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Yue Wang Yitkbel Sep 2017
My words are scattered
Scattered in the woods
In dews and fallen leaves

My words are scattered
Scattered in your tea
In the milk and honey

My words are scattered
Scattered in unseen places
In the shadows and behind window panes

My words are scattered
Scattered between lips
In laughter and mockery

But what do my words say
They speak of love
They speak of love only for you
But they are for the universe to keep
(Hidden, omnipresent, and eternally)
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Nat Lipstadt Jun 2013
Scattered Thunderstorms

The radar shows a band of multi-green storms,
Parallel running to the East Coast,
Stretching from So. Florida to Falmouth, Rhode Island.

Path-dependent, the edges skirt my present location,
Instrumented, but not weather resistant,
Water teases, invites me to a head clearing session.

Breezy gusts of overcast, caramel salty bay waters,
(weirdly calm),
Spray sprites whisper, scattered thunderstorms, starboard side

I am the only boat out, especially,
The only one going for sure aimlessly,
Radar non-discriminatory, stupidity legal,
So fools like me go out alone.

Scattered Thunderstorms,
Unavoidable, summer's favored annoyance of choice.

The melancholic platelets budding off my bone's marrow,
Forming wondrous clots of sadness,
Running strong in the currents of my veins,
Downtempo'd, there is no relief for
Inside of my radar scanned brain, the scattered thunderstorms,
Have arrived much earlier today.

What sourced this elegiac distich,
Too many poets, fully disclosing their downbeat, aroma of defeat?

The world is in a **** mood, not one of us, got nothing
Good to say, seems that love storms ripping hearts
With no trace of mercy, the radio has elected nonstop
Taylor Swift and Jonas Bro's
Just to make the point!

It is so easy to feel ******,
When the sun is unshining, elegant distich, **** me.

Thinking back, getting a good idea,
Found some long necked Corona overlooked,
Turn on the tv, pretend I'm a real cowboy,
And for god's sake, shut down poetry,
Good Bye Poetry, for the rest of the day

Value you more than me, but you've worn me down
My blood streams your anguished distress,
I cannot survive these scattered revolver-repeating
Anguish-Cries-For-Relief from the Thunderstorms,
That now having reached, breached,
That now, having infected my heart which started
This day brow beaten,
First poem of the day, already shell-shellacked,
Now, I must shut me, batten me, down.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The average lifespan of a platelet is normally just 5 to 9 days. Platelets are a natural source of growth factors. They circulate in the blood of mammals and are involved in hemostasis, leading to the formation of blood clots.
Johnny Hearts Oct 2014
Scattered thoughts I can not explain
Scattered thoughts why am I to blame
Scattered thoughts all types of pain
Scattered thoughts slowly making me insane
kristina Dec 2015
On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
a heart still barely breathing.

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
scattered, insane
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
bullets in my brain
scattered, insane
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
coffin to lie in
bullets in my brain
scattered, insane
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
lies that I drown in
coffin to lie in
bullets in my brain
scattered, insane
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
ears that keep ringing
lies that I drown in
coffin to lie in
bullets in my brain
scattered, insane
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
tears that won’t stop spilling
ears that keep ringing
lies that I drown in
coffin to lie in
bullets in my brain
scattered, insane
leering lullabies
a touch that still stings
all this does is hurt
a chill in the air
broken, bleeding parts
and a heart still barely breathing.
Happy holidays.
Poet B Lee Apr 2010
running, while hoping
dragging, and waiting
merely existing, then sitting

I am undone.

Optimistic sunlight
Pessimistic night silence
I question my purpose
because...
I am a scattered thought
Only really living in scattered and sporadic moments

thriving through a fifteen minute window
a window in the afternoon
when the rays hit me right
For I am not scattered then--
in those moments...

I just Am.
Queen Poetess B © Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved.
I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
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psychedelion ******* apotheon substance isn't study bliss selfish ends warm dopamine explain fix addiction culture respect wisdom calm hurricane problem contradiction heaven forlorn vain gold sweet hidden effort fast she's breaking changed engine faith dance maze alas girl sigma watch grand heavy justice wait tried doors appear phenomena definitions somebody ignore feelings process sonder cybran soft depression chasing taken throw answer action relief having wandering compounds quantum necessary effects empathion ethos begin everybody rising clouds emotions indigo falls ecstasy fresh american walking glow outside speak force grow physical says view voice happiness shame sought age understanding lay individual billion explore crave pretty lights comprehension tears big sands crime waves taught forever venture adolescence welcome humanity comes zero storm wise claim swear sounds pass **** met he's internet mr table company repetition heard playing ***** mirror lets awake sorry doing dreaming states pondering ridiculous simply greater heal hear natural mydriasis mydriatic substances fades asking measure worse scoreboard destroy erase blood leaves worlds abandoned skin twisted walk grace smile fading illuminate hearts bed food ignorance admit drunk spring exile apart killed talk master meet waking chose neon adventure join **** mist aren't breathe psi laughing feet river trance wonderful floor hair desire breeze birth desert fade looked urban continue nation probably second belong willing alike criminals progress cyberspace sole survive names pills fears beginning digital you'd sadness easily depressed perceive surreality poets merely remains sober closer prose fact growing died save insanity defined session soon realm empyreal taste suicide science skins quality peace raise ashamed azure quit yearn piece notions absurd noble liberty entheogenesis reckoning feedback particles object reconcile baseline chain sardonic false weather hallowed intoxication wasted 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won't medium empathos essence events reflect apotheotelos actual determine house issues worked begging virtuality swore gleaming sly gentleman wicked abyss feed lands tea moon miracle honest streetlights tale lust nights early chained allow placed life's actions emotional plant plan drizzle speaks spin hypocrite conviction watching rules jump application chains forged angel fail reflections lot illuminating flag grip fly sick wonderfully create freeman shine job supposed eggs draw pupil dripping tremble mescaline singularity subjective darkens alpha needed atlas orange discover rabbit warp joint wonderland perfection ponder souls silence ahead roll magic ease bag sorrow escapism sake chest magnitude chaser cloud infinity replaced revelation survived vs carry yearning school slip games begins curiosity heavens powerful typhoon furious theory hypothesis apathy serenity mind's marks window humankind cybernetic fraternity liberate cut movement excuse stopped thunder tire apparent mastery occurs motion paper masses throes falling race hanging bear follows sardonicism endless burning idea ideas burden court ya verse consume kick method stood temporary flash realized eat kindness occur advice shades properties shores hang shining ink rolling minutes street deem tools autumn empatheon entheos reach echoes remix diamonds gets worthy identity thoroughly stuck happens recall conclusion choices fiend dealing finding gun son stimulant experiencing depth twice starshine whilst chosen thereof hooked confused enables painful desires serotonergic teleology prey loop wishing relation neural animal hallelujah ultimately projection communication actuality significant experiences remind transcendention notion proposition works illusion puppet offers chalk series occasion calling degrees ended sin figure slick ending ash sentence glance rend november eve drum rainy destruction romantic drawn shadow observe ghosts bodies wandered atmosphere box familiar children honor road serve beliefs strong avoid lessons returns poison relax exhale whispered intention liquid stare dope needs ****** smoking club relative glitter reached fractured stones junkiedom aspect ketamine heavenly scares domain excess robes vast euphoria grass thrall elation buzz renew dr waste let's morality wanna bottle immortal owe intuitive wouldn't teachings transcendent nocturnal education eternal divinity drive aligned illegal lamplight sell sail insomnia curious beatific seeing insane continuum kiss beta void soar roar fog basis **** town cost regrets appropriate brave threat using emptiness fountain short stole shield riot shade ghost numbness stained steam dreampt october ion derived hazy money message sing quote metaphysical scene swept plain colors nirvana alright unlike dear low teens nonetheless pick considering teenagers beneath door electronic kids build pulse teaching kid mistake teach tear contextual political civilization vision dissociation completely tells normal nevermind raised brings laughed melody spot streets holding coffee praying violence appreciate vengeance law trust exploits slowly trouble mirror's refrain compassion eats recognition discovered blaze otherworldly pieces darkest angst brothers sit win buckfast vicious binge breaks undead forgot demands able notice lucid dimensions evolution sunrise plans philosopher killing produce working cloth produced painter gazing favourite track bunch haul arrives started chemistry prevent awaits definitive strive versus rule dread bare slow stayed onward altered helps lifestyle losing followed woke fight event innocence charade child ventures higher y'all acceptance pay any-more bay vicissitudes codex cannabis pleasures planes doses awareness steal beat zero-summing narcotic lest strength matters reading easy sons drift solstice half formed normality weren't hungry hopes declare research tales envelope regret tired breed release honestly haven't it'll blow entheogenic stories amidst insofar technology direct binary 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mistakes nurture grown healthy test mock especially badly boring walked gorgeous innocent villain giveth benediction stone rictus nightmare skystruck insignificance struck **** nothing's thrown unspoken den shatter loss subjugated angels myth fallen demon temples reborn irrelevant thousand clothed plains whispering insert telling everybody's ultimate expand immortality small rapture bound dry comedown starlight whispers contained watched attack mechanism questions palindrome perpetual surreal theme perspective bane heathen basking singular physics sighs rhyme deity sincerely goodbye fit asunder naught comfort adrift -the radiance plunge rock planet twine applause current enhancement zen profit terrible ill weary leaving fierce alchemy luck speed opportunity men arose prophecy steadfast captured sage demand weird estates gathered distance all's foretold sold wrath kinda relentless advance coil anybody columbine ocean drown spoken ancient eden wet blessed crimson concepts yesterday evening deeply whisper flicker enter book apathetic streetlamps trespass spun turned clean underworld disguise viewed despair tunes melancholy reverence unsaid noise o' groups turning swallow dropped lead confident veracious offend talked switch teenager shouldn't paying allure variable humane inspiring ex 11 matrix flickers offering receive signal news chant exhaustion access background commence summer's arcadia deja vu complex realization vivid stick sublimeoblivious deliverance belonging creed symbionts pendent sane smiling rumination plane glint resembles conversation web corporeal solace theft burned they'll sensations shivers satisfied enslaved mire comfortable shattered arch medina's fragmented plead achieve woman stage swaying dismiss entire numb lord type chapter infamous conquest aspects proving leads bloom floating precipitation artificial renewal spill beating midst petrol mad hands exploit movements examine women sublimation occurred eternally notes dizziness perceptive guys haunts spark poems poetic pull remained gazed vagabond presented blanket cried stranger glad lucidity turns sum details pour valuable exceed represent surprise continuity occasionally relinquish gravity likes weeks wrought gathering entirely reaper rays aging root laid balance four-twenty provide double-edged ceased exploration mates world's walls alteration faces breach million grey tidal unknown price absolute garden haunting train jungle aloud allowed habits closed syntax difficulty alter scratch glimmering drifting quenched explained forfeit in-between clearly ideals ubiquitous chemicals happening abandon supreme drifted soothing reveal alcohol stimulants psychonautes indescribable conscience closest dying andor travel gentle foodstuffs tree worried demons pair recognise inability ensure including hey graciously prove logic rhetoric 15 galaxy lately hearth ethereality forsake wanting steps memorable 'round player moves del you- encourage finished suspect frequently intoxicants acts aer veil qualities animals remembered karma kissed burying shooting bold scattered input howling design forsaken banish seraphim wide cola united democracy meandering -one zed's hot commit self-sufficiency thought's psychosis flows unreality immersion aesthetics realms struggle wisely immanence absolutely member add writings coin avoidance naturally boys inseparable standard convinced concerns passed prudence quick external suffer choosing produces letter proclaimed myths pains shroom bright absurdity awhile prospect sad distribution recreation responsibly ghb adrenergic minor neurotransmission cyclica lonesome foolishness cometh 5-ht2a beings golden pitch cathinone suggest conclude cognitive motions ethical condensate precious abuse compound underlying adult bask push damage attachment originally determinative heaviness concept facts today's regress detract step ugly absence cosmic note imagination psychedelos noumena noumenon reader haunt determining error questioning habit measured limitations manifestation learning arcadian joke hallucinogens material diethylamide mysterious exists 'twas response proportionate quantized nervous anyways identify qualify device analysis moderate moderation alterations accompanying totality fascinated gradually 'the represented brief juxtaposition played t'was resides tribe stead vote period liminality delete recurring mirror-neurons alexithymia craic ar positive drank maelstrom pharmahuasca wondered reflecting lovely facebook typing quale implicit dispute occurring fallacy treasure exactly reduction distinction discussion man's construct couple contain lovers failed confidence writer's integrity worst psychiatrist sesh rare chronology scale drug's definitely title sesh-heads who'd asks unable tomorrow plucked picture alphabet named coherence task pretends inevitable contemporary trips graces wrote entertain vice elicit psychoactives feens conform deface replace grin h-bomb atomic bleeding 20 bloodless unequalibrium following quench hunger bent euphoric display interstellar vertigo influence waited sunlight explored paradise soaring faded sitting unafraid aqua tinted source itches optional differently stem rich greed forbidden negative privacy react earned ails charity gift couch courage endlessly fascinating boyfriend phrase movies hopelessly loud admission inherent hypocrites intoned devil laconic sinful vein surrounded movie contempla
Composed on 01:33, 27/02/2017 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We still don't assume this means something.
Love In Hiding Jul 2013
i am scattered everywhere
from fingers tips that bend, to toes that curl.

i am sleeveless in my journey, that everyone who touches me causes my bones to shatter
i am a swollen sore that won't leave
i am scattered pieces no one bothered to pick up and put away,
the dust no one bothered to dust.
i am a broken jar, i am a missing piece.
i am tangled parts that can never be untangled,
i am scattered everywhere, and nowhere at once.
Body shaking
Heart racing
Mind scattered
Feeling dizzy
Need help
Can't talk
Go away
Can't walk
Pass out
Why not cry a little too

Hello my name is anxiety
Cat Lynn Dec 2017
Sitting on my thrown... A thrown of highly stacked orange chairs, all lined up in rows...

I looked down over the world, I was higher then even the tallest of my youth.  I was no show

Simply claiming my kingdom of independence.  Sitting up and watching like a lioness in demand

In demand of discernment and wisdom, for she can't afford failing... Visitors came unplanned

Tense...unprepared for this surprise attack, my heart leaped, shock forced my body to jump down...

Down to a lower level where I rightfully belonged... The third chain of a story broke promise, the ending of one of my neck's crowns

I ran, my feet punching the ground, not noticing the trail of scatter beads that followed my every foot step...

Too tiny for anyone to notice...black..and blue.. rolling away to hide.. not knowing these people's love had no depth

The jewel of the story flying away into a corner of a memory filled hall... the chandeliers crystal whispers were heard

Ignoring the callings of my fake name... I ran into the heart of the church... rows of pews starred at me... I didn't speak a word

More beads scattered behind me, as my emotions and feelings scattered along with them.

The silence never felt so dead as I ran towards the back, my soul singing a surrendering hymn.

The two left over neck crowns mourned for their lost friend, as I mourned over the lack of knowledge of the future

  Again I heard my fake name... depression devoured my hunger in one swallow,  the beginning of a tumor

"I... I just want to do your will... other may ask for love... or comfort... or wisdom...  or answers... and that isn't bad..."

"...but all I ask and beg... is to have Your will be done... use me in anyway you see fit... it doesn't matter what I must suffer... I'll forever praise you and be glad..."

"Show me your will and way..." I confirmed... not caring if people saw me as fool of weakness and hopelessness...

I heard two sets of foot steps behind me, my skin on edge, my small cold hearted hands revealing their recklessness

Running out of the back exit, I heard my nick name again, freezing I turned around to see them panting from exhaustion

Two of my fellow followers if you will, took me captive, and reintroduced me to the loud company of people in motion

Only meaning the best, I followed them and lined up with the other Christ fighting soldiers

Hand over our hearts, I didn't feel the comforts of the third crowns jewel... my eyes scattering around the hollow gym... I saw beads roll of my shoulder...

