked, long distance,
And I calmed you down, as always, not allowing you to wallow in self pity but trying to help.

You went home and found a new pair of stretch pants Alice and I had bought you and you were
Happy. You had two changes of clothes that still fit to take to the hospital. No sweat, all was
Well. The procedure was not dangerous and you’d undergone it several times in recent years.
It would require a couple of days at the hospital and I’d see you again on the weekend.

I could not be with you on Monday, February 22 when you had to go to the hospital, as I nearly
Always had, because of work. You were supposed to be admitted the previous Friday, but
Doctors have days off too, and yours could not see you until Monday when I could not get off
Work. But you were not concerned; this was just routine. You’d be fine. I’d see you in just days.

We’d go see mom Friday, when you’d be much lighter and feel much better. Perhaps we’d go
Shopping for clothes if the procedure still left you too bloated for your usual clothes.
You drove to your doctor and then transported by ambulette. I was concerned, but not too Worried.
You called me sometime between five or six p.m. to tell me you were fine, resting.

“Don’t worry. I’m safe here and well cared for.” We talked for a little while about the usual
Things, with my assuring you I’d see you Friday or Saturday. You were tired and wanted to sleep
And I told you to call me if you woke up later that night or I’d speak to you the following day.
Around 10:00 p.m. I got a call from your cell and answered in the usual upbeat manner.

“Hey, Papi.” On the other side was a nurse telling me my dad had fallen. I assured her she was
Mistaken, as my dad was there for a routine procedure to drain abdominal fluid. “You don’t
Understand. He fell from his bed and struck his head on a nightstand or something
And his heart has stopped. We’re working on him for 20 minutes and it does not look good.”

“Can you get here?” I could not. I had had two or three glasses of wine shortly before the call
With dinner. I could not drive the three hours to Middletown. I cried. I prayed.
Fifteen minutes Later I got the call that you were gone. Lost in grief, not knowing what to do, I called my wife.
Shortly thereafter came a call from the coroner. An autopsy was required. I could not see you.

Four days later your body was finally released to the funeral director I had selected for his
Experience with the process of interment in Spain. I saw you for the last time to identify
Your body. I kissed my fingers and touched your mangled brow. I could not even have the
Comfort of an open casket viewing. You wanted cremation. You body awaits it as I write this.

You were alone, even in death alone. In the hospital as strangers worked on you. In the medical
Examiner’s office as you awaited the autopsy. In the autopsy table as they poked and prodded
And further rent your flesh looking for irrelevant clues that would change nothing and benefit
No one, least of all you. I could not be with you for days, and then only for a painful moment.

We will have a memorial service next Friday with your ashes and a mass on Saturday. I will
Never again see you in this life. Alice and I will take you home to your home town, to the
Cemetery in Oleiros, La Coruña, Spain this summer. There you will await the love of your life.
Who will join you in the fullness of time. She could not understand my tears or your passing.

There is one blessing to dementia. She asks for her mom, and says she is worried because she
Has not come to visit in some time. She is coming, she assures me whenever I see her.
You visited her every day except when health absolutely prevented it. You spent this February 10
Apart, your 61st wedding anniversary, too sick to visit her. Nor was I there. First time.

I hope you did not realize you were apart on the 10th but doubt it to be the case. I
Did not mention it, hoping you’d forgotten, and neither did you. You were my link to mom.
She cannot dial or answer a phone, so you would put your cell phone to her ear whenever I
Was not in class or meetings and could speak to her. She always recognized me by phone.

I am three hours from her. I could visit at most once or twice a month. Now even that phone
Lifeline is severed. Mom is completely alone, afraid, confused, and I cannot in the short term at
Least do much about that. You were not supposed to die first. It was my greatest fear, and
Yours, but as with so many things that we cannot change I put it in the back of my mind.

It kept me up many nights, but, like you, I still believed—and believe—in miracles.
I would speak every night with my you, often for an hour, on the way home from work late at
Night during my hour-long commute, or from home on days I worked from home as I cooked
Dinner. I mostly let you talk, trying to give you what comfort and social outlet I could.

You were lonely, sad, stuck in an endless cycle of emotional and physical pain.
Lately you were especially reticent to get off the phone. When mom was home and still
Relatively well, I’d call every day too but usually spoke to you only a few minutes and you’d
Transfer the phone to mom, with whom I usually chatted much longer.

For months, you’d had difficulty hanging up. I knew you did not want to go back to the couch,
To a meaningless TV program, or to writing more bills. You’d say good-bye, or “enough for
Today” and immediately begin a new thread, then repeat the cycle, sometimes five or six times.
You even told me, at least once crying recently, “Just hang up on me or I’ll just keep talking.”

I loved you, dad, with all my heart. We argued, and I’d often scream at you in frustration,
Knowing you would never take it to heart and would usually just ignore me and do as
You pleased. I knew how desperately you needed me, and I tried to be as patient as I could.
But there were days when I was just too tired, too frustrated, too full of other problems.

There were days when I got frustrated with you just staying on the phone for an hour when I
Needed to call Alice, to eat my cold dinner, or even to watch a favorite program. I felt guilty
And very seldom cut a conversation short, but I was frustrated nonetheless even knowing
How much you needed me and also how much I needed you, and how little you asked of me.  

How I would love to hear your voice again, even if you wanted to complain about the same old
Things or tell me in minutest detail some unimportant aspect of your day. I thought I would
Have you at least a little longer. A year? Two? God only knew, and I could hope. There would be
Time. I had so much more to share with you, so much more to learn when life eased up a bit.

You taught me to fish (it did not take) and to hunt (that took even less) and much of what I
Know about mechanics, and electronics. We worked on our cars together for years—from brake
Jobs, to mufflers, to real tune-ups in the days when points, condensers, and timing lights had Meaning, to rebuilding carburetors and fixing rust and dents, and power windows and more.

We were friends, good friends, who went on Sunday drives to favorite restaurants or shopping
For tools when I was single and lived at home. You taught me everything in life that I need to
Know about all the things that matter. The rest is meaningless paper and window dressing.
I knew all your few faults and your many colossal strengths and knew you to be the better man.

Not even close. I could never do what you did. I could never excel in my fields as you did in
Yours.  You were the real deal in every way, from every angle, throughout your life. I did not
Always treat you that way. But I loved you very deeply as anyone who knew us knows.
More importantly, you knew it. I told you often, unembarrassed in the telling. I love you, Dad.

