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guy scutellaro Oct 2019
The rain ****** through a darkening sky.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles. Softly, he whispers, " Man, you're the biggest, whitest, what hell are you anyway?"

The pup sits up and Jack Delleto caresses her neck, but much to the mutt's chagrin the man stands up and walks away.

Jack has his hand on the door about to go into the bar. The pup issues an interrogatory, "Woof?"

The rain turns to snow.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles, "My grandma used to say that when it snows the angels are sweeping heaven. I'll be back for you, Snowflake."

Jack shivers. His smile fading, the night jumps back into his eyes.

Snowflake chuffs once, twice.

The man is gone.



The room would have been a cold ,dark place except the bodies who sit on the barstools or stand on the ***** linoleum floor produce heat. The cigarette smoke burns his eyes. Jack Delleto looks down the length of the bar to the boarded shut fire place and although the faces are shadows, he knows them all.

The old man who always sits at the second barstool from the dart board is sitting at the second bar stool. His fist clenched tightly around the beer mug, he stares at his own reflection in the mirror.

The aging barmaid, who often weeps from her apartment window on a hot summer night or a cold winter evening, is coming on to a man half her age. She is going to slip her arm around his bicep at any moment.

"Yeah," Jack smiles, "there she goes."

Jack Delleto knows where the regulars sit night after night clutching the bar with desperation, the wood rail is worn smooth.

In the mirror that runs the length of the bar Jack Delleto sees himself with clarity. Brown hair and brown eyes. Just an ordinary 29 year old man.

"Old Fred is right," he thinks to himself, "If you stare at shadows long enough, they stare back." Jack smiles and the red head returns his smile crossing her long legs that protrude beneath a too short skirt.

The bartender recognizes the man smiling at the redhead.

"Well,  Jack Delleto, Dell, I heard you were dead. " The six foot, two hundred pound bartender tells him as Dell is walking over to the bar.

"Who told you that?"

"Crazy George, while he was swinging from the wagon wheel lamp." Bob O'Malley says as he points to the wagon wheel lamp hanging from the ceiling.

"George, I heard, HE was dead."

The bartender reaches over the bar resting the palms of his big hands on the edge of the bar and flashes a smile of white, uneven teeth. Bob extends his hand. "Where the hell have you been?"

They shake hands.

Dell looks up at the Irishman. "I ve been at Harry's Bar in Venice drinking ****** Marys with Elvis and Ernest."

Bob O'Malley grins, puts two shot glasses on the bar, and reaches under the bar to grab a bottle of bourbon. After filling the glasses with Wild Turkey, he hands one glass to Dell. They touch glasses and throw down the shots.

"Gobble, gobble," O Malley smiles.


The front door of the bar swings open and a cold wind drifts through the bar. Paul Keater takes off his Giants baseball cap and with the back of his hand wipes the snow off of his face.

"Keater," Bob O'Malley calls to the Blackman standing in the doorway.

Keater freezes, his eyes moving side to side in short, quick movements. He points a long slim finger at O'Malley, "I don't owe you any money," Paul Keater shouts.

The people sitting the barstools do not turn to look.

"You're always pulling that **** on me." Keater rushes to the bar, "I PPPAID YOU."

As Delleto watches Keater arguing with O'Malley, the anger grows into the loathing Dell feels for Keater. The sauve, sophisticated Paul Keater living in a room above the bar. The man is disgusting. His belly hangs pregnant over his belt. His jeans have fallen exposing the crack of his ***, and Keater just doesn't give a ****. And that ragged, faded, baseball cap, ****, he never takes it off.

When Keater glances down, he realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto. Usually, Paul Keater would have at least considered punching Delleto in his face. "The **** wasn't any good," Paul feining anger tells O'Malley. "Everybody said it was, ****."

The bartender finishes rinsing a glass in the soapy sink water and then places it on a towel. "*******."

Keater slides the Giant baseball cap back and forth across his flat forehead. "**** it," he turns and storms out of the bar.

"Can I get a beer?" Dell asks but O"Malley is already reaching into the beer box. Twisting the cap off, he puts it on the bar. "It's not that Keater owes me a few bucks, "he tells Dell, "if I didn't cut him off he'd do the stuff until he died." Bob grabs a towel and dries his hands.

"But the smartest rats always get out of the maze first," Jack tells Bob.


Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and losing lottery tickets litter the linoleum floor. Jack Delleto grabs the bottle of beer off the bar and crosses the specter of unfilled wishes.

In the adjacent room he sits at a table next to the pinball machine to watch a disfigured man with an anorexic women shoot pool. Sometimes he listens to them talk, whisper, laugh. Sometimes he just stares at the wall.

"We have a winner, "the pinball machine announces, "come ride the ferris wheel."



"I'm part Indian. "

Jack looks up from his beer. The Indian has straight black hair that hangs a few inches above her shoulders, a thin face, a cigarette dangling from her too red lips.

"My Mom was one third Souix, " the drunken women tells Jack Delleto.

The Indian exhales smoke from her petite nose waiting for a come on from the man with the sad face. And he just stares, stares at the wall.

Her bushy eyebrows come together forming a delicate frown.

Jack turns to watch a brunette shoot pool. The woman leans over the pool table about to shoot the nine ball into the side pocket. It is an easy shot.

The brunette looks across the pool table at Jack Delleto, "What the **** are you starin at?" She jams the pool stick and miscues. The cue ball runs along the rail and taps the eight ball into the corner pocket. "AH ****," she says.

And Jack smiles.

The Indian thinks Jack is smiling at her, so she sits down.

"In the shadows I couldn't see your eyes," he tells her, "but when you leaned forward to light that cigarette, you have the prettiest green eyes."

She smiles.

" I'm Kathleen," her eyes sparkling like broken glass in an alley.

Delleto tries to speak.

"I don't want to know your name," she tells Jack Delleto, the smile disappearing from her face. "I just want to talk for a few minutes like we're friends," she takes a drag off the cigarette, exhales the smoke across the room.

Jack recognizes the look on her face. Bad dreams.

"I'll be your friend," he tells her.

"We're not going to have ***." The Indian slowly grinds out the cigarette into the ashtray, looks up at the man with the sad face.

I met my older sister in Baltimore yesterday. Hadn't seen her since I was nine, since Mom died. I wanted to know why Dad put me in foster homes. Why? I had so many questions and you know what?
I didn't ask one."

Jack is finishing his beer.

"Maybe if you knew the reasons, now, it wouldn't matter anyway."

The man with the black eye just doesn't get it. She lived with them long enough. Long enough to love them.

She stands up, stares at Jack Delleto.

And walks away.


It's the fat blondes turn to shoot pool. She leans her great body ever so gently across the green felt of the pool table, shoots and misses. When she tries to raise herself up off the pool table, the tip of the pool cue hits the Miller Lite sign above the pool table sending the lamb rocking violently back and forth. In flashes of light like the frames from and old Chaplin movie the sad and grotesque appear and disappear.

"What the **** are you starin at?" The skinny brunette asks.

Jack pretends to think for a moment. "An unhappy childhood."

Suddenly, she stands up, looking like death wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt.

"Dove sta amore," Jack Delleto asks.

Death is angry, steps closer.

"Must be that time of the month, huh," Jack grins.

With her two tiny fists clenched tightly at her side, the brunette stares down into Delleto's eyes. Suddenly, she punches Jack in the eye.

Jack stands up bringing his forearm up to protect his face. At the same time Death steps closer. His forearm catches her under the chin. The bony ***** goes down.

Women rush from the shadows. They pull Jack to the ***** floor, punch and kick him.

In the blinking of the Miller Light Jack Delleto exclaims," I'm being smother by fat lesbians in soft satin pants."  But then someone is pulling the women off of him.

The Miller Lite gently rocks and then it stops.

Jack stands up, shakes his head and smiles.

"Nice punch Dell," Bob O' Malley says, "I saw from the bar."

Jack hits the dust off of his pants, grabs the beer bottle off of the table, takes a swallow. Smiling, he says, "I box a little."

"I can tell by your black eye." O'Malley puts his hand on his friends shoulder. "Come on I'll buy you a shot. What caused this spontaneous expression of love?"

"They thought I was a ******."


2 a.m.

Jack Delleto walks out the door of the bar into the wind swept gloom. The gray desolation of boarded shut downtown is gone.

The rain has finally turn to snow.

His eyes follow the blue rope from the parking meter pole to its frayed end in the plowed hill of snow at the corner of Cookman Avenue.

The dog, Snowflake, dead, Jack thinks.


The snow covers everything. It covers the abandon cars and the abandon buildings, the sidewalk and its cracks. The city, Delleto imagines, is and adjectiveless word, a book of white pages. He steps off the curb into the gutter and the street is empty for as far as he can see. He starts walking.

Jack disappears into empty pages.


Chapter 2


Paul Keater has a room above Wagon Wheel Bar where the loud rock music shakes the rats in the walls til 2a.m. The vibrations travel through the concrete floor, up the bed posts, and into the matress.

Slowly Paul's eyes open. Who the hell is he fooling. Even without the loud music, he would not be able to sleep, anyway.

Soft red neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks into his room.

Paul Keater sits up, sighs, resigns himself to another sleepless night, swings his legs off the bed. His x-wife. He thinks about her frequently. He went to a phycologist because he loved her.

Dump the *****, the doctor said.

"I paid him eighty bucks and all he had to say was dump the *****." He laughs, shakes his head.

Paul thinks about *******, looks around the tiny room, and spots a clear plastic case containing the baseball cards he had collected when he was a boy.

He walks to the dresser and puts on his Giant's baseball cap. Paul sits down on the wooden chair by the sink. Turns on the lamp. The card on top is ***** Mays. Holding it in his hand, it is perfect. The edges are not worn like the other cards.

It was his tenth birthday and his dad had taken to his first baseball game and his father had bought the card from a dealer.

Oblivious to the loud rock music filtering into his room, he stares at the card.

Fondly, he remembers.

Dad.


                                     *     

It arrives unobtrusively. His heart begins to race faster.
Jack Delleto rolls away from the cracked wall. He sits up and drops his legs off the bed.

Jack Delleto thinks about mountains.

When he cannot sleep he thinks about climbing up through the fog that makes the day obscure, passing where the stunted spruce and fir tees are twisted by the wind, into cold brilliant light. Once as he climbed through the fog he saw his shadow stretching a half a mile across a cloud and the world was small. Far down to the east laid cliffs and gullies, glaciated mountains and to the west were the plains and cities of everyday life.

The army coat is draped over the back of the chair. In the pocket is his notebook. Jack stands and takes the notebook from the pocket. When he sits in the wooden chair he opens the book and slides the pen from the binder.

When he finishes his story he makes the end into the beginning.



                                           Chapter 3


"I want a captain in a truck." The 10 year old boy with the brown hair tells his mom. "I want it NOW."

His blonde haired mom wearing the gold diamond bracelet nods her head at Jack Delleto. Jack looks up at the clock on the wall. It is only 9a.m. After four years of college Jack has a part time job at K.B. Toy store. "We're all out of them," he tells her for the second time.

"Honey," Blondie tells the boy, they're all out of them."

"YOU PROMISED."

"How about a sargeant in a jeep?

"OK, but I want a missile firing truck , too."

Delleto turns to the display case behind the counter. Briefly, he studies his black eye in the display case mirror and then begins searching the four shelves and twenty rows of 3 inch plastic toys. He finds the truck. His head is aching. He finds the truck and puts it on the counter in front of the boy.

"Sorry, we're all out of the sargeant," Jack tells the pretty lady. The aching in his head just won't go away.

"Mommy, mommy, I want an ATTACK HELIOCOPTER, MOMMMEEE, I WANTAH TTTAAANNNK..."

Jack Delleto leans over the counter resting his elbows on the glass top. The boy is staring at the man with the black eye, at his bruised unshaven face.

"Well, we haven't got any, GODDAMED TANKS. How about a , KICKINTHE ***."

Finally the boy and his mother are quiet.

"My husband will have you fired."

She grabs the boy by the hand. Turns to rush out of the store.

Jack mutters something.

"MMOOOMEEE,  what does..."

"Oh, shut the hell up," the pretty lady tells her son


                              
     

The assistant manager takes a deep drag on her cigarette, exhales, and crosses her arms to hold the cigarette in front of her. Susan looks down at Jack sitting on the stool behind the counter. He stands up. "Did you tell some lady to blow you?" She crushes the cigarette out in the ashtray on the shelf below the counter. "Maybe you don't need this job but I do."

"Sue, there's no smoking in the mall."

"Jack, you look tired," the cubby teenager tells him, "and your eye. Another black eye."

"I was attacked by five women."

'Oh, I see, in your dreams maybe. I see, it's one of those male fantasies I'm always reading about in Cosmo. You re not boxing again, are you Dell?" Sue likes to call him Dell.

"I go down to the gym to work out. Felix says I've got something."

"Yeah, a black eye." Susan laughs, opens the big vanilla envelope, and hands Jack his check.

She turns and takes a pair of sunglasses from the display stand. "You 're scaring the children, Dell ." Susan steps closer looks into Dell's brown eyes and the slips the sunglasses on his face. "Why don't you go to lunch."

                                        
     

It's noon and the mall is crowded at the food court area. Jack gets a 20oz cup of coffee, finds a table and sits down.

"Go over and talk to him. " Susan says. Jack turns his head , looks back, sees the Indian walking towards his table.

"Hello, Kathrine," says Jack Delleto.

"My names not Kathrine, it's Kathleen."

Jack pulls the chair away from the table, "Have a seat Kate."

Her eyebrows form that delicate frown. "My names Kathleen." As soon as she sits down she takes a cigarette from the pack sticking out of her pocketbook. "I had to leave. I told the baby sitter I'd only be gone an hour. Anyway you weren't much help."

"So why did you come over to talk to me?"

"You were alone, always alone."

"You've seen me there before?"

"Yeah, sitting by the pin ball machine staring at the wall, and sometimes, you'd take out your little blue note pad and write in it.
"What are you writing? Are you goin to write about me..."

"How many kids do you have?"

"Just one. A boy, and believe me one is enough. He'll be four in June," Kathleen smiles but then she remembers and abruptly the smile disappears from her face. "Sometimes I see Anthony's father in the mall and I ask him if he'd like to meet his son, but he doesn't.

Kathleen draws the cigarette smoke deep into her lungs, tilts her head back, and blows the smoke towards the skylight. Suddenly caught in the sunlight the smoke becomes a gray cloud. " I didn't want to marry him anyway, I don't know why he thought that."

She hears the scars as Delleto talks, something sad about the man, something like old newspapers blowing across a deserted street. She hears the scars and knows never, never ask where the scars came from.


                              
     

As Jack walks towards the bank to cash his check, he glances out the front entrance to the mall. It is a bright, cold day and the snowplows are finishing up the parking lot plowing the snow into big white hills. That is the fate of the big white pup plowed to the corner of Cookman and Main buried deep in ***** snow. At that street corner when the school is over the children will play on the hill never realizing what lay beneath there feet.

The snow must melt; spring is inevitable.

His pup will be back.



                                           Chapter 4


The 19 year old light heavyweight leans his muscular body forward to rest his gloved hands on the tope rope of the ring. He bows his head waiting to regain his breath as his lungs fight to force air deep into his chest. Bill Wain has finished boxing 4 rounds with Red.

Harry the trainer, gently pulls the untied boxing gloves from Red's hands. "Good fight, he says, patting Red on the back as the fighter climbs through the ropes and heads to the showers. Harry hands the sweat soaked gloves to Felix who puts one glove under his arm while he loosens the laces on the other 12ounce glove. He makes the sleeve wider.

"Do you want the head gear?" Felix asks.

Jack Delleto shakes his head and pushes his taped hand deep into the glove.

The old man takes the other glove from under his arm, pulls the laces out, and holds it open. Without turning his head to look at him, Felix tells Harry, "Make sure Bill doesn't cool down. Tell him to shadow box. Harry walks over to Bill and Bill starts shadow boxing.

Jack pushes his hand into the glove. "Make a fist." Jack does. Felix pulls the laces and ties it into a bow.

Felix looks intently into Delleto's eyes. "How does that feel?"

"About right."

"You look tired."

"I am a little."

"Are you sick or is it a woman."

"I'm not sick."

A big smile forms across the face of the former welterweight champion of Nevada. The face of the 68 year old Blackman is lined and cracked like the old boxing gloves that Jack is wearing but his tall body is youthful and athletic in appearance. Above Felix's eyebrows Jack sees the effect of 20 years as a professional fighter. He sees the thick scar tissue and the thin white lines where the old man's skin has been stitched and restitched many times. As he gives instructions to Jack, Felix's brown eyes seem to be staring at something distant and jack wonders if Felix has chased around the ring one time too often his dream.

"And get off first. Don't stop punching until he goes down. You've got it kid and not every fighter does."

Jack and Felix start walking over to the ring.

"What is it I've got?" Jack Deletto wonders.

"Felix puts his foot on the fourth strand of the rings rope and with his hand pulls up the top strand and as Jack steps into the ring, "You've got HEART."

In the opposite corner Bill Wain waits.

"Will he be alright?" Harry asks.

"Bill's tired, " Felix replies, then he tries to explain. "It's not about money. I'm almost 70 and I want to go out a winner." Felix pauses and the offers, he can hit hard with either hand."

"Yeah, but at best he's a small middleweight and he only moves in one direction, straight ahead."

"Harry, I love the guy," Felix puts his hand on Harry's shoulder, he's like Tyson at the end of his career. He'd fight you to the death but he's not fighting to win anymore."

Harry puts his hands in his pocket and stares at the floor. "Do you want me to tell him to go easy." Harry looks up at Felix waiting for an answer.

"I'm tired of sweeping dirt from behind the boxes of wax beans and tuna fish. I'm sick of collecting shopping carts in the rain. A half way decent white heavyweight can make a lot of money. It's stupid for a fighter to practice holding back. Bill's a winner. Jack'll be alright."

Felix hands the pocket watch to Harry so he can time the rounds.

Bill Wain comes out of his corner circling left.

Jack rushes straight ahead.

Felix winks at Jack Delleto and whispers, "The Jack of hearts."



                                           Chapter 5


The front door of the Wagon Wheel bar explodes open to Ziggy Pop's, "YOU'VE GOT A LUST FOR LIFE." Jack Delleto 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 bar. How the hell have you been Snake?" Jack asks.

"Just great," says Snake. "You're lookin pretty ****** good for a dead man."

"Who told you that? Crazy George?"

The bartender points across the room to where a man in a pin stripe suit is swinging to and fro from a wagon wheel lamp attached to the ceiling.

"Yeah, I thought so. Haven't seen Crazy George in a year and he's been telling everyone I'm dead. I'm gonna have to have a long talk with that man."

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

How's the other George? Dell asks.

"AA."

"How's Tommy? You see him anymore?"

"Rehab."

"What about Robbie?"

Snake refills the glasses. "He's livin in a nudist colony in Florida, he has two wives and 6 children."