Embarrassed... I back away from the line to wonder off alone... I left without being questioned

The beads on the floor shared with me their fears of being crushed, and loneliness. Telling me to ignore the session

Seeking around my thrown for answers... I found nothing... so off again I ran... plunging my self into the silence

My black rose laced arms cross I looked around for that bottled jewel. To it, I am a giant

More then a charm... more then something that hung around my neck... It was a story... a story that redirected my path...

The tiniest things can have the most incomparable meaning... like one of the five cities of the Philistines where Goliath came from; Gath...

Such a small detail we don't often recognize... But such a butterfly effect can create a rip the space time continuum.

I found my jewel... hiding alone in a corner in that hall that contained many beautiful moments that are anything but a residuum.

Filled with relief, I gently picked it up and hide it tightly in the palm of my hand

A little bottle filled with bird seeds and rock dove feathers, indeed it's vanity, but meanings should be scanned

Walking back to my piers,  I couldn't help but to catch some of their eyes lay on me.

I don't blame them, I made a spectacle of my self over wanting to be alone and a charm, but I had to make a plea...

Entering my self into the group, I look towards the shining silver bleachers where my two chained necklace and bottled charm laid...

Silly of my to say... but someday the third chain will be restored... but it will have a new story to proclaim...

I still could see the scattered beads, they surround the people I claimed as my home, I know each face

Yes... My emotions are in a scatter, but at least they are scatter in the same place...
I know it seems like a silly, useless, non important poem/story event to write, but I don't know. It's was just kind of funny how my emotions came in synced with the objects that are connected to my talents. Yeah it was just a simple necklace and it didn't both me that it broke. Heck I can fix it XD but the charm couldn't have been replaced.  Maybe I'll write a poem about the charm maybe it not :P. It was just a strange simple event that wasn't that big at all in the physical world, but in the mind in heart, it had a way deeper meaning. the Event wasn't even that noticeable XD but.... ehh... just kinda felt like this was something the Lord wanted me to write.
Mitchell Duran Dec 2013
In the Fall, when the temperature of the Bay would drop and the wind blew ice, frost would gather on the lawn near Henry Oldez's room. It was not a heavy frost that spread across the paralyzed lawn, but one that just covered each blade of grass with a fine, white, almost dusty coat. Most mornings, he would stumble out of the garage where he slept and tip toe past the ice speckled patch of brown and green spotted grass, so to make his way inside to relieve himself. If he was in no hurry, he would stand on the four stepped stoop and look back at the dried, dead leaves hanging from the wiry branches of three trees lined up against the neighbors fence. The picture reminded him of what the old gallows must have looked like. Henry Oldez had been living in this routine for twenty some years.

He had moved to California with his mother, father, and three brothers 35 years ago. Henry's father, born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, had traveled across the Meixcan border on a bent, full jalopy with his wife, Betria Gonzalez and their three kids. They were all mostly babies then and none of the brothers claimed to remember anything of the ride, except one, Leo, recalled there was "A lotta dust in the car." Santiago Oldez, San for short, had fought in World War II and died of cancer ten years later. San drank most nights and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. Henry had never heard his father talk about the fighting or the war. If he was lucky to hear anything, it would have been when San was dead drunk, talking to himself mostly, not paying very much attention to anyone except his memories and his music.

"San loved two things in this world," Henry would say, "*****, Betria, and Johnny Cash."

Betria Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana, Mexico as well. She was a stout, short woman, wide but with pretty eyes and a mess of orange golden hair. Betria could talk to anyone about anything. Her nick names were the conversationalist or the old crow because she never found a reason to stop talking. Santiago had met her through a friend of a friend. After a couple of dates, they were married. There is some talk of a dispute among the two families, that they didn't agree to the marriage and that they were too young, which they probably were. Santiago being Santiago, didn't listen to anybody, only to his heart. They were married in a small church outside of town overlooking the Pacific. Betria told the kids that the waves thundered and crashed against the rocks that day and the sea looked endless. There were no pictures taken and only three people were at the ceremony: Betria, San, and the priest.

Of course, the four boys went to elementary and high school, and, of course, none of them went to college. One brother moved down to LA and eventually started working for a law firm doing their books. Another got married at 18 years old and was in and out of the house until getting under the wing of the union, doing construction and electrical work for the city. The third brother followed suit. Henry Oldez, after high school, stayed put. Nothing in school interested him. Henry only liked what he could get into after school. The people of the streets were his muse, leaving him with the tramps, the dealers, the struggling restaurateurs, the laundry mat hookers, the crooked cops and the addicts, the gang bangers, the bible humpers, the window washers, the jesus freaks, the EMT's, the old ladies pushing salvation by every bus stop, the guy on the corner and the guy in the alley, and the DOA's. Henry didn't have much time for anyone else after all of them.

Henry looked at himself in the mirror. The light was off and the room was dim. Sunlight streaked in through the dusty blinds from outside, reflecting into the mirror and onto Henry's face. He was short, 5' 2'' or 5' 3'' at most with stubby, skinny legs, and a wide, barrel shaped chest. He examined his face, which was a ravine of wrinkles and deep crows feet. His eyes were sunken and small in his head. Somehow, his pants were always one or two inches below his waistline, so the crack of his *** would constantly be peeking out. Henry's deep, chocolate colored hair was  that of an ancient Native American, long and nearly touched the tip of his belt if he stood up straight. No one knew how long he had been growing it out for. No one knew him any other way. He would comb his hair incessantly: before and after a shower, walking around the house, watching television with Betria on the couch, talking to friends when they came by, and when he drove to work, when he had it.

Normal work, nine to five work, did not work for Henry. "I need to be my own boss," he'd say. With that fact stubbornly put in place, Henry turned to being a handy man, a roofer, and a pioneer of construction. No one knew where he would get the jobs that he would get, he would just have them one day. And whenever he 'd finish a job, he'd complain about how much they'd shorted him, soon to move on to the next one. Henry never had to listen to anyone and, most of the time, he got free lunches out of it. It was a very strange routine, but it worked for him and Betria had no complaints as long as he was bringing some money in and keeping busy. After Santiago died, she became the head of the house, but really let her boys do whatever they wanted.

Henry took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, something he never did unless he was in a hurry. He had a job in the east bay at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. At the table, still in his pajamas, he ate three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and two over easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. He got up as he combed his damp hair, tugging and straining to get each individual knot out. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.

"Good morning," said Henry to Betria.

Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, "You eat already?"

"Yep," he announced, "Got to go to work." He tugged on a knot.

"That's good. Dondé?" Betria looked back down at her spanish TV guide booklet.

"Berkley somewhere," Henry said, bringing the comb smoothly down through his hair.

"That's good, that's good."

"OK!" Henry sighed loudly, shutting the door behind him. He walked back to the dinner table and finished his meal. Then, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn't hear.

"What?" yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn't hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, ***** dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.

"Take the dogs out to ***," Betria told him, "Out the back, not the front."

"Yeah," Henry said and shut the door.

"Come on you dogs," Henry mumbled, dropping his dish in the sink. Betria always did everyones dishes. She called it "her exercise."

Henry let the two dogs out on the lawn. The sun was curling up into the sky and its heat had melted all of the frost on the lawn. Now, the grass was bright green and Henry barely noticed the dark brown dead spots. He watched as the fat beige one squatted to ***. It was too fat to lifts its own leg up. The thing was built like a tank or a sea turtle. Henry laughed to himself as it looked up at him, both of its eyes going in opposite directions, its tongue jutted out one corner of his mouth. Boy boy was on the far end of the lawn, searching for something in the bushes. After a minute, he pulled out another one of his toys and brought it to Henry. Henry picked up the neon green chew toy shaped like a bone and threw it back to where Boy boy had dug it out from. Boy boy shot after it and the fat one just watched, waddling a few feet away from it had peed and laid down. Henry threw the toy a couple more times for Boy boy, but soon he realized it was time to go.

"Alright!" said Henry, "Get inside. Gotta' go to work." He picked up the fat one and threw it inside the laundry room hallway that led to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Boy boy bounded up the stairs into the kitchen. He didn't need anyone lifting him up anywhere. Henry shut the door behind them and went to back to his room to get into his work clothes.

Henry's girlfriend was still asleep and he made sure to be quiet while he got dressed. Tia, Henry's girlfriend, didn't work, but occasionally would put up garage sales of various junk she found around town. She was strangely obsessed with beanie babies, those tiny plush toys usually made up in different costumes. Henry's favorite was the hunter. It was dressed up in camouflage and wore an eye patch. You could take off its brown, polyester hat too, if you wanted. Henry made no complaint about Tia not having a job because she usually brought some money home somehow, along with groceries and cleaning the house and their room. Betria, again, made no complain and only wanted to know if she was going to eat there or not for the day.

A boat sized bright blue GMC sat in the street. This was Henry's car. The stick shift was so mangled and bent that only Henry and his older brother could drive it. He had traded a new car stereo for it, or something like that. He believed it got ten miles to the gallon, but it really only got six or seven. The stereo was the cleanest piece of equipment inside the thing. It played CD's, had a shoddy cassette player, and a decent radio that picked up all the local stations. Henry reached under the seat and attached the radio to the front panel. He never left the radio just sitting there in plain sight. Someone walking by could just as soon as put their elbow into the window, pluck the thing out, and make a clean 200 bucks or so. Henry wasn't that stupid. He'd been living there his whole life and sure enough, done the same thing to other cars when he was low on money. He knew the tricks of every trade when it came to how to make money on the street.

On the road, Henry passed La Rosa, the Mexican food mart around the corner from the house. Two short, tanned men stood in front of a stand of CD's, talking. He usually bought pirated music or movies there. One of the guys names was Bertie, but he didn't know the other guy. He figured either a customer or a friend. There were a lot of friends in this neighborhood. Everyone knew each other somehow. From the bars, from the grocery, from the laundromat, from the taco stands or from just walking around the streets at night when you were too bored to stay inside and watch TV. It wasn't usually safe for non-locals to walk the streets at night, but if you were from around there and could prove it to someone that was going to jump you, one could usually get away from losing a wallet or an eyeball if you had the proof. Henry, to people on the street, also went as Monk. Whenever he would drive through the neighborhood, the window open with his arm hanging out the side, he would usually hear a distant yell of "Hey Monk!" or "What's up Monk!". Henry would always wave back, unsure who's voice it was or in what direction to wave, but knowing it was a friend from somewhere.

There was heavy traffic on the way to Berkley and as he waited in line, cursing his luck, he looked over at the wet swamp, sitting there beside highway like a dead frog. A few scattered egrets waded through the brown water, their long legs keeping their clean white bodies safe from the muddy water. Beyond the swamp laid the pacific and the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco sat there too: still, majestic, and silver. Next to the city, was the Bay Bridge stretched out over the water like long gray yard stick. Henry compared the Golden Gate's beauty with the Bay Bridge. Both were beautiful in there own way, but the Bay Bridge's color was that of a gravestone, while the Golden Gate's color was a heavy red, that made it seem alive. Why they had never decided to pain the Bay Bridge, Henry had no idea. He thought it would look very nice with a nice coat of burgundy to match the Golden gate, but knew they would never spend the money. They never do.

After reeling through the downtown streets of Berkley, dodging college kids crossing the street on their cell phones and bicyclists, he finally reached the large, A-frame house. The house was lifted, four or five feet off the ground and you had to walk up five or seven stairs to get to the front door. Surrounded by tall, dark green bushes, Henry knew these kids had money coming from somewhere. In the windows hung spinning colored glass and in front of the house was an old-timey dinner bell in the shape of triangle. Potted plants lined the red brick walkway that led to the stairs. Young tomatoes and small peas hung from the tender arms of the stems leaf stalks. The lawn was manicured and clean. "Must be studying agriculture or something," Henry thought, "Or they got a really good gardener."

He parked right in front of the house and looked the building up and down, estimating how long it would take to get the old shingles off and the new one's on. Someone was up on the deck of the house, rocking back and forth in an old wooden chair. He listened to the creaking wood of the chair and the deck, judging it would take him two days for the job. Henry knew there was no scheduled rain, but with the Bay weather, one could never be sure. He had worked in rain before - even hail - and it never really bothered him. The thing was, he never strapped himself in and when it would rain and he was working roofs, he was afraid to slip and fall. He turned his truck off, got out, and locked both of the doors. He stepped heavily up the walkway and up the stairs. The someone who was rocking back and forth was a skinny beauty with loose jean shorts on and a thick looking, black and red plaid shirt. She had long, chunky dread locks and was smoking a joint, blowing the smoke out over the tips of the bushes and onto the street. Henry was no stranger to the smell. He smoked himself. This was California.

"Who're you?" the dreaded girl asked.

"I'm the roofer," Henry told her.

The girl looked puzzled and disinterested. Henry leaned back on his heels and wondered if the whole thing was lemon. She looked beyond him, down on the street, awkwardly annoying Henry's gaze. The tools in Henry's hands began to grow heavy, so he put them down on the deck with a thud. The noise seemed to startle the girl out of whatever haze her brain was in and she looked back at Henry. Her eyes were dark brown and her skin was smooth and clear like lake water. She couldn't have been more then 20 or 21 years old. Henry realized that he was staring and looked away at the various potted plants near the rocking chair. He liked them all.

"Do you know who called you?" She took a drag from her joint.

"Brett, " Henry told her, "But they didn't leave a last name."

For a moment, the girl looked like she had been struck across the chin with a brick, but then her face relaxed and she smiled.

"Oh ****," she laughed, "That's me. I called you. I'm Brett."

Henry smiled uneasily and picked up his tools, "Ok."

"Nice to meet you," she said, putting out her hand.

Henry awkwardly put out his left hand, "Nice to meet you too."

She took another drag and exhaled, the smoke rolling over her lips, "Want to see the roof?"

The two of them stood underneath a five foot by five foot hole. Henry was a little uneasy by the fact they had cleaned up none of the shattered wood and the birds pecking at the bird seed sitting in a bowl on the coffee table facing the TV. The arms of the couch were covered in bird **** and someone had draped a large, zebra printed blanket across the middle of it. Henry figured the blanket wasn't for decoration, but to hide the rest of the bird droppings. Next to the couch sat a large, antique lamp with its lamp shade missing. Underneath the dim light, was a nice portrait of the entire house. Henry looked away from the hole, leaving Brett with her head cocked back, the joint still pinched between her lips, to get a closer look. There looked to be four in total: Brett, a very large man, a woman with longer, thick dread locks than Brett, and a extremely short man with a very large, brown beard. Henry went back
Mitchell Duran Nov 2013
It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.

I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.

I knew her.

We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.

Cookie cutters everywhere.

Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't ****.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.

Nothing really.

Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.

We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.

It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?

Forget about it.

There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.

She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little ******'s.

"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.

She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of ***** and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.

"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.

"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."

She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.

"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.

"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.

"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"

I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the ******* eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.

I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those ******* eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.

"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.

"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.

"Děkuji," he peeped.

His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.

"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"Where?"
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."

I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
******* perfect.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing **** poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.

"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Like what?"
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.

We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.

"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."

"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.

"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."

"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.

"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."

After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have *** on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad **** - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.


"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."

"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."

"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."

"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."

"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.

The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.

"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.

As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.

"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"You mad?"
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."

Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so **** cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.

We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."

We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Why?"
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"****," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or *****, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.

"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any **** on the way out of here."

We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.

We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right
I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
   Snow has friz me,
   Sun has baked me,

Looks like between 'em they done
   Tried to make me

Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'--
   But I don't care!
   I'm still here!
Zoe Jul 2012
minds scattered
sensing every new feeling
missing the obvious
going through the day unknowing
of the simple
and over complicating
everything
minds scatter
when overwhelmed
or when distracting itself
don't stay scattered
don't make life harder
do enjoy the simplicity
that scattered minds deprive you of
Ayad Gharbawi Jan 2010
PASSION PLAY

Ayad Gharbawi




Location: Desert Shore, Bitterly Cold Night, next to strong waves from the ocean.
Characters: Man ((M) and his Lover, a Woman (W).

