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Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Toni Seychelle Jun 2013
The sun is setting on a hot day, he hides coyly behind tall sycamores, his reflection playing on the undersides of trees on the riverbank. His warm breath is the breeze that kisses my cheek. The river carries me on, over pebbles and rocks below the glassy surface. Dragonflies dart around, flying gems that glisten in the sun. The heron, with diligent patience, hides seamlessly in the trees awaiting his next meal. He takes off when I get near, his frame is much larger in flight. The sweetness of honeysuckle is thick in this warm air. The trees on the riverbank are laden and dripping of the sweet flowers. As I gently glide through the water, the waves lap against my boat, almost making the sound of kisses. This is my river time. All these beautiful things, I love. There is passion in Nature, it is in birdsong and in the breeze. It is in the river as it moves along and the swaying of the trees. This is where I breathe.
I love kayaking.
RAJ NANDY Nov 2015
GREAT ARTISTS & THEIR IMMORTAL WORKS :
CONCLUDING ITALIAN RENAISSANCE IN
VERSE.  -  By Raj Nandy, New Delhi.

Dear Readers, continuing my Story of Western Art in Verse chronologically, I had covered an Introduction to the Italian Renaissance previously. That background story was necessary to appreciate Renaissance Art fully. Now, I cover the Art of that period in a summarized form, mentioning mainly the salient features to curb the length. The cream here lies in the 'Art of the High Renaissance Period'! Hope you like it. Thanks, - Raj.

                          INTRODUCTION
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, &
  Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
                                                        – Leonardo Da Vinci
In the domain of Renaissance Art, we notice the
enduring influence of the Classical touch!
Ancient Greek statues and Roman architectures,
Inspired the Renaissance artists in their innovative
ventures!
The pervasive spirit of Humanism influenced
creation of life-like human forms;
Adding ****** expressions and depth, deviating
from the earlier stiff Medieval norms.
While religious subjects continued to get depicted
in three-dimensional Renaissance Art;
Portraits, **** figures, and secular subjects, also
began to appear during this great ‘Re-birth’!
The artists of the Early and High Renaissance Era
are many who deserve our adoration and artistic
due.
Yet for the sake of brevity, I mention only the
Great Masters, who are handful and few.

EARLY RENAISSANCE ARTISTS & THEIR ART

GITTO THE PIONEER:
During early 13th Century we find, Dante’s
contemporary Gitto di Bondone the Florentine,
Painting human figures in all its beauty and form
for the first time!
His masterwork being the 40 fresco cycle in the
Arena Chapel in Padua, depicting the life of the
****** and Christ, completed in 1305.
Giotto made the symbolic Medieval spiritual art
appear more natural and realistic,
By depicting human emotion, depth with an
artistic perspective!
Art Scholars consider him to be the trailblazer
inspiring the later painters of the Renaissance;
They also refer to Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives Of
The Eminent Artists,” - as their main source.
Giotto had dared to break the shackles of earlier
Medieval two-dimensional art style,
By drawing lines which head towards a certain
focal point behind;
Like an illusionary vanishing point in space,
- opening up a 3-D ‘window into space’!
This ‘window technique’ got adopted by the
later artists with grace.
(
Giorgio Vasari, a 16th Century painter, architect & Art
historian, was born in 1511 in Arezzy, a city under the
Florentine Republic, and painted during the High
Renaissance Period.)

VASARI’s book published in 1550 in Florence
was dedicated to Cosimo de Medici.
Forms an important document of Italian Art
History.
This valuable book covers a 250 year’s span.
Commencing with Cimabue the tutor of Giotto,
right up to Tizian, - better known as Titan!
Vasari also mentions four lesser known Female
Renaissance Artists; Sister Plantilla, Madonna
Lucrezia, Sofonista Anguissola, and Properzia
de Rossi;
And Rossi’s painting “Joseph and Potiphar’s
Wife”,
An impressive panel art which parallels the
unrequited love Rossi experienced in her own
life !
(
Joseph the elder son of Jacob, taken captive by Potiphar
the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard, was desired by Potiphar’s
wife, whose advances Joseph repulsed. Rossi’s painting
of 1520s inspired later artists to paint their own versions
of this same Old Testament Story.)

Next I briefly mention architects Brunelleschi
and Ghiberti, and the sculptor Donatello;
Not forgetting the painters like Masaccio,
Verrocchio and Botticelli;
Those Early Renaissance Artists are known to
us today thanks to the Art historian Giorgio
Vasari .

BRUNELLESCHI has been mentioned in Section
One of my Renaissance Story.
His 114 meter high dome of Florence Cathedral
created artistic history!
This dome was constructed without supporting
buttresses with a double egg shaped structure;
Stands out as an unique feat of Florentine
Architecture!
The dome is larger than St Paul’s in London,
the Capitol Building of Washington DC, and
also the St Peters in the Vatican City!

GILBERTI is remembered for his massive
15 feet high gilded bronze doors for the
Baptistery of Florence,
Containing twenty carved panels with themes
from the Old Testament.
Which took a quarter century to complete,
working at his own convenience.
His exquisite naturalistic carved figures in the
true spirit of the Renaissance won him a prize;
And his gilded doors were renamed by Michel
Angelo as ‘The Gates of Paradise’!
(
At the age of 23 yrs Lorenzo Ghiberti had won the
competition beating other Architects for craving the
doors of the Baptistery of Florence!)

DONATELLO’S full size bronze David was
commissioned by its patron Cosimo de’ Medici.
With its sensual contrapposto stance in the
classical Greek style with its torso bent slightly.
Is known as the first free standing **** statue
since the days of Classical Art history!
The Old Testament relates the story of David
the shepherd boy, who killed the giant Goliath
with a single sling shot;
Cutting off his head with Goliath’s own sword!
Thus saving the Israelites from Philistine’s wrath.
This unique statue inspired all later sculptors to
strive for similar artistic excellence;
Culminating in Michael Angelo’s **** statue of
David, known for its sculptured brilliance!

MASSACCIO (1401- 1428) joined Florentine
Artist’s Guild at the age of 21 years.
A talented artist who abandoned the old Gothic
Style, experimenting without fears!
Influenced by Giotto, he mastered the use of
perspective in art.
Introduced the vanishing point and the horizon
line, - while planning his artistic works.
In his paintings ‘The Expulsion from Eden’
and ‘The Temptation’,
He introduced the initial **** figures in Italian
Art without any inhibition!
Though up North in Flanders, Van Eyck the
painter had already made an artistic innovation,
By painting ‘Adam and Eve’ displaying their
****** in his artistic creation;
Thereby creating the first **** painting in Art
History!
But such figures greatly annoyed the Church,
Since nudes formed a part of pagan art!
So these Northern artists to pacify the Church
and pass its censorship,
Cleverly under a fig leaf cover made their art to
appear moralistic!
Van Eyck was also the innovator of oil-based paints,
Which later replaced the Medieval tempera, used to
paint angles and saints.

Masaccio’s fresco ‘The Tribute Money’ requires
here a special mention,
For his use of perspective with light and shade,
Where the blithe figure of the Roman tax collector
is artistically made.
Christ is painted with stern nobility, Peter in angry
majesty;
And every Apostle with individualized features,
attire, and pose;
With light coming from a single identifiable source!
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and unto God things that are God’s”, said Christ;
Narrated in Mathew chapter 22 verse 21, which
cannot be denied.
Unfortunately, Masaccio died at an early age of
27 years.
Said to have been killed by a jealous rival artist,
who had shed no tears!

BOTTICELLI the Florentine was born half a
century after the Dutch Van Eyck;
Remembered even to this day for his painting
the ‘Birth of Venus’, an icon of Art History
making him famous.
This painting depicts goddess Venus rising out
of the sea on a conch shell,
And the glorious path of female **** painting
commenced in Italy, - casting a spell!
His full scale **** Venus shattered the Medieval
taboo on ******.
With a subject shift from religious art to Classical
Mythology;
Removing the ‘fig-leaf cover’ over Art permanently!

I end this Early Period with VERROCCHIO, born
in Florence in fourteen hundred and thirty five.
A trained goldsmith proficient in the skills of both
painting and sculpture;
Who under the patronage of the Medici family
had thrived.
He had set up his workshop in Florence were he
trained Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, and other
famous Renaissance artists alike!

FOUR CANONICAL PAINTING MODES OF
THE RENAISSANCE:
During the Renaissance the four canonical painting
modes we get to see;
Are Chiaroscuro, Sfumato, Cangiante and Unione.
‘Chiaroscuro’ comes from an Italian word meaning
‘light and dark’, a painting technique of Leonardo,
Creating a three dimensional dramatic effect to
steal the show.
Later also used with great excellence by Rubens
and the Dutch Rembrandt as we know.
‘Sfumato’ from Italian ‘sfumare’, meaning to tone
down or evaporate like a smoke;
As seen in Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’ where the
colors blend seamlessly like smoke!
‘Cangiante’ means to ‘change’, where a painter
changed to a lighter or a darker hue, when the
original hue could not be made light enough;
As seen in the transformation from green to
yellow in Prophet Daniel’s robe,
On the ceiling of Sistine Chapel in Rome.
‘Unione’ followed the ‘sfumato’ quality, but
maintained vibrant colors as we get to see;
In Raphael’s ‘Alba Madonna’ in Washington’s
National Gallery.

ART OF HIGH RENAISSANCE ERA - THE
GOLDEN AGE.

