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Shivani Lalan Nov 2014
It came to me as I walked out the door.

My heart, I probably forgot
on his doorstep.
Or in the pocket of his favourite sweatshirt,
or in the first strains of his voice,
singing the song of my heart,
for my heart.

What does it matter?
It's all just shards anyway.
Shards hurt.
They pierce your skin,
as they do mine.
But in me, they evoke a flood.
and in you,
a string broken,
and nought else.

It has been my sweetest downfall,
watching you tear at life.
Colliding with fire.
running headlong toward the plunge
Crashing with my walls,
beaten back by catastrophic emotion.
You sighed,
and walked
and watched.
All I had to do was break down,
and you'd be standing there.

The shards you did not pick up.
No.
The shards you swept away
under the languid carpet.
they stayed there,
blameless.
For it is the fall that caused the shards
and not the other way round.

"The shards will help you feel."
I said.
"No, the shards you can keep."
A sharp shake, 'no'
Maybe he does not want to remember
that perhaps a quiet word,
a secret smile
would have seen the shards intact where
glittering stones and fresh satin
could not.

What does it matter?
The silence isn't too loud.
The void isn't too full.
The cold isn't too harsh.
The tear isn't too sad.

What does it matter?
To you,
or
to the shards.
SERIOUSLY I am NOT heartbroken and whatnot ugh shush people.
Alyanne Cooper Jul 2014
Shards
Of paper hearts
Floating away
On winter
Blizzard breezes.

Shards
Of dreamless hopes
Floating away
On glacial
Running rivers.

Shards
Of my life
Slipping through
Trembling
Bleeding hands.

Shards
Becoming
Infinitesimally small
Grains of sand,
Ground up,
Spit out
Until I am nothing.
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.
Emma Feb 2014
365
2-10-14

it took 1 year.
one year and I was
f r e e.

no more open wounds.
no more pain. No
more stolen blades pressed
to tender, pink flesh.
No more blazing desires of
death
by chemicals compacted
into a small pill, labeled
FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY.

Three
Hundred and
Sixty-five days.

My wounded flesh
Was healing.
My broken thoughts
Were mending.
My tattered mind
Was recovering.

52 weeks and
counting.

I took
One less sip of
That intoxicating liquid.
Each day I took
One more breath of
hope

Three hundred and
Sixty-five days I
Struggled
To mend myself
from a lifetime
of misery.

For three-hundred and sixty-five days,
for fifty-two weeks, for twelve months, for
eight thousand seven hundred and
sixty-six hours, for all those minutes
and all those seconds I spent trying.

I slowly improved.

And in one, fleeting moment,
Those twelve months of mending,

V a n i s h e d .

Day 364

My head was heavy
With profound thoughts and
My heart was brimming
With unwavering love
As two pairs of passionate
And hungry eyes stared
into the other.
The intensity of yearning,
Of love.

Day 365

I, what was left of me,
Crouched to the floor
Picking up
The shattered remnants of
My heart.
Not a silly girl picking up
failed love.
Not a girl mourning
The loss of a boy
But a girl gathering broken shards,
Broken shards of tender love.
Shards of happiness. Of life.
Shards of passions
And shards of light.
A memory of warmth.
A thought of hope,
Of being whole.

And each piece of life,
Each moment of love
tore my fingers,
nicked my flesh.
And I knelt to the ground
plucking each little piece.

My thoughts lingered
On your goodbye
Not a silly girl with
A broken heart
Just a girl who
finally realized
she was not
enough

and that day I pieced
myself back together.
I put a piece here
And a piece there,
Not quite finding a
Place for each shard.
Others were missing.
Not shards of you, love,
But shards of me from you.

For 365 days
I had not mutilated my body.
I had not uselessly abused
my insides with alcohol.

But months after
Saying goodbye
And endless days
Of living in fragments
With missing pieces
I poured that glass of
Clear liquid.
I filled my lungs
With smoke.
I drowned out my thoughts
With noise,
And I put nails to skin
and pressed
harder and harder
and harder,
physically masking my
pain.
Drowning out my thoughts
And replacing
an unwavering emotional pain
with a tangible physical pain.

And right then
All I worked for,
was gone.
It took just one moment
For everything to

Shatter

And right then
Three hundred
And sixty-five days
Were gone.
365 days were
nothing.
Dark Smile Feb 2015
I wonder if you ever think of me,
I wonder if sometimes I'm the only one you can see.
Maybe it's just plain fantasy
But, I wonder if we could ever be.
But it's not as good as you thought it would be
because all the shards are on the ground but you choose not to see.

But,darling, we're stepping on the shards.
And we love the pain.
It makes us feel alive.
It takes our minds off from the pain within.
But one day, you could take the pain no more.
You left right out the front door.

Now the shards still take away the inner pain with physical pain.
Just, not in the same way.
Not my best poem, but I haven't written anything for months and I really felt like writing something, about anyone or anything just to get my mind off the stress of school.
Haberdashery hauberk harbinger harangue equilibrist, harpy harsh hast severities.
Inane inert inertia innate, juxtaposition maenad ethos affinities.
Putrid quasi queasy pathos, emanate imminent perdition acerbities.

Agnate aggregate anathema android amalgamated, predication contract.
Glutton paradoxical dichotomy greaves, gauntlets gamut catalyst abstracts.
Ambidextrous amatory prelude amaze, analeptic adrenergic analgesia analytics extract.  Annex annul.  

Clairaudience clairvoyant omnipresence presage, omnipotent omnificent omniscience.
Pantheism parapet paradigm intuition, prognosticating prosthesis prediction.
Prolific profuseness profundity prosaic, nimbus nimiety nitty gritty, intrados rubato.

Venerable divinatory deity deify veneration, delineate demagoguery ecstasy, agonist agog.
Dream gleam cream seam beam team, serene ravine green gene careen, obscene demean.
Empiricise the existentialisms in the demagoguery of godhead aspiration.
Corporeal anaclitic apex inveterate embezzlement extroversion, acuity alacrity extortion.
Extraneous extemporaneous, ominous phenomena portrayal spontaneous synchronous, aorist actuator.

Endergonic protensive integration extrapolation interpolations investiture elicits.
Scenario synopsis synthesis syncopation, harmony rhymes rhythm.
Synchronous transition transposition interlude, summerial derivation cognition.
                                                      ­­­                                                               ­ ­ ­              
Irk-ness ire aerie altruism allegorical, autonomous avarice oscillating ostracism.
Pandemonium obdurate temerity impunity, impending preponderance onus, numinous illuminism quintessential frolic.
Amorous ardent argent arduous enamor endear, plenary putschist volatile phatic.
Conveyor controvert deft mesmeric deification deist dissertation.
Drastic premise portent pervasive embellish, elusive enhance enchant, engender enthrall.
Perpetuation euphenic euthenics, exude emote concoct recalcitrance regalia, irrefragable preternatural ne plus ultra prurient.
Vernaculars opulent myriad, aesthetic stratagem venial vexatious, astral projection conjuring levity apothegms.

Incite epistemological illuminism, accoutrements umbrage ultraism incognito trajectory extant.
Scandalous scavenger squalid anomalous punitive, heuristic manumission exigency.
Ostensible proclivity prodigious querulous, rambunctious repertoire rigmarole scenic schism sooth.
Ascribe arsenal crucial critical, abhorrent abstinence blatancy berserk, alacritous celerity brogue.
Ceremonial chicanery dynamism fealty, indefatigable incontrovertible ingenuity ingratiate inimical impugn.
Innovate integrity intricate invective convolution, licentious metaphor convection obeisance.
Splurge-ness spry sporadic sprawl, spurious staunch succinct stymie tacit, irate tirade treatise vehement escapade tedium.

Probity irascibly veracious audacity mendacity gumption.
Paphian peccavi preternatural proclivity gesticulation articulation prestidigitation.
Fantastication fantasia fabulist façade, glimmer glisten translucent refulgence.
Subliminally subjunctive nostalgic allusion analogies eidetic’s mnemonics.
Metaphysical mystique’s evolutionally metamorphic futurity fatidic.
Adroit agile nimble tactile acuity prescience capacity intrigue.
Unadulteratedly fornicatious fabrications, portentous ethereal etiquette.
Nose agnate somatology morphology metamorphic, cognition epistemology pragmatics.
Ontological ontogeny causality exigence integumence equivocal.
Innocuous noumenal verity ***** affectation intentions.

Adumbrate intimate obfuscate preterite rendition intimidate.
Logistical tactician spatiotemporal terrestrial equestrian telemetries, physicality’s terrene traverse tellurian terrain.
Vaunt-ness verve’s lucidly illusive, intrepid yare’s predilection predication.
Apriori a posteriori apostrophe shards shroud, innately inert inherency interstitial endemics.                  

Irk-ness ire Zen, graffiti mantra mantis, diminutive minutia iotas inductive interpolation asperities.
Hypercritically mitigating dialectics hypotaxis.
Vituperatively vociferous eerie strident irrefragable orotund  sonorous felicities.
Diacritical diction dharma apomixis.
Chutzpah panache spontaneous generation complicity, gambit alluvium aloof succor.

Demarcate mirador bartizan panorama, stalwart bastion bulwark tableau, dexterous gargoyle disguise gimmick camouflage.
Decipher coercible coalesce corrupt costume counselor chameleon charlatan chaperone entourage.
Cryptic evocative emulation scenarios siren skeptic, cynical demonic gremlin greaves curtilage.
Zesty zingy zippy zeal zenithal azimuth elaborate elliptical empathy endeavor entity entice.

Clambering clamorous clangor strategic systematic propagate prolific, wield wile treatise expose’.
Aural auspice austerity  axiom conscribe, perplex beleaguer beggary, coax cacophony clout, concatenate chronology.
Erumpent erudition evident evil evert, extol fervor flinty florid, fructify impromptu innuendo juncture.
Kinetic supremacy temporize tractive fluent, precious precess predetermined predatory predicament, gyro gyre.
Horizon hornswoggle huckster, hokey hoot ornery honkies.

Horologist hackamore relative rationality.
Decorum dastardly dazzle deceit, demolish demur, annihilate denigrate.
Armature arcade doughty, panacea parallax serendipity servant serenade.
Personification of sartorial perfection, picturesque visage of spectral grace.
Cosmic enigma rational relativity.

Housebreak huckster squabble brash, hovel huff.
Ghastly gruesome grotesque grisly groaty gnarly grotto grouch compunction.
Caustic cavernous celibate catatonic phonics, apex crux axis matrix cortex cephalic.
Blasphemous farcical fugue-ness and estranged ensemble orchestration acoustics.
Rendition: various assorted forms of related stranger weirdness.
Conjugation coercion junction function, adjunct conjunction conjecture.
Concoct deontology ontogeny, ontological enclitic osteopathy.
Anticipate angary amentia, tiercel theocracy.
Phrenic sensorium sentiment paragon tangible.
Covert aspersion avidity, coherent avid avarice, allegory allocate amatory prelude annex annul.

Tantamount telepathy tantalize talisman talesman, prerogative presumptive judicature.
Subpoena parameter perimeter peripherals prophylaxis protocol.
Real deal seal, sail bail, bailiff rake-ness rail.
Yoni yore yare, leeward lecher leer lingam, menagerie melee hyperbolic milieu thesis, métier quintessential fulham.
Dangle wrangle mangle jangle tangle angle.
Hysterically delirious zany nertsy bonkers bluster boggle.
Gyrate, austere askance obliquely, aspire assail askew.

