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Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
ryn Aug 2014
Pen
This here...my heart is a book
Sadness and hope inhabit most pages
Marred by past experiences that took
Scribbled are the ironies and broken adages

Worn pages tainted by the lowest of my days
Dark ink leave them smeared and stained Fresh ones stay crisp; free from nays
Awaiting dreams and wishes I have not gained

Silent are the pages still left unwritten
As though I have saved them for something
For future chapters yet to happen
For you to come and begin your writing

Welcome the pen that would herald a new start
Imagined it's ink to bear the flightiest notions
It would speak in volumes ensnaring the heart
It would sing a song with the sweetest of emotions

Seep in, dear ink, into my pages past and new
Seep through, dear ink, feel free to make your mark
Seep strong, dear ink, maybe you could undo
Seep true, dear ink, and bring light to the dark

But rip not the old for they forever will speak
Lessons that are learnt, strength that was bestowed
Tears that's been shed, happiness that I seek
Gloom that was braved, hope that I have sowed

Come, my heart is your book
You are the sole pen to my infinite pages
Ink are your words that would fill every nook
Eternal is the bond that would last through ages

This here...the rest of the pages are yours
Occupy them as you have in my everyday
I was saving them not knowing my course
Almost as if I knew you'd come to pen the words you'd say

A promise as sure as the sun would rise
A promise made as good as the noblest of men
My book is open to our laughs and cries
As long as you would forever remain my pen
Kagey Sage Dec 2013
And someday the truth will seep
Schizos, and friends who took too much, will be right
Truth seeping from the sewers and dampening
the carpet (basement first, upper floors later)
Then it will seep through our eyes
and our ears, some veins may burst
with all we found out
Our dark eye lidded friends holding the cigarettes
their stories will be true
There’s a New World Order being crafted
We didn’t land on the Moon. No sky
just a big planetarium around
The relatives of politicians, their children, etc.
picked out for some reason (which hasn’t seeped to us yet) from
random families at the hospital, or homeless on the street
Plastic surgery happens, so they all look believable as a family
and then everyone gets hypnotized not to tell, with pills and chanting
Cause secrets are never safe
just look how they seep
They live in satellites (watchtowers within the planetarium sky)
and wear nothing but white and clip their fingernails perfect, everyday
They think they know all
But he’s not as close
as yogi bear guru atop a peak point
that seeps up his ****** hole
He collects his bark and snow
at what the men in the tower label, 4 AM
then he sits and convinces himself
that everything’s fake, even himself
Convinces, for the least amount of reason possible
We're almost touching.
we were walking side by side,
you're talking about cabs in your hometown.
I can feel the gravity of your hand, calling my fingers
whispering "it's alright."

We're touching but not quite.
you held my shoulder to protect me from the passing cars.
and for the first time in a long while, I felt so fragile.
In this world where I find it hard even to breathe,
you believed me.

I almost said it.
All I need is one ounce of strength to tell you every single thing that I have ever felt about you.

I want to find home in your collarbones.
Would you be kind enough to let a stranger in?
I want to seep in your being because I'm cold.
The world is harsh and my cracks are aching.

Almost.
Please don't ever become a stranger,
whose laugh I can recognize anywhere.
traces of being Aug 2016
.
Honeybees, birds and blooms unfurl
an enchanting spell
when spring comes by here

Memories waft 'neath burled rustic trellis
where flowered tendrils grasp fleshly
like the newness a love once tenderly embraced

Songbirds in your garden sing
of swooning memories rapture.., of velvet eyes,  
the fragrant spicy nectar hidden within her walls                            

A song of honeyed bees'  sweetest stinger,
and the poignant ***** of intoxicating surrender
lingers, bemused spellbound by a thorny heirloom rose

Sharp beauty beloved like a blameless trap
caught blissfully, breathlessly inbetween
all you wish for and all your wanton needs

Desire 's wellspring an unspoken passion
coquet swollen buds adorn blossoming,
sensual, untamed carnal grace

A picture perfect natural beauty;
sunlit chassé … feathered brush, demure blush
dancing with basket of lace petal’d perfume

For to colour a heart's blank pages
rapt in the poesy a joyous ecstasy ..,
enrapture with rainbow's luscious taste

What seems lost is but a tender vestige unfound
a passing moments innocence lost
to steal away like rumors of gold

These silent reveries seep from a hole in my heart,  
as if ripe strawberries of yore, gently weeping sweetness
when pricked by a thorny rose  

The ides of spring do still bleed a timeless ache
onto the page ... sweet naivety stung
by a mesmerizing dart to the heart

Songbirds in your garden do sing
of sweetest things immersed in nature's nectar
blissful memories sleeping in the petals of a rose




Sung to the wind by a song sparrow — ♪ ♫...✩ ☼✩ ✩☺✩
If only now in dreams of yore
a sky full of stars shine brighter,
a garden of flowers fragrance more pungent,
and songbirds in your garden from yesteryear
sing tantalizingly more beautiful ...,
when you were near

.
rachel Nov 2014
People are just as lovely
as sunsets,

Beautiful hues of pink,
will seep from their pores.
Astonishing shades of orange,
may flow from their hands.
Purple and blues
slide from their eyes.

You just have to be watching
at all the right times.
WS Warner Oct 2011
Static, memories
Emanating, separating  
The postcard- perfect
Still life speaks
From its storied past.
Invisible, to drift
Among  
The florid aphorisms,
Ending in
Deleterious debris,
Aftermath of
The inevitable.

Empty room, echo hollow
Tabula rasa -
Carpet clean, quite candid in it's
Return to callow.
Consciousness athirst,
Absorbing phenomena
Effervesce, inquisitive
Ideas foment,
Sealed inside a question.
The what -
Against the narrow
Scarcity,
And fatigue of should.

A tender malleable
Youth,
Betrayed, under
An assumed decorum -
Residue of truth,
Flattened emotion
Privations of a self
Unheard;
Misplaced affirmation,
Buried pathologies  
In architecture
Fear manifests symbolic.

Harboring apathy
The lunacy of pious
Pedigree,
Import contagion,
Fetters of benignity
Doubt and indecision  
Into ******
Cognizance,
Fallow spirits
Seep fumes of decay,
Credulity bleeds a human stain.

Social edifice, inoculated  
Heirs of neurosis;
Palpable, sensual pain
And transience, though
Tacit - remain,
Our haunted history,
The blind hyperbole,
Maudlin
Forbearance, this haven,
A portrait
Of immaculate condition,
Nurtured with precision
Under sterling pretense.

Provincial domicile -
House beautiful,
Savage irony -
Unseen treasure
Innocence unabridged,
Faces, tiny creations;
Compliant vessels
Wounded,  
While modernism murmurs  
Its promise.

Brave New World,
In a late model sedan,
Domestic ranch on a
Corner lot,
Suburban natives,
Silence means security.
The misunderstood
Speak louder -
Consumerism beneath    
Unvarnished ambition,
Never could
Repair the brokenness within...

© 2011 & 2018 W. S. Warner
RAJ NANDY Jun 2017
Dear Poet Friends, this poem was composed as a tribute and praise
to the Creator of heaven and earth way back in the year 2008, & was posted on ‘Poemhunter.com’. The Creator’s handiwork has inspired Poets, Artists, and Humans alike since the dawn of our
civilisation, and shall continue to do so for our future generations! Hope you like this poetic composition. I will be grateful if you comment only after having read the entire poem.  Thanks, - Raj

VISIONS OF THE VAST BLUE EMPYREAN
                * BY RAJ NANDY*

       '’The heavens declare the glory of the Lord,
        The sky proclaim His divine handiwork!’’
                                                   - Psalm of David.

(I)
The SKY is a multidimensional manifestation of God's
creation,
A translucent blue canopy above all and one.
The sky has inspired humans for centuries to aspire
and dream, -
To seek His blessings and guidance from above;
And shall continue to do so for centuries to come!
The sky beckons and lures with its mystical spell;
Making humans with leaping aspirations to try out
and reach, -
Those frontiers where the sky is the unlimited limit of
all our hopes, aspirations and dreams!
The sky, lush, luring, luminous, and sweet, -
Invites, entice, and fills us with a sense of wonder!
How God-like in appearance, and almost human in
its expressions!
The sky has remained as a silent witness to the birth
of our planet,
Since God created the firmament and the heavens,
before creating the Earth.
The sky, a silent spectator since eons past,
Shall continue to see the fading away of old stars;
And formation of baby galaxies in a cosmic drama of
His creation,
Lying beyond the comprehension of Mankind!
While we try to delve His secrets with our space probes,
Which we can neither fully comprehend nor unravel;
And shall only continue to wonder and marvel!

(II)
The blue sky continues to inspire and even melts,
While its blue translucence silently seep into the
Poet's heart,
As he sits to reflect and shape his thoughts,
And the vast expanse of the ethereal sky,
Stretching his mind with future dreams and
visions!
While the azure blue begins to flow through his
veins, and gets transmitted through his pen, -
To convey his exalted thoughts and deepest feelings,
in poetic lines and verse, -
Which becomes the Poet's sole mission.
And at night when the Poet meditates, he catches a
falling star,
And writes a poem on it and keeps it in his pocket, -
Saving it for a rainy day!
And during the silence of the night, when the hours
grow dark and deep,
And the sky gently droops and drips;
The poet wakes up to write, and writes to sleep!