The world was enriched by your journey. You do not leave behind wealth, or a body or work to
Outlive you. You never had your fifteen minutes in the sun. But you mattered. God knows your
Virtue, your absolute integrity, and the purity of your heart. I will never know a better man.
I will love you and miss you and carry you in my heart every day of my life. God bless you, dad.
MoeGallo Dec 2014
I’m rendered powerless. Just about breathless. I watch as each layer of clothing gravitates toward the floor. Strip off the clothes that enveloped his beauty. My knees begin to fail me. Through his stare it feels as though he’s already probing every crevice of my being. Eye-fingers ravish me. He’s bare. My eyes haven’t left him. He smirks, refusing to leave me a spectator. Clammy hands penetrate the chill of the tile lined room. He strips me. I'm sure he senses me shaking.. goosebumps begin to rise. We step into shower. The tap is high, the temperature hot. The passion as well. He’s capturing me. Rapturing my frame, Grasping me. Gasping for me. He pulls me into him.. into the air. My legs incoherently wrap around him. The hot vapors aren't from the water, but our lust we heed. It’s wet. "Think ya can make it to the bedroom?" My throat closes. Barley touching, the pleasure, pressure, of his words render me unable to respond clearly. I nearly whimper out an answer. The smirk returns. This act meant for cleansing morphs into such a ***** one. I’m miserable within myself, the sheer amount of desire burns. Pushing me to the wall his body presses against me. He pushes into me. His hips. His lips. I feel him sliding in and out, violating, his tongue twisting around my own. His body as well. We’re intertwined...
Inspired by Stardust's "Showering together" c:
Hope you liked it!
1970 Odysseus visits cousin Patsy in New York City she introduces him to her best friend Lauren’s older less attractive more reclusive sister Tanya Mulhaney extremely wealthy family father founded corporation manufactures pinball machines which years later develop to video games then casino empire he favors and spoils Tanya but dies suddenly her envious sisters and mother gang up on Tanya is pale skinny flat-chested copious brown bush Odysseus sits in bathtub with Tanya and he probes in a way they hits it off maybe no boy has ever touched her in that way her complexion is so fragile slightest fluster prompts pink blotches on her cheeks neck chest back he admires her book smarts he’s attracted to her refined strangeness he thinks her bush and flat-chest are **** she laughs shyly offers to take him around the world he accepts Odysseus tells his parents Mom goes crazy yells into telephone what are you a ******? you father and i work like fools to send you to the best schools so you can make something of yourself you’re going to throw everything away to be a ***? i tell you we’ll disown you you won’t have a home to come back to do you hear me? we’ll disown you! she sobs how can you just walk out after all we have done for you? you ******* kid! Odysseus takes leave of absence from art school he and Tanya take Iberia jet 12 hour flight with stopover in Iceland to Belgium Tanya sinks into one of her moods swallows several pills to help her rest sitting on other side of Odysseus is curly haired skinny talkative musician claims he has jammed with Miles Davis and other jazz greats Odysseus says yeah right and i’ve shown with Johns and Twombly where exactly are you heading in Europe? musician answers he is a scientologist on his way to visit L. Ron Hubbard in England Odysseus does not know what Dianetics are and wants explanation he asks many questions and musician talks for hours they enjoy each other’s rapport as jet descends in Brussels they exchange home addresses in the States 9 months later when Odysseus returns to America a friend notices scribbled address while skimming through his travel journals Odys! how did you get Chick Corea’s address? do you know him? do you realize how brilliant he is? he’s a keyboard virtuoso! Odysseus questions Chick Corea? who’s Chick Corea? he looks at journal page then says oh that guy i sat next to him on the jet to Europe so he really is a famous musician huh? wow!

in October 1970 Brussels is damp chilly Tanya wears hip-hugger jeans black turtle-neck top North Face shell she huddles her arms around her chest smokes cigarettes looks through hotel room window out into gray overcast sky speaks in defeatist voice i didn’t bring clothes for this weather she picks at her plate in hotel restaurant glumly vacillates later in bed after refusing *** decides they leave tomorrow fly to Canary Islands for several weeks to get tan before traveling through Morocco during winter months Canary Islands are laden with Swedish tourists including bikini clad young girls many not wearing tops Odysseus is thinking about how to swing some of that Swedish free love once Tanya gets drunk succumbs to Odysseus’s ****** overtures it is good  one day while returning to hotel from beach 2 Spanish police stop and question Tanya and Odysseus police order to see their passports then command them into squad car police bark in Spanish rifle through their daypacks point a finger Odysseus can smell alcohol on their breaths Tanya and Odysseus are terrified police drive off main road to remote location abandoned ruins no one is around police order them to step out police drive off laughing Tanya’s complexion is crimson she sobs they could have murdered us no one would know who we are or where to find us we’re lost where are we? Odysseus looks around replies don’t worry we’ll be all right i watched where the driver was going we’ll retrace their trail

they fly to Tangier travel south by train Tanya is irritable insisting Odysseus carry her backpack Casablanca is ***** 3 men peer from sunglasses act suspicious wear tattered trench coats Tanya and Odysseus snack at cafe which provides hookahs for smoking hashish Odysseus scores several grams Tanya laughs suggests they rent car drive south travel to sandy beaches of Diabet for 6 weeks in the morning she paces around French hotel room with cigarette in one hand ashtray in other like she is sultry 1940’s Hollywood actress she stays in room and devours Penguin Classics Tolstoy Stendhal Proust Huysmans Zola turns out Tanya is sexually frigid she buys Odysseus anything he wants but does not put out they take train Marrakech it is sun drenched with blue skies mountains in distance Odysseus wants to go out explore get ***** with the natives he visits Medina daily witnessing many bizarre scenes he does not understand a woman squatting over an egg a man with no legs dragging himself through marketplace holding up cigarette butts in his hand he meets a professor who is out of work because king of Morocco has closed the universities due to teachers’ strike professor explains woman squatting over egg is fortuneteller and man dragging himself has been offered crutches many times yet makes more money playing off pity of tourists cigarette butts are for sale the professor invites Odysseus to visit Berbers in mountains Odysseus persuades Tanya she reluctantly agrees the 3 travel by bus in first-class front row seats vehicle filled with lively families chickens pig bus driver has assistant who lugs people onto bus or shoves them out door at a midpoint bus stops in little town everyone exits bus then men women children urinate in street local venders sell trinkets snacks Odysseus buys nibbles shish-kabob that later professor informs is roasted cat and dog they reenter bus wait suddenly butchered lamb flank is flung onto Odysseus’s lap a man climbs aboard bus stairs then grabs large carcass and heedlessly walks to back seat Odysseus wipes blood and slime off his jeans Tanya demurely giggles bus climbs mountains arrives at small Berber village professor leads them along narrow winding street of shanty huts sheltering merchants open kitchens professor tastes from various steaming iron kettles finally decides on one they are directed to rickety roof where they sit wait a boy comes up with plastic bowl filled with water and small box of Tide following professor they wash their hands then minutes later proprietor brings up simmering *** of couscous serves it with scratched raw plastic bowls no eating utensils they eat with their fingers Tanya seems bothered declines to partake she withdraws into silence after meal she becomes irritable complains of headache says she needs to return to Marrakech she remains standoffish on bus all the way to French hotel