“Where the spirit does not work with the
hand there is no art.”- Leonardo

With Giotto during the Trecento period of the
14th century,
Painting dominated sculpture in the artistic
endeavor of Italy.
During the 15th century the Quattrocento, with
Donetello and Giberti,
Sculpture certainly dominated painting as we get to
see!
But during the 16th century or the Cinquecento,
Painting again took the lead commencing with
the great Leonardo!
This Era was cut short by the death of Lorenzo the
Magnificent to less than half a century; (Died in 1493)
But gifted great masterpieces to the world enriching
the world of Art tremendously!
The Medieval ‘halo’ was now replaced by a fresh
naturalness;
And both Madonna and Christ acquired a more
human likeness!
Portrait paintings began to be commissioned by
many rich patrons.
While artists acquired both recognition and a status
of their own.
But the artistic focus during this Era had shifted from
Florence,  - to Venice and Rome!
In the Vatican City, Pope Julius-II was followed by
Pope Leo the Tenth,
He commissioned many works of art which are
still cherished and maintained!
Now cutting short my story let me mention the
famous Italian Renaissance Superstar Trio;
Leonardo, Raphael, and Michael Angelo.

LEONARDO DA VINCI was born in 1452 in
the village of Vinci near the City of Florence,
Was deprived of a formal education being born
illegitimate!
He was left-handed, and wrote from right to left!
He soon excelled his teacher Varrocchio, by
introduced oil based paints into Italy;
Whose translucent colors with his innovative
techniques, enhanced his painting artistically.
Sigmund Freud had said, “Leonardo was like a
man who awoke too early in the darkness while
others were all still asleep,” - he was awake!
Leonardo’s  historic ‘Note Book’ has sketches of a
battle tank, a flying machine, a parachute, and many
other anatomical and technical sketches and designs;
Reflecting the ever probing mind of this versatile
genius who was far ahead of his time!
His ‘Vituvian Man’, ‘The Last Supper’, and ‘Mona Lisa’,
Remain as his enduring works of art and more popular
than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Pen and ink sketch of the ‘Vitruvian Man’ with arms
and leg apart inside a square and a circle, also known
as the ‘Proportion of Man’;
Where his height correspondence to the length
of his outstretched hands;
Became symbolic of the true Renaissance spirit
of Man.
‘The Last Supper’ a 15ft by 29ft fresco work on
the refectory wall of Santa Maria, commissioned
by Duke of Milan Ludovic,
Is the most reproduced religious painting which
took three years to complete!
Leonardo searched the streets of Milan before
painting Judas’ face;
And individualized each figure with competence!
‘Mona Lisa’ with her enigmatic smile continues
to inspire artists, poets, and her viewers alike,
since its creation;
Which Leonardo took four years to complete
with utmost devotion.
Leonardo used oil on poplar wood panel, unique
during those days,
With ‘sfumato’ blending of translucent colors with
light and shade;
Creating depth, volume, and form, with a timeless
expression on Mona Lisa’s countenance!
Art Historian George Varasi says that it is the face
of one Lisa Gherardini,
Wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant of Italy.
Insurance Companies failed to make any estimation
of this portrait, declaring its value as priceless!
Today it remains housed inside an air-conditioned,
de-humidified chamber, within a triple bullet-proof
glass, in Louvre France.
“It is the ultimate symbol of human civilization”,
- exclaimed President Kennedy;
And with this I pay my humble tribute to our
Leonardo da Vinci!

MICHEL ANGELO BUONARROTI (1475-1564):
This Tuscan born sculptor, painter, architect, and
poet, was a versatile man,
Worthy to be called the archetype of the true
‘Renaissance Man’!
At the age of twelve was placed under the famous
painter Ghirlandio,
Where his inclination for sculpting began to show.
Under the liberal patronage of Lorenzo de Medici,
He developed his talent as a sculptor as we get
to see.
In the Medici Palace, he was struck by his rival
Torregiano on the nose with a mallet;
Disfiguring permanently his handsome face!
His statue of ‘Bacchus’ of 1497 and the very
beauty of the figure,
Earned him the commission for the ‘PIETA’ in
St Peter’s Basilica;
Where from a single piece of Carrara marble he
carved out the figure of ****** Mary grieving
over the dead body of Christ;
This iconic piece of sculpture which along with
his ‘David’ earned him the ‘Superstar rights’!

Michel Angelo’s **** ‘DAVID’ weighed 6.4 tons
and stood 17 feet in height;
Unlike the bronze David of Donatello, which
shows him victorious after the fight!
Michel’s David an epitome of strength and
youthful vigour with a Classical Greek touch;
Displayed an uncircumcised ***** which had
shocked the viewers very much!
But it was consistent with the Mannerism in Art,
in keeping with the Renaissance spirit as such!
David displays an attitude of placid calm with
his knitted eyebrows and sidelong glance;
With his left hand over the left shoulder
holding a sling,
Coolly surveys the giant Goliath before his
single sling shot fatally stings!
This iconic sculpture has a timeless appeal even
after 500 years, depicting the ‘Renaissance Man’
at his best;
Vigorous, healthy, beautiful, rational and fully
competent!
Finally we come to the Ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel of Rome,
Where Pope Julius-II’s persistence resulted in the
creation of world’s greatest single fresco that was
ever known!
Covering some 5000 square feet, took five years
to complete.
Special scaffoldings had to be erected for painting
scenes from ‘The Creation’ till the ‘Day of Judgment’
on a 20 meter’s high ceiling;
Where the Central portion had nine scenes from
the ‘Book of Genesis’,
With ‘Creation of Adam’ having an iconic significance!
Like Leonardo, Michel Angelo was left-handed and died
a bachelor - pursuing his art with devotion;
A man with caustic wit, proud reserve, and sublimity
of imagination!

RAFFAELLO SANZIO (1483-1520):
This last of the famous High Renaissance trio was
born in 1483 in Urbino,
Some eight years after Michel Angelo.
His Madonna series and decorative frescos
glorified the Library of Pope Julius the Second;
Who was impressed by his fresco ‘The School
of Athens’;
And commissioned Raphael to decorate his
Study in the Vatican.
Raphael painted this large fresco between 1510
and 1511, initially named as the ‘Knowledge of
Causes’,
But the 17th century guide books referred to it
as ‘The School of Athens’.
Here Plato and Aristotle are the central figures
surrounded by a host of ancient Greek scholars
and philosophers.
The bare footed Plato is seen pointing skywards,
In his left hand holds his book ‘Timaeus’;
His upward hand gesture indicating his ‘World
of Forms’ and transcendental ideas!
Aristotle is seen pointing downwards, his left
hand holds his famous book the ‘Ethics’;
His blue dress symbolizes water and earth
with an earthly fix.
The painting illustrates the historic continuance
of Platonic thoughts,
In keeping with the spirit of the Renaissance!
Raphael’s last masterpiece ‘Transfiguration’
depicts the resurrected Christ,
Flanked by prophets
Jenny Cassell Apr 2011
You are the practicality that keeps me grounded;
I am the spontaneity that drags you along.
You are the reason to my irrationality;
I am the tumult to your calm.
You are the answer to my questions;
I am the words to your quiet deeds.

You are the engineer I cherish;
I am the bookworm you esteem.
You are the chef I rate as top;
I am the baker you adore.
You are the handyman I can count on;
I am the seamstress you prefer.

They say opposites attract, and it seems that might be true.
Like two pieces from the puzzles we both love,
We fit together seamlessly.
To be cliche, you complete me,
But in ways I never knew weren't whole.
Paolo C Perez Oct 2012
His Funeral was today.  Well, his wake rather.  It was in his old colonial home on Elm Street, a bought of irony that Paolo would never get.  Anyway, it was an odd set up at his house. Family and friends downstairs in the living room, acquaintances and honorable mentions meandering through the hallways clearly more interested in the intricate little floral patterns that adorned the wallpaper than how his family was holding up.  The company of the house was split, everyone either legitimately full of sorrow, or completely full of ****.  In everyone’s grasp either handkerchiefs or hand grenades it was as if the invitation read “Come see it to believe it!” In the study across the hall a small memorial was set up.  Big cards, tons of photos, some flowers, anyone who actually cared stayed there and stared at his once happy face, who knew what it looks like now.  
He had died of some sort of overdose, one that destroyed his heart, so he would have looked fine in an open casket.  The doctors say it was *******.  I don’t believe them.  Paolo had his fun in college, ***, *****, sure, but coke?  There’s no way.    The services weren’t to take place for another two hours, so his family rolled him onto the second floor balcony.  It was actually his dad’s decision, something about a “disgrace” and not wanting to look at his face.
Apparently his mom had felt bad letting her dead son chill on the porch for a few hours, so she rolled him across the hallway to his own room him and kind of laid him out on the bed, as if letting her baby boy take his eternal sleep where he’d have had most of his shorter ones.  
Picturing him lying up there was the first negative connotation I ever had with the image of him on that bed.  He had that kind of headboard that when we started getting at it the bed would hit the wall with each rhythmic movement.  Steady and almost tribal as our bodies danced to the ever increasing beat of a talking drum.  Our clothes off and our skin glazed with sweat it was like my own personal method for getting high. Now don’t get the impression that our relationship was based purely on a physical connection, we’d been dating for three and a half years, the love was there all right.  
We had met in the strangest of ways, through a mutual friend that I was kind of, almost, sort of, but not really having a “thing” with, you know?  Cisco was his name.  So we were together one day and he, being the adorable spaz that he was, had forgotten that his own birthday party was that same night.  He asked if I didn’t mind tagging along, it was a celebration for him and two friends whose birthdays followed his in sequence.  
This had been going on for several weeks, and I know we weren’t dating but I still had a feigning interest in the guy.  So we arrive to this girl, Cristina’s, house and I noticed this other boy almost immediately.  In a backwards cap and pair of boot cut jeans he was jumping around, tossing his arms, right in the middle of reciting some hilarious anecdote to any of his friends who hadn’t heard it yet; even those who had seemed riveted.  He was so full of charisma and with such assurance.  Besides that he was kind of cute so, though pathetically, I tried flirting with him for the rest of the night; he didn’t really catch on.  We left that night without having exchanged more than ten words between each other, I thought I’d never see him again, turns out I was wrong.  
“Broadway CAREols.  Show others that you care by enjoying a night of with your favorite blend of Christmas ditties and Broadway biddies” And before you ask, Yes, I did come up with that title, I think it was great and it was at the top of each flyer in big red and green letters and if you asked me “If you could do it again…” I would do it the same each and every time don’t judge me.
It was a show I had to direct for a community service project and of all people he played the piano for my show.  Only me and several other girls made up the cast, and I knew how easy it was to mistake a positive attitude for flirtation when it comes from a handsome young man.  He ran the music over three or four times individually with each cast member before the night of the show, but when Paolo and I worked that night he stopped me and just sang. For me.  
Each night after rehearsal I had to give him a ride home, I was a year older and thus had my license a year sooner.  I’d never mind allowing myself more time to bask in the glow of his perfectly understated confidence, so I was happy to oblige.  Technically Connecticut state imposed a law forbidding new drivers under the age of 18 to be on the roads past 11 at night.  My mom, being a government employee, really stressed this one.  His house was a solid ten minutes drive from our rehearsal spot, and my mom often warned me to allow myself enough time to get back home before 11.  What started as me beginning to drive faster and faster during the trip home ended as a routine each night, where I would finally allow him to step out of my car just as the clock read 11:00 PM.  
Our first kiss was in that car, my first uncontrollable breakdown was in the car, hell the first time he told me he loved me was in that car…right at the lip of the driveway.  I learned to ride my brakes perfectly to the point where I could park just beyond the edge of the sidewalk yet just before the point where the porch light would flash on, reminding his mother that his son is out past ten on a school night.  It was so warm.  I’ll never forget the cadence of his laughter as it trailed off, seamlessly merging with that next statement “Anna, I love you”.  I could have sworn the porch light went on.  

