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Jacob Oates Feb 2015
Shouts out to the post modern ironic twisted ***** of confusion making sense of a chaotic existence

Shouts out the the same folks for laughing at their own struggle

Shouts out to the bleeding hearts

Shouts out to the dried up stones

Shouts out to the snarky *** momentary breaks from the void that they carry alone

Shouts out to the religious castaways, to the tradition breakers

Shouts out to the tradition keepers, and the self evaluators

Shouts out to the pathfinders and the trailblazers

Shouts out to the lack of motivation and the desire to be admired

Shouts out to mania driven fervor satiated not even by approval

Shouts out to calculated efforts and spontaneity as a ruse

Shouts out to reused tropes and cliches strung together again and again in different orders

Shouts out to all living as peninsulas, carving themselves off as islands.
A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.
Alyssa Underwood Nov 2015
We're awakened to our insatiable longing for heaven
through both beauty and the painful marring of it.
For beauty hints to us of that for which we are truly made,
and its marring shouts that we are truly not meant to find it here.

We can be eternally grateful for beauty lost when we realize
that it's one of the great secret-tellers of the universe.
Still we fear it so and often fear even to hope for the beauty itself,
though they are a necessary cycle that fuels us on and drives us home.

We cannot deny or diminish our intense longing for beauty--
to see it and have it and be it, and we cannot pretend that its
dreadful loss does not press down upon us like a crushing weight.
We must let it crush us until our ache for heaven is excruciating.
Rachael Grace Apr 2015
The door
The floor
Hush
The walls
The windows
Whisper
Muted cries
Muffled shouts
Painting the walls like dust
The words are not for us
It's the lot behind
The door
The floor
Hush
The walls
The windows
whisper
Muted cries
Muffled shouts
I've got no doubts when I hear your voice
"But it's past my curfew" I tell myself
"I've got no choice"
The door
The floor
Hush
The walls
The windows
Whisper
Muted cries
Muffled shouts
I don't know you
Though I feel like I do
The door
The floor
Hush
The walls
The windows
Whisper
Muted cries
Muffled shouts
Night after night
I peek through the curtains
Once the fight ends
I see you walk the length of the fence
Wiping tears only I have seen you cry
The door
The floor
Hush
The walls
The windows
Whisper
Silent sobs
Shattered parts
I wish so badly I could mend your heart
I've never met him but we often hear him and his mom fighting. I can never tell what it's about but I've always imagined he was innocent.
TLK Aug 2012
Only one person goes into Father's room.
It is not me.
His sleeping threatens you from his bed.
His breath is sour vinegar and dust.
And,
if you are too loud,
He shouts.

Only one person goes into Father's room.
It is not my younger brother.
"I am not going," he cries.
Not even if you tease him with a toy in the dark corner.
A fabulous toy.
Almost seen in the darkest corner furthest from the door.
No matter how fabulous you make it,
Even when his fingers are grabbing at the air,
And the breath comes out of his wet lips in whistles,
And he is touching the door,
And the door creaks at his touch,
He is already past the floorboards which made the same noise,
He is so close,
He will not do it.
"There is no toy," he will whisper
And even though he is right
You must say
"You are chicken."
But you say this quietly too.
Because,
if you are too loud,
He shouts.

Only one person goes into Father's room.
It is not Mother.
Instead, she calls up from the bottom of the stairs.
She will listen for a while.
She will get nothing.
Then, calling him names,
She will come up the stairs,
Stamping her feet.
She will call out from the landing.
She will listen for a while.
She will get nothing.
Finally she walks up to the door of the bedroom.
She will shout from there.
Sometimes she shouts once.
Sometimes she shouts many times.
She is too loud.
He shouts.
He is louder than her but she has more words to say.
"You are ******* your parents' money away!"
That sounds painful to me.
"Your sickness is called laziness!"
I hope I do not get laziness.
I do not want to be in bed all day.

Only one person goes into Father's room.
It is the charwoman, with her broom.
Once a week she opens the curtain.
He groans.
I listen at the door.
She is busy, cleaning.
She tells him that he has made a disgraceful mess.
She tells him that he has a family to look after.
She is soft, but she is not scared.
He talks to her.
He does not shout.
"Tomorrow," he says.
"Oh yes, I went over to Edmonstoun the other day and saw Johnny, mooning around as usual! He will never make his way."
Letter of George Keats, 18--


Night falls; the great jars glow against the dark,
Dark green, dusk red, and, like a coiling snake,
Writhing eternally in smoky gyres,
Great ropes of gorgeous vapor twist and turn
Within them. So the Eastern fisherman
Saw the swart genie rise when the lead seal,
Scribbled with charms, was lifted from the jar;
And -- well, how went the tale? Like this, like this? . . .

No herbage broke the barren flats of land,
No winds dared loiter within smiling trees,
Nor were there any brooks on either hand,
Only the dry, bright sand,
Naked and golden, lay before the seas.

One boat toiled noiselessly along the deep,
The thirsty ripples dying silently
Upon its track. Far out the brown nets sweep,
And night begins to creep
Across the intolerable mirror of the sea.

Twice the nets rise, a-trail with sea-plants brown,
Distorted shells, and rocks green-mossed with slime,
Nought else. The fisher, sick at heart, kneels down;
"Prayer may appease God's frown,"
He thinks, then, kneeling, casts for the third time.

And lo! an earthen jar, bound round with brass,
Lies tangled in the cordage of his net.
About the bright waves gleam like shattered glass,
And where the sea's rim was
The sun dips, flat and red, about to set.

The prow grates on the beach. The fisherman
Stoops, tearing at the cords that bind the seal.
Shall pearls roll out, lustrous and white and wan?
Lapis? carnelian?
Unheard-of stones that make the sick mind reel

With wonder of their beauty? Rubies, then?
Green emeralds, glittering like the eyes of beasts?
Poisonous opals, good to madden men?
Gold bezants, ten and ten?
Hard, regal diamonds, like kingly feasts?

He tugged; the seal gave way. A little smoke
Curled like a feather in the darkening sky.
A blinding gush of fire burst, flamed, and broke.
A voice like a wind spoke.
Armored with light, and turbaned terribly,

A genie tramped the round earth underfoot;
His head sought out the stars, his cupped right hand
Made half the sky one darkness. He was mute.
The sun, a ripened fruit,
Drooped lower. Scarlet eddied o'er the sand.

The genie spoke: "O miserable one!
Thy prize awaits thee; come, and hug it close!
A noble crown thy draggled nets have won
For this that thou hast done.
Blessed are fools! A gift remains for those!"

His hand sought out his sword, and lightnings flared
Across the sky in one great bloom of fire.
Poised like a toppling mountain, it hung bared;
Suns that were jewels glared
Along its hilt. The air burnt like a pyre.

Once more the genie spoke: "Something I owe
To thee, thou fool, thou fool. Come, canst thou sing?
Yea? Sing then; if thy song be brave, then go
Free and released -- or no!
Find first some task, some overmastering thing
I cannot do, and find it speedily,
For if thou dost not thou shalt surely die!"

The sword whirled back. The fisherman uprose,
And if at first his voice was weak with fear
And his limbs trembled, it was but a doze,
And at the high song's close
He stood up straight. His voice rang loud and clear.


The Song.

Last night the quays were lighted;
Cressets of smoking pine
Glared o'er the roaring mariners
That drink the yellow wine.

Their song rolled to the rafters,
It struck the high stars pale,
Such worth was in their discourse,
Such wonder in their tale.

Blue borage filled the clinking cups,
The murky night grew wan,
Till one rose, crowned with laurel-leaves,
That was an outland man.

"Come, let us drink to war!" said he,
"The torch of the sacked town!
The swan's-bath and the wolf-ships,
And Harald of renown!

"Yea, while the milk was on his lips,
Before the day was born,
He took the Almayne Kaiser's head
To be his drinking-horn!

"Yea, while the down was on his chin,
Or yet his beard was grown,
He broke the gates of Micklegarth,
And stole the lion-throne!

"Drink to Harald, king of the world,
Lord of the tongue and the troth!
To the bellowing horns of Ostfriesland,
And the trumpets of the Goth!"

Their shouts rolled to the rafters,
The drink-horns crashed and rang,
And all their talk was a clangor of war,
As swords together sang!

But dimly, through the deep night,
Where stars like flowers shone,
A passionate shape came gliding --
I saw one thing alone.

I only saw my young love
Shining against the dark,
The whiteness of her raiment,
The head that bent to hark.

I only saw my young love,
Like flowers in the sun --
Her hands like waxen petals,
Where yawning poppies run.

I only felt there, chrysmal,
Against my cheek her breath,
Though all the winds were baying,
And the sky bright with Death.

Red sparks whirled up the chimney,
A hungry flaught of flame,
And a lean man from Greece arose;
Thrasyllos was his name.

"I praise all noble wines!" he cried,
"Green robes of tissue fine,
Peacocks and apes and ivory,
And Homer's sea-loud line,

"Statues and rings and carven gems,
And the wise crawling sea;
But most of all the crowns of kings,
The rule they wield thereby!

"Power, fired power, blank and bright!
A fit hilt for the hand!
The one good sword for a freeman,
While yet the cold stars stand!"

Their shouts rolled to the rafters,
The air was thick with wine.
I only knew her deep eyes,
And felt her hand in mine.

Softly as quiet water,
One finger touched my cheek;
Her face like gracious moonlight --
I might not move nor speak.

I only saw that beauty,
I only felt that form
There, in the silken darkness --
God wot my heart was warm!

Their shouts rolled to the rafters,
Another chief began;
His slit lips showed him for a ***;
He was an evil man.

"Sing to the joys of women!" he yelled,
"The hot delicious tents,
The soft couch, and the white limbs;
The air a steam of scents!"

His eyes gleamed, and he wet his lips,
The rafters shook with cheers,
As he sang of woman, who is man's slave
For all unhonored years.

"Whether the wanton laughs amain,
With one white shoulder bare,
Or in a sacked room you unbind
Some crouching maiden's hair;

"This is the only good for man,
Like spices of the South --
To see the glimmering body laid
As pasture to his mouth!

"To leave no lees within the cup,
To see and take and rend;
To lap a girl's limbs up like wine,
And laugh, knowing the end!"

Only, like low, still breathing,
I heard one voice, one word;
And hot speech poured upon my lips,
As my hands held a sword.

"Fools, thrice fools of lust!" I cried,
"Your eyes are blind to see
Eternal beauty, moving far,
More glorious than horns of war!
But though my eyes were one blind scar,
That sight is shown to me!

"You nuzzle at the ivory side,
You clasp the golden head;
Fools, fools, who chatter and sing,
You have taken the sign of a terrible thing,
You have drunk down God with your beeswing,
And broken the saints for bread!

"For God moves darkly,
In silence and in storm;
But in the body of woman
He shows one burning form.

"For God moves blindly,
In darkness and in dread;
But in the body of woman
He raises up the dead.

"Gracile and straight as birches,
Swift as the questing birds,
They fill true-lovers' drink-horns up,
Who speak not, having no words.

"Love is not delicate toying,
A slim and shimmering mesh;
It is two souls wrenched into one,
Two bodies made one flesh.

"Lust is a sprightly servant,
Gallant where wines are poured;
Love is a bitter master,
Love is an iron lord.

"Satin ease of the body,
Fattened sloth of the hands,
These and their like he will not send,
Only immortal fires to rend --
And the world's end is your journey's end,
And your stream chokes in the sands.

"Pleached calms shall not await you,
Peace you shall never find;
Nought but the living moorland
Scourged naked by the wind.

"Nought but the living moorland,
And your love's hand in yours;
The strength more sure than surety,
The mercy that endures.

"Then, though they give you to be burned,
And slay you like a stoat,
You have found the world's heart in the turn of a cheek,
Heaven in the lift of a throat.

"Although they break you on the wheel,
That stood so straight in the sun,
Behind you the trumpets split the sky,
Where the lost and furious fight goes by --
And God, our God, will have victory
When the red day is done!"

Their mirth rolled to the rafters,
They bellowed lechery;
Light as a drifting feather
My love slipped from my knee.

Within, the lights were yellow
In drowsy rooms and warm;
Without, the stabbing lightning
Shattered across the storm.

Within, the great logs crackled,
The drink-horns emptied soon;
Without, the black cloaks of the clouds
Strangled the waning moon.

My love crossed o'er the threshold --
God! but the night was murk!
I set myself against the cold,
And left them to their work.

Their shouts rolled to the rafters;
A bitterer way was mine,
And I left them in the tavern,
Drinking the yellow wine!

The last faint echoes rang along the plains,
Died, and were gone. The genie spoke: "Thy song
Serves well enough -- but yet thy task remains;
Many and rending pains
Shall torture him who dares delay too long!"

His brown face hardened to a leaden mask.
A bitter brine crusted the fisher's cheek --
"Almighty God, one thing alone I ask,
Show me a task, a task!"
The hard cup of the sky shone, gemmed and bleak.

"O love, whom I have sought by devious ways;
O hidden beauty, naked as a star;
You whose bright hair has burned across my days,
Making them lamps of praise;
O dawn-wind, breathing of Arabia!

"You have I served. Now fire has parched the vine,
And Death is on the singers and the song.
No longer are there lips to cling to mine,
And the heart wearies of wine,
And I am sick, for my desire is long.

"O love, soft-moving, delicate and tender!
In her gold house the pipe calls querulously,
They cloud with thin green silks her body slender,
They talk to her and tend her;
Come, piteous, gentle love, and set me free!"

He ceased -- and, slowly rising o'er the deep,
A faint song chimed, grew clearer, till at last
A golden horn of light began to creep
Where the dumb ripples sweep,
Making the sea one splendor where it passed.

A golden boat! The bright oars rested soon,
And the prow met the sand. The purple veils
Misting the cabin fell. Fair as the moon
When the morning comes too soon,
And all the air is silver in the dales,

A gold-robed princess stepped upon the beach.
The fisher knelt and kissed her garment's hem,
And then her lips, and strove at last for speech.
The waters lapped the reach.
"Here thy strength breaks, thy might is nought to stem!"

He cried at last. Speech shook him like a flame:
"Yea, though thou plucked the stars from out the sky,
Each lovely one would be a withered shame --
Each thou couldst find or name --
To this fire-hearted beauty!" Wearily

The genie heard. A slow smile came like dawn
Over his face. "Thy task is done!" he said.
A whirlwind roared, smoke shattered, he was gone;
And, like a sudden horn,
The moon shone clear, no longer smoked and red.

They passed into the boat. The gold oars beat
Loudly, then fainter, fainter, till at last
Only the quiet waters barely moved
Along the whispering sand -- till all the vast
Expanse of sea began to shake with heat,
And morning brought soft airs, by sailors loved.

And after? . . . Well . . .
The shop-bell clangs! Who comes?
Quinine -- I pour the little bitter grains
Out upon blue, glazed squares of paper. So.
And all the dusk I shall sit here alone,
With many powers in my hands -- ah, see
How the blurred labels run on the old jars!
***** -- and a cruel and sleepy scent,
The harsh taste of white poppies; India --
The writhing woods a-crawl with monstrous life,
Save where the deodars are set like spears,
And a calm pool is mirrored ebony;
***** -- brown and warm and slender-breasted
She rises, shaking off the cool black water,
And twisting up her hair, that ripples down,
A torrent of black water, to her feet;
How the drops sparkle in the moonlight! Once
I made a rhyme about it, singing softly:

Over Damascus every star
Keeps his unchanging course and cold,
The dark weighs like an iron bar,
The intense and pallid night is old,
Dim the moon's scimitar.