after Marrakech they take boat trip to Italy while onboard Odysseus meets Italian Count who has an eye for him Odysseus wears Jim Morrison beat-up leather jeans Bruce Lee t-shirt scraggly whiskers Count wears thin manicured beard tiny red Speedo swim trunks Tanya grins amused Count offers Odysseus and Tanya to be guests at his villa in Milan city flourishes with stylish clothes loud lively restaurants classical sculptures covered in car pollution following several weeks of aristocratic wining and dining amazing 11 course elegant soiree Odysseus botches compliance with Count’s desires they are asked to leave Tanya laughs hysterically they board train to Germany based on Tanya’s tour book they find historic hotel with wind rattling windows coin operated hot water bath in Munich Tanya stays in room Odysseus goes to dance club meets brown-hared pale skinned German girl neither speak the other’s language he pays for hourly rated room they play German girl in animated gesturing warns him as he is going down on her but he does not understand until several days later scratching beard finds ***** seeks A-200 lice treatment German version leather pants disposed Tanya knows but says nothing she buys Volkswagen they drive through Black Forest Tanya wants to visit King Ludwig’s castles Odysseus does the driving mostly they listen to the Who’s “Who’s Next” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” he follows Tanya’s instructions not knowing who King Ludwig was eventually he learns Ludwig was colorful character built extravagant Disney like castles and friends Richard Wagner Bavaria is cold gray brown deep forest green scenic Swiss Alps visible in southern view they drive from Neuschwanstein to Linderhof to Herrenchiemsee then Freiburg lodge in bed and breakfasts Tanya grows restless by all the driving decides to ditch car along road in northern France as Odysseus unscrews car license by road side several cars stop French people concerned they need help Tanya is anxious hoping for clean get away from abandoning vehicle they board train to Paris Tanya speaks a little French in spring of 1971 they are backpacking in search of hotel on Left Bank it rains all morning sky is overcast Tanya reads “Pride and Prejudice” Odysseus draws in sketchbook at sidewalk café sitting next to them are older Parisian couple man detects they are Americans he turns to them expresses in English his contempt why can’t you Americans learn from France’s lessons in Vietnam? Tanya and Odysseus don’t look up they feel like dumb ugly Americans within days they leave Paris

cross English Channel by boat they find temporary apartment in Earl’s Court in London it is overcast almost every day within a month they move to larger place in Chelsea with backyard with run down English garden Odysseus weeds garden plants tomatoes lettuce carrots radishes flowers Tanya stays in her room smokes reads at night they go out to ethnic restaurants one night they visit Indian restaurant a very proper English woman sitting at next table orders exotic fruit for dessert Odysseus asks waiter what kind of fruit waiter answers mango Odysseus has never seen or tasted mango English woman delicately eats the fruit with fork and knife Odysseus orders mango for dessert he attempts to imitate how English lady proceeded fruit slips around on plate finally out of frustration he picks it up in his hands bites into it he is aroused by how luscious mango is sniffing with nose scraping fruit’s skin with front teeth then ******* the seed Tanya makes a face suddenly the seed slides from his grasp shoots across table Tanya’s cheeks neck turn scarlet voice raises stop it Odys! you’re disgusting! are you intentionally trying to embarrass me? why are you doing this? he replies i’m not doing anything to you i’m enjoying the most delicious fruit i’ve ever tasted who cares what it looks like? later she laughs about incident offers to buy more mangos promises to take him shopping at Harrods tomorrow he goes along with their arrangement until it all seems like pretty background scenery to an empty intimacy missing all his friends back at art school he writes about his loneliness he feels trapped in Tanya’s web several times he sneaks English girls into his room when Tanya jealously confronts him he admits he has had enough and wants to go back to Hartford she suggests at the least they fly to Bermuda for several weeks to get tan before returning he declines on June 30 1971 Odysseus returns to Hartford and Tanya moves to San Francisco on July 3 Jim Morrison overdoses in Paris
Syd Jun 2018
What if
I had fallen to my knees
On the cold parking lot concrete
Tears washing over my cheeks
And cries no one should ever have to hear
Bellowing out from beneath my ribs
Screaming at the sky
Looking up at your face
Forcing you
(and everyone else)
To see me in this godforsaken state
Of absolute chaos
Heartbreak
In it's rawest form
What if I had begged you to stay?
What if I'd told you I can't do this without you?
What if I'd told you how much I needed you
What if I did anything other than fighting back the tears
Maybe for myself, maybe for you,
Mostly for the crowd of people gathering
Saying their goodbyes
Anxiously looking around to bear witness to everyone else's reactions
And I didn't want to be that girl
That girl who falls to the ground
Kicking and screaming and crying and begging
But what if I was?
What if I was any girl other than the one I pretended to be that day
The one that held her tongue and kept her mouth shut because she knew the second she opened it to speak she would sob
The one that wrapped her arms around you for the last time,
and the one that let go
The one that couldn't bear to watch you walk away
So she kissed you goodbye
Got back in the car
And drove home
What if i wasn't that girl who didnt allow herself to completely fall apart until she was alone in the privacy of her own home?
What if instead I'd made a scene,
Doing what everything inside me so desperately wanted to
Grabbing hold of your hand and refusing to let go
Losing the facade of confidence
The charade of strength
But I'm not that girl
And I never will be
So each and every time you leave
I kiss you goodbye
I unclench my fists and retract my anchors
I untether my heart from it's human home
And I put on a brave face
Maybe for myself, maybe for you,
Or maybe
For that girl.
Damian Acosta Jan 2014
Life and non-Life are part of a system-- a "system-like" system, but one nonetheless.
Where Entropy's that which is hidden from us--
and Information without meaning is total chaos.
But hold.

Poets, Bards & Thieves.
Of shame, of game, of blame, they speak
of secrets on the leaves.
In more or less a drunken mess, their simmered shimmered consciousness
could barely rarely quite express what causes them to grieve.

After some hesitation and liquid persuasion, the only collusion this final conclusion:

*Pain is entropic; Extra-sensory stimulation
received as distortion via sensory limitations--
Confusing the mind refusing the signs, forcing us to shutter the blinds.
But what is behind? Unveil pain's curtain and what do we find?
Contextualisation, possible causation-- Mind-Body integration without hesitation--
palpable, abstract Information dissemination!
Cheryl Mukherji Sep 2014
During one of my recent internet travels,
I came across a picture of a “minor”,
posing with tinted lips
and exposed *******.
What got my eyes
pinned were the thousand number of likes
by virtually hooting “boys”
and comments by other group of “gentlemen”
telling her how to dress.

HUMILITY: I have been asked to repeat the word
too many times to recall what it means:
the man on the subway cat-called
and accused me of showing too much skin
but instead of fighting back, I smiled
because girls ought to be nice.
I have been taught to survive
by using my body as a swiss army knife,
and I convince myself that
there is protection in being polite.

H-U-M-I-I am forgetting the rest.

The smoke curled up from between his fingers
and he blew out toxic, blurring my vision.
I gasped and wheezed
but I held my sneeze,
I cannot slap him across his face. HUMILITY.
So, I just pretended to cough, hoping he’ll feel ashamed.

I have been trained to flutter my eyelash,
clench my jaw at a whiplash
and business school boys,
who manifest success by refusing to take “NO” for an answer.
And for every time his prying eyes
scan down by body,
as if rating my inexperienced assets on a scale of one to five,
and every time his touch trails a chill down my spine,
I wonder:
Male kindness is so alien to us; we confuse it with seduction every time.

HUMILITY: the quality of having a low view of one’s importance
but, I fail to understand
when did it become synonymous to diffidence;
there is a subtle difference between
papercuts and shattered integrity,
holding hands and chaining souls,
building houses and creating homes,
humiliation rotting down to bones and humility.
HUMILITY, have you spelled it too many times to know what it looks like?
1.

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

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

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

2.

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

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

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

Yes, the diplomats
are busy meeting
in closed rooms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3.

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

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

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


4.

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

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

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

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

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

My eyes have
murdered my soul.