Cosmic origins metamorphosis implosion contractions revision, blond entropy catalyst.
Cataclysm catastrophe holocaust trauma, inefficacy ineffable expiate.
Chaos cognizant conceive dialectic dictates in extremis extremity meld nuance.
Cryptic cipher circuit citadel clairvoyant sequitur.
Cajole fictitious fiery finesse, invoke fulmination gouts clout, curtilage endeavor iterative itinerary.
Ersatz fiat fulcrum fulgurous indemnify indigenous infernal infidel iniquitous.
Electroacoustics ciphony  Electra complex lore, occipital ubiquity synch.
Psychosomatic psychokinesis cybernetics, penumbral platitude platonic proxy photic.
Assimilate stigma perspicacious, astute asunder atman pulchritudinous.
        
Decadent arrogant pompously bombastic blatant flagrant chaparral.
Diabolically maniacal dementia brusque macabre abruptness.
Swarthy beastly antithetical anathema ******* belligerent, savvy irate berserk-ness tirade.
Ulterior aghast agitator incongruous dire, perdurable peremptory primacy arbitrate zealot.
Cantankerously sorcerous insidiously sinister alchemy cauldron, pernicious visceral pathogenic, virulence truculence.
Ideational hideously horrible horrendously heinous ghastly abysmal abjection.
Perpetuity pervade rampart ransack oblation erogenous scarp lambent actuarial arbitrage.
Exserted protuberant pseudopodia actuator, odious aorist militantly mercenary.

Wingspread wiry wiseacre wherewithal rapacity, implicit important juxtaposition.
Machismo equilibrist machinations, kinesiology kleptomaniac knell physique.
Ribaldry rigmarole rhubarb, risqué rive rollick.
Demeanor kamikaze kerf, megalomania misanthropies modus operandi genocidal xenophobic.
Heredity heritage heresy legacy, pseudonym multifarious nefarious nemesis.
Sepulcher stratagem pantheism parapet paradigm, psychosis neophyte, paragon proselyte.
Pilferous wheedling finagler, plunderous pillaging usurper, longevous loquacity lottery.
Rhapsody rhetoric rote raconteur newfangled nocturnal nonchalant sycophant.
Morose morsel moribund, lurid luscious lyricism lucidity lucrative.
Creative cleaver crafty cunning furtive sneaky stealthy connive.
Aphorism euphemism hegira to xanadu carousing marauder syllogism.
Swell surge flow flux craw crux, virago monad chaos character charisma.
Heuristic cavalier humeral, meager demonstrative anarchy iconoclasm, apropos ergo ipso-facto.
Plenary plenipotentiary omniscience presage, omnipotent directive ubiquity emanations.
Nous agnate ontological ontogeny, exegesis peroration.
Abeyance, exotically ****** quixotic ecstatically emphatic fanatic.
Orchestration rendition unicorn railway mainsail, awry askew askance.

Canny cogent fecund erudite sagacious sequacious conjuring mentality introjection conjugation coercions.
Avant-garde temporal abstract, scenario synopsis eclectic synectics.
Synaptic syntax syndrome aspersion, quagmire quandary poshly plush.
Physicality ***** pictorial, picturesque glyph, debauchery deviant profane ***** vicarious assertion exorbitance.
Mystical silhouette sojourn consortium sabbat conclave liaison, soiree tryst rendezvous symposium excursion compendium.
Incarnate cephalic phantasmagoria proximity parameter phantasm epitomize transitive transcendental syntactic semantics.
Resplendent radiant ephemeral effulgence translucent incandescent luster effluence, reflectively refractive azure opulence effusion.
Contentious pretentiously extravagant eccentric intransigent pedantic antics.
Guidon guile homogenous hovering imagination immaturity, exogamy incorporeity ideologies.
Pique poignant piquant puissant quiescence, obstreperously abstruse vagary plausibility’s cause.
Vivid intangible impetus instinct intrigue, livid lurid allusion.
Autonomous preterite discrepancy amendment emendations, transcendent accession ascensional in absentia expurgation exculpation.
I know this is getting redundant but I feel this is the best I ever wrote!!
Zoomorphic zoolatry's demagoguery to élan-vital.  Ethology's entelechy to social contiguity apotheosis' ****** matrix.  Vicarious recalcitrance!!!
imadeitallup May 2014
Blame it on
Your absent father
Your addict mother
Your unexpected children
Blame it on
Anyone, and anything
So you never have to
Take responsibility
For your own actions

It's the whiskey
That hit me
It's my own shards
That tore me apart
It's a malevolent God
That lied about love
'Cause you don't do anything

Blame it on
My fragile psyche
My insecurities
My "impossible" needs
Blame it on
Anyone, and anything
So you never have to
Take responsibility
For what you've done to me

It's the cigarettes
That stole my breath
The weight of my expectations
That broke my trust
The spinning of my own wheels
That drove me into madness
'Cause you don't do anything
Everyone has a **** like this in their life.
Poetoftheway Aug 2018
,how do you know when
(a human is too broken?)




<•>

human too broken?

like the light bulb, removal from its fixture, a simple shaking revelation of the tinkling filament spent, something that cannot be repaired, the only option is replacement and that makes
you cry

the empty box of oatmeal raisin cookies, you find secret’d,
hid by you, not to be found by you
at the bottom of the kitchen garbage,
but box betrayal, by the chartreuse tipped box lid sided
peeking upwards, asking, silencing screaming,
what did I do to deserve
this degrading

like the blouse now too tight that it brings stares as the buttons strain, unwelcome attention unintended,
you know it but still pretend not to see,
for you both once loved that silky guise that so
heightened the high tender, the match of your pink rose skin letting, no! making
your eyes glisten, like broken filament glass, on the sidewalk,
recalling the pleasured admiration,
rain remembered from the
prior priority of a life consisting of only
perfect gifts

so mean revert to the poseur question; this is how...

remove the human from a fixed place, whimpering-threatened,
you may hear clear the crackle cackling  of the innard shards against the misperception of a body intact,
even if you do,
no repair service you want,  can be found, see it nowhere,
is it even
anywhere advertised?

the body presumed intact is secret’d under a tactile coverlet,
holey scupperrd holy cuttered
so that the cells and bicuspids, the threads
no longer function in a tandem,
you keep it in the closet closed,
in the back, deep hid, where,
when it screams why,
it can be safe ignored,
because  ‘betrayed’ is no longer a word,
in your globe's dictionary,
the parental controls activated by you to
save your own inner child’s unconstrained confusion,
it has been removed


so the broken glass, the clothes you dressed each other,
if not weep-well,
well enough hid,
the fit is off,
the fit is off,
the coverlet ripped so bad and neither cares
an unexpected poem, unplanned, needing work
aug 4-5
barnoahMike Feb 2011
As I look around,   What I see are the Fragments of Man !      Some quite Large,   Some very tiny!     Some as Ripped off,  Others as carefully Taken and placed down.    Some  I recognize as Hearts,  others appear as Spirit forms.    What is common is that some seek sympathy and attention!    Others,  as if an Enticement, want you to join them.   Each think they have made an offering,   That either asks for help OR cries out that You become as them!   Amazingly,  the crowds around them,  seem to debate as to which path they should choose.   ONLY a Handful,   Promptly turn their backs and RUSH away !     BUT,   the Majority sifts thru the SHARDS,  as if shopping at a Flea Market.   Going from Table to Table to Sample the Wares!   No one Cries out that they be "Taken Away" from the pieces  of SHARDS Scattered   all about them !   RATHER,  they ask that YOU Mix in some of Yours and set up a Table ,,Right Next to them ! __    MY Heart pounds a stronger RHYTHM,   My mind racing in questions,   Can't they see The're accepting  all these broken lives as if it should Be the NORM ?     None wants to stand out as His Own,   Fearful that they would be left alone  and WHIMS desires would be left in the  cleaning closet ~having to wait for use~so~they sleep in  a Brokeness  Slumber!    As I leave this "Fixed In My Mind" SCENE.   I reach down and pick up a Small SHARD, appearing to be part of One's Soul,,     Something I "WILL" be Praying about . . . .
copyright 2011  by     barnnoahMike                                 Mike Ham
Either peace or happiness,
let it enfold you

when I was a young man
I felt these things were
dumb, unsophisticated.
I had bad blood, a twisted
mind, a precarious
upbringing.

I was hard as granite, I
leered at the
sun.
I trusted no man and
especially no
woman.

I was living a hell in
small rooms, I broke
things, smashed things,
walked through glass,
cursed.
I challenged everything,
was continually being
evicted, jailed, in and
out of fights, in and out
of my mind.
women were something
to ***** and rail
at, I had no male
friends,

I changed jobs and
cities, I hated holidays,
babies, history,
newspapers, museums,
grandmothers,
marriage, movies,
spiders, garbagemen,
english accents,spain,
france,italy,walnuts and
the color
orange.
algebra angred me,
opera sickened me,
charlie chaplin was a
fake
and flowers were for
pansies.

peace and happiness to me
were signs of
inferiority,
tenants of the weak
and
addled
mind.

but as I went on with
my alley fights,
my suicidal years,
my passage through
any number of
women-it gradually
began to occur to
me
that I wasn't different

from the
others, I was the same,

they were all fulsome
with hatred,
glossed over with petty
grievances,
the men I fought in
alleys had hearts of stone.
everybody was nudging,
inching, cheating for
some insignificant
advantage,
the lie was the
weapon and the
plot was
empty,
darkness was the
dictator.

cautiously, I allowed
myself to feel good
at times.
I found moments of
peace in cheap
rooms
just staring at the
knobs of some
dresser
or listening to the
rain in the
dark.
the less I needed
the better I
felt.

maybe the other life had worn me
down.
I no longer found
glamour
in topping somebody
in conversation.
or in mounting the
body of some poor
drunken female
whose life had
slipped away into
sorrow.

I could never accept
life as it was,
i could never gobble
down all its
poisons
but there were parts,
tenuous magic parts
open for the
asking.

I re formulated
I don't know when,
date, time, all
that
but the change
occurred.
something in me
relaxed, smoothed
out.
i no longer had to
prove that I was a
man,

I didn't have to prove
anything.

I began to see things:
coffee cups lined up
behind a counter in a
cafe.
or a dog walking along
a sidewalk.
or the way the mouse
on my dresser top
stopped there
with its body,
its ears,
its nose,
it was fixed,
a bit of life
caught within itself
and its eyes looked
at me
and they were
beautiful.
then- it was
gone.

I began to feel good,
I began to feel good
in the worst situations
and there were plenty
of those.
like say, the boss
behind his desk,
he is going to have
to fire me.

I've missed too many
days.
he is dressed in a
suit, necktie, glasses,
he says, 'I am going
to have to let you go'

'it's all right' I tell
him.

He must do what he
must do, he has a
wife, a house, children,
expenses, most probably
a girlfriend.

I am sorry for him
he is caught.

I walk onto the blazing
sunshine.
the whole day is
mine
temporarily,
anyhow.

(the whole world is at the
throat of the world,
everybody feels angry,
short-changed, cheated,
everybody is despondent,
disillusioned)

I welcomed shots of
peace, tattered shards of
happiness.

I embraced that stuff
like the hottest number,
like high heels, *******,
singing,the
works.

(don't get me wrong,
there is such a thing as cockeyed optimism
that overlooks all
basic problems just for
the sake of
itself-
this is a shield and a
sickness.)

The knife got near my
throat again,
I almost turned on the
gas
again
but when the good
moments arrived
again
I didn't fight them off
like an alley
adversary.
I let them take me,
I luxuriated in them,
I made them welcome
home.
I even looked into
the mirror
once having thought
myself to be
ugly,
I now liked what
I saw, almost
handsome, yes,
a bit ripped and
ragged,
scares, lumps,
odd turns,
but all in all,
not too bad,
almost handsome,
better at least than
some of those movie
star faces
like the cheeks of
a baby's
****.

and finally I discovered
real feelings of
others,
unheralded,
like lately,
like this morning,
as I was leaving,
for the track,
i saw my wife in bed,
just the
shape of
her head there
(not forgetting
centuries of the living
and the dead and
the dying,
the pyramids,
Mozart dead
but his music still
there in the
room, weeds growing,
the earth turning,
the tote board waiting for
me)
I saw the shape of my
wife's head,
she so still,
I ached for her life,
just being there
under the
covers.