Still the lamps blaze within those halls,
Where poppies heap the marble vats
For girls to tread; the thick air palls;
And shadows hang like evil bats
About the scented walls.

The girls are many, and they sing;
Their white feet fall like flakes of snow,
Making a ceaseless murmuring --
Whispers of love, dead long ago,
And dear, forgotten Spring.

One alone sings not. Tiredly
She sees the white blooms crushed, and smells
The heavy scent. They chatter: "See!
White Zira thinks of nothing else
But the morn's jollity --

"Then Haroun takes her!" But she dreams,
Unhearing, of a certain field
Of poppies, cut by many streams,
Like lines across a round Turk shield,
Where now the hot sun gleams.

The field whereon they walked that day,
And splendor filled her body up,
And his; and then the trampled clay,
And slow smoke climbing the sky's cup
From where the village lay.

And after -- much ache of the wrists,
Where the cords irked her -- till she came,
The price of many amethysts,
Hither. And now the ultimate shame
Blew trumpet in the lists.

And so she trod the poppies there,
Remembering other poppies, too,
And did not seem to see or care.
Without, the first gray drops of dew
Sweetened the trembling air.

She trod the poppies. Hours passed
Until she slept at length -- and Time
Dragged his slow sickle. When at last
She woke, the moon shone, bright as rime,
And night's tide rolled on fast.

She moaned once, knowing everything;
Then, bitterer than death, she found
The soft handmaidens, in a ring,
Come to anoint her, all around,
That she might please the king.

***** -- and the odor dies away,
Leaving the air yet heavy -- cassia -- myrrh --
Bitter and splendid. See, the poisons come,
Trooping in squat green vials, blazoned red
With grinning skulls: strychnine, a pallid dust
Of tiny grains, like bones ground fine; and next
The muddy green of arsenic, all livid,
Likest the face of one long dead -- they creep
Along the dusty shelf like deadly beetles,
Whose fangs are carved with runnels, that the blood
May run down easily to the blind mouth
That snaps and gapes; and high above them there,
My master's pride, a cobwebbed, yellow ***
Of honey from Mount Hybla. Do the bees
Still moan among the low sweet purple clover,
Endlessly many? Still in deep-hushed woods,
When the incredible silver of the moon
Comes like a living wind through sleep-bowed branches,
Still steal dark shapes from the enchanted glens,
Which yet are purple with high dreams, and still
Fronting that quiet and eternal shield
Which is much more than Peace, does there still stand
One sharp black shadow -- and the short, smooth horns
Are clear against that disk?
O great Diana!
I, I have praised thee, yet I do not know
What moves my mind so strangely, save that once
I lay all night upon a thymy hill,
And watched the slow clouds pass like heaped-up foam
Across blue marble, till at last no speck
Blotted the clear expanse, and the full moon
Rose in much light, and all night long I saw
Her ordered progress, till, in midmost heaven,
There came a terrible silence, and the mice
Crept to their holes, the crickets did not chirp,
All the small night-sounds stopped -- and clear pure light
Rippled like silk over the universe,
Most cold and bleak; and yet my heart beat fast,
Waiting until the stillness broke. I know not
For what I waited -- something very great --
I dared not look up to the sky for fear
A brittle crackling should clash suddenly
Against the quiet, and a black line creep
Across the sky, and widen like a mouth,
Until the broken heavens streamed apart,
Like torn lost banners, and the immortal fires,
Roaring like lions, asked their meat from God.
I lay there, a black blot upon a shield
Of quivering, watery whiteness. The hush held
Until I staggered up and cried aloud,
And then it seemed that something far too great
For knowledge, and illimitable as God,
Rent th
vxnce vxnity Jun 2015
You ***** need to stop I'm sorry for hurting your feelings I'm not the one that usually disrespects humans faith and love for something that doesn't even exist - I mean that I believe doesn't exist but you can still live you've got your feelings hurt but thousands of us can not longer hold on or have stopped living - 68 percent of us to be precise have met you speakers telling beautiful stories about saving and love but let your eyes meet ours and you'll have a cemetery party with champagne and cake for my people that unfortunatly met you - so called followers of everything that's right too many of us asked for acceptance nobody wants acceptance anymore after you've hurt people over some old book pushing things on us we're not just don't be ignorant it makes your mind look so small for a person with such a big mouth that normally shouts leviticus twenty:thirdteen those are the numbers numbers we already read, heard have screamed while overdosing on pain,blood and touch by you pedophiles that treat us like some dust trust me too many of us know  and won't come back so bring them back climb your way to your heaven and ask like the angel you are -father is killing your youth right?
~.V.~
Sarah Barrow Sep 2016
There's a demon inside me,
He's called anxiety,
He shouts and screams,
Until I can barely breathe,
He makes me feel sick,
Weak in my knees,
Oh please Mr Anxiety,
Just let me be.
guy scutellaro Jul 2018
Bob O Malley's Wedding Reception - part one.


The front door of the Wagon Wheel bar explodes open to Ziggy Pop's "You Got a Lust for Life." Jack steps over the curb and vanishes into the dark doorway.

"HEY JACK, JACK DELLETO, the lanky bartender shouts over the din.

Delleto makes his way through the crowd over to the bar, extends his hand. They shake hands. "How the hell have you been, Snake?" Jack asks.

"Just great," Snake says. "Hey, you're lookin pretty fucken good for a dead man. I heard you fell off of a mountain."

"Who did you hear that from?" Jack wonders.

The bartender points across the room to where a man dressed in a pin stripped suit is swinging from one of the wagon wheel lights hanging from the ceiling.

"George! ****, I heard he was in jail."

Snake hands Jack a shot of tequila. The men touch glasses and throw down the shots.

"How's the other George?" Jack asks.

"AA." Snake tells him.

"How about Tommy? You see him anymore?"

"Rehab."

"What about Robby?

Snake refills the glasses and they drink them. "He's livin in a nudist colony in California and he's got two wives and six children"

Jack looks across the room and sees a drunken Bob O'Malley trying to adjust the rose in the lapel of his black tuxedo. Satisfied it won't fall out O'Malley looks up at the man swinging from the lamp. "Quick, George, name man's greatest inventions!"

George shoots back, "Alcohol, tobacco, and the wheel."

Bob smiles and then suddenly jumps up on top of the bar, and although he is over six feet tall and weighs two hundred pounds, he demonstrates the grace and dexterity of a ballerina as he pirouettes  around and jumps over the shot glasses and beer bottles that clutter the bar.

Wedding guests lean back in their chairs as strangers, fearful of his gyrations, ****** their drinks from the bar. Bob fakes a slip as he dances along but he is always in control and never falters. Forty three year old Bob O'Malley is Jim Brown who dodges danger to score the winning touch down.

When he reaches the end of the bar, he jumps to the floor, pulls to aluminum lids from the ice box, and with one in each hand smacks them together like cymbals.

Some people clap but the bemused just stare.

In the back of the room at the wedding table the father of the bride leans over and whispers into his crying wife's ear, "If I had a terminal illness, I'd shoot Bob."

The bride raises a glass of champagne into the smoke filled air and Bob takes a bow but then heads for the kitchen at the other end of the room.

"Hey Bob," Jack Delleto shouts to the groom over the music.

O'Malley stops under a wagon wheel lamp and turns as Delleto steps into the dim circle of light. "Congratulations, you're a lucky guy, Bob. I mean that." Delleto offer his hand and they shake hands.

"Thanks, Mister Cool. You must be a rock star."

Jack takes off the sunglasses.

"TWO black eyes," Bob says astonished. "You know your nose is bleeding. What happened?" Bob wants to know.

Jack takes a handkerchief  from his back pocket, puts it over his nose, and squeezes tightly. "It's broken."

"What happened?" Bob asks again.

"Bill Wain."

"He turned pro didn't he?"

"He's 5 and 0. Felix thinks he a natural but he's nothing special. He out weighs me by 20 pounds. Hell, he couldn't even knock me down."

O'Malley shakes his head and then just smiles.

"She's beautiful," Jack tells Bob.

"Thanks Dell." O'Malley puts his hand on his friends shoulder and squeezes affectionately. He looks across the room at Theresa. "Yes, she is." Theresa's mother has stopped crying. The father just stares into the void.

"I 'm feeling real happy today." Bob O'Malley tells Delleto and then he looks away from his bride, passed the archway that divides the poolroom from the bar, and into the dark poolroom. With the light bulbs from the lamp above his head gleaming in his eyes, Bob seems to see something fleeting in a far distance. Slowly, a peculiar half smile forms showing his white uneven teeth.

Curious, Delleto turns his head to look into the darkness of the poolroom, too.

Bob looks down at Jack. "What are you starin at? " O Malley wonders.

"Do you hear them, Bob? Jack asks.

"Hear what?

"The shadows."

Puzzled , O'Malley asks, "What are you hearing, Jack?"

"Nothin," Delleto  succinctly tells his friend. "Nothin."

"A concussion," and Bob shakes his head. "You've probably got a concussion."

Now, Jack doesn't understand, but it does not matter because for a brief moment the two men have shared the same corner of darkness.

Bob says something to Paul Keater and Keater smiles broadly. He slides the rim of his Giant baseball cap to the side of his forehead and the two men disappear through the swinging kitchen door.
When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
’Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn’t his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the other’s tale—
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations-worm and savage otherwise,—
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue— to the scandal of The ***!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells.
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges— even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it cames that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.
mark john junor Sep 2014
soft now
please step careful round my heart
soft now with all these shouts of joy....
know how easy to get carried away
but lets not get too far ahead
lets just see where firefly's land
lets see where the day takes us
please step careful round my heart
soft now with all these shouts of joy....
cause i really love the way your
open hearted eyes look at me
really love the way your lips feel on mine
so step careful round my heart
soft now with all these shouts of joy.....
lets see how we dance together under the moon
lets see how you romance with picnic basket summer day
lets see how we kiss in the rain
step soft till i know for sure
that you'll make my heart sparkle
Michael W Noland Sep 2012
[A] is for
An
Archer with
An
Arrow through his
Adams
Apple, very
Applicable, to the
Ample
Amounts of
Amiable
Attitude,
Adorning his heart, in
After
Action
Attributes, that impart, the
Admiration, of
*******, in this
Acting out of
Arrogance bit. he is,
Astute, in his
Allure, and
Aloof, in the
Air, of
Aspiration, in which, he was
Alienated in the
Agony, of
Asking
Assassins, the
Aforementioned. lights, camera,
Action. recipe of the
Ancient
Admirals of
Avian
Aliens, that
Attacked, with the
Arms and fists, of
Arachnids, now
Aching to be
Activated in sudden
Allegiance to the
Answers, of the truth.
Accumulating wealth for
Anarchy's of
Abating
Angels in
Atrophied,
Alchemical
Academies of the ever
After life .. . of silence.
****** strengthens in these
Accolades of violence, in
Alliance to
Appliances
Appearing in the
Arson of
Apathy, happily, to
Anguish in the
Amputation of my
Abdomen, if it meant i'm a real
American, even, when, only
Ash, remains.
Acclimating in its remains
Attained, the
Articles of my pain, in
Affluent shame, next time ..
Aim... oak
[A]?

[B] is for the
Bah of
Black sheep, and
Big
Bit¢hes, fat cats,
Bombarded in the
Blasted,
Bastion of
Blackened
Benevolent
Blokes,
Berating the
Blasphemous,
Be-seech, of
Brains, to feel
Bad, about the
Blotching of
Binary codes, erroding, the
Blanked out
Books, of
Belittled
Bureaucrats,
Bowling
Back the
Bank rolls of
Betterment, from the
Back of the
Blackened
Bus, as i'm
Busting guts, in the
Bubbling
Butts, of *****
Benched, but
Beautiful, in the
Battle, in the
Bane, of existence.
Baffled, in the strain of
Belligerence, in
Beating the
Beaming
Butchery into
Billy's
Broken
Brains, in
Bouts, of
Battering
Bobby's for
Bags of
*******
Before, affording to
Build
Bombs, is just
Beyond
Breaking
Beer
Bottles on the
*******
Benefactors of
Boulder
Bashing with the
Beaks, of
Birds, with no
Bees. just a
Being, trying to
[B]


[C] is for the
*****
Courting the
Choreography, in
Computerized
Curtains,
Circumventing the
Cultured,
Contrivance of
Chromatic
Cellars,
Calibrating, to the
Contours of
Calamities,
Celebrating the
Cyclical,
Cylinders of
Cyphered
Calenders,
Correcting the
Calculations, of
Crooks
Coughing, in
Courageous
Coffins of
Canadians,
Collecting
Cobble stones, from
Catacombs, in the lands of the
Conquered,
Capturing the
Claps of thieves, sneaky
Cats, of greed. its
Comedy. oh
Comely, to my
Cling of
Cleanliness, and for your self
[C]

[D] is for the
Dip *****, as they
Delve
Deeper in the
Deliverance, of
Deviant
Deities,
Dying to
Demand
Dinner
Delivered in the throws of
Death,
Deceiving
Defiance of
Darkened
Dreams,
Demeaning that which
Deems the
Dormant of the
Dominant, to be
Demons of
Deviled
Devilry,
Dooming us for
Destruction.
Deploy the,
Damsels in
Duress.
Defiled and
Distressed,
Detestable and
Dead. in the thump of
Drums,
Dumbing down the
Debts of,
Dire regrets.
Dissect the
Daisies of,
Disillusion, in the current
Days,
Diluting night into
Dawn,
Disconnecting the
Dots of the
Dichotomy, and arming me, in the
Diabolatry, of,
Demonology, as i watch me
Dwindle away, the
[D]

[E] is for
Everything in nothing,
Eating the
Euphoric
Enigmas of
Enlightened
Elitists,
Exceeding in the
Extravagant
Essence of
Esoteric
Euphemisms,
Escaping the
Elegance of the
Elements in the
Eccentricity of
Eclectic
Ecstasy,
Exhaling, the
Exostential blessings, of inner
Entities, and renouncing the
Enemies of my
Ease,
Easily to appease
Extraterestrial
Empires,
Extracting the lost
Embers of
Enlightenment, in
Excited delight, but to later
Entice, the fight, and
Escape, like a thief into the night of
Everywhere,
Entering the
Exits of
Elevators leading no where, to
Elevate, this useless place,
Encased in malware in the
Errant
Errors of
Every man,
Enslaved, of flesh and
Entrails,
Enveloping the core of
Everything, that matters,
Enduring, the chatter, of
Evermore,
Ever present in
Everybody
Ever made to take
[E]

Funk the
Ferocity of
Foolish
Fandangos, with
Fanged
Fanatics,
Fooled in the
Fiasco of
Fumbled
Fantasies,
Falling through the
Farms of
Freely
Found
Fans,
Flying in the
Fame of
Fortune.
Fornicating on the
Fallen
Fears of
Fat
Fish getting their
Fillet of
Fills.
Feel me in the
Frills

Granted with
Generosity.
Giblets of
Gratitude and
Greed,
Greeting the
Goop and
Gobbled
Gore,
Gleaned from the
Glamour of
Ghouls in
Gillie suits,
Getting what they
Got
Going, in the
Gratuitous
Gallows of a
Game
Gaffed by
Giants.

Hello to the
Horizon of
Hellish
Hilarity, in
Hope of
Happy, to
Heave from
Heifers, to
Help the
Hemp
Harshened
Hobos in
Heightened
Horror, to
Honor the
Habitats of
Hapless
Habituals,
Herbalising the work
Horse, named
Have Not, in the
Haughtily
Hardened
Houses of
Happenstance.