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

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

O'Malley smiles and then jumps up on the top of the bar and although he is over six feet and weighs two hundred pounds, he has the dexterity and grace of a ballerina as he pirouttes around and jumps over the shot glasses and beer bottles that litter the bar.

Wedding guests lean back in their chairs as strangers fearful of his gyrations ****** their drinks off the bar. Bob fakes a slip as he prances 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 is reaches the end of the bar he jumps to the floor, pulls two aluminum lids from the beer box, and with one in each hand he smacks them together like cymbals.

Some guests clap. The bemused just stare.

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

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

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

O'Malley stops under the wagon wheel lamp and turns as Delleto steps into the  circle of light cast onto the floor.

"Congratulations, I know Theresa and you are goin to be happy. I mean that." Delleto offers his hand and they shake hands.

"Thanks, Mr. Cool."

Jack takes off the sunglasses.

"TWO black eyes. Your nose is bleeding. What happened?"

Dell takes the handkerchief from his back pocket, wipes the blood dripping down his face. "It's broken."

"What happened?" O'Malley asks again.

"Bill Wain."

"He turned pro."

"Yeah, but he's nothing special. Hell, he couldn't even knock me down."

O'Malley shakes his head. "Put the sunglasses back on, you look like a friggin raccoon."

Dell smiles. The blood running down his lips."Thersa's beautiful, Bob, you're a lucky guy."

"Thanks Dell." O'Malley puts his hand on Dell's shoulder and sqeezes affectionately. Bob looks across the room at Teresa. "Yeah, she is beautiful." Theresa mother has stopped crying. Her father just stares at the wall.

O'Malley looks away from his bride and passed the archway that divides the poolroom from the bar and into the corner. With the lamp light above his head gleaming in his eyes Bob seems to see a ghost fleeting in the far distant, dark corner. Slowly, a peculiar half smile forms uneven, white, tombstone teeth.  A pensive smile.

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

At night in July the moths were everywhere. When Dell was a boy he would sit on his porch and try to count them. The moths appeared as faint splashes of whiteness scattered throughout the night, odd circles of white that moved haphazardly, forward and then sideways, sometimes up and down.

Sometimes the patches of moths flew higher and higher and Dell imagined the lights those creatures were seeking were the stars themselves; Orion, the Big Dipper and even the milky hue of the Milkyway.

One night as the moths pursued starlight he saw shadows dropping one by one from the tops of the trees. The swallows were soundless and when he caught a glimpse of sudden darkness, blacker than the night, the shadows erased the dreamer and its dream.

His imagination gave definition to form. There was a sound to the shadows of the swallows in his thoughts, the melody and the song played over and over. Perhaps he saw his reflection in the night. Perhaps there are shadows where nothing exists to cast them.

"Do you hear them, Bob?"

"Hear what?" Bob asks.

"All of them."

"All of what?"

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

O'Malley doesn't understand but it does not matter. The two men have shared the same corner of darkness.

Bob calls to Paul Keater. Keater smiles broadly, slides the brim of his Giant baseball cap to the side of his forehead. The two men disappear through the swinging kitchen door.


                                          Chapter 6


"Hello Kate." Jack Delleto says and sits down. She has a blue bow in her hair and make up on.

"My names Kathleen."

She fondles the whiskey glass in her slim fingers. "Hello, Dell, Sue thinks Dell is such a **** name. Kathleen takes a last drag on her cigarette, rubs it out in the ashtray, looks up at him, "What should I call you?"

"How about, Darlin?"

"Hello, Jack, DARLIN," her soft, deep voice whispers. Kathleen crosses her legs and the black dress rides up to the middle of her thigh.

Jack glances at the milky white flesh between the blue ***** hose and the hem of her dress. Kate is drunk and Dell does not care. He leans closer, "Do you wanna dance?"

"But no one else is dancing."

"Well, we can go down to the beach, take a walk along the sand."

"It's twenty degrees out there."

"I'll keep you warm."

"All right, lets dance."

Jack stands up takes her by the hand. As Kathleen rises Jack draws her close to him. Her ******* flatten against his chest. He feels her heart thumping.

The Elvis impersonator that almost played Las Vegas; the hairdresser that wanted to be a race car driver; the insurance salesman with a Porche and a wife.  Her men talked about what they owned or what they could do.

Kathleen had never meant anyone quite like Dell.

She rests her head on his shoulder. "What do you what more than anything? What do you dream about at night?"

"Nothing."

"Come on," she says," what do you want more than anything? Tell me your dreams."

Jack smiles, "Just to make it through another day."  He smiles that sad smile that she saw the first time they met. "Tell me what you want."

Kate lifts her head off of his shoulder and looks into his eyes."I don't want to be on welfare the rest of my life and I want to be able to send my son to college." She rests her cheek against his, "I've lived in foster homes all my life and every time I knew one day I'd have to leave, what I want most is a home. Do you know the difference between a house and a home?"

"No."

Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear, "LOVE."

The song comes to an end and they leave the circle of light and sit down. Kate takes a cigarette from the pack.

Dell strikes a match. The flame flickering in her eyes. "Maybe someday you'll have your home."

"Do you want me to?"

"Yeah."

Kate blows out the match.


                                  
     


"Can you take me home?" Kate asks slurring her words.

Kathleen and Jack walk over to where the bride and groom are standing near the big glass refrigerator door with Paul Keater. When Paul realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto he rocks back and forth on the heals of his worn shoes, slides his Giants baseball cap back and forth  across his forehead and walks away.

O'Malley bends down and kisses Kathleen on the cheek and turns to shake hands with Dell. "Good luck," says Dell. Kathleen embraces the bride.

Outside the bar the sun is setting behind the boarded shut Delleto store.

"That was my Dad's store, " Jack tells Kate and then Jack whispers to to himself as he reads the graffiti spray painted on the front wall.
"TELL YOUR DREAMS TO ME, TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, IF YOU LOVE ME TELL ALL YOUR DREAMS TO ME."


                                         Chapter 7


An old man comes shuffling down the street, "Hello Mr. Martin, " Jack says, "How are you?"

"I'm an old man Jack, how could I be," and then he smiles, "ah, I can't complain. How are you?"

"Still alive and well."

"Who is this pretty young lady?"

"This Kate."

Joesph Martin takes Kathleen by the arm and  gently squeezes, "Hello Kate, such a pretty women, ah if I was only sixty," and the old man smiles.

Kathleen forces a smile.

The thick eyeglasses that Mr. Martin wears magnifys his eyes as he looks from Kathleen to Jack, "Have fun now because when you are dead you are going to be dead a long, long time."

"How long?  Delleto inquires.

The old man smirks and waves as he continues up the street to the door leading to the rooms above the bar. He turns to face the door. The small window is broken and the shards of glass catch the twilight.

Joesph Martin turns back looking at the man and young woman who are about to get into the car. He is not certain what he wants to say to them. Perhaps he wants to tell them that it ***** being an old man and the upstairs hallway always smells of ****.

Joesph Martin wants to tell someone that although Anna died seven years ago his love endures and he misses her everyday. Joesph recalls that Plato in Tamaeus believed that the soul is a stranger to the Earth and has fallen into matter because of sin.

A faint smile appears on the wrinkled face of the old man as he heeds the resignation he hears in his own thoughts.

Jack waves to Mr. Martin.  Joesph waves back. The mustang drives off.

Earth, O island Earth.


                                               Chapter 8


Joseph pushes open the door and goes into the hallway. The fragments of glass scattered across the foyer crunch and clink under his shoes. The cold wind blowing through the broken window touches his warm neck. He shivers and walks up the stairs. There is only enough light to see the wall and his own warm breathing. There is just enough light like when he has awaken from a  bad dream, enough to remember who he is and to separate the horror of what is real from the horror of what is dreamt.

The old man continues climbing the stairs following the familiar shadow of the wall cast onto the stairs. If he crosses the vague line of shadow and light he will disappear like a brown trout in the deepest hole in a creek.

By the time he reaches the second floor he is out of breath. Joseph pauses and with the handkerchief he has taken from his back pocket he wipes the fog from the lenses of his eyeglasses and the sweat from his forehead.

A couple of doors are standing open and the old man looks cautiously into each room as he hurries passed. One forty watt bulb hangs from a frayed wire in the center of the hallway. The wiring is old and the bulb in the white porcelain socket flickers like the blinking of an eye or the fearful beating of the heart of an old man.

When he opens the door to his room it sags on ruined hinges.

Joesph searches with his hand for the light switch.  Several seconds linger. Can't find it.

Finds it and quickly pushes the door shut. He sits down on the bed, doesn't take his coat off, reaches for the radio. It is gone

Joseph looks around the room. A small dresser, the sink with a mirror above it. He takes off his coat and above the mirror hangs the coat on the nail he has put there.

Hard soled boots echo hollowly off the hallway walls. The echoes are overlapping and he can not determine if the footsteps are leaving or approaching. Joseph grabs the crow bar he keeps under his pillow. Holds it until there is silence.

He lays back on the bed. Another night without sleep. Joseph rolls onto his side and faces the wall.

Earth, O island Earth.



                                           Chapter 9


Tangled in the tree tops a rising moon hangs above the roofs of identical Cape Cod houses.

Jack pulls the red mustang behind a station wagon. Kathleen is looking at Dell. His face is a faint shadow on the other side of the car. "Do you want to come up?" she asks.

Kathleen steps out of the car, breathes the cold air deep into her lungs. It is fresh and sweet. Jack comes around the side of the car just as she knew he would. He takes her into his arms and kisses her and they walk beneath the old oak tree and the roots have raised and crack the sidewalk and in the spring tiny blue flowers will bloom. The flowers remind Jack of the columbines that bloom in high mountain meadows above treeline heralding a brief season of sun and warmth.

"Did you win?" Kathleen asks as she fits the key into the upstairs apartment door. The door swings open into the kitchen.

Dell, standing in the doorway looking like the Jack of Hearts. "It doesn't matter."

"You lost?"

"Yeah."

Crossing the room she takes off her coat and places it on the back of the kitchen chair. When Kate leans across the kitchen table to turn on the radio the mini dress rides up her thigh, tugs tightly around her buttocks.

The radio plays softly.

Jack stands and as Kathleen turns he slips his arms around her waist and she is staring into his eyes like a cat into a fire. His body gently presses against the table and when he lifts her onto the table her legs wrap around his waist.

Kathleen sighs.

Jack kisses her. Her lips are cold like the rain. His hand reaches. There is a faint click. The room slips into darkness. It is Eddie Money on the radio, now, with Ronnie Spectre singing the back up vocals. Eddie belts out, "TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, I WON"T LET YOU LEAVE TIL..."

When Jack withdraws from the kiss her eyes are shining like diamonds in moonlight.

The buttons of her dress are unfastened.  Her arms circle his neck and pull him to her *******. "Don't Jack. You mustn't. I just want a friend." His hands slide up her thighs. "I'll be your friend, " says Jack.

"*** always ruins every thing," Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear. He pulls her to the edge of the table as Ronnie sings, "O DARLIN, O MY DARLIN, WON'T YOU BE MY LITTLE BAABBBY NOOWWW."


Now that they have gotten *** out of the way, maybe they can talk. Sliding her hands around his face she pulls him closer.

"Jack, what do you dream about? You know what I mean, tell your dreams to me."



                                             Chapter 10



All the windows in the apartment are open. The cool breeze flows through her brown hair. "You're getting too serious, Jack, and I don't want to need you."

"That's because I care for you."

The rain pounds the roof.

Jack Delleto sits down on the bed, caresses her shoulder. "I hate the rain. Come on, give me a smile. "Kathleen pulls away and faces the wall.

"Well I don't need anyone."

"People need people."

There is silence, then, "I only care about my son and Father Anthony."

"What is it with you and the priest?" You named your son Anthony is that because he's the father."

"Your an *******. Get out of here. I don't love you." And then, "I've been hurt by people and you'll get over it."

The lingering silence. Jack gets up from the bed, stares at her dark form facing the wall. "Isn't this how it always ends for you?"

The room is quiet and grows hot. When the silence numbs his racing heart, he goes into the kitchen, opens the front door and walks down the steps into the cold rain.


"Anthony," Kathleen calls to her son to come to her from the other bedroom and he climbs into the bed and she holds him close. The ghost of relationships past haunt her and although they are all sad, she has she clings to them.


On the sidewalk below the apartment window Jack stops. He thinks he hears his name being called but whatever he has heard is carried off by the wind. He continues up the  dark street to his Harley.

High in reachless branches of the old oak tree a mockingbird is singing. The leaves twist in the wind and  the singing goes on and on.



                                            
     



The ringing phone.

"Who the hell is this?" The clock on the dresser says 5a.m.

"Jack, I'm scared."

"Kate?"

"Someone broke into my apartment."

"Is he still there?"

"No, He ran out the door when I screamed."

"I'll be right over."



                                         Chapter11


"How hot is it?" Kathleen asks.

The bar is empty except for O'Malley, Keater, a man and a woman.

"98.6,"Says Jack. The sweat rolls down his cheeks.

"Let's go to the boardwalk."

"When it's hot like this, it's hot all over."

"We could go on the rides."

"I've got the next pool game, then we'll go."

"It's my birthday."

"I bought you flowers."

"Yeah, carnations."

Laughing, Paul Keater slides the brim of his baseball cap back and forth across his forehead.

Jack starts for Keater, Katheen steps in front of Jack, puts her hands on his shoulders. She looks into his eyes.

"What is it with you , two? But as always you'll say nothing, nothing." As Jack tries to speak she walks over to the bar and sits on the barstool.

"It's my birthday," she tells O'Malley.

When Bob turns from the horse races on he T.V., he notices her long legs and the short skirt. "Hey, happy birthday, Kate, Jack Daniels?"

"Fine."

Filling the glasses O'Malley hands one to Kathleen, "You look great," he tells her.

"Jack doesn't think so. Thanks, at least someone thinks so."

"Hope Jack won't mind," and he leans over the bar and kisses her.

Kathleen looks over her shoulder at Delleto. Jack is playing pool with a woman wearing a black tight halter top. The woman comes over to Jack, stands close, smiles, and Jack smiles back.

The boyfriend stares angrily at Jack.

When Kathleen turns back O'Malley is filling her shot glass.

Jack wins that game, too.



                                                 Chapter 12



"Daddy,"the little girl her hands folded in her lap is looking up at her father. "When will the ride stop? I want to go on."

"Soon, Darling, "her father assures her.

"I don't think it will ever stop."

"The ride always stops, Sweetie." Daddy takes her by the hand, gently squeezes.


When the carousel begins to slow down but has not quite stopped Kathleen steps onto the platform , grabs the brass support pole. The momentum of the machine grabs her with a **** onto the ride, into a white horse with big blue eyes. Dropping her cigarette she takes hold of the pole that goes through the center of the horse. She struggles to put her foot in the stirrup, finds it, and throws her leg over the horse. The carousel music begins to play. With a tremble and a jolt, the ride starts.

Sitting on the pony has made her skirt ride well up her legs. The ticket man is staring at her but she is too drunk to care. She hands him the ticket, gives him the finger.

The ticket man goes over to the little girl and her father who are sitting in a golden chariot pulled by to black horses.

"Ooooh, Daddy, I love this."

"So do I," The father smiles and strokes his daughters hair.

The heat makes the dizziness grow and as the ride picks up speed she sees two of everything. There are two rows of pin ball machines, eight flashing signs, six prize machines. All the red, blue and green lights from the ride blend together like when a car drives at night down a rain soaked street.

Kathleen feels the impulse to *****.

"Can we go on again?" The little girl asks.

"But the ride isn't over, yet."


Kathleen concentrates on the rain soaked street and the dizziness and nausea lessens. She perceives the images as a montage like the elements that make up a painting or a life. She has become accustom to the machine and its movement. The circling ride creates a cooling breeze that becomes a tranquil, flowing waterfall.

The ponies in front are always becoming the ponies in the back and the ponies in back are becoming the ponies in the front. Around and around. All the ponies galloping. Settling back into the saddle she rides the pony into the ever present waterfall.

You can lose all sense of the clock staring into the waterfall of blue, red and green. Kathleen leans forward to embrace the ride for a long as it lasts.

Just as suddenly as it started, the ride starts slowy, the music stops playing.

Coming down off the pony she does not wait for the ride to stop, stumbles off the platform and out the  Casino amusement park door."****, *******," she yells careening into the railing almost falling into Wesley Lake.

She staggers a few steps, sits down on the grass by the curb, hears the carousel music playing and knows the ride is beginning again, and all the her dreams crawls into her like a dying animal from its hidden place.

And it all comes up from her throat taking her breath away. A distant yet familiar wind so she lies down on the grass facing the  street of broken buildings filled with broken people. From the empting lot of scattered thoughts the mockingbird is singing and the images shoot off into a darkening landscape, exploding, illuminating for a brief moment, only to grow dimmer, light and warmth fading into cold and darkness.




                                      
     

"Your girlfriend is flirting with me," Jack Delleto tells the man. "It's my game."

The man stands up, takes a pool stick from the rack, as he comes towards Jack Delleto the man turns the pool stick around holding the heavy part with two hands.

There is an explosion of light inside his head, Delleto sees two spinning lizards playing trumpets, 3 dwarfs with purple hair running to and fro, intuitively he knows he has to get up off the floor, and when he does he catches the bigger man with a left hook, throws the overhand right. The man stumbles back.

His girlfriend in the tight  black halter top is jumping up and down, screaming at, screaming at Jack Delleto to stop, but Jack does not. Stepping forward, a left hook to the midsection, hook to the head, spins right, throws the overhand right.

The man does down.

Jack wins.



                                                  CHAPTE­R 13

"It's too much," and Jack looks up from the two lines of white powder at Bob O'Malley. "I'll never be able to fall asleep and I hate not being able to sleep."

" Here," Bob takes a big white pill from his shirt pocket.

Jack drops the pill into his shirt pocket and says, "No more." He hands the rolled up dollar bill to Bob who bends over the powder.

"Tom sold the house so you're upstairs? O Malley asks, and like a magician the two lines of white powder disappear. Straightening up, he looks at Dell, "I know you 're hurting Dell , I'm sorry, I'm sad about Kate, too."

Jack becomes quiet, walks through the darkened room over to the bar. Leaning over the bar he grabs two shot glasses and a bottle of Wild Turkey, walks back into the poolroom. He puts the shot glasses on top of the pin ball machine. "We have a winner, "the pin ball machine announces. Dell fills the glasses.

"Felix came in the other day, he's taken it hard. Bill Wain knock down four times in the sixth round, lost consciousness in the dressing room, and died at the hospital."

"What's the longest you went without sleep? Jack asks.

"Oooohhh, five, six days, who knows, after awhile you loose all track of the clock."

They take the shots and throw them down.

"I wonder if animals dream," Jack wants to know. "I wonder if dogs dream."

"Sure they do, " O'Malley asures him, nodding his head up and down, "dogs, cats, squirrels, birds."

"Probably not insects."