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


5.

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

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

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

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

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

Am I the
John Brown
of our time?

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

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

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

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

6.

Indeed,
physician heal thyself.

I run to embrace my
illness.

I pine to understand it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selah


7.

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

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

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

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

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


8.

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

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

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


9.

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

10.

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

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


11.

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


12.

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

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


13.

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

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

14.

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


15.

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


16.

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


17.

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

Music selection:
John Coltrane
A Love Supreme
Acknowledgment

Oakland
2/28/12
jbm
Emanuel Martinez Feb 2013
What are we scared of?

Fending off hoards of oppressed human beings
Of acquisition, of possession, of autonomy, of legitimacy
Never been anyone; why empower them now

Legitimized crucification
No exoneration for grave transgression
Morality of mankind stabbed, under siege, defiled
Integrity constantly bloodily ***** like the virtue of women during war
Transgression, nonetheless, legitimized not by the law of a god or science
But that of a righteous m/an

Bodies without agency traversing into illegitimacy
Becoming illegal human beings
Transgression thrusting them into humiliation
Derailed, deprived, dehumanized
Earning rights to hunger, sickness, homelessness in the eyes of civilized man

Growing global economic hubs welcoming
Illegitimate bodies with contempt, violence, violation
Don't belong, lives becoming expendable, adversary to structured society

Trafficking, dragging, trading disempowered labor across meaningless borders
Nationalists disregarding with much pride illegitimates' desires for life
Killing them after you've beaten their soul, in negligence, extracting the fruit of their labor

Xenophobia killing Japan, dying refusing to open its borders to starving workers
When will a muslim sister in headscarf travel across ALL Europe without discrimination
Be careful America, you're murdering liberty's meaningless oath to the homeless of the world
Preaching the birth of the greatest nation on earth on the backs of immigrants across time
When it refuses to cease the political firing of condemnation against displaced human beings

Greatest plunderers of this world, those who set the rules, guarding their loot
Having had displaced black, colored, and brown bodies across time
Abducting black bodies from mother Africa
Contaminating mother America's native bodies with the corruption of whiteness
Causing mother Asia to discourage its pores from allowing the mobility of bodies

Greatest plunderers of this world, those who set the rules, guarding their loot
Legitimizing their stolen appropriations for the world to see
By excluding those they extract the wealth from
Displaced bodies achieving transnational identities in pursuance of unreachable wealth
For far too long trickled out of their home nations
To build the wealths of the new homes they're delegitimized from

Every country great or small falling in line with border policies
Desperate developing countries much too worried to contain fleeting flocks
Developed and thriving nations too ready to ****** the souls of bodies without agency

World's population imploding
Countries' power structures hungering to exploit the oppressed within their borders
Majority of us peasants, poor, without agency, moving across borders
Everyone's in danger of falling in line with the masses
Or the monopolistic governments deliberately creating monstrous line divides
February 4, 2013
I know you have felt alone...
Felt like no one cares,
i know it's rare to find a stage in life where your completely satisfied, cause its hard to achieve ultimate fulfillment when there is always someone criticizing you,
judging you,
projecting their insecurities on you or forcing you to see yourself through the eyes of societies impossible standards.
Wealth anxiety, social status,
the vanity fueling self consciousness, as you attempt to stay abreast of fashion and the common misconception of what beauty is,
but ....beauty is not a 6 pack,
beauty is not a tan,
a tan to be darker, while others struggle with not being lighter, beauty is not *******,
a tight ***, smooth skin without pimples,
beauty is not designer clothing that makes you a walking billboard, advertisement or inadvertently providing endorsements for companies who overprice based on their oh so prestigious brand and logo...
Beauty is loving the imperfections
Beauty is never compromising your moral fibre or code of ethics
Beauty is the confidence to want nothing more than what you need,
And not confusing what you need with what you want.
Beauty is knowing who you are
and embracing it
Beauty is standing by the ones who you know love you
Beauty is speaking against the *******, the bullies, and continuing to stand for those who can't stand for themselves when there is reason to stand by them.
Beauty is not your upgrades, luxury or sports car, or smart phone that has dumbed you down and has disconnected you from personal interaction,
Beauty is expressing your opinion
An opinion you formed without prejudice or bias influence
Beauty is developed through an open mind, and a Relentless ambition to uncover deception for the truth...
No matter how hard or unpleasant it is to see or hear
Beauty is not found in disposable income, or the competitive edge
When human nature urges us to feel the need to feel better, stronger smarter or more accomplished
Beauty is found in forgiveness,
Beauty is the good deed you went out of your way to perform,
even if its unnoticed or recognized by the one you did it for
Beauty can't be preserved by ****** creams.
It can't be emulated with cover up,
it can't be purchased, with monetary exchange.
So if you don't feel beautiful,
know that you are.
Know that it has only been lost,
while being blinded by the erroneous thought that you are not enough,
Blinded by the diamonds, gold and glitter you stop to grasp,
resulting in sacrificing the path of your dreams, leading you to the ugly emptiness you feel
....time is precious and can be expensive,
and some expenses can't be paid back once indebted
...sometimes the worst type of bankruptcy has no protection
no lawyer to loophole the damage.
Beauty is knowing that true ugliness is created by chasing insignificant desires
and entertaining temptations that we know deep inside are ugly,
but we tend to forget it is masked with an illusion of beauty
Or disguised with a mirage of denial
Beauty is building character
Refusing to believe that chivalry is dead...
And accepting the unimportant things we obsess Over..
You are already beautiful....
Don't chose to be ugly...
You are already beautiful...
Abi Cash May 2018
It controls her
She can't stop it
It's a constant battle
She can't drop it

It has become a habit
She can't quit
It's taking over her body
Bit by bit

The scars fade
But the memories don't
She wants them to leave
But they refuse.. They won't

It's an on going battle.
It's a fight she never wins
It's a constant struggle
It's a war that never ends

It's her sweet escape
It gets her lost in her own place
She gets to control the pain
As her adrenaline starts to race

She grabs it off the dresser
As a tear falls from her cheek
She presses even harder
Reminding herself not to shriek

No one understands
No one ever will
This habit now controls her
As the world around her stands still

But now the room is spinning
Her head is getting light
She falls back in her bed
Refusing to put up a fight