Ignore the
Ignorant
Idiots, too
Illiterate to
Indicate the
Indicative
Instances of
Idiom in the
Irrelevant
Inaccuracy of
I,
In the
Intellect of
Idle
Individuals,
Irritated with the
Irate
Illusion of
Idols
Illustrated upon the
Iris,
In the
Illumination of
I.

******* the
Jobless
Jokers, and
Jimmy the
Jerkins from their
Jammie's, in
Justified,
Jousting off the
Jumps, in
Jokes, and
Jukes of
Just
Jailers,
Jesting for
Jammed
Jury's to
****
Judgment from the
Jitter
Juiced
Jeans of
Jesus.

**** the
Keep of
Khaki-ed
Kool aid men,
Kept in the
Kilometers of
Kits,
Kin-less
Kinetics,
Knifing the
Knights of
Kneeling
Kinsmanship,
Keeling over the
Keys of
Kaine, with the
Karmic
Karate
Kick of a
Kangaroo.

Love the
Levity, in the
Luxurious
Laments of
Loveliness,
Lovingly
Levitating in
Level,
Lucidly.
Living in
Laps, of
Lapses,
Looping, but
Lacking the
Loom of the
Latches
Locked with
Leeches of the
Lonely
Lit
Leering of
Lightly
Limbs, that
Lash at the
Lessers in
Loot of
Lost letters,
Lest we
Learned in the
Lessons of
Liars.

Marooned in
Maniacal
Masterpieces,
Masqueraded as
Malignant
Memorization's of
Motionless
Mantras, but
Merrily
Masking
Mikha'el the
Mundane, who is
Musically
Mused of
Monsters,
Mangling the
Monitor, but
Maybe just a
Moniker of
Marauders.

Never to
Navigate the
Nautical
Nether of
Never
Nears.
Not to
Nit pic the
Naivety of
Nicety.
Notions
Neither take
Note
Nor
Name the
Noise of
Nats in the
Nights of
Neanderthals
Napping in the
Nets of
Ninjas

Ominous in the
Obvious
Omnipotence of
Oblivious
Obligatory
Opulence,
Of
Other
Oddly
Orchards
Of
Offices,
Ordaining
Orifices in
Offers of
Ordinary
Ordinances in
Option-less
Optics,
Optionally an
On-call Oracle, in
Optimal,
Overture.

Perusing the
Pestilent
Pedestals of
Personal,
Parameters,
Pursuing the
Petty
Plumes of
Piety with the
Patience of a
Pharaoh,
******* on the
People with the
Penal
Pianos of
Port-less
Portals, in the
Paperless
Points in the
Palpal
Pats of
Pettiness.
Poor, but
Prideful.

Quick to
Qualify the
Quitter for a
Quick
Quill in
Queer
Quivering of
Quickened
Questioning,
Queried in the
Quakiest of
Quandaries.
Quarantined to a
Quadrant, of
Quagmires.
Questing the
Quizzing of
Quotable
Quartets.

Relax in the
Relapse of
Realizations, and
React with
Racks of
Rolling
Rock to
Rate the
Rep of the
Rain-less.
Roar in
Rapturous
Rendering of the
Random
Readiness in the
Ravenous,
Rallying, of the
Retinal
Refracting of
Reality.
Realigning, the
Righteous
Rearing of the
Realm, and
Retrying.

Steer the
Serenity in
Sustainability, and
Slither through the
Seams of
Slumbered
Scenes.
Secrete the
Solo
Sobriety of
Sapped
Sassys,
Salivating upon a
Slew of
Stupidity,
Steadily
Supplied in
Stream,
Suitably
Slain in the
Steam of
Sanity.
Sadly, i
Still
Seem,
Salvagable.

Topple
The
Titans in
Tightened
Terror.
Torn
Territories
Turn
Turbulent in
The
Teething of
Totality.
The
Telemetry of
Time,
Tortured of
Torrent
Theories,
Told in
Turrets of
Transpiring
Terribleness, from
Tumultuous
Tikes unto
Teens,
Trading
Toys for
Tea.
Thrice
Thrusted upon by the
Tyranny of
Tanks.

Unanimous is the
Ugliness in the
Undertones of
Undreamed
Ulteriors
Undergoing the
Unclean in the
***** of
Utterly
Upset
Users,
Uplifting the
Unfitting
Ushers in
Underwear-less,
Ulcers,
Undergoing the
Ultra of
Uberness.

Venial in
Vindictive
Viciousness of
Vindicated
Venom,
Venomously
Vilifying the
Vials of
Villainy in the
Veins of
Vampires,
Validity of
Valuable
Violence, is
Valiant in the
Vaporous
Vacationing of
Vagrant
Vices.

Why
Whelp in the
Weather
When you can
Wave to the
Whirling
Wisps,
Whipping Where the
Whimsical Were
Way back in the
Wellness of
Whip its,
Wrangling my
World,
With
Waterless
Worms, as
War shouts are
Wasted in the
Wackiest
Walks of
Waking
Wonder.

Xenophobic
Xenogogue, of
Xenomorphic
Xeons, turn
Xyphoid, in the
Xenomenia of my
X, my
Xenolalia of
X, to
***. im lost in the
Xenobiotic zen of
Xerces, on a
Xebec to the
X on the map.
Xenogenesis, in the
Xesturgy of my
Xyston
Xd

Yelling
Yearned from
Yelping.
Yard
Yachts
Yielding, to the
Yodel of
Yeah
Yeahs, to the
Yapping of
******
Yuppie
Yoga
Yanks, over
Yonder.
Yucking it up with the
Yawn of a
Yocal.

Zapped from a
Zone i
Zoomed with
Zeal in the
Zig and
Zag of my
Zapping
Zimming
Zest, upon a
Zombie-less
Zeplin.
Zealot,
Zionist, or
Zoologists,
Zeros or ones, just
Zip your
Zip locked. and
Zzzzz
Zzzz
Zzz
Zz
Z
Zero
this is a work in progress
Hayley Neininger Jan 2014
Feminism is not a bad word
It is more than four words
If you are a woman if you are a man
If you believe that gender equality
Is important, if you stand by your mother
When she shouts, “I am equal!”
Then you are a feminist.
And I’m tired, I’m tired and I’m frustrated
That the patriarchal society we live in
Would rather demonize equality
Rather than let it stand tall as the statue
It deserves to be.
All it means
Is you believe that women and men are equal
That they deserve to be treated both fairly and just
And I trust-
That the only image of a feminist in your mind
Is one that hates men, that burns bras, that simply get in the way.
And sure there might be a few of those, yes
But I would like to ask you
Since when did one represent the whole?
Since when were all white Christian men
Devalued, dehumanized because of Jeffery Dahmer?
If I were to follow your logic
If we were all to follow your logic
We’d have to lock up every single one of you
All because a few of your fellow men
Perverted an ideal that at the heart of it was good
And please be good
To your feminists please know that it is not a movement
To strip people of rights but to grant rights to those who have been denied
Feminism isn’t a bad word
It’s a word that holds an ideal
That genetics that genitalia do not dictate
Whether or not a human being is held to the
American standard of equality.
bit of a rant
Ira Desmond Nov 2018
The downward momentum is clear to me now.
The engine has built up a full head of steam.
I’d try to stop it, if I knew how.

The fires of industry must burn on somehow;
they tend to burn brightest when fuel is extreme.
The downward momentum is clear to me now.

When currents are surging, we shouldn’t allow
the jingoist fringe to swim in the mainstream.
I’d try to stop them, if I knew how.

Civility means more than I can avow,
but poems can only allude to a theme:
The downward momentum is clear to me now.

Each click of a mouse that shouts holier than thou
is a cog in a treacherous clockmaker’s scheme.
I’d try to stop him, if I knew how.

We worshipped the circuit and forsook the plow
in search of a false technological dream.
Our downward momentum is clear to me now.
I’d try to stop us, if I knew how.
Raj Arumugam Jan 2012
1
in the fish market of religions
and faiths
and suppositions and declarations
and fierce revelations
much of the commerce is done
on the principle:
Who shouts loudest
and shouts longest
and shouts often-est
gets to empty the most pockets
of bewildered customers


(You always empty their minds
first)

2
You never lose in this fish market
Even the quiet ones
the ones of mild manners and timid ways
can trawl a good number
of faithful customers