"Why not? Sure they do, june bugs, fleas, even moths, it's all biochemical, dreams are biochemical, mix the right combination of certain chemicals, electric impulses, and you'll produce love and dreams."

                                          
     

Jack Delleto goes into the room, studies it. The light from the unshaded lamp on the night stand casts a huge shadow of him onto the adjacent wall. Not much to the room, a sink with a mirror above it next to a dresser, a bed against the wall, a wooden chair in front of a narrow window.

The rain pounds the roof.

The apprehension grows. The panic turns into anger. Jack rushes the white wall, meets his shadow, explodes with a left hook. He throws the right uppercut, the over hand right, three left hooks. He punches the wall and his knucles bleed. He punches and kicks the blood stained wall.

At last he is exhausted, collapses into the chair in front of the open window. Fist sized holes in the plaster revel the bones of the building. The room has been punched and kicked without mercy.

The austere room has won.

The yellow note pad, he needs the yellow note pad, finds it, takes the pencil from the binder but no words will come so he writes, "insomnia, the absence of dream." He reaches for the lamp on the night stand, finds it, and turns off the light. Red and blue, blue and red, the neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks soft neon into his room. The sign seems to pulsate to the cadence of the rock music coming from the bar.

Taking the big white pill from his shirt pocket, he swallows it, leans back into the chair watching the shadows of rain bleed down the wall. The darkness intensifys. Jack slides into the night.



                                           Chapter 14


The rain turns to snow.

With each step he takes the pain throbs in his arm and shoulder socket. His raw throat aches from the drafts of cold air he is ******* through his gaping mouth and although his legs ache he does not turn to look back. Jack must keep punching holes with his ice axe, probing the snow to avoid a fall into an abyss.

The pole of the ice axe falls effortlessly into the snow, "**** it, another one."

Moonlight coats the glacier in an irridecent glow and the mountain looms over him. It is four in the mourning and Jack knows he needs to be high on the mountain before the  mourning sun softens the snow. He moves carefully, quietly, humbly to avoid a fall into a crevasse. When he reaches the top of the couloir the wind begins to howl.

"Da DA DUN, DA DA DUN, HEY PURPLE HAZE ALL AROUND  MY BRAIN..."

Jack thinks the song is in his head but the electric guitar notes float down through the huge blocks of ice that litter the glacier and there standing on the arête is Jimi, his long dexterous fingers flying over the guitar strings at 741 mph.

"Wait a minute, " Jack wonders, stopping dead in his tracks. The sun is hitting the distant wind blown peaks. "Ah, what the hell," and Jack jumps in strumming his ice axe like an air guitar, singing, shouting, "LATELY THINGS DON'T SEEM THE SAME, IS THIS A DREAM,  WHATEVER IT IS THAT GIRL PUT A SPELL ON MEEEE, PURRPPLLE HAZZEEE."


                                        
     


Slowly the door moans open.

"Jack, are you awake?" her voice startles him.

"Yeah, I'm awake."

"What's the matter, can't sleep?"

Jack sifts position on the chair. "Oh, I can sleep all right." He recognizes the voice of the shadow. "I want to climb to a high mountain through ice and snow and never be found."

"A heart that's empty hurts, I miss you Jack Delleto."

"I'm glad someone does, I miss you ,too."

There is silence for several minutes and the voice comes out of the darkness again.

"Jack, you forgot something that night."

"What?" The dark shape moves towards him. When it is in front of him, Jack stands, slips his arms around her waist.

"You didn't kiss me goodbye."

Her lips are soft and warm. Her arms tighten around his neck and the warmth of her body comes to him through the cold night.

"Jack, what's the matter?" She raises her head to look at him, "Why, you're crying."

"Yeah, I'm crying."

"Don't cry Darlin," her lips are soft against his ear. "I can't bare to see you unhappy, if you love me, tell me you love me."

"I love you, I do," he whispers softly.

"Hold me, Jack, hold me tighter."

"I'll never let you go." He tries to hug the shadow.


                                          
      *


The dread grows into an explosion of consciousness. Suddenly, he sits up ******* in the cold drafts of air coming into the room from the open window. Jack Delleto gets up off the chair and walks over to the sink. He turns on the cold water and bending forward splashes water onto his face. Water dripping, he leans against the sink, staring into the mirror, into his eyes that lately seem alien to him.



                                            Chapter 15


Someone approaches, Jacks turns, looks out the open door, sees Joesph Martin go shuffling by wearing a faded bathrobe and one red slipper. Jack hears Martin 's door slam shut and the for thirty seconds the old man screams, "AAHHH, AAAHHH, AAAHH."
Then the building is silent and Jack listens to his own labored breathing.

A glance at the clock. It is a few minutes to 7 a.m. Jack hurries from his room into the hallway.  They pass each other on the stairs. The big man is coming up the stairs and Jack is going down to see O'Malley.

Jack has committed a trespass.

When the big man reaches the top of the stairs, the red exit light flickers like a votive candle above his head. The man slides the brim of his Giants baseball cap back and forth across his forehead, he turns and looks down, "Hello, Jack, brother. Dad loved you, too, you know." An instant later the sound of a door closing echoes down the hallway steps.

Jack Delleto is standing in the doorway at the bottom of the steps looking out onto the wet, bright street.

"Hey, Jack, man it's good to see you, glad to see you're still alive."

Jack turns, looks over his shoulder, "Felix, how the hell are you."
The two men shake hands, then embrace momentarily.

"Ah, things don't get any better and they don't get any worse," shrugs the old man and then he smiles but his brown eyes are dull and Jack can smell the cheap wine on the breath of the old boxer. "When are comin back? Man, you've got something, Kid, and we're going places."

"Yeah, Felix, I'll be coming back."  Jack extends his hand. The old fighter smiles and they shake hands. Suddenly, Felix takes off down Main Street towards Foodtown as if he has some important place to go.

Jack is curious. He sees the rope when he starts walking towards the Wagon Wheel Bar. One end of the rope is tied around the parking meter pole. The rest of the rope extends across the sidewalk disappearing into the entrance to the bar. The rattling of a chain catches his attention and when the huge white head of the dog pops out of the doorway Jack is  startled. He stops dead in his tracks and as he spins around to run, he slips falling to the wet pavement.

The big, white mutt growls, woofs once and comes charging down the sidewalk at him. The rope is quickly growing shorter, stretches till it meets it end, tightens, and then snaps. Now, unimpeded by the tension of the rope the mutt comes charging down the sidewalk at Delleto. Jack's body grows tense anticipating the attack. He tries to stand up, makes it to his knees just as the dog bowls into him knocking him to the cement. The dog has him pinned down, goes for his face.

And begins licking him.

Jack Delleto struggles to his knees, hugs her tightly to him. Looking over her shoulder, across Main Street to the graffiti painted on the boarded shut Delleto Market...

                               FANTASY WILL SET YOU FREE

                                                 The End

To Tommy, Crazy George and Snake, we all enjoyed a little madness for awhile.


"Conversations With a Dead Dog..."
Ash Slade Jul 2017
Stares into cold --- black --- night
Stares into cold --- black --- night
Man with hollow eyes
Man with hollow eyes.

Stares into cold --- black --- night
Stares into cold --- black --- night
Lost his sight
Lost his sight.

Stares into cold --- black --- night
Stares into cold --- black --- night
Lines can't be drawn 'tween legitimate or false
Lines can't be drawn 'tween legitimate or false.

Stares into cold --- black --- night
Stares into cold --- black --- night
Cut off from facts
Cut off from facts.

Stares into cold --- black --- night
Stares into cold --- black --- night
Rejection of brokenness his handicap
Rejection of brokenness his handicap.
DIPTI DHAKUL Jun 2019
Sun stares at Mercury.
Mercury stares at Venus.
Venus stares at Earth.
Earth stares at Mars.
Mars states at Jupiter.
Jupiter stares at Saturn.
Saturn stares at Uranus.
Uranus stares at Neptune.
Neptune stares at Moon.
Moon stares at me.
Me stare at Sun.


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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Terry Collett Apr 2015
Here Kid take this what is it? whats it look like? its a prayer book thing yes so take it and hide it under your jumper why? just hide the **** thing so Benedict hides the  black book with red ends under his jumper and follows Anne into the grounds out of the French windows Anne crutches herself across the grass and makes towards the round white table and chairs and plonks herself down in a chair tossing her crutches aside Benedict sits down in the next chair looking back towards the nursing home do you think we were seen? seen doing what Kid? walking across the grass no doubt liberating Sister Dumb-arses prayer book no Anne says Benedict turns around and stares at her dont keep looking around Kid or the penguins will guess youve been up to no good me been up to no good it was your idea to take the prayer book but youve got it Kid not me but you said take it and you did well done Kid Anne says smiling she rubs her leg stump and pulls the blue skirt down further what do we do now? Benedict asks looking at Anne tempted to turn around and look behind him sit tight Kid sit tight but I cant hide the book under my jumper all day he says pass it under the table to me so he passes the prayerbook to Anne under the white table and she opens it in her lap he looks at her his stomach tightening guess whose it is? Anne asks he shrugs dont know its only Sister Bridgets how do you know? has it got her name in it? no they dont own personal property its just that it has this prayer card in it with an image of St Bridget on one side and a prayer on the other and on the top shes scrawled Sr Bridget in her bird-**** hand writing God shell go ape he says looking round at the nursing home what do we do? shush Kid what do want them to know weve got it? he stares at the building imagines the nun galloping across the lawn towards them her black robes billowing behind her like Batman turn round Kid youll look suspicious he looks round and stares at her sitting in the chair as if butter wouldnt melt in her mouth on a hot day where are you going to put it? he asks out of the sight of their eyes she says where though? she pulls up her blue skirt and tucks the black prayer book in her navy blue underwear and pulls down the skirt and brushes out the any signs you cant keep it there he says why not my knickers she says are they going to search me there? she says now just go get my wheelchair and  we can go visit the sea out the back gate he sighs and wanders back towards the home trudging across the lawn leaving Anne sitting in the chair like some royal queen on her throne she lifts up her skirt and adjusts the book more securely just as well I wore the passion killers Mum bought me she says to herself and lets down the skirt again and sits staring towards the home as she sits a few of the kids come out and make their way to the swings and slide they know her and avoid her like a plague a nun comes out too Anne stares at her its Sister Lucy a young one green as grass more ****** that the Blessed ****** herself Anne says under breath the nun walks towards Anne her hands inside her black habit how are we today Anne? the nun asks smiling my ****** leg aches Anne says o dear the nun says looking at Annes leg visible under the table have you seen Sister Paul about some pain killers? no not yet Anne says anyway its not this leg its the one not there my stump leg o I see Sister Luke says staring at the unseen stump beneath the blue skirt I could pray for your leg if you would like me to the nun says might help Anne says putting on her pious pose its hurts so much I feel like crying she allows tears to dribble out of her eyes(shes an expert of conjuring tears out of her eyes) o my dear child the nun says coming around the table and placing a hand around Annes shoulders Ill ask Sister Paul about some tablets the nun says thank you Anne whimpers feeling the prayer book move slightly as she moves in the chair she tries to adjust it with her hand to a more secure position Benedict comes across the lawn pushing the wheelchair he sees the nun and his eyes enlarge and he senses danger have they suspected Anne already about the missing prayer book? he wheels the chair behind Anne the nun looks at him arent you a good boy she says yes hes my best friend Anne says smiling through the glassy eyes the nun smiles well I best get back Ill see Sister Paul about those pills the nun says and walks off towards the home that was close Benedict say she didnt mention the prayer book Anne says she just came about me and the ****** leg and offering prayers o I see he says gazing at the stump area thinking about the stump of her leg hes seen many times are you going gawk at my stump all day or are you going to help get in the ****** wheelchair? o right yes he says and helps her get from the chair and into the wheelchair holding it steady at the back make sure the prayer book doesnt slip out of my knickers Kid she says as she rises from the chair and plonks into the wheelchair she moves the book to a more comfortable position and pulls her skirt down pass her knee just as they were about to move away Sister Bridget comes across the lawn towards them like a rhino on heat hang on Kid here comes the penguin wait wait the nun says raising a hand Benedict pauses pushing the wheelchair and stares at the approaching nun keep cool Kid Anne says under her breath act innocent as the Pope at a nudist colony Benedict feels himself perspire the nun stands in front of Anne in the wheelchair a prayer book has gone missing the nun says gazing at Anne has it? Anne says in an innocent tone yes it was taken from the Common Room shall we help look for it? Anne asks have you seen it? the nun asks no not that I know of whats it look like? Anne asks as if butter wouldnt melt a prayer book is what it looks like the nun says eyeing Anne with her suspicious eyes black cover with red ends no cant say I have Anne says Benedict looks away at the trees behind of them at the avenue between them and you Benedict have you seen it? the nun asks staring at him her eyes over him like maggots he shudders no sister not seen it at all he hates lying to  a nun he feels as if she looks into his soul and at the minor sins lurking there like naughty children then the nun looks down in Annes lap gazes at the outline of the leg stump not hiding it are we? the nun says hiding what? Anne says my stump? no I tried hiding it but its always there each morning I wake up the nun screws up her eyes and peers at them both no I mean the book where is it? no idea Anne says Benedict looks down at Annes lap where have you hidden it? the nun says havent seen it Anne says one of the children says she saw you take it the nun says me? Anne says you cant take the word of child I believe what the child tells me Benedict looks at the outline of the leg stump the child says you have it about your person she saw you from the upper bedroom window the nun says sternly must be mistaken must have seen me rub my stump they always watch me rubbing it so nosey the nun sighs and gazes at Annes lap and at the stumps outline show me your leg stump? the nun says hands on her hips Anne pulls up her skirt to reveal the stump Benedict looks too wondering if the book outline could be seen under the knickers the nun looks away where have you put it? put what? the book the prayer book the nun says I havent seen it Anne says as innocent as she can muster innocence lies will get you to Hell the nun says and walks off across the grass like a bad tempered bear what now? Benedict says Anne takes the book out of her knickers and hands it to him warm and scented what do I do with it? he asks shove it on that other chair under the table and were off to the beach so he puts the book under the table and pushes Anne off in the chair off out of reach.
A BOY AND GIRL IN  A NURSING HOME IN 1959 SUSSEX.
Filmore Townsend Nov 2013
quandering, pondering
and whiskey has become
first and only desk liquor. now
digressing to the Blue Eyed
beauty writ of this the final
page of notebook. and now,
reflecting on this early hour.
an hour when the goat's
head stares thru to soul
with always lifeless eyes. stares
thru this soul with lack of
energy, with entire days'
lack of consumption. and with
ease this one has been long
and gone in falsified attraction
of angelfaced Blue Eyed
matriarch; this one patriarch.
thought entirely conceived. contrac-
epted by reality of situation. by
reality in general sense, yet words
spew unfiltered with lingering hope
behind slanted smile. shying stares,
all the while watching from eyes'
corners. voices of all but her's
fall deaf; vessels otherwise mute to
concerns not of the Blue Eye's. and
here this one finds self lost to rom-
anticized thoughts knowing they can
be found sterilized via logic.
contradicting always, yet
no brass holding finger locked to
joint. and realizations of actual
place spears forehead; spears fore-
brain. disrupting what is preconceived
concerning entangled souls. hair falling
aside temples. point of restraint, this
one must end before depression catches
hold; this one calling abrupt ending.
Brandon Webb Nov 2012
1
she taps he hand, twice.
across the room,
he stares, thinking
into empty air.
others, scattered
tap pencils or fingers
on desktops, booktops
and phone keyboards

the balding man
with black hair:
combed backward
and to differing angles
so that his head is split
vertically-
stands, above the room
his back turned

his words,
meant for the crowd
reverberate only
along classes fringe
but still take precedence
over nothing
even to them-
academics, outcasts


2
back of the room
reveals everything
to the observer
trying to see

blue-eyed brunette
glares vengefully
at no one,
just to glare

he looks up once
to watch
as another
pulls up
drooping jeans.
she laughs
at conversation
unmeant for,
and inaudible
to her


3
today, she smiles
and lets her lip fall
begging, like a puppy
But when they
lose eye contact,
she glares, again

he leaves footprints
on parallel desk
from lounging
then fires himself
to his feet
using stored energy,
and sugar from gum

words bounce along
the walls in the back,
and isolated eyes peer
towards the screen
but hide the fact
that they care


4
two week vacation
has left their minds
full of everything
except math,
so they listen
to him, while he speaks

but travel backward
in time, with
those closest them
while he creeps,
silent, around the room

she concentrates hard,
on her work
glaring at the page.
he sits a desk forward
feet on floor
neighboring desk full
today, but only physically

blue hat rests
on sketchbook,
its border
barely covering
closed eyes

blond head
implants itself
jokingly, into
smooth shining
white wall
with enough force
to collapse
accidental target

a hand raises
attracting gazes,
awestruck,
at her interest
in forgotten
material
of future tests


5
only a few eyes wander
from blue lined notebooks
though the left flank
still chatters, embodying
either a secretive chipmunk
or the breeze which starts the storm

storm clouds appear slowly
in sketchbook, blue hat bobbing
rhythmically in response to active pen

perched above the flock
reminiscent, split headed
papa bird scans the masks
of his shockingly silent chicks

random lecture breaks the silence.
Her eyes aren’t the only ones
Fixed into a steel laden glare
But the chipmunk wind ceases


6
his questioning glance lands
on uninhabited space,
exhibiting a yawn
which traverses through,
and twists, the faces of
those otherwise engaged

lecture ends with a question,
the scent of nuts blows through
mentally empty classroom
turning desks to predetermined
positions and swiftly inhabiting
three-quarters of the physical class

his steel glare has replaced hers
the latter’s eyes now soft as an infants

within five minutes, his voice
undergoes  a brutal, complete cycle
pleading, congratulating, yelling
and as always, lecturing


7
pre-test:

preparations for misery-
mundane chipmunk chattering,
jokes and laughs from random
oddities appearing everywhere

blue hat rests in intervals.
Blue coat rearranges
essay for another class

The girl in the sunny plaid
Rolls an orange along her hand

He points at nothing and asks
Nobody something without answer

The left flank, as always
Is turned away, conversing

A sigh rings outward loudly
Everyone glares, nervously,
Everywhere, reward of concentration


After my test:

First paper in, he scans lightly
Sets it down with a scowl
and yawns, twice, breaking the
silent shroud of heavy fog
which is hanging overhead

wandering free eyes witness
down-turned heads concentrating
as much on tests  as on moving
their hands wildly, excitedly
trying to communicate non-vocally

others have yet to detach themselves
from their seats and stride upward,
hopefully more triumphantly
than their sole predecessor

one shuffles now, slowly toward him
his hand shaking as he releases
that  paper, he turns away as it flutters
onto the desk- he replants himself in his

twelve others walk forward
smiling, shrinking, sometimes speaking
and always he glares, triumphant
knowing his success at our failure


later:

his near-sleeping form            
finds distraction, in waking
dreams, jumping back suddenly
breaking from his plank-like state
without speaking. excitement
for approaching weekend is
communicated in the left flank

two girls break the silence
running in from outside            
he glares at them, but laughs

everyone breaks into groups
after the conversation about
mysteriously nutty discarded sock

he runs to the forefront
forehead folded, finger on mouth
no-one notices, but still he glares