She takes one last breath as she turns out the lights
Then she closes her eyes as she calls it a night
No one ever understands my scars
Ignatius Hosiana Apr 2015
I can't love you the way I did then
Can't rewrite my affection when we lost the Pen
I can't hug you like it was in those days gone
The arms are cold where they were warm
I can't cry for you 'cause I'm no longer torn
No more signs of a raging melancholy storm
I can't kiss you as passionate
But it's sad we'll never sincerely osculate
I can't re-meet you for the first time
To be tortured by my feelings for you
Can't revisit the innocence to have a review
I can't forget the burn of your goodbye
Just like the crazy moments twixt you and I
I can't replace you neither can I forget
All the same it was worth refusing to regret
Don't let anyone make you feel that you're a nagging being,
Simply because they keep doing the same things over and over again,
Simply because you keep complaining about these same things, over and over again.
Do not let anyone make you feel small and insecure for refusing to be the quiet type,
For refusing to accept their numerous exes still being in the frame,
For refusing to accept their need to always be around the opposite ***.
Do not let anyone take away your joy and self-esteem simply because they cannot rid themselves of their own fears,
Of depression and loneliness,
Their need for acceptance and company.
Recognize these signs early and walk away,
Set your goals and never let anyone make you feel like what you want is impossible.
We can all enjoy peaceful lifestyles if both parties in any relationship,
Be it a casual friendship,
Respect each other's opinions and acknowledge that they both have to compromise and curb their excesses if they want the relationship to work.
Never let anyone drown you in their mess
Because they're used to living that way.
You're not,
Trying to save them will only take you deeper into their shallowness.
All of these poems, look as the children cry
I know you have felt alone...
Felt like no one cares,
i know it's rare to find a stage in life where your completely satisfied, cause its hard to achieve ultimate fulfillment when there is always someone criticizing you,
judging you,
projecting their insecurities on you or forcing you to see yourself through the eyes of societies impossible standards.
Wealth anxiety, social status,
the vanity fueling self consciousness, as you attempt to stay abreast of fashion and the common misconception of what beauty is,
but ....beauty is not a 6 pack,
beauty is not a tan,
a tan to be darker, while others struggle with not being lighter, beauty is not *******,
a tight ***, smooth skin without pimples,
beauty is not designer clothing that makes you a walking billboard, advertisement or inadvertently providing endorsements for companies who overprice based on their oh so prestigious brand and logo...
Beauty is loving the imperfections
Beauty is never compromising your moral fibre or code of ethics
Beauty is the confidence to want nothing more than what you need,
And not confusing what you need with what you want.
Beauty is knowing who you are
and embracing it
Beauty is standing by the ones who you know love you
Beauty is speaking against the *******, the bullies, and continuing to stand for those who can't stand for themselves when there is reason to stand by them.
Beauty is not your upgrades, luxury or sports car, or smart phone that has dumbed you down and has disconnected you from personal interaction,
Beauty is expressing your opinion
An opinion you formed without prejudice or bias influence
Beauty is developed through an open mind, and a Relentless ambition to uncover deception for the truth...
No matter how hard or unpleasant it is to see or hear
Beauty is not found in disposable income, or the competitive edge
When human nature urges us to feel the need to feel better, stronger smarter or more accomplished
Beauty is found in forgiveness,
Beauty is the good deed you went out of your way to perform,
even if its unnoticed or recognized by the one you did it for
Beauty can't be preserved by ****** creams.
It can't be emulated with cover up,
it can't be purchased, with monetary exchange.
So if you don't feel beautiful,
know that you are.
Know that it has only been lost,
while being blinded by the erroneous thought that you are not enough,
Blinded by the diamonds, gold and glitter you stop to grasp,
resulting in sacrificing the path of your dreams, leading you to the ugly emptiness you feel
....time is precious and can be expensive,
and some expenses can't be paid back once indebted
...sometimes the worst type of bankruptcy has no protection
no lawyer to loophole the damage.
Beauty is knowing that true ugliness is created by chasing insignificant desires
and entertaining temptations that we know deep inside are ugly,
but we tend to forget it is masked with an illusion of beauty
Or disguised with a mirage of denial
Beauty is building character
Refusing to believe that chivalry is dead...
And accepting the unimportant things we obsess Over..
You are already beautiful....
Don't chose to be ugly...
You are already beautiful...
SJ Apr 2015
The sky is clear,
No cloud in sight.
Yet the mind is Dark,
Chaotic,
Turbulent.
Cronos in a rage.
Adrenaline peaks
And the heart stops.
The sky is clear,
No cloud in sight.
Your breath,
Shallow.
The wind blows strong.
Under currents drag,
And the light is too bright.
The sky is clear,
No cloud in sight.
Sounds swells.
There's a ringing in your ear.
A gunshot too close,
There's no violence,
Except for what rages within.
The sky is clear,
No cloud in sight.
And I reach out,
A flower,
refusing to Die.
I have been off kilter the last few weeks, and i am about to reach my breaking point...
Diane Aug 2013
i.
Jimi was procrastinating in the bedroom with Lizi; his performance anxiety had become unbearable.
He could tell she was trying to “******” him tonight. She didn’t wear a bra under her ratty t-shirt and
snuggled up against him when she climbed into bed, this was his queue to come after her. Hmmm,
does she think he’s so simple? At least Pavlov’s dog had the respect of his owner. So he lay on his stomach,
pretending he was asleep like he had done so many times before. After what seemed like an eternity, Lizi
sighed with disappointment and rolled over.  When Jimi dared open his eyes he glanced at the clock,  
2:17 am. His stomach felt hard as he choked back tears, there has to be more to life than this…
when could he stop pretending?

ii.
“Shhh it’s ok. You don’t need to talk about it.” He said, pressing her head against his chest.
That angered her. She did need to talk about it, and he was treating her like a child. She glanced
at the clock, he had already overstayed his available time.
“You need to go. It’s past 3.”
He sighed, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.”
“No problem. Can’t keep the wife waiting.”
“Please don’t be mad.”
“Hey, it’s my own ****** fault for getting involved with you.”
Jimi didn’t say anything. He never did when things got uncomfortable. Instead, he reached for
his coat and put on his shoes. “I’ll call you tomorrow morning, ok?”
Mango sat silently, staring out the window. No you won’t, she thought, and you’ll get busy
and forget to even ask me, because you don’t ******* really care.
He walked over and kissed her softly. “Bye honey.”
“Bye” she answered, not returning the kiss, or looking at his face. How could he bring up
this ****, and then leave her alone with all of her emotions?

iii.
There was really only one friend from college that Jimi trusted enough to talk about anything
of substance. But even so, he didn’t dare talk about Mango. He’d been telling her that he was
going to move out, but no one in his life knew there were even problems in the marriage. Lizi
didn’t know there were problems in the marriage. This was much bigger and more complicated
than he had imagined, and how long could Mango hold on?  He didn’t mean to **** her around,
but she cried more than she laughed these days….he really missed her laugh. When he and
Mango were together, his feelings for her were powerful, literally full of power. He had fallen in love with
her, more than he had ever loved anyone, or even knew he was capable of loving anyone. But the
pathway to her was terrifying and treacherous, and once on that path, there was no turning back.

iv.
“At this point music doesn’t comfort, poetry doesn’t comfort, my work does not comfort and you
do not comfort.  I don’t remember the last time I felt so empty and out of control of my life.”
The other end of the phone remained silent, every passing second bunching the muscles in her
back and neck as if her whole self was shriveling into a contorted form of a human being. “Jimi,
just face it—you lost me. You thought I’d be a cure for your boredom and dissatisfaction, but
you didn’t expect to fall in love with me. Okay, you love me. So what? So ******* what? You
aren’t going to leave your wife and I’m tired of being treated like your concubine.”
“Don’t give up, please don’t give up. Don’t you love me anymore?”
“Right now, I hate you. If I leave now, maybe the hate will fade and we can be some sort of friends.”
Nothing was heard but the faint sound of breathing for the next ten minutes.
“You know what Jimi? **** this whole **** game that you think is love and ******* too.”
and she hung up.