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


W: “Search as I forever do, in manifold ways unknown, I seek but to love thee, and the meagre goodness from Life, with steely ardour - my armour faithful.”
M: “Alone I may be, and still, yes I love thee; these days heavy are and beset I am by burdensome trivialities, but I remain trusting, though my corner so narrow remain.”
W: “My Love! Your speech I hear aloud and thine lips I live within and yet, my Love, all Solitude I am. Man! I am unaided! In this journey of sinful thorns, my love, in this unforgiving journey, this blurred odyssey, I stand alone”.
M: “This trial you speak of, but I do know of it well; so, listen then: within the strength of trusted togetherness we can plough on, though everlasting harm shall do its spiteful tricks, warm to our united truth shall we remain.”
W: (Surprised) “O! My love! This thought I cannot hear! My life, my destiny, is but mine. And all have their own solitary roads of jagged rocks to embrace, like it we or not. We heartbreaking earthly sad beasts, either fiercely clutch at integrity, or we do let it go to perish away.”
M: (Confused) “My Love! I do hear, I do hear. But when Times decide on burdening us, what then can we achieve? To face Reality within the frail arms of solitude is to ignore, to refuse the severe threats of repulsive grins.”
(Silence)
M: (Passionately) “O! My sweet! Only in us, can we envelope, through joined, clasped warmth can we be as one united! The screams that so truly are meant to slice us off, only we, our Unity, can destroy. For mine eyes can only find sleep in your ears, and it is so - for otherwise nothing and no one can be.”
W: (Angry) “My Passion too is bubbling for thine bewildered ears. Am I not your soul? Do we not suffer as one? Do we not reflect as one? Am I not your lover true? Is not our warmth not weighty to our fickle bones?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “But, Lover, this much ought I to formally declare unto thee: For our eyes, and all eyes, envision unequally at one another. Till eternity, in its casual, indifferent flicker, snatches at us all wretched mortals, the gazes from lords to paupers remain veritably mismatched. O my passion! My woeful heart! These words I thunder forth defines love unfeigned, and what mine eyes do pour out unto thine ears is authenticity true.
(Silence)
W: (Passionately) “What joined mem’ries you choose to caress may possess thee, but your exactness for what love is to you, doth not dwell in mine mind. What tears, what weepings you do, fall stormily upon thine own soul’s wildernesses. You choose to be chained by changing visions and indefinite sentiments of light weight – though so poignant at the moment they veritably are?”
M: (Inquiring) “My love! I cherish thee; where hast thou been in thine mind, for now ye talk of that truth you relate to in your heart. Your pronouncements, what depths I do feel! Can it perchance be that my passion has strayed our winds far from me?”
W: “No, my love! Why is anger, I feel, lush on thine tongue?”
M: (Surprised and Frightened) “Anger! I am too distant from that affliction! But yes, I feel my words make only for unstable murmurs in my breath.”
W: (Quietly) “Then, do tell me, lover, who do your murmurs betray - myself or yourself then?”
M: (Quietly) “Perhaps so, perhaps so. But my anxiety wilfully demands of me to eradicate your vision.”
W: (Firmly) “You answer naught from my undemanding question. Or, are mine meanings too violent for you? What aches thee?”
M: (Passionately) “My sweet! In so many moments, I created mysterious planets for thee! Bizarre worlds of contrasts and opposites and musical words of antiquity and sensual ravines. My love! I, my soul, my life, my inner deepest breath, tempted as I am by Fates’ inscrutable cruelties to ashamedly yield, I have yet always expressed to mine eyes’ heart, though they be in bleak darkness, to faithfully fight without pause all shades of vice and still yet - with loving integrity; I have stood with arms of righteousness and love for thee up and never down! Yes, sincere good and venal ill remain joined in life for all to feel, but you knew it was not for me to disentangle them. And so, I pronounce unto thee, still, and yet ever and ever more, my love for thee, though still beholding a thousand mountains before me, I remain sturdy for thee; I remain undisturbed by burly laws, and by exotic dictums, I stand fierce and unhurt, save in your absence.”
W: (With Sadness) “My beloved, your vivid voice stabs the falsehoods for thee, and I say unto thee, unto thee your excessive and unreasonable chains, and for myself my unreasonable and extreme chains remain.”
M: (Shocked) “But I burden thee with no steely chains, nor verbal fetters! For naught I produce for thee save grace, passion and freedom to love for us both to be in Unity Sacred! Dost thou embrace my visions as ‘shackles’, then ‘tis better we agree to class that which we are as but madness! Hear me, for my tears now must truly change their colours!”
W: (Determined) “Your feverish hands clutch only upon mine erratic wings!”
M: (Anger) “Never! Never! For I clutch only to destroy all malevolence; as for thee, Lady of the purest, untouched, guarded, secluded Ponds, I seek to unshackle for you the scattered, scared shadows that yearn for thine sovereignty. And what is this ‘sovereignty’ but our Sacred Union? What curse deemest you I impose? Do you equal my purest passions with atrocities? Murmur unto mine ears, your clearest love for me.”
W: “Ah! You enquire of me my ‘sincerity’ for thee? What demands!”
(Silence)
M: “I see naught but heaving forests of love betwixt us, and yet, you discover my words being ‘demanding’?”
W: (Drily) “Perchance, your visions are indistinct and ever more blurred, through these years cannot be ignored.”
M: (Begging) “My love! All mine life, though it be lengthy, I fought most venal tyranny, and for this moment, you question my righteousness?”
W: (Indignantly) “I have been plunged into seas hostile and I have plunged in a thousand miles of inert minds troubled beyond conceivable comprehension and I have yet to have my Right for my own greedy, ravenous flesh to be vigorously and forcefully embraced by sensuality and serenity. Yes, I do love thee, and yet in our union, as in all unions, I have been adorned with naught, save snickering, gossiping scenes of festive *****, games, chatter and farewells, themselves festooned within silly and sincerely stupid smiles and frowns, and shallow tears and never ending ludicrous chatter unworthy of monkeys conversing. I have met programmed rows of pats, respect and all other so-called decent intents and gestures, but, where, lover that you are of mine, where does my personal heart, throb and manically vibrate, save in your heavenly imaginations?”
(Silence)
W: (Quietly but Determinedly) “My love! I truly thee love and with passions, I tell you, of proportions of precise exactitudes; in your eyes I have witnessed symphonies of exquisiteness; and, I of thee ask: where dwelleth your own love for myself in thine body?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “Do you recognise the changing structures that form this, that I name ‘My Love’? In my solitude eternal, I do evermore and always do pause, and be pensive, and be thinking of questions, such as ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘when’ ‘how’, and ‘which’ should be my path; I am forever and ever more searching, seeking the heavens of every corner, and the irritable tempests, within my changing self as they themselves do try to seek me, and we forever, through inconceivable murkiness, do try to assemble the everlasting entirety of these disorganized puzzles into some measure of comprehensible cohesion that ‘I’ am. That is how the ‘I’ you love is forever changing and thereby formulating itself, and within all these meandering passions, and endless errors, where am I to feel thee? Where? And where do you seek me? In which land? In which forest? You trivialise my beingness as you focus upon my lands as being that which so effortless to find, and yet, you are much too distant from an understanding of my conflicting, emerging civilisations.”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) If the utterance ‘Never’ is pathetic for thee, then allow me to introduce you to my latest heart: for it screams out that single, protracted utterance! Never! My love, these winds of raging wraths, both within and outside by flesh, must and can only be annihilated by mine own sincerities – were I not to play against my own self. My uncontrolled desires and, yes, thirsty manic passions can only be tempered and thoroughly satiated to the utter brim, by mine own loving, sources of pleasure, my own uncontrollable ecstasies. As for the rest of ****** pleasures, my own erroneous words, speeches and utterances can only be severed and sliced by my tranquillity.”
M: (Resigned) “I hear thine words. Do not abandon me. Do not destroy our civilisation of justice.”
W: “What we share, the bonds, are enjoyment. Listen though to mine lips: enjoyment is what - when it is to be compared with convulsive ecstatic quivers of satisfaction?”
M: (Puzzled) “And what of all our journeys to attain that unity? For all that, is it to be of mere insignificance? And if that be your truth, for what then did we toil and labour for unity of minds and bodies?”
W: (Laughing) “Did you understand from Life itself, that here it was, grandly to proclaim its furtive faces unto thine own awaiting face?! “
M: (Baffled) “It was so far too plain and vastly clear unto me these sceneries we faced before our loving bodies.”
W: “Yes, and I too, did see them with thee. Our four eyes, did see unity for that flicker of time. How true you speak! But, time clocked on, I saw you as you stood there, moving nowhere, unawares that it was your duty to squash onwards whatever vile breaths faced us.”
M: (Desperate) “And did I not? Did I abandon thee in these crushing paths?”
W: (Accusing) “No, you did not. Never, once did you abandon me. I ask of thee; for what sense do we feel a need for a continuation of these gruelling marches? For unity? For love? Or, is love unity? Was that and is this our reason for us to carry on with these shackles?”
M: “For assuredly, yes, and more yes, I tell thee! Toil and gruelling dawns, and unbearable evenings and the whitest of nights are all for the sacred attainment of that heavenly summit of joy I name as blessed ‘Love’.”
W: (Assured) “And, Sire, what if my nerves, blood and ****** hunger tell thee in truth that we, all of us, need no longer, and need never in truth, to undertake these paths, for we find naught that nourishes us at the blessed summit of your definition of what ‘Love’ is?”
M: (Confused & Sad) “So, I falter here and now upon understanding your speech; do I reason from thee that our loving days in unity are frivolously bygone now?”
W: (Calmly & Gracefully) “Do the wandering birds, and do the blind bats, and do the reckless storms, and do the blindly, raging waves and do the supremely arrogant oceans eternally march on in but one direction only with the savage passage of time within their particular lives? You did pronounce that you built planets for our unity; well then, did you not view how planets endlessly revolve along the same path?”
(Pause)
W: (Calmly & with Dignity) “For, Sire, I am not as a Planet - could you not feel that throughout our journeys? You endlessly query and question ‘who’ it is that ‘I’ am? Well, I speak this much on myself; I am as the birds, and the bats, and the storms and the waves and the oceans.”  
M: (Angry) “Woman! I can only then tell of thee that you are naught but feuding clutter and violent disarray!”
W: (Unconcerned) “Those are your words. Not mine. Speak for what you wish, Sire.”
M: (Angry) “And I stand here, before thee, in anger – nay, more, more! In fury!”
W: (Laughing) “For what? For the deeds that created but sticky, and grimy grains of sand for the undoubted pleasure our eyes?”
M: “And so you label our truths, our love so much! Fair indeed, you speak, Woman of Justice.”
W: (Arrogantly) “Man! Express your delights for your own delights. And, alas, there the circle and reality ends – and it ends only for you. That is one morsel of truth for you to ponder. What we ‘created’ and what we ‘loved’ was never and never, ever be the same for you as it is for me. Are you a sincere believer that your personal vision is the same sight all other seeing creatures envision?”
M: (Angry) “Woman, you enrage me! Your arrogance is drenching thine rags.”
W: (Sarcastic) “Tis the Man with no reason who allows his breath and words to be a veritable cesspool of fuming stenches!”
M: “But I, that I am, no longer can define your contours?”
W: (Pointedly) “Precisely, Man, precisely. Perhaps, now you have come closer to the vulnerable shores of reality!”
M: (Confused) “Do you express that you are ever varying and so for that reason there is not a one unified you?”
W: (Calmly) “For we are all ‘varying’, to borrow your word – if you do so allow me, Sire. There was never ‘unity’ of soul, nor mind, nor self, nor of any one personality. This, I desire, that you may understand.”
M: (Aghast) “Then if that be your truth and then, are we naught but multitudes of ever changing confusions, Lady of the Desert?”
W: (Calmly) “Yes and no! For those who are muscular and full of fertile vigour in their flesh, and in their intellects, and those that are severely and strictly scholastic, then they do need and they can succeed in time, in their never ending struggle to bring together the mutually antagonistic factions of that which constitutes our beingness. And, as for the dense brained soulless beings, then, it is equally veritably true that, a descent into madness can be rapidly produced, since from their erratic constituents, they cannot attract together these antagonistic and mutually-hating emotions in some vision of cohesion, and thus mayhem can be fashioned.”
(Silence)
M: (Calmly) “So, pray do tell me, where does Love and Justice and Truth and Morality stand in your universe?”
W: (Serenely) “That has been mine desire to hear the words being produced from your lips, Man!”
(Pause)
W: “So, now perhaps, your sight may be getting clearer, for your question is certainly apt. Foremost, we pathetic mortals, we the be are forever slimy specks of sand that  crumbles, must necessarily seek to survive and flourish within whatever forest, desert, meadow we find ourselves cast upon.”
M: (Startled) “At what cost, Woman? At the expense of Morality?”
W: (Rapidly) “Yes and no.”
M: (Shocked) “Horrendous! How can you spout out such filth?”
W: (Quietly) “Restrain your stupidities, and give more room to your intelligence, Sire.”
(Silence)
W: (Gracefully) “In times of trouble, what can Man do when he be forced to embrace evil, even though he finds the act of the embrace loathsome, but he does what he does for the truth of his vital existence to continue. Only when he need never embrace vile, and then allows himself to commit the act, then he is for certainty to incur the everlasting wrath of God. Evil is thus never one truth to be utterly rejected, perchance you may now see. ”
M: (Calm but Tired) “I follow your words and their ideas therein.”
W: (Gracefully) “When you talk to me on Man and everlasting, conflicting changes within that self-same creature, I tell you with all the earnestness that I possess, of what God has scattered and endowed upon me; for this beast, we all call in unity Man, this creature has far too many a numberless number of mutually self-contradicting, distrusting, loving, hating, inspiring and a never ending number of feelings and emotions that are in constant flow and change – as in any rapid river descending unto its eventual destination, which in its case, is the sea, while in our case, it is Death itself for sure.”
M: (Despair) “And how can this beast ‘love’ anyone within this welter of confusion?”
W: (Rapidly) “He cannot!”
M: (Rapidly, Begging) “But Man and Woman do love with bristling passions! Do you deny that, Woman?!”
W: (Calmly, eyes downwards looking) “Yes, and no. Since the beast has needs, based on his vastly intricate constituents, to ‘love’ his fellow beast, he imagines and believes
I guess I’m okay… What more can I say?
Forget it—never mind,
You wouldn’t understand anyway,
Would you even know what it's like?
Inside a scattered disconnected mind,
Employed to go on strike?
Where indirect misdirect
The sincerity at play,
When sinusoidal chaos spikes
And past meets the future present day?
As paranoid points outlandishly connect
At intervals of broken lines,
Memory lost in recollect,
An array of misshaped bells
Internally infect the eternal confines
Of infinite distributional decay,
Parallels with no intersect,
Streetwise cells with empty signs,
Burned out lights, potholes, and landmines,
Littered all the way.
How am I to convey that all those times
You let your mind wander away
That I was reading, thinking, dreaming,
Teeming, never idle, never strayed,
Seeing, being, so far and away,
Even the brightest intellect beaming,
Could not grasp the feeling
In the slightest of highest orders reeling,
Wound unbound, or as it would be seeming,
Imperfect, even to the disarray
Of the tamest prefect, whose verdict
Could not predict the reflect,
For in this world, seeing is deceiving,
As the lamest reject, defect,
Increasingly decreasing,
In simplistic bliss obey
Crowned unsound fallacies
That contradict all meaning,
Hiding behind reality, the actualities
Lest, protect the thoughtlessness perceiving,
Let me stop you if I may...
I must interject for I digress,
What nonsense was I weaving?
Forget it—I've lost my mind,
I best be leaving,
What more can I say?
It's periodic I must confess,
You probably don't care anyway,
Yeah, yeah, I'll be okay,
Until next time I guess,
I wouldn't want to be misleading.
I’m scattered but I’m on point.
Terry O'Leary Dec 2013
Ill-fated crowd neath foreign cloud: the Silent City braves
against a sudden sullen flood, unleashing lashing waves,
which washes stony structures clean with radiance that laves.