8
he smiles and glares at the floor
his legs swinging back and forth            
tan slacks rustling softly

exaggerated scores bubble in ears            
as they search for their destroyer

in front of forgotten faces falls
the page of a forgotten tome

several yawn, hoping, understandably
that their stretched lips
will pull themselves far enough
to barricade ears from his droning

he kills himself, twice, bumbling
into half-thought chastisements
of the  flittingly flirtatious students
intermingling hoping behind him
causing waves of whispers, laughter
and slightly strengthened chatter

he re-aligns his thoughts quickly
and rambles on again, always

9
he speaks to her softly
from across a sea of desks
she looks up, panicking calmly
distracted from distraction

in silence, blank eyes turn
surprised at the non-withering
state of her barely living corpse

he asks a question, looking up
a single answer is given
unemotional and short, buy ending
heavy hanging awkward silence

how talented the teacher
who gives his lecture while
still addressing unrelated
student self lectures

the still silence given
in his questioning lull
hangs so loudly the whispers
traversing the classroom appear
silent as finger wiggle
and pencils trace zeros

his extrication, caused by
distractingly thunderous voice
is met with a comment
causing a wave of laughter
starting at his mouth
and extending to inhabit everything

10
half the time gives
twice the attention
as they concentrate
on keeping him on
the undying topic
of the work we
have already done

they admit defeat
as dusty tome opens
spreading a nutty cloud
causing heads to turn
and words to leap.

from opens lips,
mischievous gremlins
sprout, dancing on
tables and chuckling
away from the sigh
of his down-turned, split
shining, globular mind

he scratches pink ear
with bone pale finger
reading unrelated words

in the center of the room
both mentally and physically
he sits, momentarily quiet
as dark eyes glare past
rumpled pink nose,
concentrating

blue hat rests on open palms
above dust covered open page
he slips into sleeping state
but picks himself up
and stares though thin borderline
toward shiny rambling forehead

a shutter cord flies forward
the hand at the end pulling hard
but with no affect to the shutters
neither lowering the physical
or raising the mental

the color of non-color pencils
interrupts the class momentarily
as she strides forward to compare
and then criticizes his care

he just sits, smiles and stares

11
eleven desks lie empty
of one form more than usual
amplifying the arm movements
of the ever ticking seconds

his obscured mouth flings seeds
which sprout into words
before even meeting the worn
blood-colored carpet below

in the main room, sixteen
sit silent, sketching, sleeping
or siphoning the last minute

12
those left awake, and alive
have come to understand
the numbers on the screen
this being their specialty
in a nutty shell, of course
splitting, as we are, large
crowds of numbers, and us
being teenagers, isn’t that
how we think, in numbers
and ratings of everything
and, sitting in the central
crowd are the talented
crowd-splitters
flattery-spitters

13
the silence of half absence
is pierced, as always by vocal
anomaly, centered around
rows of shining wood
bookrests, but only one
set of hollow, dark-rimmed
vacant eyeballs watches
well-welcomed interruption

he lets us work, standing.
Someone somewhere opens
A large container of nuts
Entire class starts stuffing
Handfuls into puffy cheeks
Absorbing sensations into
Eternally ravenous minds

The apocalyptic mix of noises
Is split again by central
Nutcracker, and those in corners
Glare, smiling, rubbing shadowed
Acne scarred faces
with raw-bitten nails

14
balding papa bird speaks loudly
transforming his voice, becoming
vocally legendary cartoon duck

the wave of resulting laughter
ends in un-given nut-break
spreading, without speech
the understanding that his
comedic digression will not
meet a quick extinction

we greet the weekend
by rising early
our excuse: competition
to devour the worm

15
three heads are downturned
peering into textbooks
as the tsunami breaks

the days end starts
and beady eyes peer
in the direction of his
moving head, colored
gothic gargoyle in the
dim cloudlight streaming
through dust coated
slit windows

the room transforms
becoming triumphantly,
grumpily, repeatedly
conversational

artificial silence
spreads like a wave
from right back corner
to left front corner
leaving behind
the half of the room
hidden behind the wall
of troublemakers
who will eventually
cause the wall to topple
with the sheer force
of assorted nuts

16
blue hat is scrunched
under the of a fist
pounding on his head,
result of the decibels
consumed, and produced
by the embodiment
of the thoughts around him
which fall from stuffed
cheeks. Bounce off tables
and spread a sickening aroma
as their shells split
exposing, revealing
nothing

17
red face glances upward
as harsh words split
the widening sea of snickers
his words stop, first time today
as whispers spread wildly
of his speed in delivering answers
seconds later, room is silent
as statement ends and lecturer
turns back to him, offering
as always, another wave
of deep felt, anger hardened
quietly whispered, criticisms

thunderous-rush-voice leads
out of habit and necessity
the minutes following
his behavioral digression
each word stabbing split-headed
pointy-nosed papa bird, their
form a walnut-wood spear
crafted from drifted thoughts
of those sitting nearest him

18
on his back lies a pile of nuts
professor’s earthquake
shoulder shaking causes
eyes to open, back to rise
and with a tremendous roar
both physical and meta-physical,
it topples to worn carpet
and the laugh-track plays on

19
silence- pierced into being
by shrill, violent, mountainous
rise, and fall, of thunderous decibels-
hangs, heavier, louder than
the quick gone loudness replaced
or, in all actuality, displaced
mere seconds before being scrawled
into eternal memory
of those whose noses
sniff, daily, nutty clusters
of letters, which exclude
always, the ever-present x
the destructive π
and that y, which of course
flies as high as forgetful
nut-bearers




©Brandon Webb
2012
This is a series of observations, and. collectively, is the longest thing i've ever written, at 8847 words
Mara Siegel Jun 2012
She stares at the sea while he falls, exhilarated
She stares at the sea.

She stares at the stool where he sits, anticipating
She stares at the stool.

She stares,
That’s all.
Poetoftheway Aug 2018
,how do you know when
(a human is too broken?)




<•>

human too broken?

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

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

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

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

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

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


so the broken glass, the clothes you dressed each other,
if not weep-well,
well enough hid,
the fit is off,
the fit is off,
the coverlet ripped so bad and neither cares
an unexpected poem, unplanned, needing work
aug 4-5
Terry Collett Feb 2016
Sit down,
the nun says,
bringing Magdalene
into her office,
pointing to a chair
opposite her desk.

The nun eyes her
seriously, her face
framed in a black
and white headpiece,
her hands on the table
in front of her
palms down.

Magdalene sits
and stares at her shoes.

Do you know why
you are here?
the nun says.

You asked me
to come in here,
Magdalene replies,
lifting her eyes
to the nun's face.

The reason why
I asked you
to come here?
the nun says firmly.

Magdalene shakes her head,
fidgets in the chair.

The nun sits back
in her chair
and stares coldly.

Silence fills the room
and Magdalene moves
back in her chair,
crossing her legs
at the ankles.

There have been reports
of you and Mary Moran
being seen entering
a toilet cubicle together,
is that true?
the nun says,
head to one side
as if her neck had snapped.

Magdalene shakes her head,
no, who'd say such a thing?
What wormy ****
would say that?
Magdalene says.

The nun eyes her colder.
Sister Bridget saw you,
the nun says.

With or without
her glasses,
Magdalene says,
she's a bit short-sighted,
she often mistakes me
for the Murphy boy.

The nun stares
and shakes her head
and says,
you should show
respect to the nuns,
and not try to score
points off of other's
disabilities.

Magdalene looks
at the nun's hands
on the desktop,
tapping away
on the old wood.

I was not with Mary Moran;
I was on my own,
and why would Sister Bridget
be spying on me
going to the bog?
Magdalene says.

The nun slams her hand
down on the desktop,
and says,
DO NOT BE SO RUDE
AND TELL THE TRUTH.

Magdalene stares
at the slammed down hand;
once it had slapped her thighs
as a young girl in R.E,
for not raising her hand
to leave the room
for a ***, now
she just stares at the nun
and says,
that's the truth
after all said and done,
cross my heart
and hope to die.

The nun rambles on,
but Magdalene
no longer listens,
recalls the kiss
on Mary's lips,
and the spark
in the nun's eyes
that glistens.
A GIRL AND A NUN IN SCHOOL IN 1963 IN IRELAND
There’s an eruption,
as delicate as mid-teenagers’
jeans could topple its ugliness

There’s an eruption,
turning the streets and its
cigarette butts upside down

There’s an eruption,  
sprinkles of salt in
every man’s heart,
vivacious more than what it seems

There’s an eruption,
the veins of a business man
is clogged as he watches the graph fall

There’s an eruption,
Hemingway;
in another Earth
called for a shooting spree
all the way off to madness’ extinction

There’s an eruption,
the anxiety steams as some of us
chokes down and digest
the indigestible memories

There’s an eruption, all over selected
rooms of each suburban
addresses and houses

There’s an eruption, the words of some of us adhere
serves as the thick barrier
of revelations
buried beneath the soils of turmoils
and tumors residing inside our heads    

There’s an eruption, it keeps up, stops, breathes,
stares, flashes, keeps up, stops, stares, flashes,
keeps up, stops, stares,
flashes, keeps up, stops,
stares, flashes, keeps up,
stops, stares, flashes, keeps up, stops, stares, flashes;
keeps up forever. . .
1969 Hartford art school is magnet for exceedingly intelligent over-sensitive under-achievers alluring freaks congenital creeps and anyone who cannot cut it in straight world it is about loners dreamers stoners clowns cliques of posers competing to dress draw act most outrageous weird wonderful classrooms clash in diversity of needs some students get it right off while others require so much individual attention one girl constantly raises her hand calls for everything to be repeated explained creativity is treated as trouble and compliance to instruction rewarded most of faculty are of opinion kids are not capable of making original artwork teachers discourage students from dream of becoming well-known until they are older more experienced only practiced skilled artists are competent to create ‘real art’ defined by how much struggle or multiple meanings weave through the work Odysseus wants to make magic boxes without knowing or being informed of Joseph Cornell one teacher tells him you think you’re going to invent some new color the world has never seen? you’re just some rowdy brat from the midwest with a lot of crazy ideas and no evidence of authenticity another teacher warns you’re nothing more than a bricoleur! Odysseus questions what’s a bricoleur teacher informs a rogue handyman who haphazardly constructs from whatever is immediately available Odysseus questions what’s wrong with that? teacher answers it’s low-class folk junk  possessing no real intellectual value independently he reads Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium Is The Message” and “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” he memorizes introductory remark of Leonardo’s “i must do like one who comes last to the fair and can find no other way of providing for himself than by taking all the things already seen by others and not taken by reason of their lesser value” Odysseus dreams of becoming accomplished important artist like Robert Rauschenberg Jasper Johns Andy Warhol he dreams of being in eye of hurricane New York art scene he works for university newspaper and is nicknamed crashkiss the newspaper editor is leader in student movement and folk singer who croons “45 caliber man, you’re so much more than our 22, but there’s so many more of us than you” Odysseus grows mustache wears flower printed pants vintage 1940’s leather jacket g.i. surplus clothes he makes many friends his gift for hooking up with girls is uncanny he is long haired drug-crazed hippie enjoying popularity previously unknown to him rock bands play at art openings everyone flirts dances gets ****** lots of activism on campus New York Times dubs university of Hartford “Berkeley of the east coast” holding up ******* in peace sign is subversive in 1969 symbol of rebellion youth solidarity gesture against war hawks rednecks corporate America acknowledgment of potential beyond materialistic self-righteous values of status quo sign of what could be in universe filled with incredible possibilities he moves in with  painting student one year advanced named Todd Whitman Todd has curly blond hair sturdy build wire rimmed glasses impish smile gemini superb draftsman amazing artist Todd emulates Francisco de Goya and Albrecht Durer Todd’s talent overshadows Odysseus’s Todd’s dad is accomplished professor at distinguished college in Massachusetts to celebrate Odysseus’s arrival Todd cooks all day preparing spaghetti dinner when Odysseus arrives home tripping on acid without appetite Todd is disappointed Odysseus runs down to corner store buys large bottle of wine returns to house Todd is eating spaghetti alone they get drunk together then pierce each other’s ears with needles ice wine cork pierced ears are outlaw style of bad *** bikers like Hell’s Angels Todd says you are a real original Odys and funny too Odysseus asks funny, how? Todd answers you are one crazy ******* drop acid whenever you want smoke **** then go to class this is fun tonight Odys getting drunk and piercing our ears Odysseus says yup i’m having a good time too Todd and Odysseus become best friends Odysseus turns Todd on to Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” and “Ariel” then they both read Ted Hughes “Crow” illustrated with Leonard Baskin prints Todd turns Odysseus on to German Expressionist painting art movement of garish colors emotionally violent imagery from 1905-1925 later infuriating Third ***** who deemed the work “degenerate” Odysseus dives into works of Max Beckmann Otto Dix Conrad Felixmulller Barthel Gilles George Grosz Erich Heckel Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Felix Nussbaum Karl *******Rottluff Carl Hofer August Macke Max Peckstein Elfriede Lohse-Wachtler Egon Shiele list goes on in 1969 most parents don’t have money to buy their children cars most kids living off campus either ride bikes or hitchhike to school then back home on weekends often without a penny in their pockets Odysseus and Todd randomly select a highway and hitch rides to Putney Vermont Brattleboro Boston Cape Cod New York City or D.C. in search of adventure there is always trouble to be found curious girls to assist in Georgetown Odysseus sleeps with skinny girl with webbed toes who believes he is Jesus he tries to dissuade her but she is convinced

Toby Mantis is visiting New York City artist at Hartford art school he looks like huskier handsomer version of Ringo Starr and women dig him he builds stretchers and stretches canvases for Warhol lives in huge loft in Soho on Broadway and Bleeker invites Odysseus to come down on weekends hang out Toby takes him to Max’s Kansas City Warhol’s Electric Circus they wander all night into morning there are printing companies longshoremen gays in Chelsea Italians in West Village hippies playing guitars protesting the war in Washington Square all kinds of hollering crazies passing out fliers pins in Union Square Toby is hard drinker Odysseus has trouble keeping up  he pukes his guts out number of times Odysseus is *** head not drinker he explores 42nd Street stumbles across strange exotic place named Peep Show World upstairs is large with many **** cubicles creepy dudes hanging around downstairs is astonishing there are many clusters of booths with live **** girls inside girls shout out hey boys come on now pick me come on boys there are hundreds of girls from all over the world in every conceivable size shape race he enters dark stall  puts fifty cents in coin box window screen lifts inside each cluster are 6 to 10 girls either parading or glued to a window for $1 he is allowed to caress kiss their ******* for $2 he is permitted to probe their ****** or *** for $10 girl reaches hand into darkened stall jerks him off tall slender British girl thrills him the most she says let me have another go at your dickey Odysseus spends all his money ******* 5 times departing he notices men from every walk of life passing through wall street stockbrokers executives rednecks mobsters frat boys tourists fat old bald guys smoking thick smelly cigars Toby Mantis has good-looking girlfriend named Lorraine with long brown hair Toby Lorraine and Odysseus sit around kitchen table Odysseus doodles with pencil on paper Toby spreads open Lorraine’s thighs exposing her ****** to Odysseus Lorraine blushes yet permits Toby to finger her Odysseus thinks she has the most beautiful ****** he has ever seen bulging pelvic bone brown distinctive bush symmetric lips Toby and Lorraine watch in amusement as Odysseus gazes intently Tony mischievously remarks you like looking at that ***** don’t you? Odysseus stares silently begins pencil drawing Lorraine’s ****** his eyes darting back and forth following day Lorraine seduces Odysseus while Toby is away walks out **** from shower she is few years older her body lean with high ******* she directs his hands mouth while she talks with someone on telephone it is strange yet quite exciting Odysseus is in awe of New York City every culture in the world intermingling democracy functioning in an uncontrollable managed breath millions of people in motion stories unraveling on every street 24 hour spectacle with no limits every conceivable variety of humanity ******* in same air Odysseus is bedazzled yet intimidated

Odysseus spends summer of 1970 at art colony in Cummington Massachusetts it is magical time extraordinary place many talented eccentric characters all kinds of happenings stage plays poetry readings community meals volleyball after dinner volleyball games are hilarious fun he lives alone in isolated studio amidst wild raspberries in woods shares toilet with field mouse no shower he reads Jerzy Kosinski’s “Painted Bird” then “Being There” then “Steps” attractive long haired girl named Pam visits community for weekend meets Odysseus they talk realize they were in first grade together at Harper amazing coincidence automatic ground for “we need to have *** because neither of us has seen each other since first grade” she inquires where do you sleep? Todd hitches up from Hartford to satisfy curiosity everyone sleeps around good-looking blue-eyed poet named Shannon Banks from South Boston tells Odysseus his ******* is not big enough for kind of ******* she wants but she will **** him off that’s fine with him 32 year old poet named Ellen Morrissey from Massachusetts reassures him ******* is fine Ellen is beginning to find her way out from suffocating marriage she has little daughter named Nina Ellen admires Odysseus’s free spirit sees both his possibilities and naïveté she realizes he has crippling family baggage he has no idea he is carrying thing about trauma is as it is occurring victim shrugs laughs to repel shock yet years later pain horror sink in turned-on with new ideas he returns to Hartford art school classes are fun yet confusing he strives to be best drawer most innovative competition sidetracks him Odysseus uses power drill to carve pumpkin on Halloween teachers warn him to stick to fundamentals too much creativity is suspect Todd and he are invited to holiday party Odysseus shows up with Ellen Morrissey driving in her father’s station wagon 2 exceptionally pretty girls flirt with him he is live wire they sneak upstairs he fingers both at same time while they laugh to each other one of the girls Laura invites him outside to do more he follows they walk through falling snow until they find hidden area near some trees Laura lies down lifts her skirt she spreads her legs dense ***** mound he is about to explore her there when Laura looks up sees figure with flashlight following their tracks in snow she warns it’s Bill my husband run for your life! Odysseus runs around long way back inside party grabs a beer pretending he has been there next to Ellen all night few minutes later he sees Laura and Bill return through front door Bill has dark mustache angry eyes Odysseus tells Ellen it is late maybe they should leave soon suddenly Bill walks up to him with beer in hand cracks bottle over his head glass and beer splatter Odysseus jumps up runs out to station wagon Ellen hurriedly follows snow coming down hard car is wedged among many guest vehicles he starts engine locks doors maneuvers vehicle back and forth trying to inch way out of spot Bill appears from party walks to his van disappears from out of darkness swirling snow Bill comes at them wielding large crowbar smashes car’s headlights taillights side mirrors windshield covered in broken glass Ellen ducks on floor beneath glove compartment sobs cries he’s going to **** us! we’re going to die! Odysseus steers station wagon free floors gas pedal drives on back country roads through furious snowstorm in dark of night no lights Odysseus contorts crouches forward in order to see through hole in shattered windshield Ellen sees headlights behind them coming up fast it is Bill in van Bill banging their bumper follows them all the way back to Hartford to Odysseus’s place they run inside call police Bill sits parked van outside across street as police arrive half hour later Bill pulls away next day Odysseus and Ellen drive to Boston to explain to Ellen’s dad what has happened to his station wagon Odysseus stays with Ellen in Brookline for several nights another holiday party she wants to take him along to meet her friends her social circles are older he thinks to challenge their values be outrageous paints face Ellen is horrified cries you can’t possibly do this to me these are my close friends what will they think? he defiantly answers my face is a mask who cares what i look like? man woman creature what does it matter? if your friends really want to know me they’ll need to look beyond the make-up tonight i am your sluttish girlfriend! sometimes Odysseus can be a thoughtless fool