(III)
The sky flows on to the canvas of the Painter,
As he tries to depict its varied complexions and moods,
With his limited colours, shades and hues,
Flashing and spilling his canvas with touches of tints
and tones,
To captivate the capricious, transient and fanciful moods,
which the sky adorns!
The deep blue empyrean is at times blissful and sublime,
Changing from a radiant, opulent, and iridescent, -
To threatening, cruel, and violent;
Both devastating and destructive as the sweeping
tornado or a hurricane!
Yet when God decides to paint the Aurora Borealis those
magical Northern Lights, -
Those glowing diaphanous curtains of waving, swirling
streamers of lights,
With its red, green, blue, violet, and luminescent spell-
binding shades;
How can any artist foolishly dare to compete or replicate
His celestial art?
For the Auroras are a reflection of His live real time
handiwork, -
Which shall never diminish or fade!

(IV)
The crystal blue arch of heaven, a glorious canopy
cover over our head,
Blesses us with the much needed shade;
From the tormenting and scorching rays of the
relentless Summer's sun.
With its varying layers of passing clouds, -
As the sun completes its diurnal rounds!
Those high cheerful cirrus and cirro-stratus clouds
of the Winter sky,
The meditating alto-cumulus and alto-stratus clouds
of medium heights;
And those upward swelling, ambitious clouds of
cumulonimbus, -
Carrying the thunder bolts and lightning of the great
Zeus do confound us!
And finally those low sheets of stratus clouds of the
rumbling monsoon sky;
Bringing incessant rain and lightning darts, -
Flashing like a whip lash across the sky and the earth!
With the speed of sound always lagging behind that
of light, -
Thus thunder bolts always follow those blinding flashing
darts of dazzling blue lights!
While the good Earth absorbs it all like some suffering
soul,
And forever regenerates itself to transcend its
tormenting plight!

(V)
The clouds floating like fluffy wool of cotton and
the downs of white goose feathers,
Adds dimensions, visual depth, definition and a sense
of perception;
For the human mind to behold and meditate, -
Those vast measureless depths of the infinite space!
The clouds with its varying forms and shapes,
At times like the ice cream cones with vanilla
tops and wisps of cream;
Keep floating across the cerulean blue, forming
and melting, -
From one nothingness into another,  below the
arched vault of the heavens!
And at times the clouds coalesce to dissipate as
gentle rain,
With rhythmic beats, or follow some wild musical note,
Lashing against the earth like a dancer in trance!
While it brings down the cool aqua, the very elixir of
life to earth.

(VI)
The sky is held captive by its own void of eternal
silence.
As nature's mirror, it reflects and also shows us a
glimpse of the infinite!
While the night sky by itself exhibits a wondrous
sight,
With the sentinel stars shining like a living hymn
written in light!
And the ebony treasure vault of heavens hold the
sparkling and glittering countless gems;
Of pearls of lily white, rubies with red sheen,
And galaxies shimmering like hyacinth of purple
light!
The sky envelopes the earth all around in an elusive
embrace of unconsummated love!
But each night, in hope and expectations the Sky
adorns itself, -
With diamond necklace and pearls of milky white,
Woven round its dark black flowing stresses;
Casting longing looks towards the beloved Earth,
To whom she is attracted from her very birth!

(VII)
The sky despite its wide range of colourful
spectrum and moods,
Forever retains its pristine colour of azure blue,
behind its gray and somber clouds.
Each morning the sky presents us with a clean
blue slate,
Where nothing ever remains written or etched!
Inspiring humans to make a new beginning,
Before time runs out and it becomes too late!
Yet the sky never forgets to reflect the arched
rainbow over its brow,
Once the thunder clouds and storms dissipate!
Keeping our hopes and aspirations forever alive;
And impelling us to strive in all our endeavours
and to excel!

(VIII)
The sky remains as a revelation of God's immaculate
handiwork.
The blue welkin, God's treasure trove, with its
capricious moods,
Sometimes furious, sometimes iridescent, but by nature
divinely sublime!
The sky a recurrence of happenings, with its speckled dance, -
Of colours, cadence, and of light and shade,
Giving us a taste, smell and feel of eternity, -
Which appears as real, though illusory and ephemeral!
Transcending all our scientific formulas, speculations
and intricate *******-up logic;
Since many mystical and unknown energy forms exist in
our sky and space,
Beyond the realms of Quantum Physics , String Theory,
the Higgs Field and Relativity!  * ( see Notes below)
And forces can even be made to emanate from the human
mind and soul and to transcend, -
To blend with those vibrations in the celestial spheres of
the Divine!

(IX)
The sky shall forever remain a source of exhilaration
and exhortation for mankind, -
And as an exaltation of God's divine and lofty thoughts!
The sky also remains as our ultimate frontier, -
Stretching the dimensions of human consciousness,
Till our consciousness learns to merge with the Divine;
To become one and to blend, under the blue vault of
our blissful Empyrean!
                                                       -  by RAJ NANDY, NEW DELHI

(*NOTES: The five different versions of the String Theories know as the 'The M- Theory' of Quantum Physics, which tries to explain the origin of all things through the vibrations of nano strings. The latest discovery of the Higgs Field, which is said to add mass to subatomic particles; are our humble and insufficient efforts to understand God’s mysterious creation of the universe and space!)
      (ALL COPY RIGHT ARE WITH THE AUTHOR ONLY)
n stiles carmona May 2017
would you listen or laugh at me
           for claiming love's an ocean?
neither a knife, nor a blindfold
                                                      .­..but a sea.
there's a human-borne catastrophe.
                       cast your eye upon those with no share.
          the contents of their buckets
are polluted and impure
                                yet all but 5%
                                goes unexplored.
do you find yourself choking in your sleep?
  why watch the waves from safe dry ground
                                                  when you could delve in deep?
do you live in fear of unchartered seas
                                                   and life still left unfound?
are you overheating if only not to drown?
we 'love addicts' are water children.
i run outside and taste the rain.
  let's go! let's drink! let's swim! let's bathe
                   and watch it seep into our pores
                         -- it escapes me how you stay indoors!
a little something optimistic
I don’t know who
I’m supposed to be
Who I am
or who they want me to be
The answer’s not
so easy to see
Not well known
There's an uncertainty
Knee-**** answer
is to be
wholly free
I'll explain
in detail
Paint a picture clearly
A tutor's not needed
No need to study
No higher degree
With candor
I’ll speak

Let me tell you about
so-called “un-pleasantries"
The list is quite lengthy
A few;
maybe three
Gonna rattle them off
What's been mentioned to me
Not the worst of mistakes
but a category
May irritate some
To others
‘let be’
Saying that’s who I am
and as such
accept me
A minority group
not the majority
and by far
and by few
They are lost in between

Some say I’m intense
and can be
quite chatty
Loquacious
a talker
‘Verbose’ tendency
Don’t deny what is true
But not always guilty
The day in
and day out
doesn't constantly stream
Not sustained
They can change
Just like who
we will be
Not robots
Not copies
or placed on CD
Live a life
of routine
but not one
on repeat
Even still
I must say
there are worse things to be

Empathetic and kind
I give generously
All I have
My last dime
Will donate
each penny
I'm not searching for credit
Approval don't seek
Like to make others happy
Inside, I’m complete
When I focus on others
No discrepancy
I’m not dwelling
or thinking
of my tendencies
Please don't offer
your pity
or give charity
Try to bend; compromise
don’t perceive me
as weak
I'm the chivalrous type
Will get down
on one knee
Not walled off or closed up
Bare my soul
Give freely
But there's more
locked inside
So when time comes to speak
It’s a flood
a deluge
There's an intensity
Give too much
Give too quick
Try to stop
inside keep
I can bottle
it up
but sometimes
it still peaks
Little may trickle out
Suddenly
it will seep
If an access is given
Explodes
in a heap
When I love
I dive in
You may think I’m a freak
The emotional type
Tug heart strings
and I’ll weep
Not a blubbering fool
my emotions
run deep
A calm hand
I can sooth
Situation-ally
In a crisis
I’m strong
This unfortunately
is something
that I know
But don’t wish on
to speak
Life presents me
two roads
With both closed off
to me
Feel locked up
in a cage
while I look
to be free

A locked door
Here I stand
desperately for the key
Wanting answers
Assistance
A new found decree
Need a mantra
A mission
systemically
affecting systems
The true stem
of what’s me
Fundamental
My core
Sprouting roots from a tree
Happiness from the Sun
or beneath canopy
Not about
getting answers
Away goes the fee
Hamlet asked long ago
If 'to be or not be'
I know that it's different
Just work with me please
My point
is the question
In life, what to seek?
A life
that’s authentic
or society
We conform
and adapt
What they want us to be
If like me
you're unsure
It can drive you crazy
Take a chance?
And be pure
Live a life that's taint free
In return
you'll endure
Side remarks
and critiques
Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Be like them
or unique
Written: September 22, 2108

All rights reserved.
[Anapestic Hexameter Format]
Arlo Disarray May 2015
I've been sleepless for ten days, my head's tearing at the seams
There's too much inside my brain from the many built up dreams
As the seams break one by one, all the darkness starts to seep
All the nightmares in my mind are now loose on every street

Dreams all running rampant and destroying all the Towns
Zombie dogs, giant potato bugs and lots of **** clowns
My dreams are all disgusting, and I want to run away
But I guess the right thing to do here is try to save the day

Now thinking of Batman to come and rescue me
Hiding so that the nightmares couldn't still view me
But watching Batman battle was turning me right on
So I had to dream of *** toys, until the urge was gone


And as Batman finally wins the fight
He sticks my dreams back in my head, tight
And he asks "Anything else I can do?"
Getting turned on again, I then replied "I'd like to do you"

After *** with the bat, I felt so much better
When suddenly Batman was in Freddy Krueger's sweater
"I'm just way too tired." the next words I spoke
When I opened my eyelids, and then I awoke
*I thought it was real, but it was all a hoax
Left Foot Poet Apr 2018
(seep yourself to leak away)

all reveals are feints;
I take you right
but I am moving left,
always left,
then left again

when I turn the faucet of me on,
brown, rusty pipe water comes out,
never turning clear,
even if the flow
went on for a millennium

someone traveller passerby
reads my excellent explicit illicit words,
with kind sweetness
observes a valid conclusion:
Poems take.a lot out of you

correct+wrong

not take, give
they are the slow seepage
of my overburdening
which is
yes, yes, I know, all relative,
but perspective is a
sometime summer thing,
and all the springtime streets
filled with filthy frozen slush

having  come from some rusty water leakage,
never turning clear
no matter how long the street runs away
from you

so you take yourself to give away,
seeping and leaking

ah words;

so useful and so inadequate
crushed petals from the Tree of Life

you ask me If I have read my brother,
the prophet-poet Jeremiah?