Deserted streets, once dense retreats, spin yarns of yesterday,
with  faded words no longer heard (though having much to say)
since teeming life (at one time, rife), surceased and slipped away.

Within its walls? Whist buildings, tall... Outside the City? Dunes...
They frame a frail forgotten tale,  in carved unwritten runes
with symbols hung like halos strung in lifeless, limp festoons.

The City’s blur? A sepulcher for Christians, Muslims, Jews –
Cathedrals, Temples, vacant now, enshrine their residues,
though churches, mosques and synagogues abide without a bruise.

A church’s Gothic ceilings guard the empty pews below
and, windswept blown above the stones, a maiden’s blue jabot.
The Saints, in crypts, though nondescript, grace halos now aglow.

Stilled chapel chimes! Their clapper rope (that tongue-tied confidante)
won’t writhe to ring the carillons, alone and lean and gaunt –
its flocks of jute, now fallen mute, adorn the holy font.

Stray footsteps swarm  through church no more (apostates that profane) -
their echoes in the nave ring thin, while chalice cups maintain
a taste of brine in altar wine decaying in the rain.


No face will come with jagged tongue to sing a silent psalm
nor paint pale lips with languid quips to pierce the deathly calm,
nor pray for mercy, grace deferred, or beg lethean balm.


Six steeple towers, steel and stone, drab daggers in the sky!
Their hallowed halls no longer call when breezes wander by –
for, filled with dread to wake the dead, they've ceased to sough or sigh.

No cantillation, belfry bells, monastic chants inspire
and Minarets, though standing yet, host neither voice nor crier -
abodes and buildings silhouette a muted spectral choir.

Coiled candle sticks! Their twisted wicks no longer 'lume the cracks
with dying flame in smoky swirl mid pendant pearls of wax,
since deference to innocence dissolved in melting tracks.

Above! The dismal ditch of dusk reveals a velvet streak,
through which the winter’s wicked winds will sometimes weave and sneak,
and faraway a cable sways, a bridge clings hushed and bleak.

Thin shadows shift, like silver shafts, across a cruel moraine
reflecting white a wisp of light in ebon beads of bane
which casts a crooked smile across a faceless window pane.

Wan neon lights glow through the nights, through darkness sleek as slate,
while lanterns (hovered, high above, in silent swinging gait),
haunt ballrooms, bars, bereft bazaars, with no one left to fete.

Death's silhouettes show no regrets, 'twixt twilight’s ashen shrouds,
oblivious she always was to cries in dying crowds –
in foggy neap the spirits creep... a clutch of clammy clouds.


No breath will come  'cross jagged tongue to sing a silent psalm
nor paint pale lips with languid quips to pierce the deathly calm,
nor yet redress the emptiness that shifting shades embalm.



The castle clock, unwound, defrocks! Those peerless speechless spokes
unfurl the blight of reigning Night by spinning off her cloaks,
and flaunt the dun oblivion, her Baroness evokes.

Green trees gone dark, in palace parks, where children paused to play –
now voiceless things on phantom swings, like statues made of clay,
mark marbled tombs in graveyards groomed for grievers bent to pray.  

The sun-bleached bones of those who've flown lie scattered down the lanes
while other souls who hid in holes left bones with yellow stains
of plaintive tears (shed insincere, for no one felt the pains).

The terrors wrought by conscience fraught once stalked and lurked nearby
to rip the shrouds from  curtained clouds, frail fabrics on the sky –
now wraiths that scream in sleepless dreams no longer terrify.

And fog no longer leaks beyond the edge of doom’s café,
for when she trails her mourning veils, she fills the cabaret
with sallow smears of misty tears  in sheets of shallow gray.

Beyond the suburbs, farmers’ fields (where donkeys often brayed)
exhale a gust of barren dust where living seed once laid
and in the haze a scarecrow sways, impaled upon a *****.

A silo, still! Like hollowed quill, a ravished feather’s vane,
with traces of bespattered blood, once flowing through a vein.
The fruits of life, destroyed in strife... ’twas truly all in vain.


No souls will come with jagged tongues to sing a silent psalm
nor paint pale lips with languid quips to pierce the deathly calm –
they've seen, you see, life’s brevity, beneath a neutron bomb.


EPILOGUE

Beyond the Silent City’s walls, the victors laugh and play...
They’re celebrating PEACE ON EARTH, the devil’s sobriquet
for neutron radiation death in places far away.
I.

Thou aged unreluctant earth who dost
with quivering continual thighs invite
the thrilling rain the slender paramour
to toy with thy extraordinary lust,
(the sinuous rain which rising from thy bed
steals to his wife the sky and hour by hour
wholly renews her pale flesh with delight)
—immortally whence are the high gods fled?

Speak elm eloquent pandar with thy nod
significant to the ecstatic earth
in token of his coming whom her soul
burns to embrace—and didst thou know the god
from but the imprint of whose cloven feet
the shrieking dryad sought her leafy goal,
at the mere echo of whose shining mirth
the furious hearts of mountains ceased to beat?

Wind beautifully who wanderest
over smooth pages of forgotten joy
proving the peaceful theorems of the flowers
—didst e’er depart upon more exquisite quest?
and did thy fortunate fingers sometime dwell
(within a greener shadow of secret bowers)
among the curves of that delicious boy
whose serious grace one goddess loved too well?

Chryselephantine Zeus Olympian
sceptred colossus of the Pheidian soul
whose eagle frights creation,in whose palm
Nike presents the crown sweetest to man,
whose lilied robe the sun’s white hands emboss,
betwixt whose absolute feet anoint with calm
of intent stars circling the acerb pole
poises,smiling,the diadumenos

in whose young chiseled eyes the people saw
their once again victorious Pantarkes
(whose grace the prince of artists made him bold
to imitate between the feet of awe),
thunderer whose omnipotent brow showers
its curls of unendured eternal gold
over the infinite breast in bright degrees,
whose pillow is the graces and the hours,

father of gods and men whose subtle throne
twain sphinxes bear each with a writhing youth
caught to her brazen *******,whose foot-stool tells
how fought the looser of the warlike zone
of her that brought forth tall Hippolytus,
lord on whose pedestal the deep expels
(over Selene’s car closing uncouth)
of Helios the sweet wheels tremulous—

are there no kings in Argos,that the song
is silent,of the steep unspeaking tower
within whose brightening strictness Danae
saw the night severed and the glowing throng
descend,felt on her flesh the amorous strain
of gradual hands and yielding to that fee
her eager body’s unimmortal flower
knew in the darkness a more burning rain?

                    2.

And still the mad magnificent herald Spring
assembles beauty from forgetfulness
with the wild trump of April:witchery
of sound and odour drives the wingless thing
man forth in the bright air,for now the red
leaps in the maple’s cheek,and suddenly
by shining hordes in sweet unserious dress
ascends the golden crocus from the dead.

On dappled dawn forth rides the pungent sun
with hooded day preening upon his hand
followed by gay untimid final flowers
(which dressed in various tremulous armor stun
the eyes of ragged earth who sees them pass)
while hunted from his kingdom winter cowers,
seeing green armies steadily expand
hearing the spear-song of the marching grass.

A silver sudden parody of snow
tickles the air to golden tears,and hark!
the flicker’s laughing yet,while on the hills
the pines deepen to whispers primeval and throw
backward their foreheads to the barbarous bright
sky,and suddenly from the valley thrills
the unimaginable upward lark
and drowns the earth and passes into light

(slowly in life’s serene perpetual round
a pale world gathers comfort to her soul,
hope richly scattered by the abundant sun
invades the new mosaic of the ground
—let but the incurious curtaining dusk be drawn
surpassing nets are sedulously spun
to snare the brutal dew,—the authentic scroll
of fairie hands and vanishing with the dawn).

Spring,that omits no mention of desire
in every curved and curling thing,yet holds
continuous *******—through skies and trees
the lilac’s smoke the poppy’s pompous fire
the *****’s purple patience and the grave
frailty of daises—by what rare unease
revealed of teasingly transparent folds—
with man’s poor soul superlatively brave.

Surely from robes of particoloured peace
with mouth flower-faint and undiscovered eyes
and dim slow perfect body amorous
(whiter than lilies which are born and cease
for being whiter than this world)exhales
the hovering high perfume curious
of that one month for whom the whole years dies,
risen at length from palpitating veils.

O still miraculous May!O shining girl
of time untarnished!O small intimate
gently primeval hands,frivolous feet
divine!O singular and breathless pearl!
O indefinable frail ultimate pose!
O visible beatitude sweet sweet
intolerable!silence immaculate
of god’s evasive audible great rose!

                    3.

Lover,lead forth thy love unto that bed
prepared by whitest hands of waiting years,
curtained with wordless worship absolute,
unto the certain altar at whose head
stands that clear candle whose expecting breath
exults upon the tongue of flame half-mute,
(haste ere some thrush with silver several tears
complete the perfumed paraphrase of death).

Now is the time when all occasional things
close into silence,only one tree,one
svelte translation of eternity
unto the pale meaning of heaven clings,
(whose million leaves in winsome indolence
simmer upon thinking twilight momently)
as down the oblivious west’s numerous dun
magnificence conquers magnificence.

In heaven’s intolerable athanor
inimitably tortured the base day
utters at length her soft intrinsic hour,
and from those tenuous fires which more and more
sink and are lost the divine alchemist,
the magus of creation,lifts a flower—
whence is the world’s insufferable clay
clothed with incognizable amethyst.

Lady at whose imperishable smile
the amazed doves flicker upon sunny wings
as if in terror of eternity,
(or seeming that they would mistrust a while
the moving of beauteous dead mouths throughout
that very proud transparent company
of quivering ghosts-of-love which scarcely sings
drifting in slow diaphanous faint rout),

queen in the inconceivable embrace
of whose tremendous hair that blossom stands
whereof is most desire,yet less than those
twain perfect roses whose ambrosial grace,
goddess,thy crippled thunder-forging groom
or the loud lord of skipping maenads knows,—
having Discordia’s apple in thy hands,
which the scared shepherd gave thee for his doom—

O thou within the chancel of whose charms
the tall boy god of everlasting war
received the shuddering sacrament of sleep,
betwixt whose cool incorrigible arms
impaled upon delicious mystery,
with gaunt limbs reeking of the whispered deep,
deliberate groping ocean fondled o’er
the warm long flower of unchastity,

imperial Cytherea,from frail foam
sprung with irrevocable nakedness
to strike the young world into smoking song—
as the first star perfects the sensual dome
of darkness,and the sweet strong final bird
transcends the sight,O thou to whom belong
th ehearts of lovers!—I beseech thee bless
thy suppliant singer and his wandering word.
Patrick Austin Oct 2018
My backpack ready for anything, I left for a voyage across the pond. As fellow passengers climb aboard I met a 27 year old traveling musician named Russ carrying his cajòn. He told me of his travels from Massachusetts and pending divorce. We related on this and exchanged CD's. Behind us sitting on the Ferry were two young girls working on a puzzle. Russ imposed himself and tried to impress them with his musical endeavors. These girls were in America from Germany attending college. One was 17 and the other was 18 but I am sure they knew better than to play into his hand. After talk of language and culture we disembarked. Russ invited me to his show that night but I had plans to meet a girl at a board game pub. I walked to the bus stop while smoking my pipe and caught the number 40 from downtown to a trendy neighborhood up north.

After I stepped off I found myself amongst the overgrown players of games and drinkers of fine beer. Brittany arrived and we chatted over IPA's. I explained my recent challenges to get the topic of divorce out of the way before we left for Mexican food. She was very open in saying I should play the field and not have a serious relationship. I agreed with her take but could not read her as well as I had hoped. She said I need to get the rebounding out of the way and explained that she too is struggling with commitment. Being 34 with no marriage or children under her belt she feels that therapy is essential to figuring this out.

We walked to our happy hour destination and shared Nacho's while drinking "Colorado Kool-Aid". Both of us having spent a lot of time in Denver we could relate on much but I felt there was an elephant in the room. Afterwards we walked to a nearby record store and browsed while talking about music and interests. She needed to leave soon having obligations to housesit and watch pets. Dog walking is her profession since her departure from the world of corporate accounting. We walked to her unkempt sedan and she gave me a ride back downtown. We talked of hanging out again but our schedule may not permit for some time. I wonder if she will entertain my company without reservation, only time will tell.

I decided to phone my old friend from Denver who lives near and devise another plan for the evening. The sun was still shining and I had no reason to return home yet. I walked to a nearby brew pub while waiting for him to meet me. I sat at the bar with another traveler named Dave. He is an airline pilot close to retirement from the state of Texas. We talked about my time in the Navy and my pending legal woes. He's been proudly married for 30 years and counts his blessings that he is still in harmony with his wife. My friend decided to meet me at a concert in close proximity to my date with Brittany. Once again I would take the number 40 uptown. Dave bought my IPA and gave me words of encouragement and complimented my persona. It meant a lot and I thanked him as I said goodbye.

While waiting for the bus I asked for information from a woman in her early 50's. She works for a tech company nearby but was happy to help as I had a more pleasant vibe than most of her young, urban, unprofessional colleagues. While unsure of my way she directed my move to get off at the next stop. I walked up the hill another seven blocks to the show. While smoking my pipe along the way another bus rider was two steps ahead named Nate. He was curious about my pipe tobacco and we gave brief anecdotes about ourselves. He offered to buy me a quick beer before my concert. I took him up on this offer as we walked into a nearby market. He purchased several large cans of domestics and afterwards we headed back down the dark boulevard towards the Abbey drinking our brew. As I arrived at the former church venue we parted ways peacefully.

I ventured into the bustling scene concealing my open container while finding my friend. I sat just as the opening act started. We enjoyed three musical performances but the star of the show was the beautiful woman from Denver that we both enjoyed during our time there. Feeling that we should explore the venue where Russ was performing we made our way there. I was sad to discover the brewery was shutting down before 10pm and the band was long gone. We decided to walk to the nearby singles bar playing music so loudly it could be heard from a block away. This strange place was crawling with many folks of the beautiful sort but nothing seemed to be attractive about it. We had a glass of wine and a shot of bourbon. I spoke to the fellow DJ for a moment but there was no dancefloor to be found. We decided to venture on.

We walked up and down the avenue and discovered another Mexican food restaurant, beaming with the young and the foolish. Our community seating was met with overly affectionate couples to our left and valley girls to our right. Our Tequila mules hit the spot with our Nacho's and late night platter. The girls spoke of Denver people which I thought strange. Why so much co(lorado)-incidence in one evening? I injected myself into the discussion and was met with friendly conversation. Unable to finish my Nacho's I knew I had fulfilled my share of fun for the night. This was the fourth time I had eaten nachos this week. We proceeded back to the urban adventure wagon and made our way to the slums of the tech-boom. My 2am slumber was met with an air mattress of great quality and woolen blankets.

I awoke at 7am to the clouded sunlight peering through the sliding glass door. I laid awake with my stomach turning from the many Nachos not yet digested. My housemates called me about needing to move my car for restriping the parking lot. Fortunately I left my keys so they were able to do this for me. I smoked my pipe on the patio while my friend "hit the gym". When he returned we decided to walk through the arboretum by the university and enjoy the sunny autumn day. Afterwards he dropped me off by the ferry where I waited an hour drinking beer at the commuter dive.

During my ferry ride home I walked up and down the passenger compartment looking for a fellow rider to play cribbage. I had no such luck and headed for the observation deck. While the city vanished behind us I struck up a conversation with a young lady from Manchester who had just returned to living in the US. We talked about the nature of selfies and the conflict of living in the moment. As we spoke a man approached me who had overheard my request for a card game. We walked back inside and sat next to an abandoned puzzle with pieces scattered about the deck. Mark introduced himself and we shook hands. It was not until he shuffled and dealt the cards that I realized this 45 year old Asian man only had one arm. His ability to shuffle and deal was impressive. His skill with cribbage was more than rusty, after one game I had a victory so great I felt guilty. He too is going through divorce and seeking a new job. It was a great way to pass the time with a fellow passenger.