Laura Rousseau Shane files for divorce from Bill she is exceptionally lovely models at art school she is of French descent her figure possessing exotic traits she stands like ballerina with thick pointed ******* copious ***** hair Odysseus is infatuated she frequently dances pursues him Laura says i had the opportunity to meet Bob Dylan once amazed Odysseus questions what did you do? she replies what could i possibly have in common with Bob Dylan? Laura teases Odysseus about being a preppy then lustfully gropes him grabs holds his ***** they devote many hours to ****** intimacy during ******* she routinely reaches her hand from under her buns grasps his testicles squeezing as he pumps he likes that Laura is quite eccentric fetishes over Odysseus she even thrills to pick zits on his back he is not sure if it is truly a desire of hers proof of earthiness or simply expression of mothering Laura has two daughters by Bill Odysseus is in over his head Laura tells Odysseus myth of Medea smitten with love for Jason Jason needs Medea’s help to find Golden Fleece Medea agrees with promise of marriage murders her brother arranges ****** of king who has deprived Jason his inheritance couple is forced into exile Medea bears Jason 2 sons then Jason falls in love with King Creon’s daughter deserts Medea is furious she makes shawl for King Creon’s daughter to wear at her wedding to Jason  shawl turns to flames killing bride Medea murders her own sons by Jason Odysseus goes along with story for a while but Laura wants husband Odysseus is merely scruffy boy with roving eyes Laura becomes galled by Odysseus leaves him for one of his roommates whom she marries then several years later divorces there is scene when Laura tells Odysseus she is dropping him for his roommate he is standing in living room of her house space is painted deep renaissance burgundy there are framed photographs on walls in one photo he is hugging Laura and her daughters under big oak tree in room Laura’s friend Bettina other girl he fingered first night he met Laura at party is watching with arms crossed he drops to floor curls body sobs i miss you so much Laura turns to Bettina remarks look at him men are such big babies he’s pitiful Bettina nods

following summer he works installing displays at G. Fox Department Store besides one woman gay men staff display department for as long as he can remember homosexuals have always been attracted to him this misconception is probably how he got job his tenor voice suggesting not entirely mature man instead more like tentative young boy this ambiguous manifestation sometimes also evidences gestures thoroughly misleading after sidestepping several ****** advances one of his co-workers bewilderingly remarks you really are straight manager staff are fussy chirpy catty group consequently certain he is not gay they discriminate against him stick him with break down clean up slop jobs at outdoor weekend rock concert in Constitution Plaza he meets 2 younger blond girls who consent to go back to his place mess around both girls are quite dazzling yet one is somewhat physically undeveloped they undress and model for Odysseus radio plays Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song” both girls move to rhythm sing along he thinks to orchestrate direct decides instead to let them lead lies on bed while curvaceous girl rides his ******* slender girl sits on his face they switch all 3 alternate giggle laughter each girl reaches ****** on his stiffness later both assist with hands mouths his ****** is so intense it leaves him paralyzed for a moment

in fall he is cast as Claudius in production of Hamlet Odysseus rehearses diligently on nights o
AntRedundAnt Jan 2014
love   apple   like   time   know   feel   heart   bed   little   life   home   red   boy   georgie   sleep   away   left   dear   ruth   gone   just   right   long   mind   hope   hair   mi   parts   say   fear   met   laugh   makes   sailing   make   tell   hands   day   poem   different   small   words   private   wish   legs   child   man   free   te   welcome   easy   apples   meteorite   smile   flower   want   way   arms   look   eyes   better   war   lie   good   thing   truly   teeth   passion   thought   work   seen   letters   friend   talk   brought   future   fingers   knew   imagination   sure   told   space   cold  la   mask   black   big   bite   age   size   shadow   petals   inane   stretchmarks   medic   we've   wouldn't   hear   tap   really   best   goes   face   gray   maybe   things   dream   tongue   forever   hate   set   room   death   need   truth   comes   night   lost   calves   pain   end   years   brings   touch   feet   blades   memories   new   core   times   dead   favorite   finally   minute   brain   hearts   getting   belly   far   rain   blue   knees   filled   stupid   woke   cream   fit   young   brown   se   fat   tan   cough   spoke   says   unlike   footprints   ******   rough   forward   buckle   blues   task   shoulder   grace   *******   reason   nostrils   firm   juice   palms   someday   mis   thumbs   screams   arguments   wobble   *****   elbows   *******   wrists   headaches   amo   pesky   ligaments   one-liners   thoughts   later   ash   clouds   lips   dreams   breath   mouth   hold   sense   taking   world   bit   speak   dance   gave   shall   ready   skin   air   single   breathe   button   peace   choices   hill   wrong   weak   close   use   quite   sky   phrase   darkness   justice   sound   unable   brave   holding   deep   grabbed   ****   try   building   paper   lunch   think   kind   stay   days   smooth   perfect   learned   care   fair   hard   grant   sweet   high   fruit   short   terms   kept   relationship   underneath   presence   water   looking   fool   sorrow   tree   second   delicate   nearly   happy   line   tall   tried   sad   satisfied   point   feels   falling   purpose   game   lazy   que   amor   agree   known   naught   loss   broke   failed   games   limp   grin   final   spring   act   south   flare   race   sake   car   large   wishes   neck   blink   knife   seeing   idea   steve   company   greens   spread   ship   lo   sally   sum   drowned   december   weep   sting   smiles   lessons   promises   successful   whistled   drowns   perfectly   pleasing   failure   brothers   cliche   harder   thirteen   ale   signs   limit   serenity   mundane   origin   chat   sapphires   handshakes   skinny   contagious   succeeding   super   refer   maturity   destination   civil   uncomfortable   collects   clack   liz   beatles   vez   attract   accomplishment   backside   throes   flaccid   audi   oneself   beastie   applesauce   naivete   bungalow   outie   there's   couldn't   isn't   they're   let's   'n   primos   primas   cantuta   fronton   redd's   mott's   innie   phallicly   tiny   fight   yo   para   walk   ****   hello   light   flash   silent   stone   does   forth   conversation   polite   green   minutes   ****   clear   flesh   couple   wake   anger   throw   torn   tangle   play   shattered   soldier   land   victim   carry   battlefield   came   darkest   blood   battle   warm   shine   reminds   lose   eye   dismay   hide   impossible   fast   earth   grab   stand   die   worse   year   people   white   story   hit   god   anxiety   realize   fall   asleep   dark   course   apart   morning   remain   beauty   ****   slowly   start   happen   remember   pray   past   easily   straight   mean   hand   driving   instant   thunder   messages   friends   old   coming   pen   seeds   shape   wasted   word   living   tore   shadows   knowing   bad   class   joy   trust   leaves   path   sun   ways   leave   meet   broken   head   weight   means   mountain   boys   true   stars   learn   sliced   naive   decided   player   actually   reality   ease   music   hood   desperate   promise   wishing   begin   miss   caressing   moan   thighs   heard   pretty   emotion   figure   floor   exotic   sand   hits   angel   awake   dreaming   probably   wins   seek   stretch   loved   tears   heartbreak   punk   walking   piece   furniture   unreachable   roots   near   deserve   simple   cats   tail   precious   lovers   loves   mother   tongues   clueless   share   taken   yesterday   faith   freedom   ripe   cursed   running   yes   unknown   feeling   going   stairs   opposite   wonder   afloat   packed   bones   acting   playing   wind   passions   dismissed   hourglass   reached   stares   mouths   singing   shaped   trapped   toll   dies   rock   trunk   discovered   especially   dull   choice   awful   patient   great   indoors   attached   thread   shoulders   warms   bright   bring   ending   drowning   sadness   winter   baby   looked   cute   beating   tight   kids   crying   ran   intoxicating   growing   saying   opposites   melancholy   gives   follow   clearly   dove   tu   soon   entwined   juicy   drown   laid   took   moved   bear   anyways   shirt   negative   clean   guide   sore   location   faux   nodded   glance   caught   chances   week   started   today   obvious   sweat   ***   quiet   laughed   worry   round   ladies   mama   smack   goodbye   rising   sides   wished   beds   infinite   positive   scared   admittedly   mistakes   meal   common   rises   toes   bullets   bound   suited   birth   clothes   belt   pounds   ground   barren   sitting   table   woe   swimming   stick   deepest   motion   cleared   sing   angry   action   sons   smiled   bedroom   wall   wiped   grins   mad   july   store   road   snow   pulse   important   adventure   exactly   foundation   trap   colors   floors   neon   outside   language   summer   north   fifty   served   wavy   kick   raw   thirty   row   changed   hanging   lied   drenched   companion   begins   strength   flies   direction   okay   stories   inky   stubborn   cloud   track   described   lover   replaced   pit   packs   circling   honest   wage   dinner   slave   paradox   faking   screamed   lightning   exterior   stopping   complete   deal   rifle   dependent   gifts   dancer   vision   students   horror   punch   anymore   pack   sagging   folk   honestly   tearing   prepared   creatures   listening   rhythm   unique   roar   card   glass   stage   desert   offered   fought   suffer   awoke   master   eating   furnace   glad   choir   graceful   *****   treasure   ships   bark   musical   strand   bee   finished   pink   slink   stronger   disclose   gravity   schedule   march   medicine   hates   weird   brush   laughs   helped   june   pitched   dumped   tense   sin   withdrawn   stem   proved   whispered   anew   amazing   louder   english   knocked   chilly   boots   false   mistake   toffee   whistle   smirk   gas   poised   buttons   bet   necks   elate  vi   bleak   decades   intention   plane   swollen   unseemly   en   sir   creeping   tells   success   doth   ***   balance   ant   fourth   fits   matters   pan   shook   tingle   dusty   reaching   thanked   careers   pile   tempt   ix   xi   xii   xiii   moms   hushed   spears   twinkling   works   fairytale   double   fighter   shocked   barriers   boot   thanks   solitary   lesson   owned   systems   groan   weekend   tomatoes   cider   calculating   drawer   partially   handy   stumpy   album   appealing   pet   unfortunately   jokingly   hotel   teacher   tag   eighteen   leg   dash   peep   betwixt   swear   attempt   inescapable   venues   worker   suit   coughed   remembers   rhyme   listed   chatter   stuff   assist   blocks   sheen   stanzas   jobs   cleaned   handshake   natural   moi   fantasy   cheers   smaller   curl   nay   leaning   frequent   eggs   cuando   el   desayuno   tus   beige   imperfections   difficult   darlings   overcome   oranges   keys   newfound   fairly   occasions   stats   ponder   pools   ablaze   rushes   fret   quell   breads   progress   comfortable   settling   desks   tile   trails   rainy   homemade   stunned   cemetery   plus   ideas   avocados   bananas   apply   latch   rocky   digress   experiences   vacation   sanctuary   earlier   rocket   precise   various   author   pie   explosions   *******   lighter   matched   plunged   isaac   jefferson   abe   measured   saturday   claw   welcoming   gear   trained   suffocation   leapt   gap   lee   disturbed   es   thrill   alarming   grill   frankly   importantly   una   fray   candied   amalgamation   nasty   american   optimism   guns   craters   contracted   rampant   unattainable   spilled   courts   carrots   shuffled   combined   blonde   forgave   artillery   sandwich   comfier   limitation   personalities   friday   strongly   crude   banana   tennis   limits   quaking   recesses   loot   andromeda   shells   playful   luckily   area   upwards   flail   largest   sappy   freckles   biology   fruition   cases   overtook   pinks   instruments   brownies   birthmark   reinforce   laptop   pirates   blinks   frontier   forwards   resonate   capacity   mumbled   marched   scraping   prompts   multiply   haiku   football   como   function   unfeeling   eighty   backsides   prompt   raced   blare   likewise   pro   chrome   gran   pears   puede   corazon   elated   indecisive   basketball   burgundy   synonyms   braced   effeminate   mutually   duties   companies   honeymoon   flailing   patted   mayo   headon   pero   misma   marveled   aforementioned   abhors   forefront   hesitating   identical   creepy   possessive   screeched   gotcha   infidelity   friction   barrage   nonetheless   disparate   itchy   apex   gettysburg   lunchtime   pickup   muchas   then   and   trading   distinguishable   pitches   bunk   ven   ladylike   encompasses   diagrams   underlying   spaghetti   soccer   trashcan   papa   disarming   finalmente   clashed   rosie   smirks   snapshot   pug   songbird   spitfire   yanks   thankfully   mesa   flexing   virginia   effectively   variations   eclipses   tambien   outrun   incident   vitamin   willpower   underdog   hardboiled   miniscule   checkerboard   entrust   siento   heavyweight   davis   thyroid   foreshadowing   frances   heresy   starburst   deficiency   sawing   peruvian   leche   antithesis   villanelle   alliteration   hora   vivir   clacking   droopy   whizzed   britney   futbol   parameters   disney   mangos   disproportionate   orbiting   tanka   stubby   intro   listo   goldilocks   teamwork   pbj   exemplifies   rey   retainer   tenia   triples   espanol   estuvo   castillo   ferrying   suficiente   racecar   dorky   garganta   veo   julio   peripherals   labios   rojos   foreseeable   frito   groggily   venn   macbook   inanely   hubo   goofball   you've   she's   weren't   wasn't   we're   others'   you'll   should've   haven't   what's   you'd   they'd   man's   boys'   god's   woman's   fruit's   orion's   newton's   lincoln's   adam's   momma's   ******   jackson's   audis   dulces   disproportionately   charon's   deseos   avocadoes   hailey   eran   beatles'   ingles   he   she   it   rackets   --   hashtag   sixty-three   duct-tape   joysticks   sherman's   15   6th   32   500   7th   2013   extraño   barenaked   tamales   6-year-old   tierras   derpy   ewell   rom-com   themit's   adan   mudpits   puddlepits   war--hell   culp's   shitpits   completaron   chocolatada   levantanse   duraznos   n'sync   huevo   cholitos   levantaron   manzanas   endurece   wozniak's   dispara   nuez   open-endedness   innies   cankles   dunder-mifflin   tunks   buck-toothed   outies   grief-blown   a-gawking
I uploaded all of my past work onto the site already, so everything from here on out will be new and original. This is sort of an experimental idea of mine: take all the words hellopoetry has tracked for me, put it down as if it were a poem, and see how it flows. It actually kind of works sometimes, but I'm not sure. I'm sure it's mostly terrible, but I wanted to try it. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Ember Bryce Mar 2013
Bright lights stare
as they whizz down the street in pairs
Judging me, not seeing me

I walk alone, head down.
my feet pass quick and steady as if a river and
Like a curious child I see below the bridge where I stand
Wishing to know the meaning of existence
Yet content with the view
And wanting to jump in.

No one can see me crying
Its too dark
Just to be safe I pretend I have something else on my face every time I wipe it
The fresh tears mix with the aged aqueous
And disappear with those of the past.

Their bodies of steel are cold,
Their eyes are sharp, their words easily glide through my skin like a razor held by a hopeless addict
Their man-made mistakes
Become by most feared and hated.
People with labels and names,
Are but just that

I’m alone within the voices
I push them back with my chair and whip.
Trying to tame the temptress
that seduces my escapist muses
But she growls and snarls and I feel the scratches slowly turn to scars and wounds on my inner most soul

How long can someone keep their chin up
Before they are simply just ignoring reality, ******* up their ‘control’
Should  I tell myself  again, “its’ gonna be okay”, or is it alright if I take time and break down

How many more drawings can be?
with the colors of black and white spilling from me and outside the lines
How many words regurgitated from my mind
Scrambled in a way they might be defined.
How many more patterns of vibrations will I need to resound to match my frequency
How much more art must spew from me that is otherwise calm and quiet
Should I open up and try this thing called talking?
Though I have tried.. I stutter, I get lost, I bore
I move my lips but the blank stares flare a hole in me like the Sun through glass on a scurrying ant.

I know they're not listening


My art listens
But it cannot talk
Just display to me what is inside
Escape that which I have been imagining
Or creating, or thinking.
Though it can speak, profound
Without making a sound

But I would like a voice
Not one of mine, of another
Who will listen
Not just talk

Introvert, shy, stuck-up, I’ve been called all the above because I don’t express easily what  others say so freely.
Nervous, intimidated,  Insecure
Sensitive, what will they think when I say something?

“I’d rather be thought of a Fool , then to open my mouth and remove all doubt”..

but  maybe an open mind cannot be,
without an mouth willing to open.

My arms spread wide for all who need, my heart is displayed.
But please don’t be greedy
Stepped on, used, abused, have I
Been because of my gratitude and compassion
I wish someone would listen to me, as if it were a silent pupil to a master whom only speaks the truth and only when he feels ready

Bright lights, blank stares

Water, moving, flowing, going, nature vs machine
Nature vs man
Spirituality vs reality
JDK May 2015
A young man bangs on the screen door of a small house.
The glass inside it rattles with his urgency.
He stands back and calls out a name.
An anxious pause.
He bangs on the door again.

The door behind the screen opens.
An old woman glares at the young man through the black mesh.
"She ain't here,
and even if she was -
she don't want to see you!
Now go away!"
She slams the door shut.

The young man stares at it, bewildered.
Stamps his foot.
Calls out a name -
louder this time.
He bangs on the screen door again,
the glass nearly breaking in its frame.
He yells out a name.

He shouts, "Are you in there?
I need to speak with you!"

"Go away,"  heard faintly from the other side of the door.

The young man walks to the side of the house.
He is grumbling underneath his breath.
Phrases like, "old hag," and "miserable old hag,"
can barely be heard.
He stops at a window.
Its curtains are drawn.
He knocks on it.
He calls out a name.
He yells,
"Please!"

He pauses.
Puts his ear against the glass.
He hears nothing at first,
then footsteps.
Grass being crunched under heavy feet
coming from the front of the house.
A large man turns the corner.
He stares at the young man.

"She's gone," says the large man.
"She left last night."

"What do you mean 'she's gone?'
Where has she gone?
I need to see her . . ."
He suddenly looks behind the man.

The old woman has turned the corner of the house.
She stands slightly behind the large man.

"She's gone with him," she hisses.
"**** good she did too!
He'll be able to give her more than you ever could in a thousand lifetimes!"

The large man growls at her from over his shoulder,
"Get back in the house!"
The old woman glares at the back of the large man,
then she gives the young man one last
disapproving look.
She huffs,
then storms off.