Now I know it may seem like I don’t care for his being dead right now, but the thing is, I did something.  I did something really bad.

You see, I had mentioned that he was up in his room, right?  Still, stiff, simply waiting to be brought down in a few hours as the catalyst to another round of tears.  Now don’t get me wrong, I did my share of crying the night before.  He’d been in the hospital for only a few days and when they told us he was dead…God, he was just so young, two years into college, the friend you have who was chasing his dreams down with a brand new pair of sneakers.  That kid the whole town knew because of the multitude of silly town functions he attended.  He would always insist.  Every other weekend was one silly thing or another “Oh you’re gonna love this.  Two words – ‘Poetry showdown’.  If you can’t take the heat, don’t stay in the kitchen”
The day of the funeral I just had to see him.  I snuck up the two floors to his room on the third floor.  As I neared his door at the top of that final flight of stairs each creak of the floorboard seemed to resonate through the house, followed by the hollow silence of my stillness.  I paused with each step as if stepping in larger spans of time would make what I was doing seem less suspicious, should someone hear me.  Upon touching his doorknob I felt an immediate chill. I couldn’t tell whether it was some ghostly feeling of being in the presence of a dead person, or the fact that the thermostat had been turned down to keep his body prime for viewing.
I held my breath as I opened the door, and blinked a couple times when I saw him.  He was wearing what everyone else was in downstairs, black tuxedo and a dark tie.  I know he would have scowled had he known he was going to be buried in a constricting penguin suit.  We had a conversation about it, you know?  Out on Academy Hill, right in the middle of a picnic. We were in enough shade that his transition lenses were only half tinted, and when he sat up, it was abruptly.  Pushing my head off his chest he kind of leaned in to the cemetery in the distance and pointed out how sad it is that no one really ever gets the chance to choose how they want to spend the rest of eternity dressed in.  He would have preferred his puma sneakers, still white after seven months, his striped green and blue socks, his only pair of ripped designer jeans and that express shirt he loved so much because it showed off his natural physique.  
I moved closer, inching toward him at first, then quicker as I broke through a place where I just relaxed, and for a moment he wasn’t dead.  For a moment he was just sleeping, all ready in his fancy get up simply waiting for me to wake him up.  I found myself sitting next to him, my eyes cast downward, half expecting his gaze to meet mine, and while stroking his hair I got an idea.  It happened quickly, and I kind of have a problem with acting upon my impulses, it’s something he used to criticize me on that and I never really improved.  Without thinking I threw open his drawer and pulled out what I knew he’d have wanted to be dressed in, should he have gotten the chance to create a will concerning his death-wear.  As I pulled of his starchy shirt my hand brushed against his chest, chilled as the room was, eerie as nothing else.  I finally got him down past his pants and saw, of all abominations, that he was outfitted in a fresh pair of tighty whities.  God, it’s as if the funeral home was asking to be haunted by his tormented soul.  I found his single pair of silk boxers and reassembled him in the way I knew he’d have wanted to be.
So great, now everyone will think I’m a loon for having desecrated his body.  Well what do they know; I’m the only one who ever really knew him! But how the hell would I explain it to his parents when the pallbearers march in and there he is, laying face up in his street clothes?  
This wasn’t right.  He didn’t belong here, he needed to be somewhere comfortable, someplace he enjoyed, not sitting upstairs in a suit with the lights off and the air blasting.  He hated the cold!  Certainly he would have hated a hundred people staring at his dead and lifeless shell, and he would, without a doubt, hate being six feet under, pushing daises at the Nichols Road cemetery.
I wrapped my arms around him, and as the building adrenaline made my breaths deepen I inhaled several moments of ecstasy off his clothes that still clung to his musty scent.  I lowered him gently to the floor and took care as I dragged him across the carpet to his door.  After fumbling, for what felt like several minutes, on his door handle I got him onto the awning introducing the stairs.  I even made it down the first flight of stairs without freezing up at the tiniest creak when I heard someone coming my way.  ******, they must need to use the bathroom, why couldn’t they just use the one downstairs like any normal person?  Without hesitation I throw open up the window near bottom of the stairs, heaving myself and him, sending us tumbling onto the garage roof.  Ignoring my probable bruises I spring up and slam the window behind me while taking special care to hide us both as far away from the bathroom window as possible.
Sitting up there, my heart racing, I felt his hand in mine and it was probably because my palms had gone clammy but I swear for a span of time he was alive again.  I closed my eyes and felt the breeze in my hair and was transported to a place where I spent a single moment in each day we ever shared.  Each beach side sandcastle, each afternoon spent cloud gazing, those same afternoons turning into evenings of star gazing, each and every night spent utterly and irrevocably lost with this silly boy that chose to love me.  
I was torn from my oasis as I heard the bathroom’s occupant exit and continue downstairs.   Knowing that my van was parked on the other side of the street I pushed his body as close to the edge of the roof as I could without his falling off and let him be. I hopped back inside and ran downstairs, but not before flying through the doors of the memorial and interrupting his mothers eulogy.  In an act of sheer brilliance I mustered a few tears and tore out the back door.  Everyone figured I was just so taken away by his death that I couldn’t stand to be there anymore.  Who knew anxiety could be mistook for remorse so easily?
I ran down the driveway, losing the grace I had composed in my dress in high heels the moment I slammed that door.  I jumped into Emmet, my van, because only crazy people drive around in un-named vehicles.  
I pulled out of my spot, nearly ruining the paint job on both my and his Uncle Ed’s car.  I flew my trunk door open and set the third row down, the general idea being his landing securely in my back seat.  I reversed up the driveway with the precision of a surgeon and the speed of a leopard right back to the edge of the garage where I had tossed his body.  I jumped out of my car nearly forgetting to put it into park before I shut off the engine.  I barely got halfway around my car before becoming transfixed on his hand, hanging off the gutter as if reaching for mine to grab hold and pull him to sweet salvation.  I jumped up a few times, unsuccessfully before I took off my shoes and got a good running start.  I flew up, grabbed his arm and ****** towards the car in a sideways downward motion.  He nearly cracked his head on the pavement coming down, he would have too if it wasn’t for my body breaking his fall.  I got up, too distracted by the sheer volume of my own heart to realize the pain I felt.  I shoved him into my back seat, slammed the trunk, stumbled into the car, stuck it in reverse and stepped on gas without even putting my shoes back on.

I told you I had done something bad.
This is a first draft, please, I welcome your critiques.
Liz May 2014
My freckle flecked love
      stirs the speckled paintbrush soft, dousing it's hairs so that,
    as I pull it back,
all the bristles bend
     seamlessly, and when I let go
they ping forwards,
      smattering
a scattering of stars,
         onto snowy canvas.
Dallas Hogue Jul 2014
Her smile was more radiant than any sun. Her eyes deeper then any body of water. And her heart, warmer then any volcano. All these elements mixed seamlessly into one soul?
No wonder they call love a hurricane
sycokitten Nov 2011
dont feel right...
my own music is attacking me. feel so empty. the words in my head start to rhyme. so i know i need to write.. just dont know what.

will you save me? take me? make me yours?
ocean blue
words so true why do you hide?

..
...
....
songs play
all day taunting me.
speakers off
still so soft
the lyrics sing
and thoughts they bring....

not the boy i want to remember... get out of my head!!!


(laughing) singing~
ocean blue~
just not you~


....
**do we ever really know them?..
do they ever really understand?..

how do you tell who is real and who is imagined? when the masks are seamless and no color seeps through?
whos lying now?
words were twisted

seamlessly .. seamlessly.. seamlessly!
so fake
how well you know your lines , how well you know your part.

all the blocking forever memorised. the scenes you know by heart. everything is perfect, until the characters change. improv was never your strong suit. thats what the other actors were for...

a castle by the sea. what story needs a knight when it has a prince? her title even stays the same ... the dialogue changes as the prince is real and the knight was wrong..
fairy tales.. how will the new version end??...

or will we change the characters again? these actors don't know their lines. the blockings all wrong. look at the scripts they carry. this preformance is no where near ready. It's barely been written!!
we need a play to preform!
how will we build the set if the script keeps changing?
....
tragic flaws..
so the princess dies...
so not cool
we wanted a comedy
not a drama

....
this is a mess and we need to preform...

someone find a new director!!!
Logan Robertson Aug 2018
Stuffed seals.
Sits shelf,
soaking sunshine,
standing sentry,
soliciting smiles.
Shoppers smitten,
strike smiles,
spending silver.
Storied seals,
send shoppers shrilling.
Somewhere,
seamstresses
stitch supplementary shipments,
shaking store,
sustaining sales.
Sales staff splendidly stock shelf.
Seamlessly.
Such salvation, seals seeks.
Successfully, seashells.