As I readied myself for the porting I noticed a familiar face, a young sailor I served with in Mississippi. Our time spent together was met with sorrow as we faced similar career challenges. I had not seen him for several months but he almost did not recognize me. I had lost 50 pounds, left the Navy and become single all in a matter of a few months. I assured him I was on the dawn of newfound joy and wished him luck on his upcoming deployment. I patted him on the head as he seems like such a lovable scamp to me at this point. I exited the terminal to saunter back home. I smoked my pipe while crossing the bridge enjoying the last hour of sunlight.

I settled my belongings at home while serving myself a can of chili and a cold IPA on draft from my housemates tap. I joined him for the end of a baseball game in the den and shared a few moments with my community. I slept for a couple hours and then made my way to work. So much can happen in a day.
Not poetry, but what is life, if not poetry in motion?
For
              Carl Solomon

                   I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
      madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the ***** streets at dawn
      looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
      connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
      ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
      up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
      cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
      contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
      saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
      ment roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
      hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
      among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
      publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
      skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
      ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
      to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their ***** beards returning through
      Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
      Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
      torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, al-
      cohol and **** and endless *****,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
      lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of
      Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
      tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
      dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
      storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
      blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
      vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brook-
      lyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
      ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
      until the noise of wheels and children brought
      them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
      battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
      in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's
      floated out and sat through the stale beer after
      noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack
      of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
      pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brook-
      lyn Bridge,
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
      down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
      off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
      and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
      and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
      and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
      Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
      trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
      City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-
      ings and migraines of China under junk-with-
      drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
      railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
      leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
      through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-
      father night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telep-
      athy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos in-
      stinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking vis-
      ionary indian angels who were visionary indian
      angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
      gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Okla-
      homa on the impulse of winter midnight street
      light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
      seeking jazz or *** or soup, and followed the
      brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
      and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship
      to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving
      behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees
      and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fire
      place Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the
      F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist
      eyes **** in their dark skin passing out incom-
      prehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting
      the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union
      Square weeping and ******* while the sirens
      of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed
      down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also
      wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked
      and trembling before the machinery of other
      skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
      in policecars for committing no crime but their
      own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
      dragged off the roof waving genitals and manu-
      scripts,
who let themselves be ****** in the *** by saintly
      motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
      the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean
      love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
      gardens and the grass of public parks and
      cemeteries scattering their ***** freely to
      whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up
      with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath
      when the blond & naked angel came to pierce
      them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate
      the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar
      the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb
      and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but
      sit on her *** and snip the intellectual golden
      threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of
      beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a can-
      dle and fell off the bed, and continued along
      the floor and down the hall and ended fainting
      on the wall with a vision of ultimate **** and
      come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling
      in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning
      but prepared to sweeten the ****** of the sun
      rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked
      in the lake,
who went out ******* through Colorado in myriad
      stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
      poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver--joy
      to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
      in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses'
      rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
      gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely pet-
      ticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
      solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in
      dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and
      picked themselves up out of basements hung
      over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third
      Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemploy-
      ment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on
      the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the
      East River to open to a room full of steamheat
      and *****,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment
      cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime
      blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
      be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested
      the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of
      Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their
      pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the
      bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in
      their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned
      with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded
      by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
      incantations which in the yellow morning were
      stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht
      & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable
      kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for
      an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot
      for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks
      fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccess-
      fully, gave up and were forced to open antique
      stores where they thought they were growing
      old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
      on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
      & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
      of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
      fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinis-
      ter intelligent editors, or were run down by the
      drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually hap-
      pened and walked away unknown and forgotten
      into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
      ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of
      the subway window, jumped in the filthy Pas-
      saic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street,
      danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed
      phonograph records of nostalgic European
      1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and
      threw up groaning into the ****** toilet, moans
      in their ears and the blast of colossal steam
      whistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying
      to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude
      watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
      if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had
      a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who
      came back to Denver & waited in vain, who
      watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
      Denver and finally went away to find out the
      Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying
      for each other's salvation and light and *******,
      until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for
      impossible criminals with golden heads and the
      charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet
      blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky
   &nb
Mitchell Duran Sep 2013
The retainer where she was put
Was made of concrete. My father told me they had
Dug the grave first, then poured the concrete in, waited for
It to dry and harden, then hammered in six
Circular spikes in the four corners, two on either side
Of the middle. They lifted the concrete cast out with a crane.
My dad was going to be charged 300 dollars a day for the rental,
But because of the circumstances, Home Depot let us have it for free.

-

Where was she?
Where had she gone?
Would I see her face again?
Would she want me to
Meet her on the other side of the river?

-

I answered my cell phone.

"Make sure to bring flower's."
She had been crying. Her voice wavered the way sun light
Does on moving water.

"Make sure to bring flowers," she repeated, "And
That you wear what your father and I bought you."

I nodded my head with the receiver pressed up against my ear.
We both let out a sigh. My mom hung up. I put my phone in my back pocket.

-

Lately, I had been seeing a shrink about repetition. He liked to use the word cycle.

"Everything is repeated," I would tell him.

"Life is a cycle," he'd disagree so to get me talking.

"Can cycles be identical?"

"Technically not. Some cycles are extremely similar, but no two cycles are
Completely the same. Are two people's lives ever exactly the same?"

"I wouldn't know. I don't know that many people. Maybe."

"You know lots of people, Camden. You have told me about many of your friends."

"Are we talking about the seasons?" I asked, changing the subject, "Like fall, winter, spring, summer? We are born, we live, we die, and we are born again?"

"That's a very natural way of looking at it."

"I know it is." I inhaled deeply, swallowing air and wondered what time it was.

"If you are so sure, why look for validation from me?" He liked this one, I could
tell. I imagined him shopping for clothes and then exploding in aisle 16 because of a sale on jeans.

"The word cycle is used by people too afraid to use the word repetition. Everything is
Repeated for the next generation, the next group, the next of the next of the next. We shift things
Around, give things to one another to shift life to make it look different, but, things remain the same. Everything contains the primal function we were all doing and living from the very beginning, only now, there is more of a separation. Music is still music, words are still words, paintings are still paintings, love is still love, death is still death, only done differently and more intensely."

"We are talking about man furthering technology because we, as people and creatures, are
Statistically more prone to flee than fight?"

"Why do you think it has caught on so quick?" I touched both
Corners of my lips with my tongue and suddenly realized I hadn't eaten breakfast.

"It is a theory," the psych nodded, "A theory with, I am sure, many
Palpable facts you could make a very nice report with to prove...something." He
Was at a lost for words and I felt guilty that my mom was paying him $75 an hour.

"We are very split. There are too many of us. Too many hands spinning the china."

"Who is we Harry?" The psych hadn't looked up from his pen and pad of paper, until now. I could
Tell he was annoyed with me either because he was making no progress or because the session
Had just begun and I was already digging into him.

"Culture. The government. You, me, my dad, my mom, the taco bell cashier, the geniuses at Apple computers, a paper weight, my dead sister. We're all apart of these shifts, all putting in a certain amount of energy and lies to keep the protection of the projection going. The question I keep asking myself is: do I want to use my strengths to be apart of this cycle or not?"

His eyes flared open for a moment like he'd swallowed a firefly, not at the question I had posed for myself, but from what I would soon see was from the mention of my sister. He had something.

"I was notified by your mother that you may not want to talk about your recently deceased sister. Is It O.K. if I ask you some questions about her?"

I was leaning forward on the couch with my hands clasped in between my legs. The psych had looked up at me now. He was sweating at the top of his thin hairline. Observing that I was staring at his building perspiration, he, trying to be nonchalant, took out a thin, white napkin from his grey shirt pocket and dabbed the top of his head. The napkin looked like cheap toilet paper. I'd have offered him some water, but I had no water to give and I didn't know where the sink and cups were to give him any. I figured he did - it was his office - so I asked him for some. He pointed me in the direction of the bathroom. I got up and found a stack of paper cups. I poured myself a cup and went back to the couch, but instead of leaning forward, I sat back, relaxed, and let the expensive leather couch take the weight I had been carrying away.

"So," the psych maintained cooly, "Would it be alright if we were able to discuss your sister?"

I lifted the paper cup over my head and the psych's eyes, after I poured the water over my hair, my face, and clothes, was a mixture of what my mom's eyes looked at the funeral, defeated, confused, and with a loss of faith and hope. My father's eyes had only held hate, anger and the need to lash out at someone, but the only someone that would have fit the bill would have been God.

"Sure," I answered, "Let's talk about my sister."

-

I finished drying myself in the car. The psych had let me keep the towel.
I leaned out the window to look at myself in the side mirror. I looked fine.
Presentable. Accountable. Like I had been through something where I had
Faced my soul. Like I had used and abused my emotions. There was comb in my glove compartment, so I took it out and rushed it through my damp hair. Slicked back. The sun
Was out, no clouds, burning up the inside of my car. That taste that comes after
Finishing something that's supposed to do you good didn't come. I was left with an unsure hand.
Putting my keys in the ignition, I turned them, and felt the engine rumble in front of my legs.
The sun sat in the sky like a lazy hand and I had nowhere else to go but home.

-

"Let's go to the river today," my dad said over coffee and two over easy eggs on top
Of burnt wheat toast. "I'll drive and you and your sister can sit in the back and sing."

I looked over at Ally. She was gazing into her fruit bowl she had prepared for
herself because dad didn't understand the concept or how to make it. The lamp light above us
reflected in the smooth apricot yogurt and the flecks of granola scattered on top
looked like beige, jagged rocks. My dad's offer hung in the air and neither
of us bit the lure. I had just woken up and was unable to speak clearly, a decent
excuse. Ally was simply choosing to ignore him.

"What you think there Ally?" I asked her. I sipped my coffee. It needed more cream. I got
U, got it and brought the carton to the table.

"We can take the truck down there and load the back with the fishing poles and tackle
And inner tubes. We haven't...done that...in a long time," he said, chewing his food as he spoke.

Ally poked her fruit bowl with her spoon, silent.

"What you think, Cam?" My dad was desperate. He knew I'd say yes.

"Sure. I've got no plans this weekend."

"No schoolwork?"

"It can wait till Sunday. Only math and some reading."

"Ally, what do you think?" my dad asked, leaning over to her. I could see he was
Trying to be as courteous and gentle with her as he knew how to. I felt bad for him.

"Sure," she muttered, "That sounds like fun." I could barely hear her, but somehow,
I could tell she sounded happy.

"Perfect," my dad smiled, "We'll pack the car up Friday,
Drive up Saturday morning early, camp one night, then get back Sunday afternoon." He
Took a long sip of his coffee and swished it around in his mouth, then dug
His fork into the dry toast and ran his small steak knife over the eggs. A silent pop came from
The egg and the light orange yolk spilled out. "Perfect," he repeated, "Just great."

Ally poked a grape from her fruit bowl and dipped it into the yogurt.
I took another sip of my coffee and looked up into the fan, spinning above us.
We were going to the river.

-

"Your sister turns five today," my mom told me, "And that means
I want you to be on your best behavior."

I nodded, unsure what the point of a birthday was. I had had one before, or at
least I thought I did, and all I remembered was that I got presents and the colorful balloons
and the cake we all ate with fire kind of floating and burning above it. Somewhere
in that moment I remember thinking that the cake was going to catch on fire, then they, everyone,
some that I knew and some people I had never seen before, yelled and shouted to
blow the fire out, so I quickly did, but not because it was for a wish, which I later found out it was supposed to be for, but because I truly thought the cake was going to catch fire and they wanted me to take care of it. At that point, I was unsure what it meant to be alive or why to celebrate it all.

"This is her day, Camden," my father told me, "So I want you to be happy for your sister."

"I am," I said. I was wearing my favorite white and blue striped t-shirt and
New shoes that my mom had bought me for the party.

"Sometimes you have to think of other people," my mother continued, "And today is one
of those days. I don't want any crying because you didn't get any presents or that none of your
friends are at the party. There are going to be a lot of Ally's friends there, but not many
of your's...do you understand?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Do you understand, Cam?" My father repeated. His skin was the color of a burnt
pancake and he smelt like stale sugar and sun tan lotion. He was in front of me and was
holding a thin magazine with a man in a boat holding up a fish on a line on the cover.  

"Yes, Dad," I said again. I was hungry. I wanted mac n' cheese, my favorite food.

I had been on the floor, laying on my stomach watching Ren and Stimpy. They were standing in front of the television and I remember trying to wish them out of the way. Behind them were two, large bay windows where three palm trees stood in a row like tropical soldiers. I could see there was no wind because the three of them stood still, as if posing for someone. Their leaves were bright green, a mixture of the neon green Jello I used to love to eat and the orange Jolly Rancher my dad would always have in a tiny tray in the middle of the dining table. My mother hated having them there because it always tempted Ally and I, but he never moved it until he moved out.

"Do you like your show?" my mom asked, turning to see what I was watching.

I nodded, absently. Ren was licking Stimpy's eye because he was complaining about having
an eyelash in there. Stimpy was completely still and smiling like he does - dumb and content.

"Interesting..." my mother trailed off. She walked to the kitchen behind the couch and
Opened up the pantry for something. "You hungry, Camden?"

"I'm starving," my dad said, "Let me go check on Ally in the bedroom. She should be up
from her nap."

I got up from my stomach and sat back on my legs, "Do we have mac n' cheese?" I asked.

"Let me check."

She reached up for the cabinet over the stove where I could never reach and
Opened it. I rose slightly up from where I was sitting to see if I could see the glorious dark blue and orange package, but wasn't able to see over couch. I hovered there, still like a humming bird.

"You're in luck," I heard her say, "We've got one box left."

"Yay!" I screamed and got up, running into the kitchen.

"But," she smiled, stopping me, "You'll have to share it with your sister."

"No! I don't want to! I always have to share."

"What did we just talk about Camden?" she said, lightly stamping her foot.

I tried to remember, but couldn't. I shrugged.

"You need to learn to share, Camden. You also need to listen better when your father and I are talking to you. You and your sister are going to know each other a very long time and I want you to learn how to share now, so you two can be happy in the future."

"The future," I asked, "What's that?"

She paused, then said, "It's a time," she paused again, "Ahead of us."

"Do we know where it is?"

"Not exactly," she sighed.

"What's it look like?"

"No one really knows. People can only imagine it."

"Is it very far away?"

She opened the top of the blue and orange mac n' cheese box and poured the dry macaroni into a large silver ***, lifted the faucet, and let it run inside for five or seven seconds. She placed the *** on an unlit burner and turned to look at me. Her eyes looked far away and right there with me.  

"Closer then you think," she said and turned the burner on.

-

I turned into the taco bell parking lot. There was something I was trying to remember that was in my trunk, but I couldn't recall the picture. A haze blew over the windshield that was a mix of heat and wind; I wished to be somewhere else, someone else, someplace else, but, there I was, sitting there underneath the sun, like everyone else. If I was able, I would have unlocked the door to my car and opened the door and walked out - but - there was something else lingering underneath my fingernails, something I couldn't name.

"Two tacos," I said into my hand, "And a water."

"Pull to the window," the voice buzzed over the muffled speaker.

"Yes," I said through my split fingers.

In front of me, over a patch of clean cut green grass and a yellow, red, and orange Taco Bell signature sign, was a fresh gas station with a willow tree *** near the front entrance. He had a sign that hung around his neck that read Juice Please - Very Thirsty. How I knew this was because I had seen it every time I had been asked to fill up my dad's car every other Sunday. I had never given the tree a dollar, yet, I felt that I owed him something. I tried to pull up to the window, but my clutch was grinding and a cloud slunk overhead. I was tired and only wanted to eat.

"That'll be a two twenty-five," the voice said through the thick, clear glass.

"Yes," I said to myself, digging into my wallet for three dollars.