The young man stares at the large man.
He says,
"Has she really gone?
Is it really all true?"

"Yes. The part about her leaving is, anyway."

The young man goes pale.
He looks off into space.
He closes his eyes.
The large man looks away from him.

After a long pause,
with his eyes still closed;
"Was she happy?"

The large man looks at him, confused.
"What?"

The young man opens his eyes. Stares into the large man's.
"Last night,
when she left with him.
Did she look happy?"

The large man stares back at him for a few seconds;
sees the desperation in his eyes,
then looks down.
"Yes," he says softly.
"She looked happy."

The young man closes his eyes again.
One hand goes up to his head to clutch at his hair.
A range of emotions cross his face.

The large man looks up at him,
briefly,
then looks down again.
The young man sighs softly,
slowly.

"Ok," he says.
The large man looks up at him.
The young man is pulling something out of his pocket.
He walks up to the large man,
places it into one of his hands.

"Do me a favor, please."
They are staring into each others' eyes.
"Hang on to this for me."

The large man stares down at the object.
He looks back at the young man, confused.
"What do you want me to do with it?"

The young man is staring right at him, hard.
His face is devoid of all emotion;
all but resolve.

"Just keep it somewhere safe, please.
Keep it somewhere safe where no one can find it -
not even me."
Thom Jamieson Jul 2018
"Over here"...
but nothing.
The scene continues
unabated by my presence.
Plastic smiles and lustful eyes
bountiful but not for me..never me.
In the mirror' s unforgiving gaze
I am unrecognizable
Replaced with a crude rendering
of my previous likeness
fashioned by children
with lumpy imperfect clay.
Silence replaces loving laughter
that used to follow my witty banter.
Silence and stares.  Sympathetic stares
tinged with smugness and fear.
"Over here...over here..."
still nothing.
I recently received a message from a composer named joe drzewiecki who was interested in putting this poem to music.  Here are the results.  I didnt know my words could sound so good. Thank you joe drzewiecki, I am flattered.

https://soundcloud.com/jomama-2/invisible
Keith May Nov 2013
There are some nights
when I love the taste of water,
but I reach for whiskey instead.
I'll lay somewhat less awake in bed
until the morning when I know
I'll swallow enough in the shower.

It's nothing insurmountable,
like the cleanliness of an infant being baptized.
The congregation stares straight-mouthed
until the next baby is washed
and it stares blankly into the crowd
and the parents are proud.
Red Starr May 2013
She sits
And stares
Blank
Turns to the left
Turns to the right
Cold
Alone
No one
There
She sits
And stares
She wants
A warm
She wants
A beat
A heart beat
Warm
Held
Right there
But no
She sits
Alone
And stares
People
Here
People
There
But alone
She sits
And stares
Cross leg-ged
Cold head-ed
All alone
They flit
To the left
They flit
To the right
But no one
Sees her there
She wants
A beat
A heart
Beat
Warm and
Pulsing
There
But alone
She sits
And
Stares
How can
One
With
So many
Others
Be so
All
Alone?
She sits
In a box
A self-made
Box
And revels
In the
Dark
Yearns for
Love
And warmth
And peace
But chooses
Night
Instead
Aaron LaLux Jul 2016
Everybody’s staring again,
wherever I go whether they know or not,
I see the stares and it doesn’t matter,
if you’re taking my time you’re taking my pain,

what’s to gain,
from all this trouble,
I put my headphones on and try to focus,
but their staring again and it’s distracting,

fck this,
I want to explode like a supernova,
you don’t know me you want to know me,
I’d show you the truth but you’d be scared,

they always want to love you from a safe distance,
well with love there is no always and no distance is safe,
facts folks facts,
I’m off my axis writing in undefined prose,

what’s the pattern here,
there is no pattern here,
I’m getting bored I’m done here,
“Hey do you want to get out of here?”

Let’s go,
find a place,
where we can be,
period.

Want to take all this pain,
and push it into the world,
turn it into beauty,
change it into medicine,

oh man,
he’s on one again,
on that “Saving the world” spiel,
what’d they slip in his coffee today,

he’s acting strange,
and everybody’s staring,
like they know something great when they see it,
even if they don’t know exactly what that thing is,

what am I,
I don’t know and don’t have time to care,
got words to think and books to write,
got history to make before I get out of here,

“Do you want to get out of here?”

“Everybody’s staring again,
and I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.”

The king of awkward feeling strange on his throne,
I guess the best thing about being a runaway is you’re always home.

Or you’re never home,
and everywhere you roam everybody  stares,
wherever I go whether they know or not,
I see the stares and it doesn’t matter,
if you’re taking my time you’re taking my pain,

“What are you staring at?!?!”

Really I want to know,
because I’ve been trying to figure it out for years,
been to every continent,
and still I have no idea,

you are forcing me to not care,
taking hope and making my favorite word “whatever”,
whatever I feel exceptionally dizzy and want to throw up,
everybody’s staring the world is spinning I’m at a cafe in Budapest,

a table full of girls asked,
“What did you eat?”
I answer truthfully,
“Nothing, I just woke up.”

I was just stood up,
or maybe I missed my date because I just slept in,
I don’t know anymore because I feel disconnected from everyone,
and the further away I feel the more I see them stare…

Everybody’s staring again,
wherever I go whether they know or not,
I see the stares and it doesn’t matter,
if you’re taking my time you’re taking my pain…

∆ Aaron LA Lux ∆

author of The H Trilogy
author of The Poetry Trilogy
The Sun shines,
the fog blinds,
together they make,
a rainbow in the sky.

The Moon stares,
into a lake,
and wonders why,
he's a big mistake.

Why can't he be the Sun,
and light up the day.
Why can't he be the one,
to make the bad go away.

Why can't he be the light,
that brightens everyones day.
Instead he sits in the night,
wishing the Sun would go away.

The Moon glows,
the stars show,
a pattern of love,
that lights the Earth below.

To himself,
the Sun confides,
that he wishes,
he controlled the tides.

Why can't he be the Moon,
and turn darkness into light.
Why can't he be the one,
to light up the great night.

Why can't he have the grace,
of being with the stars.
Instead he sits up in space,
wishing he could take his place.

But what they both don't know is,
they need each other.
What they both don't know is,
that they are brothers.

We live in jealousy,
envying each other.
Please, just be thankful,
and happy for others.

The Sun needs the Moon,
to keep the night lit bright.
The Moon needs the Sun,
to produce his shining light.

The Sun needs the Moon,
and the Moon needs the Sun.
If they work together,
they can be one.

If they work together,
they can be one.
if they work together,
they will be one.

If we work together,
we could be one.
If we work together,
we will be one.
Copyright Barry Pietrantonio
Sitting here in class I am today, minding my business as they would say. I’m listening to the teacher teach but hearing only things left beyond my reach. Another whole day in this **** school so I can come out each night 'more-of-a-fool,' and would it behoove them all to know, I ain’t no dummy, no 'coffee-Joe'?

  …but then I’d have to get the chance, the opportunity provided to advance and the equal treatment they all receive that somehow has been lost on me. Why do I even come here? Why does my Mom insist on this? They don’t call on me, care about me, acknowledge me, it’s ridiculous. At lunch each day I gotta use my fists and even my own kind acts wicked, cause for the rest of them fighting is all that exists.

  Exists; having objective reality or being.

  I exist alright; exist if you call this a life, defined by ******, **** and monkey, or related to some stupid-actin’ ****** or some dumb brawler or that dude good at running but never ever seen as intelligent and cunning. The girls ignore me, teachers too, white guys hate me, what did I do? What did I ever do to them? I’m just like you, I just want some friends, want the chance in life to succeed, man shut up about being freed that **** happened a hundred and fifty ******* years ago, I’m just as sick of hearing about it as you are 'Bro.'

  They say I have rights, they say that it’s fair, they say there’s a chance for me everywhere, but everywhere I look that’s not what I see, I’m put-down and degraded cons-tant-ly, told that I should join the team, or passed over in conversations about some thing. Forced to be friends with thugs that hate but to them at least I can relate, for just like me they was excluded or marginalized when told that they are deluded; they’ll never make it anyway, never achieve their dreams, never have their say so why even bother when no one cares how you feel, when your dreams in life won’t ever be real, when you end up in the streets and all you got left is to steal, when its still,

“Go back to Africa ******!”

...they say with zeal and the vitriol an violence comport surreal, Helen didn’t hold this secret to reveal nor does rap, truthfully, with these problems deal? Cocooned by stares and ****-sure glares, because your own sports brothers hate your *** and make you just wanna ditch that class, so here I ended up on the streets, hangin' round on my crew’s beats, acting tough, street-cred and clout and there your 'momma-an-sister' out n’ about, while here I am a fresh drop-out and can you guess what?

Here we come to take her purse, I clock your mom’s mouth and shove down your sister but ***** you boy I could’ve done much worse, she could’ve lost her life and come home in a hearse!

  Is this the ****** ya’ll wanted to see? All filled up inside with hatred, cause I was told that I would never make it, from day one got no attention, spent half of high school in afternoon detention, training me for my future as a prison convict yet another sign our society is depraved and sick. Given no chance or help or just some praise, no moments to shine and no Happy Days, he’s just a gang-banger, a **** they say? My actions may be worse than your words assail, and well, that may be me and I may be in jail but here’s something from my Grand Momma, a little encouragement goes a long way to change this drama...

You see me on the street you better ******* run cause you already know what’s in my jacket son and my hoodie will be up so you can’t see my face since I already know what you think of my race.
I guess these are rhyming stories really. I grew up poor in rough neighborhoods and majority-minority schools. This piece is a tribute to tribulations of poor African Americans which I know all too well having grown up in their neighborhoods.
Cassidy Shoop Nov 2014
There's a demon in my head and it's finally figured out how to turn my skin transparent and show itself. It escapes through the blank stares in my eyes and as much as I try I can't stop it from venting through my teeth with whatever air is left in my lungs. It's slowly killing me and making my blood toxic.
Sophia Adelle May 2014
Hear their whispers
Down the streets
Sweet child hold on to me please
Don't let their stares
Break your strides
Walk down the road with confidence
They won't know
About you and I
If we just live in silence now
(s.a.)
Terry Collett Apr 2012
Lisbeth stands watching
The artist as he prepares
To sketch. Her elder sisters
Stand in shadows whispering.
Her younger sister plays
With her doll on the floor.
Their father said to do as
The artist instructed and
Don’t misbehave or be rude.
The artist stares hard his
Dark eyes searching their
Every move and expression
And body gesture. The elder
Girls mutter in shadows
Their hands over their mouths
Their blue eyes like shallow
Pools. Ready? The artist
Asks putting charcoal to
Paper his fingers blackening.
Lisbeth says just as we are?
The artist nods. His grim
Features express do not disturb.
The youngest sister plays
Ignoring the artist her eyes set
On the game at hand. The girls
In shadow turn their profiles
Set to mystery their hands on
Their abdomens like guardians
Of virtue. Lisbeth wonders as
She watches the artist’s stiff
Moustache and beard the slow
Movement of his mouth as he
Mouths words and stares hard.
The last artist employed some
Year before younger and less
Brutal in expression and manner
Had drawn them each in private
Rooms and set them down on couch
Or bed and kept their images inside
His head. He was dismissed and the
Drawings destroyed and nothing said.
Lisbeth had thought it just a game
Something done as lover might in
Private corners or lonely spots on
Quiet nights. The artist sketches.
His blackened fingers move and
Made their mark. Their images
Captured. The scene set. One sister
In the shadows yawns the other
Stares in still contempt. Lisbeth
Poses as young girls do. Nothing
To show of interest and nothing
Hid no secret self no other you.
That’s it the artist says we’ll begin
The painting another day maybe
Next week if all is well. The girls
In shadow look away and resume
Their secret games. Lisbeth studies
The artist’s blackened fingers as
He rolls the charcoal sketch and
Puts away. He gazes at her standing
By herself a glimpse of smile and
Glimmer in her eyes like small fires.
He closes the tired lids of eyes
And smoulders down his old desires.
Brianne Rose Feb 2015
When one stares in the mirror,
Only to see no one looking back,
Do they truly realize,
That no one has ever cared enough about them,
To notice them and give them character.

I am one of these people,
That I will admit,
I sit at the back,
Enjoying the silence,
The lack of eyes upon me.

But when I look in the mirror,
Who stares back?
An empty smile,
upon an equally empty face,
A lack of emotion,
Hidden behind a mask,

A fake smile,
But dead eyes,
A fake laugh,
But no upward tilt of the mouth,

Who stares back...
When you're dead?
Completely Random poem I wrote.
Creation of lack of sleep.
Got me thinking about death.
Criticism Welcome
Created near around 1:00 AM.
East coast USA time.
Enjoy.
celey Jul 2015
you're allowed to be a little selfish,
she tells herself
you're allowed to feel,
she repeats
as she pushes the blade,
manages to gulp down a sob
as she stares
stares stares stares
at the opened skin
and the dripping blood
you don't deserve this,
is what she doesn't say
or admit
even to herself
I tend to get stares... Looks... The occasional "are you gay?" With a quizzical look of disgust.
Well, to answer your question, no, I am not gay.
In a society built around judgment and stilted above common sense,
Being gay would mean that I'd have to find women utterly disgusting, flick my wrists, speak with funny and awkward inflections, right?
Do you think I speak with funny and awkward inflections?
Good! Because I'm so not gay.
Being gay would mean that I love to shop, well I hate it!
My fashion sense does not exceed that of a box of colorful crayola crayons melting away in the blistering Las Vegas sun because you see, I don't live in San Francisco, or New York,
or anywhere "gay" people live.
I am not gay.
Being gay would mean that I am immoral but I can assure you, moralistically speaking, that morals are what keep me routinely from listening to Lady Gaga, who I've heard, despite her catholic upbringing, is a devout devil worshiper and I sure as hell don't worship Satan!
Oh no, I am not gay.
My father once told me, in his manliest tone that if I ever became sweet
or my tank profusely filled with sugar
that he'd disown me and rid me of his home.
However last time I checked,
I don't have a tank
and one lick of my tanned brown skin would reveal that I am in fact quite salty!
Salty, as defined by Urban Dictionary, means to be ******.
Bitter. Angry.
Well father, there aint nothing sweet about my wrath.
I'm infuriated.
I'm angry not because I'm not able to fulfill the holistic criterion society has built in order to be gay,
No, I am more upset that there is actually a set of rules dictating whether or not someone is gay.
Now listen to me when I tell you,
I am not gay
I am not gay because I have yet to inject myself of substances with an unsterile needle for all purposes of getting high.
No, I have yet to discover my last ****** partner was diagnosed with *** and that I may very well have the virus.
No, I have yet to interiorly decorate my bedroom with the warm crimson fluid that is my blood because some punk at school thought it was cute to label me a queer.
I have yet to be gay because being gay in today's society means I am reckless. I am promiscuous. I am a *******.
Well, guess what society,
I am not gay.
I am, in fact, a man, who is not your personal show dog for your fashion approval that you can tote around in some cute Gucci bag.
I am a man, who can still appreciate the beautiful magnificence that is a curve when he sees one no matter the person's gender.
I am a man who, despite what you may be expecting,
is a man who, no matter how hard you try to box me in a confined image,
is a man who, will fight to freely be in love with who he wants to be in love with,
who is a man who is not gay
but a man who loves men.
I am not gay.
..
Totally gay.
Skypath Sep 2014
It's elementary, my dear
This bittersweet affection that I feel
From one boy to the next I grew
Ladder rungs of broken hearts

First grade
Blonde hair and disarming smile
Recess games and hallway passes
A note in a diary and minutes spent giggling
Never talking, always watching

Fourth grade
Glasses frame of brown hair and thin shoulders
Curious enigma to come and go
A bit more literate diary entrees
One year of crossed legs and shy smiles

Fifth grade
A growing tree of lean muscle and blue eyes
Short brown hair and a charming grin
Side by side on a rubber track
Gray skies and sweet goodbyes
A bright dance floor and a shattered heart
Miserable nights and heartbreak songs

Seventh grade
Long dark hair and chocolate eyes
This spring has brought a strange surprise
Wiry muscle and soft cheeks
Once admired, then adored
An ongoing thrum of sweet affection
Sidelong glances and gym class stares
New discoveries and quiet realization
Girl can love girl

Tenth grade
A firecracker packed with mysterious boys
And an enigmatic girl
A bomb in the summer sky
Spelling new names, new faces, new hearts
A whisper of 'I love you' at long last returned
Names carved on my ribs and pulling my lips
A tightened chest never felt so good
Sara Macey Nov 2012
I’m stumbling through a black abyss,

Surrounded by this nothingness,

Mirroring the emptiness,

inside my soul.



Along the way I find a lake,

A lake upon the path I take,

And near the lake there lies a sign,

Just before the water’s line.



And this is what the sign does say

,The sign I find upon my way:

“Here lies the gateway to the soul,

So look within if that’s your goal.”



So I kneel within this black abyss,

And gaze upon the lake’s surface,

My reflection meets my eyes,

A face I do not recognize.



And as I look upon this face,

Despising she who took my place,

I feel my anger over flow,

And finally I let it go.



“You ignorant and petty fool!

You errant-minded, useless tool!

Oh look at you, what you’ve become!

Don’t you see how far you’ve fallen from?”



My reflection does not answer me,

Just stares back out so emptily,

A sight that draws forth unshed tears,

And rekindles all my greatest fears.



“What happened to the face I knew?

What happened to the real you?

You are everything you once opposed!

You are a fraud! And everyone knows.”



My reflection simply stares at me,

It does not move, nor answer me,

Nor does it return my shout,

It does nothing, just stares back out.



“You are the reason for the emptiness!

You are the reason for this black abyss!

For everything that’s trapped me here!

You are the face behind my fear!”



Then looking down upon this lake,

This lake upon the path I take,

I realize it is no lake at all,

Only a mirror upon the wall.
Stephen E Yocum Nov 2013
In ’68 Hutch and me,
Sitting at the bar drinking
Our third cold beer.
In a semi Fern Bar
Laguna or Newport Beach
Which now, I’m not sure.
It was around nine or so,
A week day night,
The place more empty than not.

She came in alone, made
Entry like the dramatic host of
A TV show. As if she were the
Center piece on the nations
Thanksgiving Dinner Table.
Over dressed to the nines,
Lots of color, heavy make up
She didn’t really need.

Her perfume scent hovered
Around her like a cloud of insects  
On a hot summer night in a wet meadow.
Kind of made my eyes water up.

She perched daintily like a dancer,
Upon a bar stool,
Three empty stools down,
Nodded the bartender her regular order.
A martini, a double it was,
With but a dab of vermouth.
One green olive on a stick.
The glass was prechilled as if
It had been waiting only for her.
She pounded that first one down,
As if the stem wear was a shot glass.
Another full stem glass appeared,
That one also quickly consumed
Two bright red lipstick stains all that
Remained in or on the stemmed glass rim.