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?


When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart's delight


Then the Lord reached out his hand unto my mouth and said,
"I have put my words in your mouth."


these are those words
written months ago
A Poem for Three Voices

Setting:  A Maternity Ward and round about

FIRST VOICE:
I am slow as the world.  I am very patient,
Turning through my time, the suns and stars
Regarding me with attention.
The moon's concern is more personal:
She passes and repasses, luminous as a nurse.
Is she sorry for what will happen?  I do not think so.
She is simply astonished at fertility.

When I walk out, I am a great event.
I do not have to think, or even rehearse.
What happens in me will happen without attention.
The pheasant stands on the hill;
He is arranging his brown feathers.
I cannot help smiling at what it is I know.
Leaves and petals attend me.  I am ready.

SECOND VOICE:
When I first saw it, the small red seep, I did not believe it.
I watched the men walk about me in the office.  They were so flat!
There was something about them like cardboard, and now I had caught it,
That flat, flat, flatness from which ideas, destructions,
Bulldozers, guillotines, white chambers of shrieks proceed,
Endlessly proceed--and the cold angels, the abstractions.
I sat at my desk in my stockings, my high heels,

And the man I work for laughed:  'Have you seen something awful?
You are so white, suddenly.'  And I said nothing.
I saw death in the bare trees, a deprivation.
I could not believe it.  Is it so difficult
For the spirit to conceive a face, a mouth?
The letters proceed from these black keys, and these black keys proceed
From my alphabetical fingers, ordering parts,

Parts, bits, cogs, the shining multiples.
I am dying as I sit.  I lose a dimension.
Trains roar in my ears, departures, departures!
The silver track of time empties into the distance,
The white sky empties of its promise, like a cup.
These are my feet, these mechanical echoes.
Tap, tap, tap, steel pegs.  I am found wanting.

This is a disease I carry home, this is a death.
Again, this is a death.  Is it the air,
The particles of destruction I **** up?  Am I a pulse
That wanes and wanes, facing the cold angel?
Is this my lover then?  This death, this death?
As a child I loved a lichen-bitten name.
Is this the one sin then, this old dead love of death?

THIRD VOICE:
I remember the minute when I knew for sure.
The willows were chilling,
The face in the pool was beautiful, but not mine--
It had a consequential look, like everything else,
And all I could see was dangers:  doves and words,
Stars and showers of gold--conceptions, conceptions!
I remember a white, cold wing

And the great swan, with its terrible look,
Coming at me, like a castle, from the top of the river.
There is a snake in swans.
He glided by; his eye had a black meaning.
I saw the world in it--small, mean and black,
Every little word hooked to every little word, and act to act.
A hot blue day had budded into something.

I wasn't ready.  The white clouds rearing
Aside were dragging me in four directions.
I wasn't ready.
I had no reverence.
I thought I could deny the consequence--
But it was too late for that.  It was too late, and the face
Went on shaping itself with love, as if I was ready.

SECOND VOICE:
It is a world of snow now.  I am not at home.
How white these sheets are.  The faces have no features.
They are bald and impossible, like the faces of my children,
Those little sick ones that elude my arms.
Other children do not touch me:  they are terrible.
They have too many colors, too much life.  They are not quiet,
Quiet, like the little emptinesses I carry.

I have had my chances.  I have tried and tried.
I have stitched life into me like a rare *****,
And walked carefully, precariously, like something rare.
I have tried not to think too hard.  I have tried to be natural.
I have tried to be blind in love, like other women,
Blind in my bed, with my dear blind sweet one,
Not looking, through the thick dark, for the face of another.

I did not look.  But still the face was there,
The face of the unborn one that loved its perfections,
The face of the dead one that could only be perfect
In its easy peace, could only keep holy so.
And then there were other faces.  The faces of nations,
Governments, parliaments, societies,
The faceless faces of important men.

It is these men I mind:
They are so jealous of anything that is not flat!  They are jealous gods
That would have the whole world flat because they are.
I see the Father conversing with the Son.
Such flatness cannot but be holy.
'Let us make a heaven,' they say.
'Let us flatten and launder the grossness from these souls.'

FIRST VOICE:
I am calm.  I am calm.  It is the calm before something awful:
The yellow minute before the wind walks, when the leaves
Turn up their hands, their pallors.  It is so quiet here.
The sheets, the faces, are white and stopped, like clocks.
Voices stand back and flatten.  Their visible hieroglyphs
Flatten to parchment screens to keep the wind off.
They paint such secrets in Arabic, Chinese!

I am dumb and brown.  I am a seed about to break.
The brownness is my dead self, and it is sullen:
It does not wish to be more, or different.
Dusk hoods me in blue now, like a Mary.
O color of distance and forgetfulness!--
When will it be, the second when Time breaks
And eternity engulfs it, and I drown utterly?

I talk to myself, myself only, set apart--
Swabbed and lurid with disinfectants, sacrificial.
Waiting lies heavy on my lids.  It lies like sleep,
Like a big sea.  Far off, far off, I feel the first wave tug
Its cargo of agony toward me, inescapable, tidal.
And I, a shell, echoing on this white beach
Face the voices that overwhelm, the terrible element.

THIRD VOICE:
I am a mountain now, among mountainy women.
The doctors move among us as if our bigness
Frightened the mind.  They smile like fools.
They are to blame for what I am, and they know it.
They hug their flatness like a kind of health.
And what if they found themselves surprised, as I did?
They would go mad with it.

And what if two lives leaked between my thighs?
I have seen the white clean chamber with its instruments.
It is a place of shrieks.  It is not happy.
'This is where you will come when you are ready.'
The night lights are flat red moons.  They are dull with blood.
I am not ready for anything to happen.
I should have murdered this, that murders me.

FIRST VOICE:
There is no miracle more cruel than this.
I am dragged by the horses, the iron hooves.
I last.  I last it out.  I accomplish a work.
Dark tunnel, through which hurtle the visitations,
The visitations, the manifestations, the startled faces.
I am the center of an atrocity.
What pains, what sorrows must I be mothering?

Can such innocence **** and ****?  It milks my life.
The trees wither in the street.  The rain is corrosive.
I taste it on my tongue, and the workable horrors,
The horrors that stand and idle, the slighted godmothers
With their hearts that tick and tick, with their satchels of instruments.
I shall be a wall and a roof, protecting.
I shall be a sky and a hill of good:  O let me be!

A power is growing on me, an old tenacity.
I am breaking apart like the world.  There is this blackness,
This ram of blackness.  I fold my hands on a mountain.
The air is thick.  It is thick with this working.
I am used.  I am drummed into use.
My eyes are squeezed by this blackness.
I see nothing.

SECOND VOICE:
I am accused.  I dream of massacres.
I am a garden of black and red agonies.  I drink them,
Hating myself, hating and fearing.  And now the world conceives
Its end and runs toward it, arms held out in love.
It is a love of death that sickens everything.
A dead sun stains the newsprint.  It is red.
I lose life after life.  The dark earth drinks them.

She is the vampire of us all.  So she supports us,
Fattens us, is kind.  Her mouth is red.
I know her.  I know her intimately--
Old winter-face, old barren one, old time bomb.
Men have used her meanly.  She will eat them.
Eat them, eat them, eat them in the end.
The sun is down.  I die.  I make a death.

FIRST VOICE:
Who is he, this blue, furious boy,
Shiny and strange, as if he had hurtled from a star?
He is looking so angrily!
He flew into the room, a shriek at his heel.
The blue color pales.  He is human after all.
A red lotus opens in its bowl of blood;
They are stitching me up with silk, as if I were a material.

What did my fingers do before they held him?
What did my heart do, with its love?
I have never seen a thing so clear.
His lids are like the lilac-flower
And soft as a moth, his breath.
I shall not let go.
There is no guile or warp in him.  May he keep so.

SECOND VOICE:
There is the moon in the high window.  It is over.
How winter fills my soul!  And that chalk light
Laying its scales on the windows, the windows of empty offices,
Empty schoolrooms, empty churches.  O so much emptiness!
There is this cessation.  This terrible cessation of everything.
These bodies mounded around me now, these polar sleepers--
What blue, moony ray ices their dreams?

I feel it enter me, cold, alien, like an instrument.
And that mad, hard face at the end of it, that O-mouth
Open in its gape of perpetual grieving.
It is she that drags the blood-black sea around
Month after month, with its voices of failure.
I am helpless as the sea at the end of her string.
I am restless.  Restless and useless.  I, too, create corpses.