I ****** the three onto the thick plastic platform. A quick sweeping plastic brush pushed the bills toward the asker, and the bills were gone. I had no food. I had nothing. My money was gone and all I had was a gurgling car in front of me and an empty front seat beside me. A pair of clouds waded by my front shield window. A shadow drew itself out in front of me like a **** model. A beep. Sudden and behind me. There was sound. I looked over my shoulder and a black  2013 Cadillac was sitting there, windshield tinted grey, the driver a shadow. I was unsure what to do...so I pulled forward six inches, hoping the offer would be enough. I wasn't in the best neighborhood.

The window to the left of me slid open. An arm erupted forward with a plastic bag,
"75 cents is your change."

The hand dropped three quarters next to the plastic bag. I grabbed the bag with the two tacos and three quarters and quickly wound up my window. The face in front of me was a dangerous blur: smiling, frowning, not caring either way what happened to me next. The hands had gobbled up the three dollars and I was happy to see it go. Who needed money? I tossed the plastic bag onto the passenger seat and sped off two blocks for my grandma's house. Salvation. The holy land. A place with free hot sauce and two dog's that were stolen without paper's. Eden.

-

"What are you learning right now?" I asked Ally.

She hesitated, then said, "Something to do with science." She paused," Lot's to do with rock's."

"Rocks?" I stammered, not remembering a time when I learned about rocks in school, "What kind of rocks?"

"I don't know," she grinned, looking up at me, "All kinds."

I laughed and kicked a stone into the river. The sun was out and reflected on the water like an unpolished diamond. We had grown up a quarter mile away, but still, it felt foreign to us.

"I like it. There's some things you could see that you would never think to read about it in books."

I had read plenty off books. Most, I took little from, but Ally, I could see, had taken plenty.

"What are you doing in school?" Ally asked me.

"What do you mean?" I
Ayad Gharbawi Jan 2010
PASSION PLAY

Ayad Gharbawi




Location: Desert Shore, Bitterly Cold Night, next to strong waves from the ocean.
Characters: Man ((M) and his Lover, a Woman (W).

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



W: “Search as I forever do, in manifold ways unknown, I seek but to love thee, and the meagre goodness from Life, with steely ardour - my armour faithful.”
M: “Alone I may be, and still, yes I love thee; these days heavy are and beset I am by burdensome trivialities, but I remain trusting, though my corner so narrow remain.”
W: “My Love! Your speech I hear aloud and thine lips I live within and yet, my Love, all Solitude I am. Man! I am unaided! In this journey of sinful thorns, my love, in this unforgiving journey, this blurred odyssey, I stand alone”.
M: “This trial you speak of, but I do know of it well; so, listen then: within the strength of trusted togetherness we can plough on, though everlasting harm shall do its spiteful tricks, warm to our united truth shall we remain.”
W: (Surprised) “O! My love! This thought I cannot hear! My life, my destiny, is but mine. And all have their own solitary roads of jagged rocks to embrace, like it we or not. We heartbreaking earthly sad beasts, either fiercely clutch at integrity, or we do let it go to perish away.”
M: (Confused) “My Love! I do hear, I do hear. But when Times decide on burdening us, what then can we achieve? To face Reality within the frail arms of solitude is to ignore, to refuse the severe threats of repulsive grins.”
(Silence)
M: (Passionately) “O! My sweet! Only in us, can we envelope, through joined, clasped warmth can we be as one united! The screams that so truly are meant to slice us off, only we, our Unity, can destroy. For mine eyes can only find sleep in your ears, and it is so - for otherwise nothing and no one can be.”
W: (Angry) “My Passion too is bubbling for thine bewildered ears. Am I not your soul? Do we not suffer as one? Do we not reflect as one? Am I not your lover true? Is not our warmth not weighty to our fickle bones?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “But, Lover, this much ought I to formally declare unto thee: For our eyes, and all eyes, envision unequally at one another. Till eternity, in its casual, indifferent flicker, snatches at us all wretched mortals, the gazes from lords to paupers remain veritably mismatched. O my passion! My woeful heart! These words I thunder forth defines love unfeigned, and what mine eyes do pour out unto thine ears is authenticity true.
(Silence)
W: (Passionately) “What joined mem’ries you choose to caress may possess thee, but your exactness for what love is to you, doth not dwell in mine mind. What tears, what weepings you do, fall stormily upon thine own soul’s wildernesses. You choose to be chained by changing visions and indefinite sentiments of light weight – though so poignant at the moment they veritably are?”
M: (Inquiring) “My love! I cherish thee; where hast thou been in thine mind, for now ye talk of that truth you relate to in your heart. Your pronouncements, what depths I do feel! Can it perchance be that my passion has strayed our winds far from me?”
W: “No, my love! Why is anger, I feel, lush on thine tongue?”
M: (Surprised and Frightened) “Anger! I am too distant from that affliction! But yes, I feel my words make only for unstable murmurs in my breath.”
W: (Quietly) “Then, do tell me, lover, who do your murmurs betray - myself or yourself then?”
M: (Quietly) “Perhaps so, perhaps so. But my anxiety wilfully demands of me to eradicate your vision.”
W: (Firmly) “You answer naught from my undemanding question. Or, are mine meanings too violent for you? What aches thee?”
M: (Passionately) “My sweet! In so many moments, I created mysterious planets for thee! Bizarre worlds of contrasts and opposites and musical words of antiquity and sensual ravines. My love! I, my soul, my life, my inner deepest breath, tempted as I am by Fates’ inscrutable cruelties to ashamedly yield, I have yet always expressed to mine eyes’ heart, though they be in bleak darkness, to faithfully fight without pause all shades of vice and still yet - with loving integrity; I have stood with arms of righteousness and love for thee up and never down! Yes, sincere good and venal ill remain joined in life for all to feel, but you knew it was not for me to disentangle them. And so, I pronounce unto thee, still, and yet ever and ever more, my love for thee, though still beholding a thousand mountains before me, I remain sturdy for thee; I remain undisturbed by burly laws, and by exotic dictums, I stand fierce and unhurt, save in your absence.”
W: (With Sadness) “My beloved, your vivid voice stabs the falsehoods for thee, and I say unto thee, unto thee your excessive and unreasonable chains, and for myself my unreasonable and extreme chains remain.”
M: (Shocked) “But I burden thee with no steely chains, nor verbal fetters! For naught I produce for thee save grace, passion and freedom to love for us both to be in Unity Sacred! Dost thou embrace my visions as ‘shackles’, then ‘tis better we agree to class that which we are as but madness! Hear me, for my tears now must truly change their colours!”
W: (Determined) “Your feverish hands clutch only upon mine erratic wings!”
M: (Anger) “Never! Never! For I clutch only to destroy all malevolence; as for thee, Lady of the purest, untouched, guarded, secluded Ponds, I seek to unshackle for you the scattered, scared shadows that yearn for thine sovereignty. And what is this ‘sovereignty’ but our Sacred Union? What curse deemest you I impose? Do you equal my purest passions with atrocities? Murmur unto mine ears, your clearest love for me.”
W: “Ah! You enquire of me my ‘sincerity’ for thee? What demands!”
(Silence)
M: “I see naught but heaving forests of love betwixt us, and yet, you discover my words being ‘demanding’?”
W: (Drily) “Perchance, your visions are indistinct and ever more blurred, through these years cannot be ignored.”
M: (Begging) “My love! All mine life, though it be lengthy, I fought most venal tyranny, and for this moment, you question my righteousness?”
W: (Indignantly) “I have been plunged into seas hostile and I have plunged in a thousand miles of inert minds troubled beyond conceivable comprehension and I have yet to have my Right for my own greedy, ravenous flesh to be vigorously and forcefully embraced by sensuality and serenity. Yes, I do love thee, and yet in our union, as in all unions, I have been adorned with naught, save snickering, gossiping scenes of festive *****, games, chatter and farewells, themselves festooned within silly and sincerely stupid smiles and frowns, and shallow tears and never ending ludicrous chatter unworthy of monkeys conversing. I have met programmed rows of pats, respect and all other so-called decent intents and gestures, but, where, lover that you are of mine, where does my personal heart, throb and manically vibrate, save in your heavenly imaginations?”
(Silence)
W: (Quietly but Determinedly) “My love! I truly thee love and with passions, I tell you, of proportions of precise exactitudes; in your eyes I have witnessed symphonies of exquisiteness; and, I of thee ask: where dwelleth your own love for myself in thine body?”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) “Do you recognise the changing structures that form this, that I name ‘My Love’? In my solitude eternal, I do evermore and always do pause, and be pensive, and be thinking of questions, such as ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘when’ ‘how’, and ‘which’ should be my path; I am forever and ever more searching, seeking the heavens of every corner, and the irritable tempests, within my changing self as they themselves do try to seek me, and we forever, through inconceivable murkiness, do try to assemble the everlasting entirety of these disorganized puzzles into some measure of comprehensible cohesion that ‘I’ am. That is how the ‘I’ you love is forever changing and thereby formulating itself, and within all these meandering passions, and endless errors, where am I to feel thee? Where? And where do you seek me? In which land? In which forest? You trivialise my beingness as you focus upon my lands as being that which so effortless to find, and yet, you are much too distant from an understanding of my conflicting, emerging civilisations.”
(Silence)
W: (Passionate) If the utterance ‘Never’ is pathetic for thee, then allow me to introduce you to my latest heart: for it screams out that single, protracted utterance! Never! My love, these winds of raging wraths, both within and outside by flesh, must and can only be annihilated by mine own sincerities – were I not to play against my own self. My uncontrolled desires and, yes, thirsty manic passions can only be tempered and thoroughly satiated to the utter brim, by mine own loving, sources of pleasure, my own uncontrollable ecstasies. As for the rest of ****** pleasures, my own erroneous words, speeches and utterances can only be severed and sliced by my tranquillity.”
M: (Resigned) “I hear thine words. Do not abandon me. Do not destroy our civilisation of justice.”
W: “What we share, the bonds, are enjoyment. Listen though to mine lips: enjoyment is what - when it is to be compared with convulsive ecstatic quivers of satisfaction?”
M: (Puzzled) “And what of all our journeys to attain that unity? For all that, is it to be of mere insignificance? And if that be your truth, for what then did we toil and labour for unity of minds and bodies?”
W: (Laughing) “Did you understand from Life itself, that here it was, grandly to proclaim its furtive faces unto thine own awaiting face?! “
M: (Baffled) “It was so far too plain and vastly clear unto me these sceneries we faced before our loving bodies.”
W: “Yes, and I too, did see them with thee. Our four eyes, did see unity for that flicker of time. How true you speak! But, time clocked on, I saw you as you stood there, moving nowhere, unawares that it was your duty to squash onwards whatever vile breaths faced us.”
M: (Desperate) “And did I not? Did I abandon thee in these crushing paths?”
W: (Accusing) “No, you did not. Never, once did you abandon me. I ask of thee; for what sense do we feel a need for a continuation of these gruelling marches? For unity? For love? Or, is love unity? Was that and is this our reason for us to carry on with these shackles?”
M: “For assuredly, yes, and more yes, I tell thee! Toil and gruelling dawns, and unbearable evenings and the whitest of nights are all for the sacred attainment of that heavenly summit of joy I name as blessed ‘Love’.”
W: (Assured) “And, Sire, what if my nerves, blood and ****** hunger tell thee in truth that we, all of us, need no longer, and need never in truth, to undertake these paths, for we find naught that nourishes us at the blessed summit of your definition of what ‘Love’ is?”
M: (Confused & Sad) “So, I falter here and now upon understanding your speech; do I reason from thee that our loving days in unity are frivolously bygone now?”
W: (Calmly & Gracefully) “Do the wandering birds, and do the blind bats, and do the reckless storms, and do the blindly, raging waves and do the supremely arrogant oceans eternally march on in but one direction only with the savage passage of time within their particular lives? You did pronounce that you built planets for our unity; well then, did you not view how planets endlessly revolve along the same path?”
(Pause)
W: (Calmly & with Dignity) “For, Sire, I am not as a Planet - could you not feel that throughout our journeys? You endlessly query and question ‘who’ it is that ‘I’ am? Well, I speak this much on myself; I am as the birds, and the bats, and the storms and the waves and the oceans.”  
M: (Angry) “Woman! I can only then tell of thee that you are naught but feuding clutter and violent disarray!”
W: (Unconcerned) “Those are your words. Not mine. Speak for what you wish, Sire.”
M: (Angry) “And I stand here, before thee, in anger – nay, more, more! In fury!”
W: (Laughing) “For what? For the deeds that created but sticky, and grimy grains of sand for the undoubted pleasure our eyes?”
M: “And so you label our truths, our love so much! Fair indeed, you speak, Woman of Justice.”
W: (Arrogantly) “Man! Express your delights for your own delights. And, alas, there the circle and reality ends – and it ends only for you. That is one morsel of truth for you to ponder. What we ‘created’ and what we ‘loved’ was never and never, ever be the same for you as it is for me. Are you a sincere believer that your personal vision is the same sight all other seeing creatures envision?”
M: (Angry) “Woman, you enrage me! Your arrogance is drenching thine rags.”
W: (Sarcastic) “Tis the Man with no reason who allows his breath and words to be a veritable cesspool of fuming stenches!”
M: “But I, that I am, no longer can define your contours?”
W: (Pointedly) “Precisely, Man, precisely. Perhaps, now you have come closer to the vulnerable shores of reality!”
M: (Confused) “Do you express that you are ever varying and so for that reason there is not a one unified you?”
W: (Calmly) “For we are all ‘varying’, to borrow your word – if you do so allow me, Sire. There was never ‘unity’ of soul, nor mind, nor self, nor of any one personality. This, I desire, that you may understand.”
M: (Aghast) “Then if that be your truth and then, are we naught but multitudes of ever changing confusions, Lady of the Desert?”
W: (Calmly) “Yes and no! For those who are muscular and full of fertile vigour in their flesh, and in their intellects, and those that are severely and strictly scholastic, then they do need and they can succeed in time, in their never ending struggle to bring together the mutually antagonistic factions of that which constitutes our beingness. And, as for the dense brained soulless beings, then, it is equally veritably true that, a descent into madness can be rapidly produced, since from their erratic constituents, they cannot attract together these antagonistic and mutually-hating emotions in some vision of cohesion, and thus mayhem can be fashioned.”
(Silence)
M: (Calmly) “So, pray do tell me, where does Love and Justice and Truth and Morality stand in your universe?”
W: (Serenely) “That has been mine desire to hear the words being produced from your lips, Man!”
(Pause)
W: “So, now perhaps, your sight may be getting clearer, for your question is certainly apt. Foremost, we pathetic mortals, we the be are forever slimy specks of sand that  crumbles, must necessarily seek to survive and flourish within whatever forest, desert, meadow we find ourselves cast upon.”
M: (Startled) “At what cost, Woman? At the expense of Morality?”
W: (Rapidly) “Yes and no.”
M: (Shocked) “Horrendous! How can you spout out such filth?”
W: (Quietly) “Restrain your stupidities, and give more room to your intelligence, Sire.”
(Silence)
W: (Gracefully) “In times of trouble, what can Man do when he be forced to embrace evil, even though he finds the act of the embrace loathsome, but he does what he does for the truth of his vital existence to continue. Only when he need never embrace vile, and then allows himself to commit the act, then he is for certainty to incur the everlasting wrath of God. Evil is thus never one truth to be utterly rejected, perchance you may now see. ”
M: (Calm but Tired) “I follow your words and their ideas therein.”
W: (Gracefully) “When you talk to me on Man and everlasting, conflicting changes within that self-same creature, I tell you with all the earnestness that I possess, of what God has scattered and endowed upon me; for this beast, we all call in unity Man, this creature has far too many a numberless number of mutually self-contradicting, distrusting, loving, hating, inspiring and a never ending number of feelings and emotions that are in constant flow and change – as in any rapid river descending unto its eventual destination, which in its case, is the sea, while in our case, it is Death itself for sure.”
M: (Despair) “And how can this beast ‘love’ anyone within this welter of confusion?”
W: (Rapidly) “He cannot!”
M: (Rapidly, Begging) “But Man and Woman do love with bristling passions! Do you deny that, Woman?!”
W: (Calmly, eyes downwards looking) “Yes, and no. Since the beast has needs, based on his vastly intricate constituents, to ‘love’ his fellow beast, he imagines and believes
Monique Isom Jul 2014
scattered on the ground,
her fragile heart was found,
broken into peices,
yet her love for you increases,
no matter what you do,
even if what you say is true,
she always seems to forgive,
despite the cost, die or live,
but one will pick up her scattered heart,
and for then with love they soon will  start,
putting the peices together,
and thats when her life will get better
NURUL AMALIA Jan 2018
everything is so sweet
like cotton candy sold in the night market
just like vanilla ice cream that melted on the tongue
tonight the sky was bombarded with fireworks
rainbow colors are scattered everywhere
stars have friends
they celebrate
Jason Drury Oct 2014
Sun ached to rise,
above the jagged horizon.
It lit the shadow,
of stone work,
of your craftsmanship.
It stood high,
strong and everlasting.
A stone giant,
held together with assumption.
Assumption of him,
the prince that you seek.
Recently one has followed,
to the top where you lie.
He said the verse,
a promise, an assumption.
He would mend the holes,
patch the sides.
As time rhythmically passes,
the tower would stand,
strong and eager.
Until your assumption,
is not yet reality.
The one that followed,
sometime ago,
has left with the moon.
As your eye tears,
the tower leans,
crumbles.
The salty liquid,
corrodes your assumption,
that is often set in stone.
I watch from afar,
knowing the outcome.
I tread among the emotion,
overflowing and scattered around.
As your kin, your brother,
I help to pick up the pieces.
Mitchell Duran Sep 2013
We met on the stairs
Of a 15th century cathedral in Rome.
I was wearing my
Light gray suit that she later told me reminded
Her of the color of fresh volcano ash.