Her main task accomplished,
She audibly exhaled,
As if tired or relieved.
I couldn't tell which.
Turned around on her stool to face
Hutch sitting closest to her.
“You boys Marines.” She declared,
More than inquired.
The close chopped hair cuts
giving us away.

Hutch just nodded, he never did say much.
A ****** just back from The Nam,
A dark scary guy of few words.

She opened her fur trimmed cloth coat,
exposing two very nice stocking clad legs,
And just a quick flash of red underpants.
Rotating towards us so we got a better shot.

She announced her name,
like as if we should know it.
Our blank stares informed her we didn’t.
Her face was to me, somewhat familiar.  
From movies in the 40s or 50s.
We were early 20 guys, she much older,
Trying hard to look younger, not succeeding.

Soon she was sitting right next to Hutch,
Two more Martini stems had come and gone,
Her lipstick finger prints upon them.
And still Hutch had not spoken more than
Three or four words.

She bought us a pitcher of brew,
Hutch grunted a short bit of gratitude.
We didn't have to say much, she was in charge.
It was all about her, she rambled on and on
Speaking volumes saying not much at all.
Beating back her crushing obscurity,
With flowery reminiscence recall,
Of glory days, long gone away.
Important for the moment, if only to her.
It was all; “me and I, I did this, I was that,
I slept with him,
And him and him”.
How about so and so?  I asked,
“No Darling not him, he was gay!
Still is.”

It was not long and she was touching Hutch.
On the hand, the shoulder, she was working him
With languid hungry looks from her big baby blues,
And the message could not have been plainer,
Had she held up a large hand lettered sign.

I don’t believe she was a “Working Girl”,
Just someone very lonely seeking to find
Herself, and some company for the night,
All to prove that she was still alive.

Looking at her, I could only think,
How sad and pathetic she seemed,
How desperate her plight.
To humble herself so,
In that dingy bar, among strangers
She did not know, Acting yet, still
On the only stage she could find,
Staring in her own bad ‘B’ movie drama.
In that dingy smelly bar.

Hutch and her left after a hour or so,
He never told me much about it.
He was unofficially AWOL for three days.
I covered for him, kept his name off the
Missing Morning Formation Reports
and the Daily Duty Lists.
No one cared to check. Our unit made up
Of mostly guys back from the war,
A pretty loosey-goosey outfit.

Once in a while now I see an old movie,
most are Black and white, Film Noir stuff,
And there she is, a much younger her,
Looking pretty **** good,
Not real big roles they were,
Claimed she was in the chorus
Of "Singing In The Rain" in '52.
To this, I can not attest,
watched that film several times,
But I never saw her there.

Had parts Playing damsels in distress,
A mobster’s gun moll a time or two,
Or unhappy Play Girls on a bar stool.
I guess it was type casting that done her in.
Or maybe she got a little too long in the tooth..
A sad ending to a short B movie career.
Life ain’t easy, even for a so called “movie star”.
Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be.
A smattering of fame, apparently worth,
Nothing at all.
True stuff from an old guys past.
She had called the Company Office
once or twice, looking for Hutch.
He told us to tell her that he had
been Shipped Out, when he actually
hadn't.

She no doubt found someone else to
tell her story to.

I saw that woman the other day on TV,
an old film on Turner Classic Movies
doing her thing. I sort of wonder what
ever  happened to her, but refuse to
Google it to find out.
Some information you don't need
or what to know.
It did inspire this little Poem Noir write.

Got a letter from Hutch in '70, we were
both out of the Corps. He was headed to
the Arabian Desert as a hired gun, to guard
some pipe line operation. Have no idea what
became of him after that. Hutch was a real hard
case, 14 confirmed kills through a ****** sight.
I hope he made it out of the desert all right,
maybe sitting on a beach someplace recalling
his back in the day three nights with a once
upon a time B movie star. Actually I doubt he
recalls her at all.
Arabella B Sep 2016
What did I do to get those stares?

Why do you guys look at like I'm a freak.

They whisper and stare at me when I Board the bus.

I'm just like you guys.

I came back for the Love of the Sport.

Not to be a Nuisance.  

I came because I love the sport. I don't care if I don't play.

So Please don't give me the look why am I here?

and Ignore me like I'm not there.

I know I got cut from the team. I know I don't have my Serve.

I know I seem weak.

Like I can't do my Job.

But I'm trying my Hardest.

I want to please you guys.

I want you to see that I'm here to help.

The stares and whispers are breaking me.

I'm going to have a breakdown.

Because I know you guys don't want me there.

I know why Stick around somewhere where you aren't wanted?

I want to show them I care enough. That I am strong enough.

I Just wish that's how they saw me.
If anyone from My volleyball team is Reading this though I don't know why they would But if you guys are Hit me with your best shot. I might feel hurt by your actions but I love the sport more.
Kate Dempsey Dec 2010
Feng collapsed into the snow,
looking up into the sky and
thinking of lost comrades, all lost
in the war against Russia.
Not far away, Nikolai was doing the same.
Both of them, neither of them
could forget the other’s identity.
Russian.
Chinese.
Feng ran, approaching the Russian border.
The sound of an accordion.
The Chinese man runs faster,
running out of breath,
long, jet black hair hitting his face like little whips
as the Russian snow dried and cracked his lips.
Finally, Feng spots what he is looking for:
a grey coat and a flourish of a red scarf.
Feng calls out. Nikolai turns around.
The accordion falls to the ground
With a soggy thud.
They run together and embrace,
the coldness and the warmth both
Redden Nikolai’s face.
Feng falls, Nikolai catches.
Feng cries.
A wetness on his head.
A summons to look upward.
Nikolai’s… tears?
Will we meet again, Russia?
No, China.
Can we speak again, Russia?
No, China.
The two men release each other and stand tall once again
like soldiers.
Can we forget, China?
No, Russia.
Can we forgive, China?
No, Russia.
Feng stares.
Nikolai stares.
Nikolai’s hard, rough hands, cracked from the cold
reach toward his own neck.
His scarf.
He wrapped the scarf around his friend’s neck.
This is yours now. Remember me.
Feng’s teary eyes said Thank you.
Nikolai stares.
Feng stares.
Red eyes.
Red cheeks.
Both white faces longed for another word.
Finally, a movement.
Feng salutes and smiles to his forbidden friend.
A soldier’s farewell.
Nikolai smiles, but turns away,
Picks up his accordion and begins to play;
play the tune that his friend knows so well,
hoping that he would remember how it goes.
Feng’s cue.
He draws a flute from his sleeve
and begins to play
the tune that his friend knows so well.
They stand with their backs toward each other
and play that one last song together,
Memories of fellow soldiers and deceased friends
their war-torn countries,
how they were forced to hate each other,
their forbidden friendship.
The song ends.
The music stops.
A heavy pause.
Without another look, they walk away,
Enemy soldiers once again
But forever friends.
The snow falls between them,
Nikolai’s black hair thrashing
In the unforgiving Russian gust
That whispers betrayal! Mutiny!
Russia’s scarf cascading down China’s back,
waving goodbye to Russia
and turning China red.
copyright Kate Dempsey 2010

Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.

I'm not entirely satisfied with this one. I believe that it has a really good concept behind it and I think it has a lot of potential to become a great poem. However, I would really appreciate some feedback. I really want to improve this one, as I think it can be saved.
Emmanuella Aug 2019
Smoothly, she slinks onto the window sill,
silky body settling before tall pane of glass;
Outside, the city’s down and out
Outside, the city’s golden light
and darkest dark.
She curls,
long tail around slick body
and stares out
for the one who stares back.

Tonight,
It’s an empty window opposite,
A single frame of
oh, what her life could be.
She’s never seen more
doesn’t yearn to,
Just for her amore
her golden tabby love.

Ah, there he is,
a pounce atop window sill;
he stares at her
who stares back
his joli chat noir (pretty black cat).

But it’s all too soon
when she’s wrapped in arms too smooth
and a voice,
lacking feline’s purr
slurs,
“Ah, puppy love, Rosette.
It’s all  just puppy love.”
"A Cat's Romance is but puppy love..."
Mercury Chap Apr 2015
We call you crush
'Cause you break hearts in a hush
Of your simply pretty voice
I have to bury my feelings I have no choice
Your simple yet beautiful stares make me flush.
Nameless Sep 2015
I caught her staring at me again
I can't quite place
A name to the expression
she has when I catch her
looking
but it's different from when
she doesn't know i'm watching her
watching me
from the corner of my eye

She never brought up the 'notes'
even the one I wrote out of rage
I don't remember putting it
into her bag

But is she afraid
curious
spiteful
disgusted
What name can I for a fact
put to the face she makes
when she stares

And when I catch her
Poem inspired by a girl at my school... Addy.
Even as the sun with purple-coloured face
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheeked Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn.
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-faced suitor ‘gins to woo him.

“Thrice fairer than myself,” thus she began
“The fields chief flower, sweet above compare,
Stain to all nymphs, more lovely than a man,
More white and red than doves or roses are;
Nature that made thee with herself at strife
Saith that the world hath ending with thy life.

“Vouchsafe, thou wonder, to alight thy steed,
And rein his proud head to the saddle-bow;
If thou wilt deign this favour, for thy meed
A thousand honey secrets shalt thou know.
Here come and sit where never serpent hisses,
And being set, I’ll smother thee with kisses.

“And yet not cloy thy lips with loathed satiety,
But rather famish them amid their plenty,
Making them red and pale with fresh variety:
Ten kisses short as one, one long as twenty.
A summer’s day will seem an hour but short,
Being wasted in such time-beguiling sport.”

With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And, trembling in her passion, calls it balm,
Earth’s sovereign salve to do a goddess good.
Being so enraged, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.

Over one arm the ***** courser’s rein,
Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blushed and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire.

The studded bridle on a ragged bough
Nimbly she fastens—O, how quick is love!
The steed is stalled up, and even now
To tie the rider she begins to prove.
Backward she pushed him, as she would be ******,
And governed him in strength, though not in lust.

So soon was she along as he was down,
Each leaning on their elbows and their hips;
Now doth she stroke his cheek, now doth he frown
And ‘gins to chide, but soon she stops his lips,
And, kissing, speaks with lustful language broken:
“If thou wilt chide, thy lips shall never open”.

He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears
Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks;
Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs
To fan and blow them dry again she seeks.
He saith she is immodest, blames her miss;
What follows more she murders with a kiss.

Even as an empty eagle, sharp by fast,
Tires with her beak on feathers, flesh, and bone,
Shaking her wings, devouring all in haste,
Till either gorge be stuffed or prey be gone;
Even so she kissed his brow, his cheek, his chin,
And where she ends she doth anew begin.

Forced to content, but never to obey,
Panting he lies, and breatheth in her face;
She feedeth on the steam as on a prey,
And calls it heavenly moisture, air of grace,
Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers,
So they were dewed with such distilling showers.

Look how a bird lies tangled in a net,
So fastened in her arms Adonis lies;
Pure shame and awed resistance made him fret,
Which bred more beauty in his angry eyes.
Rain added to a river that is rank
Perforce will force it overflow the bank.

Still she entreats, and prettily entreats,
For to a pretty ear she tunes her tale;
Still is he sullen, still he lours and frets,
‘Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale.
Being red, she loves him best; and being white,
Her best is bettered with a more delight.

Look how he can, she cannot choose but love;
And by her fair immortal hand she swears
From his soft ***** never to remove
Till he take truce with her contending tears,
Which long have rained, making her cheeks all wet;
And one sweet kiss shall pay this countless debt.

Upon this promise did he raise his chin,
Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave
Who, being looked on, ducks as quickly in;
So offers he to give what she did crave;
But when her lips were ready for his pay,
He winks, and turns his lips another way.

Never did passenger in summer’s heat
More thirst for drink than she for this good turn.
Her help she sees, but help she cannot get;
She bathes in water, yet her fire must burn.
“O pity,” ‘gan she cry “flint-hearted boy,
’Tis but a kiss I beg; why art thou coy?

“I have been wooed as I entreat thee now
Even by the stern and direful god of war,
Whose sinewy neck in battle ne’er did bow,
Who conquers where he comes in every jar;
Yet hath he been my captive and my slave,
And begged for that which thou unasked shalt have.

“Over my altars hath he hung his lance,
His battered shield, his uncontrolled crest,
And for my sake hath learned to sport and dance,
To toy, to wanton, dally, smile, and jest,
Scorning his churlish drum and ensign red,
Making my arms his field, his tent my bed.

“Thus he that overruled I overswayed,
Leading him prisoner in a red-rose chain;
Strong-tempered steel his stronger strength obeyed,
Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.
O be not proud, nor brag not of thy might,
For mast’ring her that foiled the god of fight.

“Touch but my lips with those fair lips of thine,
—Though mine be not so fair, yet are they red—
The kiss shall be thine own as well as mine.
What seest thou in the ground? Hold up thy head;
Look in mine eyeballs, there thy beauty lies;
Then why not lips on lips, since eyes in eyes?

“Art thou ashamed to kiss? Then wink again,
And I will wink; so shall the day seem night.
Love keeps his revels where there are but twain;
Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight:
These blue-veined violets whereon we lean
Never can blab, nor know not what we mean.

“The tender spring upon thy tempting lip
Shows thee unripe; yet mayst thou well be tasted.
Make use of time, let not advantage slip:
Beauty within itself should not be wasted.
Fair flowers that are not gathered in their prime
Rot and consume themselves in little time.

“Were I hard-favoured, foul, or wrinkled-old,
Ill-nurtured, crooked, churlish, harsh in voice,
O’erworn, despised, rheumatic, and cold,
Thick-sighted, barren, lean, and lacking juice,
Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not for thee;
But having no defects, why dost abhor me?

“Thou canst not see one wrinkle in my brow,
Mine eyes are grey and bright and quick in turning,
My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow,
My flesh is soft and plump, my marrow burning;
My smooth moist hand, were it with thy hand felt,
Would in thy palm dissolve or seem to melt.

“Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or like a fairy trip upon the green,
Or like a nymph, with long dishevelled hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen.
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.

“Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie:
These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support me;
Two strengthless doves will draw me through the sky
From morn till night, even where I list to sport me.
Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
That thou should think it heavy unto thee?

“Is thine own heart to thine own face affected?
Can thy right hand seize love upon thy left?
Then woo thyself, be of thyself rejected,
Steal thine own freedom, and complain on theft.
Narcissus so himself himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.

“Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear;
Things growing to themselves are growth’s abuse.
Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth beauty;
Thou wast begot: to get it is thy duty.

“Upon the earth’s increase why shouldst thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead;
And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.”

By this, the lovesick queen began to sweat,
For where they lay the shadow had forsook them,
And Titan, tired in the midday heat,
With burning eye did hotly overlook them,
Wishing Adonis had his team to guide,
So he were like him, and by Venus’ side.

And now Adonis, with a lazy sprite,
And with a heavy, dark, disliking eye,
His louring brows o’erwhelming his fair sight,
Like misty vapours when they blot the sky,
Souring his cheeks, cries “Fie, no more of love!
The sun doth burn my face; I must remove.”

“Ay me,” quoth Venus “young, and so unkind!
What bare excuses mak’st thou to be gone!
I’ll sigh celestial breath, whose gentle wind
Shall cool the heat of this descending sun.
I’ll make a shadow for thee of my hairs;
If they burn too, I’ll quench them with my tears.

“The sun that shines from heaven shines but warm,
And lo, I lie between that sun and thee;
The heat I have from thence doth little harm:
Thine eye darts forth the fire that burneth me;
And were I not immortal, life were done
Between this heavenly and earthly sun.

“Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel?
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth.
Art thou a woman’s son, and canst not feel
What ’tis to love, how want of love tormenteth?
O, had thy mother borne so hard a mind
She had not brought forth thee, but died unkind.

“What am I that thou shouldst contemn me this?
Or what great danger dwells upon my suit?
What were thy lips the worse for one poor kiss?
Speak, fair; but speak fair words, or else be mute.
Give me one kiss, I’ll give it thee again,
And one for int’rest, if thou wilt have twain.

“Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone,
Well-painted idol, image dull and dead,
Statue contenting but the eye alone,
Thing like a man, but of no woman bred!
Thou art no man, though of a man’s complexion,
For men will kiss even by their own direction.”

This said, impatience chokes her pleading tongue,
And swelling passion doth provoke a pause;
Red cheeks and fiery eyes blaze forth her wrong:
Being judge in love, she cannot right her cause;
And now she weeps, and now she fain would speak,
And now her sobs do her intendments break.

Sometime she shakes her head, and then his hand;
Now gazeth she on him, now on the ground;
Sometime her arms infold him like a band;
She would, he will not in her arms be bound;
And when from thence he struggles to be gone,
She locks her lily fingers one in one.

“Fondling,” she saith “since I have hemmed thee here
Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer:
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale;
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.

“Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom-grass and high delightful plain,
Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,
To shelter thee from tempest and from rain:
Then be my deer, since I am such a park;
No dog shall rouse thee, though a thousand bark.”

At this Adonis smiles as in disdain,
That in each cheek appears a pretty dimple.
Love made those hollows, if himself were slain,
He might be buried in a tomb so simple,
Foreknowing well, if there he came to lie,
Why, there Love lived, and there he could not die.

These lovely caves, these round enchanting pits,
Opened their mouths to swallow Venus’ liking.
Being mad before, how doth she now for wits?
Struck dead at first, what needs a second striking?
Poor queen of love, in thine own law forlorn,
To love a cheek that smiles at thee in scorn!

Now which way shall she turn? What shall she say?
Her words are done, her woes the more increasing.
The time is spent, her object will away,
And from her twining arms doth urge releasing.
“Pity!” she cries “Some favour, some remorse!”
Away he springs, and hasteth to his horse.

But lo, from forth a copse that neighbours by
A breeding jennet, *****, young, and proud,
Adonis’ trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts, and neighs aloud.
The strong-necked steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.

Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder;
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven’s thunder;
The iron bit he crusheth ‘tween his teeth,
Controlling what he was controlled with.

His ears up-pricked; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compassed crest now stand on end;
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send;
His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire,
Shows his hot courage and his high desire.

Sometime he trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty and modest pride;
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say ‘Lo, thus my strength is tried,
And this I do to captivate the eye
Of the fair ******* that is standing by.’

What recketh he his rider’s angry stir,
His flattering ‘Holla’ or his ‘Stand, I say’?
What cares he now for curb or pricking spur,
For rich caparisons or trappings gay?
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
For nothing else with his proud sight agrees.

Look when a painter would surpass the life
In limning out a well-proportioned steed,
His art with nature’s workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one
In shape, in courage, colour, pace, and bone.

Round-hoofed, short-jointed, fetlocks **** and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head, and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide;
Look what a horse should have he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.

Sometime he scuds far off, and there he stares;
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather;
To bid the wind a base he now prepares,
And whe’er he run or fly they know not whether;
For through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
Fanning the hairs, who wave like feathered wings.

He looks upon his love, and neighs unto her;
She answers him as if she knew his mind:
Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her,
She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind,
Spurns at his love, and scorns the heat he feels,
Beating his kind embracements with her heels.