3
You can sell fresh fables
or smelly old tales –
they are all good commerce

4
Of course some slap you
right in the face
with their fish:
That too seems to catch customers…

I think you stun them with one blow
and they remain stunted all their lives
MBJ Pancras Dec 2011
It’s not My will, but Thy will,
Let Me die on the cross for their sins,
And My blood pave way to eternity;
Yet My Soul is sorrowful unto death.
Abba, take away this cup from Me;
Yet if it’s Thy will, and not My will.
Father, Thy promise Thou made with the serpent
That Thou would put enmity ‘twixt him and a woman,
And I should bruise his head;
Nevertheless he should bruise My heel.
For this is Thy eternal promise for man
Who been formed in Thy image;
But been smashed himself with the deceiver.
Flesh is weak and tempting;
Yet the spirit is willing and godly,
For Me too passed thro’ the way of the tempter;
Yet cursed him with Thy Eternal Word.
Unfelt agony runs into My soul,
When I bear the sins of the world,
And who on earth knows it,
Except Thou and Me, Who are ONE?
Do men know Me, Who is in Thee,
And Thou in Me, hath stripped off Glory
And hath become a servant to them,
And made in their likeness with all humbleness
Carrying the cross of shame and abuse?
My sweat is as it were great drops of blood
And Gethesmene I pray turns red.
Who knows but Thou ought ought to reveal
That My blood be shed on the cross
Which is the symbol of the new covenant?
Father, in the beginning I AM,
And all things made by Me and for Me
Who hath come unto earth as the Light,
And I AM Thy Glory, full of grace and Truth.
My Father, here come My betrayer,
For his time hath come to strike Me
As he has to bruise My heel,
And I should then bruise his head,
For it’s Thy Eternal plan of mystery.
Here comes he with the spirit of darkness
Carrying lanterns and torches and weapons
Of unrighteousness and ungodliness.
Father, let Me finish Thy work,
But strengthen Me with Thy Spirit.
Now the betrayer hath sneaked  unto me.
Look, he kisses Me amidst the mob.
Am I his beloved for his kiss?
Yet he is My beloved.
He hath dipped himself in My cup of blood.
It’s Judas kiss bought for thirty silver.
He hath sold his soul to the roaring lion
Which devours the sons of Adam.
I made Judas My apostle;
But he  made himself the liar’s instrument.
The night I am put in chains in the realm of darkness
And I am left alone with none to share mine.
Where are My apostles, My disciples?
I remember Peter’s words
That he said he would go with Me,
And I know the rooster should crow
After his denial of Me thrice to go.
He is a mere man who knows not
That things written be accomplished in Me.
They drag Me, kick Me with their boots of sins,
I am chained by their unrighteousness,
And am whipped by their blasphemy of My Father,
For when I am rejected My Father is rejected
As My Father and I are ONE,
And who hath seen Me hath seen My Father.
My people spit on Me all the way
Where blood from My body sheds.
The thorny whips tear My flesh;
Yet I rejoice in My Father’s will,
But their sins sadden My soul.
I am dragged unto the high priests
Who’ve been awaiting My trial.
Even My disciples have forsaken,
And left Me alone, but My Father in Me.
Am I held ‘midst people of the law
Which was the schoolmaster awhile
Until I finish it with My blood.
Their trial with Me hath begun with bitterness.
And Peter is seen with a mob at the fire.
False witnesses spewed on Me, yet contrary,
Whose arrows stuck on My statement
That I will destroy the temple,
And in three days I will build one.
Behold, And they’re spiritually blind and deaf.
They spit on Me blindfolding My eyes,
And play prophecy of hide and seek.
Each spit on Me is a sin of  theirs
And their hurt in not on My body but soul.
They kick Me with their boots with spikes,
And the unrighteousness of My people bruises.
My soul bleeds not of Me but of their doom.
The father of lies mocks at My Eternal plan.
The liar can bruise but My heel,
And his head is already beneath My heel.
My people strike Me with the palms,
And they slap on  My cheek with prophecy;
Yet I hold peace to defeat the liar.
No man is found to paint the pallor on My face.
I am denied thrice as of My mysterious plan.
I am tried till the sun sinks at the horizon,
And I become the laughing-stock of My people.
I thirst, but not a drop of water I ’m offered,
Where found midst earthly meals the disciples of the liar.
To liars My Truth seems blasphemy
For professing themselves to be wise and godly,
They’ve turned scoffers strolling in lusts.
I’m ‘gainst the mighty liars,
Who’ve forgotten I AM Almighty
Having denied the Power of the Most High
Whose Eternal plan of salvation is for them
Whose trial against Me is vain;
Yet satan in disguise kicks My heel.
My angels were struck in pride in Heaven,
And so were drained off into hell
With their filth and lust in darkness.
They spit on Me Who is the Lamb.
The trial ‘ere Pilate take its roots,
And no roots of earth are of Mine,
For My Father breaks off every branch
That beareth no fruit in Me.
For they wear attires of pomp and pride
With no clothes of righteousness.
Hidden in the mask of flattery
Pilate hath no way to mark justice;
Yet it hath been the Eternal plan of salvation
In Me Who is the Lamb of sacrifice.
Who knows My kingdom is not of this world?
I’ve come down to speak the Truth
That hath made the governor question Me:
‘What is Truth?’
And who believes I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life?
For all have eaten the forbidden fruit
Which hath set free the son of peridition
Who is the father of lies of all ages.
And Pilate sets free a convict as is the custom
Which hath a way in the Passover.
Truth sets free the blessed souls from Death;
But falsehood sets free sinners from Life.
I’m whipped in flesh to bleed;
But I  am whipped in spirit by their sins.
I’ crowned with thorns and twigs:
The metaphors of sins and iniquities.
They throw around Me a purple robe
And cry against Me in sarcasm
That I would live long as the King of the Jews
Whose minds are darkened by worldly wisdom,
For My kingdom is not of this world.
They slap Me on the cheek with arrogance,
I remember Judas’ kiss on the same cheek
Who hath drowned in the lust of silver.
I make neither complaint nor not of repulsiveness,
For it’s My Father’s will to bear the cross.
Back to the porch of the palace
I’m made the season with withering leaves.
Their crown and robe on Mine are their hypocrisy
Who cried against Me riding on a colt.  
Their crown and robe on Mine are their hypocrisy
Who carried against Me riding on a colt,
They threw their cloaks of praise and shouts
Across the way I trotted upon on the colt,
They laid branches cut from trees,
And I knew they were clothed with filthy attires.
Their praises and shouts now turned to curses  and abuses.
I’m now thrown into the hands of disciples of the liar
Who is a like a roaring lion to devour.
Their faulty law plays in their hands
And laughs at My Father’s Rock of Salvation.
But I laugh at the liar’s defeated victory on Me,
For in My resurrection Death hath no victory.
Who knows death took its roots since first transgression
In Eden with the consumption of the Forbidden Fruit;
Yet in Me Life is sealed in Him to Eternity?
I’ve longed for Judas’ godly sorrow like the prodigal son,
But he was bitten by the serpent on the Tree
Where the betrayer tasted the Fruit and died.
He took himself to the tree of death
For the taste of the Fruit turned bitter to him.
Power of this world hath blinded Pilate’s conscience
Whose power hath been predicted over Me
With My self-will hidden in the Most High.
The Eternal plan of salvation hath tied Pilate.
Who washed himself in his self-righteousness
And throws Me out for want of  pomp and pride.
Now I’m in the arms of thorns and bushes
Laden with the cross of the world set out;
Yet My journey thro’ human darkness is for a while,
For the Reward of Eternity is awaiting Me
And the ones who are rooted in Me.
Each whip lashed on Me is the multiple sins of the world,
And the spikes of the whips tear My flesh,
And I bleed with the agony of lost souls,
Whom I’ve made for Glory with My Father.
Behold! A toll strikes this hour
When I hear the hellish roar at a distance,
And I know the traitor hath flung the silver
Which have no price for his destiny.
I shed tears for him but he’s lost
For his death is certain in My Eternal Plan,
And who could change it but Me;
Yet it’s all My plan of mystery in the Father?
They hit Me with a stick o’er the head,
And mock lat Me saying ‘Long live the King of Jews.’
A scepter of stick ****** into My palms,
A game of mockery is played  ‘gainst Me;
Yet I am as innocent as a lamb led to the slaughter,
As writ in the Scriptures with the design of My Father:
I’m oppressed, and afflicted down to death on earth;
Yet I open not My mouth to charge complaints,
I’m brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before her shearer is dumb.
All the way I’m kicked to fall on the stony path.
Look! My knees bruised and torn for you,
Still are there moments of repentance from hypocrisy.
**! Here am I fallen on the thorny twigs.
Behold! My clothes are torn with blood flowing out.
They tilt Me with their pompous boots.
I try to lift Myself but laden with the cross.
Pity of sacrcasm plays in their hearts
And in turn a man from Cyrene is laid with the cross.
I carry the sins of the world for crucifixion;
But he’s made to carry the wooden cross behind Me.
Is it My Word that says unto you:
‘Take up your cross everyday and follow Me?’
Nay, but to forsake the world of sins
Be My doctrine with the love of My Father.
You cannot carry the cross I bear;
Yet you can carry yours beside Me.
Shouts of abuses thunder into My heart
Amidst the cry of lamentation across the way.
They hook Me up with scornful epithets
And the liar of the world bruised My heel;
Yet I walk the path of obedience to physical death
That My death on the cross shows Way to Eternity.
I hear the cry of My people,
Why do they cry with wailing?
Do they mourn over My trial on earth
Or o’er their sinful attires.?
Who knows, but I know?
They shed tears of emotions,
And who knows their sins crucify Me?
Behold! I hear the Nightingale’s song ‘cross the stormy breeze.
Is it the song of melody unto My people
For they murmur Nature too mocks at My trial?
But I know My creations are under My power.
They’ve painted the day’s sky with glooms
As their pilgrimage on earth smeared with sins.
Back on Me the cross is ****** and I’m knocked down,
And My face dashes ‘gainst rocks on the way.
The spiky rocks tear My skin to bleed,
I bleed and bleed till the last drop.
Little children kiss My bleeding cheeks
And they take the mark of My sacrifice.
The sun soars higher and higher
And each phase of My journey is of My Father’s plan.
I scale ‘gainst the steep hillock with lashes on My back.
The fiendish serpent laughs at Me,
And strolls with the exotic steps drowned in hellish dirt.
And I know he bruises MY HEEL:
But he ‘knows’ not I’ll bruise his head.
My disciples walk apart with arms tied,
For none can break the design of My Father.
The sun strikes the altitude and I reach the slaughter.
They drag Me unto the ‘place of the skull’.
Who’ve thought I would sleep ‘neath the grave
Which hath no future for death is once for all.
Their conscience is buried in darkness by the liar,
Like dried-up springs and clouds blown along by a storm,
Their thoughts and deeds lie in vain of glory,
All bundled in filthy rags of lusts,
Whose promise of freedom is spoken by the father of this world,
The mighty trap hidden with baits of freedom of slavery.
Who knows but My Father of My destruction of the Temple;
Yet be rebuilt in three days in glory?
Behold! They strip off My clothes to naked.
The serpent sneaks onto the Forbidden Tree
With a cynical comedy of errors;
Yet it bruises My heel with its bitten fang.
My Father drove out Adam and Eve from Eden
Who had turned unholy committed themselves to the liar.
Now the liar, he thinks, drives Me out into the grave.
But I will destroy him with My dazzling presence.
My garments  they part and share ‘mongst themselves,
And My robe made of single piece of woven cloth
With no seam found in it, thrown at dice.
Do they know it’s of the Scriptures foretold?
They lay Me on the cross down on the earth.
I recall My infancy couched on the manger:
How I was cared and nurtured by My human parents.
I was in the safe arms from bitter cold;
But now I lie sans comfort and in blood.
My arms are stretched across to be nailed,
Lost of strength My legs are pulled along.
My people watch the gory sight of crucifixion.
They nail My palms and feet ruthlessly.
How I healed My people from diseases
How I fed My people from starvation!
How I walked to listen to My people’s sorrows!
But they watch Me now lying on the cross.
Do they know of My death on the cross?
The nails are pierced deep into veins and nerves,
Streams of blood flow down unto My people;
But they kick My blood splashed ‘cross My face.
Unfelt agony and untold miseries crushed My spirit,
For they repent not of their sins but die
Forsaking My Father’s promise unto those who believe Me.
When nails are pierced Mine My Father strengthens Me.
I bear the pain for the promise of My Father.
They raise Me nailed on the cross.
Curses and abuses lashed on Me,
And they shout they’ve cut the root of the tree.
Alas! They do not know what  they do;
Yet My Eternal Plan of  these shall happen.  
I look at My disciples at the Cross
Whose darkened hearts I perceive.
Full of heaviness with a doubting hope
Of what will happen to Me and them.
They’re petals turned pale in the evening,
They’re the garden of Fall with no fruits bearing,
Like distant stars with faded light they look
My people fling upon Me mockery:
‘He saved others; let Him save Himself
Who claimed the Son of God!’
Not to save Myself is My advent to the world;
But it’s My Father's Eternal Design in Me
That salvation is for mankind in My Father’s likeness.
It’s written above My head of the Kingship:
‘This is the King of the Jews’
Who know not of My Eternal Kingship,
Not of this world, but of the Heaven.
Behold! The criminal on My left hurls at Me:
‘Are You the Anointed One?  Save Thyself and us!
Is he the son of Cain who turned a fugitive?
Is it not like “am I my brother’s keeper?
The convict on My right is another prodigal son
Whose sorrow of his filthy rags turns his blessed.
‘Lord! Remember me in Your Kingdom!’
My promise unto him hath crowned his a hope of glory:
‘This day shall you be with Me in Paradise.’
It is the prime of the day with beams of fire splashed across:
The sun is in its meridian lashing unforgiving rays.
Behold! The sun is darkened by the clouds of glooms,
It’s day but turns night as a premonition
What happens to the creation in My Day in Glory.
The temple of the city trembles at My Word’
And the curtain is torn in the middle,
Yea, Moses’ law turns unto rags with no price,
For I make the New and Eternal Law of love in Me.
Nightly day survives until My Last Cry’
Troubled with the heaviness of My people’s sins:
‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
‘Yet it’s finished. Thy work on earth is done,
Father, here I commend My spirit unto Thee’.
Jesus Christ's ****** sacrifice for mankind!
Not with libations, but with shouts and laughter
We drenched the altars of Love’s sacred grove,
Shaking to earth green fruits, impatient after
The launching of the colored moths of Love.
Love’s proper myrtle and his mother’s zone
We bound about our irreligious brows,
And fettered him with garlands of our own,
And spread a banquet in his frugal house.
Not yet the god has spoken; but I fear
Though we should break our bodies in his flame,
And pour our blood upon his altar, here
Henceforward is a grove without a name,
A pasture to the shaggy goats of Pan,
Whence flee forever a woman and a man.
Eiliv Advena Jun 2015
Many poems I read seem so sad
The poems fills your eyes with tears
This doesn't mean the poems are bad
But sometimes a poem should be filled with cheer

There is so much beauty to write about
Not just lost love, fears, screams and shouts

A poem can be about
Flowers or trees
A poem can be about
Crystal blue seas

A poem can be about
a ring of smoke
Or a beautiful girl
Or about the beauty
We find in this world
SøułSurvivør Nov 2014
music lives
music breathes
music loves
music grieves

music courts
music shouts
music wins
music pouts

music grows
music clings
music clicks
music rings

music sings
music sighs
music weeps
music dies
Try this style if you want
A challenge. Use a word
Like poetry or art or whatever.
It's not as easy as it looks!
Sarah Bat Jun 2011
There was a child went forth every day,
And everything she heard or saw, whether it was perceived with love, dread, hatred, pity…became a part of her
And it may have faded away in moments, or lingered with the day …or remained for years on end, caught in the web of her mind.
The voices became a part of her
And the broken glass and the splintered wood and the tear streaked faces and more than anything else the shouts
The sharp words and the words that weren’t words but blows and the words that turned to shrieks and the words she blocked with her hands and the slamming of the door… and the words she wrote in her journals… and the sobs coming through the crack in the door…. And the desperate cries for help she stifled with her narrow white teeth… were all a part of her.
And so were the laughter and the marker scribbles and the days at the flea market and the dinners in the living room
And so were the picnics in the yard and the games of t-ball, all those were part of her too, but there seemed much less of that.
And her friends began to dwindle one by one, as she grew older
And as she grew older it all grew worse, former friends gave pointed stares and words that stung like poison darts
And everything was closing in, the house, the town, her own emotions
The shouting was worse, the glass wasn’t broken but instead held poison that made the house stink… the stench of sterility and morgues and slow but ceaseless destruction
Her own father slowly filled her soul with a treacherous ocean of words and tears and memories and mistrust, he let her down again and again and again, he watched her fading and helped her along… whether he knew it or not
The man was still breathing, still had a beating heart, but the father was long dead, shredded to bits by his own words and the broken glass and the splintered wood and bottles of poison
The girl was fading swiftly, blocking off her door with silence and books to hide behind
They never questioned the self inflicted bruises since she was clumsy anyway….the dark circles beneath the hollow eyes were never commented upon, the silent tears were never seen… hidden behind glasses and too much hair
She was silent always, not agreeing nor disagreeing, simply hiding.
If she was quiet no one noticed, he didn’t notice, and if he didn’t notice, the words couldn’t hurt
But she wanted to cry out, scream, fight, her head was shouting that this wasn’t right, aren’t fathers supposed to love their daughters not make them bruise their arms and hate themselves? But her heart slammed no no no he can never know how scared we are.
So she bit her lips because bleeding was better than crying and no one noticed the swelling and everyone told her how happy and perfect she was… she faked a smile and bit her lips again
And every night she went home to slamming and shouting and words that bruised like punches
Fat, ****, stupid, useless, worthless, no better than me… the shadows of insults floated behind her eyes, under her skin, manifesting in tears and dark circles and scratches and bruises
She fought and she fought as he tore her apart and every night she stitched herself together
Washed her wounds with her tears and tried her best to sleep.
The shouts and poison were gone when the father left
Leaving the daughter bruised and bleeding and broken and hurting where no one could see
But she stitched herself together
The wounds have time to heal now.
The friends she made would give her new words, the drawings would let her take out her pain and her anger on something other than her skin, the words she wrote were the shouts she never allowed herself
The insults are still there, she has not forgiven the father but without him she would have no pain to pour onto pages like blood from a wound that has yet to scab over and scar, but now there is the laughter and the hands to hold and the new words that remind her of the new memories of grass and sky and smiles and effervescent voices
These are a part of her now too, and they are the things that have kept her going,
And they are the things that will keep her going and going, into a future he claimed she’d never have.
Harmony Sapphire Feb 2015
Shriveled & shrunken.
Intoxicated & drunken.
Hung over & agitated.
Mild to moderate brain activity.
Common sense & basic reason lacks mental ability.
Bad with money & squanders financial stability.

Passing a psychological mental health evaluation not quite.
Kept in a straight jacket & sedated in isolation they do spit & bite.
They go through everyone's trash day & night.
They panhandle at the street lights.
They have tempers & pick fights.
Nothing they do is legal or right.

Slobs with no jobs.
They lack work ethics.
The sight & stench of them is sick.
They're sad story is lies & tricks.
Not a truth that sticks.

They cuss & their pocked face oozes ****.
Their frontal lobe is filled with dust.
About telling your teacher the truth they get homicidal & make a fuss.
They drive a ******* car consisting of smog & rust.
Getting arrested for 365 × 3 + 2 counts of child **** is never a bust.

Keep your children away from drunks.
Some drunks get violent, beat you & lock you on a trunk.
Most pedofiles & rapists are drinkers.
Not religious or moral thinkers.
With shingles, hpv virus, ****** & boyles.
Zero morals as hideous as an ugly *** gargoyle.

Enjoy arguing,  screams & shouts.
Daily drunk driving & behind the wheel blackouts.
© Harmony Sapphire . All rights reserved
the mirror that whispers,
the mirror that shouts,
words of hate
and torture
and spout.
the lies it speaks
are of disgust.
the thoughts it creates
turns 'should stop eating'
to a 'must'.
the mirrors lies are tempting
to try,
but a forewarning ;
the lies will control you,
and they will eat you alive.
Mercurychyld May 2015
Only you can translate
where you are
on your voyage through
this varied farce
called “life”.

No one else can dictate
to you…
or should even dare…
how to phrase
your feelings,
your thoughts,
your personal moments.

Who is anyone to
cause another to feel
inept or inferior
for wording their
experiences as they will?

We are all both
audience and poet,
consumed by the
powerful spell of words
and meaning
we are bonded
in ink.

It takes gumption
and courage
to give voice to
your vision of
the world.

It often requires
resilience and nerve
to open your heart
and peel back the
layers of skin,
and let others take
a long look at the
inner workings of YOU.

Be brave,
take courage,
let your soul speak
in its very own
language.

People will read
your words and
listen to the sweet
whispers
and thunderous shouts
that flow from pens
and keys
to release the
inner demons and angels
and the lyrical
vines that bloom and live
in our individual
landscapes,

fluidly coursing from
our own rabbit holes
with fortitude and grace
and our neverlands,
where we need never
grow up,

to share with those
that need to see
and hear and feel
and wonder.


-by Mercurychyld
Copyrights
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

“As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm”
Prayer is better than sleep

Rising from the torment of another restless night, Bouazizi wiped the sleep from his droopy eyes as his feet touched the cold stone floor.

Throughout the frigid night, the devilish jinn did their work, eagerly jabbing away at Bouazizi with pointed sticks, tormenting his troubled conscience with the worry of his nagging indebtedness. All night the face of the man Bouazizi owed money to haunted him. Bouazizi could see the man’s greasy lips and brown teeth jawing away, inches from his face. He imagined chubby caffeine stained fingers reaching toward him to grab some dinars from Bouazizi’s money box.

Bouazizi turned all night like he was sleeping on a board of spikes. His prayers for a restful night again went unanswered. The pall of a blue fatigue would shadow Bouazizi for most of the day.

Bouazizi’s weariness was compounded by a gnawing hunger. By force of habit, he grudgingly opened the food cupboard with the foreknowledge that it was almost bare. Bouazizi’s premonition proved correct as he surveyed a meager handful of chickpeas, some eggs and a few sparse loaves. It was just enough to feed his dependant family; younger brothers and sisters, cousins and a terminally disabled uncle. That left nothing for Bouazizi but a quick jab to his empty gut. He would start this day without breakfast.

Bouazizi made a living as a street vendor. He hustles to survive. Bouazizi’s father died in a construction accident in Libya when he was three. Since the age of 10, Bouazizi had pushed a cart through the streets of Sidi Bouzid; selling fruit at the public market just a few blocks from the home that he has lived in for almost his entire life.