I kissed her in the
forehead,
got down the stairway,
got outside,
got into my marvelous
car,
fixed the seatbelt,
backed out the
drive.
feeling warm to
the fingertips,
down to my
foot on the gas
pedal,
I entered the world
once
more,
drove down the
hill
past the houses
full and empty
of
people,
I saw the mailman,
honked,
he waved
back
at me.
A clock ticks time by tirelessly
Gears winding like twines of string
With quaint clicking quickly quieting
Until finally time stands still

Broken glass of a smooth clock face
Gears halting in deformity
Glistening shards like the sands of time
Ceasing in their downward flight

A once beating ticking heart of life
Now is lost within a sleepless night
Once a momentum to continued light
Now falls to the ringing silence's might

Time broken into shattered deaths
Until there is simply nothing left
Maybe you've guessed; my nightstand clock broke. It's not like it was an antique that belonged to my great grandmother or anything. Oh wait....
Megha Balooni Apr 2015
Shards of words
A stack of blank papers now unstacked
A trail of coffee
Traced from the machine right next
To me, I love it black
And a quill
In an open bottle of ink
My thoughts spilled on it like oil
Shards of words
Refusing to dissolve or
Come together
Shards
I lie there cursing the night
the dawn to break
For in moonlight you appear all but a ghost.
Sometimes my feelings are like glass shards, sharp and painful, but mostly they're just sea glass: worn and numb.

The thing about glass is that it's fragile and if you break it, you bleed...
Anthony Mayfield Jun 2018
Shards of silver,
Broken glass.
Here I am.
Once again, I hurt myself,
and red I bleed.
I'm a lonesome man.
Here I am.

Shards of silver,
From tainted hands.
Once again, I turn away,
so I can't see.
Red I bleed.
I can't see.
I'm a wholesome man.
Here I am.

Shards of silver,
Broken glass.
Here I am.
I won't let you
see the real me
Red I bleed.
I'm a broken man.
Here I am.

I won't let you
understand me.
I can't see.
Red I bleed.
I can't see.

Shards of silver,
From tainted hands.
Here I am.
Red I bleed.
Here I am.
I can't see.
Here I am.
help me
Here I am
red
all over the place and hard to collect, just like shards of jagged broken glass
Haberdashery hauberk harbinger harangue equilibrist, harpy harsh hast severities.
Inane inert inertia innate, juxtaposition maenad ethos affinities.
Putrid quasi queasy pathos, emanate imminent perdition acerbities.

Agnate aggregate anathema android amalgamated, predication contract.
Glutton paradoxical dichotomy greaves, gauntlets gamut catalyst abstracts.
Ambidextrous amatory prelude amaze, analeptic adrenergic analgesia analytics extract.

Clairaudience clairvoyant omnipresence presage, omnipotent omnificent omniscience.
Pantheism parapet paradigm intuition, prognosticating prosthesis prediction.
Prolific profuseness profundity prosaic, nimbus nimiety nitty gritty, intrados rubato.

Venerable divinatory deity deify veneration, delineate demagoguery ecstasy, agonist agog.
Dream gleam cream seam beam team, serene ravine green gene careen, obscene demean.
Empiricise the existentialisms in the demagoguery of godhead aspiration.
Corporeal anaclitic apex inveterate embezzlement extroversion, acuity alacrity extortion.
Extraneous extemporaneous, ominous phenomena portrayal spontaneous synchronous, aorist actuator.

Endergonic protensive integration extrapolation interpolations investiture elicits.
Scenario synopsis synthesis syncopation, harmony rhymes rhythm.
Synchronous transition transposition interlude, summerial derivation cognition.
                                                      ­                                                                 ­             
Irk-ness ire aerie altruism allegorical, autonomous avarice oscillating ostracism.
Pandemonium obdurate temerity impunity, impending preponderance onus, numinous illuminism quintessential frolic.
Amorous ardent argent arduous enamor endear, plenary putschist volatile phatic.
Conveyor controvert deft mesmeric deification deist dissertation.
Drastic premise portent pervasive embellish, elusive enhance enchant, engender enthrall.
Perpetuation euphenic euthenics, exude emote concoct recalcitrance regalia, irrefragable preternatural ne plus ultra prurient.
Vernaculars opulent myriad, aesthetic stratagem venial vexatious, astral projection conjuring levity apothegms.

Incite epistemological illuminism, accoutrements umbrage ultraism incognito trajectory extant.
Scandalous scavenger squalid anomalous punitive, heuristic manumission exigency.
Ostensible proclivity prodigious querulous, rambunctious repertoire rigmarole scenic schism sooth.
Ascribe arsenal crucial critical, abhorrent abstinence blatancy berserk, alacritous celerity brogue.
Ceremonial chicanery dynamism fealty, indefatigable incontrovertible ingenuity ingratiate inimical impugn.
Innovate integrity intricate invective convolution, licentious metaphor convection obeisance.
Splurge-ness spry sporadic sprawl, spurious staunch succinct stymie tacit, irate tirade treatise vehement escapade tedium.

Probity irascibly veracious audacity mendacity gumption.
Paphian peccavi preternatural proclivity gesticulation articulation prestidigitation.
Fantastication fantasia fabulist façade, glimmer glisten translucent refulgence.
Subliminally subjunctive nostalgic allusion analogies eidetic’s mnemonics.
Metaphysical mystique’s evolutionally metamorphic futurity fatidic.
Adroit agile nimble tactile acuity prescience capacity intrigue.
Unadulteratedly fornicatious fabrications, portentous ethereal etiquette.
Nose agnate somatology morphology metamorphic, cognition epistemology pragmatics.
Ontological ontogeny causality exigence integumence equivocal.
Innocuous noumenal verity ***** affectation intentions.

Adumbrate intimate obfuscate preterite rendition intimidate.
Logistical tactician spatiotemporal terrestrial equestrian telemetries, physicality’s terrene traverse tellurian terrain.
Vaunt-ness verve’s lucidly illusive, intrepid yare’s predilection predication.
Apriori a posteriori apostrophe shards shroud, innately inert inherency interstitial endemics.                  

Irk-ness ire Zen, graffiti mantra mantis, diminutive minutia iotas inductive interpolation asperities.
Hypercritically mitigating dialectics hypotaxis.
Vituperatively vociferous eerie strident irrefragable orotund  sonorous felicities.
Diacritical diction dharma apomixis.
Chutzpah panache spontaneous generation complicity, gambit alluvium aloof succor.

Demarcate mirador bartizan panorama, stalwart bastion bulwark tableau, dexterous gargoyle disguise gimmick camouflage.
Decipher coercible coalesce corrupt costume counselor chameleon charlatan chaperone entourage.
Cryptic evocative emulation scenarios siren skeptic, cynical demonic gremlin greaves curtilage.
Zesty zingy zippy zeal zenithal azimuth elaborate elliptical empathy endeavor entity entice.

Clambering clamorous clangor strategic systematic propagate prolific, wield wile treatise expose’.
Aural auspice austerity  axiom conscribe, perplex beleaguer beggary, coax cacophony clout, concatenate chronology.
Erumpent erudition evident evil evert, extol fervor flinty florid, fructify impromptu innuendo juncture.
Kinetic supremacy temporize tractive fluent, precious precess predetermined predatory predicament, gyro gyre.
Horizon hornswoggle huckster, hokey hoot ornery honkies.

Horologist hackamore relative rationality.
Decorum dastardly dazzle deceit, demolish demur, annihilate denigrate.
Armature arcade doughty, panacea parallax serendipity servant serenade.
Personification of sartorial perfection, picturesque visage of spectral grace.
Cosmic enigma rational relativity.

Housebreak huckster squabble brash, hovel huff.
Ghastly gruesome grotesque grisly groaty gnarly grotto grouch compunction.
Caustic cavernous celibate catatonic phonics, apex crux axis matrix cortex cephalic.
Blasphemous farcical fugue-ness and estranged ensemble orchestration acoustics.
Rendition: various assorted forms of related stranger weirdness.
Conjugation coercion junction function, adjunct conjunction conjecture.
Concoct deontology ontogeny, ontological enclitic osteopathy.
Anticipate angary amentia, tiercel theocracy.
Phrenic sensorium sentiment paragon tangible.
Covert aspersion avidity, coherent avid avarice, allegory allocate amatory prelude annex annul.

Tantamount telepathy tantalize talisman talesman, prerogative presumptive judicature.
Subpoena parameter perimeter peripherals prophylaxis protocol.
Real deal seal, sail bail, bailiff rake-ness rail.
Yoni yore yare, leeward lecher leer lingam, menagerie melee hyperbolic milieu thesis, métier quintessential fulham.
Dangle wrangle mangle jangle tangle angle.
Hysterically delirious zany nertsy bonkers bluster boggle.
Gyrate, austere askance obliquely, aspire assail askew.

Cosmic origins metamorphosis implosion contractions revision, blond entropy catalyst.
Cataclysm catastrophe holocaust trauma, inefficacy ineffable expiate.
Chaos cognizant conceive dialectic dictates in extremis extremity meld nuance.
Cryptic cipher circuit citadel clairvoyant sequitur.
Cajole fictitious fiery finesse, invoke fulmination gouts clout, curtilage endeavor iterative itinerary.
Ersatz fiat fulcrum fulgurous indemnify indigenous infernal infidel iniquitous.
Electroacoustic ciphony  Electra complex lore, occipital ubiquity synch.
Psychosomatic psychokinesis cybernetics, penumbral platitude platonic proxy photic.
Assimilate stigma perspicacious, astute asunder atman pulchritudinous.
        
Decadent arrogant pompously bombastic blatant flagrant chaparral.
Diabolically maniacal dementia brusque macabre abruptness.
Swarthy beastly antithetical anathema ******* belligerent, savvy irate berserk-ness tirade.
Ulterior aghast agitator incongruous dire, perdurable peremptory primacy arbitrate zealot.
Cantankerously sorcerous insidiously sinister alchemy cauldron, pernicious visceral pathogenic, virulence truculence.
Ideational hideously horrible horrendously heinous ghastly abysmal abjection.
Perpetuity pervade rampart ransack oblation erogenous scarp lambent actuarial arbitrage.
Exserted protuberant pseudopodia actuator, odious aorist militantly mercenary.

Wingspread wiry wiseacre wherewithal rapacity, implicit important juxtaposition.
Machismo equilibrist machinations, kinesiology kleptomaniac knell physique.
Ribaldry rigmarole rhubarb, risqué rive rollick.
Demeanor kamikaze kerf, megalomania misanthropies modus operandi genocidal xenophobic.
Heredity heritage heresy legacy, pseudonym multifarious nefarious nemesis.
Sepulcher stratagem pantheism parapet paradigm, psychosis neophyte, paragon proselyte.
Pilferous wheedling finagler, plunderous pillaging usurper, longevous loquacity lottery.
Rhapsody rhetoric rote raconteur newfangled nocturnal nonchalant sycophant.
Morose morsel moribund, lurid luscious lyricism lucidity lucrative.
Creative cleaver crafty cunning furtive sneaky stealthy connive.
Aphorism euphemism hegira to xanadu carousing marauder syllogism.
Swell surge flow flux craw crux, virago monad chaos character charisma.
Heuristic cavalier humeral, meager demonstrative anarchy iconoclasm, apropos ergo ipso-facto.
Plenary plenipotentiary omniscience presage, omnipotent directive ubiquity emanations.
Nous agnate ontological ontogeny, exegesis peroration.
Abeyance, exotically ****** quixotic ecstatically emphatic fanatic.
Orchestration rendition unicorn railway mainsail, awry askew askance.