I shall move north.  I shall move into a long blackness.
I see myself as a shadow, neither man nor woman,
Neither a woman, happy to be like a man, nor a man
Blunt and flat enough to feel no lack.  I feel a lack.
I hold my fingers up, ten white pickets.
See, the darkness is leaking from the cracks.
I cannot contain it.  I cannot contain my life.

I shall be a heroine of the peripheral.
I shall not be accused by isolate buttons,
Holes in the heels of socks, the white mute faces
Of unanswered letters, coffined in a letter case.
I shall not be accused, I shall not be accused.
The clock shall not find me wanting, nor these stars
That rivet in place abyss after abyss.

THIRD VOICE:
I see her in my sleep, my red, terrible girl.
She is crying through the glass that separates us.
She is crying, and she is furious.
Her cries are hooks that catch and grate like cats.
It is by these hooks she climbs to my notice.
She is crying at the dark, or at the stars
That at such a distance from us shine and whirl.

I think her little head is carved in wood,
A red, hard wood, eyes shut and mouth wide open.
And from the open mouth issue sharp cries
Scratching at my sleep like arrows,
Scratching at my sleep, and entering my side.
My daughter has no teeth.  Her mouth is wide.
It utters such dark sounds it cannot be good.

FIRST VOICE:
What is it that flings these innocent souls at us?
Look, they are so exhausted, they are all flat out
In their canvas-sided cots, names tied to their wrists,
The little silver trophies they've come so far for.
There are some with thick black hair, there are some bald.
Their skin tints are pink or sallow, brown or red;
They are beginning to remember their differences.

I think they are made of water; they have no expression.
Their features are sleeping, like light on quiet water.
They are the real monks and nuns in their identical garments.
I see them showering like stars on to the world--
On India, Africa, America, these miraculous ones,
These pure, small images.  They smell of milk.
Their footsoles are untouched.  They are walkers of air.

Can nothingness be so prodigal?
Here is my son.
His wide eye is that general, flat blue.
He is turning to me like a little, blind, bright plant.
One cry.  It is the hook I hang on.
And I am a river of milk.
I am a warm hill.

SECOND VOICE:
I am not ugly.  I am even beautiful.
The mirror gives back a woman without deformity.
The nurses give back my clothes, and an identity.
It is usual, they say, for such a thing to happen.
It is usual in my life, and the lives of others.
I am one in five, something like that.  I am not hopeless.
I am beautiful as a statistic.  Here is my lipstick.

I draw on the old mouth.
The red mouth I put by with my identity
A day ago, two days, three days ago.  It was a Friday.
I do not even need a holiday; I can go to work today.
I can love my husband, who will understand.
Who will love me through the blur of my deformity
As if I had lost an eye, a leg, a tongue.

And so I stand, a little sightless.  So I walk
Away on wheels, instead of legs, they serve as well.
And learn to speak with fingers, not a tongue.
The body is resourceful.
The body of a starfish can grow back its arms
And newts are prodigal in legs.  And may I be
As prodigal in what lacks me.

THIRD VOICE:
She is a small island, asleep and peaceful,
And I am a white ship hooting:  Goodbye, goodbye.
The day is blazing.  It is very mournful.
The flowers in this room are red and tropical.
They have lived behind glass all their lives, they have been cared for
        tenderly.
Now they face a winter of white sheets, white faces.
There is very little to go into my suitcase.

There are the clothes of a fat woman I do not know.
There is my comb and brush.  There is an emptiness.
I am so vulnerable suddenly.
I am a wound walking out of hospital.
I am a wound that they are letting go.
I leave my health behind.  I leave someone
Who would adhere to me:  I undo her fingers like bandages:  I go.

SECOND VOICE:
I am myself again.  There are no loose ends.
I am bled white as wax, I have no attachments.
I am flat and virginal, which means nothing has happened,
Nothing that cannot be erased, ripped up and scrapped, begun again.
There little black twigs do not think to bud,
Nor do these dry, dry gutters dream of rain.
This woman who meets me in windows--she is neat.

So neat she is transparent, like a spirit.
how shyly she superimposes her neat self
On the inferno of African oranges, the heel-hung pigs.
She is deferring to reality.
It is I.  It is I--
Tasting the bitterness between my teeth.
The incalculable malice of the everyday.

FIRST VOICE:
How long can I be a wall, keeping the wind off?
How long can I be
Gentling the sun with the shade of my hand,
Intercepting the blue bolts of a cold moon?
The voices of loneliness, the voices of sorrow
Lap at my back ineluctably.
How shall it soften them, this little lullaby?

How long can I be a wall around my green property?
How long can my hands
Be a bandage to his hurt, and my words
Bright birds in the sky, consoling, consoling?
It is a terrible thing
To be so open:  it is as if my heart
Put on a face and walked into the world.

THIRD VOICE:
Today the colleges are drunk with spring.
My black gown is a little funeral:
It shows I am serious.
The books I carry wedge into my side.
I had an old wound once, but it is healing.
I had a dream of an island, red with cries.
It was a dream, and did not mean a thing.

FIRST VOICE:
Dawn flowers in the great elm outside the house.
The swifts are back.  They are shrieking like paper rockets.
I hear the sound of the hours
Widen and die in the hedgerows.  I hear the moo of cows.
The colors replenish themselves, and the wet
Thatch smokes in the sun.
The narcissi open white faces in the orchard.

I am reassured.  I am reassured.
These are the clear bright colors of the nursery,
The talking ducks, the happy lambs.
I am simple again.  I believe in miracles.
I do not believe in those terrible children
Who injure my sleep with their white eyes, their fingerless hands.
They are not mine.  They do not belong to me.

I shall meditate upon normality.
I shall meditate upon my little son.
He does not walk. &n
For Rob, bearer of absinthe

Could it have troubled Pandora’s mind,
On learning where Hope springs -
At the base of her box she chanced to find
The cruellest devil with angel’s wings?

To foresee it seep into our veins -
Leave us to trip, blunder and fall,
Cause mankind monumental pains,
And make a mockery of us all.

As the drowning atheist looks to the skies -
Before a wave knocks him to his demise
Into an absurd and uncaring ocean.

Somewhere a poet quietly smarts
The excess love from her swollen heart
And on a page whispers her devotion.
A poem inspired by the work of Charles Baudelaire that mostly came about because I told a guy I'd write him a sonnet when I was drunk and it still seemed like a fun idea sober.
Connor Aug 2018
Pleasing each other in the perfect
black night
(wretched forest)

Hands gripped tight against your waist,
on my knees, the dirt below digs into my skin
which is okay
We can hardly be heard midst the lively pandemonium
surrounding our loveliness

Drop-down
like a Luciferean Prima Donna
in silk /
walk on flowers of both Hemispheres
telling me how much you adore me & you

As equals in our posture-possession
unable to stand straight/shrouded by holy creamy
doves closing-in
muffling our mutual shrieks (as to be private and without gathering too much a crowd)

O Autumn Calypso
keeper of the scales, of the riddle
& the promise simultaneous -
- I am your victim and your master, trafficking our fragility
into a glorious Unknown, shade & essence of leaves wavers in the quieting hour,
seduced - transfixed & ravished in a wondrous spectacle
with Enchanter's nightshade laurel endowed on high

****, close and
hot - unrehearsed arias told by tongues  -
while we seep further in a hallowed guise/harp misplaced -
excommunicated from the Stead we traversed
before on ideal grounds – too late to remember or
repent – dabbling in magic with our double identity - now one insoluble drapery of illuminations
being shepherded into a ferocious
intoxication of its own fluid magnificence – a Narcissus gazing back, decaying with vehemence
LexiSully Sep 2016
I walk alone,
Turning aimlessly left and right,
Feeling the cold from the rain seep through to my dismal heart.

Hot tears stream down my grief stricken face,
Contorting in and out of melancholy shapes,
Allowing my pitiful sobs to seep out.

My chest is tight with my broken heart,
Burning with every shaky breathe taken,
Surprisingly resisting the urge to cave in all together.

The world is bland,
Every color seems to have faded to shades of black and grey,
Doleful rain falling aimlessly to the ground.

Cheerful people sing in the rain,
Dance through the streets,
Jump in the forming puddles.

But me?

I walk on,
Sensing the cold swishing of my feet in my soaking shoes,
Craving to be unnoticed and left with my dismal heart.
Becca DeMateo Oct 2013
WARNING:
A very very ***** parody of the song "Lips of a angel" by Hinder
(listen to song while reading, it will make more since)
(See notes for more details)


Honey why you queefing tonight.
It's kinda hard to **** right now.
And honey why you queefing,
is everything okay?
I like the way your whispering eye sounds.

Well, my ***** in your *******.
Sometimes I wish it wasn't.
I guess we never really lubed enough.

I heard you like to play with toys.
You're screaming my name,
was that a *****?
Coming from the lips of and angel,
the way you ***** it makes me seep.

And i, never want to see your brown eye.
But girl you make my **** hard and playful.
With the "lips" of an angel.

It's funny that you're queefing, right now.
And yes, i've dreamt of this too.
Dose he know you're ******* with me,
can we please just try.
Baby please don't say you have to poo.

Well my ***** in your *******.
Sometimes i wish it wasn't.
i guess we never really lubed enough.

I heard you like to play with toys.
You're screaming my name,
was that a *****?
Coming from the "lips" of a angel,
the way you ***** it makes me seep.
And i, never wanted to see your brown eye.
But girl you make my **** hard and playful.
With the "lips" of a angel.