At 27 years of age, Bouazizi has wrestled the beast of deprivation since his birth. To date, he has bravely fought it to a standstill; but day after day the multi-headed hydra of life has snapped at him. He has squarely met the eyes of the beast with fortitude and resolve; but the sharp fangs of a hardscrabble life has sunken deep into Bouazizi’s spleen. The unjust rules of society are powerful claws that slash away at his flesh, bleeding him dry: while the spiked tendrils of poverty wrap Bouazizi’s neck, seeking to strangle him.

Bouazizi is a workingman hero; a skilled warrior in the fight for daily bread. He is accustomed to living a life of scarcity. His daily deliverance is the grace of another day of labor and the blessed wages of subsistence.

Though Allah has blessed this man with fortitude the acuteness of terminal want and the constant struggle to survive has its limits for any man; even for strong champions like Bouazizi.

This morning as Bouazizi washed he peered into a mirror, closely examining new wrinkles on his stubble strewn face. He fingered his deep black curls dashed with growing streaks of gray. He studied them through the gaze of heavy bloodshot eyes. He looked upward as if to implore Allah to salve the bruises of daily life.

Bouazizi braced himself with the splash of a cold water slap to his face. He wiped his cheeks clean with the tail of his shirt. He dipped his toothbrush into a box of baking powder and scoured an aching back molar in need of a root canal. Bouazizi should see a dentist but it is a luxury he cannot afford so he packed an aspirin on top of the infected tooth. The dissolving aspirin invaded his mouth coating his tongue with a bitter effervescence.

Bouazizi liked the taste and was grateful for the expectation of a dulled pain. He smiled into the mirror to check his chipped front tooth while pinching a cigarette **** from an ashtray. The roach had one hit left in it. He lit it with a long hard drag that consumed a good part of the filter. Bouazizi’s first smoke of the day was more filter then tobacco but it shocked his lungs into the coughing flow of another day.

Bouazizi put on his jacket, slipped into his knockoff NB sneakers and reached for a green apple on a nearby table. He took a big bite and began to chew away the pain of his toothache.

Bouazizi stepped into the street to catch the sun rising over the rooftops. He believed that seeing the sunrise was a good omen that augured well for that day’s business. A sunbeam braking over a far distant wall bathed Bouazizi in a golden light and illumined the alley where he parked his cart holding his remaining stock of week old apples. He lifted the handles and backed his cart out into the street being extra mindful of the cracks in the cobblestone road. Bouazizi sprained his ankle a week ago and it was still tender. Bouazizi had to be careful not to aggravate it with a careless step. Having successfully navigated his cart into the road, Bouazizi made a skillful U Turn and headed up the street limping toward the market.

A winter chill gripped Bouazizi prompting him to zip his jacket up to his neck. The zipper pinched his Adam’s Apple and a few droplets of blood stained his green corduroy jacket. Though it was cold, Bouazizi sensed that spring would arrive early this year triggering a replay of a recurring daydream. Bouazizi imagined himself behind the wheel of a new van on his way to the market. Fresh air and sunshine pouring through the open windows with the cargo space overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits.

It was a lifelong ambition of Bouazizi to own a van. He dreamed of buying a six cylinder Dodge Caravan. It would be painted red and he would call it The Red Flame. The Red Flame would be fast and powerful and sport chrome spinners. The Red Flame would be filled with music from a Blaupunkt sound system with kick *** speakers. Power windows, air conditioning, leather seats, a moonroof and plenty of space in the back for his produce would complete Bouazizi’s ride.

The Red Flame would be the vehicle Bouazizi required to expand his business beyond the market square. Bouazizi would sell his produce out of the back of the van, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. No longer would he have to wait for customers to come to his stand in the market. Bouazizi would go to his customers. Bouazizi and the Red Flame would be known in all the neighborhoods throughout the district. Bouazizi shook his head and smiled thinking about all the girls who would like to take rides in the Red Flame. Bouazizi and his Red Flame would be a sight to be noticed and a force to be reckoned with.

“EEEEEYOWWW” a Mercedes horn angrily honked; jarring Bouazizi from the reverie of his daydream. A guy whipping around the corner like a silver streak stuck his head out the window blasting with music yelling, “Hey Mnayek, watch where you push that *******.”

The music faded as the Mercedes roared away. “Barra nikk okhtek” Bouazizi yelled, raising his ******* in the direction of the vanished car. “The big guys in the fancy cars think the road belongs to them”, Bouazizi mumbled to himself.

The insult ****** Bouazizi off, but he was accustomed to them and as he limped along pushing his cart he distracted himself with the amusement of the ascending sun chasing the fleeting shadows of the night, sending them scurrying down narrow alleyways.

Bouazizi imaged himself a character from his favorite movie. He was a giant Transformer, chasing the black shadows of evil away from the city into the desert. After battling evil and conquering the bad guys, he would transform himself back into the regular Bouazizi; selling his produce to the people as he patrolled the highways of Tunisia in the Red Flame, the music blasting out the windows, the chrome spinners flashing in the sunlight. Bouazizi would remain vigilant, always ready to transform the Red Flame to fight the evil doers.

The bumps and potholes in the road jostled Bouazizi’s load of apples. A few fell out of the wooden baskets and were rolling around in the open spaces of the cart. Bouazizi didn’t want to risk bruising them. Damaged merchandise can’t be sold so he was careful to secure his goods and arrange his cart to appeal to women customers. He made sure to display his prized electronic scale in the corner of the cart for all to see.

Bouazizi had a reputation as a fair and generous dealer who always gave good value to his customers. Bouazizi was also known for his kindness. He would give apples to hungry children and families who could not pay. Bouazizi knew the pain of hunger and it brought him great satisfaction to be able to alleviate it in others.

As a man who valued fairness, Bouazizi was particularly proud of his electronic scale. Bouazizi was certain the new measuring device assured all customers that Bouazizi sold just and correct portions. The electronic scale was Bouazizi’s shining lamp. He trusted it. He hung it from the corner post of his cart like it was the beacon of a lighthouse guiding shoppers through the treachery of an unscrupulous market. It would attract all customers who valued fairness to the safe harbor of Bouazizi’s cart.

The electronic scale is Bouazizi’s assurance to his customers that the weights and measures of electronic calculation layed beyond any cloud of doubt. It is a fair, impartial and objective arbiter for any dispute.

Bouazizi believed that the fairness of his scale would distinguish his stand from other produce vendors. Though its purchase put Bouazizi into deep debt, the scale was a source of pride for Bouazizi who believed that it would help his profits to increase and help him to achieve his goal of buying the Red Flame.

As Bouazizi pushed his cart toward the market, he mulled his plan over in his mind for the millionth time. He wasn't great in math but he was able to calculate his financial situation with a degree of precision. His estimations triggered worries that his growing debt to money lenders may be difficult to payoff.

Indebtedness pressed down on Bouazizi’s chest like a mounting pile of stones. It was the source of an ever present fear coercing Bouazizi to live in a constant state of anxiety. His business needed to grow for Bouazizi to get a measure of relief and ultimately prosper from all his hard work. Bouazizi was driven by urgency.

The morning roil of the street was coming alive. Bouazizi quickened his step to secure a good location for his cart at the market. Car horns, the spewing diesel from clunking trucks, the flatulent roar of accelerating buses mixed with the laughs and shrieks of children heading to school composed the rising crescendo of the city square.

As he pushed through the market, Bouazizi inhaled the aromatic eddies of roasting coffee floating on the air. It was a pleasantry Bouazizi looked forward to each morning. The delicious wafts of coffee mingling with the crisp aroma of baking bread instigated a growl from Bouazizi’s empty stomach. He needed to get something to eat. After he got money from his first sale he would by a coffee and some fried dough.

Activity in the market was vigorous, punctuated by the usual arguments of petty territorial disputes between vendors. The disagreements were always amicably resolved, burned away in rising billows of roasting meats and vegetables, the exchange of cigarettes and the plumes of tobacco smoke rising as emanations of peace.

Bouazizi skillfully maneuvered his cart through the market commotion. He slid into his usual space between Aaban and Aameen. His good friend Aaban sold candles, incense, oils and sometimes his wife would make cakes to sell. Aameen was the markets most notorious jokester. He sold hardware and just about anything else he could get his hands on.

Aaban was already burning a few sticks of jasmine incense. It helped to attract customers. The aroma defined the immediate space with the pleasant bouquet of a spring garden. Bouazizi liked the smell and appreciated the increased traffic it brought to his apple cart.

“Hey Basboosa#, do you have any cigarettes?“, Aameen asked as he pulled out a lighter. Bouazizi shook the tip of a Kent from an almost empty pack. Aameen grabbed the cigarette with his lips.

“That's three cartons of Kents you owe me, you cheap *******.” Bouazizi answered half jokingly. Aameen mumbled a laugh through a grin tightly gripping the **** as he exhaled smoke from his nose like a fire breathing dragon. Bouazizi also took out a cigarette for himself.

“Aameem, give me a light”, Bouazizi asked.

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

“Keep it Basboosa. I got others.” Aameen smiled as he showed off a newly opened box of disposable lighters to sell on his stand.

“Made in China, Basboosa. They make everything cheap and colorful. I can make some money with these.”

Bouazizi lit his next to last cigarette. He inhaled deeply. The smoke chased away the cool air in Bouazizi’s lungs with a shot of a hot nicotine rush.

“Merci Aameen” Bouazizi answered. He put the lighter into the almost empty cigarette pack and put it into his hip pocket. The lighter would protect his last cigarette from being crushed.

The laughter and shouts of the bazaar, the harangue of radio voices shouting anxious verses of Imam’s exhorting the masses to submit and the piecing ramble of nondescript AM music flinging piercing unintelligible static surrounded Bouazizi and his cart as he waited for his first customers of the day.

Bouazizi sensed a nervous commotion rise along the line of vendors. A crowd of tourists and locals milling about parted as if to avoid a slithering asp making its way through their midst. The hoots of vendors and the cackle of the crowd made its way to Bouazizi’s knowing ear. He knew what was coming. It was nothing more then another shakedown by city officials acting as bagmen for petty municipal bureaucrats. They claim to be checking vendor licences but they’re just making the rounds collecting protection money from the vendors. Pocketing bribes and payoffs is the municipal authorities idea of good government. They are skilled at using the power of their office to extort tribute from the working poor.

Bouazizi made the mistake of making eye contact with Madame Hamdi. As the municipal authority in charge of vendors and taxis Madame Hamdi held sway over the lives of the street vendors. She relished the power she had over the men who make a meager living selling goods in the square; and this morning she was moving through the market like a bloodhound hot on the trail of an escaped convict. Two burly henchmen lead the way before her. Bouazizi knew Madame Hamdi’s hounds were coming for him.

Bouazizi knew he was ******. Having just made a payment to his money lender, Bouazizi had no extra dinars to grease the palm of Madame Hamdi. He grabbed the handle bars of his cart to make an escape; but Madame Hamdi cut him off and got right into into Bouazizi’s face.

“Ah little Basboosa where are you going? she asked with the tone of playful contempt.

“I suppose you still have no license to sell, ah Basboosa?” Madame Hamdi questioned with the air of a soulless inquisitor.

“You know Madame Hamdi, cart vendors do not need a license.” Bouazizi feebly protested, not daring to look into her eyes.

“Basboosa, you know we can overlook your violations with a small fine for your laxity” a dismissive Madame Hamdi offered.

Bouazizi’s sense of guilt would not permit him to lift his eyes. His head remained bowed. Bouazizi stood convicted of being one of the impoverished.

“I have no spare dinars to offer Madame Hamdi, My pockets are empty, full of holes. My money falls into everyone’s palm but my own. I’m sorry Madame Hamdi. I’ll take my cart home”. He lifted the handlebars in an attempt to escape. One of Madame Hamdi’s henchmen stepped in front of his cart while the other pushed Bouazizi away from it.

“Either you pay me a vendor tax for a license or I will confiscate your goods Basboosa”, Madame Hamdi warned as she lifted Bouazizi’s scale off its hook.

“This will be the first to go”, she said grinning as she examined the scale. “We’ll just keep this.”
Like a mother lion protecting a defenseless cub from the snapping jaws of a pack of ravenous hyenas, Bouazizi lunged to retrieve his prized scale from the clutches of Madame Hamdi. Reaching for it, he touched the scale with his fingertips just as Madame Hamdi delivered a vicious slap to Bouazizi’s cheek. It halted him like a thunderbolt from Zeus.

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
I whistle for the Scarecrow to lead the way right after Neur decided to leave. It begins to form a black mist/smoke like essence in the middle of where I stand then it unifies and creates a Scarecrow with red eyes and it makes noise and flies slowly in front of me. Finally it lands in a mysterious cave where I stand in awe as I see ...there the Scarecrow stands on top of a crystalline rock emanating from the entrance of the cave itself. I walk in and I feel an eerie feeling go down my gut...something tells me to look immediately to the right. So when I do there it is the mystical impenetrable rock Aziel was talking about. Then just then I feel a sense of ease and Aziel says telepathically..."So my not what are you waiting for destroy the rock and retrieve the relic." So all the sudden I feel a sudden deepening defining feeling in my chest and I acquire the powers of Darkness for the first time in my quest for revenge is paying off. I command my whole arm to become a sledgehammer and hit the rock directly and it cracks in a half...there stands a beautiful glowing base with a fancy top on it ...made out of red diamonds and showered in Gold. Then I am relieved. "I got it" I tell Aziel telepathically. Then Aziel responds worried ... "Come as quickly as you can because I believe the Goddess is onto you...plus I cannot sustain you with the power of Darkness only 45 more minutes. Therefore,  come friend for you will be handsomely rewarded. " As I am getting out of the cave I hear galloping coming up the path I came. Then to my bewilderment Boom there stood a huge 32 ft tall ElderGloomTree It looked at me and it had a sweet berry like strawberry like scent in the Air it smelled beautifully nice.
The middle of the tree there was a mouth like sideways and it opened inside it slowly took out it's tongue and there was a small what looked like a mustard seed with rainbow like colors all over. There that little seed grew before my very eyes in the matter of split seconds and formed the shape of a beautiful glowing young woman with beautiful green skin and black hair with blue red and white stripes on the hair color. She spoke to me kindly and softly her breath smelled like fresh mint...I was astounded. Frank: "Yyyoouu...mmuusstt....bbb..e..." I stuttered... Nabyah: "Yes Young Mortal I am Nabyah many call me the Goddess Of The Forest Of Whispers. What are you doing here...what is that your carrying and oh one last question...I heard from Neur you was seeking me." Frank: "Indeed I am Frank Deltoro and I am here to request something from you...in return I'll do something you want done. If it's under my power and will to do so I will aid you." Nabyah: " I want to aid my tribe of centaurs and the remote Cyclop  village of Vlakazamuk & Chalekathan *
  We want to stop the killing of Centaurs and the human captures from capturing Cyclops and making them work enslaving all Cyclop population or sometimes brutally **** them and practice known as
Davalkaj Shamanism.