Canny cogent fecund erudite sagacious sequacious conjuring mentality introjection conjugation coercions.
Avant-garde temporal abstract, scenario synopsis eclectic synectics.
Synaptic syntax syndrome aspersion, quagmire quandary poshly plush.
Physicality ***** pictorial, picturesque glyph, debauchery deviant profane ***** vicarious assertion exorbitance.
Mystical silhouette sojourn consortium sabbat conclave liaison, soiree tryst rendezvous symposium excursion compendium.
Incarnate cephalic phantasmagoria proximity parameter phantasm epitomize transitive transcendental syntactic semantics.
Resplendent radiant ephemeral effulgence translucent incandescent luster effluence, reflectively refractive azure opulence effusion.
Contentious pretentiously extravagant eccentric intransigent pedantic antics.
Guidon guile homogenous hovering imagination immaturity, exogamy incorporeity ideologies.
Pique poignant piquant puissant quiescence, obstreperously abstruse vagary plausibility’s cause.
Vivid intangible impetus instinct intrigue, livid lurid allusion.
Autonomous preterite discrepancy amendment emendations, transcendent accession ascensional in absentia expurgation exculpation.
I'm so lonely. Nobody loves me unless I over simplify. I think I'll take my martial arts trainee (Jaded seal ordinand) down to the corner and see if I can find a likely suspect to flash my badge at.
Jim Davis Apr 2017
In the last
three decades,
after we became one,
I touched
amazingly beautiful things,
horribly ugly things,  
unbelievably wondrous things

I touched nature's majesty;
hued walls of the Grand Canyon,              
crusty bark of the
Redwoods and Sequoias,
live corals of the
Great Barrier Reef,
dreamlike sandstone of the Wave

I touched magical and strange;
platypus, koalas and
kangaroos Down Under,
underwater alkali flies and
lacustrine tufa at Mono Lake,
astral glowing worms
in the Kawiti caves

I touched holy places;
Christianity's oldest churches,
the Pope's home in the Vatican,
Hindu and Sikh temples and
Moslem mosques in India,
Anasazi's kivas of Chaco canyon,
Aboriginal rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

I touched glimmers of civilization;
uncovered roads of Pompeii,
fighting arenas of Rome,
terra cotta armies of Xian,
sharp stone points of the Apache,
pottery shards from the Navajo,
petroglyphs by the Jornada Mogollon

I touched fantastical things;
winds blowing on the
steppes of Patagonia,,
playas and craters of Death Valley,  
high peaks of the Continental Divide,
blazing white sands of the  
Land of Enchantment

I touched icons of liberty
and freedom;
the defended Alamo,
a fissured Liberty Bell,
an embracing Statue of Liberty,
the harbor of Checkpoints
Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie

I touched glorious things
made by man;
the monstrous Hoover Dam,
an exquisite Eiffel tower,
a soaring St Louis Arch,
an Art deco Empire State Building,
the sublime Golden Gate Bridge

I touched sparks from history;
the running path of an
Olympic flame just off Bourbon,
the last steps of Mohandas Ghandi
at Birla House before Godse,
******'s Eagle's nest and the
grounds over Der Führerbunker

I touched walls of power;
enclosed rings of the Pentagon,
steep steps of the
Great Wall of China,
untried bastions of
Peter and Paul's fortress,
fitted boulders of Machu Picchu

I touched strong hands;
of those conquering
Rommel's and ******'s hordes,
of cold warriors of
Chosin Reservoir,  
of forgotten soldiers of Vietnam,
of terrorist killers of today

I touched memories of war;
the somber Vietnam memorial,
the glorious Iwo Jima statue,
the cold slabs at Arlington,
the buried tomb of USS Arizonians,
Volgograd's Mother Russia  

I touched ugly things;
shreds of light in
Port Arthur's prison,
horrible smelly dust
in the streets from 9/11,
ash impregnated dirt
in the pits at Auschwitz

I touched oppressed freedom;
open ****** plazas
of Tiananmen Square,
smooth pipe and concrete
of the Berlin Wall,  
tall red brick walls
of the Moscow Kremlin

I touched constrained freedom;
heavy ankle and
wrist slave chains
in the South,
little windows
in Berlin's Stasi prison,
haunted cells in Alcatraz  

I touched remnants of madness;
wire and ovens of Auschwitz,
stacked chimneys and
wooden bunks of Birkenau,        
Ravensbruck, and Dachau,
the tomb of Lenin,
toppled Stalins

I touched hands of survivors;
of Leningrad's siege,
of German POWs and
of Russian fighters
of Stalingrad's battle,
of Cancer's scourges  

I touched grand things;
deep waters of the Pacific and Atlantic,
blue hills of Appalachia,
towering peaks of the Rockies,
high falls of Yosemite Valley,
bursting geysers of Yellowstone,
crashing glaciers of Antarctica and Alaska    

I touched times of adventure;
abseiling and zipping in Costa Rica,
packing Pecos wilds and Padre isles,
flying nap of earth Hueys to Meridian,
breaking arms in JRTC's box,
fighting Abu Sayyaf, and Jemaah
Islami in Zamboanga City

I touched through you;
wet sand beaches of  Mexico and Jamaica,
mysterious energy of the monoliths of Stonehenge,
rarefied air in front of the
Louvre's Mona Lisa,
ancient wonders of Giza,
Egypt's tombs and pyramids

We shared soft touches;
drifting in Bora Bora's
surreal waters,
joining hands camel trekking the
Outback's dry sands,
strolling along Tasmania's
eucalyptus forest trails

basking in swinging hammocks
under Fiji's bright sun,
scrambling in
Las Vegas' glittering and
red rock canyons,
kissing under the
Taj Mahal's symphony of arches

We shared touching deep waters;
propelled in gondolas
through the city of canals,
Drifting atop Uru cat boats on Lake Titticaca,
Swooping in jet boats
up a wild river in Talkeetna

Racing in speed boats
around Sydney's great harbour,
skimming in pangas in Puerto Ayora,
paddling the Kennebec for
East's best petroglyphs,
cruising Salzbergwerk's underwater lake

We touched scrumptious things;
Beignets and chicory coffee at DuMonde's in the Big Easy,
Hot *** with sesame sauce
in the walled city of Xian,
Peking duck, dimsum, scorpions,
snake and starfish on Wangfujing Snack Street

We touched delicious things
Crawfish heads and tails at JuJu's shack
and ten years at Jeanette's,
Langoustine at Poinciana's, Fjöruborðinus and Galapagos,
Cream cheese and loch bagels
at Ess-a' s in the Big Apple

I touched your hand riding;
hang loose waves of Waikiki,
a big green bus in Denali's awesomeness,
clip clopping carriages of Vienna, Paris,
Prague, New Orleans, Krakow,
Quebec City, and Zakopane,
the acapella sugar train of St Kitts

We shared touching on paths;
the highway 1 of Big Sur,
the Road of the Great Ocean,
the bahn to Buda and Pest,
the path to the North of Maine,
the trail of the Hoh rainforest,
and time after time, the way home

Yet,
I could spend
the next three decades,
in simple bliss,
having need for
touching nothing,
other than you!

©  2016 Jim Davis
A poem I wrote last year for my wife!  Posted now since it matches the HP' theme for today - "Places"
Robin Lemmen Aug 2018
Our entire relationship I felt
like all I was doing
was waiting for you and I to break
like goodbye was only one kiss away

And when I finally started feeling
like maybe, just maybe
we would prove ourselves wrong
you left me in shambles on the floor
shards of our favorite memories
cutting deep and letting me bleed
flowers painted red

I can't seem to escape
everything feels laced
with your winter remnants
blooming a stark white contrast
to my deep dark wounds
leaving broken roses everywhere
raine miller Aug 2013
luminescent shards slice through the night sky,
proudly blazing the cacophony of freedom and nationalistic pride
their screams piercing the crisp night air,
already tinged with fingers of hickory smoke
and delicate strings of strawberries

exploding into being and
crumbling into dust
simultaneously,
the broken shards of stars
float and scatter across the indigo sky
like wind-swept leaves scuttling over puddles in fall
qi Feb 2015
load your bullets
in the firing chamber
and they'll fly
from your lips,
ricochet and lodge
past the scarce armor
of my ribcage
into this glass heart of mine
     let my insecurities bleed out
                         don't staunch the flow


pierce my skin
with the shards of my heart
end my misery,
squeeze the trigger
with practiced ease
     breathe in,
          breathe out
               breathe in,
                    breathe out


                             *(you'll find another victim
                              downrange of you)
find someone else for target practice, *******.
Bruised Orange Sep 2014
Bone shards of our imaginary life
break loose from time to time.
Shredding their way
through my bloodstream,
they rip and tear at the fabric of my carefully pieced together reality.

I loved a quieter version of you.
A place where broken hearts held true.
And hands were firm, but nice, though strong.
A place where voices could belong.

I loved you in a fairy tale, a place where laughter was strong and hale.  I loved you in a tiny place, where no one knew your splintered face.

I loved you once, in a country song,
I loved you, loved you, till the dawn,
When truth erupted from each pore.
Your fists broke through the bathroom door.

How many moments locked in time,
Pictures of,
"I am yours," and,
"You are mine."
A fairytale written inside my head.
Our love affair was always dead.


And if I could only separate
The you I loved
From the you I hate,
Would it smooth those shards
Of broken bone
Of twenty years together,
But always alone?

*I loved the quieter version of you.
And no one saw her hurting
They saw glimmering reflections of themselves
Off the broken shards that she was made up of
Azurel Oct 2018
Soft melodies of the deep sea echo
Moonlight dances on my pretty scales
And icy bubbles whirl under my vest
Through my slippery hair
And down into my lungs to clear the way for overflowing foam
Laughter splashes behind my lips as my anticipation rises
Waiting for a night of twisted fairy-tales and uncalled for surprises.

Shimmering bodies swarm in spirals
Grinding in unison with the waves crashing at the surface
We're anxious for overflowing foam and hidden treasures
Purple light pierces the dark like shards of crystals
Casting a ghostly shade on bulbous faces
Pressure rises as each wave surges
Whirlpools of hot breath suffocate our gills
But the sidelines are shallow
And stragglers float motionless

Hair like seaweed at the nape of his neck
Unbuttoned linen soaked and dripping
Her hollow eyes glow green
Like the jelly orbs of a fish under florescent lights
She’s pressed against a boy who has hooks for fins
Searching for the parts that are edible
Tender, Scale-less, Slippery
Nothing wrong with being the catch of the day
Right?

Bubbles rise and pop as the last melodies drown
Schools of us are begging for shiny hooks and bad decisions
A handsome boy has been smiling all the while
He’s caught in a fisherman’s net
Craving salty lips and the spell to make him a man
But fisherman don't care for little mermaids
With hearts like sea glass and no hidden treasures to steal

Sweaty fins splash and cheer
The fishbowl shatters
Sea glass spills out onto sand
We squirm and flop onto land
Gasping without air to breathe
As our mouths and ***** thoughts dry in the sun
Leaving behind fresh meat without mouths to feed.

Rainbow confetti was stuck in the grooves of my scales
Wet clothes left on the floor of a steamy bathroom
Gasping and moaning into tile
With the face of a handsome stranger
Because this meat shouldn't go to waste
And I'm drunken with desperation
For overflowing foam, jewels, and shiny hooks
But I'm just another fish in the sea
Tumbling in the waves with my rainbow confetti scales.
A school dance
Bobbie Longo Aug 2011
The pieces of me
Were falling through the cracks
The pieces of me
Shattered from the past

These pieces I've
Been missing so long
You've put them back
Where they belong

In your shirt pocket
Grazing your chest
Where those pieces are safe
And can be loved best

You've found those shards
Where someones thrown them away
You're now who will
Keep them safe

Be careful because
My thinly severed parts
Hardly resemble
What once was a heart

They may embed
Themselves within
And splinter you with
Broken passion

I may not give you all of me
But I can share my pieces
A bite of me is all you need
The bite that never ceases
Grahame Jun 2014
A  MOONLIT  KNIGHT.