I heard you liek to play with toys.
you're screaming my name.
was that a *****?
Coming from the lips of a angel
the way you ***** it makes me seep

And I never wanted to see your brown eye.
But girl you make my **** hard and playful,
with the "lips" of and angel.

I never wanted to see you're brown eye.
But girl you make my **** hard and playful,
with the lips of a angel.

Honey why you qeefing tonight.
I wrote this as a project. My best friend dan told me he was working on a parody of this song but could'nt quite figure it out. I told him I could do.
It took me 10 minutes...
I am truly sorry because this is super gross, and i know it is highly inappropriate. But this parody reminds me of so many fun times in my past with my favorite people in the world.
ENJOY :P
Valorous visage,
rivulets of gore seep
glory blooms.
Courage to face even death, for the sake of their nation, will gain eternal eminence.
Bree Jun 2018
I want my love for myself
To overflow
And I want my overflow of love
To seep over onto you
But for now
My cup is empty
And maybe you can sense
That I have nothing to offer you
Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker.  I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames.  Nothing burns

And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.

A mouth just bloodied.
Little ****** skirts!

There are fumes I cannot touch.
Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?

If I could bleed, or sleep! -
If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!

Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,
Dulling and stilling.

But colorless.  Colorless.
Alysia Marie Nov 2014
Come sew buttons into my eyes, and allow me to believe all of your lies.
For the beauty of love shall seep deep within; even if perception is fogged by your sins.

                                     Alysia Marie 2014 ©
kgl Oct 2015
the words used to flow like silk through my fingertips
i used to know exactly how to weave them
make them fall into tapestries, hang them from walls
emblazoned with unadulterated innocence.

it wasn't until you asked to look at my creations
that i realised sunlight could be so damaging
my words felt frivolous under your scathing gaze
and they stuttered, crumbled. my tapestries fell.

now they're dust and i'm on my knees, crawling
grasping fistfuls that seep through my hands
you can't write about something you can't feel
and now i can't feel anything.

this is the last poem i'll write about you.
someone Aug 2015
one. ****. she'll make you curse a lot.
that's all that'll roll off your tounge everytime you'd want to describe how she makes you feel.

two. that girl is funny. i don't think you can have a bad day if she's around. i don't even think she'll try to make you laugh, i think with her it comes naturally.

three. she'll make you feel alive. you will want to experience it all with no one else but her. she'll keep you at a high you'd never reach on your own. DON'T bring her down with you when you hit rock bottom. DON'T drag her with you anywhere she doesn't belong.

four. she'll sometimes be out of reach. more like, most times. let her be. she deserves all your time. all your days and nights. but only if she asks for it. you should a l w a y s check up on her, though. (ask how her day went. ask her how she's feeling.) make sure her "i'm okay" is sincere. make sure her days are more than just "fine".

five. listen to her. she'll always have something to say about everything, but she won't always say it. listen to her. let her talk about everything she wants to talk about. talk about it with her. i doubt you'll ever have enough of her.

six. when she doesn't want to talk, don't ask her to. be comfortably silent with her when she needs some quiet, but make sure your presence is loud. don't ever make her feel alone.

seven. she's special. treat her like she is. you should n e v e r let her second guess what she means to you. you should n e v e r make her rethink your love for her.

eight. don't go through one day without telling her you love her. she won't believe you, but you should never stop reminding her. she doesn't have to feel what you feel back, but she has to acknowledge that someone out there has her on their mind, day and night. always let her know she's important.

nine. she can be stubborn, and at most times she will be. i have a love/hate relationship with that quality of hers. let her have her own way. don't bug her about her choices. but, keep in mind there's nothing wrong with not agreeing with her sometimes.

ten. don't hurt her. not because she's fragile, but because she doesn't deserve it. for ***** sake, she deserves more than you can ever offer.  and for that, you should give her your all. or at least you should keep trying to

eleven. don't just tell her you trust her, but also show her you do. she won't take your word for it. let her in. open up. spill your heart out to her, and know she'll have her arms wide open. she won't let you seep through.

twelve. she's passionate. i can imagine her eyes gleaming when she talks about what she loves. you can feel it through your phone screen. i'll hunt you down and feed on your flesh if you try to shut her up. yes, she is passionate, but not about most things. and she won't talk about it with everyone. so you better ******* listen when she tries to share this part of herself with you. or leave. ******* leave her if you won't love her right.

thirteen. she's smart as ****. not the lame, "i get good grades" kinda smart. but the kind, that never fails to blow my mind. treasure her brain.

fourteen. i've never seen someone who wants to read as much as she does, but has zero willpower to. read to her. read to her like i've always wanted to, but never got the chance to. whether it be prose or fiction, or some fact you read off the newspaper. never stop reading to her.

fifteen. please, never lie to her. don't make promises you can't keep. you'll lose her. ****. if you lost her, you would lose all that could make your life meaningful.

sixteen. don't give up on her. please, never give up on her. she's not always easy to deal with, and neither are you. but to god, she's worth it. she's worth all of it.

seventeen. you'll never love her more than i do. but you sure as **** need to try your ******* best to make sure you're never the reason behind any of her troubles. don't **** up. don't **** up like i did.
Jason Drury Aug 2014
Wrapped and tied by time.
I felt it seep,
into the world around me.
Always taking never giving.
As it absorbed… slowly.
It pushed the pins,
of the past into the realm,
of my present.
To escape the things,
I store away.
Lids of my sight close,
to view an asian forest.
Riddled with bamboo,
with filter of green and dusk
I feel myself sleeping,
near coy and a soft brook.
I dreamt I was a white wolf
in a green asian forest.  
Hunting my brother.
The wolf dark with time.
He was where darkness seeks,
to infect and seep.
I feel myself breathing,
deeper and deeper.
Slowly, the darkness around,
lifts enough and calms.
Stillness, and the light song of evening.
I feel myself calming, breathing,
and letting go.
a May 2015
the double-glaze and blackout curtains shield me
from the world's uncertainty.
the panes of glass so sure not to allow its overside to retreat and
seep its liquid coldness to reach me. it's neither
cold nor warm at the touch, unlike me.
i am protected by the double gaze and blackout curtains but
some force that differs from the one that is currently causing
the tree outside sway dangerously close to my perch is
causing my mind and body to be insulated
by a layer of ice.
goosebumps prickle and my arm and leg stubble
raise themselves.
but my mind does not provide for itself thermoregulatory
reflexes, i
must withstand the shiver of my memories.
Brian McDonagh May 2018
Netted on the outside
Dreams pass through the inside.
The good dreams seep the center,
The bad dreams are caught: DO NOT ENTER!
The sleeper with eyes shut,
Protected by the dreamcatcher
And selected by the buy-snatcher,
Slumbers in peace
When all is at ease
Around the dreamcatcher police.
Reality is still
But the mind is awake
And sleep is at stake.
Eyes cannot detect
What the dreamcatcher does,
It only sways in the midst of a glance.
But the dreams that pass the glass dividing atmospheric gas
Cannot be seen, touched, heard.
Dreamcatchers have a radar
That no being does.
The dreams charge at once!
WOOOOSH.
Not a dream is heard
Caught in the dreamcatcher grid,
But the good ones
Keep clean the REM zones.
Native-American tradition
I will surely petition.
I have two dreamcatchers in my room; I love the culture, tradition, and protection they offer!
Bethany M P Dec 2018
The sand shifts beneath your feet,
Your heart relaxes to a quiet beat,
The waters seem to breathe day and night,
Close your eyes take it in do not fight,
The wind satisfies your soul,
Just relax now you've played your role,
Touch the sand now scoop it up,
Hold it in your hands and form a cup,
Now let it seep through towards the sandy ground,
Your soul was lost but now its found,
The weather you desire will come your way,
Just stand closer to the bay,
Soon life will be eternal for you and me,
Look beyond the ocean and tell me what you see.
                          -open heart poetry
Through the years of transparent existence, a void of illusion becomes apparent and slowly becomes nothing more than a side-show. The dribbling glimpses of truth fade like the bones of old. No man can create such an indentation in the mold of space and time that the observers at the end of eternity will render their imprint upon the infinite gaian consciousness and body of universal proportions of any significance. Even the earth laughs at such ridiculousness. The ego is a strong bind - it can create maya and attachment to such fantasies easier than a bear can find it's ideal location for a winter hibernation. It's a world of craziness, where nobody knows whats going on.
The man woke up from his deep slumber. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Squinting, he looked around, studying his surroundings and taking mental notes. His thoughts are ***** scribblings on a subway wall. His heart is beating, searching for a band to play in rhythm with. His soul is aching from loneliness and desire. His feet lifelessly surrender their position up on the couch and find the floor, shrieking from the cold of the linoleum. His presence is that of a bird with a broken wing still attempting to fly. He stands up and stares at the ceiling.
The room is small. Four walls of white, one window and one door. The window looks out over the grey city. The door leads into another room - the room most would call a kitchen. In the small room before the kitchen, there is only a couch and a blanket. No lamp. No television. No electricity. No electricity in the entire apartment. The kitchen holds no refrigerator, no oven, no toaster, no pantry. It's called a kitchen because that's what it would be if somebody else was living in the apartment. There are two bananas on the floor along with a box of wheat flake cereal. No milk, no bowl, no spoon. The bananas are almost entirely rotten. The box of cereal is on its side, leaking bits of wheat flake, resembling a dying soldier on a battlefield who's losing all his blood through the wound on his neck rather than a box of the West's favorite morning go-to breakfast.
The man is observing the cracks on the ceiling, along with various stains with no known origin to him. His eyes dart from one corner of the room to another to another to another and back to the first. Spiderwebs. Dust. Decay. A perfect example of life's ability to take care of itself. Biodecomposition. When no one is around to look after a house, over time, Nature will take over it. Vines will grow and overcome the walls. Rain will fall and wear away the roof and general structure. Winds will blow, taking blindshots at the weakened building, eventually cause it to fall. Nothing lasts forever. Everything goes back to where it came from.
The man now steps into the "kitchen", where he begins to study the stains on the ceiling in this room as well. His mind is electric, with no thoughts in the usual sense, but rather just a vague presence of void to help the ceiling stains feel important. He is the space through which everything around him can exist to their fullest potential. After a measureless amount of time, the man walks over to the sad bits of food on the far side of the small room. He picks up one of he bananas and studies it. He feels where it came from. The tropical skies and smells and earth of Costa Rica. There's a little sticker on the banana that says so. Each bit of fruit in the markets nowadays are individually stickered...for prosperity, one can only assume. Though it's best to never assume anything, and instead be open to everything - afterall, anything is possible, at any time. Likelihood and probability are also important factors in the universal constitution of existence. What was the likelihood that this man, when he was a little child, figured he'd be holding a rotten banana from Costa Rica in his hand inside of a kitchenless kitchen? Who knows? The man wouldn't be able to recall his thoughts from early childhood - he barely remembers waking up and experiencing the chilling sensation of early morning linoleum. In any case, everything is exactly the way it's supposed to be, for it wouldn't be if it wasn't meant to be.
He slowly peels open the banana peel to reveal this brown, soft mush of tropical fruit. Just the way he likes it - soft enough to chew with his toothless mouth. He takes his time consuming the fruit, savoring every particle. After a good bit of time, the fruit is gone and all the man is left with is the peel. He takes another good look at the peel, once again imagining where this particular banana came from. Then, in two swift bites, he devours the entire peel - sticker included. He figures the sticker came from Costa Rica as well, and thus must carry that Costa Rican tropical vibe of health and longevity. His eyes then focus on the wheat flake cereal lying next to the other rotting banana. He bends down and picks up the box. The box is upside down when he picks it up and so the cereal spills out all over the area of the "kitchen" floor that seems to be dedicated to eating food. The remaining banana is now covered in wheat cereal.
The man drops the box back onto the floor and takes a seat alongside of it. His fingers hold his face from drooping onto his knees. His knees are keeping his torso from melting onto the floor. He screams with no sound. The pains of existence seep through his hollow eyes and into the receptors of his soul. He screams with no sound. He’s as empty as the American Dream.
The cobwebs are spreading from the corners of the room and are aimed for the human form sitting in the “kitchen” screaming silence with all his might. The cobwebs grow. The commuters of the city highway are commuting. A thousand birthday celebrations are being had. A thousand people sexually uninhibited, joyously seizing the moment in disgusting miraculous unity of mortal physical desire. Junkies are roaming the street for their morning fix. Teaching are teaching their students absolute lies. Governments are stealing the lives of billions and counting. And the cobwebs are growing, encompassing entire walls. The the ceiling. Then the floor. Then they crawl up the lifeless legs of the man who sits screaming in silence and the spiders overtake his body. They stitch his mouth shut and close his eyes with their spun proteinaceous spider silk. The man withers into the wind of time and vanishes from the world without a single soul taking notice. Leaving nothing behind except an empty apartment, overdue rent, and a number in the system of Western Society. His spirit cries sorrowfully as it flees the clutches of molecular existence into the realm of eternity and space. Heaven. He made it. He looks down at the people of the world he just left and sings a pitiful song for them. He’ll see them again. Afterall, they are Him. And He is Them. His Heart, the Sun, burns as the world he left turns. The lessons He left are slowly being learned. One by one. But still, there’s a space between the atoms, between the cells. And that space can never disappear. Without it, there would be no point to the story. All would be one, as it is, and there’s be nothing to overcome. No triumph. Just an endless loop of bizarre beautiful experience and pattern.
AmberLynne Apr 2014
I am a tempest,
     the most violent of
     winds whipping around
     without concern for any
     who surround me. 