Logan Robertson

8/1/2018
Inday Mar 2019
She wakes up with a shock; feeling the blood boil from her head down to her toes, its the sound of that door.

The repetitive sound of that door slamming is a reminder of the poison in her life who seamlessly seeps into her heart continuing to infuse her mind with hate.

That door is used for a swinging entrance into her soul leaving it with touches of darkness until she simply can't understand how to love another person; how to empathize with another's time of distress. She loses touch, suffering to understand what love is.

The life who uses that door brought her into this world and smothers their existence with cold truths, lies, neglect, and stories of their past; inflicting damaging images and thoughts that cannot be unheard.

She's trying to persevere, but they persist to acknowledge their unreceptive response to her cry's for help, it destroys her light; leading her down the path where the poison starts to consume all her thoughts and distorts her rights to express herself with the constant feeling of never being heard.

You built darkness in her and every layer affects even the smallest of challenges in life but you left her with a flame of curiosity to understand what others could not even care to comprehend; she sustains her curiosity for life.
Nigel Morgan Jan 2014
Today has been a difficult day he thought, as there on his desk, finally, lay some evidence of his struggle with the music he was writing. Since early this morning he’d been backtracking, remembering the steps that had enabled him to write the entirely successful first movement. He was going over the traces, examining the clues that were there (somewhere) in his sketches and diary jottings. They always seem so disorganised these marks and words and graphics, but eventually a little clarity was revealed and he could hear and see the music for what it was. But what was it to become? He had a firm idea, but he didn’t know how to go about getting it onto the page. The second slow movement seemed as elusive today as ever it had been.

There was something intrinsically difficult about slow music, particularly slow music for strings. The instruments’ ability to sustain and make pitches and chords flow seamlessly into one another magnified every inconsistency of his part-writing technique and harmonic justification. Faster music, music that constantly moved and changed, was just so much easier. The errors disappeared before the ear could catch them.

Writing music that was slow in tempo, whose harmonic rhythm was measured and took its time, required a level of sustained thought that only silence and intense concentration made properly possible. His studio was far from silent (outside the traffic spat and roared) and today his concentration seemed at a particularly low ebb. He was modelling this music on a Vivaldi Concerto, No.6 from L’Estro Armonico. That collective title meant Harmonic Inspiration, and inspiring this collection of 12 concerti for strings certainly was. Bach reworked six of these concertos in a variety of ways.

He could imagine the affect of this music from that magical city of the sea, Venice, La Serenissima, appearing as a warm but fresh wind of harmony and invention across those early, usually handwritten scores. Bach’s predecessors, Schutz and Schein had travelled to Venice and studied under the Gabrielis and later the maestro himself, Claudio Monteverdi. But for Bach the limitations of his situation, without such patronage enjoyed by earlier generations, made such journeying impossible. At twenty he did travel on foot from Arnstadt to Lubeck, some 250 miles, to experience the ***** improvisations of Dietriche Buxtehude, and stayed some three months to copy Buxtehude’s scores, managing to avoid the temptation of his daughter who, it was said, ‘went with the post’ on the Kapelmeister’s retirement. Handel’s visit to Buxtehude lasted twenty-four hours. To go to Italy? No. For Bach it was not to be.

But for this present day composer he had been to Italy, and his piece was to be his memory of Venice in the dark, sea-damp days of November when the acqua alta pursued its inhabitants (and all those tourists) about the city calles. No matter if the weather had been bad, it had been an arresting experience, and he enjoyed recovering the differing qualities of it in unguarded moments, usually when walking, because in Venice one walked, because that was how the city revealed itself despite the advice of John Ruskin and later Jan Morris who reckoned you had to have your own boat to properly experience this almost floating city.

As he chipped away at this unforgiving rock of a second movement he suddenly recalled that today was the first day of Epiphany, and in Venice the peculiar festival of La Befana. A strange tale this, where according to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger. Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana. Hmm, he thought, and today the gondoliers take part in a race dressed as old women, and with a broomstick stuck vertically as a mast from each boat. Ah, L’Epiphania.

Here in this English Cathedral city where our composer lived Epiphany was celebrated only by the presence of a crib of contemporary sculptured forms that for many years had never ceased to beguile him, had made him stop and wonder. And this morning on his way out from Morning Office he had stopped and knelt by the figures he had so often meditated upon, and noticed three gifts, a golden box, a glass dish of incense and a tiny carved cabinet of myrrh,  laid in front of the Christ Child.

Yes, he would think of his second movement as ‘L’Epiphania’. It would be full of quiet  and slow wonder, but like the tale of La Befana a searching piece with no conclusion except a seque into the final fast and spirited conclusion to the piece. His second movement would be a night piece, an interlude that spoke of the mystery of the Incarnation, of God becoming Man. That seemed rather ambitious, but he felt it was a worthy ambition nevertheless.
The Precursor’s Psalms
Book Two
Chapters VI- X: Ragnarök

A sacred parcel to the soul who looks to ―raptured firmaments for their salvific benison. Se'lah.

VI: The Paean of Lovelight (The Paean of Lovelit Life)

1 Every particle in the soil of my epidermis roves for its emanation,
Its musicality, vibrating in pulsing fuchsia shockwaves,
This melodic energy is the Paean of Lovelit Life.
2 It reverberates the remittance in reminiscence;
yes, the Circle of Life breathes through the conduit,
it peregrinates
The ephemerality, even, the eternity in all entity.
(For in us exist dichotomies)

3 In a moment of self-revelation
I know naught but the vagary of the self;
still, the pain remains,
In the benighted truth of epiphany;
4 Yes, even,
Upon the Visage of Creation
All existence groans in groping
For its Nirvanic Pulse, ―like a wraith.

5 Finding meaning in all that I am,
all that I see, all there will be, and all that is,
I understand the fallacy in knowing, the bane in consciousness:
6 In an instant, one must forget

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all they have learned, all they feel, all they sense,
in the diminution of a moment
lest the soul relinquish that which does seamlessly transmit itself through
The Streams of Tempus Fugit.

VII: The Virescent Masquerade

1 Forsake all sorrows of the morrow, for
Beneath the Masquerader’s Virescently Butterfly-Winged Mask, there is a beckoning;
2 O, even amidst foible for which you long to be assoiled, excogitations do roil;
A tremulous heart: eventualities do saunter past, present,
future, and in communing you examine the finitude & the frailty
(Will their Exodus, my Exodus,
Come before I am ready?)
Of those in the Land of the Living.

VIII: Hierarchy of Sacrality

1 Wisdom
Is a cosmos,
2 Love,
―Invictus Dei,
3 Power,
The Cradle of Cosmogenesis,
4 Justizia,
Universal Scales through which Edicts of the Cosmogonist unfurl.

IX: Vagrant Story

1 Profundities lie in our vagrancies,
And in these there lie Faiths;
The faithful hunger for
―Virtue
For through these, we find a Savior.  

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2 Our Deiform-Apotheosis is ordained by of the Arbiter of Fates,
3 He Is Our Nexus to Transcendence,
The Empyrean whom carnal perdition hast braved


X: Nelumbo Nucifera (Sacred Lotus)

1 ―O, Jah,
The Sovereign of Songbirds,
Sing in the Key of Elysium,
The Requiem of Our Swansong;
2 Beseech the Earthen Womb
Of the Terraqueous Mother
To conceive us anew that
We partake of an elemental legacy.

3 O, then
Might we re-alight,
Upon an aforetime wearied land,
―Nelumbo Nucifera: The Impregnable Sacred Lotus
4 Whose aegis’d petals through
Dusk, Dawn, Midday, Twilight, and Eve
Might effloresce
In the Aeonic Light of The Empyrean One.

(Se’lah).

Written on
Monday
May 20th, 2019

Page | 3
The Book of 1st John
Chapter 3,
Verses 18 -24

(Verse 18)

“Little children, we should love, not in word or with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”

(Verse 19)

“By this we will know that we originate with the truth, and we will assure our hearts before him”

(Verse 20)

“regarding whatever our hearts may condemn us in, because God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.”

(Verse 21)

“Beloved ones, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have freeness of speech toward God;”

(Verse 22)

“and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we are observing his commandments and doing what is pleasing in his eyes.”

(Verse 23)

“Indeed, this is his commandment: that we have faith in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us a commandment.”

(Verse 24)

“Moreover, the one who observes his commandments remains in union with him, and he in union with such one. And by the spirit that he gave us, we know that he remains in union with us."

Page | 4

Hearken unto
the
Resplendent Sol,

The Twilight draweth nigh,
Whence erupts from Sundered skies
Arcadia
In
Aeonic Light

Let ye soul
Transcend
By
The Great Apothecary;
His Panacea of Healing Love.

Though
I am a Loveless
Blight, worn, of Earthly Denizens,
I bid you
Immortal heartsease.

Borne of the Father:
Who
forms
all
things.

Page | 5

Sired by the Son:
Who
Conceives
All
Truth.

Begotten by the Spirit:
That
Burgeons in
(our)
―dreams.

The Grand Creator's
Magnum Opera:
Loom
Within
All of us.


Excelsior Forevermore,


Sanders Maurice Foulke III.

Page | 6
judy smith Apr 2015
With designers like Iman Ahmed, HSY and Sania Maskatiya all showing, it was standing-room only at the venue. Many of the crowd of fashion insiders and socialites ended up sharing seats, with the chivalrous Zaheer Abbas giving his seat to Iman Ahmed after her show and sitting on the floor himself. So much for designer egos!