Fern rises and looks out of her window.
Silver shards of moonlight lick the lawn.
She who once felt gay and oh so joyous,
Now feels oh so desolate and lorn.

Will she ever find true love again?
She before has never felt so low.
Should she, for love, continue searching?
Or give up by ending it here and now?

Outside, all is monochrome and still,
Inside, Fern is still and very sad.
Will she feel happiness again?
Who knows how long she’ll feel this bad?

At the stroke of midnight, there’s a change,
There seems to be a disturbance in the air.
Gradually something seems to materialise
On the lawn, a shape, come from where?

It is a knight, armoured cap-à-pie,
On a horse, for war caparisoned.
From his saddle hangs a jousting shield,
A silver moon on it is designed.

A white plume is mounted on his helmet,
On his lance a white pennon is tied.
The knight looks at her, at her window,
Silently he sits and does bide.

He raises a gauntleted hand and beckons,
Should she stay in, or venture out?
In her white nightdress she goes downstairs,
Deciding to see what it’s all about.

Cautiously she opens up the door,
And putting her head out, looks outside.
The knight still sits, patiently waiting.
Fern wonders what might now betide.

Slipping on an old pair of shoes,
She slowly walks over to the knight.
In her wake she leaves a dewy trail,
And as she nears, the knight fades from sight.

Fern wonders what this all might mean,
Is she dreaming or is she awake?
Is, what she has seen, been real?
Or has she made a big mistake?

Then, whilst standing there in wonder,
She happens to look down at the ground.
Where the knight was, the grass is trampled,
As though a horse has curvetted around.

Then she hears a sound from behind her,
And startled, Fern quickly turns round.
Her house no longer seems to be there,
In its stead, a keep there is stound.

The sound she hears is a woman calling,
“My Lady, please come back here inside.
You shouldn’t be alone out in the dark,
Please come back and in your chamber bide.”

The woman, from a window, looks at Fern.
“Excuse me, are you addressing me?”
Fern directs the question at the woman,
Who replies to her, “Of course, my Lady.”

“’Tis not safe out at this time of night,
And you are in your night attire dight,
So if someone, of you, catches sight,
You’ll not be seen in a good light.”

Before Fern can think of what to say,
She hears the sound of a galloping horse.
It is getting nearer in the dark.
She hopes that things will now not get worse.

“My Lady, quickly, please get you inside,
Do not just stand there as if dazed.
Hurry now, before it it too late.”
Fern, though, does stand there amazed.

Approaching through the night is a horse,
The one she’d seen before on her lawn,
The same knight is seated on its back,
Though now the pennant on his lance is torn.

The horse stops right next to Fern,
And caracoles to bring them face-to-face.
The knight lowers his lance to show his pennant,
Which Fern sees is a torn fragment of white lace.

The knight again does sit in stilly silence,
He waits, and does not make any demand.
Then lowers his lance to touch her nightdress’s hem,
When suddenly, Fern does understand.

The hem of her nightdress is lace trimmed,
So Fern bends, and seizes it in hand.
Then with a sharp tug she tears it off,
Removing it in a single strand.

The knight raises up his lance higher,
The old lace, from the lance, Fern does remove.
Then ties the furbelow on very tightly,
Saying, “Please take this favour with my love.”

The knight dips his lance in salute,
Then turns his horse, back down the road to face.
His spurs lightly touch the horse’s flanks,
Which straight away gallops off at pace.

Fern walks across to the keep.
The woman opens the main door wide.
Fern steps across the threshold,
And now, in her own house is inside.

She turns to look back across the lawn,
Which is still lit by the silver moon’s light.
The lawn is now smooth and unblemished,
With no marks caused by the steed of the knight.

Fern goes upstairs to her bedroom.
Has this all been a dream ere now?
Then, as she gets back into bed,
She sees her nightdress lacks its furbelow.

Fern remembers her nightdress has a pocket,
And into it, her hand she does place,
Then, to her utter amazement,
She pulls out a fragment of torn lace.

Fern wonders at what’s just happened,
Was it real, or only in her mind?
If it was just her imagination,
Why has she been able, the fragment to find?

Eventually Fern drifts off to sleep,
Waking with the chorus of the dawn.
Although she doesn’t think she has changed,
She no longer feels quite so forlorn.

“Why does the knight appear to me?
Why has he only come at night?
Is he trying to find out if he’s wanted?
Is he trying to make something right?”

Later on that day Fern walks to town,
And heads for the library to find,
If there are any references to knights
That might help to ease her troubled mind.

Fern does find a story of a knight,
Who had a moon device on his shield.
He was very brave in the fight,
And to a foe would never yield.

He had been commissioned to take a message,
To a lord, by order of the king.
It was to be delivered urgently,
And he was not to stop for anything.

He was nearly there when something happened.
By the side of the highway lay a maid.
Being a chivalrous knight, he should have stopped,
Instead, he carried on, not giving aid.

He delivered the message to the lord,
And later was seated, drinking in the hall,
When there entered in some serving men,
Carrying on their shoulders a shrouded pall.

They lay down their burden on the floor,
And without having said a word,
Reverently uncovered the face of a body.
It was the lady of the lord.

Then entered in another knight,
Who stepped up to the lord, and said,
“On our way here, we found your lady.
She was wounded, and now, alas, she’s dead.”

The other knight continued with his story,
“Seemingly, she had been robbed and *****.
There was no sign of the perpetrators,
We think they’d been disturbed, and then escaped.”

“Perhaps if we had managed to come sooner,
We might have been there to prevent this crime.
However, it seems the Fates conspired against us,
So we were not there to help in time.”

The Knight of the Moon sat there horror-struck,
He knew if he’d not been so keen to arrive,
Though helped, as his conscience had dictated,
The lady might yet even be alive.

Instead of speaking up, he stayed silent,
And never about this matter spoke a word.
Then he rose, and gave his condolence,
And went out from the presence of the lord.

The lady was removed to lie in state,
The Knight of the Moon went, to look at her face.
He knelt there in silent prayer awhile,
Then, from her dress, removed a length of lace.

He accoutred himself in his full armour,
Then rode from the keep that very night.
He left a note, stating his omission,
And of him, no-one ever saw a sight.

Fern is very sad to read this story.
What had then been in the knight’s mind?
Had he ridden off to end his disgrace,
Or the perpetrators, gone to find?

Fern now makes her thoughtful way home,
Hoping he’d found surcease from his torment,
Wondering what to him had befallen,
And if, for his lapse, he’d made atonement.

Fern reaches home rather tired,
So lies down on her bed, then falls asleep.
She dreams of knights in armour and fair damsels,
And jousting in the grounds of the keep.

Eventually, Fern wakens from her slumber.
She lies for a moment in her bed.
Yet again she thinks about her dream.
Was it real, or made up in her head.

“Perhaps,” she thinks, “I’m just on the rebound,
Because I’m still in mourning for my love.
And being of a romantic nature,
Dreaming of knights this does this prove.”

“Knights should have been chivalrous and kind,
Treating damsels in distress with care.
Except, when a knight I truly needed,
As it happened, there was not one there.”

“On that night, if we’d had some help,
My husband might still be alive.
Now, he has been taken from me,
And I feel that alone I cannot thrive.”

“However, life must go on as usual,
I should carry on, if just for him,
And so, perhaps, I should cease this moping,
And try to get on with my life again.”

So Fern gets up, refreshed from her nap,
Then decides, after eating, to go out.
That she must now get herself together,
Fern is not left in any doubt.

“Perhaps a short drive into the country,
And to stretch my legs, a gentle walk.
However, I will get on much quicker,
If I do not, to myself, talk.”

Fern puts on her coat and gets her bag,
Then goes out and walks to her car.
This is the first time that she’s driven
Since losing him, so she’ll not go too far.

Fern unlocks her car, and sits inside,
Then she is overcome with fear.
“Suppose, now, I am too scared to drive.
Perhaps I’d feel better if help was near.”

“Come on Fern, pull yourself together!
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
If you don’t do it now, then when?
Start the car, and let’s be on our way.”

So having given herself a little lecture,
Fern belts up, and pulls out of her drive.
Then, not really knowing where she’s headed,
Off she goes to see where she’ll arrive.

Fern motors out into the country,
And following a lane, drives up a hill.
At the top she parks and gets out.
Everything seems peaceful and so still.

She aimlessly ambles round the hill top,
And reads a notice saying it was a fort.
Then, Fern drifts off into a daydream,
And views the panorama without thought.

In her mind’s eye she sees a castle,
Decorated with many banners bright.
A tournament seems to be in progress,
And the winner is, of course, her moonlit knight.

Eventually, Fern becomes aware,
That she has gone some distance from her car.
So she slowly makes her way back to it.
She hadn’t meant to walk quite so far.

The shades of night are now falling fast,
And everything is starting to look grey.
So Fern unlocks her car and gets inside,
Ready to be getting on her way.

Slowly, she starts off down the hill,
The lane is very narrow with high hedges,
The moon is hidden behind some lowering clouds,
The track’s overgrown with grass and sedges.

Somehow, she’s gone a different way.
In the dark, everything seems wrong.
Fern is now starting to get worried,
And wonders why the track seems so long.

Eventually, she debouches onto a road,
Though she is not sure exactly where.
Fern is by now really anxious,
Then suddenly, gets an awful scare.

It looks just like the road they had been travelling,
When her husband lost control of the car.
It had skidded, spun and then rolled over,
The door had opened, and Fern had been flung far.

Her husband had still been trapped inside,
When it suddenly erupted into flame.
Fern could only stand and helplessly watch,
All the while loudly screaming his name.

No-one was around at that moment,
Perhaps someone might have pulled him out.
Then, as other motorists arrived,
They phoned for help, while listening to Fern shout.

Quite soon, a fire-engine came,
Closely followed by an ambulance.
The fire was eventually put out,
And Fern driven off still in a trance.

That had been several weeks ago,
And Fern has not since passed that place.
Now, it looks as if she is there,
And will, her darkest moment, have to face.

Then, to her horror, she sees a shape,
Dimly lit by her headlamps’ light.
It is a fallen motorcycle,
And the rider’s lying by it, just in sight.

Fern stops her car, and runs up to him.
Perhaps she can be of some aid.
As she approaches, the man gets up,
While a voice behind her says, “Don’t be afraid.”

“You just do exactly as we tell you.
We only want your money, and some fun.
Then, you can be on your way.
Do not even think of trying to run.”

The first man picks up the bike,
And pushes it to the road’s side.
The other man comes up close to Fern,
Who wonders again what might betide.

The wind blows the clouds across the sky,
Bringing the bright moon into sight.
The road that ’til then was hidden in darkness,
Is now lit with shards of silver light.

Fern then hears the sound of a horse,
Approaching through the wild and windy night.
The jingling of trappings can be heard,
And Fern thinks that now all will be right.

The courser slowly comes into view,
With the same knight seated on its back.
His lance is not couched, it’s held *****,
And the reins are loosely held, and quite slack.

Casually the steed comes to a stop,
And lowers his head to nibble at some grass.
The men, uncertain, both watch the knight,
While each wonders what might now pass.

One of them goes up to the bike,
And opens up the box on the back,
Then takes from it two crash helmets,
And a length of chain, which dangles slack.

He throws a helmet to his crony,
And they each fasten one upon their head.
Then they both turn to face the knight,
Who has not a word utteréd.