I am a volcano,
     the lava of my emotions 
     exploding up and over
     to seep throughout
     every nook and crevice. 

I am a typhoon,
     my gale force winds
     showing mercy to
     neither sea nor land as
     I rip-roar over it all. 


And you…
     you are the halcyon tranquility
     I've been searching for
     all along, the serenity needed 
     to calm my frenzied turbulence
     with but a stroke of your lips,
     leaving me breathless and
     my winds settled at long last.
4.18.14
Amy Leigh Sep 2014
Little cracks like weeping windows
we grow opaque
and under the pale blue moon
(tainted)
you seep into my soul


© A. Leigh
Omnis Atrum Aug 2012
Don’t think I’m trying to make or break you spirit
Just giving you a thought from my soul, if you would only hear it,
I can’t fully express (or repress) exactly what it is I think
So I babble incoherently and leave my decision on the brink.
I can’t decide if I should drop my pride and let the words flow
But a fear far worse rises of sad surprises and having to let you go,
So I stand back though I feel you close and I try to leave you be
But I know I can’t conceal or forget the words you’ve said to me.
So let me know (or find a way to show) exactly what I should do
But know as soon as I leave I find myself lost without you,
If you could just see a glimpse or peek for just a second of my mind
And what’s inside then you would know all thoughts for you are kind.
Only protecting (but not correcting) when I think I should step in
Because I’ve been in the same place and I’ve felt that hurt, my friend,
And I don’t want anyone to feel a pain so real, especially not you
Ignoring potential ulterior motives you know every word I say is true.
I swear without err that I couldn’t miss you more when you’re not here
But I’m fighting back fears when you’re holding me near whispering secrets in my ear,
And I’ve told you truly you hold more beauty that all of the stars in the night
Though you show it, I guess you don’t know it, or this knowledge you seem to fight.
(Who could forget her covered in glitter with sweet revenge in her eyes?)
But you’ve got this kid confused and blurry no matter how hard I try
To figure you out, your words still seem like an undecipherable code
That I try to map out and reconstruct in an abstract uneven ode.
I’m not playing, only saying that whether my words seep through or not
That you need not fear, because I’ll be here, my promise I haven’t forgot,
And when it ends, as it inevitably will, and you feel nothing but hurt and pain
I’ll soften my tone, and tell you you’re never alone, and you’re safe in my arms again.

A lifetime of waiting in wonder if you were really true
A trillion seconds of wishing my worries I could subdue,
Countless nights spent praying that you would become real to me
But a moment in your arms and worries are but a distant memory.

I have spent the greater portion of my life searching for a person that has certain distinguishable qualities. I have often been told that my standards were unreachable. I have spent years defining unconditional love, the difference between love and infatuation, and in general what love is. I was not until I met you that I was able to distinguish one emotion from another figure out what I had been missing all along. Since I met you I now know that love is:

When their heartbeat reverberates inside your very soul. When you find the answers to all of the questions of the world inside their eyes. When the only desire that you have is to fulfill all of their desires. When your body trembles at its inability to contain all of the emotions that are trying to burst forth from within you. When their voice sounds sweeter than any angelic melody could ever desire to. When you are dreaming of them and upon waking you try as hard as you can to get back to sleep because you cannot wait until you actually get to see them again. When they are the first thing that you think of in the morning and the last thing that you think about before going to sleep. When you try so hard to conceal how you are lost in bliss when you see them smile. When every touch and caress makes your heart race faster than you thought possible. When you wish you could lose yourself for an eternity in every kiss. When every day spent with them passes by in a moment and you find yourself wishing you were with them again. When your biggest fear is waking up and not finding them next to you. When your greatest desire is to hold them close. When all of the great problems of the world become minor details. When you search constantly for a stronger word because you know that love could not possibly encompass everything that you feel. When you know in your heart that you could drown in a single tear that they cried. When you would give up everything else just to hear them say "I love you" and know that they meant it. When you know that there is no one else in the world more beautiful than the person you hold dear. When you cannot help but smile when you think back on the memories you have made.  When you plan out every moment of that special day just so it will be as memorable as possible to them. When the only reason that you have left to fear death is that you would be without them. When you know that to hurt them would be the greatest crime that you could ever commit. When you realize that these words do not do justice to the meaning behind them.

Yet…even though those words cannot fully express how I truly feel…I still use them for lack of a way to show you to a further extent.

I love you. I love your kisses. Your smile. When you tell me that all that matters is us. That the rest of the world could fall apart and as long as we have each other that we'll be fine. That little thing you do when you think no one is looking. The way you lay there and stare at me for hours on end. Not needing to say anything. The way you smile because you know that it makes me happy, even if you don't want to. The way you call me just to see what I’m up to...even if you already know. The way you act surprised even if I’ve ******* up and you already know what's going to happen. The way that you look so innocent when you lay there sleeping. The way you laugh at me when I’m acting ******* just so I won't feel bad. That look you give me. The way that we argue about who loves who more. The stupid things we do when we're bored. The way that you make me feel complete. The way you hold me so tightly. The way you make me feel like I’m the one protecting you instead of the other way around. How it seems like I’m not alone when you're here. How you pour out your soul because you know I won't ever use any of it against you. The love you give, the hope you continue, the happiness you sustain.