You humans and your inventions to destroy our home-world and natural habitat. Tell me what makes you think I'm going to help You? Should I **** you for trespassing my forest?" Frank: "Well... I didn't come to fight but if i must we can clash but I would rather we handle the situation like 2 Grown up adults here well you for one am sure have lived thousands of years now but hey...help me and I will do my best to remove the curse." Nabyah: " Fine but do come ...come close to me I will kiss you in the lips once and you shall have my blessing..." Aziel shouts telepathically: "Use the power of the Dark to see if she is giving you a curse or a blessing...if you take the kiss and become enchanted well since the power of Darkness is in you it will be removed. But if it's a curse I shall take it and renew your power by some. So either way it's safe go ahead kiddo...I know you want those lips. Get em" I just nod. Then wow I kiss the Goddess and it's by far the most romantic thing that's ever happened to me in my 25 yrs of living. I felt a holy power showering over me then the power of the Dark was immediately removed.
Then all the sudden she makes a beautiful hymn comes out of her mouth and a fairy about 3ft tall with 6 wings flying in mid air hands Nabyah a gorgeous engraved Vial of blood. "Here is what you seek warrior; proceed carefully not only benevolent souls and entities linger here. I leave the area as soon as she hands me the vial of blood. I get about 50 ft away from the area and the power of Darkness consumes me I transform to a Giant Bat and head back to Aziel.
In the Castle am greeted with pleasure and I hand him the vial of Goddesses blood. There and then he drinks the elixir of blood and before my very eyes he regains his youth and full power. Then there stands 5'7 Sharp look young man about 20 to 21 years of age. He disappears and reappears behind me tapping me on the shoulder. Aziel: "Frank I am in complete debt with you for only and even though we do not agree nor do I love him any but thanks the Lord...you helped me regain my full vampiric power. Ahhh it feels amazing. Hahaha  he embraces me in a warm hug.  Now what do you desire my mortal friend?
I think deeply..."I want to help the Goddess remove the curse from the forest." Aziel: "I usually don't meddle in human affairs but I am making an exception I'll help you as long as your willing to help me destroy the Order " Frank: "Does this mean I must look for the Relics Neur Blackthorn asked me to get ...since I got the vial I don't really need to do it no more right?" Aziel: " I'll let you borrow the power of Darkness for 6.5 more hrs till morning comes" Frank: "Thanks Aziel once again for letting me gain more power and knowledge."

~ *Meanwhile


At a very remote location deep in the heart of the Forest Of Whispers lived Bethilda Wood. She has lived in a old ruined cabin for 700+ yrs also she is known as The Elder Witch *Empress Of Darkness
known to bestow powerful spells and hexes but also with the gift of healing and releasing souls back to the Almighty One. A young Wiccan woman comes up young in age her skin tan/white heading toward the old rugged cabin...then pauses whistles a delightful melody and a staff appears.  Having been trained in the field of magic this young witch is been taken under Bethilda's wing. Bethilda:  Adrianna  darling come I have a surprise for you. Follow me to the pond of *Greater Enchantment. Adrianna: So... I heard you became the High Dark Empress 1200 years ago. Bethilda: Yes that is true I been a Witch for the past 1600 years or so. I survived the middle ages the dark ages and the years of enlightenment.  It's something I been willing to be all my life for I meet the man who carries my heart a young man known as The Count Of the Night. Dracula! We fell in love and I bore 3 of his children who so I have heard inherited the gift of becoming a vampire and they inevitably became vampires, more like the 3 princes of the night. Vladimir my first born Aziel my middle child and Uriel the youngest of the three. I been on the quest of finding Jesus Tears a small opaque flower the color of silver to complete my spell and relinquish Vladimir's soul to the mortal realm fit it into a red diamond and transfer it's soul essence into a freshly dead human body. With that he will come back to the World of the living and redeem himself and take revenge on the Order. Adrianna: I will help you. I will find this flower you'll see. So then they practiced spells from there on out.

~ Meanwhile

Its 1 a.m. and Frank heads out to seek the Ancient Relic. With the complete power of Darkness at his disposal he sends out 3  scarecrows to look for areas of interest in the Forest Of Whispers. Two of the  scarecrows come back one doesn't so that last one got killed by someone's power. Frank communicates telepathically to Aziel. Frank: I think someone is onto us Aziel guard the Castle it might be the Order. Aziel: already got it covered buddy. Then Frank feels a very strong power slowly emanating from the Southeast part of the Forest Of Whispers.  Frank transforms to a bat and heads there. As he gets there the small village of Chalekathan...
He who has been destroyed there stood a mysterious figure in the middle of the havoc a mysterious strong power could be felt from him. Mysterious Man: Hello adventurer my name is Navarro Castle-worth I am the Warlock of the *Tower Of Frejoird
where I was trained to use magic and rituals to summon strong deities into this plane of existence.  I got here too late someone had destroyed the village before I got here. Frank: Right ...my name is Frank Deltoro and how do I know your not the one who destroyed the village? Why should I trust you? Navarro: Young friend...I do not desire battle but if it's necessary I will satiate your thirst for battle...Navarro Summons his staff and says some words and a Huge Nightmarish Creature that looks like a dog with a fog of Darkness surrounds the Creature. Frank summons the power of Darkness and since its 1:33 a.m he gains the *Wings Of the Desolate Count which makes his power two fold. There Frank stood looking at Navarro in the eyes and him looking at Frank with perspicacity. All the sudden a trembling can be felt and a Huge Cyclop comes out of the Wilderness. Mysterious Cyclop: Hold one moment ...this man is telling you the truth young Mortal. Frank: Woah a Cyclop what how did you get here? Frank loses his fighting stance and so does Navarro...My name is *Jhino Velvermount I am from the Tribe Of Chalekathan* known Village Of the Largest Cyclop population. "Come I show you what the Witch Of the Tavern Of Doom Dragons* done her name is ...whispers Bethilda N. Lement. Raised originally in Sweden in the small farming town of Wrellender* learned Martial Arts Of Taijutsu and Ninjutsu. Able to control Lighting/Air/Water/Fire/Metallic energies. Coming from a family that practiced Zetzou Buddhism. Who are thought at a very young age to control the Chi* Energies of the body how to practice Re-Vitalizing and Re-Energizing the Chi to be able to stay in a meditative/active blending of consciousness with the subconscious to make Ninjutsu possible. She is known to have rested 1322-1555 A.C. about 250 not been too active but her Great Grandmother. Nayya M. Element who was born 1119 A.C. in the same village one of the co-founders of it who placed the curse on the Forest Of Whispers and it's being sustained by her Great Granddaughter Mrs. Lement. Now me and Navarro follow Jhino to the Village. We go thru extensive difficult paths that leave me tired for an excruciating 5 hrs of walking. Finally arrive at the village... and there is about 30-40 Thousand Cyclops gathered around the Village to hear Gromm ElderLord of the Village Of Chalekathan. Gromm: My stance stands I am here to protect my people from the evil that has left this village wrecked record in the past 300 years. I will NOT allow Bethilda to wreak havoc here no longer. There Me and Navarro and Jhino stand behind the large crowd waiting for the speech to end. The speech finally ends and strong Cyclop incense is burn to allow other high ranking tribe members to know the Elders speech ended. <br>
<br>
~Meanwhile in Aziel's Castle~
"Hello" a young woman with Long Red Hair that hits the ground as she walks White Pearl Eyes with Black Pupils and with a Long  *Black Ceremonial Dress known as Akashaic Black Tunic Of the Dark Empress from the Land Of Necromancers.
There appeared in a Dark WindAziel Governale in a White Taxedo like Suit Welcome Home... Iris Senteno ...Oracle Of the Shadows Of the most powerful Magicians from the Tower Of Frejoird. I have seen your prodigal human who's name is Frank Deltoro...handsome young man who encountered Navarro in The Forest Of Whispers. Will he be trouble? Or shall I eliminate his presence?"
Aziel: No he is working for me...you shall have him without delay at the end.

                         ~To Be Continued
Work in progress.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Pagan Paul Aug 2018
.
i.
Smoke coils up and dissipates,
soon the images will be clear,
as she stares with cold contempt,
into the depths of the Seers Sphere.
And she stands toking her pipe,
watching as the story unfolds,
soon her hate will boil once more,
unleashing her vengeance of old.

ii.
Smoke coils up and dissipates,
a thousand lifetime's away,
blackened stone and charred bodies,
the remains of a village destroyed.
The flames still licking at the flesh
and melting mortar of cottage walls.
Raiding horsemen ride off cheering,
with swords, shields and firebrands,
carrying amidst them a prisoner,
their prize and sport for the victory feast.
Savages are these violent men,
barbaric in their wanton lust for war,
the red mist and the ****** fury,
it's all they really have a care for.

iii.
She waits with patient seething,
her moments will arrive so soon,
the spilling of her black arts,
witnessed by a Woman's Moon.

iv.
The Vale was so beautiful lush and green.
Steep sided, oak trees, clear blue stream.
With fresh grass on which horses grazed,
and smooth rocks where wild fowl lazed.

v.
But the leader here was not a man,
she was the daughter of this warrior clan.
Fierce, cold, she barked out her orders;
build a fire, make food, secure the borders.
Her status unquestioned by her riders,
they would all fight and die beside her,
and as the camp grew out much wider,
her boot casually crushes a hated spider.

vi.
Manacles held her ankle fast,
shackled as she was to a tree.
Withdrawn, shivering with cold,
still seeing her burning family.
Images scorch her private intimacy,
awaiting the moment of her epiphany,
eyes watching with careless vacancy,
preparations for the nights ceremony.
But she would not co-operate,
would not give her jailers pleasure,
as she knows these last few hours
would seem to her like forever …

and Nature weeps with a prelude to grieve,
as the Maiden pulls a dagger from her sleeve.


… deny them their sport she will,
placing the dagger 'neath her breast,
a sharp tug towards her heart,
a thousand nightmares laid to rest.

vii.
A thousand lifetime's away,
smoke coils up and dissipates,
a cackle rents the air like ice,
the time her Woman's Moon anticipates.
And the instant arrives with joy,
as the Seers Sphere is thrown,
shattering and cackling hold hands,
as the glass touches solid stone.
At that moment of contact with rock,
time slips into a reverberating shock.

viii.
The Vale was so beautiful lush and green.
Steep sided, oak trees, clear blue stream.
With fresh grass on which horses grazed,
and smooth rocks where wild fowl lazed.

And the earth heaved and tremored,
shaking the Vales languid peace,
uprooting trees with tremendous urge,
rending the loamy soil from beneath.
Frenzied horses scatter with fright,
and men are thrown up high,
screams and shouts of piercing pain,
and the stream suddenly runs dry.
The quake unsettles the warriors camp,
leaving many broken bones and blood.
Then an ominous deafening roar
heralds the arrival of the coming flood.
And water coursed fast into the Vale,
no longer pretending to be calmer.
All living men drowned and dead,
encumbered by their heavy armour.
But she was much fleeter of foot
and ran hard as the waters rose.
Tripped by a treacherous branch,
head banged, stunned, her eyes closed.

ix.
Sunrise saw many things.
Smoke coiling up and dissipating,
over the ruins of a village,
crows and dogs feasting well.
It saw
the hooded robed figure of a woman,
squatting on top a new grave,
smoke coiling up from her pipe,
cackling …

x.
She awoke in darkness.
It didn't take long to panic and scream.
It took no time to realise,
she was sealed naked in a coffin.
And she screamed and screamed.
Pushing at the sides, the lid.
The air was heavy, stifling, stifling, stifling.
Precious oxygen running out.
The coffin moved, and she screamed,
desperately scratching and scratching.
And in the box she heard … cackling.
Her frantic screams turn to sobs of pleading
to be let out, to breathe, to live.
She felt something touch her inner thigh,
she screamed, as it touched again feint.
Brushing it away as the voice cackled on,
more tickles on her thighs, she screamed.
And something landed on her face.
The feel of a large spider on her mouth,
and she screamed and screamed.
But the cackling persisted
as she scratched at the wood,
her fingernails shredding to pieces,
but the wooden prison gave no quarter,
the skin raw and bloodied,
scratching, scratching, scratching.
And in her tomb she screams,
she screams and screams and screams.

xi.
… sunrise saw many things.
It saw a new river,
wending its way to the sea,
caressing the contoured land,
it saw horses running wild,
across the lush grass on plains.
It saw
the hooded robed figure of a woman,
standing beside a new grave,
as she places the flame dagger
upon the Maiden's final resting place,
it saw
ice blue eyes of fire and malevolence.
Weeping.


© Pagan Paul (02/08/18)
.
3rd poem in Judderwitch series.
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2076298/judderwitch-the-beginning/
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/1923972/judderwitch/

Today, Aug 2nd, marks two years on hp for me.
Thankyou to all those who have supported and helped me over these last 2 years. You are all greatly appreciated :) PPx xox
NUMB, half asleep, and dazed with whirl of wheels,
And gasp of steam, and measured clank of chains,
I heard a blithe voice break a sudden pause,
Ringing familiarly through the lamp-lit night,
“Wife, here's your Venice!”
I was lifted down,
And gazed about in stupid wonderment,
Holding my little Katie by the hand—
My yellow-haired step-daughter. And again
Two strong arms led me to the water-brink,
And laid me on soft cushions in a boat,—
A queer boat, by a queerer boatman manned—
Swarthy-faced, ragged, with a scarlet cap—
Whose wild, weird note smote shrilly through the dark.
Oh yes, it was my Venice! Beautiful,
With melancholy, ghostly beauty—old,
And sorrowful, and weary—yet so fair,
So like a queen still, with her royal robes,
Full of harmonious colour, rent and worn!
I only saw her shadow in the stream,
By flickering lamplight,—only saw, as yet,
White, misty palace-portals here and there,
Pillars, and marble steps, and balconies,
Along the broad line of the Grand Canal;
And, in the smaller water-ways, a patch
Of wall, or dim bridge arching overhead.
But I could feel the rest. 'Twas Venice!—ay,
The veritable Venice of my dreams.

I saw the grey dawn shimmer down the stream,
And all the city rise, new bathed in light,
With rose-red blooms on her decaying walls,
And gold tints quivering up her domes and spires—
Sharp-drawn, with delicate pencillings, on a sky
Blue as forget-me-nots in June. I saw
The broad day staring in her palace-fronts,
Pointing to yawning gap and crumbling boss,
And colonnades, time-stained and broken, flecked
With soft, sad, dying colours—sculpture-wreathed,
And gloriously proportioned; saw the glow
Light up her bright, harmonious, fountain'd squares,
And spread out on her marble steps, and pass
Down silent courts and secret passages,
Gathering up motley treasures on its way;—

Groups of rich fruit from the Rialto mart,
Scarlet and brown and purple, with green leaves—
Fragments of exquisite carving, lichen-grown,
Found, 'mid pathetic squalor, in some niche
Where wild, half-naked urchins lived and played—
A bright robe, crowned with a pale, dark-eyed face—
A red-striped awning 'gainst an old grey wall—
A delicate opal gleam upon the tide.

I looked out from my window, and I saw
Venice, my Venice, naked in the sun—
Sad, faded, and unutterably forlorn!—
But still unutterably beautiful.

For days and days I wandered up and down—
Holding my breath in awe and ecstasy,—
Following my husband to familiar haunts,
Making acquaintance with his well-loved friends,
Whose faces I had only seen in dreams
And books and photographs and his careless talk.
For days and days—with sunny hours of rest
And musing chat, in that cool room of ours,
Paved with white marble, on the Grand Canal;
For days and days—with happy nights between,
Half-spent, while little Katie lay asleep
Out on the balcony, with the moon and stars.

O Venice, Venice!—with thy water-streets—
Thy gardens bathed in sunset, flushing red
Behind San Giorgio Maggiore's dome—
Thy glimmering lines of haughty palaces
Shadowing fair arch and column in the stream—
Thy most divine cathedral, and its square,
With vagabonds and loungers daily thronged,
Taking their ice, their coffee, and their ease—
Thy sunny campo's, with their clamorous din,
Their shrieking vendors of fresh fish and fruit—
Thy churches and thy pictures—thy sweet bits
Of colour—thy grand relics of the dead—
Thy gondoliers and water-bearers—girls
With dark, soft eyes, and creamy faces, crowned
With braided locks as bright and black as jet—
Wild ragamuffins, picturesque in rags,
And swarming beggars and old witch-like crones,
And brown-cloaked contadini, hot and tired,
Sleeping, face-downward, on the sunny steps—
Thy fairy islands floating in the sun—
Thy poppy-sprinkled, grave-strewn Lido shore—

Thy poetry and thy pathos—all so strange!—
Thou didst bring many a lump into my throat,
And many a passionate thrill into my heart,
And once a tangled dream into my head.