The one with the chain lifts it up,
And menacingly starts to whirl it around,
Then slowly walks towards the knight,
Who casually sits, not giving ground.

The other man reaches into his pocket,
Pulling out a wicked flick-knife,
And then, letting the blade spring open,
Prepares to join in with the strife.

He circles round the knight to the rear,
As the other man comes in from the side,
When the knight drops his lance into rest,
And suddenly, off he does ride.

He charges away from the men,
And gallops right past Fern at full speed.
Then, his lance aimed at the motorcycle,
He urges on his racing steed.

The lance pierces into the fuel tank,
And knocks the bike over in the road.
Petrol gushes out in a torrent,
And soon over the tarmac it has flowed.

The lance is broken in twain, the knight drops it,
And very quickly turns his horse about,
Then as he gallops back past the bike,
Both of the men start to shout.

Sparks from the horse’s hoofs come flying,
Igniting the petrol on the road.
Fern gives a shrill scream in panic,
Thinking that the bike might now explode.

The man with the chain wildly flails it,
Desperately trying to hit the horse’s head.
The knight strikes the man with a morning-star,
Who drops down, just like one who’s dead.

The knight then dismounts, drawing his sword,
And silently strides towards the other man,
Who flings away his knife, and starts running,
Fleeing just as fast as ever he can.

Fern sees the fallen man get up,
Rising groggily to stagger to his feet.
He looks at them, and then he turns away,
Slowly stumbling off, not yet too fleet.

Suddenly, the night becomes quite dark.
Clouds again, do the moon obscure.
Fern turns to try to thank the knight.
He’s gone, though she now feels secure.

Confidently she walks towards the bike,
And sees the lance by the fire’s light.
Fern bends and unties the lace from the lance,
And slowly walks back with it through the night.

She reaches her car, and gets inside,
Then starts driving off to get back home.
Belatedly thinking of her husband,
And wondering what next to her will come.

Safely arriving home, Fern parks the car,
And getting out, she sees on the lawn,
A pavilion has there been erected,
Turned rosaceous by the coming dawn.

The horse is also there, grazing tackless,
And by the entrance hangs a well-known targe.
Fern carefully goes and looks inside.
The pavilion’s quite small, not very large.

She sees the knight, kneeling on the ground,
His head bowed, as like one in prayer.
He holds his sword in front, just like a cross,
Of her, he seems not to be aware.

Quietly, Fern withdraws from the pavilion,
Then thinks, of the horse, to get a sight.
It’s nowhere to be seen, she turns around,
The pavilion’s now bathed in golden light.

As Fern stares at it in wonder,
See thinks that she can hear an ætherial sound,
Like a choir of heavenly angels singing,
And the pavilion vanishes from the ground.

Fern sees only a sword, stuck in the lawn,
And hanging from a nearby tree, the shield.
Then reliving what occurred in the night,
To tears of relief, Fern does yield.

She wonders if the knight has been translated,
Having now atoned for his mistake,
And Fern hopes that he’s managed to find peace,
For risking his life for her sake.

Fern hangs the sword above her bed,
And fastens the shield over her door.
She feels much more confidant now,
And is able to do so much more.

Sometimes though, when the moon is full,
Fern goes outside at midnight,
Carrying in her hand a strip of lace,
And seems just to vanish from sight.

At that time, if anyone was around,
They might then hear an unusual sound,
As though a fully accoutred
Marshal Gebbie Aug 2012
For my mate Chris*

To sit around in anger…does no favours,
To bellyache to me… It’s all unfair,
To hope somebody else… comes up with answers,
To see the world’s shortcomings… flaunted there.


A lack of motivation keeps you grounded
Friends and family try to keep you at arm’s length,
You loathe the Government’s lack of comprehension
In that joblessness depletes your hope and strength.


You feel those carbohydrates clog your arteries
And see your muscled body turn to flab,
Discipline’s resolve flies to oblivion
And you curse all that… which makes your life so drab.


Disappointment curbs the high expectations,
You feel the planet owes you that, to which you seek,
Aghast to comprehend your own misgivings,
You feel the need to say…but then, you never speak.


Then suddenly… a stark, clear realization
That NOTHING HERE WILL CHANGE…UNTIL YOU DO,
Until you turn around your thinking to endeavour,
Till then that something that you seek… shall hide from you.


So look, my sweetness, look into the mirror
Shed the worry lines that always cloud your brow,
Kick your sorry **** profoundly to tomorrow
And lose the ****** shards of bitterness….RIGHT NOW!



Marshalg
Endeavouring to re-motivate a lost cause.
18 August 2012




© 2012 Marshal Gebbie
"Walking down the line
That divides me somewhere
In my mind"

Splits the sides
Right through
The middle of
The endless battles

And in your path
Lies
Broken shards
Of
Thoughts
Emotions
Dreams
Memories
And everything
Else

Worries
steps
ow

Selfishness
steps
o­w

Hate
steps
ow

Anger
steps
ow

Jealousy
steps­
ow

Each step
Bringing about
New pains
New problems
New ****
Rising from that line
You're walking down
Strewn with those
Shards

Ultimately leading you
To that bottomless
Crevasse
.
.
.
.
.
.
hmm, i see the need to hide again....
This heart isn’t hallow
This emptiness is just
As full as it can get
Like drowning a sealed
Water bottle full of
Oxygen

My heart breathes like a water boarding
Screams for first dates
That don’t come
Crushes over girls
Who ask me out to coffee so
They can brag about having coffee
With a cute guy to me
While the two of us
Have coffee

Smile
Do not show the hallow
Do not let the wind being knocked out of you
Whistle off of your rib cage
Like love notes being shredded

Remember
This is just coffee
Don’t pay attention to the fact that
Coffee hardly ever happens
Don’t pay attention to the fact that
You’ve literally had a crush on this girl since
Before you actually met her
Don’t pay attention to the fact that
There might not ever be another
Coffee

Remember
This is just your life
They don’t write love stories for hallowed out hearts
Or at least hearts that are only full of an outlining
Of oxygen
With skin singed from dysphoria
I hear it’s not good theater
If the main character looks like
A burn victim—
A bit indistinguishable
Like someone threw
Scalding coffee over your gender
Or tried to fill your heart with it

Breathe

Remember getting over her
It wasn’t hard
After all
It was just coffee
And it wasn’t like you
Had hope to fill your heart with
It was too full of out-linings
It’d be like stuffing a net with sand
Or trying to pour coffee into a
Shattered cup

Breathe

Let the broken shards of the
I-guess-this-really-is-just-coffee cups
Fill your lungs
It’s easier than breathing in another night
Of lonely
At least then you know
There was coffee
And glasses that fell apart
In tune with the shattering
Of your heart
So human
To lose something
By breaking it

Breathe

Remember
There was another coffee
And another girl
And this time we didn’t drink
From busted cups
But in something sturdy
Like a glass of hugs
That held the future of more time together
And had teabags of hope attached to strings
Of fingers that interlocked with hers
On the couch during our
Second date

My god
I know we had on shoes
With rubber souls
But that night your
Fingertips felt electric
Like a coffee cup with
An outlet in it
And the fork of my fingers found
The shock inside of you
It was warm like
Body heat
Or setting yourself on fire
*******
I never knew holding hands could make
My burned heart
Feel like a bonfire
Of shredded love notes
And shattered cups

I squeezed your hand a bit too hard
Like ripping coffee out of a sponge
I hoped you didn’t feel
How desperately I needed to hold
Onto the lifeboat rope of your arm
Because I’ve been drowning
In shards of glass from
I-guess-this-really-is-just-coffee cups
My whole life

I wish that second dates
Came with instruction manuals
Because I had no idea what to do
So at 2am
When you said you needed to leave
I walked you out to your car
And while I never read an instruction manual
I know that was the right move
Because you turned
And smushed your face into mine
Like I was stealing cotton candy in my mouth

I’m glad you were a good kisser
Because I know that kissing cotton candy
Has to be awkward as ****
But I hope that you at least found
Something sweet somewhere between
My lips

My god
How great a thief you were
When I checked my breath
The next morning
It was gone
Electrocuted from my lungs
And now I knew why kids
Keep shoving forks
Into outlets
It’s because the electric feels ******* incredible
Like taking a bath in oxygen
Or drowning in an ocean of inhales
Or fighting off a horde of dragons by
******* breathing on them

So Breathe

Remember
Cotton candy may seem sweet
But it doesn’t last forever
Eventually
Everyone can’t bare to have
Another bite

Awkward-at-first-kisses became
Awkward kisses
Breath kept coming home early
And dragons began to breathe
Back at me

I wasn’t surprised when you told me
You started seeing someone
It made sense
I always kept too many dragons around
With screaming hearts
And shattered coffee cups
Burning everything

I wasn’t surprised when I cried that day
It made sense
I had all of my oxygen back now
It was the only kind of breath
I knew

You see, oxygen flows through the heart and
Circles through the veins
I know oxygen
Like shattered coffee cups
And broken hallows
Filled with oceans of air

I guess that’s why
I set my heart on fire
Because maybe
It was never
There.
winter sakuras Aug 2018
Sometimes I get this sensation
as I take my bare feet
and place them
into tight enclosed shoes
to walk a cold grey
concrete path
still rigid to the shards of
   broken dreams
and promises
scattered along the middle,
the sounds of other people's footsteps
drown out my insecurities
and the
insignificance of
a person who feels small
as I try to grasp at merging
into the person full of
light and meaning
who has a spark in her eye,
     destined to do and make great changes
instead of falling into her own world
of isolation and despair
glancing around myself, wondering whether or not
I actually belong
I don't see my name on the board
with my peers
standing in the crowd,
waiting for the crosslight
to let me walk
walk with them to the other side, but
somewhere along the way
do I get lost
or am I just destined to walk
the wrong path
just so I could be with my peers
who are, of course,
the future
who will change the world
who will introduce a revelation that will change
the biased courses of humanity

but as for me

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

but despite all of that

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

there are colors;

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

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

just hoping to be remembered

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

I'd be grateful if people lended me some warm words of kindness. I don't get enough to sustain me these days.
bakunawa Apr 2018
Staring blankly,
All I see are glasses,
All half empty…

Chartreuse drips drop
Tip a tap a top.

Atop empty glasses,
And empty bottles,
On my empty table,
On my empty room—

On my empty house,
With no one else but me.

All I see are bubbles.

Frail.
Empty.

More like the reflections,
Of the sad sad face on every bubble,
Staring right back at me—

Frail.
Empty.

What if I’d just pop,
Whenever I’d take a drink?

Fated only of two things—
     To burst or to sink—

Staring bleakly,
All I see are shards.

Shards just mended together.
Shards made empty bottles,
Turned to empty glasses,

Reflecting the same empty face—
Just like glass shards…

Just broken.

I see that same forlorn face,
Behind all the alcohol bottles.

A spark quickly burning out…
Deprived even ash to even trace.

A fire that is melting…
Dying of thirst inside.

With all fingers crossed,
Hoping somehow beer could sate her drought—

All I see are bubbles,
So many bubbles,
But each single one just the same…

Frail.
Empty.

Drowning in ***,
Engulfed by *****,
Christened in whisky—

Sinking deep.
Deeper and deeper.
Down, down, down—
Always going lower,
Down, down, stop.
And then continues,
Colder, staler, darker,
Until I hit rock bottom,

Oblivion—

Pop.
2018-Feb--- A piece requested by some close friends- Title by Rose
Concept (Bubbles) by Erza
Ariana Robinson Mar 2015
Her soul became broken
And so many times, she tried to fix it
Times when she came close, it would shatter again

She died on the inside

The shards of her shattered soul contained images
Memories that she wished to forget
Why would she want to put the shards back together?
She died, and another person appeared with worse problems and a more broken soul
But this time, add the hurt...the pain...the struggle that came along with her life
Aren't you surprised the new person hasn't broke yet?