v.
“I know who you are.”
“Excuse me?”
“You are the woman who has been having an affair with my husband.”
Mango looked up from her register. Large round hazel eyes bore through her, burning with anger
and refusing to cry. An enormous scarlet letter “A” seemed to be melting into her skin. They stood
there, sizing each other up, Mango could feel her lip begin to quiver.
“I can see why he wanted you, you look nothing like me.”
Side by side it was true. One woman refined, statuesque, well bred. The other thrift store coordinated,
pierced lip and pigtails.
Mango tried to think of what to say “I’m sorry. It’s over, I ended it over a year ago.” was all she
could come up with. How do you say I’m sorry for intruding on the bond between a husband and wife?
How do you say I’m sorry for something that can never be undone and has forever seared pain
onto the heart of another woman?
They stared at each other for a full minute, neither willing to break the gaze. Finally, Lizi sighed and
began to walk away.
“Lizi…” She turned back to look at Mango one last time, “He didn’t make me happy either.”
km Dec 2010
The overripe mango that sits promptly on my desk stares at me through its one eye, indignantly asking to be eaten – before it goes bad.
I consider, strongly, the mango’s proposition.
Contemplating the level of hunger, or desire I have for this demanding piece of fruit.
It may be that the latte I just finished burnt off any remaining taste buds I have, or it may be that I find
something amusing about holding a mango hostage of its pride – but I just can’t eat it.
A once firm, confident specimen edging ever closer to becoming a wrinkly, seeping, sack of rotten juice.
Knowingly, I chain it to its fate by refusing to slice the skin back and swallow its sweetness.
It demands to be mutilated rather than aged.
As I sit here writing of my hostage, it continues to stare through its eye – spiting me.
Cursing me with future putrid fruit, with worms in my apples, and with brown bananas.
Oh, how I hate brown bananas.
This mango has learnt well in the time it’s spent in my room, it knows my weaknesses.
I always knew that fruit had character, but this mango – I tell you, it’s something else.
May not be printed for other than home use.
lost in my mind Mar 2015
I've had grit in my eyes
for so long.
I've had sleep stuck in my
eyelashes for so long,
refusing to sink and rest.
This is the kind of grit that I cannot wipe away
not the kind of tired I can sleep away.
I've so tired for so long.
When will it go away?
It will go away, right?
RAJ NANDY Jul 2016
Dear Poet Friends, our World today & especially Europe is threatened with terrorism from the religious fundamentalist groups like the ‘IS’ ! History teaches us that during the Middle Ages the Holy Crusades were launched with the combined forces of Christendom. May be History is repeating itself once again within a span of thousand years! Do kindly read with patience this True Story of the Holy Crusades in Verse, to see events in its proper historical perspective. Concluding portion as Part Two has also been posted here. You will find the portion on ''Motivation & The Medieval Mind'' to be interesting! Kindly take your time to read at leisure. No need to comment in a hurry please! Thanks, - Raj

               STORY OF THE HOLY CRUSADE: (1096-1099)
                                           PART ONE

                                       INTRODUCTION
For thousands of years the Holy Lands of Palestine on the eastern coast
of the Mediterranean Sea had witnessed,
Ferocious battles fought between the Christians, Jews, and the Muslims,
with much bloodshed;
For a strip of land few hundred miles in length and varying between some hundred miles in breadth,
Which they all righteously defended!
There the Ancient City of Jerusalem now stands as a World Heritage Site,
Sacred to the three of World’s oldest Religions and as their pride!
Jerusalem today is a symbol of unity amidst its religious diversity;
For on its Dome of the Rock, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Synagogues, are etched thousand years of Ancient History.
In 1096, Pope Urban the Second, motivated Christendom and launched the First Holy Crusade,
To liberate Jerusalem from 461 Years of MUSLIM dominance!
Some Historians have listed a total of Nine Crusades in all,
And I commence with the FIRST, being the most important of all;
For it recaptured Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks making it fall. (in 1099AD)
While subsequent Crusades did not make any appreciable dent at all!
Not forgetting the THIRD, led by King Richard ‘The Lion Heart’, -
Who made the Turk leader Saladin to agree,
For Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy shrines in Jerusalem and the Hills of Calvary.
The Crusades began towards the end of the 11th Century lasting for almost Two hundred years;
Had later turned into a tale of sorrow and tears!
Now to understand the Crusades in its proper perspective let us see,
The brief historical background of Europe during the early parts of
Second Millennium AD.

                         A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The Normans:
During the first century of the Second Millennium, Europe was in a formative stage,     (11th Century AD)
It had began to emerge from its long period of hibernation called the ‘Dark Age’!
The Viking raids from those northern Norsemen had ceased subsequently,
As they became Christian converts settling in Northern France in the Duchy of Normandy.
In 1035 when Robert the Devil, 5th Duke of Normandy died on his way
to Jerusalem during a Holy Pilgrimage;
His only son William, who was illegitimate, was only seven years of age.
By 1063 AD these Norman settlers had intermingled and expanded their lands considerably,
By conquering Southern Italy and driving the Muslims from the Island of Sicily.
And in 1066 Robert’s son William shaped future events, -
By defeating King Harold at Hastings and by uniting England.
Now William the Conqueror’s eldest son Robert the Duke of Normandy,
Participated in the First Holy Crusade, which has become both Legend
and a part of History!
These Normans though pious, were also valiant fighters,
And became the driving force behind the Crusades from 11th Century
onward !

                     MUSLIM CONQUEST AND EXPANSION
After the death of Prophet Mohammad during 7th Century AD,
Muslim cavalry burst forth from Arabia in a conquering spree!
They soon conquered the Middle East, Persia, and the Byzantine
Empire;
And in 638 AD they occupied the Holy city of Jerusalem and
Palestine entire!
Beginning of the 8th Century saw them crossing the Gibraltar Strait,
To occupy the Iberian Peninsula by sealing ruling Visigoth’s fate!
Crossing Spain soon they knocked on the gates of Southern France,
When Charles Martel in the crucial Battle of Tours halted their rapid
advance!  (Oct 732 AD)
By defeating the Moors, Martel confined them to Southern Spain,
And thereby SAVED Western Europe from Muslim dominance!
Charles Martel was also the grandfather of the Emperor Charlemagne.
The Sunni–Shiite split over the true successor of Prophet Muhammad,
and other doctrinal differences of Faith,
Had weakened the Muslim Empire till the Mongols sealed their fate!

                         THE SELJUK TURKS
Meanwhile around Mid-eleventh Century from the steppes of Central Asia,
Came a nomadic tribe of Seljuk Turks and occupied Persia!
In 1055 they captured Baghdad and took the Abbasid Caliph under their Protectorate.
The Persian poet Omar Khayyam, and the great Rumi the mystic sage,
Had also flourished during this Seljuk Age!
In 1071 at the Battle of Manzikirt the Seljuks defeated the Byzantines
and occupied entire Anatolia,     (now Turkey)
And set up their Capital there by occupying Nicaea!
Deprived of their Anatolian ‘bread basket’ the Byzantine Emperor
Alexius Comnenus the First,
Appealed to Pope Urban II to save him from the scourge of those
Seljuk Turks!
The Seljuk Turks had also occupied Jerusalem and entire Palestine,
And prevented the Christian pilgrims from visiting its Holy Shrines!
The Seljuk, who converted to Islam, became staunch defenders of the
Muslim faith,
And played an historic role during the First Two Holy Crusades!