A thousand thoughts of you are but a sand in time
but those thoughts of you are always in my mind,
Swirling slowly, completely through, even to my soul
and these fragments of thoughts of you are what makes me whole.
I piece them all together as hard as it may be
so I can remember every moment since you said yes to me,
And as I get lost in these memories deep in my heart’s core
I think in bliss of how in time there will be so many more.
I piece my life together like a puzzle full of truth
but the puzzle now can make no sense without the thought of you,
The only time I’m more confused is when I’m lost within your eyes
Because I’m lost within the one that I love to be beside.
I have eternal comfort when I’m holding you tight
But even that eternity must end when I let you go at night,
And even though I leave alone, I leave with a smile
Because I know before I see you again, it will only be a while.
The happiness you’ve brought to me this poem cannot explain
Because even now I can’t tell you how much I’ve gained,
Ever since that night when you said that you’d be mine
So I just wanted to let you know that I have the best valentine.

puzzles are easily put together, codes are easily deciphered, riddles are easily solved, questions are easily answered. the things created by the mind of man can be easily solved by the mind of man. it is only the questions that words cannot be found for that cannot be answered.

if a heart could cry out in an audible tone then i am afraid that i would go deaf from the constant murmur that would be produced from the depths of my chest. if love was an object i am afraid that i would tuck mine away forever so that such an irreplacable treasure would not become worn with time. if time could stop itself i am afraid where i would be found when it did so. if sleep could lash out and attack me for ignoring it for so long i am afraid that it would never cease its assault. if errors made were corporeal then i am afraid that i would lock them away forever in an inescapable prison to never be seen again. if my apologies grew limbs i am afraid they would die from exhaustion from constantly running from my heart to your ears. if my desire could be contained i am afraid no container would be found capable of storing such a great mass. if it was possible for me to find that which i seek i am afraid that it would dissolve and leave me without the one that none can replace. if i could tell you everything that i feel i am afraid that you would think me truly mad. if all my fears dissolved i am afraid that i would have nothing left to run from and would be found standing still. if i should be found standing still i am afraid that i would give all i have to give. and if i gave my all i am afraid that it would all be for nought and i would be found where i once was, without...

my father recently told me that i run from everything. i follow some "run and gun" pattern as he described it. he does not know how right he truly was. i could not explain it to him just as much as i cannot fully explain it to myself. but to put it simply...i fear. i fear love because i fear that it will always end as it has in the past. i fear confrontation because in the end someone always ends up hurt. i fear sleep because i cannot control the dreams that are created by my own mind. i fear hope because i am afraid that i will be disappointed. i fear my emotions because i am afraid that they will become greater than what i can control. i fear closeness because distance will inevitably set in. i fear looking into your eyes because you may see how i truly feel. that you may feel sympathy, that you may look down on me for admitting what is known to be true but never stated, that you will see how much you have helped me through what i could not do on my own, that you will see through my eyes and into my soul and be overwhelmed.

and though i fear many things, and though because i cannot often be found because i run from all those things which i do fear, there are some things that i have never feared and i doubt i ever shall. i have never feared your voice. i have never feared being with you. i have never feared losing what we have developed through the years. i have never feared that anything will ever come between us. i have never feared that the love i feel for you should ever subside. i have always given you my heart in whole because there is no fear that you will ever break it. and though i know that i have never nor will ever find a greater friend than you i do not fear that i should ever have to search for another. in a poem that i once wrote to you the words "all i have ever wanted, but more than i could ask for" still stand true. you mean the world to me. and if you were not here i have no idea where i would be right now. i just wanted to thank you for being there for me through everything that i've gone through. you have brought light to a once dim heart. you are the only proof that i need that there are those out there deserving all that i have.

these words mean nothing without the meaning behind them.

smile love, just smile. i will make you the happiest woman in the world. i will give you everything that you've ever wanted. i will make you forget the entities of sadness and regret. i will love you and you will love me, i'll make you lose yourself in the everlasting bliss, never leave you without a smile. i'll leave you wondering how you lived your life before now. he will fill your head with empty promises...

in time i have come to learn that love is a many faceted colossus. and depending on the angle of approach and point of view you can see many different things in it. that is why most people view love in different ways. it's not that their love is less true, it's just they have been one of the unfortunates that has been led to view love from the wrong perspective. finding love is easy if you approach it from one of the more easily accessible viewpoints. but if you work at it hard enough you can gain a vantage point that shows you the true beauty of love. the whole of this gargantuan emotional construct will be within your heart and mind. and once you have conquered the understanding of this which some might call an obstacle you can share what you have learned and teach those who were so unfortunate to not achieve what you have achieved. because although each facet complicates the next, and every love is different, is the goal not always the same? to extend your boundaries of happiness with another past what you could accomplish by yourself.

...and when you are left unhearted wondering why this love has collapsed upon itself. i will simply tell you that you saw love as a simple emotion when it was really a complicated goliath. and as you cannot build wonders out of empty boxes, you cannot build love with nothing but empty promises.

and there was a man. the frigid chill of winter blew behind him pushed him forward into the warm embrace that stood before him. and he knew that never again would he be able to turn around and face the cold void that he had left behind. he would never be able to follow the trail of frozen tears to find what he had once called his own on the other side of the blizzard. once he had found his way out of the storm he knew that he would never again have to feel such pain, such numbness. but the warm embrace that held him now made him forget all of those things. because that from which he came was so cold the warmness he now felt was euphoric. it lit a spark in his eye and caused him to glow. and of this fact alone he is forever grateful.

All i want is to be with you
but i don't know how to let you know,
if somehow you found out and knew
all my worries and fears would go.
If the wind would whisper in your ear
this secret that i'm forced to keep,
and all of it you could hear
so much pressure would be lifted off of me.
My unease to tell has filled me with disbelief
usually it is so easy for me to throw it all way,
but your friendship I do want to keep
and I can't find the way to tell you today.
I can't just let go like times before
there's something about you that makes me care,
I feel like this is something more
but with you this secret i can't share.
maybe i'm afraid you might shy away
or I'll just ***** everything up again,
but if i ever found out that you would stay
I'd break down and tell you right then.
All I want is to be with you
but I don't know how to let you know,
If somehow you found out and knew
new fears would come when the old ones go.

when you lay there staring up at me i realize
that i can almost see your soul through your eyes,
i can see all your desires that i'm trying to ignore
because i'm so afraid you'll say "don't hold me anymore".
the love i feel for you will surely outlast the world
but in this love there is no lust even as our bodies were curled,
i  just want to hold you and know that you are near
to move any further than this would again spark the fear.
my mind was running in circles as we laid there so long
so confused, so petrified, so afraid to do something wrong,
but even though these feelings were welling up inside of me
every time you smiled i felt nothing but relief.
knowing that you were there sheltered me from all that i hide
and hearing "i love you too" makes me forget what i've been denied,
makes me forget all but the wholeness that i feel when i'm with you
so whole because i know and feel that every word you say is true.
So here's to a friend that i know i never will forget
and not letting love and closeness turn into regret,
here's to the emotions for her that i can no longer store
she's everything i've ever wanted, but more than i could ask for.

Yesterday I knew the answers to all the problems on my mind
as you layed there trying to keep from falling asleep,
I found myself looking forward and not behind
and sharing these secrets i thought i would always keep.
But I must have stirred too much or breathed too hard
because your eyes slowly opened up again
and i knew the feelings i felt i no longer had to disregard
as you, as if lost in dream, looked into my eyes, my friend.
You sitting there so beautiful, a smile crossed your face
I knew there was no concealing the smile on my own
in this complete comfort that i know i can't replace
no mat
Marion Clarke Apr 2014
Paper thin top soil
Cracks seep through
Red dirt.
Bloodless gashes
Simmering summer soil
Baked turf.
Rolled gold haze
Aches as the
Country stretches its skin-
Near breaks
******* teeth
******* itches
Red earth fit-
              To burst in a
Dark cloud of dust,
Choking soft as to soak
The moisture fresh
From your lungs.

Blinding blue sky
Set for worship
On a tall horizon
Too far, too high
For common souls-
                  To float on a      
Breath of sweet dry air,
Eternal journey to sunset
Small piece of a dream
To chase a grey cloud
From sky to west.

Where subterranean
Creeks used to slip by
Rise in a ***** of land
Where water once carved
                          Its roam
Now the winds sweep
All traces away
Back toward the sea,
And fair beyond
The aching dry eyes
Of the sons of
This red earth,
A mist lies awake
And prays for rain.
Kagami Nov 2013
Senses explode, WWII,
Nuclear warfare on this expanse of bare
Skin supposed to be closed at my age separates,
I let the saltwater seep into this,
Slick. Time passes, hardly passing,
But, oh, how well we move.  Dance
Around our icy fire, escape from the pain
Constantly eating, feeding.
We are a buffet of things to harm
Come for another plate, fate.
Do us more harm? No. We will not stand, we can't
When we are in this state of mind. We have no state of mind,
Lust driven creatures, but we can speak. Command, tell me what
You want. You want a simple thing, but so complex.
And I want it, too, but simpler for me. A simple thing, unless thought of.
Believed in, felt deeply in ways not physical.
Arching and deepening, we will not be broken down by a measly
War outside of our windows.
Fire scorching the wooden figures, but we are sheltered by stone.
We have escaped and we are left with a heavy air and the smell
Only we can concoct. Nonexistent fabric leaving traces on my skin and yours, indent.
And your eyes are all I see, even in the dark. I know their color by heart, greenbluegrey-everchanging. But I can figure it out.
Your pupils dilate you know. You look at me and I see them. You seem drugged, dear.
Let me feed your addiction. There are many nuclear weapons left, buried
Throughout the world. We can travel and love,
Never ending.
As a darkness descends to these troubled lands,
carefully watching are those who feel a cold shrill,
hear with frozen aching,
breathing in the quickening frost...