She will be broken soon

The cycle repeats itself
How long you think it will take before she is broken and a new person appears?
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Peeing: to ***; to urinate; to release the body of its liquid toxins; to pass or discharge *****; characteristically yellow- the strength of the color depending on the body’s hydration.
People have strange habits when peeing; urinating; releasing the body of their liquid toxins. Some people procrastinate it to the last minute and rush to the bathroom, barely yanking their pants down in time and shuddering in relief. They are those who habitually whip in and out, even when they don’t really need to. There’s the common usage of an escape from boredom in classes or meetings. Perhaps it even causes a slight blushing in the cheeks of painfully shy woman at hearing rushed tinkling so close by. And of course, they are also the people who love to leave surprises for the next person who uses the bathroom.
All in all, peeing seems to mean not much to people – a small part of life; but a very, very necessary part.  

                                 *                 *                    * .

The rain poured furiously outside the window as Emily sat, straining her brown eyes against the whiteboard flashing images of trigonometry from Mr. Well’s laptop, trying hard to concentrate. She was sitting in her usual seat in class, and also her favorite. It was a solitary table with a chair, away from the clusters of tables and the chattering children, and the only chair by the window. She liked to look out the window, even if it distracted her from Mr. Well’s loud explanations. The booming of “SOHCAHTOA” in her ears became distant as the wind’s movement caught her eye. She gazed out on sheets of rain flapping across the sky like giant teary spirits and pressed her fingertips on the glass. Cold.
Absent-mindedly, she pressed her cheek against the coolness and felt it absorb her body warmth. Her imagination kicked in and the glass became a panel of energy, ******* a little life from all those who touched it, vibrating with a strange purple light until it was so filled with energy the particles of the glass would explode and she would be the first to die from the sharp shatters that would spray across the room, causing droplets of blood to-
Ahem.
Mr. Well coughed meaningfully at her dreamy face. The class exploded into laughter and the bell rang. A skinny girl smiled at her but she was so lost in her own world, she forgot to smile back as she slung her bag on her shoulder and ran out. Maybe that’s why she didn’t have too many friends.
The dark skies were pouring furiously as only Bangkok in Monsoon weather can.
A walk home or a motorbike ride? A motorbike ride would be a little dangerous in this flooding… and with that reasoning she waved up a motorbike. The seat was soaked and so was the driver, whose brown leathered feet struggled to keep red flip-flops on as they sloshed through the flooded Sois.
Fat water bullets pelted her skin and the wind blew them ferociously into her face till her eyes stung. The motorbike swerved in and out of the cars stuck in traffic (slightly floating), the bottoms of their wheels immersed in ***** water.
The pockets of her school shorts were hastily rummaged through and she pulled out a soggy green twenty-baht note bank before running into the shelter of the lobby, dripping over the marble floor and completely drenched. The building-maid widened her eyes, and watched her horrified; knowing it meant extra work mopping and drying up the lobby floor as soon as Emily vanished into the elevator.
The plastic button with the circular metal piece glowed orange. It was strange how she was shivering with cold but her touch was still warm enough to light up the elevator buttons.
The usual itchy, impulsive, restlessness was building up inside her from the wet motorbike ride. Thunder roared and crackled through the lobby’s swinging glass doors and they vibrated slightly. Another flashing image of splintering glass splashed across her mind and in the split-second, she saw the diamond shards pierce the eye of the lobby’s guard and splinter across the floor-
She shook her head. This was what happened when she had too much pent-up energy. She had to do something- something reckless and fast and dangerous… now! A bolt of lightning went through her as a familiar wide open space came into her mind… the rooftop of her thirty-five floored building.
The elevator ride up was slow, much too slow for the fast pacing of her heart and she hit the metal doors with wet fists. Tearing out of the doors when it finally jolted to a stop, she climbed up to the top, running up the stairs two steps at a time and caught her breath. It was flooded up to her ankles and violent gusts of wind made her steady herself.
Emily’s Dad often told her stories of when he was child. “The winds in my home during Monsoon season were so strong we could lean into it with our fully body weight and we wouldn’t fall. It was almost as good as flying.”
Her lids squinted shut and the sensitive skin was immediately exposed to the pebbles of the rain and whipping wind; and in almost dream-like state, she leaned into the howling wind.
There was a comically slow fall and her bony knees hit the concrete flooring with a dull thud. She burst into tears of laughter in her own stupidity at thinking the wind could hold up against her gigantic frame and rubbed her ***** knees sorely. Reaching up to wipe her tears with muddy fingers, she laughed to herself again. There was no point in wiping away tears. They were so trivial in comparison to the current weeping of the skies.
Against the thick opaqueness of the wind, she could see how the view towered over a jungle of buildings as far as the eyes could see, with snaking concrete roads and skinny black canals. Slums scattered around nearby swanky hotels of the rich. The buildings faded into small dark shapes in the distance. Bangkok.
No matter how tall and industrial it tried to become, everyone ran for cover under this blinding rain.
Up here, completely a victim to nature’s power, she felt exposed; naked; real. The animalistic instincts inside her swelled up. Humans weren’t meant to wear these annoying pieces of material or shoved inside skinny architectural designs. With aggressive tearing motions, a pile of soggy clothes half lay, half floated on the flooded floor beside her and she stood there bare… and completely naked. Laughter spilled out from the depths of her naked chest with the two tiny hints of possible womanhood; it was louder than thunder. Screaming, laughing and gasping she stumbled around – climbing over objects and feeling the beautiful dizziness: a sweet, sweet dizzy. She stood up on a random block a meter high; spread her arms wide as her wet body shone with raindrops. The rain threatened to push her over, her soaked hair twitching heavily on her neck.
She ****** in her breath, ready to yell so that the heavens could hear but instead, the voice that came out was controlled with a shaky undertone of joy,
“I need to ***.”
And then she did.

                                                *         *            *.

His eyes are brown. Dark chocolate brown – a simple, solid color. Simple and solid like him.
Because he was so simple, people enjoyed his companionship. Though he was simple, he was not boring. Rather he was sharp-mouthed, quick on his feet, witty and observant speaking bald truths about people that either provoked them to scandalized laughter or humiliated fury.
What some people forgot to recognize was that he didn’t really love anyone. Plenty called him a close friend, but so absorbed were they in their own world; they seldom realized the fact that most of his thoughts were concealed. Kept in a little box of surprises in the back of his mind, and hidden so well nobody knew they existed.
He could spend months with a friend traveling in a different country, and return back home with no feelings of attachment. He could care for a friend while they were here and not really miss them while they were gone.
Most of the time his eyes were neutral and observing and they would sparkle amusedly when he had provoked someone with his words. This was how remained to almost everyone; everyone but one person. The one person that could turn his normally calm face even more still, the dark brows would rise slightly and a quick flash of fire would shoot through his eyes- and for a long while, they would burn slowly like two twin coals; the one person who could cloud his eyes dreamily; the one person who could make them glint wetly.  
He reached over and grabbed her hand. Emily turned smiling eyes at him.
A group of teenagers were strolling down the closed roads, armed with water guns, pasted in thick white powder, thoroughly drenched in the hot, dry weather and skipping over puddles (except for Emily who splashed into them).
Songkran in Bangkok: celebrated in the middle of April where temperatures reach forty-degrees Celsius, Thailand’s New Year and a time to pay respect to the elders in the family, but as most traditions, they became really just an excuse to enjoy oneself and in this case, one-year-olds to eighty-year-olds roamed the ***** streets splashing ice-cold water from hoses and water guns and smeared each other with chalk in buckets.
The street they were being shoved along was crowded with slick, drunk bodies. The heat of the afternoon sun shone down on their backs. The sign that introduced excited people in was sprayed by a passing pick-up truck filled with screaming locals. “WELCOME TO SOI COWBOY” printed the red letters.
Red-faced fat foreigners held in each arm a tiny ******* with their bright lace bras showing through the wet see-through shirt and their black eye shadow playing havoc with their cheeks.  Country-side Thai music blared in its jumpy, quirky manner with the over done sound effects. Those nasal voices of dark skinned women with their skins covered with make-up to an ashy white whined out of the stereos. A man with the head of a buffalo mask sauntered past. It was a mark of how wild things got at Songkran that eyes merely flickered over the shirtless buffalo briefly with a quick laugh. Transsexuals clad in diamond-studded flip-flops, wet white tank tops and mini jeans shorts the size of underwear danced to the blasting music from the open pubs down either side of the road. Their surgically-made ******* were all-too visible in the white shirts, their dark ******* poking out as they grabbed the crotches of good-looking men and boys that passed by, squealing and rubbing their bodies against white men especially. Most of these white foreigners had a look of bewildered pleased ness... for only a few realized that underneath that squeaky voice was a very deep rumble, and underneath those lacy thongs lay a very big surprise indeed.
One of the better-looking boys in the group, his green eyes and pointed chin drawing the fancy of many hookers, was pulled off by four pairs of wet skinny arms touching him and yelling in broken English, “Oh so handsome! You so handsome! I love you! What your name! You tell me your name, handsome boy!”
The handsome boy proceeded to manage some sort of scream for help while laughing until his stomach ached. It was Songkran; it was a merry time, and he knew he was good-looking. Kat, who held a secret crush on him laughed amusedly at his yelping.
Emily stumbled after him with Kat and parted through the crowd of ladies in time to see a tiny little ****** trip on her squeaking flip-flops and fall beside a sprawled figure, face down in the ***** road with a massive bag of ice on top of him.
“Hey! Are you alright?” Emily cried, half-amused and half-concerned, lifting the heavy ice bag off his shoulders.
Kat rushed forward, laughing but compromising her concern with furrowed brows and helped him up. “You okay Tom?”
He whimpered in pain and put a hand on his neck, rubbing it sorely. “That ice bag was ******* heavy.” The girls decided to make no note of his skinny arms.
They walked back to their group of friends who turned around and saw a limping green-eyed boy and roared with laughter. The noise caught the attention of predators searching for a good target and they were hosed down with water pipes.
Suddenly Emily felt a huge body lift her up and swing her around while hands plastered her with wet chalk.
“Emily!”
She felt safe hands grab her and looked up into the pair of dark chocolate eyes. They were a little annoyed as they flickered over the fat drunk man who released her heavily but it was Songkran, and he managed to laugh at her bewildered expression.
Just then they passed a horde of prostitutes and she felt him being ripped from her. “I like this one!” screeched a passing market lady who rushed in to jump on him. “I like this one! Let’s keep this one!” They dunk his head in a bucket of white goo.
She screeched with laughter and even at something that silly, felt protective of him. “Brad!”
He was too busy being attacked. “Brad!” she tried to reach in and he opened his mouth to call out to her. That was a big mistake, he realized, as he received a handful of powder in his mouth. Spitting, coughing, and trying to breathe through nostrils blocked with powder he managed to wipe his stinging eyes clean. The prostitutes released him but not before a huge ******* screamed with glee at his straight nose and thin red lips, and reached forward giving his crotch a good grab. He screeched in genuine disgust and fear, had a moments feeling of guilt in case he had offended the ******* which was immediately wept away as he, no she, no it, yelped joyfully and massaged his **** before trotting off to his, no her, no its next victim.
Where was Emily? With his height, he managed to see a brown head that stuck above the other dark-haired and light-haired heads being jostled out of the street by the moving crowd. He ran to catch up and grabbed Emily’s hand as the group of teenagers tripped out of “Soi Cowboy”.  
They stood for a moment catching their breath. Zoey, a tiny little girl with a chest that threatened to put her out of balance, pushed her brown curls out of her face. A red glow was starting to spread over her cheeks.
Kat laughed scornfully, her wide smile spreading generously over her face. “Sunburn?! You white girl!”  
They had all been out around the streets since early morning and it was late in the afternoon now. Rose’s cheeks were flushed and the tip of Kat’s nose was a little pink herself. The rest of them, with their darker skin, had tanned slightly but unnoticeably. They laughed at Zoey for a short while. It was an interesting group of friends: all of them of mixed heritages from around the world with different backgrounds that became common in the world of International schools. It was alright to tease Emily’s honey skin; it was funny to crack jokes about Stefan’s hairiness; it was hilarious when Zoey tried to tan.
Emily shot a picture of everyone laughing: their clothes wet, their faces scrunched up, eyeliner smudged (Kat and Rose had lined their eyes with water proof kohl that of course wasn’t really waterproof), their cheeks and chin caked a crumbly white.
Kat and Zoey clambered over her shoulders, peering at the little digital screen of the water proof camera. “Ew! Gross!” yelled Kat who was only used to pictures of her lips rosy from lipstick, camera at a flattering angle with a bright flash from her professional equipment that made her black-lined green eyes sparkle like emeralds.
“Delete! I look sick!”
Even Zoey, who admired Kat’s photogenic ness to a great extent, could find no words of solace except to say, “Me too! I look gross! Delete! Now!”
Emily just laughed and said, “No you don’t.” Of course it wasn’t a type of picture they’d profile on Facebook, but all the same it was beautiful with their wild-looking and uninhibited faces and un-posing body shapes, curled up in laughter.
Zoey snatched the camera from her and they fiddled with the buttons till the picture was deleted. It was regretful, annoying, but not unexpected.
Emily rubbed her sore knees and noticed how Tom was still rubbing his neck sorrowfully with Stefan laughing at him, shaking his head wearily. Brad was holding onto her arm a little tiredly, Kat and Zoey had their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder for leaning support and Rose and Emily’s younger brother, Jason, were standing together, staring absen
mark john junor Aug 2013
he gathered the bone white shards
with great care in the near darkness
of the kitchen
the streetlights toxic amber light
burrowed into the silent house
curtailed by the narrow window
and lay unchanging on the pitted and greasy floor