THE CHURCH AND THE SECULAR STATE (11th Century) :
The ecclesiastic differences and theological disputes between Western (Latin) and Eastern(Greek Orthodox) Church,
And the authority over the Norman Church at Sicily;
Resulted in the Roman and Constantinople Churches
ex-communicating each other in 1054 AD!
This East-West Schism was soon followed by the ‘Investiture Controversy’,
Over the right to appoint Bishops and many other doctrinal complexities;
Between Pope Gregory VII and the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV  
of Germany.
Here I have cut short many details to spare you some agony!
Pope Gregory was succeeded by Pope Urban the Second,
Who was a shrewd diplomat and a great orator as Rome’s Papal Head.
Pope Urban seized this opportunity and responded to the Byzantine
Emperor’s desperate call,
Hoping to add lands to his Papal Estate after the Seljuk Turks fall!
Also to reign in those errant knights and warlords, -
Who plundered for greed and as mercenaries fought!
And finally, by liberating Jerusalem as Christendom’s Religious Superior,
Pope Urban hoped to assert his authority over the Holy Roman Emperor!
It is therefore an unfortunate fact of History, that the news of re-conquest of Jerusalem failed to reach Italy;
Even though Pope Urban died fourteen days later,
on the 29th of July, in 1099 AD!

                 MOTIVATION AND THE MEDIEVAL MIND
The Medieval Age was the Age of Faith, which preceded the Age of Reason;
A God-centred world where to think otherwise smacked of treason!
It is rather difficult for us in our Modern times,
To fully comprehend the Early Medieval mind!
The Church was the very framework of the Medieval Society itself,
With their Monasteries and Abbeys as front-line of defence
against Evil;
While combating the deceptions and temptations of the Devil!
It was a mysterious and enchanted Medieval World where superstition
and ignorance was rife;
Where with blurred boundaries both the natural and the supernatural
existed side by side !
When education was confined to the Clergy and the Upper Class of
the Society exclusively;
In such a world the human mind was preoccupied with thoughts
of Salvation and piety;
And in an afterlife hoping to escape the pains of Purgatory!
So in Nov 1095 at the Council of Clermont in France,
When Pope Urban II made his clarion call to liberate the
Holy Lands from the infidels,
The massive congregation responded by shouting, “God Wills It”,
‘’God Wills It’’,  - which echoed beyond France!
The Crusade offered an opportunity to absolve oneself of sins,
And to even die a martyrs death for a Holy cause, which motivated
them from within!
Now for actual action kindly read the Concluding portion,
I tried to make it short and crisp!


    STORY OF THE HOLY CRUSADE : CONCLUSION
                                 PART TWO

THE  PEASANT’S CRUSADE (April-Oct 1096) :
Even before the First Crusade could get officially organized,
A Peasant’s Crusade of around forty thousand took-off,
taking Pope Urban by surprise!
When these untrained motley body of men led by the French
Lord Walter Sans Avoir, and Peter Hermit reached Constantinople;
They disappointed Emperor Alexius, who for seasoned Norman
Knights had bargained.
So Alexius ferried them to Anatolia across the Bosporus Strait,
Only to be massacred there by the hardy Seljuk Turks who sealed
their fate!
Thus ended the Peasant’s Crusade, also known as “The People’s
Crusade’’.
But Peter the Hermit survived as he had returned to Constantinople
for help,
And participated with the main Crusade, motivating them till the
very end,
With his sermons and prayers till their objectives were attained!

THE CRUSADE LEADERS AND THEIR ROUTES:
Now let me tell you about those Crusade Leaders and their routes,
For this true story to be better understood.
In the Summer of 1096 French nobles and seasoned knights,
along with Bishop Adhemar the Papal Legate,
Set out in large contingents by land and sea routes, forming the
Christian Brigade!
Their rendezvous point being Constantinople, capital of the
Byzantine Empire,
And from there across the Bosporus to enter Turkey then known
as Anatolia;
To finally take on the Seljuk Turks, in response to the request  
made by Emperor Alexius.
Raymond the IV of Toulouse, the senior-most and richest of
the Crusaders,
Was an old veteran who had fought the Moors in Spain was one of
the Crusade leaders.
He brought the largest army and was accompanied by the Papal Legate, and his wife Elvira,
And later played a major role in the siege of Antioch, and Nicea.
Raymond along with the veteran and pious bachelor knight
Godfrey of Bouillon, who became the First Ruler of Jerusalem
after its capture and fall;
Was accompanied by Godfrey’s ambitious brother Baldwin and
a large contingent, -
They followed the land route to Constantinople.
The fierce Norman knight Bohemond of Taranto, along with
Robert II Duke of Flanders, and the Norman knights from
Southern Italy,
Followed the sea route to Byzantium from the Italian port of Bari.
I have mentioned here only a few, to cut short my story!
At Constantinople Emperor Alexius, administered a Holy Oath of
allegiance to the Crusade Leaders;
Hoping to win back his captured lands after the defeat of the
Seljuk Turks.

THE SIEGE OF NICEA (14th May – 19th Jun 1097) :
This captured Byzantine City was then the Seljuk Capital;
With 200 towers its mighty walls was a formidable defence!
Emperor Alexius sent his army to help the Crusaders in the siege,
And by blockading the food supply lines the city was besieged;
In the absence of the City’s ruler who had gone on a campaign
to the East, -
Alexius’ Generals secretly worked out a negotiation of surrender
and peace!
The Crusaders were angry and felt they were being cheated,
But Alexius gave them money, horses, and gifts to get them
compensated!
On the 26th of June the Crusader army was split into two contingents,
And the Turks ambushed and surrounded the vanguard led by Bohemund the Valiant.
Turk cavalry shooting arrows mauled part of the vanguard,
When the rearguard of Godfrey, and Baldwin charged in
and rescued them from the Turks!
Historians call this the Battle of Dorylaeum;  (1st Jul 1097)  
It was the first major battle  which provided a taste of
things to come!

SIEGE OF EDESSA:
Next a three month’s long and arduous march followed
under the sweltering Summer’s heat,
When five hundred lost their lives due to sheer fatigue!
Baldwin lost his wife God Hilda, a rich heiress;
Now with all her wealth going back to her blood line
as per tradition of those days,
Placed ambitious Baldwin under great mental and financial
distress!
So Baldwin with a few hundred knights headed East for the
rich Christian city of Edessa,
With intentions of claiming it as his own after the loss of his
wife Hilda!
The citizens there backed Baldwin and gave him an Armenian
Christian lady to be his wife,
And against their old childless Ruler Thoros, they plotted to
take his life!
It was not a great start for the idealism of the Crusade,
Since motivated by greed Baldwin had carved out his own
State;
While Edessa also became the First State to be established
by the Holy Crusade!