'Twixt afternoon and evening. I was tired;
The air was hot and golden—not a breath
Of wind until the sunset—hot and still.
Our floor was water-sprinkled; our thick walls
And open doors and windows, shadowed deep
With jalousies and awnings, made a cool
And grateful shadow for my little couch.
A subtle perfume stole about the room
From a small table, piled with purple grapes,
And water-melon slices, pink and wet,
And ripe, sweet figs, and golden apricots,
New-laid on green leaves from our garden—leaves
Wherewith an antique torso had been clothed.
My husband read his novel on the floor,
Propped up on cushions and an Indian shawl;
And little Katie slumbered at his feet,
Her yellow curls alight, and delicate tints
Of colour in the white folds of her frock.
I lay, and mused, in comfort and at ease,
Watching them both and playing with my thoughts;
And then I fell into a long, deep sleep,
And dreamed.
I saw a water-wilderness—
Islands entangled in a net of streams—
Cross-threads of rippling channels, woven through
Bare sands, and shallows glimmering blue and broad—
A line of white sea-breakers far away.
There came a smoke and crying from the land—
Ruin was there, and ashes, and the blood
Of conquered cities, trampled down to death.
But here, methought, amid these lonely gulfs,
There rose up towers and bulwarks, fair and strong,
Lapped in the silver sea-mists;—waxing aye
Fairer and stronger—till they seemed to mock
The broad-based kingdoms on the mainland shore.
I saw a great fleet sailing in the sun,
Sailing anear the sand-slip, whereon broke
The long white wave-crests of the outer sea,—
Pepin of Lombardy, with his warrior hosts—
Following the ****** steps of Attila!
I saw the smoke rise when he touched the towns
That lay, outposted, in his ravenous reach;

Then, in their island of deep waters,* saw
A gallant band defy him to his face,
And drive him out, with his fair vessels wrecked
And charred with flames, into the sea again.
“Ah, this is Venice!” I said proudly—“queen
Whose haughty spirit none shall subjugate.”

It was the night. The great stars hung, like globes
Of gold, in purple skies, and cast their light
In palpitating ripples down the flood
That washed and gurgled through the silent streets—
White-bordered now with marble palaces.
It was the night. I saw a grey-haired man,
Sitting alone in a dark convent-porch—
In beggar's garments, with a kingly face,
And eyes that watched for dawnlight anxiously—
A weary man, who could not rest nor sleep.
I heard him muttering prayers beneath his breath,
And once a malediction—while the air
Hummed with the soft, low psalm-chants from within.
And then, as grey gleams yellowed in the east,
I saw him bend his venerable head,
Creep to the door, and knock.
Again I saw
The long-drawn billows breaking on the land,
And galleys rocking in the summer noon.
The old man, richly retinued, and clad
In princely robes, stood there, and spread his arms,
And cried, to one low-kneeling at his feet,
“Take thou my blessing with thee, O my son!
And let this sword, wherewith I gird thee, smite
The impious tyrant-king, who hath defied,
Dethroned, and exiled him who is as Christ.
The Lord be good to thee, my son, my son,
For thy most righteous dealing!”
And again
'Twas that long slip of land betwixt the sea
And still lagoons of Venice—curling waves
Flinging light, foamy spray upon the sand.
The noon was past, and rose-red shadows fell
Across the waters. Lo! the galleys came
To anchorage again—and lo! the Duke
Yet once more bent his noble head to earth,
And laid a victory at the old man's feet,
Praying a blessing with exulting heart.
“This day, my well-belovèd, thou art blessed,
And Venice with thee, for St. Peter's sake.

And I will give thee, for thy bride and queen,
The sea which thou hast conquered. Take this ring,
As sign of her subjection, and thy right
To be her lord for ever.”
Once again
I saw that old man,—in the vestibule
Of St. Mark's fair cathedral,—circled round
With cardinals and priests, ambassadors
And the noblesse of Venice—richly robed
In papal vestments, with the triple crown
Gleaming upon his brows. There was a hush:—
I saw a glittering train come sweeping on,
From the blue water and across the square,
Thronged with an eager multitude,—the Duke,
And with him Barbarossa, humbled now,
And fain to pray for pardon. With bare heads,
They reached the church, and paused. The Emperor knelt,
Casting away his purple mantle—knelt,
And crept along the pavement, as to kiss
Those feet, which had been weary twenty years
With his own persecutions. And the Pope
Lifted his white haired, crowned, majestic head,
And trod upon his neck,—crying out to Christ,
“Upon the lion and adder shalt thou go—
The dragon shalt thou tread beneath thy feet!”
The vision changed. Sweet incense-clouds rose up
From the cathedral altar, mix'd with hymns
And solemn chantings, o'er ten thousand heads;
And ebbed and died away along the aisles.
I saw a train of nobles—knights of France—
Pass 'neath the glorious arches through the crowd,
And stand, with halo of soft, coloured light
On their fair brows—the while their leader's voice
Rang through the throbbing silence like a bell.
“Signiors, we come to Venice, by the will
Of the most high and puissant lords of France,
To pray you look with your compassionate eyes
Upon the Holy City of our Christ—
Wherein He lived, and suffered, and was lain
Asleep, to wake in glory, for our sakes—
By Paynim dogs dishonoured and defiled!
Signiors, we come to you, for you are strong.
The seas which lie betwixt that land and this
Obey you. O have pity! See, we kneel—
Our Masters bid us kneel—and bid us stay
Here at your feet until you grant our prayers!”
Wherewith the knights fell down upon their knees,

And lifted up their supplicating hands.
Lo! the ten thousand people rose as one,
And shouted with a shout that shook the domes
And gleaming roofs above them—echoing down,
Through marble pavements, to the shrine below,
Where lay the miraculous body of their Saint
(Shed he not heavenly radiance as he heard?—
Perfuming the damp air of his secret crypt),
And cried, with an exceeding mighty cry,
“We do consent! We will be pitiful!”
The thunder of their voices reached the sea,
And thrilled through all the netted water-veins
Of their rich city. Silence fell anon,
Slowly, with fluttering wings, upon the crowd;
And then a veil of darkness.
And again
The filtered sunlight streamed upon those walls,
Marbled and sculptured with divinest grace;
Again I saw a multitude of heads,
Soft-wreathed with cloudy incense, bent in prayer—
The heads of haughty barons, armed knights,
And pilgrims girded with their staff and scrip,
The warriors of the Holy Sepulchre.
The music died away along the roof;
The hush was broken—not by him of France—
By Enrico Dandolo, whose grey head
Venice had circled with the ducal crown.
The old man looked down, with his dim, wise eyes,
Stretching his hands abroad, and spake. “Seigneurs,
My children, see—your vessels lie in port
Freighted for battle. And you, standing here,
Wait but the first fair wind. The bravest hosts
Are with you, and the noblest enterprise
Conceived of man. Behold, I am grey-haired,
And old and feeble. Yet am I your lord.
And, if it be your pleasure, I will trust
My ducal seat in Venice to my son,
And be your guide and leader.”
When they heard,
They cried aloud, “In God's name, go with us!”
And the old man, with holy weeping, passed
Adown the tribune to the altar-steps;
And, kneeling, fixed the cross upon his cap.
A ray of sudden sunshine lit his face—
The grand, grey, furrowed face—and lit the cross,
Until it twinkled like a cross of fire.
“We shall be safe with him,” the people said,

Straining their wet, bright eyes; “and we shall reap
Harvests of glory from our battle-fields!”

Anon there rose a vapour from the sea—
A dim white mist, that thickened into fog.
The campanile and columns were blurred out,
Cathedral domes and spires, and colonnades
Of marble palaces on the Grand Canal.
Joy-bells rang sadly and softly—far away;
Banners of welcome waved like wind-blown clouds;
Glad shouts were muffled into mournful wails.
A Doge was come to be enthroned and crowned,—
Not in the great Bucentaur—not in pomp;
The water-ways had wandered in the mist,
And he had tracked them, slowly, painfully,
From San Clemente to Venice, in a frail
And humble gondola. A Doge was come;
But he, alas! had missed his landing-place,
And set his foot upon the blood-stained stones
Betwixt the blood-red columns. Ah, the sea—
The bride, the queen—she was the first to turn
Against her passionate, proud, ill-fated lord!

Slowly the sea-fog melted, and I saw
Long, limp dead bodies dangling in the sun.
Two granite pillars towered on either side,
And broad blue waters glittered at their feet.
“These are the traitors,” said the people; “they
Who, with our Lord the Duke, would overthrow
The government of Venice.”
And anon,
The doors about the palace were made fast.
A great crowd gathered round them, with hushed breath
And throbbing pulses. And I knew their lord,
The Duke Faliero, knelt upon his knees,
On the broad landing of the marble stairs
Where he had sworn the oath he could not keep—
Vexed with the tyrannous oligarchic rule
That held his haughty spirit netted in,
And cut so keenly that he writhed and chafed
Until he burst the meshes—could not keep!
I watched and waited, feeling sick at heart;
And then I saw a figure, robed in black—
One of their dark, ubiquitous, supreme
And fearful tribunal of Ten—come forth,
And hold a dripping sword-blade in the air.
“Justice has fallen on the traitor! See,
His blood has paid the forfeit of his crime!”

And all the people, hearing, murmured deep,
Cursing their dead lord, and the council, too,
Whose swift, sure, heavy hand had dealt his death.

Then came the night, all grey and still and sad.
I saw a few red torches flare and flame
Over a little gondola, where lay
The headless body of the traitor Duke,
Stripped of his ducal vestments. Floating down
The quiet waters, it passed out of sight,
Bearing him to unhonoured burial.
And then came mist and darkness.
Lo! I heard
The shrill clang of alarm-bells, and the wails
Of men and women in the wakened streets.
A thousand torches flickered up and down,
Lighting their ghastly faces and bare heads;
The while they crowded to the open doors
Of all the churches—to confess their sins,
To pray for absolution, and a last
Lord's Supper—their viaticum, whose death
Seemed near at hand—ay, nearer than the dawn.
“Chioggia is fall'n!” they cried, “and we are lost!”

Anon I saw them hurrying to and fro,
With eager eyes and hearts and blither feet—
Grave priests, with warlike weapons in their hands,
And delicate women, with their ornaments
Of gold and jewels for the public fund—
Mix'd with the bearded crowd, whose lives were given,
With all they had, to Venice in her need.
No more I heard the wailing of despair,—
But great Pisani's blithe word of command,
The dip of oars, and creak of beams and chains,
And ring of hammers in the arsenal.
“Venice shall ne'er be lost!” her people cried—
Whose names were worthy of the Golden Book—
“Venice shall ne'er be conquered!”
And anon
I saw a scene of triumph—saw the Doge,
In his Bucentaur, sailing to the land—
Chioggia behind him blackened in the smoke,
Venice before, all banners, bells, and shouts
Of passionate rejoicing! Ten long months
Had Genoa waged that war of life and death;
And now—behold the remnant of her host,
Shrunken and hollow-eyed and bound with chains—
Trailing their galleys in the conqueror's wake!

Once more the tremulous waters, flaked with light;
A covered vessel, with an armèd guard—
A yelling mob on fair San Giorgio's isle,
And ominous whisperings in the city squares.
Carrara's noble head bowed down at last,
Beaten by many storms,—his golden spurs
Caught in the meshes of a hidden snare!
“O Venice!” I cried, “where is thy great heart
And honourable soul?”
And yet once more
I saw her—the gay Sybaris of the world—
The rich voluptuous city—sunk in sloth.
I heard Napoleon's cannon at her gates,
And her degenerate nobles cry for fear.
I saw at last the great Republic fall—
Conquered by her own sickness, and with scarce
A noticeable wound—I saw her fall!
And she had stood above a thousand years!
O Carlo Zeno! O Pisani! Sure
Ye turned and groaned for pity in your graves.
I saw the flames devour her Golden Book
Beneath the rootless “Tree of Liberty;”
I saw the Lion's le
Ugo Victor Feb 2016
I am a nerd
Who finds pleasure in books of fiction
Of life in fiction
Of pain from fiction
A fragment of my being
I am nothing without a book

I am a nerd
Who finds pleasure in comic books
Whose mind comes alive in their pages
Of heroes and their sidekicks
Of villains and their lovely vile
I am nothing without a book

I am a nerd
Who finds pleasure in rock as a religion
It's transitions and it's leads
Metal as a denomination
So electric; I come
Alive over and again
I am nothing without my music

I am a nerd
Who finds pleasure in Mangas
Their Naive heroes and their half clad villains
Their pervasions and their strengths
Their one-on-one battles and defeats
Their awesome storytelling and the twists
I am nothing without my Manga

I am a nerd
Who finds pleasure in video games
The difficulty levels and their walkthroughs
The vibrations and the boss fights
The sleepless nights and the highs
The shouts of victory and the barrage of curses
I am nothing without my Video games

I am a nerd
Who finds pleasure in surfing
The endless chasm of the world wide
Web, of knowledge and terrifying ignorance
Of horrors and uplifting humor
From one end to the never ending
I am nothing without the Internet

I am proud to be all of these and more

I Am Nerd.
A Thomas Hawkins Apr 2010
I wish I was Canadian
so this could be my game
But here I stand in GM place
And scream and shout the same

I watch the puck, the stick the skates
and marvel at the skill
As gladiators prowl the ice
Hunting for the ****

Across the blue the offence moves
bearing down once more
A pass, a fake a sudden slap
it's in the goal we SCORE

The crowd goes wild and shouts with joy
our voices become one
And in that moment, I join their ranks
I am Canadian !!!
I wrote this during the final of the mens Ice Hockey in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

©A Thomas Hawkins 2010
http://poetryinprogress.com

The Community Poetry Project
The creation of a handwritten poetry compilation featuring poems from poets around the world. For full details visit http://cheaperthantherapy.net
Autumn Feb 2015
Glancing up to hear the flicker of her smile
It ***** slowly to the ground
A voice oh she sees it so loud!
Whispers whisper whispers
Your beautiful **** delicious I like you I want you I need you please
Shouts shouts shouts
Look down close your blinders
Close your disablement that we all share yet ironically ****** ourselves upon
Choke
Don't breathe
Glance up and a smack is waiting
Throwing you across the room
Never showing any sign of weakness
We fall to the floor and she's still standing head held high
Bowing her head shredding inside
The whispers make it through
Teasing her
As she shouts at herself
Becoming what all the voices tricked her of blanketed in her sanity created by the mirror and society
As she whispers to him
Mikaila Jun 2014
It's true that I never really knew you.
But I did love you
In a certain, breathless way.
In a hushed way.
I was very small, then. And very sad.
And I looked out on a great, green, vivid world,
And I was afraid, even, to whisper into it
As if my breath would push the color out.
I watched. I noticed.
I perched on the edge of myself,
On the line between me
And the air around me,
Too cautious to slip into either fully.
I was used to looking.
I was used to being a shadow, and I enjoyed it.
I thought I enjoyed it.

The day I met you, you looked back at me.
You were the first.
Imagine that- all those years, and you were the first person
To wonder what it was like behind my eyes
Enough to really look into them.