his feet shuffle across that lighted square
he watches it intently as he passes over it

a few leaves of an intervening tree are
are silhouetted there as stark contrast
but he is numb to the contradiction
lighted floor tile with shadows of leaves
it makes him giggle inside like a giddy schoolgirl
the light is diseased and its so so nasty
ain't it delightful

saturated by shadows
his mind shuts off the unquiet thoughts
replacing it with something warm and fuzzy
like a warm blanket
a blanket party for the mind...
yes yes yes...beaten senseless


morning collapses the streetlights
mesmerizing light/shadow
for another day
he picks up the fine white china cup
that he drank coffee from all night
and smashes it on the floor with mock violence
where the streetlight had lain
the seed of his madness all night

the bone white shards
will lay as a dangerous reef until nightfall
when he will gather them to their grave
one more fine white china cup
one more day alone in the
shatterbox
edity smedity dittyity:"burrowed into the silent house, curtailed by the narrow window" lines were reversed, no other changes.
Eternal Lucidity Jan 2011
Words, like shards of glass,
Piercing, ripping, slicing,
Each one tearing an opening,
Each one, cutting you in bed...

Each word brakes the comfort,
Each word, pierces,
Each word, forever remembered,
Each word, hated, hated, more than the last, no more than the first.

Words, like shards of glass,
Words that destroy what they touch,
Words that punish,
Words -- *******.
Eternal Lucidity (Words have more power than our poems will ever reach)
AJ Robertson Mar 2013
bespeckled, blotched & blokey
feminine in aspects
only little ****** hair patches
two chins,
or rather a sloped one
the front evenly declining to the middle of the throat
a gradual ***** from the tip, for juices to run if his manner and situation allowed him to be as casual and sloppy as his laziness chose,

torso without form, so there was no curvature on the buttocks or the fly region.
a mass
a blob of bulges on spindly legs

he leans on the wall
stubby in hand he balks
(he means jovial but unintentionally he vocalises mockery)
at the suggestion that the Pies will do better
& that Eddie is a clever man due for thanks, who has done his club well (apparently a straight Aussie arrow tried and true!)

the man ***** his head back & cackles
(the trebly popping bubbles of a gala crackle outwards as the man cackles)
& decides his arms need a rest,
(a long day of up and down they have had indeed, they deserve respect, or rest (or a benching))
  so he places his beer down
on a sloped surface,
& therefore it slips down….

he sees it plummeting, he stretches toward it's tragic trajectory,
…..but he is too slow
it smashes
on his foot (the shards) the beer bottle it transfigures,
and the shards they impart their misery on his toes.  
The shards they intrude on his relaxed state of wellbeing, they intrude on the security sanctioned within the casual footwear of a man at a barbecue; taking it easy.
he swears and hops, reaching in indignation for his bleeding toes
he holds the wound cursing; resisting the impulse to begin convulsive throws
(an oscar worthy performance from a usually suburbaly urbane individual)

the moisture feels degrading
(as it would within a man's pants)
the pain from the cuts it is worsened
by the smirking gazes of others about

he hobbles, disregarding his thong in the wreckage of the scene

off to retrieve a band aid
to mend his ego
and his foot
simultaneously
Aditi Uniyal Oct 2015
They say a mirror breaks
Into a thousand pieces
When it is hit by
By anything that contains
The force to shatter it
And crack the glass,that
Might have been immaculate,
Or might have been *****,
With layers of filth-
There might have been a
Lady,who looked at the
Mirror and ogled at her
Perfect complexion and
Candy apple red lips,
Or there might have been
A teenage girl who
Looked at it,only to
Check if the acne’s gone,
There might have been a
Child who smiled at the
Mirror, to get that same
Sheepish grin in return
There might have been people,
So many people,
Who looked in the mirror,
Some to forget,and
Some to remember,
Some to dream big, and
Some to hide a guilt-
But now, all of it
Lies shattered in bits,
In shards that dig deep
In the skins of humans,
And sardonic blood
Flows warm against their skins-
All the faces are now nothing,
But sharp,evil shards.
Alvira Perdita Jul 2014
Trust is a lot like a glass
Some take strength to break
Some are plastic and almost eternally strong
and some shatter into little shards within an instant
Can we pretend that it made sense?
Jason Cirkovic Apr 2014
My mother should be an author
She carves her soul into millions of pieces
Leaving it behind all of the family photos
When I see my mother
I see a woman
Who wants to hide her soul in a needle
Just so the screaming can stop in her mind,
These bottles are rattling in the living room
You see they have put shackles on her heart,
She can't love anymore
Without having ***** in her water bottle.

Where is she hiding her beer?
I feel like my mother is giving me a scavenger hunt
From the shards of glass that were left on the baseball fields
My mother used to take me to.

You know she always wasn't like this
She was strong minded and had a big heart
Tonight I will tell you the story of a woman
Who lost her soul to the Keystones to the Miller Lites
To the ****** Mary’s.
Let's rewind time
See ******* the soul in ten years

10- I look into my mother's eyes and I start to cry
Because I'm looking at a woman who I don't know anymore

9- I refused to bail her out of jail again
Because I'm afraid her kidney will fail if she drinks again

8- My mother staggered into the theater and disrupted the whole play,
My cast mates turned to me and asked, isn't that your mother?

7- I had to hold my mothers hand
Because she was throwing up the cocktail of drugs and alcohol

6- Daddy had to get mom out of jail she was drinking again

5- My mother throws the bottle across the room
And told me the reason why she drinks is because I'm Autistic

4- My mother overslept for my piano recital,
I didn't think it was a big deal
But I remember she spent the whole night crying
With a wine glass in her hand.

3- Mommy I didn't know your prescription came in a needle

2- Mommy the prescription say 2 pills a day
why are you taking 6?

1- My mother went to the doctor
Found out that she has Rheumatoid Arthritis
I don't know what that means,
But I know she will still be strong right?

0- She took me to a Dodger game for my birthday.
I remember Sammy Sosa hitting a home run that game
She told me that the only person that can **** your soul is yourself
13 Apr 2015
The hints of a razor gleam
creeping up from behind
shivers begin to scream
a thought undefined.

Crystalline destruction manifests
in shards of failed dreams
circulation and cells cease
I am dumber today.

Clogging and fogging the mind
promises cheat their way into lies
when depression becomes a way of life
serenity is found at the end of the line.

Escaping the cavity
in trails of shame
in vigour and madness
incapable of sadness.

Black hole eyes
cannot see the coming despair
the next morning impairs
certainty is a lie.

Senses start to fail
iron will turns frail
the devil’s sugar and salt
must never be taken so lightly.

Subtle and methodical
killing what makes you, you
another round for old time’s sake,
and you’re stuck to it like glue.
Posted on December 16, 2014
Mikaila Dec 2012
There it is, the mirror sky, reflecting all that is beneath it and throwing it back upon itself like rain.

The flowers unfurl with alarming swiftness-delicate, they are, made of shadow and moonlight, flourishing in the dusk-and the tides rake the shore with desperate fingers, wrenched back from the land as the night pulls the day down under the water. The sun sinks crimson within the glass sea, cracking it, and it shatters into a million stars trapped inside a harsh black sky. The shore is littered with a desolate battlefield of broken shells, scarred bits of wood, rocks beaten into smoothness by the unforgiving water.


Where is the moon? There is no softness here. Hard lines, the world washed black and white, and such a stillness even in motion. The sky does not see a moon, and so the moon is gone-trapped with the sun beneath the black sea? The last shards of fiery gold and red have been swallowed by unnaturally silent waves.


Where is the life? Every creature is gone, hidden away. It is not the night that they fear, but the image of themselves reflected inside it. The world does not sleep; it waits, coiled like a spring, for whatever is coming. It is as if everything is holding its breath, silent and full of tension.


The sea isn’t alive like it should be anymore. It’s been tainted, poisoned. Why do the waves shine black and blue like a raven’s feather? Where are the whitecaps and the foam? No, this sea is smooth glass, flowing and morphing, licking cruelly at the shore. Cold as ice, but not frozen, it leaches the color from the world, drawing all the light into its frigid depths. Look down inside it and there is nothing but hard blackness, as if the water is solid now but still moving. The silence is perhaps the most terrifying. Wrong, for the world to move so fast and be so quiet. The clouds and the stars all move dizzyingly, racing across the sky, growing and changing before a real form can be discerned.


Now even the stars are going dark, falling one by one into the sea, a sad parody of rain. They are swallowed instantly, their cold lights extinguished until not one is left. For one long, silent moment, everything is dark. How long does a moment in utter despair last? A day, a year, a thousand? It is impossible to tell, with the unchanging quiet.



There it is, somewhere above, the mirror sky, reflecting itself. For that is all that’s left- darkness reflected in hallways and tunnels and funhouse mazes.


Until the moon slices through, and everything shatters. Shards of darkness fall and change, hitting the ground and seeping color into the soil. The waves crash upon the shore, released- still brutal, still cold, but free and deep cobalt blue under the golden moonlight. The wind sighs, the trees rustle, the grasses bend and sway with the whisk-whisk sound of silk on silk. Thunder and lightning roar and flash as the sky hurls itself into the sea in a torrent of bitter rain. The world is awake with a vengeance, and the moon reigns, full and golden and glorious, over the deep purples and soft blues of the night.
Nicole Dawn May 2015
Mirror mirror
On the wall
Who's the fairest
Of them all?

Not you

Mirror mirror
On the wall
Who's the one
About to fall?

You are

I shatter the mirror
And use the shards
To bleed the memories
From my skin

Mirror mirror
On the wall
You pushed me
Off the cliff so tall

*You deserved it
This is really cheesy.....

— The End —