THE SIEGE OF ANTIOCH  (21 Oct 1097- 02 Jun 1098) :
Antioch was an old Roman city built around 300 BC,
Its six gates and towers fortified the city.
Its formidable walls were built by the Byzantine Emperor
Justinian the First,
And twelve years prior to the arrival of the Crusaders,
Antioch had got occupied by the Turks!
In the absence of a Centralised Command, the Crusade leaders
frequently argued and quarrelled;
Since the majority preferred a siege, so Antioch got finally
surrounded.
When food supply ran short during the winter, both
starvation and desertion plagued the Crusaders;
While Antioch’s Governor Yagi-Siyan appealed for
assistance from his distant brothers the Turks.
He tied messages on legs of trained homing pigeon,
A unique postal service of those early days!
End May 1098 brought news of a large Muslim army
commanded by Emir Kerbogha,
Had set course from Mosul to liberate Antioch from
the Crusaders!
The Crusaders now had to break in fast into Antioch,
or face those 75,000 strong Turkish force!
The Twin Towers on the southern side was manned by
an Armenian Christian Muslim convert named Firuz,
Who was bribed by Bohemund to betray Antioch!
Firuz let down rope ladders for the Crusaders to climb
inside,
And a massacre followed late into the ****** night!
Next day Emir Kerbogha’s troops arrived and the
situation got reversed,
The attackers now lay besieged by those Seljuk Turks!
After fifty-two days of trying siege food supply ran out,
Morale of the Crusaders were rather low, and some even
feared a route!
Now buried in the Church of St. Peter, Peter Bartholomew
the French priest found the ‘Holy Lance’,
About which he had a vision in advance!
This find raised the morale of the Crusaders, and some
even went into a spiritual trance!
For Peter claimed this ‘Holy Relic’ had pierced Christ’s body
after his Crucifixion;
And the Crusading army now moved out of the city in full
battle formation!
Soon after the Turkish army of Kerbogha retreated fearing
devastation!
This victory has been attributed to God and His miraculous
intervention!

                     LIBERATION OF JERUSALEM
After the conquest of Antioch in June 1098, the Crusaders
stayed on till the year got completed.
Though the death of the Papal Legate in August got them
rather depressed;
While Bohemund of Taranto took over Antioch, which now
became the Second Crusader State;
And Raymond of Toulouse became the undisputed Leader
of The Crusade!
Next travelling through Tripoli, Beirut, Tire and Lebanon;
To liberate Bethlehem they sent off Tancred, and Baldwin
of Le Bourg.
On the 5th of June they liberated Bethlehem, and on the
Seventh of June they reached the gates of Jerusalem!
Facing acute shortage of food and water their initial attack
failed to materialise,
When priest Peter Desiderius’ vision of the deceased Papal
Legate came as a pleasant surprise!
This vision commanded them to fast, atone for their sins and
make amends,
By walking barefoot in prayer around the Holy City of Jerusalem!
After a final assault on the 15th of July 1099, they broke into
the City,
Killing all Muslims and Jews with impunity!
Pious Godfrey of Bouillon refusing to wear the crown, became
the First Ruler of this Third Crusader State;
And objectives of the Crusaders were finally attained!
With the formation of warrior monks of ‘Hospitallers’ and
‘Knight Templers’, wearing White and Red Crosses respectivel
RELEVANT LESSONS CAN BE DRAWN FROM PAST HISTORY!
spm May 2014
I could cry at any moment
tears pouring deep and wide
from the everlasting well of heart and soul
buried in the dark depths of my uneasy chest

I could smile at any instance
Joy spreading like butter
smoothly and easily from one side to another
as I remember the light rays of happiness who's shadows once graced my face

I could yell in a heartbeat
at the Fierce Ferocity gaining momentum
from the bottom of my toes obtaining speed as it overcomes my earthly being  

I could laugh at the corny attempts of your mistaken humor
or at the twisted path you push yourself to follow
—hilariously distraught with comic ambition

I could dance in the silver sprays of moonlit grace
ignoring all but the life within myself
listening to the music of the rhythmic unknown
unsure of what song to play next  

I could hide—
from fate, from love, from lust, from fear
Refusing to be powerless
Refusing to be broken
in a world made whole by imperfections  

I could run
my body to the ground
the world to oblivion
Fueled by Passion
or none at all  


but I don't

I just sit here



waiting.
Jeff Gaines Mar 2018
You …

My Love.
My Queen.
This Shining Light in my eyes.

My Laughs.
My Dreams.
My Soft, Contented Sighs.

My *****.
My Lavender.
My Dew Covered Rose.

My Smile.
My Cinnamon.
The Joy in my heart … ever inspiring my prose.

My Best Friend.
My Co-Star.
My Fearless Partner in Crime.

My Breath.
My Cohort.
My Side-kick throughout time.

My Snow-capped Mountain.
The Wind caressing my face.
My Vast Green Field.

The Ivy Covered Wall
that harbors my soul … ever refusing to yield.

You … are my Life.

You … are my World.

You … are my Everything

and I will always love you.

~Charlie Brown
If you don't know the story of Charlie Brown ... OR his "Little Red Haired Girl" you won't really get this. I was just trying to imagine that poor guy writing a poem to his ever elusive object of adoration.

Maybe this bit from Wikipedia will help explain his plight:

"The Little Red-Haired Girl is an unseen character in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, who serves as the object of Charlie Brown's affection, and a symbol of unrequited love. While never seen in the strip, she appears onscreen in several television specials, in which her name has been revealed as Heather Wold."

"Charlie Brown most often notices her while eating lunch outdoors, always failing to muster the courage to speak to her. She figures prominently in Valentine's Day strips, several of which focus on Charlie Brown's hope of getting a valentine from her. Charlie Brown typically attempts to give her a valentine but then always panics at the last minute."
-Wikipedia

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

All my life, I have, for many reasons, loved and related to, Charlie Brown. Lord knows my friends and family have ALL witnessed first-hand my being in situations where, like our hero, I somehow get *******, knocked down, beaten back or just plain defeated by circumstances beyond my control, all while in the midst of trying to do something heartfelt, valiant or with the very best of intentions.

I had a plastic toy of him that was, ironically, the only toy of mine that survived the house fire that took my Father, Christmas Eve 1969. I kept it until my 20's, when I was burglarized ... and the ONLY two things this person took were THAT precious, cherished toy and an object d'art piece of pottery that I had made in High School.

Oh, good grief!

(Long sigh)

I wrote this poem nearly blacked-out after an entire night of power drinking across lower Manhattan. The next morning, I woke up and found it still on my PC screen. After I read it, I almost dismissed and deleted it as too "silly" and "mushy" ... but, for some reason, I just couldn't. I eventually became so enamored with it, that I included a slightly rewritten version in my experimental short story. Find it here:

https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2396540/thee-longest-piece-ever-uploaded-on-hello-poetry-as-far-as-i-know-i-doubt-youll-read-it-through/
PB Ward Nov 2015
We are the *******, we are the spicks.
We are the kykes, we are the hicks.
We're the one's who wait our turn,
To read the books you wish to burn.

We are the honkies, the mussies with guns.
We are the beaten, the poor and the dumb.
We see the horrors, the mistrust and the hate.
We are the people, the ones who relate.

We are the chinks, the bindis, the *****.
We are the losers, the mixed and the muts.
We are alone, left to fight.
We are the ones crying at night.

We are the triggers, set on the gun.
We are the fighters, refusing to run.
We see the world through darkened glass.
We see each other as mutants to pass.

If only we learn, it could be done...
We are all different, but we are all one.

— The End —