Then, like a melancholy malcontent,
He vails his tail that, like a falling plume,
Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent;
He stamps, and bites the poor flies in his fume.
His love, perceiving how he was enraged,
Grew kinder, and his fury was assuaged.

His testy master goeth about to take him,
When, lo, the unbacked *******, full of fear,
Jealous of catching, swiftly doth forsake him,
With her the horse, and left Adonis there.
As they were mad, unto the wood they hie them,
Outstripping crows that strive to overfly them.

All swoll’n with chafing, down Adonis sits,
Banning his boist’rous and unruly beast;
And now the happy season once more fits
That lovesick Love by pleading may be blest;
For lovers say the heart hath treble wrong
When it is barred the aidance of the tongue.

An oven that is stopped, or river stayed,
Burneth more hotly, swelleth with more rage;
So of concealed sorrow may be said.
Free vent of words love’s fire doth assuage;
But when the heart’s attorney once is mute,
The client breaks, as desperate in his suit.

He sees her coming, and begins to glow,
Even as a dying coal revives with wind,
And with his bonnet hides his angry brow,
Looks on the dull earth with disturbed mind,
Taking no notice that she is so nigh,
For all askance he holds her in his eye.

O what a sight it was wistly to view
How she came stealing to the wayward boy!
To note the fighting conflict of her hue,
How white and red each other did destroy!
But now her cheek was pale, and by-and-by
It flashed forth fire, as lightning from the sky.

Now was she just before him as he sat,
And like a lowly lover down she kneels;
With one fair hand she heaveth up his hat,
Her other tender hand his fair cheek feels.
His tend’rer cheek receives her soft hand’s print
As apt as new-fall’n snow takes any dint.

O what a war of looks was then between them,
Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing!
His eyes saw her eyes as they had not seen them;
Her eyes wooed still, his eyes disdained the wooing;
And all this dumb-play had his acts made plain
With tears which chorus-like her eyes did rain.

Full gently now she takes him by the hand,
A lily prisoned in a gaol of snow,
Or ivory in an alabaster band;
So white a friend engirts so white a foe.
This beauteous combat, wilful and unwilling,
Showed like two silver doves that sit a-billing.

Once more the engine of her thoughts began:
“O fairest mover on this mortal round,
Would t
Yule Mar 2017
noong una kitang nasilayan
inaamin kong hindi ikaw ang nais kong kamtan
ngunit habang tumatagal,
puso ko’t loob, sayo’y natuluyan

hindi ko rin alam kung bakit
dahil ba sa boses **** nakakahumaling?
o sa mga matatamis **** mga ngiti?
mistulang nawawala ang iyong mga mata
sa tuwing ito’y iyong gawin
di ko alam, pero simpleng titig mo lamang
ka’y laki na ng epekto nito sa akin
hanggang sa palagi na kitang hinahanap-hanap
aba’t ginayuma mo nga ba ako?

ngunit, kung ano't saya ang nadarama
ganoon din ang kapalit nito kapag nandyan ka
sa mga panahon na wala ka sa tabi
pasakit at dalilubho ang naranas
bakit ba hindi ko kayang sayo ay mawalay?
ngunit kailangan kong magtimpi at alamin
kung hanggang saan lang dapat ang hangarin

ngunit aking nagunita,
ikaw talaga ang natatangi sa puso, at tuwina
ngunit kung gusto ko ring makaalpas sa sakit
kailangan ika’y kalimutan
sa gayon ay baka matagpuan ang kalinaw

pero ang alaala ng kahapon ay sadyang bumalik
kahit saan man magpunta, ika’y naka-aligid
kung alam mo lang ang aking tinahak
pagod, at hirap – naranas upang sayo’y makalapit

ngunit ano ba pa ang magagawa?
sa una pa lang, nagmahal ng isang tala
at kung bigyan man ng pagkakataon
mas pipiliing sarili ay ibaon
lahat ng nararamdaman
na hindi mo rin kayang ipaglaban

dahil hindi mo rin naman ako mahal,
mas mahal mo ang iyong pangarap
at hindi ako yun, ito'y tanggap

sakim man sa kanilang paningin
ikaw lang naman ang gusto ko
ngunit, bakit? bakit…
ipinagkait pa sa akin ng mundo?
pero ito ang nagpapatunay
na kahit gaano pa ako kailangan na maghintay
para sayo'y hindi ako nararapat
dahil tunay nga ba ang aking intensyon?
o ginagawa lamang kitang desisyon?
tingnan mo nga, miski ako may pagdududa

kahit man ito’y pag-ibig natin ay isusugal
kahit gaano ko pa ipagsamo sa Maykapal
wala rin naman itong mahahantungan
hindi rin naman ako ang iyong kailangan

kaya't ito'y hahayaang dalhin ng langit,
kung saan mang lupalop ito'y dalhin
pinaubaya sa Maykapal,
antayin na lang maglaho
ito ang aking huling habilin,
bago kitang tuluyang iwan

pero ito'y mananatiling nakaukit
sa puso't isipan,
dahil kaya nga ba kitang kalimutan?

ito’y magsisilbing alaala
ng minsan nating pagsasama,
kahit sa panaginip lamang

ang ipagtagpo ang isang ikaw at ako,
ang mabuo ang salitang 'tayo' –
napaka-imposible…
napaka-imposible.

eng trans:
when I first saw you
I admit you're not the one I yearn for
but as time passes by
my heart, and mind – fell for you

I don't really know why
is it because of your alluring voice?
or because of your sweet smiles?
it's as if your eyes disappear
whenever you do this
I don't know but in your simple stares
it has a big impact on me
until I'm always looking for you
oh my, did you put a spell on me?

but in what happiness I felt
that's what I also feel whenever you're there
in times that you're not beside me
pain and dreading was experienced
why can't I stand being apart from you?
but I have to resist and know
to where I should stand in line

yet I've realized
you're the one that's always in my heart
but if I want to get rid of this pain
I have to forget you
by then I might find peace

but the memories of yesterday kept coming back
everywhere I go, you're there
if only you knew what I've been through
exhaustion, and rigor – I have to face to get close to you

but what can I do?
from the start, I've loved a star
and if given a chance
I'd rather choose to bury myself,
all these feelings
that you're not even willing to fight for

because you don't even love me,
you love your dream more
and it's not me, I've accepted it

it may be selfish in their eyes
you're the only one I want
yet, why? why...
did the world denied + you from me?
but this just proves
that no matter how long I have to wait
I'm not the one for you
because is my intention real?
or am I just making you a decision?
see? even I have doubts

even if I gamble this love of ours
even if I plea from the Creator
this will just go nowhere ++
I am not the one you need

that's why I'll just let the sky take this
wherever in the heavens this will be held
let the Creator take charge
I'll just wait for it to fade
this is my last will
before I will leave you

but this will remain etched
in my mind, and heart
because can I truly forget you?

this will serve as a memory,
of our once encounter
even if it's just in a dream

for you and me to meet,
to form the word 'us' –
it's so impossible,
**it's impossible
+ finding a translation I wanted for this was hard
++ even this //brainfart

suntok sa buwan (from ph; fil.)
lit.trans: hitting the moon; punching the moon
actual meaning: impossible

this was my entry for our "spoken poetry",
though none can relate...

pasensya na, mahal...
unti-unti, ako'y bibitaw na. | 170303

{nj.b}
Terry Collett Dec 2013
Della walks
with her father
onto the beach.
Sand, sun,

sea going out.
Sea,
she says
love it.

Her father looks at her,
takes in her smile,
her well kempt hair,
the tip of her tongue

resting there
on her lower lip.
Did your mother
pack your swim gear?

Packed it in my bag.
Where's the bag?
She looks back
towards the car

parked by the road.
You must try
to remember
these things.

I did, then I forgot.
It doesn’t help.
Angry sounds.
He sighs.

Stay here, don't move,
he says
and walks back
towards the car,

over the sand,
hands in the pockets
of his black jeans.
She watches him walk.

Angry walk,
she thinks.
She sees him
most Saturdays,  

sometimes Sundays,
since
the divorce.
He gets to the car

and takes out
her pink bag,
locks the car
and treads back

towards her,
his face dark
and unsmiling.
Like smiling faces.

There you are,
he says.
She takes the bag
and they

walk down
towards the sea.
He gets out
a large beach towel

and lays it down
on the sand.
Here we are.
Sea smells salty.

It does.
If you sniff it
it gets up your nose.
He nods,

gets out a book
and begins to read.
Makes your nose feel salty.
She looks at her father,

he stares at the page
of his book.
Can I go into the sea?
Be careful.

She stare sat him.
Shall I get on
my swimming
costume here?

Yes,
he says,
turning a page.
People will see me.

They do.
Mum holds the towel
up around me.
He sighs and gets up

and gets out
a large coloured towel.
OK then,
get your gear on.

She takes out
her swimming costume
from her bag
and drops the bag

on the sand.
She looks at him.
Mum puts the towel
around

me so people
can't see me.
He sighs
and puts the towel

around her,
stares out
at the beach.
She takes off

her cat patterned top
and drops it down.
Then she removes
her skirt and underwear

and quickly,
but awkwardly
puts on her costume.
He looks at ships

on the horizon.
Seagulls,
bathers,
families and lovers.

She pulls at the costume
to get it comfortable.
Done it.
Good.

He folds the towel,
puts it beside him
and begins to read again.
She stands looking at the waves.

Mum walks me to the waves.
Why?
In case I slip.
You're a big girl now.

What if I slip?
He lifts his eyes
from the page.
You won't.

Mum holds my hand in case.
Your mum does
a lot of things
I don't.

He reads on.
She stares at him
for a few moments,
then unhappily

walks down
towards the waves.
She has her hands out
like a tightrope walker,

to balance herself
over the sharp stones,
here and there.
She reaches the area

where the waves rush in.
She stands there looking out.
She sniffs the air. Salty.
People around her stare.

A child laughs.
Two boys whisper.
She walks into the water.
The sea is warm,

rushes over her feet.
She clutches her hands together,
looks at the boys.
Warm water.

Wet, too.
The boy grins.
She's a Mongol,
the other boy says.

Funny features,
the other says,
big lips, and tongue.
She looks back at her father

reading up on the beach.
She paddles deeper.
Leaves the boys behind.
The waves rush against her knees.

She claps her hands,
hugs herself,
feels hers small *******.
The sea is crowded

with bathers.
Noise, laughter
and shouts fill the air.
She stands still.

A boy splashes her.
She puts her hands
over her face
to keep the water

from her eyes.
He rushes back
towards the beach,
laughing.

The water rushes
to her thighs.
Best not get out too far, deary,
a woman says nearby.

I'm Della,
not Deary,
she says.
The woman nods and smiles,

well be careful, Della.
The sea can be  dangerous.
Mum says
be careful.

Yes, you must.
Mum's not here.
Who's with you?
My dad's with me.

Where is he?
Della points towards the sand
where her father
is reading his book.

Be careful, Della,
the woman says.
Be careful, mum says.
Yes, be careful,

the woman repeats.
The woman gazes at Della.
Sees her vacant expression.
Her daughter died

the year before.
Drowned.
Della  looks back
at her father

sitting reading.
Mum watches me.
So she should.
Dangerous place the sea.

Della stares
at the incoming
rush of waves,
loud shush of the sea.

Your dad should watch you, too,
the woman says.
He reads.
He should watch you.

Della hugs herself tighter.
Best not get in
much deeper, Della dear,
the woman says.

Deep.
Gets to my thighs.
Yes, higher
than you ought to go.

Frightened.
Let's go back,
the woman says.
Della clutches

her arms tighter.
I fell last time,
and got salty water
in my mouth.  

Sickly.
Was sick after.
In the car.
The woman smiles.

Let's walk back  
to your dad.
The woman holds out
a hand.

Della hesitates.
Her father
is reading his book.
She puts out her hand

and holds
the woman's hand
and they walk up
towards the beach.

The warm hand holds her.
Far from
her father's sight
and the deep sea's reach.
James Jarrett Aug 2014
He thought that he had been evicted like a raucous Irishman, late once again on the rent, his belongings and furniture strewn on the lawn
His cold, deadly stare and ruffled red, said the same, with haughty indignation written all over him
As could be expected with any eviction, belongings strewn to the street, it started to rain; large splattering drops falling from the sky with an audible impact, adding insult to the injury
But he was just a child, set free and off to learn on his own, his perch and roost along with his chair, moved to his new home
He had outgrown the large screen porch, which was such a ridiculous place for an Owl anyway
Wood and glen gone, surrounded by girder and screen, locked into the realm of old peoples coffee and cigarettes
Tucked up into the eaves ignominiously, or sitting on the lamp, grooming flesh from his over large and taloned  feet
He would sit silhouetted by the dim red glow of the bulb, relaxing, until a noise would spin his head and he would become hooded and glaring death
The lamp added a glow to his eyes, which already burned with a raptors fire and he would become the personification of evil to the world of prey
Low and crouched, wings slightly spread; he would become the terrifying story that small warm animals tell their children at night to keep them in line and safe
But now he has been moved outside and all of his familiar belongings with him, or most anyways
Now he perches outside, either on the rough, twisted branches near his roost, or his favorite chair, and contemplates late into the night
But it seems that he prefers the comfort of his living room and he rests on the arm of the chair, quiet and pensive in the still and humid darkness
He stares at me while I smoke; the white plumes drifting like iridescent fog into the moonlight, while I observe him from his former home, illuminated by the dim lamp light
His saffron eyes gleam in the darkness, his dark form robed in that of the raptor, wings held down, with the tips outstretched like fingers
He stares at the lamp, standing like a pedestal against the wall and I wonder to myself
Does he want his ****** lamp moved out there too?
Artimus the owl getting moved to his new aviary
DEW Feb 2016
Those piercing eyes,
Cause piercing cries,
That cut the night,
To be devoured by flies.

All the wise,
Will seek demise,
When the only prize,
Is foolish delight.

Have a bite,
Of broken ties,
And lover's pies,
Caked in lies.

A woman dies,
In fading light,
Of teeming fright,
From *piercing stares.
I thought this one might be a little spine-tingling.
You be the judge.
Since it borders on horror, I like it a lot.
Not because of the horror, but the border.

Enjoy!
Terry Collett Apr 2015
Hes gone. I heard the door go. Ingrid relaxes, her shoulders unwind, the nerves untense. Just wait; he may return. She waits, listens. He does that sometimes; returns and stands looking at me as if he cant decide about me. No sounds of him. Mum in the kitchen; pots and pans; water running, but not him. Ingrid stares behind her in case her father has sneaked in without her hearing him. No one. She bites her lower lip. That time shed thought hed gone and she turned and he was there and he walloped her one about the head saying she was looking at him evil eyed. She looks at the table; at her breakfast bowl and cereal. He would deny her even that some mornings. Been too naughty hed say and made Mum take it out and hed sit there eyeing her and if he thought she was making faces hed slap her leg. Hes gone. Relax. She begins to eat her cereal. Spoons it in slowly, just in case he comes in suddenly out of nowhere and whack and shed choke. Relax. Her mother in the kitchen washing up. Spoons in more cereal. She thinks of that time shed taken a biscuit from the jar and he said she was a thief and whacked her hard and made a big mark on her. Benny noticed. Benny knows. Her father hates Benny. Youre not to see that Benedict kid, her father said, if I see you with him youre for it. She sees him still. Were the same age, in the same class at school. Nine years old. She mouths in more cereal. Licks the spoon after. Looks at the photograph on the sideboard. Black and white. Five of them. Back then. Her father is at the back grim  as death, black suit and tie, white shirt. Mums next to him wide eyed and pale as death. That grey dress. Her big brother Tom at the front. Smiling. Gone now after that big argument with Dad last week. Sylvia my big sister sitting next to Tom. Gone last year with that Spiv. And me at the end glasses and buck teeth even then. A bang at the door. Whos that? Mumll go. Listens. Puts her spoon down. Bites her lip. Blinks. Maybe hes back forgot his keys. Blame me. Last time he did he blamed me. Said I hid them. Voices at the door. Not him then. She relaxes. Picks up the spoon. Eats a small mouthful. Nervous. Always am. Footsteps coming. Is it him? She puts down the spoon and stares at the doorway. Mum. Standing there a cigarette in her mouth; eyes ******* up against the smoke. That Benny boys here at the door. Benny? Here? Good job your fathers not here or thered be hell to pay, the mother says. What does he want? Says he wants to take you out. Ingrid looks at her bowl, fingers with the spoon. Can he come in a minute? Not good idea, what if your father returns unexpectedly? Just a few minutes while I eat my breakfast? The mother sighs. Have to be ****** quick in case your dad comes back for some reason. Then well both be for it. The mother goes out and disappears. Voices. The door closing. She hates the sound of the door closing. It usually means hes home. If hes singing or humming it means all is well, but if hes quiet and sullen then Im for it or sometimes Mum gets it first and me after. That sound. Door closing. She stares at the doorway. Benny appears smiling. His hair with the quiff; the hazel eyes. Coming out? He asks. Where are you going? He sits on the settee, looks around the room. Thought wed go to see a bit of art. Art? What paintings and that? He looks at the her. Yes, National Gallery. Costs nothing. She picks up her spoon and eats cereal, looking at him, listening for the door. How do we get there? Bus to Trafalgar Square. How much is the fare there? She asks. Not much for kids. He looks at the photograph on the sideboard. See your old man is as grim as ever. She licks the spoon for the last bits of cereal. She can hear her mother banging about in the kitchen. Will she tell Dad when he gets home? Hard to say. Well, are you coming? Benny asks, looking at the fireplace. You shouldnt have come here; my dad might have been here still. I saw the old ****** go, Benny says, watched him walk through the Square, Benny says with that grin of his. He might have come back, she says, putting down the spoon. Then what? Who knows? Benny says unconcerned. She gets up and walks towards him. He would have hurt me for you being here. He hurts you anyway. She feels uneasy. The bruise on her thigh is still there just under her dress. Ill ask Mum if I can go. He nods and smiles. If only she could smile like that. If only. Ill ask her. He looks at her go. She finds her mother sorting out washing for the copper. Can I go out with Benny? He still here? Ingrid nods. Yes. Where? See paintings. Where? National Gallery. Too far. Not far, Benny says, standing behind Ingrid at the door. Bus ride away. You shouldnt come here, the mother says. Not welcoming, Benny says. Not meant to be, the mother says. Ingrid bites her lip. Her stomach tightens. What shall I say? Will she tell? Her mother stare stares at her. On your head be it; I dont want to know. The mother turns away, sorts more washing. Got to go to toilet, Ingrid says. Ok, Benny says, Ill wait. Ingrid goes off to the toilet; locks the door. Benny stands by the door staring at the mother. Ingrid sits down. Her stomach churns. She listens for voices. Nothing. What if Dad comes back? She waits.  The bruise on her thigh is blue and black.
THE DAY BENNY CAME TO INGRID'S HOUSE IN 1950S LONDON.

— The End —