It was an evening that lived up to its billing.

Iman Ahmed may not be a designer who makes her clothing easily available, but in fashion terms she reaches heights that few other designers can reach. Her “Sartorial Philology and the New Nomad collection” was breathtaking.

The best fashion shows have a narrative — the clothes, styling, music and progression of the outfits blend seamlessly into a whole that portrays the designer’s artistic vision.

It’s hard not to gush about Iman Ahmed’s show last night because it was exactly what a fashion show should be.

Starting with a series of outfits in white and gradually adding tribal colours, Iman used fringing, embroidery and a range of fabrics to great effect. From the inspired detailing to the juxtaposition of texture and silhouette, this was a class act. The tribal white-dotted makeup and beaten silver accessories added further depth to Iman’s stunning layered ensembles.

Levi’s uninspired showing of their new 501 jeans and other stock provided the audience with a pause to process the previous collection. It’s difficult to make a interesting fashion week presentation out of high street wear and something that Levis struggles with.

They used better music than they did at their autumn show but the styling was still painfully lacking. They did manage to make everyone sit up and take notice at the end of their show though — Wasim Akram walked the ramp as their showstopper amid cheers from the admiring audience.

Somal Halepoto was next, with collection that looked distinctly amateur. She seemed to be aiming for a bright kitschy collection but ended up looking merely tacky. The shiny, synthetic-looking fabrics and gaudy embroidery were particularly woeful. Somal’s digital neon animal prints and some of the harem pants were funky but the rest of the collection had little to recommended it.

YBQ’s LalShah collection, meanwhile, was in a different league. An ode to 3 Sufi Sindhi saints, the collection was as much about the artistic impression it made on the ramp as it was about the clothes. The distinctly theatrical presentation relied on the slow beat of sufi music and plentiful accessories for much of its impact.

YBQ sent his models down the ramp in huge pagris, holding flags on poles and garlanded with prayer beads. He used only three colours - red depicting rage, white for peace and black for mourning. Most of the outfits were draped red jersey tunics or gowns with white lowers, braided belts and black turbans.

Rubya Chaudry wore a black gown with red roses but otherwise the outfits were all about subtle plays with drapery and cut. From jodhpur style chooridarsto asymmetrical draping, the outfits had interesting touches but needed all that heavy styling to make an impact. HSY was YBQ’s showstopper and added glamour to the theatrical presentation that he had choreographed.

Wardha Saleem was first up after the break and her Lotus Song collection showed how this talented young designer has been upping her game over recent years.

She used digital flamingo prints, 3D embroidery, gota embroidery and lasercutting in a pretty formal fusion collection. The detailing on the collection was simply stunning. Wardha used gota in delicate patterns that gave her outfits shimmer and paired this with three dimensional embroidery. The outfits featured flowers, fish, elephants and birds picked out in silk thread and beads.

She showed a variety of shift dresses, jackets, saris, capes and draped dresses. The styling was also great fun – the models wore shoes featuring spikes and 3D flowers while the multi-talented Tapu Javeri provided some gorgeous jewellery and music for the show. While there was nothing groundbreaking about her silhouettes, this was a beautiful collection that showed skill and artistry.

Sania Maskatiya, who presented her luxury pret on Day 1, now showed her lawn collection for AlKaram. As far as designer lawn goes, this is something of a dream collaboration.

Textile and print are Sania’s forte and she uses print extensively in her luxury pret. In this collection for Al-Karam she has taken print elements from her pret collections throughout the year including the Sakura, Lokum and Khutoot collections.

The prints are different from those used in her Luxe pret but are based on the same principals. She’s even used the paint splash embroidery from this season’s Khayaat collection in one of the outfits. Designer lawn should be affordable way to wear a designer’s aesthetic and this Sania Maskatiya Al Karam collaboration certainly is.

As for the show itself, showing lawn is always tricky on the ramp. Sania pulled it off with an upbeat presentation using fast music and trendy cuts, throwing a few conventional shalwar kameez in the mix. She fashioned the lawn into jackets, kaftans and draped tunic, using the sort of cuts that are a hallmark of her pret. It’s not how most people wear lawn but it was a great way to show off the prints on the ramp.

Naushaba Brohi’s Inaaya burst onto the fashion scene last year with a spectacular collection. Following up on a dramatic debut is difficult but Naushaba proved that she is not a one hit wonder with this collection. Inaaya’s SS15 collection continued with the theme of using traditional Sindhi crafts in contemporary wear. Naushaba used both touches of Rilli and some stunning mirror work in her collection.

What makes Inaaya noteworthy is the way that she takes unsung traditional crafts that we’ve seen badly used and gives them a high fashion twist. Standout pieces included a bolero with unusual mirror work and a rilli sari that glittered with tiny flashes of mirrors.

Although the collection included many beautiful outfits, there was a lack of focus. The simple tunic with a rilli dupatta didn’t work with knotted purple evening wear jacket. The inability to make a definitive statement let down an otherwise accomplished collection.

Naushaba added a characteristic touch at the end of her show. She’s committed to social responsibility and supports local craftswomen with her brand. Accordingly, Inaaya’s showstopper was Mashal Chaudri of the Reading Room Project along with Naushaba’s daughter Inaaya. She held up a plaque saying “I teach therefore I can” while Inaaya wore a T-Shirt with the slogan “super role model”.

HSY brought the evening to a close with a high-speed presentation of his Hi-Octance menswear collection. The unusual choreography featured the models zipping along the catwalk, pausing briefly on their second round. The energetic presentation complemented a collection of sharp suits and jackets, leavened with quirky polka dot shirts and bold stripy ties.

There was the requisite shirtless model in distressed jeans and an ice-blue jacket but also some appealing suiting fabrics. HSY used only Pakistani fabrics and included solid colours as well as self-checked and striped suits. This was wearable, classy menswear presented creatively.

Day 3 was undoubtedly the best day of TFPW so far. Iman Ahmed undoubted takes the laurels but she was ably supported by HSY, Wardha Saleem, Inaaya, Sania Maskatiya and YBQ.Read more here:www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dresses | www.marieaustralia.com/short-formal-dresses
April Hapner Apr 2012
A little thing,
a simple gift,
Flowing seamlessly in a lift,
Giving life to its cool, concerned touch
Raising a calm,
excited, but rapid bunch
Through the bushes and into the flood,
Flowing in to the hearts of the ones
Over each shade and tint--becoming one value.
Weightless like air it flies,
Sprinkling the ground with joy,
As it brings out the younger girls and boys,
To play as if it were the very last day,
Of the first summer vacation,
And not a rainy day.
May 2004;
imagery, this is one of the assignments given in one of my english writing classes.
we had to use imagery, any form, any style, im the only one that used poetry.

so what image does it paint for you? my professor thought a fountain...
but i was referring to children running through sprinklers.
Anne Molony Nov 2017
he wasn't
exactly
what I expected
him to be  

he kept his hair short and messy,
wore funny clothes and enjoyed
comic books, Daft Punk and
ginger-lemon-tea-brewing
of all things
and bless,
he thought his earrings
made him seem tough

In the end, it was
his confidence
that won me over
his smiley eyes
so seamlessly dissolved
my doubts and skepticism
and took with
them,
unexpectedly,
my heart

the kisses he'd plant on my forehead would
drag me into
his silly world where
wonderfully weird hats were worn seriously  
and music played on our
candy-coloured 2000s cd player
while we read together
on the couch

he offered to massage
my feet and I blushed and thought
that I was falling for him and
he laughed and pulled me
close into his chest
while I wept with joy
for I'd found  
happiness
I miss you
Chrissy Nov 2017
Your clothes,
my back.
Your scent
entangled in every inch
of the fabic.
It was my favorite part
of being drowned
in your clothing.
Your scent.
Your safe presence.
No longer.
On the ground, drowning in your clothes
after you promised
it’d never happen again.
Round number 8 now.
Tears seamlessly running
down my face. Drowning.
Your scent, a reminder of each broken promise.
A prisoner of your love.
Chained by your clothing.
Drowning.
Held captive by your scent.
Dimitri Leye Mar 2015
Welcome to the maze, the maze of life.
Solve the puzzle, get to the end.
And your efforts will be rewarded.
There are no rules to this maze,
but here are a few to help you along.

Rule number 1: The maze is forever changing.
So always be alert!

Rule number 2: Be careful who you trust, and those you befriend.

And rule number 3, the most important rule:
NEVER mess with the maze!
And you can be assured that the same will be done for you.

Make a wrong move; you've reached a dead end.
Stray off the path, now you're ******.
Every exit, Leads to an entrance.
Just another puzzle...
Waiting patiently to be solved

A few last words, before you begin

This is the maze of life.
It may appear seamlessly endless,
But don't be fooled.

Good luck, and always stay strong.

And just remember this;
For there ever to be a beginning…
There must always be an end.
softcomponent Feb 2017
you're not going to read this, and why would you?*

it would be either
naive
or
stupid
of me to expect even so much as a text;
as if our separation implies the ******* of a proverbial
Berlin Wall* between us,
where less than a week ago we were the same *country,

our landscapes of rolling hills,
city skylines,
and forests
so overgrown
that only
slices
of sunlight
could parse the ever-greened canopy,
phasing into one another seamlessly.

We may have been our own provinces,
but aside from small street signs declaring
Welcome to Jen
and
Welcome to Kyran...
aside from separate cognitive centers of self-government
between
your shock-blue eyes and fleek eyebrows,
between
my navy-blue irises and grey,
sunken sockets,
we were a willing confederation of persons,
impulses,
                dreams,
                             ambitions,
                                              anxieties,
                                                              lo­ves,
                                                                ­        and betrayals---

In our past, and provisional separations,
it was your betrayal that pushed us both
into the doldrums of love-lost confusions
and self-hatred;
not that there would be much value
in assigning a blame
with hurt still attached,
because the point,
it seems to me,
was that we somehow made it through everything together.