I could have loved you
Just for that
And maybe I did, originally.
I remember small things, small wakings-up,
Tiny moments that made me realize who I was.
I never lived inside myself before that year.
When I met you I discovered
That I had hands
That when the breeze was warm
I felt it
That my fingers could read the world I so loved to look at-
Change it
Mold it,
Have it.
I discovered that maybe I didn't have to exist alone
And for that knowledge
I must bitterly thank you,
For ever since then I have craved to be held,
Every second
And it has been wonderful and terrible.

I remember snapshots of that time.

The first time, when you looked at me, when you stood close to me
And I was so surprised that I forgot to recoil
And I discovered that I didn't want to.
Your eyes,
Pale and warm, a clear grey-blue, sparkling with mischief,
And what was behind them-
Pain, fear, love, wit and imagination.
You.

I didn't know you,
But I saw you.
I was looking. I always look.
I rarely see anything I wish I could write poetry about.
When I do, it keeps on coming, even years later.
Go figure.

I remember going home and laying awake in the dark
And your face wouldn't leave my mind.
You were leaving within the week,
And I didn't want to forget it, somehow.
I didn't know what made me want to look at you.
Thinking of you-
The curtain of dark hair you hid beneath a hat,
Your softly freckled skin,
Your low, husky voice that always made my head turn
As if everyone else was just background noise.
Maybe it was the way your lips would quirk up in a half smile
Whenever you said something witty and knew it.
(I loved that you knew it.)
Somehow the sum-total of you
Stuck with me and wouldn't leave.
I'd met handsome men.
I'd met beautiful women.
I'd met many people, by then,
But none I'd wanted to know quite like I wanted to know you.

It had never occurred to me
Before that summer
That I would ever want to kiss anybody.
When I discovered that I wanted to kiss you...
I didn't know what to do.
So I said nothing.
Did nothing.
I passionately looked at you
As you told your mesmerizing stories and laughed and looked elsewhere.
I didn't mind.

That was the year
Two weeks later
That I rolled over in bed and asked my best friend to kiss me.
That was the year I discovered why I'd never fantasized a white wedding
(It wasn't legal yet.)

In the years after, I searched for you.
Sometimes I found you.
Sometimes
I couldn't stop telling you you were beautiful.
Sometimes I felt close to you
And my heart would race.
Sometimes you chose a boy
Over my small, dainty face and my eyelashes and my high heeled boots
And that was the first time I felt
The now familiar aching shame- the fear
That maybe that would always happen.
The fear I still grapple with, if I am to be honest.

Still, there were moments when you and I were close, and I treasured them.
Once, I asked you for a hug
And you pulled me down onto the bed beside you
And that was the first time
I ever felt my stomach fall through my feet
In a delicious way,
In a thrilling way.
All I did was hug you,
And looked at your soft, brown eyelashes
Casting shadows down your cheeks.
And then somebody walked in and the moment was over
But I never quite forgot it.

You were kind to me.
You were kind to me in a way I hadn't experienced before,
And I wanted to make you smile.

I remember the day you told us why you wore shorts at the pool.
I remember the white hashmarks shining in the sun
All the way up your thighs.
I remember I thought a thousand things in that second.
I wanted to tell you that you didn't have to hide them.
I wanted to show you that you were beautiful.
I've kissed scars since then, you know.
Because of that moment, I've kissed scars before I've kissed lips.
I've left people loved instead of wounded.
If I'd have let myself think such things about people back then,
I'd have wanted to touch those long-healed cuts with my fingertips,
Feel the smooth hills and valleys of a chaotic heart
Made damaged flesh.
I'd have wanted to kiss them, too, like I did to different skin-
Softly and without lust, looking into the eyes that witnessed their creation.
It was a very, very personal thought. A very, very private longing.
So confusing that I locked it up and didn't think of it for years to come.
And when I did once more,
I was raising a pale white wrist to my lips, tracing a wax-white pattern of healed hatred with soft kisses
And I saw what I wanted to see in the surprised, vulnerable brown eyes I was looking into.
That moment for her
Was your fault.

I remember when I realized why you had such trouble eating.
I never did hear all the details.
I couldn't presume to ask.
All I did was watch you walk away from the table,
Burning with the desire to comfort you
But
I was so used to looking
And not touching
And so I watched you go
And thought of you all night.

It rained a lot, those years.
It never seems to rain like that anymore.
Whenever I saw you it seemed to rain at least once,
The sky turning the same grey blue as your eyes when you were thinking
And thought nobody was looking
And cracking open with a rush of rain and lightning and the sweet, low rumble of thunder crackling through the hot clouds high above.
The holes in the road would fill with water
And the whole place would become a river.
It was so free.
Somehow I began to think of you whenever it rained.

I'm almost sure it was your eyes. They were so deep and stormy, sometimes.
Sometimes they were bright blue, like those summer days when the clouds skip along the sky, pushed by warm winds and shattered by sunlight.
Sometimes they looked very, very pale, like the tide when it folds up in satiny layers against the sand.
I always felt a little strange, looking at your eyes like I did.
I couldn't stop.
That was probably why I rarely touched you.
I was afraid that I was already invading, already pushing too much
To see what was inside of you.

I remember listening to you learn lines late at night,
The way your voice would rise and fall,
And I didn't even know why I was listening-
It just pulled me in, a sound I was partial to,
A tone I wanted to feel on my skin.

I remember tagging along for countless adventures,
Making up excuses to be here or there that I knew you'd be
Just so that I could be a bit closer.
I didn't have an end game.
Didn't have a goal.
I wasn't me enough yet. I acted from fascination.
I wanted to stand near you and watch you be.

I have the most vivid memory of you taking off running
One hot, hot summer day
Into a field of tall grass,
Your laughs and shouts echoing further away
And sometimes I'd see your pale arms stretch above the wildflowers and underbrush,
Waving a gauzy net after the white butterflies that rode the sunbeams.
What a happy field that was.
I didn't run.
I watched.
I always watched.
But I remember that the smile that touched my face
Filled my bones.

I remember when you cut your hair
And I could finally see your face in full
And I wanted to photograph it
In black and white
And maybe catch the way your laughter lived in your gaze.

That was when
You started to fade away.
I saw you less,
And you saw me... much less.
Perhaps I should have let you turn away
And never said a thing,
But
You were the first thing I ever really wanted
Enough to reach for in any way.
I spoke, and you heard me.
And even though you pretended you didn't
It was still the first time
I ever shouted.

Now... now I'm not sure what I think of you
Or what
You think of me.
But I know what you were when I knew you
And I love that girl
And that girl
Created much of what I love about who I am.
And most of the time
I think she grew up.
Found a man, found a life, found a place.
Most of the time I think it's okay that we don't talk
Because you probably aren't her anymore.
I wish I could say
I thought I'd grow up like that and leave my skin behind
But
I am the girl who looked at you back then.
And I have been her ever since,
Only added to.
I know I will never outgrow how I love,
Who I love,
Whatever woke up when I first realized how I felt about you.
I will only learn to wield it.

Sometimes I wish I knew you now.
Sometimes I wish I'd known you then.
Just because... look at all the firsts you were, to me,
And for years into knowing you
I didn't even know your real name.
Imagine if you'd let me in, how we could have changed each other.
I wonder who I'd be
If I'd done more than just watch you silently and smile.

What I learned
From years of gazing at you across picnic tables and bunk beds is that
You can love somebody you don't know.
You can give to someone you haven't taken from.
And you can be changed by someone who never even touched you.
And I'd like you to know that.
And I'd like to remind you
That you never quite know who out there
Is quietly writing you poetry.
Tyler James Cook May 2014
I can't wait till I'm awake..
Plugged into the wall.
Nothing noted until the shell of the capsule
collapses under the weight of your trembling hands.

No there is no notation for what was said between us, just figure-less voices and a strenuous pain that strained our throats for the fear of nothing being communicated between the exasperated gasps of what was less than incommunicable silence.

Ugly is not a word but a feeling applied with meaning, applied to a certain truth about that metallic taste in my mouth, that tearful pain jostled in my chest and that consuming fear.

  I know little of what this ugliness could mean other than it harbors shame in my corners. This shame is not inborn in anyone, but it builds it's presence as a drunken braggart who shouts obscenities and believes he is a prince of highest regard.

His ugliness is in what he slings from his tongue and his criticisms of all who in his mind toil about. But he is simply a angry troll with no heart and delusions of grandeur, frittering away time.. for time stands as an eternal judge and measure.
Carmella Rose Aug 2018
the way i smiled outside
is the opposite of how i cry inside
the pain left me hanging
i couldn’t take it anymore
the pressure they all gave me
the thoughts and misconceptions
the society fed me
kept being toxic
all my efforts
were nothing but trash
i seemed unnoticed
and silently i waited for someone
to hear how much myself peaked at
that metal mask that hides
my identity
i talked about my flaws
at the mirror
shouting how much
sorrow i’ve been through
seeing my bloodshot red eyes
kept me wondering
am i that pitiful?
i am that small thing
in the big perfectionist world
i couldn’t accept myself
so i torn it apart
and left every bits and pieces
of the real me
i kept using all these
makeups skincare pills
just to hide the past
but it wasn’t enough
the expectations were as high as the skies
and i was on earth
i put all my best
but it still wasn’t enough
the oceans in my eyes
shows how much i’ve suffered all throughout
the years of judgement in the pits of hell
i am sorry for being sad
been always sorry
will always be sorry
for being who i am.
i don’t know how to be me anymore, it’s like being lost in a different crowd where i am the loser and everyone here is yet to **** me.
LA Hall Nov 2013
Blaze of a rubble-car a man in faded jeans shouts, hurls a bottle -- smash -- a thousand shards of
        broken glass shine orange on crowded street.

Shouts, cries, infants sobbing loud---sirens, car alarms, a man ***** back his hand,
         holding a brick---the crack of a driver's-side window breaking. Wild yells---everyone is
         sprinting. Fire & wailing.

Sunny afternoon---birds sing in treetops; a woman under shade on sunlit grass in brown rags & an
         old hijab sobs over a slab of concrete, decorated with flowers
and a photograph
with a golden frame.
To Paint a Water Lily

A green level of lily leaves
Roofs the pond's chamber and paves

The flies' furious arena: study
These, the two minds of this lady.

First observe the air's dragonfly
That eats meat, that bullets by

Or stands in space to take aim;
Others as dangerous comb the hum

Under the trees.  There are battle-shouts
And death-cries everywhere hereabouts

But inaudible, so the eyes praise
To see the colours of these flies

Rainbow their arcs, spark, or settle
Cooling like beads of molten metal

Through the spectrum.  Think what worse
is the pond-bed's matter of course;

Prehistoric bedragoned times
Crawl that darkness with Latin names,

Have evolved no improvements there,
Jaws for heads, the set stare,

Ignorant of age as of hour—
Now paint the long-necked lily-flower

Which, deep in both worlds, can be still
As a painting, trembling hardly at all

Though the dragonfly alight,
Whatever horror nudge her root.
There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
     finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
     throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I'm not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.
Theia Eos Sep 2014
I never knew what caused the truck to crash into our car that morning. Perhaps it was the rain and the road was slippery, perhaps it was yet again another case of “do not drink and drive”, or perhaps the man behind the wheel was not at all to blame, and that it was the fault of the engines.

The crash and screech of metal on metal was deafening. It happened so fast and when I woke, I looked to my side and saw a face I knew so well, except this time I could not see her beautiful features; her skin was covered in blood, like red paint splashed onto a plain white canvas. And in the red I could see glistening shards of glass, like diamonds proud to have finally found an owner. Then I heard in the distance, voices and shouts. I could not make out the words they were saying, as if I was trying to hear someone underwater. I looked up outside the window, and there stood a man shouting at me, a foreign face. I feel my tiny figure being carried out of the car window, as the door decided it would not open.

We waited on the terrace of an old lady’s house for help to come. The shock made me feel numb and so I just sat quietly, with the cry of my nanny in the background, her body hugging my sister and my mother, who are unconscious and have yet to know what had happened.

Then, I did not how, but I arrived at the hospital where I saw my dad run past me into the room. I remember mostly the smell of disinfectant and finding little pieces of glass in my hair.

I lost my ability to speak for a few days after the incident, and I feel now that it impacted me more than I thought it did.

The shock and horror are no longer, but it is strange now to remember what had happened. When I close my eyes and recall the accident, some details are so vivid and clear. Yet at the same time, I feel as though it all never happened, like it was some sort of false memory implanted in my head for no apparent reason.
jeremy wyatt Jan 2011
Poor mad Bran sat at the edge of the well
scratching  and pulling at the stones
through days of cold and rain
summers blaze
whispering to himself words of no import
no-one understands this poor mad man
sat with his hound that never leaves his side
the people feeding and warming him when they could
a big man with no mind they said
but he had a smile for the children
and could cure a lame horse with a touch
then scratches at the stone and talk  again
at mid summer's eve he stopped talking and listened

On Midsummer's day he was gone
at lughnasadh he was found at the well
freshly healed wounds on him and the brave hound
and a girl-child with no voice to speak
but she could smile and sing of the sea
they took the girl to the great hall
but she came to sit each day at Bran's side
listening and singing to him in the evening
waiting for them to come for her

They came  at Imbolc
biting frost days wise women sensed them
creeping slow stained fields defiled by their foulness
the child is what they want
and some would quail and give her up
the women blessed her
set her upon on her horse
asked  for it to run it's small heart out

doors crashed, splintered wood
swords and spears flash and jab
evil tries to take her back
but she is gone and evil  must follow
hindered by men and their strength
women and their hearts and knives

Bran digs in the stones where he scratches
shouts to his hound "Guide Her back to the sea.."
drags the sword out from the rocks
where he has guarded it all these long years
then waits for evil to come
Iron-clad heavy, black steel and hate
ten spared the chase to bring terror and death
"You will all die..." their eyes flash
Yes, but not here, not today,  Bran's smile back..

Gone now leaving scarecrow corpses
nothing evil daring to come past
the wreck of bodies  he scattered
armour scales flew like ****** rain as he bites through
to their blackened hearts
then runs to the sea to meet fate and the coming change
he catches them at the strands edge
cold spume driven by the east wind
soaking the wounded dog and the horse collapsed
foam flecked, stricken, and the child who won't leave them

Thundering their hate an onslaught of rage
horses of the sea rise up and drag so many down
but a few keep on, the strongest ones
Bran sees them, He knows there is no hell
but these would take her somewhere worse
so he will stand alone and face their curse
He whispers quietly again to what flies above him
all these patient years they guarded and watched
he was the first to bring the cross to this wild land
but waited till now to show his hand

Swords and strength blood and wounds battling on
until even he is struck down,
Angel guardians silent watch his doom.
Broken spear driven through his chest
but still striving to live and save

The Great Dark One moves in to take the child
sneers, plots to soil and twist her to his will
the last one Bran could just not ****
but She looks up with gentle tears
"What would you have me do"? Asked this
child of the Elder Gods..
" Take me to your realm,
so I may be the darkest of all powers."
"No" says Bran,"With one final embrace,
I take you with me to heaven, with Christ's grace.."
Hugging him tight, Bran's death-spear kills two,
one forgiving one forgiven, as the weapon drives through

And the waves drifts slowly in washing the hurt from
child and beasts,  She drifts in the tide ,
horse now beside her playing in new form
guardian of the child of the sea,
who this Man of God She  Mourns
But the dog, strong again returns
to sit by the well and remember his master,
the coming of Mad Bran and the dawn
of the  Old God's passing.
This is a story in my head I have shrunk down to this size for fun. I will try and do it properly one day, that and a thousand other things I mean to do!

— The End —