She - cut in half by the moonlight -
Wore red flats,
A ******* linen dress that
Effortlessly pronounced her *******,
While her oaken red and auburn hair
Lunged down both of her shoulders like
A waterfall or an avalanche,
Just touching the top of her belly button.

I, looking up toward the marble spires
Spinning into the scattered stillness of the nights
Opaque and cream colored stars,
Did not know she was hovering behind me watching me,
Until she had decided to speak;

If I had known, I would have ran inside.

"The cathedral is very nice, isn't it?"
I heard her ask to my back.
At the sound of her voice, I was not
Filled with that melodramatic cliché dripping
With soap opera fused emotions.

No, I
Was dipped into a large cauldron of ice-water.

There was a tremor
Somewhere
Inside of me and a heat
Ricocheting in her.

"Yes," I replied,"It is
Very nice and very old and I wonder why it is still here."

I did not know what I meant, but
From the pause and inhalation I heard immediately after, I
Believed she must have thought what was said profound.
Was I profound? Why would she believe that if it was only from
The spontaneous question that held no real physical weight? Or
From me jumping so quickly into this little

Game,

No question's asked?

"These buildings still stand because they
Are a physical memory of what we have achieved
And what we must continue to achieve
In the future
." She had come up beside me now.
Vanilla lavender lotion and mint
Toothpaste were the first smells that came to mind.  

"The future..."I said, trailing off, "The future."

"Yes, the future is very important."

"It is all we have."

"Well, all we truly have is the present, don't you agree?" I asked,
Slightly turning my head to look at her.

She was still looking up at the cathedral. She was focused on the large church bell
That hung there like the moon in the night sky. I continued
To stare at her, my question hovering vulnerable in
The air as a butterfly with its wings damaged would. Then, a
Couple passed by us in a hurry. Their hands were clasped tightly together, the man
In front and the woman looking to be dragged by him. I saw
Neither of their faces, but I imagined them both to be calm and red.

"They look to be in a hurry," she said, "Where do
You think they're going?
"

"Somewhere very important I'd imagine."

"And where is very important for you, sir?"

She turned
To meet
My gaze a

As if challenging it.

Her lips were full and painted with red lipstick. Where I thought her eyes would prove to be light colored or forest green, they were actually colorless and black. I inhaled at the sight of her, then immediately blushed. Again, our questions back and forth to each other were more of an interrogation of one's hearts and minds than flirtation. As she stared at me, I sensed that we had met before. There was something in her face that brought the feeling of an old friend or an acquaintance, like the feeling one gets when they see a past school teacher or love interest back in grade school. There was a warmth and giddy tension between us that made me feel eight years old again. I had felt so old recently. There was a sudden wink in her eyes and I then remembered the question I had asked her before.

"You haven't answered my first question," I stated seriously.

"I agree," she answered quickly, "The present is the only thing we have truly and
Do not have, all at the same time."

"What do you mean?"

"Being present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is a very exhausting,
Trying thing,
Isn't it?

"Yes, I would agree with that."

"And being present for whatever reason, be it socially, romantically,
Professionally, etc., is really all for the future. One's own's private future goals.
Something one desires in the moment and wishes to have for oneself in the future. Our
Motivations are our desires. Our wishes. The lives we wish to own in the future."

"At times, yes, I do believe
One is present for those reasons, but
Sometimes, and I speak for myself,
I wish to lay back and let the sun burn my skin and
The clouds to blanket me, chilling me, so to remind myself
Of my placement on this planet and the miniscule and
Tremendous affect I have on my surroundings. For example...
"

"You are very talkative," she said cutting me off, "I could
Tell from the way you looked up at this cathedral all by yourself,
Lost in thought or lack thereof, that you were a talker."

She smiled and I forced a tight-lipped smirk.

"Well, I am
So talkative because you have made
Me so.
"

"So be it."

"It is so."

"Are you mad? she asked.

"Not the least bit," I returned, unsure whether I was lying to
Her because I didn't want to offend her and scare her off or because
She was so extremely beautiful.

"Well, I am glad that I can do that to you." She looked back
Up at the church bell, trying to hide her satisfied smirk.

"I have said too much. Let us both watch
The cathedral stand on her own for a bit in silence, ok?"

"That sounds good."

She took a step down from the step she had been on with me. Two steps.
There she let her head and hair fall back, taking everything in she possibly could.
I needed a drink and she needed the sky, the cathedral, the city, but I
Could only give her my company, unsure whether she truly needed it or not.
I shifted my glance from the bell tower to what was behind me. There, I saw
A wooden trolley up against the far wall near a trickling fountain
With puppets hanging from their thin clear strings. The light from the oiled lamp posts
Was a dark orange and cast an array of ****** shadows along the walls that
Encircled the square which me and the woman and many others were standing around. Night
Had set on the square, but no one had decided to go anywhere.
The square was perfect for them; anywhere else would have seemed uncomfortable.

She looked at me from two steps back and asked,
"We are being present for a better future, yes?"

"What we hope will be a better future," I said, turning
My head away from the bottom of the square back to the
Cathedral. I emphasized the word hope.

"Yes, men and women must have
Hope for something better."

"Life does not guarantee anything, does it?"

"No, I guess it doesn't. It gives you chance and we give
One another choice."

"Or," I hesitated to say what I wanted to say, "Or God does."

"God," she laughed, "What's He got to do with anything?"

"Everything and nothing, I hear."

"Don't be so vague," she grinned, turning her body completely around to me
So I could see her full figure. Her dress outlined a woman's body,
But I knew, inside, there was so much more precious things then flesh. "Hear
From who and where?"

"You choose what you wish to believe
And no one can tell you otherwise. What
You need and
What others may need can be different and should be.
This does not mean that we cannot get along.

Is there a way to be wrong in what one believes in?
She looked to want an honest answer, so I gave her one.

"Yes."

"That's it?" she asked, wanting more.

"That can't be it?"

"Yes is a decent enough answer,
But because you looked to be so talkative before,
I assumed you would have more to say on the matter."

"Assuming something
Is a very dangerous, childish thing.

"Yes," she agreed, "It is."

"If one believes in something and tries to share
Those beliefs in an unaggressive, listen-if-you-will,
Dangerously friendly, perhaps even musical way, then
The listener has their choice in the matter. They can

Walk away

No questions asked or feelings hurt.

"That," she said, "Sounds good for the listener,
But perhaps not so great for the speaker.

"
Why?"* I asked, surprised.

"Because then the speaker may turn into something
They originally did not want to be. A prophet or voice for something
They may honestly have no interest or passion for.

"I see."

"
But, please, go on."

"
On the other side, someone may believe in something fully, to their bitter core, but there needs to be a validation from another to prove their conviction. This is a weakness in their faith. They secretly doubt themselves and are trying to prove, by the obedience and following of others, that
Their belief, system, God, what have you, is a truth, a fact like the sky is blue or that fishes swim in the sea. These people with their thoughts and beliefs are the one's that are wrong. The one's that push their way onto other's without any room for being challenged or accused of falsity."

"
There are some that do not want follower's, but as soon
As they turn around, there they are.

"Yes," I nodded, "I can think of a few thinker's
That I've read or heard of that happening."

"
God, though," she laughed again lightly, "It
Is
Funny that you bring Him up."

I didn't have anything to say, so I said nothing.

"
Are you a religious man...?" she asked.

"
My name is Robert Commento and no, I am not religious man."

I gave
Her my name
Out of my uncomfortable stance on religion and
To change the subject to less formal and conversational matters.

She put out her hand and I slipped my palm under hers. I was
Never taught to shake a woman's hand - for it is too delicate -
but to let their hand rest atop mine.

I bowed and gently kissed her hand.
Her skin smelled of fresh milk and uncut grass and
What morning dew feels like across raw fingertips.
I tried to force myself not to trip too quickly into love,
But there are some things
Men are absolutely unable to do.

"
Luria Rose," she said, bowing her head, "Very ncie to meet you
Robert Commento."

"
And very nice to meet you."

"
You are from here?" she asked.

"
Yes,"* I said, "Well, not exactly."
"From a city over where the tail of the river ends."

"I know this place, but I cannot recall the name." I could see
She was embarrassed by not knowing the location, telling me she
Was obviously from Rome and proud of it.

"Cuore Tagliente," I told her with zest,"That is where
I am from and where I was raised. My family still lives there to

Manage their small farm of olive trees.

"Do they make very much money?" At this question, I turned
On my heel and stared at her. By her look, she seemed to be
Unsure whether I meant this in seriousness or in jest. So not to scare her
Off again I forced a smiled, left my eyes upon her as if viewing a painting or a statue, and
Answered as truthfully as I could without insulting the name of my family
In truth, I lied a little.

"They were very
Well off when they bought the
Olive farm and they are still very well off
Due to savings and the like, but, because of the business they sold
And the expenses of starting from scratch in the scorching fields of where olives are grown,
They took quite a beating financially. We are quite fine now, very, very fine now,
But not as fine as if we had stayed with the old company. In a way, we were
Asked very professionally and cordially to step down. Of course, my mother, bless
Her body and soul, was very destroyed by this matter and that is why I find it hard to continue.

Luria, staring at me blankly, but with a slight hint of fascination,
Walked up the two steps she had just stepped down and
Two more past where she had been beside me.
She swiveled around on her flats and faced me. Her
Eyes were now impossible to see in the night, though I knew she was
Looking directly at me. Curious why she decided to say nothing in return
To my story, I said something in her place.

"I say so much about myself...well, then, what about you?"

Instantly, she pounced on the question,
"I am
An orphan of Roma
And grew up on the streets stealing and
Running amok quite happily, though
Sometimes I regret what I stole. Every single one was a

Necessary action."

This took me back, for she looked tanned, healthy, and
Well fed, instantly making me think she must be a very skilled
Thief. Eyeing her up and down, I wondered if this was why
She was even talking to me presently. I checked my wallet. It was there,
Though this fact made me feel only slightly better. I watched her
Blow a thick, crescent moon shaped strand of dark brown hair from her eye,
Seeing if the story had settled. Was she lying? Was she telling me the truth?

Why would she tell me anything at all?

"Let us get dinner someplace," I offered, "You can
Take me to your favorite, local restaurant in the city and I
Will pay. No favors thought to receive or anything. All I'd like
Is to have a conversation through the night with whom I have in front of me."

She nodded, said nothing with a smile, and stood still.

"You must lead the way for
I have no idea where you would like to take me. I, of
Course can take you to any of the many restaurants
I know of in my Rome, but I want to go to the one the thieves knows of.

Suddenly, her face contorted into a shape like
A razor had been dragged down the length of her face.

She shouted,"Do not call me a thief, Robert!
Your a poor son of olive farmer's! What do you know about
Anything of the street? So much so that you can ridicule and
Mock whoever's from it? You know nothing!

I immediately tried to tell her I was teasing, but she ran past me, down the stairs, and across the square. I stood stunned, embarrassed to see if anyone had noticed this outburst. No one
Had. Groups of people were still sitting around the fountain, throwing
Coin into the water as some children played and dipped their toes into the
Clear, tranquil water. The puppets waved back and forth in a light, chilled wind,
And the lamp posts still burned casting a curing light over the square. There,
I saw Luria cast in the dark orange light for just a moment. She turned around to look at
Me in the light and there, I saw her eyes were not black, but sky blue, like
The fresh melted ice I had once seen on my travels to Antarctica. Then she was gone.

Pausing, letting myself be hugged by the cathedral behind me,
Half of me wanting to stay in her embrace and the other wanting me to be in hers.
I could not hug stone forever," I told myself, "Man needs to hug a woman
Into eternity, not the church. Maybe later in life, but now, man needs the physical,
Not the metaphysical. There, I see her as she goes through the alley behind the fountain on the
Path toward my favorite bakery, Grano Gorato. I will follow her and find her.

I ran down the stairs carefully for they had become wet and slick from the light
Fog that sometimes rolls into Rome when it is night. There, I moved through the crowd
Which looked to have double in size with people. Where had they all come from?
The alleys, no doubt. They all felt the warmth and comfort of this secret square with Her
Majesty looking down on them from above, the church bell and moon like two great eyes,
The tinted cathedral windows depicting ancient actions Her heart, and the hard square
Slabs of concrete and smoothed stone Her skin. But, Luria did not care for such comforts, She
Believed in no comforts other then the one's another could give. Did she want that from me?

Once through the alley and passing Grano Gorato, I swiveled my head three-hundred-and
Sixty degrees hoping to spot the white dress with the long brown hair. There were many
Women about, but none that were Luria. I sat on the edge of another fountain in a smaller
Square which I had found myself in. Inside the café in front of me, I observed an old man order
A glass of red wine and a mini-short bread crust filled with cream with bright, light green
Kiwi on top. It is was brightly lit inside and everyone was smiling, even the servers. Looking up
At the sign for the restaurant, I saw its name was Mondi. I made a note to go there with
Luria when I found her.

"Luria! I shouted. The name echoed about the numerous walls that
Surrounded me. A few tourists dressed in sandals with socks and cameras
Wrapped around their shoulders and "*****-packs" around their waists

(Terrible Things)

Gave me a concerned glance, but I continued to
Shout, "Luria!