There wasn't a personal adversity we didn't learn to conquer
---until I began to fade away from you--
lanky, thin, often broke, and depressed,
I retreated.

I cocooned myself in studies of the past and the present;
for some reason, despite my overwhelming love for you,
despite the unspoken commitment I had made
to you
in my head
so long after your second infidelity
when I realized I was finally over it
and that I loved you more than I'd ever loved anyone before
--and in ways I never could have foreseen--

I backed-off,
I fell back,
I disengaged,

and

I essentially abandoned you.

After your impulsive infidelities,
when you admitted you hadn't been
nor were you in your
"right mind,"
you promised you'd get better.

You saw councilors, therapists, psychiatrists,
and psychologists... and you did.

You really did get better.

You overcame all that had been pulling you so low and so far into the darker vicissitudes of irrationality.

And yet, when it came to my own faults,
inadequacies, and disengagement,
I lacked your courage.

I didn't even try to overcome them.
In my self-imposed screen-gazed solitude,
I often thought of how much I loved you;
of how I hoped you might just wait out my confused disengagement
like I forgave you for your betrayals which had,
in their times,
hollowed me out emotionally for months on end.

The thing is, you wouldn't have blamed me if I'd left you then.
You would have understood, and let me go,
regardless of the heavy pain in your solar plexus
and the hollow feeling in your heart.

Though it never came to that,
I now have the chance to do for you what you'd have done for me.

I don't blame you for leaving.

I understand,
and regardless of this heavy pain in my solar plexus
and the perceptive hollowing of my heart,
I will watch you as you go,
        I will wave,
I will live with the weight of regret and memory,
and remember what you wrote in a poem once
when we parted ways after your first infidelity.

Sitting in the university library, reading on Moses,
what went thru your head was

"closure feels more like i can go on without you, i’m glad i met you, however an emptiness drenched in self-regret will always remain."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pHzJVfGCDw
(Bu Ert Jordin by Frida Bark--listen while reading for added effect.)
Craig Dotti Jan 2010
Part I. When the Saguaro Cactus Blooms

“All mountains everywhere are being worn down by frost, snow and ice.”

“In the brief arctic summer grasses thrive, but too little energy reaches the ground for trees to grow.”

“When Nubian Ibex dual with their horns, the tussles can last up to an hour if the opponents are evenly matched.”

“Rainforest covers only three percent of the Earth, but contains more than half its plants and animals”

“The Shark is faster on a straight course, but can’t turn as sharply as a seal.”

“Throughout much of nature, life is built on decay.”

“Earth’s journey round the sun creates the four seasons, in most places. In the tropics, the sun strikes the earth head- on year round, temperatures barely change.”

“The Great Island of New Guinea harbors forty-two species of birds of paradise, each more bizarre than the last.”  

“As always, where life thrives, trouble follows.”

“Each year a single tree can **** up hundreds of tons of water through the roots, but the trees can’t use all this water so much of it returns to the air as vapor from the leaves on the branches”

“Every year three-million caribou migrate across the frozen Canadian Tundra. Some herds travel over two-thousand miles a year in search of fresh pastures. This is the longest over-land migration of any animal.”

Part II. And Your Bird Can Sing

From my position as being something
Other than what I am now, I saw
the planet Earth which is too impossible to be true.

I saw that land never stands above water.
Water simply allows the tired earth to rest upon its shoulders.

I see places where nothing is alive, save the maggots that feed off themselves,
amongst the cathedral of stalactites and stalagmites and lakes of acid.
No one ever said Hell wouldn’t be beautiful.

I see what was once mountains, now little more than slender, awkward
pillars into the sky. Withered away by an unwavering wind
That blew rigid rock as easy as it might blow
a leaf on the streets of city.

I see that spring even touches the most arctic of locals.
and that you can freeze in a desert that you can fry in.

I see for the first time, the tree as the inverse of itself;
branches into sky, roots into earth.
And I suddenly question paper and hard-wood floors.

And animals,
which we so often chose to deny as our neighbors and brethren.

I met with the Amur Leopard, rare as jewel,
Never before seen,
Destined to lose his home or his fur coat
To the likes of a Russian czarina.

I laugh at the penguin, the sausage of the bird family
and marvel at its audacity to survive
in places its unthreatening, unimpressive body should not.

And in the shark’s eye I saw, as it leaped out of the water
finally engulfing the once allusive seal,
the grace of god, the face of ******
at 1/50th of  the normal speed.

I came across baboons wading through flooded plains
walking upright through the shallow waters,
holding their young above the depths,
predecessors to a two-legged, less noble cousin.

I witnessed nearly every animal fight each other for supremacy,
with the same savagery we do,
but with less discrimination as to who they combat with.

I noticed that countless animals disguise themselves.
Frogs as rocks of exotic hues. Foxes as bushes seemingly on fire.
Bugs as flowers not yet in bloom.
I think I’ll hide myself as a whale
with a harpoon in his side.


I watch male birds of paradise attempt to sing, yell, peck and dance
themselves into a lady bird’s heart;
their Pavarotti, their Don Juanian exploits, their best Baryshnikov
yield them no love, yet my undying admiration is theirs.

I long to be a part of a flock of birds or school of fish,
who seem seamlessly connected by one mind(interwoven by the urge to move)


I see the flower and the fungi bloom, the latter off the former,
in stop-motion photography
I wish to see myself grow in stop-motion.

I swam next to two whales;
a large one whose eyes said to the smaller one,
“I’ll starve for you.”
a small one whose eyes said,
“I will lose my mother when the water is warm.”

I walked with caribou, transient as I am.
Just searching for a place to call home,
both of us knowing that the only stable thing in
life is continuous change.

Part III. Rivers Do Run Dry (See Grand Canyon)

Years later it would be discovered that “HD TV” did not in fact stand for High Definition Television, but rather Hoaxed Depiction Television. Indeed nothing we saw in “HD” was in actually real; rather it was highly doctored images created by the media powers that be. This would explain seemingly implausible animals, landscapes and natural phenomenon seen in the BBC series Planet Earth. Cryptic statements made by the narrator of the documentary (who turned out to not actually be British or a man) such as, “This is the first and last time this spectacle has ever been documented on film.” Ironically, these claims by the narrator are the only truths the entire project has to offer. The images never will be seen again in nature due to the fact that they were fabricated in a Hollywood warehouse.
judy smith Aug 2016
It’s New York Fashion Week, and there is a frenzy backstage as models are worked into their dresses and mob the assembled engineers for instructions of how to operate the technology that magically transforms a subtle gesture into a glowing garment suggestive of the bioluminescence of jellyfish. I know there’s not enough time for them to do their work. Almost instinctively, I find the designer and bargain for 20 more minutes.

While I wonder to myself how I got here, backstage at a runway show, I also know I am witnessing what may be the harbinger of how a fourth industrial revolution is set to change fashion, resulting in a new materiality of computation that will transform a certain slice of fashion designers into the “developers” of a whole new category of clothing. By driving new partnerships in tools, materials and technologies, this revolution has the potential to dramatically reshape how we produce fashion at a scale not seen since the invention of the jacquard loom.

The jacquard loom, as it happens, inspired the earliest computers. Ever since, textile development and technology have been on an interwoven path — sometimes more loosely knit, but becoming increasingly tighter in the last five years. Around that time, my colleagues and I embarked on a project in our labs to look at “fashion tech,” which at the time was a fringe term. These were pioneers daring to — sometimes literally — weave together technology and clothing to drive new ways of thinking about the “shape” of computation. But as we looked around the fashion industry, it became clear that designers lacked the tools to harness the potential of new technologies.

For a start, all facets of technology needed to be more malleable. Batteries, processors and sensors, in particular, had to evolve from being bulky and rigid to being softer, flexible and stretchable. Thus, I began to champion “Puck [rigid], Patch [flexible], Apparel [integrated],” an internal mantra to describe what I felt would be the material transformations of sensing and computation.

As our technologies have steadily become smaller, faster and more energy efficient — a progression known in the tech industry as Moore’s Law — we’ve gone on to launch a computer the size of a postage stamp and worked with a fashion tech designer to demonstrate its capabilities. In this case we were able to show dresses that were generated not just from sketches and traditional materials, but forward-looking tools (body scans and Computer Assisted Design renderings) and materials (in this case, 3-D printed nylon). At the same time, we integrated a variety of sensors (proximity, brain-wave activity, heart-rate, etc.) that allowed the garments themselves to sense and communicate in ways that showed how fashion — inspired in part by biology — might become the interface between people and the world around them.

Eventually, a meeting between Intel and the CFDA lent support to the idea that if technology could fit more seamlessly into designs, then it would be more valuable to fashion designers. The realisation helped birth the Intel Curie module, which has since made its way down the catwalk, embedded into a slew of designs that could help wearers adapt, interpret and respond to the world around them, for example, by “sensing” adrenaline or allowing subtle gestures to illuminate a garment.

As the relationship between fashion and technology continues to evolve, we will need to reimagine research and development, supply chains, business models and more. But perhaps more than anything, as fashion and technology merge, we must embrace a new strand of collaborative transdisciplinary design expertise and integrate software, sensors, processors and synthetic and biological materials into a designer’s tool kit.