Growing hoary slowly,
as the rime it seeds,
pressed blades of grass feel the man in need...
This is a toll that must be paid!

Her fleeting thoughts dance with the wind as she twirls about spinning into the winter’s descent...

Darkness falls and so doth she,
her thoughts in brightness, uncoupled glee,
her heart in love and mind carefree...

A sweeping, dashing, vision he shows,
In moon as deep earth,
her sweet heart glows,

“Forget the quickly, approaching fee!”

“Dear Night, oh Darkness; spare this man!”

“I see you, -hear me for I plead too, I’m watching from your ice-gripped troubled land!”

“Take me instead; I’ll pay his cost or your dark soul is truly lost!”

“I twirl with woe, I dance thus so, -wanton abandon…
the shivering cold and this ice I stand in,
Your chill, the frost, the illness and the terrible cost,
...our crops and all our people lost,
and still I shall ignore your hand!"


THEN HE DIES!

“No, your reparations I thus will pay!
Leave us now, unburden this land, your frory wind is not his plan,
God does love us, -he’ll stay your hand!”


“Some sign, an answer, please, oh please!
On frosted grass I press my knees,
will you not hear my lovelorn cries?
Why must you take him, why must he die?
I cannot stand so idly by!”


“How can you torment such good men, our town, our lands, tis ours, our home this place you’re in?"

Frigid heart of icy Dragon,
feels not nothing, mourns no loss,
bears down harder with his frost
and punishes them all for a sin...

“You beastly anger!”

“The cold hand of darkness in my eyes, my heart burns bright with moonlit scorn!”

A trumpet sounds when lightning strikes,
and thunder heard, it splits the night!

“A toll too great I shall not mourn,
Soulless winter’s passing bound,
in frosted days of chilling found,
You maketh tender hearts thus lost.
Your winter brings her frozen frost,
You tear and break frozen land asunder,
destroy our love our hearts you plunder!
Be gone such evil, lest love soon die, my heart he holds, my soul and sky!”


“Your freezing laughter has distended me…”


Storm God

“Clouds of fury, thunders might, upon that moon, clouds cover her light!"

"Sweeping winds, wisps of ice and snowy swirls opaque the night, freeze that man, take his life!”

“Break, then shatter with my cold spells of ice, he, then she, with no respite; I shall forever control the night!"

“Tell tale of love to me in playful fancy?”

“The darkness I bring; cower as your lives in fright, no man shall evade my thunderous might!”

“Sway me not oh fairy dancer from my cold winter in your bones shall arise a chilling cancer!”

“Destroy I must and hear you not, your land in peril with a wind I roar, cry you will in pain and so much more!”

“I am this world’s white awful sore!”

“Beg you shall, whimpering dearly, for darkness cometh so swift, severely!”

“Feel it, hear it, a painful sound my thunder shatters the peace with world renown!”

“As once, as was, forever more and now I smite so deafening score, I deliver you both to death’s door!”

“There is no heart within this storm; there shall be no heart in earth forevermore!”

“Love you say”

“…as if I know?”


“BE GONE NOW CURSED MOONLIT GLOW!”

“No life, no love, no NOT nothing, no, from nothingness I come and to nothingness you go!”

“Thus an answer to your pathetic dancing, your spinning motions, your frivolous prancing,"

“A stronger wind, a tor-na-do, witness the awful power I sow,”

“...my heartless mind to which you sing, out dance that you spineless twinning!”

“Die!”

“Yes, -die!”

“With his dead heart I’ll crush your soul for yours IS my quest to break!”

“Time is such a fleeting flower and Lo, I come with all my power, your time has come this is the hour!”

“I hate your love; die for me, your bond is cur-sed I decree!”

“My children are the Nephilim, their snowy crystals I turn to rain and freeze it quickly about your ankles for you as he, shall not escape, nothing, no one shall escape, all the creatures shall die this time for I am the maker of the flood, I am the abyss, the king of wisdom, the tree of knowledge, the one of action, crowned master of the earthen plane, the king of gods and king of kings and origin of all things, if God there is then he is I and what I create I shall make die! Know this mere mortal, the name of betwixting thing you learn…”

“I am that old God known as *Sah-turn!”

“My toll do I demand from thou!”

“My toll I ask, I DEMAND IT NOW!”



Sobbing sadness as she prostrates her hands to ice, her ankles bound and crying is the only sound...

The ego of the deity is in question, she searches for another way, a path of inquiry to make him stay, for the horrible fate wrought this day and lands of beauty coldly buried away...

For what could change the mind of darkness?

“Master, I see the wheels have ground to a halt and you’ve descended from the heaven’s vault but how can such lowly animals and nature be at fault, for is it not the goblins of the saw that should be punished, that should be sought?”

“Those who chop away at your great tree are the ones who smile with uncoupled glee for they smite your creation and tear it down and care not for your might, your world renown!”

“All nature is but your possession, oh timeless infinity I do not question, your purpose or need but I do ask, nay beg of thee, allow my love to thus be free, let us hold each other if we die, see my supplication, hear my cry!”


“If let go we will with all haste and prudence, your wrath is great and our presence a nuisance, away from this troubled land you’ve made, the frozen tundra of the grave, a night wrapped by your terrible song in this evil place we do not belong,”


"...please let us run!"


“You have cloaked the beauty of the moon,  covered her sky, I beseech you master hear my cry above the thunders of your sky, wrestle free my love from grip, let us pass, let us slip, let us go this night, oh great black wheel and great north wind and wolf and beast and Dragon from the faraway east and master of the air and seas and Lord of all as your voice decrees, I beg here on my dying knees,”


“The toll you demand is a life for a life, save him, put me under the frosty knife!”


Rumble, rumbling pondered thoughts, the wind is ceased and snow dies down and ground gets soft as air warms up and moonlight shines as clouds dissipate while the god of night decides their fate...

Her sobbing subsides as the ice and snow become water and seep into the earth, her dress soaking and hands covered in mud she addresses this king of kings once more. She stands and fills her lungs with warmth and begins to dance a dance of thanks to him who is hidden but a chilly wind shows that it is still forbidden. Her love watches from yonder far hill as she holds back her dance and stands so still, calling out to the color of night, stern her voice has no sign of fright...

“Punish the land and make your mark for that will teach us to give offerings to the dark,”

“Give rage unto that which hath no heart, pummel the earth and sink the ark.”

“Oh he is such a jewel to me, I’ll dance no more, I’ll show no glee, and no happiness to smite your sea in your great debt I thus will be!”

“Call your hordes, all four to thee, let them of wisdom punish me, my dancing finished great Gyges, your ring of darkness; oh wine-dark seas!”

“The four are eager for the flight to crack the seals and split the night, and show the signs, enact the plan, and run dark in blood this troubled land.”

“You see my master? We know your tales and tell our children the wonder and the mystery of our ark that floats upon your sea and all the things we know you make for we teach our children of them for heaven’s sake!”

“As natures hand you make the call, Oh Famine! Oh Pestilence! Oh Plague! Oh Death, -bring them all!”

“Come now in darkness for your master calls, his voice too loud as to be vague…”

“Run we shall, away, away…”

“Your great power, oh great one, the shatterer, thunderer, the bringer of the nightly fall, watch your subjects cringe and crawl, and supplicate on hands and knees with praise upon your mighty awe.”

“Why not bring them? Bring them all?”

“Enforce your toll, make your presence known, reap the seeds of what you’ve sown, our lives have always been yours to own, for you are great upon this land, your fury descends with mighty hand, now and forever shall it be known, no man can seat above your throne!”

“The trees thus stripped of their leaves and these hands are whipped upon our grieves,”

“Save my love from those stinging leaves from wintery chill and icy snows, hand of darkness, north wind that blows,”

“Lightning strikes and deadly throes,”

“In mercy your true power shows,”

“For you are the master, king of night, maker of fear, of horrible fright, the Ouroboros, the clouds your wings, the heaven’s motions, order of all things, the one who rings the magnificent treasure, the source of all our earthly pleasure, one to which we all do pray, -alas Ethiopia, dawn a new day!”

“The moon descends as does your power tis dawn you fool, that is the hour!”

“You can keep your anger and unpaid toll we’ll keep our love, our lives and my gentle soul.”

Storm God

“YOU DARE! YOU DO! YOU MOCK ME STILL?”

“Here comes my weathering, wintry, malicious chill!”

“Child die as your suitor must, this night, this storm, this hour unto my lightning ******! Rain, hail, fury thehowling winds of wolven glory and end I put to this sorrow’s story, down the trees, wash away the lands, rip apart the heavens know my hand!”

“…and what is this nocturnal noise?”

“In my storm are birds chirping? Is that daylight on horizon now? Nature cannot desert me, no, not now!”

“The daybreak shines, undoes my vow, ceases my storm and scatters my clouds; know this mortal is not the end for I shall come back again!Your words and pleas will not save you then, this trickery I shall not forget, your souls I’m coming back to get and when I do you’ll grovel in fear for you’ll know the moment of death is near!”

“On that night you’ll pay my toll, I SHALL NOT REST WITHOUT YOUR SOUL!”
A tribute to my favorite poet. Edgar Allen Poe.

— The End —