"Yes, Robert?" I heard Lu
randoughs Jan 2015
The era of social media and virtual interaction
Where it is so important to keep your reputation
And yet indeed it'll take you nowhere
Because you're just another particle in their atmosphere

No matter how hard you try to seem kind
They just can't bother to reply, they seem to be blind
No matter how many thousands of follows you've got
Your friends are still the same old scattered lot

Selfies galore, plenty of them
Show yourself to yourself, feel like a gem
You go with your friends riding a bike
Post a picture on FB and it gets many a like
You're all content about it, it feels so nice
After which, conversation turns to ice

At gatherings telephones sound
Ringing all day, a new friend was found
Introduce yourself, one more time again
And fall into oblivion, it's starting to rain
Just how I feel about virtual interaction
Simon Oct 2019
What’s happened! A voice remarked. Why are my puzzle pieces scattered in a wasteland? Another voice spoke up, sounding distant. That’s what I’d like to know! Then more followed. Sounding like a choir of different voices were in effect. Except none of the voices sounded cheery in their perfect chorus on cue. A shriek followed. A wasteland full of shrieks rumbled the ground. Ejecting lots of dust. Blinding visibility across a wide landscape! A landscape full of sand. Governing a deadly waste scouring a dryness accumulating pieces of voices not to far off from one another. Dust from the shrieks rumbling the ground, finally clear. Settling a glimpse at what has been shrieking with such volumes of obscure reasoning. Puzzle…PIECES! Huh? Who said that…? The voice asked, completely taken off guard. What instrument are we trying to provide here? Not sure I’m exactly wondering what your trying to offer by the term (instrument)? Having instruments aren’t folly you know. Another voice interrupting the other voices conversing nonsense. You guys do realize non of what your saying is making any practical sense? Like…at ALL! Huh? One voice replied. Another joining in. Well if your so clever…why don’t you entertain us with how things should really be voiced? Gladly! The more logical voice commented. The voice acting snobbish made a sound. Showcasing it didn’t like being told what it knew and what it didn’t know. The dust has settled. The two voices conversing said on cue. Your point…? No logic, until you display your horizons onto the landscape which shows what we are. One voice replied confused. Logic? Another responded. Horizons? Then on cue again. Landscape??!! The logical voice continued. Just looking around the landscape, which introduces the horizon of who, what, and where you are. Making the logical assessment that, well…everything…is what should have been since the very beginning. Panting for just a single moment. Without claim or focus…the end! The two conversing voices completely dumbfounded, sighed very harshly! Finally deciding to take the more logical one’s words more seriously. Other voices following on cue. Which made all voices look down toward there surroundings. The logical one smiled brightly! AHHH! Another shriek came. O…JEEESSSUUUSSS!!! More shrieks accumulated the wasteland. Prompting more dust to rumble. Popping all over the horizon’s visibility again! So, what did we learn about this very confusing, obscuring display? Well…easy! A voice said from no where. That it was a display of nurturing. Huh…? Really? The one sounding like the narrator drawn in by the voices interest. Ya, well… They stopped to rethink what they just offered in response. Your hesitating. The narrator’s voice sounding suspicious. Ya, well… Not sure how to express what I saw. Still remaining suspicious, the narrator continued. Anda…what is it…you exactly…saw…? The voice from no where exploded all built up energy in one gigantic spurt! There was puzzle pieces scattered in a wasteland! They had no identity to speak of. Pieces deconstructed in a sand covered landscape full of dry essence. And…and… They stopped mid-thought to catch their breath! The narrator didn’t speak a word. The dust was symbolizing ones missing grasp at not figuring out they were all apart of the same form. The same essence. Drying out claims too full of themselves through partial reasoning on potential agreements never going anywhere. Mmmmm…mhm…mmmmm… The narrator seemingly amused by this information. No identity, means no way of connecting to one another. Never to make sense of the premise one could offer. Puzzle pieces stuck in the sands of dry essence. A rut too involved to be just any coincidence. The dry essence covering up each puzzle piece. Muffling there voices forever. They tried to reach out. Trying to make sense of (what could have been). Rather then how to assort their differences into one claim. Working together wasn’t this identities strongpoint. Pieces were arguing too much. Until one seemed to be the most offering of the bunch. Thou…thou… Go on. The narrator said. No one listened to them. Following in the footsteps of one foolish puzzle piece after the other. Until there was nothing to be left, but silence. The voice from no where shrieked towards the narrator’s glaring tension toward the speaker. Laughing in disgust toward the potential risk one poses when reaching out toward its other component pieces.
Puzzle pieces will never learn if each piece doesn’t know how to direct oneself, before connecting with the bigger, more established form. Which is rendered to a mere silhouette full of details invoking a nothingness claim.
winter sakuras Aug 2018
Sometimes I get this sensation
as I take my bare feet
and place them
into tight enclosed shoes
to walk a cold grey
concrete path
still rigid to the shards of
   broken dreams
and promises
scattered along the middle,
the sounds of other people's footsteps
drown out my insecurities
and the
insignificance of
a person who feels small
as I try to grasp at merging
into the person full of
light and meaning
who has a spark in her eye,
     destined to do and make great changes
instead of falling into her own world
of isolation and despair
glancing around myself, wondering whether or not
I actually belong
I don't see my name on the board
with my peers
standing in the crowd,
waiting for the crosslight
to let me walk
walk with them to the other side, but
somewhere along the way
do I get lost
or am I just destined to walk
the wrong path
just so I could be with my peers
who are, of course,
the future
who will change the world
who will introduce a revelation that will change
the biased courses of humanity

but as for me

the deafening screams and words of
other people's
lives, moments, recollections
and livelihoods
cover up my hushed pathetic cries
and calls for help
as I question all that is taking place
in every which way I look
somewhere out there
a mom and her growing daughter
become closer
as my own mom falls apart on me
unknowingly ripping apart my right to establish
an identity of my own
somewhere out there
a dad can tell his children
about his life experiences
of the virtues and humility within that led to
their blessed ways of life now
as my own dad
who deserves, at least
everything the world has to give
works harder and harder every day
and every second
to continue our "blessed" ways of life now

but despite all of that

I am told No-- just focus on yourself
make sure you don't miss the crosswalk
make sure you make us proud--
but they don't see
they are what matters
when it comes to
a kid hoping to grow into a better person

there are colors;

some old and chipped
and falling apart,
on the frames of people's
subconscious
while fresh new colors shimmer
in the evening
starlight atop blue waters
just waiting to be discovered, like a
blind person experiencing sight for the first time

but how can I see the night stars
and fall in love with
the moon's beauty
when I'm too busy staring
at the sun
trying to make my way
up to the very top
running, taking jagged steps,
bent over all broken and
crawling

just hoping to be remembered

as a great sign of the times.
08/28/18

I'd be grateful if people lended me some warm words of kindness. I don't get enough to sustain me these days.
Feed the ink of my soul so that I alone might sing
Verses full of scattered rhymes for you
Let me taste your silent shadows
In all my offerings
Feed my soul, my love
Please do

My lips are soft as rain and whisper words of dew
When you feed the ink of my soul
Everything I feel, I will share with you
In verses of scattered rhymes
Feed my soul, my love
Please do

These pages of my heart, listen for your eyes
Hunger for the taste of your smile
Everything I feel, you feel in my sighs
Poured out in this scattering of rhymes
Come feed my soul, my love
My well’s run dry
Copyright *Neva Flores @2010
www.changefulstorm.blogspot.com
www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/Changefulstorm
vincent j kelly Aug 2015
SCATTERED IRISH THOUGHTS

Leprechauns with fairy dust will sneak into your dreams
so make a wish then go to sleep in the morning you'll believe
but a *** of gold you may not find by the morning light
cause life itself is the only gift you'll ever need to find
and by the midnight moon the Leprechauns you'll hear
they dance and sing upon your roof and drink their mugs of beer
they sing about Killarney - Donegal and County Cork
the treasures of old Ireland they protect for evermore
and if you catch a Leprechaun three wishes and no more
or Elves and Dwarfs and Unicorns will be knocking at your door

and an Irish man can drink alone but alone he'll never be
cause a pint of beer and all his dreams is all he'll ever need
for an Irish man can spin a tale of times long now forgot
paint his words in metaphors you decide what's true or not
and in the corner of the pub they're singing Danny Boy
sad songs the Irish like to sing but live a life of joy
and an Irish lass may smile at you with her emerald eyes
you'll swear to all the Saints above - ya think ya went and died
the Irish welcome one and all and they'll make you feel at home
but a part of you will never leave once you've kissed the Blarney Stone

                                       by vjkelly  (c) 2011
                                  vincentjkelly@yahoo.com
                               from the song SCATTERED IRISH THOUGHTS
wrote this for a song we were working on I have left out the chorus just left the verse....I tend to use off rhymes because of all the lyrics I write...they will sound better sometimes when you sing them.
Poemasabi Aug 2012
When the bond between a family
is removed by chance
and scattered to the winds
the family may come apart
Rockie Dec 2014
Rose Petals
     Pretty and red
          Wilting and scattered
         Rose Petals
      Pretty and bleeding
Rose Petals
Dying
  See the Rose Petals
         Falling and silky
      Rose petals
   Both Dead
And Dying
Diana Garcia Jun 2018
I’m running in circles
I’ve got a scattered brain
Does this look normal?
Or have I gone insane?

I tired of the 9-5
Just look in my eyes
This job is draining me
Of my creativity
And happy vibes
I come home and I just wanna die

It doesn’t help that I live
In a lions den
Every morning I wake up
There’s a beautiful silence
And then
Noon comes around here comes
Big mama with a big ole frown
I thought I’d just chill on my day off
Rent is paid but it ain’t enough

I think I need some air
Maybe I should go to my moms house
And see if my family cares
Ha Ha
I needed that laugh
Look at me
I’ve begun to chaff

Anything to just break a smile
People swear I’m crude or ******* vile
Yet we got fools praising a dead man
A woman beater a native to gang land
I’m just trying to get my head straight
Don’t bother me now
No time to contemplate
Tummy’s hungry
And I’ve got an empty plate
An avocado breakfast burger sounds good.
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’ Aonian mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
  Say first—for Heaven hides nothing from thy view,
Nor the deep tract of Hell—say first what cause
Moved our grand parents, in that happy state,
Favoured of Heaven so highly, to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lords of the World besides.
Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?
  Th’ infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile,
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, what time his pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his host
Of rebel Angels, by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If he opposed, and with ambitious aim
Against the throne and monarchy of God,
Raised impious war in Heaven and battle proud,
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms.
  Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he, with his horrid crew,
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal. But his doom
Reserved him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes,
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,
Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate.
At once, as far as Angels ken, he views
The dismal situation waste and wild.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.
Such place Eternal Justice has prepared
For those rebellious; here their prison ordained
In utter darkness, and their portion set,
As far removed from God and light of Heaven
As from the centre thrice to th’ utmost pole.
Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall, o’erwhelmed
With floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
He soon discerns; and, weltering by his side,
One next himself in power, and next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and named
Beelzebub. To whom th’ Arch-Enemy,
And thence in Heaven called Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence, thus began:—
  “If thou beest he—but O how fallen! how changed
From him who, in the happy realms of light
Clothed with transcendent brightness, didst outshine
Myriads, though bright!—if he whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the glorious enterprise
Joined with me once, now misery hath joined
In equal ruin; into what pit thou seest
From what height fallen: so much the stronger proved
He with his thunder; and till then who knew
The force of those dire arms? Yet not for those,
Nor what the potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent, or change,
Though changed in outward lustre, that fixed mind,
And high disdain from sense of injured merit,
That with the Mightiest raised me to contend,
And to the fierce contentions brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits armed,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost—the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deify his power
Who, from the terror of this arm, so late
Doubted his empire—that were low indeed;
That were an ignominy and shame beneath
This downfall; since, by fate, the strength of Gods,
And this empyreal sybstance, cannot fail;
Since, through experience of this great event,
In arms not worse, in foresight much advanced,
We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war,
Irreconcilable to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th’ excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the tyranny of Heaven.”
  So spake th’ apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair;
And him thus answered soon his bold compeer:—
  “O Prince, O Chief of many throned Powers
That led th’ embattled Seraphim to war
Under thy conduct, and, in dreadful deeds
Fearless, endangered Heaven’s perpetual King,
And put to proof his high supremacy,
Whether upheld by strength, or chance, or fate,
Too well I see and rue the dire event
That, with sad overthrow and foul defeat,
Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction laid thus low,
As far as Gods and heavenly Essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remains
Invincible, and vigour soon returns,
Though all our glory extinct, and happy state
Here swallowed up in endless misery.
But what if he our Conqueror (whom I now
Of force believe almighty, since no less
Than such could have o’erpowered such force as ours)
Have left us this our spirit and strength entire,
Strongly to suffer and support our pains,
That we may so suffice his vengeful ire,
Or do him mightier service as his thralls
By right of war, whate’er his business be,
Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy Deep?
What can it the avail though yet we feel
Strength undiminished, or eternal being
To undergo eternal punishment?”
  Whereto with speedy words th’ Arch-Fiend replied:—
“Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure—
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
Which ofttimes may succeed so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
But see! the angry Victor hath recalled
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o’erblown hath laid
The fiery surge that from the precipice
Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.
Let us not slip th’ occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there;
And, re-assembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from hope,
If not, what resolution from despair.”
  Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th’ ocean-stream.
Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as ****** tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind,
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.
So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay,
Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence
Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others, and enraged might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shewn
On Man by him seduced, but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
  Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames
Driven backward ***** their pointing spires, and,rolled
In billows, leave i’ th’ midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights—if it were land that ever burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire,
And such appeared in hue as when the force
Of subterranean wind transprots a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
Of thundering Etna, whose combustible
And fuelled entrails, thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involved
With stench and smoke. Such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet. Him followed his next mate;
Both glorying to have scaped the Stygian flood
As gods, and by their own recovered strength,
Not by the sufferance of supernal Power.
  “Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,”
Said then the lost Archangel, “this the seat
That we must change for Heaven?—this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor—one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reigh secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th’ associates and co-partners of our loss,
Lie thus astonished on th’ oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion, or once more
With rallied arms to try what may be yet
Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?”
  So Satan spake; and him Beelzebub
Thus answered:—”Leader of those armies bright
Which, but th’ Omnipotent, none could have foiled!
If once they hear that voice, their liveliest pledge
Of hope in fears and dangers—heard so oft
In worst extremes, and on the perilous edge
Of battle, when it raged, in all assaults
Their surest signal—they will soon resume
New courage and revive, though now they lie
Grovelling and prostrate on yon lake of fire,
As we erewhile, astounded and amazed;
No wonder, fallen such a pernicious height!”
  He scare had ceased when the superior Fiend
Was moving toward the shore; his ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
Behind him cast. The broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At evening, from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
His spear—to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand—
He walked with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning marl, not like those steps
On Heaven’s azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire.
Nathless he so endured, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and called
His legions—Angel Forms, who lay entranced
Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th’ Etrurian shades
High over-arched embower; or scattered sedge
Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion armed
Hath vexed the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o’erthrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore their floating carcases
And broken chariot-wheels. So thick bestrown,
Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazement of their hideous change.
He called so loud that all the hollow deep
Of Hell resounded:—”Princes, Potentates,
Warriors, the Flower of Heaven—once yours; now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seize
Eternal Spirits! Or have ye chosen this place
After the toil of battle to repose
Your wearied virtue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven?
Or in this abject posture have ye sworn
To adore the Conqueror, who now beholds
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the flood
With scattered arms and ensigns, till anon
His swift pursuers from Heaven-gates discern
Th’ advantage, and, descending, tread us down
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulf?
Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen!”
  They heard, and were abashed, and up they sprung
Upon the wing, as when men wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestir themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not perceive the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their General’s voice they soon obeyed
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amram’s son, in Egypt’s evil day,
Waved round the coast, up-called a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o’er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like Night, and darkened all the land of Nile;
So numberless were those bad Angels seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell,
‘Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signal given, th’ uplifted spear
Of their great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even balance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain:
A multitude like which the populous North
Poured never from her frozen ***** to pass
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Libyan sands.
Forthwith, form every squadron and each band,
The heads and leaders thither haste where stood
Their great Commander—godlike Shapes, and Forms
Excelling human; princely Dignities;
And Powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones,
Though on their names in Heavenly records now
Be no memorial, blotted out and rased
By their rebellion from the Books of Life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till, wandering o’er the earth,
Through God’s high sufferance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lies the greatest part
Of mankind they corrupted to forsake
God their Creator, and th’ invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorned
With gay religions full of pomp and gold,
And devils to adore for deities:
Then were they known to men by various names,
And various idols through the heathen world.
  Say, Muse, their names then known, who first, who last,
Roused fr
Eliza Oct 2014
It has been far too long
Since I looked up at the sky
And noticed how blue it was

Instead of just seeing the clouds
That were scattered here and there.

— The End —