Technology will inform the warp and weft of the fabric of fashion’s future. This will trigger discussions not just about fashion as an increasingly literal interface between people, our biology and the world around us, but also about the implications that data will generate for access, health, privacy and self-expression as we look ahead. We are indeed on the precipice of a fourth industrial revolution.Read more at:www.marieaustralia.com/red-carpet-celebrity-dresses | www.marieaustralia.com/black-formal-dresses
Dan Filcek Apr 2017
a lasting attraction may result from opposites,
or through sharing
strength varies considerably;
In general, strong bonding is associated with sharing
attraction may be seen as the result of different behaviors
Although these behaviors merge into each other seamlessly
so that there is no clear line to be drawn between them,
the behaviors become different
as the character of the bond changes quantitatively,
In the simplest view
the space between comes not from
the reduction in attraction of the two    
Instead, the reduction and hence instability  arises from the reduction in energy
These bonds exist between two        
and have a direction in space,
allowing them to be shown as connecting lines  
If one or more  are unequally shared  
Bond results are often much weaker
the bonds that hold together must cease
If the structures that result are not both strong and tough,
In a simplified view the bonding is not shared at all,
In this type of bond,
one has a vacancy which allows the addition of more
These newly added potentially occupy a lower state
than they experience in a different  
more tightly bound position
Not being part of any given bonding may be seen as extreme
a large system of bonds is ideal
This type of bonding is often very strong
more collective in nature than other types,
and so they more easily reform,
This results in malleability  
This bonding reaches far,
stressing the character of the combining  power,
and cannot be said to belong to anyone exclusively.
containing more than one    
Sometimes, the possibility
of bond formation is completely neglected.
It is thus no longer possible to associate
This is a situation when the bonds are broken
They continue to be attracted to each other,
with a significant  luster
But are repulsed by each other.
National Poetry Month 2017 - source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_bond
Egypt's
revolution
now
teeters
on the tip
of a
bayonet.

Mubarak
has been
routed.

The
scurrying
dictator
marched
out of office
by the trooping
shoes of justice.

Chased
away to
Sharm El Sheikh,
condemned to
a life of
counting
his stolen
billions,
reconciling
accounts,
conferring
with his
private
Swiss
Banker,
in the
stress free
swilling
cesspool
of a warm
jacuzzi.

Hosni's
former
deep
pocketed
bursars
Biden and
Cameron
don't waste
any time
to kick
the corpse
of old
Mubarak.

"We
applaud the
democratic
impulses
of the
Egyptian
people."
said Biden.

"We hope you
responsibly handle
your democratic
duties." added
Cameron;
neglecting
to mention
"We will
submit our
list of candidates
for Mubarak's
replacement
ASAP."

Even
Ban Ki-Moon
popped up
on the BBC
to deliver
a slap
to
Mubarak,
now
hiding
under
a kitchen
table at
his
modest
beach front
bungalow.

The Ruling
Military Council
issued a
statement
in appreciation
of Mubarak's
sacrifice,
graciously
leaving
his post
in service to
a peaceful
transition,
ceding
rule to
the justice
of his generals.

The statement
also commended
the sacrifice
of the martyrs
that fell in Tahrir
Square. "The
demands of the
people will be
met." The
generals vow.

Torturer-In-Chief
Suleiman
has also been
vanquished.

The fate of
his million man
apparatus
of repression
remains unclear.

We hope
for a raft of
pink slips;
but we
suspect
that ridding
a government
rife with
committed
fascists ain't
that easy.

There will be
no humiliation
for Mubarak
or his thugs.

Egyptians will
offer the despot
a courtesy
he never
extended
to his people.

The
Revolution
has fully
surrendered
Egypt
into the
custody
of a
posse
of Hosni's
homeboys,
now the
supreme
protectorate
of the nation.

The
constitution
suspended,
the old generals
now reviewing
other old generals
to determine
who will
wield
the state
scepter.

It will be
another
six months
till elections
they say,
it will take
some time to
author
a new
constitution.

"Be patient"
they advise,
as the
the generals
unravel
old scrolls of
dead pharaohs
for pointers
on how to rule.

Some
secular
militants
refuse to
retreat from
the square;
they fear
democratic
vistas may get
blindsided
by radical
Islamists
demanding
Sharia
Law.

Feminists,
Gay's
Liberta­rians
Socialists
liberal
republicans
getting
squeezed
by governing
militarists
and the easy
orthodoxy of
Muslim
Brotherhoods
is a pressing
dilemma.

Amidst the
tension of
competing
interests
and uncertain
pathways to
the future
the generals
get busy
managing
the state
of emergency.

They
raise
state
prayers
to
Allah
imploring
him to
uplift the
nation
from the
pedestrian
morass
of instability.

The good news
is that a clique
of generals
control
the industries
of the nation.

The offices
of government,
military
and industry
are now
seamlessly
one.

The problem
of democratic
inconvenience,
the messiness
of intrusive
red tape
is now
dispensed
with cool
administrative
facility.

Kinda
like a
capitalist
caliphate.

The
mullahs
of
commerce
running the
bakeries,
have long
been busy
baking
the bread
of tyrants,
dolling out
sparse loaves
to hungry
mouths
starving
for freedom.

The generals
must change
the recipe
or it risks
killing its
customers.

Egypt's
compradore
bourgeoisie
funded and
enriched
with
foreign aid
of bombs and
bullets will
fiercely
defend
its franchise.

The screaming
self will of Egypt's
state capitalism,
will assure that
the flowing profits
of American
bribes will keep
the peace
with Zion
sure.

On
Victory Day,
long flags
draped
the body of
Liberation Square.

We remember
the martyrs
who died
in the fight.

We renounce
any move
to derail
our fight
for freedom.

We troop on,
marching to
whistles,
whooping,
calling out
our just
demands.

We are
unsure
of our
next steps.

We are unsure
if the military
hears us.

The generals
have sent
the military
band
to play
the national
anthem.

Young soldiers
hand us flags
to wave.

We hear the
music, we
remain unsure
if they hear us.

A dictator is vanquished
but the dictatorship remains.

Long Live the Revolution!

You Tube Music Video:
Egyptian National Anthem

La Marsellaise

Oakland
2/28/11
jbm
(WIP)
from the collection Tahrir Square written during the Arab Spring Uprisings
Q Feb 2014
Half past nine
And the night feels so young
Despite eyelids too heavy to open

Inspiration
On the tip of the tongue
And tapping fingers on keys.

Thoughts prevail wrapped in affection
And the door to originality is awry
Affection and Muse mix seamlessly.

Confusion in delusions
What could and should scrape by
The heart and the pen are insoluble.

Panic within existentialism
No words come to mind
Affection is not Muse.

Separation of heart and hand
Leave old alliances behind
For Muse or for Affection?
I was told never to confuse muse for affection. It is a rather troubling thing to do.
Mike Rollain Apr 2016
Sitting idly at my piano in the
Corner of this dimly lit room

Such a saturated space

Filled with the exhausted breaths
Of a thousand wasted moments

A sliver of the setting sun

Dives headlong through the open
Window and off a bed rarely made

It lands in gentle, brilliant resolve
Wearily along the yellowed wall beside me

Fingers on faux ivory, cold and comforting

Keys that sing the subtle soundtrack of an unrefined feature
The culmination of my disconcerted reminiscence

Tension, release, tension, release

Imaginary hammers go up and down
They push and pull on digital strings

And exhale through the atmosphere
A kaleidoscope of blue and yellow

Flooding my consciousness, blending seamlessly
With the gleeful screaming of children in the distance
Audio: https://soundcloud.com/mike-rollain/synesthesia
Sam Temple Mar 2014
dissuaded seamstresses seamlessly string
together thoughts throwing out convention
and convection ovens hold the bones of history
hot air blows through them and out
the mouths of bloated politicians red faced
with misplaced values and encouraging
a broken caste systems’ continuation
as classism hides beneath value menus
radically altering the fabric of not only society
but also the genetic code in which we all stem
wilted flower petals stick to flattened tires
wired children snorting Ritalin pick locks
placed by scared parents
frightened by Fox news and Vioxx side effects
stashed cash smashed in mattresses
waits for the next prescription election
murari sinha Sep 2010

observing the ardent eagerness of the wind
it is clearly understood
that nascent pollens are overflowing
the niche of her heart  

in response to the signals of the river
she keeps on ringing
all long the month of earth-quakes

the bench of the rail-station
wants to hug her

the medicine-counter of the ***-end of the day
beckons her with the hand to come nearer

in the assembly-hall for musical demonstration
adorned with ash-trays
going on the rehearsal of her dancing and singing

she also distributes some life
to the meticulous dressing
of the magnolia

2.
let the swimming pool be fully absorbed  
with its dark-room

when the feather of your fore-finger
becomes green

the merchant of venice
will leave his business of photo-coping machine
to start walking directly
in search of new earnings

evening sets in
on the boiler of the delta

putting on yellow-dress comes
the water-vessel of the paper-balloon

there is no singing bird
shivering with cold
in the fold of the dear bed-sheet  

it is possible that the boldness of the metro-railway
may give some wood of tamarisk
on the expanded palms  

yet oh the western page of night
do tell today
why so much tamed polythene
are here in our cohabitation

3.
after so many days
published in the wind
painted in wings
the recent heart’s desire
of the doors and windows

they have rolled up their fairy-tales
from the ignorant drawing-room that wanted
to set her mind to the hill slanting downward

they did not want to know
how much rheumatism is there
in the hands and legs of the bark
to whom is delegated
the control of the mason-made bus-journey

sleep hugs the eye-lids of the rivers

though there is no postage-stamp
within the reaching-point

then what magic is there
in the hill slanting downward

why the wall does not learn
how to swim like a fish

truly it is he from whom
those negligible moments of man-ism
itch for blue candle-stand

4.
the ***-appeal of the telephone
and the bugle of the carnies-breaking ****-crows
are all harmonised seamlessly

the noon in the blood
is flowing along the river

all the dialogues are covered
with misspelling of men and women

the tailors want to increase life
cutting rightly the walking of clothes

after the vanishing of collyrium
from the eyes
there is not a single being
in the relief-camps

as far as the eyes can travel
i can notice in the ear-lob of the village-boats
the water-colour of fire-flies
twinkles

then let an agreement be signed
with the defence ministry
on the right
to enter into private bathroom

5.
in the air
on which flowers are engraved
the union of the betel leaves are making their outposts
anew

before the calling of the next pine-woods
you all the butterflies do take on board the tram
to go to the south-pole

is it well to incline so much
towards the tv-screen

who can say
the waves of the terracotta
would never make revolution

i’ve sent some full-moons of winter
and some water-bodies
into the holes of the handkerchief

the lacking of the colours
may kindly be excused

the birds that are blind from their birth
has been singing till now
the songs of the cave-civilisation

there is no question any where
this eclipsed-valley is adorned
with the answers only

6.
i am to be blown off on the first bombardment
then it is to be flown
in the crowd of  fire-flies
on the bushes of the scented-lemons

and it is to see the memory race of the grown-up girls

it is to see more
that after the opening of the sluice gates
one by one  
how the gathering in the hindu hotels
increases
by leaps and bounds

the pores of the skin of the body
whose hoods are open
and who are running up
along the spiral route
that leads to the top of the mountain

their child
due to late-marriage
now only knows
how to move on all fours

7.
under the table-glass
i  unfold the life-chronicle of one lakh year

and in the olive-cabinet
all the applications for living

from the monsoon-noon to the winter-afternoon
the lines you draw on the parchment

none of them is so condensed
as to touch the palms of a sailor  

from the numerable timber-joists
come down the swarms of personal white ants

no spring seems to become corporeal
without the spell of misunderstandings  

so of late
besides the dry statistics
with the cough
comes out grey thermometer

prickly-heats spread over the whole body  

the sticks of young antenna
shake off their wings

behind the bath-scene
lies the succulent hailstorm

8.
there is no lovely add
yet the market-value of your headache
is going up day by day

all the noon send her mad
the intellectual kisses
the coos

or is it the running about of the tennis-ball

so much pop-corns are flying out
from the draw-well

or that sound of foot-steps
in the north-east

may be
that is of some brown horses
or some horse-drawn perambulators

when the moon spreads out the platinum
does it judge the recipients

thus the bin-leaves can ring
from head to foot

it unfurls an incorrigible right-angle
in the early-evening

the troop with armours
open a shop of ******
beside the vainglory of the lake
Ishika Aug 2018
I want you to
be the salt that tastes
my flavorless skin
Seeping into my pores
refining every sinful piece
And be my light
and walk with me
so my bare skin may shine
with your glorious beam
and stitch a garment
with lovestruck seam.
ryn Sep 2014
Fetch me out of my case
Handle with care my prized lacquered face
Rest gently my wooden veneered base
Cradle my neck and prepare to lace

Wipe off my fret with a towel
Gift to me your first string
Fasten one end with a dowel
More to do before I sing

Other end, goes into my head
Through one pinhole, allow some slack
Remaining strings, the same you will thread
Strung side by side, along their tracks

Now tighten, wind them taut
Work away the looseness
Stash aside all other thoughts
My voice almost heard albeit tuneless

Here I lay; quiet and strung
You'd have to give me my voice
Then I'd speak but only in your tongue
Then I'd sing only if it's your choice

Prop me up, caress my earthy spine
I'd mouth your words according to pitch
United through movement, manipulate my lines
Your script; my mouth, seamlessly we'd stitch

Your fingers, they twitch and flick
Willing the most lifelike of gestures
Rising and falling of my strings you'd pick
Whimsical dance between slaves and masters

My body over which I have no control
Helplessness overcome my entire being
In my fibres, grains and knots, bore no soul
Without you I lay limp; close to nothing

You need me to project your speech
I need you to make me feel alive
Off of each other, we'd feed and leech
As both hosts and parasites, together we'd thrive

I am one of yours but not the favourite pet
I am just an extension of your unfortunate self
I am wood, dead and lifeless; a strung up marionette
Not a guitar but your fancy puppet sitting on the shelf
imai Feb 2019
She controls her laughter,
lets it slip from the edge of her mouth,
the corners of her lips lift ever so slightly,
then, she makes a sound,
seamlessly, her fingers graze my thighs,
smoothly, her eyes meet mine,
and in her eyes, I see my reflection—
aflame, abashed, and fiery,

She is the answer I’ve scoured the world for,
and yet, she, herself, remains a mystery,

Ah, I see,
She controls her laughter
as easily as she controls me.
ryn Aug 2014
There are many different masks that adorn my wall
Always at the ready for such time they would be needed
Each one of them summoned to answer a specific call
Each one of them used so that the truth can't be uncovered

With time and wear these masks grow all the more necessary
They protect me from situations that render me vulnerable
Kept contained all the emotions that I wish to bury
Kept in check all of my thoughts so I stay capable

I've had these masks for as long as I can remember
Afraid if they have begun to redefine the true me
They assume their roles seamlessly as if it's second nature
Their roles they would assume without fail, ever so diligently

But as much as they would protect from my own naivety
They also would protect others from the words that I wield
These poison-laden words fueled by my poor misguided sanity
Could easily stab and wound if not for the masks that shield

Often wondered these masks if I've ever taken them off
And function as is without hiding behind bolted doors
Would I be able to walk the line without temptation to scoff
Will I be compassionate yet honest; without causing new-found sores

Such a tough questions to which the answers I know not
Despite having pondered till my head grew sore and weary
Something I should have done before delving in deep thought
Is to now remove the mask that my face does carry
Cody Edwards Feb 2010
Rather I did, once. No longer.
We were magnetic, tectonic.
Constantly and consistently converging.
Unfolding.
Seamlessly (it would seem) arranged on
Memory's golden stage.
But today, tomorrow,
Where moves are flimsy and unsure
Lines drop from lips in silence,
Unraveling like gauze,
As we both wait for alarums that cannot sound.

I feel anesthetized, don't I? I—
And the curtain will be merciful.
A breath of disdain perhaps, disastrous.
Your touch is autumn.
I eclipse the sun, suffocate you from it.
Take your warmth.
Leave you colder than Ophelia
And bloodier than Brutus.
My inadequacy was once your balm,
A catechism to ensure another world
That we both know isn't sound.

The very least you can do is become like Icarus
Who was beautiful in his fall
And silent at his end.
© Cody Edwards 2010
entropiK Dec 2010
there is a tourniquet on his tongue.

he is a risqué bloke
with alkaloid fingers,
they are wearing
yellow asylum jackets
yet he calls me
mad-


emoiselle, his, in between the lines
he cuts with razorblades and mirrors.
i find myself in between legs
of a stanza (not standing),
pale femurs and inner thighs
french-kissing into
surpine ampersands
where the first word
is a proclaimed ugly disease    -- perhaps 'love.'
and the other, its escapade   -- perhaps 'tuberculosis.'
but i must be the period:
oxidised bones.  


within the eyes
of a stanza (still not standing)
abides no fancy lines
no avarice for contemplative meanings
there is but space and void
and i've filled his femur marrows
with metaphors
to the verge of the patella.
he writes poetry for me
with a needle
and an eight-ball.



there is a tourniquet on his tongue
and his spine fits my stocking


seamlessly.
ii.
Andrew Kerklaan Sep 2013
As I approached this new anomaly I couldn't help but notice how seamlessly it was dancing...

Flowing through the street like a land-based whirlpool with the elegance of a veteran ballerina

It's distressed white plastic tutu left drifting freely, spinning into a pirouette in spite of it's singular audience

A defiant **** between sidewalk blocks--It's simple presence, a larger then life statement

As if to say "Go on, try to stop my freedom! I'll just pirouette away!"
A short scribe from one of my travels. Enjoy.
GussE Dec 2013
The crystal was perfectly aligned.
It exposed an image of the day I left seamlessly.
But it also echoed the future,
the design of tomorrow.
I wouldn’t follow my wildest dreams,
but I couldn’t say the misuse was improbable.
To the next phase in my elegant maneuver,
I gather the strength from my abysmal insides.
Wide open were the gates of hell.
I withheld.
Then continued,
as the outline of forever,
forever guided me.  
Time was traveled.
And as passing eras bettered my intellectual design,
I redefined the reality of Sir Hawkins.
Time travel.
So true.
My speed was increasing,
as was my very corpus.
And as it did,
so I transcended.

Amended  such as our legitimate antiquity
of the dickity desire.
The feeling of an outwordly choir
singing you to sleep while injecting you
with futuristic methyl-amphetamines.
I dreamt of better things,
but too late.
For I've descended into tomorrow,
and the decisions of the borrowed souls
will cease to follow.
What you think is usually wrong. Time travel is fun to read.
Brandon Halsey Jan 2012
You excuse yourself from the party
And sneak off to the second floor
You hide out in your bedroom
And double-lock the door

The taste of birthday cake still lingers
That stupid song rings in your ears
Downstairs your guests are having fun
Though their host is not how she appears

You reach underneath your bed
And grab a box that’s made from tin
Shaking hands quickly remove
The sharp instruments held within

The tools of a sacred ceremony
That follows the emotional drain
The ****** ritual of release
The catharsis brought by pain

You grab the hem of your skirt
And raise it up past your waist
You stare down at battered legs
Milky white flesh you’ve defaced

A terrain map of your body
A reminder of who you are
Some may prefer a tattoo
But nothing lasts like a scar

Each memory is a torturous cell
Trapping you in an inescapable past
The pain and suffering that never ended
And the happiness that wouldn’t last

Ignorance may be bliss for some
But it comes with a price too steep
So relive those nights in your father’s bed
When he made you cry yourself to sleep

Soon you’ll make your way downstairs
And blend in seamlessly with the crowd
That fabricated air of optimism
Is the mask that acts as your shroud

A smile, a laugh or a smirk
False gestures you convey
You find it so easy to lose yourself
Inside the character you portray

Reality is too difficult for some
The real Sarah they can never know
You only do this for their own good
So let’s get on with the show
Annelyra Mar 2012
Maybe the hardest thing
is knocking down the castles
that we build seamlessly
and unconsciously in the air,
brick by screaming brick.

— The End —